Did Moses Have a Road Map? Planning a Virtual Seder in 2020

Workshop by Rabbi Greg Wolfe, April 5, 2020

Welcome and Overview: I will share the link to this file so you will have all the information.

The old joke goes: Why did the Children of Israel wander in the wilderness for 40 years? Moses refused to stop and ask for directions!  Today’s workshop is all about asking questions (you are not limited to only 4!) and sharing resources to make sure that though this year’s seder will truly be different from any other year’s seder it will also be memorable, fun, inspiring, engaging…and most of all, it will be just what you need it to be.


*We are living through a chaotic time, world upside down, many new challenges, concerns, and stresses.

*Don’t Panic! Don’t let Passover be one of your stresses. Relax, enjoy, do only as much as feels within your capability, Engage creatively with the material. Use games, discussions, songs and role playing to explore the issues raised by various sections of the Passover seder.  Empower people participating to take on parts and share their perspectives. Invite people to plan a particular section of the seder: the plagues, the seder symbols, the questions, the 4 children. Partner: find others to work with and support you. Even if they aren’t going to be at your seder. Share ideas. Brainstorm.  Trust: everything will be great. Enjoy the journey!

Set Yourself Free:

The Passover Seder is actually simply an imaginative and interactive vehicle, created 2000 years ago by the Rabbis, for telling a story (our Exodus from Egypt, the defining story of the Jewish people) and teaching the eternal lessons of freedom, hope, and the possibility of a better tomorrow. What could be more important for these times and this moment? We have a lot of leeway as to how we accomplish this goal. B’chol dor va’dor chayav adam lirot et atzmo k’ilu hu yatza mi’mitzrayim! Literally, in each generation people must see themselves as if they personally went free from Egypt, from the “narrow places.” What I think that this means is that in every generation people must find their own way to make the story of liberation and the accompanying lessons come alive and be relevant. This is very liberating. The seder gives us the general guidelines, 15 steps along a journey from slavery to freedom in 4 acts,  but we are free to fill it in, to tell the story, to teach the lessons in our own way. Passover is the ultimate do-it-yourself holiday with lots of room for improvisation and personalization. The seder is just as much about the questions (exploring, wondering and wandering) as it is about the answers or arriving at any one place. This is an important time to talk about our values and our beliefs, about how we want the world to be and how we want to be in the world. This is a wonderful opportunity to talk about our traditions but also to create new traditions.


The Haggadah: A Freedom Drama in 4 Parts (Here is an outline of the seder:  p. 1 https://documentcloud.adobe.com/link/track?uri=urn%3Aaaid%3Ascds%3AUS%3Af2de4d2b-94ec-4e01-97d8-1023b699d3a8   p. 2 https://documentcloud.adobe.com/link/track?uri=urn%3Aaaid%3Ascds%3AUS%3Aa2eccfc4-8e68-4557-a207-a187bdc68832 )  Lots of 4’s!

Basically, every haggadah, and there are tons of them, follows this same basic structure.

Choosing a haggadah: CCAR Resources for sharing on zoom, Create your own, Share actual haggadot with those participating if they aren’t too far away. (we’ll see resources below)

Technical issues: using zoom (see Dan’s list below), music, security–use a password for your guests

A few other ideas–

*When it comes time for the karpas, serve “appe-teasers” to nosh on–celery, carrots, broccoli along with the parsley and  a variety of dips.

*Have someone dressed as Elijah zoom into your seder at the appropriate moment. He can tell about who he is and answer questions.

*Assign different people characters to play from the Passover story, such as Moses, Miriam, Aaron, Pharaoh, baby Moses, Shifra and Pu’ah (the midwives who saved Hebrew babies), the Angel of Death, the matzah, one of the 4 children, an average Egyptian. etc) At various points in the seder, call on one of them to share their perspective on the story. Characters can even interact with each other.

*Assign everyone a symbol of Passover and have them write a Haiku, limerick, poem or song about it to share at the right moment. In addition to the main symbols you can add g’fillte fish, matzah balls, wine, the 4 children, etc.


Review and Explore Resources Below:

A Variety of Wonderful Resources (available at: https://docs.google.com/document/d/17bY_8t-fCSAVaxWvPUiFhP1bkThnccoS2UVWCdSQZRI/edit?usp=sharing):

From the URJ

Great background Material and resources

Passover – Dates, Recipes & Meaning


Enlivening Your Virtual Seder

How to Make Your Virtual Seder Lively, Engaging, and Meaningful

Six Tips for Hosting a Successful Virtual Seder



Making Matzah

Video: How to Make 18-Minute Matzah


Wine Pairings for the Seder

Drink Pairings for Your Passover Seder: Getting Creative with the Four Cups


How to sing the 4 Questions



Guide to Eating during Passover



Sharing the Story with our kids

Parenting at Passover: How Do We Share this Story with Our Kids?


A few synagogue pages with great resources:

Taking Passover Online

Passover 2020


From Meryl Rappaport: This is a Recording of Friday night services in Bloomfield, Michigan.  Rabbi Megan Brudney is Meryl’s dear friend’s daughter. In particular for Passover, around minute 25, Rabbi Megan talks about the history of the matzah as Jews came to America and around minute 32, she discusses different things you might add to your seder plate. I especially liked the idea of adding a balloon this year. Here is the link. Enjoy! https://vimeo.com/403897109  And here is a link to a fuller explanation of the orange on the seder plate that was instituted by Susannah Heschel, daughter of Rabbi AJ Heschel, discussed by Rabbi Megan. https://www.haggadot.com/clip/susannah-heschel-explains-orange


Dan’s Tennenbaum’s Zoom Suggestions:

How can we use Zoom features to engage people more?  I would encourage all of you to think about this. Zoom has several features including:

Sharing Screen (which allows you to share to everyone what you have on your desktop and would be the way to show the Haggadah),

Annotation (each person has to turn this on on their zoom screen, which allows everyone to draw on the same screen at once),

White boards (which could be a place to draw and play games together like Passover hangman. You will find this after you click on share button),

Polling (live quizzes or opinion gathering with the associated ability tot then show everyone the results), and

Breakout rooms (which allow the larger room to be divided into smaller groups where people could divide up and work on a song or poem together) and

Chat ( You can text to the group or privately using a space on your screen which has this feature)


Note: Polling and Breakout Rooms have to be activated on your zoom settings. Go to https://zoom.us/account/setting and scroll all the way down under “in meeting” and you can turn on these functions.

You can also Record your zoom seder for posterity or to share with those who couldn’t be there


And here is a very simple way to make a face mask out of a kippah to have a safe and healthy Passover: