Many years ago, my husband Sam and I began collecting haggadot to enrich our Passover seders. We invited participants to chose one of the haggadot to look at in addition to the universal haggadah that each person had. We wove together the interesting things people found and our main seder, calling the extra material the “color commentary.”
This practice went on hiatus when our children were young, along with building the collection. As our children are now pre-teen ans teens, I decided this was the year to revive it. To that end, I went to the Israel Bookstore and Kolbo in Brookline and chose several books. The book that spoke most to me is not a haggadah but a book about creating meaningful seders: Pesach for the Rest of Us by Marge Piercy. I grew up in the Reform movement, crafting creative services that evoked the themes of the liturgy with poems, readings, and songs; so this book appealed to me.
As the holiday approached, it was unclear whether my daughter, who has been alienated from much of Judaism for several years, would join us for seder. Further, what attitude would she bring even if she came? The days before the holidays contained many sarcastic comments and much sotto voce muttering about the holiday. In the end, she came.
When we came to the table, I put out the choices of haggadot and A Night of Questions caught her eye. With this Reconstructionist haggadah for her ” color commentary,” her sarcasm and hostility evaporated. She was drawn to the gender-neutral Gd language and the modern understanding of the seder’s themes. This haggadah helped her re-frame the seder and its symbolism in a way that was close to her world view.
How wonderful that she and I were able to re-frame these ancient traditions to keep them relevant to us!
Have you had similar experiences with your traditions? I’d love to hear about them.