All over my Facebook feed this week I kept reading, “YOU ARE ALLOWED TO HAVE A SHVACH* SEDER (* = weak, pathetic)” (see below) and I have to say, it is really what I needed to hear.  Passover has always been my favorite holiday and this year first Seder is less than a week away and my family has few plans.  I’ve realized that not only am I overwhelmed by planning something else on top of school and daily family responsibilities, but also Passover has become symbolic for everything that has suddenly changed in our lives and everything we have suddenly lost.   It has been hard to face.  Every time I think about a Seder without family or friends, I am just too sad.

So far, what I do know that the answer for my family won’t be to try to recreate what we had planned for this year or experienced last year. Nor will a digital Seder work for my small and rambunctious kids.  Instead we will do something really different more than just Passover different.   Seder nights are always different from other nights, but this seder night will be different from all other seders too so I’m focusing on an experience that we can only have in our small family group.  Maybe we’ll turn our table into a tent and eat our meal underneath it.  Maybe we’ll pretend we are leaving Egypt and do each part of our seder in a different place in our house on the way.  Maybe we’ll just watch Prince of Egypt in our pajamas.

There’s no right answer for any of us, but we are all in the same boat.  If you are looking for ideas friends of mine posted this amazing resource online.  It includes ideas and texts to help make sure that this year’s seder is the best it can be for you and your family, even if that means watching a movie and calling it a night. It has new ideas, ways to wrap your heads around old ones, and tons of textual resources you might want to add to your seder.



(*—weak, pathetic)

Rabbi Susan P. Fendrick, copyright 2020, permission to share granted liberally with attribution

You do not need to set up a multi-media, multi-layered presentation on Zoom. You do not need to cook 17 dishes that remind you of all the family members you are not gathering with. You do not need to do all the cool things that people are suggesting for small seders. You do not need to go out on your mirpeset/porch at 11 pm and sing Chag Gadya with your neighbors. You do not need to compile an “in these times”-themed haggadah or seder supplement.

You are living through an international pandemic. For all of the support you have, for all of the jokes people are making, for all of the new Torah that is being learned…you are experiencing a collective trauma as an individual, within the daled amot/delimited space of your own home and your own life. You may be managing others’ experience of that trauma. You are dealing with challenges you have never faced before. You may feel scared, angry, depressed, or lost.
If you want to and can do any of the above for a maximalist seder night, great. But if you don’t want to and/or can’t, it is totally fine to cook a modest meal, throw together a seder plate at the last minute, get up to make salt water when it’s time for karpas because you forgot to do it before, make decisions on the fly about how much to talk about each step of the seder and what to read and not to read.
Light the candles. Bless the wine/grape juice and the holiday. Eat the symbols. Be together. Talk about some things. Read some things. Be energized, or be tired. Do things you never did before because “what an opportunity to have an intimate seder”, or do the minimum. Go to sleep knowing you have fulfilled your obligation.
You do not need to make up for the seder you are not having, or the seder you wish you could have. Do this year’s seder(s) however that works for you this year. Do your best to keep yourself and your family healthy. Connect to the themes of Passover—getting out of narrow places, celebrating life, gratitude, remembering our obligations to each other and to all others
Dayeinu. That is more than enough.