Seder: A Time Of Order

by Rabbi Ben Leinow February 26, 2018


Man reads in the Haggadah book during Passover Seder dinner.

I asked a friend, “Will you have a Seder at your home this year?” She answered, “Yes, every year my family has a ‘Passover Dinner,’ but we do not call it a Seder because we don’t know Hebrew.” She then asked me, “What is the difference between a Passover dinner and a Seder?

I gave her what you might call my simple standard answer. The word Seder means ‘order,’ and it is somewhat like the word ‘menu’ when you are in a restaurant. Seder is the menu of events at the Passover dinner you are about to have. You might think of it as the plan for the evening or the table of contents for the Haggadah. The Haggadah is the book we read at each Passover meal. The first word of the Haggadah is Seder, and that is also the reason we name the event of the evening ‘Seder.’

The above conversation caused me to realize that the word ‘Seder’ connected me to one of the most important Jewish Holidays of the year, but it also caused me to realize that the word ‘Seder’ could have deeper meaning. If we are going to live a good and a meaningful life, then we must always have ‘Seder’ in our lives, and not just at the Passover dinner table. We need order in our lives for everything we do. For example, if we are going to build a house we need to create and follow a plan. We cannot just build a roof, then think of walls for the house and last of all create a foundation. Another example is we cannot make oatmeal raisin cookies if we eat all of our grapes, and do not set aside grapes in the sun for raisins.

During this past year, I have experienced many people who have been unhappy with themselves, the world and our country. I believe it is because many of us have given up our personal ‘Seder.’ We have lost our basic values that make up who we are. I could feel it happening to me. When I approached my responsibilities, I noticed an overwhelming discomfort – and a strong interest in what other people didn’t seem to feel they needed to do to make the world worthwhile – so why should I take on all those extra duties that a core group of people refuse to do? I let the ‘refuse-niks’ take over my world, my life and my Judaism. The result has been that I felt the same anger and discomfort that many people are feeling today.

I wanted to blame other people. Maybe it was politicians – it could be newscasters. It could be anyone except me. I felt myself becoming the center of the universe, and discomfort with many of the components of the world around me. One of my friends called me, and I said, “Let’s go out for coffee.” I do not know why I did that because the last time we had talked we both were uncomfortable with the discussion.

When we got together, I told him I was unhappy because I believed I’d lost my ‘Seder,’ my way of relating to people I love and care for, and instead I let differences of opinions get in the way of friendship and love. We reminded ourselves that what is truly important is respect for who we are even with the differences of opinion.

What we did next was remind each other of who a Jew is as we get back our ‘Seder.’

It is my pleasure to share our thoughts with you.

We Jews are judged by the good deeds we do, who we support regardless of faith, ethnicity or gender. A Jew seeks out the needy and provides assistance to the orphan, the ill and abandoned. We do not expect or want praise for good deeds. A Jew educates him/herself formally or informally, and does not put down or harm the uninformed. Jews care for their family and let them know they are loved. Jews believe in a creative process and support that creative process no matter what name may be given to that process. A Jew has a longing to treat all people in a fair and loving manner with the hope we will get along even though we may disagree.

I hope you will all find your ‘Seder’ and have peace and love this Passover and in the years to come. Shalom. Α


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