The Conspiracy

Take Back the Seder

What’s the story of Exodus without a Lego demo? Boring, that’s what.

It’s a challenge to have anything feel new and exciting after a few times of doing it. In a conversation that usually arises within the context of prayer, those of us who perform religious ceremonies often bemoan the impossibility of connecting emotionally to that which so easily becomes rote and stale with repetition. The same discussion can be applied to the Passover sand its accompanying text, the haggadah.

We are told that at Passover we are meant to feel as if we ourselves were freed from slavery in Egypt. The haggadah, the text compiled almost 2,000 years ago, and read by us year after year, is supposed to touch us personally. In fact, the entire Seder, a ritual that we can do with our eyes shut by the time we are 20, is intended to move us each time we do it. And for those of us who hold two a year, that’s a lot of times.

In recent years, the haggadah has been approached from many angles, in part to address this very issue. Children’s author Francine Hermelin Levite created the Made it Myself Haggadah, a haggadah designed for children, with drawing prompts and questions, and, of course, stickers. The Wellsprings of Freedom Haggadah is less physically interactive, but encourages the reader to connect personally to the text through an “inner journey” inspired by the story of freedom. Most obviously personalized, though, is the haggadah made possible by Haggadot.com.

Following a universal trend toward self-publishing, and of course incorporating that Internet phenomenon of crowd-sourcing, Haggadot.com combines the two in a site that allows you to write up your own perspectives on the text, search for other perspectives from other users, and fuse them all into your very own, PDF, printable haggadah. No two haggadot from the site are alike, and all perspectives are given equal opportunity. Do you connect through a feminist approach? Throw some of that in there! Is Jewish history your Achilles’ heel? There’s plenty of that out there, too.

In a rare display of Jewish cohesiveness, all denominations of Judaism are welcome on Haggadot.com, and every individual can shape their haggadah to suit their interests. Now when you say you’re bored at the seder, you really have no excuse.

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