How are these seders different from all other seders? | Bleader

Friday, March 30, 2018

How are these seders different from all other seders?

Posted By on 03.30.18 at 06:00 AM

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click to enlarge STEVE JACOBS
  • Steve Jacobs

A few years ago, some friends joined me in writing a Passover Haggadah that borrowed the tunes of Beatles songs. We named it "You Say Shalom, And I Say Shalom." None of us is particularly observant (we're more Jew-ish), but we longed for the days when matzo was a delicacy and grandpa chugged the glass of wine left out for Elijah—the prophet who is said to attend seders in spirit form, thirsty for that sweet, sweet Manischewitz—when nobody was looking. Plus, it was a fun way to include our non-Jewish friends and sing as if we were camping out around a proverbial burning bush.


"Weird Al" Yankovic we are not, but I'm proud to say we cranked out 14 songs full of hilarious puns and clever wordplay. There's "Eight Days, No Yeast," which emphasizes the core mandate of Passover and highlights the Beatles' questionable understanding of the calendar. "Ask These Questions Four," set to the tune of "When I'm 64," contains this catchy refrain: "When you are wondering specific things / In this holy time / How the night is different and the bread is flat / Dip some parsley / Sit on a mat." And so much more!

Traditional Passover seders typically include a few songs here and there. "Dayenu" is a Hebrew school classic. The word roughly translates to "It would have been enough," and the lyrics praise God for going above and beyond what the Jewish people required during the Exodus from Egypt. For example, had God merely parted the Red Sea so the Jews could escape Pharaoh, it would have been enough. But then God un-parted it to drown and punish the Egyptian mob! And so forth. There's also a lot of melodic chanting, as in the reading of the aforementioned four questions.

Atypical takes on Passover live in every corner of the internet. The Reader recently covered "The Revenge of Dinah: A Feminist Seder on Rape Culture in the Jewish Community," a Haggadah written by a group of teenage girls in Chicago to start a dialogue about sexual assault, both in Biblical times and today. Josh Dolgin, who goes by the DJ name So Called, mixes klezmer tunes with hip-hop in So Called Seder: A Hip Hop Haggadah. And just in case stories of Pharaoh aren't horrifying enough, The Trump Passover Haggadah: "People All the Time They Come Up and Tell Me This is the Best Haggadah They’ve Ever Read, They Do, Believe Me” is a hot take on a more recent tyrant.

Themed seders are both timely and timeless. The word "seder" is derived from the Hebrew word for "order," and each portion of a seder serves a specific storytelling purpose when it arrives. The ritual of dabbing drops of red wine onto your plate, for example, accompanies a chapter about the ten plagues God brought upon Pharaoh. Alterna-seders provide context to welcome the uninitiated and allow Passover pros to make this annual tradition their own. I mean, the skeleton of the story is already there.

Never say dayenu. The creators of this monstrosity certainly didn't.

Happy Pesach!

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