Whadya mean, I'm playing "Papa" at a Seder?

In the spirit of ecumenism we are having a Seder a church tomorrow night. Fine, I suppose. Back in ‘63 my then-church collected both of the Jews in central Virginia to run one but that was during V2 and ecumenism was hot. As my present church tries to be open-minded about things including being buddies with the Muslims down the block I shouldn’t be surprised that it’s the Jews’ turn to have a bunch of Lutherans get a better understanding of what they’re all about. :rolleyes:

Each table will have table leaders playing the parents. The instant I heard about it I volunteered to play Elijah but I was too late; my wife had already signed us up as parents.

(holding my head in my hands)

Good Lord, how do I do this without it being a sick, impious parody when it starts out an express train to being a total travesty? With no rehearsal and no prior discussion how do I tell these people who think they are doing good that without understanding why we are there and what each component of a highly symbolic ceremony means we cannot help but insult the very religion we are trying to understand? And, most of all, how can I get people who have limited experience outside their own faith to understand that, even though Jesus led a Seder on the evening before his death, IT IS NOT A “CHRISTIAN” CEREMONY and it abuses it to bring Jesus into it in any way?

(sigh) This is so fucked. I’d try to weasel out of it but I cannot embarass my wife. But, ferchrissake, I’ve heard tell they are planning to switch “Go Down Moses” for a song that is sung in Hebrew because none of these Norskies are used to faking their way through a liturgical language they don’t speak. (chalk one up for pre-V2 Catholicism and Church Latin) All I can hope to do is study up (I have this evening) and try to guide my table, at least.

Too bad. Eliahu would have been the way to go…come late, drink wine, leave early.

That sucks, but at least you can try to make it into a learning experience. Here are some online haggadas for you:

http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bparnes/HAGGADAH/seder.html mostly in English, with transliteration of the minimal Hebrew (also in .pdf format)

This one looks a little more hardcore, but the up side of the more hardcore ones is that they tend to give more background info for the uninitiated:

This one, from Chabad, purports to be a straight translation (which I certainly can’t vouch for): http://www.chabad.org/holidays/passover/pesach.asp?AID=1735

Another downloadable one: http://www.ccarnet.org/haggadah/

Here are some really gorgeous illuminated ones:



Some more background on the Haggadah: http://ohr.edu/yhiy/article.php/835

See? It doesn’t have to be painful, although the four glasses of wine can certainly help in that regard. (Which reminds me…Passover is certainly impending, and I need to bug Mom about what the heck we are doing, as she has this really annoying habit of calling me the night before and decreeing that I have to be, say, 40 miles away in 24 hours with 3 special, home-cooked, Passover-acceptable dishes. Nevermind that pesky job.)

Hey, if it makes you feel any betetr, Mom always has us invite friends for Seder, preferably non-Jewish ones. There was one memorable year when my sister brought her boyfriend, who was black. Mom usually has guests take turns reading bits from the Haggadah, and everytime there was one on slavery or ondage, she had him read it. My sister and I were alternately giggling and cringing; I don’t think Mom even realized what she was doing…

YEAH! I had it all worked out–I can think fast sometimes, at least when it comes to drinking–I get a glass at each table and get home before it kicks in.

Well, if you’re having a sedar, you’ll obviously be using a haggadah, which should do a pretty good job of explaining each “component of [the] highly symbolic ceremony.” But every Haggadah is a bit different, even though the basics are always included. So if you’re planning on reading up, I’d like to recommend a haggadah I found online, which is the one that we use for our sedars at home; (Warning: pdf file) Haggadah. As the author states in his intro, I believe you will find it to “be understandable and well written, based mostly in English but with sufficient Hebrew so as not to offend 3500 years of history… written… for an audience that often [has] a mixed background with Judaism, but [is] quite educated… [Woven] into the Haggadah [is] a lot of explanatory text…”

And even though it’s a “historical” celebration about events that occurred centuries ago, one of the primary reasons we repeat it every year is outlined quite nicely in this version:

A rather timely quote, wouldn’t you say?

It really is a beautiful ceremony and I do hope you enjoy it.

Thanks for your help and support, folks. I posted this in the Pit because I felt a sense of foreboding (imagine the population of Lake Wobegon at a seder) and was angry that I hadn’t been asked if I wanted to be involved (“You don’t get out enough.”), but also because I fear it will be an abomination and feared that some of my Jewish friends here would agree and roast me and my congregation for our presumption. I discredited you by assuming the worst and apologize.

(looking through the Parnes Haggadah that Shayna linked)

They “used the Maxwell House Haggadah?” Like the coffee? (Googling) Hmmm, damned if it ain’t! Gotta say one thing for this one–his introduction is mostly about the document’s evolution from a DOS wordprocessor file to its present HTML state, so the guy’s a geek and therefore my kind of people. :slight_smile:

Or should I say, ;j ?

The most important part of any Seder is the song about the little kid that my father bought for two zuzim, and the attempts to sing the entire thing in one breath. It’s a deeply spiritual thing… :slight_smile:

BTW, would anyone care to comment on the"Haggadah for Hebrew Christians" and/or similar texts. We used one long ago, when I was a Christian and we were doing an exercise similar to what Dropzone is doing. I have since heard that these are repugnant to some Jews, who would rather see Christians using a standard Haggadah if they feel they must hold a Seder.

My family used the Maxwell House Haggadahs for years and years… in fact we had a nice, blasphemous nickname for them:
“The Gospel According to Maxwell House.” LOL

Anyway, it’s a good deed to tell the story of Passover, even if you’re not Jewish and your guests aren’t Jewish. The Haggadah pretty much tells you exactly what to do and when (and, generally, why), you don’t have to be steeped in Jewishness to follow it properly.

I’m on the catering team at the church I attend and they have held a ‘Seder meal’ (I put it in quotes for reasons I’ll explain in a minute) - being something of a cultural ignoramus, I very nearly plonked myself down in the empty chair after serving some of the food.

Oh yes, the quotes, well, it was a strange affair and authenticity was sort of cast aside - the lamb was presented in the form of a stew with potatoes, carrots etc, except that one of the people we’d asked to cook a pot delivered it saying “I was going to buy lamb, but it’s so expensive, so I used beef instead, which looked really nice - is that OK?”

I hope this doesn’t offend anyone. We don’t do this any more, chiefly because the gentleman died who was the driving force behind it; I miss him, but I’m not really all that sorry we don’t plan to have another such farce.

Oh, we used the Maxwell House version for years – they were giving them away free at our local supermarket one year, so they’re the only Haggadah at my mom’s house of which there are actual multiple copies. (Mom never has run a terribly organized Seder; the content tends to vary depending on her mood and how early in the evening the wine starts to take effect on her.) But then our family is certainly no model bunch of Jews in any respect.

I’d certainly hope that any other Jewish family would take your attempt at what it seems to be – an attempt to learn something and be culturally inclusive. I know that nobody I know would be offended, as long as they didn’t perceive that you were trying to be disrespectful. And there are all sorts of variations in observance of Passover, anyway; if you ever have the urge and are a cookbook junkie like I am, check this out:

Claudia Roden, The Book of Jewish Food: An Odyssey from Samarkand to New York


It has some amazing recipes, reminiscences of the author’s childhood in the Jewish quarter in Cairo, and provides a glimpse into a part of the Jewish world that most America Jews (who are Ashkenazim for the most part) never see: the Sephardic community and its religious and cultural traditions. I once tried to get Mom to let us eat legumes on Passover, on the theory that prohibiting them was a matter of Ashkenazic tradition rather than religious law, but no dice. It’s a great book, though; I was in tears just reading the introduction, which describes a time when Jews and Arabs in the Middle East were friends and ate at each others’ houses. If not this year for Seder, then it’s certainly worth giving a try anyway!

How many Jews do you need to collect to win the trip to Hawaii?

My dad tended to “collect” mimeographed (or later, xeroxed) Haggadahs and it was usually a different one every year or two. I’m sure we used the Maxwell House version one year, maybe twice–anyone remember it with a reddish-brown cover with light tan lettering? He was also big on “cut-n-pasting” multiple Haggadahs together to make his own. (Passover was his holiday. Me, I preferred Purim or Sukkot.)

The worst Haggadah though, (worst at the time at least, but great for “family legend” in retrospect) was from about 10-15 years ago or so when my cousin, who was going through a weird, but mercifully brief “super, hyper, ultra, so-far-left that she went through left and out the other side into tinfoil hat whackjob” phase, told us that she was bringing the Haggadah that year. My dad, always one for a new Haggadah, cheerfully agreed to let her supply it. She said she would make copies for everyone.

Imagine our surprise when it turned out to be this horrible Communist (as such. Really. Communist. I’m not using the term as an insult. Soviet-style Communist.) Haggadah that compared people like Pol Pot*, Mao, Lenin and IIRC Stalin (my dad disagrees and says he doesn’t remember the Stalin reference) as something like “people’s heroes” such as Moses. The comment about Pol Pot was more-or-less “Moses killed an innocent man, but did so for good cause. We should never forget that he killed and was kept from the Promised Land for his sin but he killed to protect slaves from a greater evil, so our rememberance of his crime should be tempered by our memory the fact that his sin was done in the cause of mercy and justice. So too should we remember some of our modern day people’s heroes like Pol Pot, Lenin, Mao. They may have done evil but our remeberance of it should reflect that it was an evil done in a good cause: one day the people will win their struggle against the tyranny of Capitalist agression like the Jews were freed from Egyptian slavery and we too shall remember those people’s heros with mixed emotions like we do Moses…yadda-yadda-yadda…” It was the Pol Pot reference that made my dad blow a gasket.

Somewhere during that (paraphrased, obviously) passage, he grabbed the copies and threw them away. I wish I’d salvaged one, just for amusement’s sake, but by the time I’d thought to salvage one, the remains of my mom’s brisket was dumped in the trashcan on top of it.

As an aside, my cousin has returned to normal and is deeply embarrassed whenever I tease her about her “Little Red Haggadah”. :smiley:


Fenris, if your cousin remembers where she found that sucker, I would absolutely kill for a copy. My sister compains that at every Jewish holiday Mom either picks a fight with her or finds some way to complain that she isn’t a dutiful enough or observant enough daughter (not that I’m so observant, but I did better in school, and I’m still coasting on that). Once my sister told Mom she would bring enough Haggadahs for everyone, and managed to compose a Haggadah from various sources that did not mention God once. Literally. As Reform as Mom is, she was not amused, and my sister still hasn’t lived it down.

Maybe if I can come up with a Communist Haggadah, Mom will leave my sister in peace. It’s in the interest of family harmony. Really. Isn’t there a Commandment about that?

Just as a minor hijack from the sidelines, what is UP with the current Christian fad for appropriating Judaica? First there were the Jews for Jesus, then the fundies on Rapture Ready and similar boards started calling Jesus “Y’shua”, putting Stars of David in their sigs and quoting Hebrew prayers, and now this. First, you spend 2,000 years persecuting the Jews and now you’re stealing their act?

Crakka, please! (A tip of the hat to Juanita Tech for the new catchphrase).

Lutherans, stick to lutefisk and pancake dinners and stop bogieing the matzoh!

My uncle is exactly like that with me. I share your sister’s pain. :wink:

I’ve tried to find a copy for a couple of years* and haven’t had any success. My cousin got it from an ex-boyfriend, and she’s not sure where he got it from (she also claims, and I believe her, that she didn’t read the whole thing through before she brought it). I’d swear that I remembered that there was a line in it connecting it with TIKKUN magazine, but a) As far-out as TIKKUN can be, I don’t think they’re that far-out and b) my cousin is pretty sure that it’s not.

I’ve never been able to find another copy.



*My cousin has a kid now, and …heh… at some point, when the kid’s older, it’s an uncle’s perogative to bring up embarrassing stories of the parent’s misspent yoot’, right?

We would never consider being disrespectful! We even cancelled the fried Jewish foreskins, though I can imagine how good they would be with horseradish. :wink:

Speaking of disgusting ethnic cuisines, my kids are balking at drinking the wine. I told them they’ll want it to help choke down the food. “You know how bad matzoh is? [I like matzoh which is why my kids know they don’t] Passover matzoh is worse.”

“But wine is sour!”

Wife told them that “sour” was the LAST word that would be used to describe Passover wine.

But thank you for the slight outburst, gobear. It had grown far too MPSIMSish in here. :wink:

Some (SOME) of my worries have been assuaged. The seder will be led by the husband of the lady who assistant ministered last week BUT he is an observant Jew. He’s the guy I might have mentioned who was bringing Another Perspective to our “Through the Bible in a Year Or So” group. He belongs to a similar group at his temple except they are moving at a more deliberate pace. After 27 years they are up to Numbers. Sorta like “Through the Bible in a Century Or So.”

“Sometimes we’ll spend a whole session discussing three words.”

Heh. Get the non-grape (cherry, blackberry, etc) flavored Maneshevetz (I can’t spell the name, but you know what I mean) and chill it, say, for an hour or so before serving. Your kids will think they’re drinking Kool-Aid. Um. Oversweetened Kool-Aid.

That said, I still kinda like the taste of it. :cool:


Unless you left out some important details, I fail to see why I should be offended. In the Haggadah is a section concerning four sons. One is the wise son. He shows his wisdom by asking ‘These symbols and practices, what do they mean?’. Your church seems to be doing the same thing.

Re Wine

On an episode of Frasier, he’s pretending to be Jewish for his date’s mother. Mom asks him for wine. Frasier panics. He has quite a selection, but nothing that will pass as Jewish wine. Niles tells him not to worry, pours a glass of red wine, and dumps in several heaping spoonfuls of sugar.

Quoth Moe Sizlack “I’m sweet. I’m sweeter than Jewish wine.”

If your children want to learn more about Passover, the Rugrats have a great Passover special.

NOTE- For some reason, every Haggadah I’ve ever seen gives a version of the afikhomen I’ve never seen practiced. They often state that the children hide the afikhomen and that the adults pay a ransom to get it back. At every seder I’ve been to or heard of, the adults hide the afikhomen. The kids look for it and the kid who finds it gets a prize (usually $5 or so).

We did this all the time. It’s loads of fun for the kiddies. The rules we used are “It’s not hidden higher than the shortest child can reach easily, at minimum a corner of it (it’s usually wrapped in a napkin) should be visible, it’s not hidden in anything that the parents say is off limits (inside my dad’s stereo area, for example)”

One of the best things that ever happened at a Seder involved the afikohmen. This tale involves an enterprising youth (who’s name I’m faarrr too modest and shy to mention) who was sick of losing to his much taller, much faster older cousins every year (the older brothers of the one with the “Little Red Haggadah”). This lad of (maybe) 11 or 12 knew that he’d be ushered out of the house while his dad hid the afikhomen with his brother and cousins. So, earlier that day, he (again, I couldn’t possibly mention his name :wink: ) got a hunk of matzoh, wrapped it in a napkin and hid it inside the piano bench (which should be off-limits).

That night, when the time to find the afikhomen rolled around, he made a beeline to the piano bench (all the other kids were looking elsewhere, cause it couldn’t be in the area around the bench) and grabbed it. He made a mad dash around the house so that he passed through most rooms as he started yelling “I found it!” Of course, everyone else gave up the search and he got the prize ($5.00, IIRC?) since, really, one piece of matzoh looks pretty much like another.

Unfortunately, our hero missed out on a perfect crime since the next morning his father found the untouched legit afikhomen. There was a stern talking-to (mixed with some snickers) from the father. But the lad didn’t have to give the money back (the father was pretty impressed with the planning/forethought) but all future afikohmen hunts from then on ended with dad checking the hiding place to verify that it was the legit piece. :smiley: