How Long Does the Seder Have to Be?

Miriam Wine Cup, Temple Isaiah's gift shop

We are commanded to remember the exodus. We are not commanded to sit up all night getting hungrier and hungrier and wishing we could go home to get a bite of food! We fulfill the commandment by teaching the story of the exodus to the next generation of Jews. Many people say to me, “we don’t do a real seder” meaning that they don’t sit up until midnight reading an antique haggadah in Hebrew. Guess what? That seder is no more “real” that the one that lasts 15 minutes and gets the story told to satisfaction of the five year olds at the table.

The “traditional” haggadah is the work of sages from long ago creating an order to how the story is told. They did NOT mention Moses because they wanted to emphasis that God brought us out of Egypt, not Moses. But many child versions do tell the story using Moses because it makes the story easier to tell. Do what works for the guests at your table.

I own about 2 dozen different haggadot. I have several versions of the “traditional” one that really only works for Jewishly knowledgeable adults. I have a range of others aimed at kids, or women or vegetarians, etc. They are all good. Browse around until you find the right one for you — this year. Next year you may want a different one.

What are some fun ways to handle the seder?
Don’t starve them. You can have cut up veggies and dip, slices of fruit. You can let people eat matzah if you don’t feel a need for them to wait until the meal. (It’s also fine if you want them to wait on the matzah.) If you’re having a dairy mean you can have cream cheese or cheese snacks. Cheese and apples can tide over the little people – or the adults! If you’re having meat, there’s salsa or avocado to put on matzah.

For little ones you can get Haggadah coloring books, or toys like finger puppets and masks of the ten plagues. For school age kids give them some old sheets and some rope to make toga like garments and tell them to put together a play of the Moses story.

It is said that who ever expands upon the telling of the story of the exodus is blessed. So I get kosher for Passover chocolates and tell my guests that any one who asked a good question or who adds some bit of knowledge to the seder wins a chocolate. The teens at my seder decided that whoever has the most chocolates wins. They don’t get a prize (though you could buy one, say a chocolate covered matzah) but they love the competition!

What if we want a really short seder?
There is a 30 Minute Seder that you can download (for a small cost) at There is also a “joke” seder, the Two Minute Seder that I don’t think is a joke at all. It covers the basic points and gets right to the meal. If you have little ones at the table, that may be the one for you. If you want a copy, email me and I’ll send it to you.

Posted in Passover
Published on April 11th, 2011