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Discussion Topics for Your Passover Seder

Somewhere during the course of your Passover seder this year, ask one of these questions and see how your fellow attendees respond. You can also try typing the questions on small pieces of paper, folding them up, and asking everyone around the table to choose one, read it aloud, and respond. Depending on your audience, the responses may be either serious or playful. Either way, you’re guaranteed interesting discussion.

  1. What do Passover and Easter have in common? (Think spring festivals, eggs, and redemption, to start.) How do they differ?
  2. Think for a moment about the future of the Jewish community. Do you think your great-grandchildren will be sitting at a Passover seder someday? Why or why not?
  3. Which symbol on the seder plate do you think is the most important?
  4. What if "Bitter Herb" is your brother-in-law or a family friend? How should such an individual be treated at the seder? 
  5. It is traditional for the youngest person at a seder to ask the Four Questions. If you were to create a new tradition for the asking of the Four Questions, who would you choose to ask the questions and why?
  6. Tradition says that Elijah the Prophet is supposed to announce the coming of the Messiah. If you could send Elijah to any spot on the globe to make the announcement of the Messiah, where would you send him?
  7. If President Barack Obama or basketball star LeBron James or The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart (or any other celebrity you like) came to your seder, which symbol or ritual would you want to show them first?
  8. Some people say the Ten Plagues are part of tradition and so they should be included in the seder. Others say the plagues lead us to inappropriately exalt in the adversities suffered by the Egyptians. Others say that Jews take a drop of wine from the cup for each plague, acknowledging that freedom was won at a cost. Do you believe in a God who punishes people? Would God slay the Egyptians’ firstborn sons? What do you think? Should the Ten Plagues be part of the seder?
  9. Do you believe we can eventually eradicate wars, poverty, and starvation? Or do you believe that we will always be stuck in some version of the current mess? How would you suggest we spread a more hopeful message and deal with the cynicism and self-doubt that always accompanies us when we start talking about changing the world?
  10. What experiences in your life have given you hope? Tell about some struggle to change something that worked. What did you learn from it?
  11. Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun Magazine, teach that even the most wicked and deceitful people are as equally created in the image of God as anyone you love and respect. He says our task is to challenge their policies but to continue to respect and treat them as embodiments of the God of the people who are carrying out evil policies. Does this teaching resonate with you? If not, why?

Leave a comment with your answers to any of these questions or sharing other discussion topics that have spurred interesting conversation at your seder table.

Rabbi Mark Dov Shapiro is the rabbi of Sinai Temple in Springfield, MA. He created “The God Survey” which was featured in Reform Judaism magazine in summer 2012. Rabbi Shapiro’s love of Passover and its themes has led him to create many opportunities for creativity around the seder table.