Update: We have an official date: Sunday, April 17, at 8:00 PM EDT!
During both 2020 and 2021, the Avocado hosted a virtual Seder – the traditional service for the Jewish holiday of Passover. We’ll be continuing that this year, as well. This time, I’ll be hosting, though I’ll be primarily adhering to the style and tone that jem developed.
“What is a Seder?”
At its most basic, Seder is a religious service, typically set around dinner. It revolves around the Passover holiday, the celebration of the Jewish people’s escape from slavery as presented in the Biblical story of Exodus.
Traditionally, of course, Seder is set in the home, but our virtual Seder will be in Discord. People will take turns speaking on mic, though the text chat will be fully open and free to use.
“I’m not Jewish, or I’m Jewish but not religious in the least. Is it okay for me to join?”
Of course it is! In fact, the members of both of the prior virtual Seders were mostly non-Jewish. We encourage people who don’t practice to take part in this, whether actively or passively.
“So what do you do during the Seder?”
Alongside various children’s games, the Seder is a series of discussions about Jewish philosophy and history. Major topics include the importance of cultural traditions, the ways we keep history alive, and our relationships with ongoing suffering, abuse, and oppression in the world. However, there are some fun twists to this, like how you’re expected to regularly drink wine and sit at a relaxed, inclined angle. And in general, the discussions themselves are much more lively, dynamic, and fun than I’m making them sound. The service as a whole can take upwards of five hours, though ours will only last between one and two.
Of course, with this being a casual, progressive, open seder, these kinds of things are entirely opt-in (personally, I’ll be drinking grape juice instead of wine, for one thing). The same goes for any kind of direct involvement; if you don’t feel comfortable talking, listening in is encouraged as well. The same is true of writing comments in the text chat while people are speaking. All we ask is that you be respectful of your fellows and the service.
“Wow, I have to relax and talk about philosophy? Okay, what’s the catch?”
There isn’t any! You’ll get all the fun and camaraderie of Passover with none of the tsuris (pain and frustration). You don’t have to hear your in-laws kvetch (complain) about your cooking. There certainly won’t be any gonif (disreputable scoundrel) bringing the room down. And when someone says “Chag Sameach” (“happy festival!”), you’ll feel great inside.
“Okay, you’ve convinced me! How does it actually go down?”
One important element of performing the seder is that it’s divided into a series of segments, each discussing an aspect of the holiday or history. One person will host and tell each segment. Again, this is entirely opt-in; if you just want to listen and not speak, you do not have to. Listening is just as encouraged as speaking. However, for those of you would would like to participate, and we would all absolutely love for you do do so, please ask for the segment that you’d like to perform in the comments. If there are unclaimed segments by the night of the Seder, we’ll give them to whoever asks in the server.
I also want to stress that you do want to perform, prior knowledge or experience is not needed at all. We’ll provide a Hagadah – a prayer book that goes over each segment – in PDF form, along with a songbook, before the seder itself. If you’d like to do research first, that would be great, but it’s not necessary in the slightest. I promise, you’ll do great no matter how you do it.
Here are the segments. I’ve pretty much directly copied how jem wrote it:
- Exposition: how did the Jews come to be slaves in Egypt? – jem
- Cleaning house: Preparing the house for Pesach – Wolfman Jew
- The Seder table and plate – Josephus Brown
- The order of the night: Kadesh Urhatz, etc. – Wolfman Jew
- Matzah – what the hell is it?
- The Appetizers: Maror, Haroset, Greens, etc. – LibraryLass
- Mah Nishtanah – Q&A – Dicentra
- Optional History: The First White House Seder – LibraryLass
- The Four Children – jem
- The Plagues
- The Action Sequence: the Exodus, Moses at the Red Sea
- Dayenu, as if we hadn’t had enough already
- Recap: Have We Explained Gamliel’s 3 things?
- Passover Themes in Modern Life: Modern Slavery, Refugees, Prisoners, and our Responsibilities
Optional History, the one between Segments 7 and 9, isn’t an official segment. However, in the past, we used it as a break in order to discuss a historical story that relates to the story of Passover (the one that was told in 2020 was “Pesach and the Holocaust,” about Passover in the Warsaw ghetto). This isn’t required at all, but we’d like to keep it open for anyone who would like to tell a broader lesson from history.
We’ll also have time both in between and during the segments for discussions and comments, and writing written comments while people are speaking is fine. More than fine, in fact – comments, thoughts, responses, and contributions are always wanted and always appreciated. Again, this is a holiday about the discussion of ideas, and for all of the structure we’re holding to, ours will be very loose and casual.
“Well, I’m excited! When are we doing this?”
Date: Sunday, April 17, at 8:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time (EDT)!
Old message: Well, that’s up to the members of the community. Passover 2022 is from April 15 – 23. My own assumption is that it might work best on a Saturday night (the 16th or 23rd). However, I want to hear from the comments about what days work best for people. I’d also love to hear any questions or comments from people!
Whenever there’s more information – such as a person claiming a segment or the date being finalized – I’ll edit it into the article itself.