How do you make the second seder distinctive? Readers offer a variety of suggestions.
You sit down at the seder table, start the holiday meal with Kiddush, then déjà vu hits you: didn’t we do this last night?
For many people, the second seder — Yom Tov Sheni Shel Galiuot, which takes place only in the diaspora — is a challenge. Going through the same readings and rituals seems repetitive. Those who already asked “why is this night different from all other nights?” strain to make the second seder different from the first.
Some families have dropped the second seder altogether, some rush through an abridged version, while others attend a communal meal at a local synagogue or Jewish institution instead of doing it themselves.
And some get creative, incorporating ideas that can be used on either night but work to best advantage on the second night, sustaining participants’ interest after a traditional seder the night before. Perhaps a second night “interpretation” of the Four Sons (e.g., the “feminist child” and the “Marxist child”), or a meal that focuses on a topic like child nutrition.
“It is very important,” after a traditional seder the first night, “to make a seder that is new happen” on night two, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, the leader of the Jewish Renewal movement, writes.
The Jewish Week asked its readers —mostly online— for some suggestions. And the Internet also was helpful.
When you do your second seder this year, consider this:
“Have someone else lead it, for a different perspective,” suggests Dov Kramer of New York.
“Invite different people with different backgrounds, ideas and attitudes,” suggests Joseph Spivack. His other ideas: “Use a radically different Hagaddah — more or less Hebrew, more or less progressive. Initiate discussion on different passages — different one of Four Sons, different plague. Sing different songs with different melodies — or make up your own songs placing Pesach concepts in a new context — Spring, Redemption, Renewal, Freedom.”
Aaron Steinberg’s practice is to “incorporate some sort of activity into the mix.” Activities like Passover games and skits. “My family does Jewpardy during the seder — a Jewish trivia game based on Jeopardy.”
Murray Spiegel, co-author of “300 Ways to Ask The Four Questions,” an exhaustive, illustrated book that was issued this year in an expanded edition in an effort to engage seder guests, has created a website (SedersForYou.tripod.com) that features the Pesach song parodies, individualized Haggadahs and other holiday ideas he has created as part of the innovative seders he has hosted for three decades.
The Spiegel home has been turned into a Bedouin tent and a jumbo jet; guests “sacrifice” a (stuffed animal) lamb and play a holiday-themed version of “Family Feud.” “We usually make the afikomen search a very involved hunt,” Spiegel says. “We don’t have kids at our seders, but adults enjoy playing like kids.”
Stanley Rosenzweig, who was asked to lead the second night community seder for Presidential Kosher Holidays at the Fairmount Mayakoba in Mexico a few years ago, took a theatrical approach. “Knowing that the guests are often not as eager and patient at the second seder as they are at the first, we wanted to make this seder really exciting,” says his wife Zelda Stern. Rosenzweig, appeared dramatically at the seder, co-conducting with a staff rabbi, dressed in a Moses costume he had ordered online.
“The rabbi led the seder, and Stanley interjected jokes — G-rated ones, of course — at the appropriate times,” Stern says. Camp counselors at the seder helped, standing up with masks representing the Ten Plagues when the symbolic drops of wine were spilled. The next year, to demonstrate the splitting of the Red Sea, Rosenzweig had the counselors wave two tablecloths together, simulating sea waves. Then the children at the seder walked through the “Sea,” which split for them. “It was a very dramatic and graphic reenactment of the crossing … that will stay with these kids,” Stern says.
The second seder, says Rabbi Ari Weiss, director of Uri L’Tzdek, the Orthodox social justice organization, is a perfect time to introduce “the Haggadic themes of social justice and freedom.” In 2011, he says, a billion people live on less than a dollar a day; two billion, on less than two dollars. These facts, and more seder readings, are in Uri L’Tzedek’s Food and Justice Haggadah Supplement: http://utzedek.org/socialjusticetorah/uri-ltzedek-food-a-justice-haggada....
Mindy Hermann-Zaidins and her family introduce a new cuisine the second night. She and her husband, she writes, “grew up with Ashkenazi traditions but didn’t like the food.” Night two is Sephardi night in their household. “I host second seder every year and always make Sephardi food,” centered around one country’s food; Greece, Iran, Turkey, Italy, Mexico, Iraq, so far. One year, Cajun, “because one of our sons had just returned from a community service trip to New Orleans.
This year’s menu at Hermann-Zaidins’ house will have a political taste: items “from countries that have undergone freedom revolutions in 2011, so Libya, Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen. We’re hoping to discuss the history of the Jewish communities in those countries.”
Put an edible centerpiece on the table; it may contain parsley, carrots, celery stalks, etc. When the time comes to dip the karpas in the salt water, there is a choice of the standard parsley or the centerpiece. Or every guest can receive an entire artichoke with a dipping sauce. Provide origami frogs for place cards, or “Egyptian Slave Hats” for each guest (kenesethisrael.org).
Think change, advises Liz Spevack — different food, different guests, different seating arrangements. “In my family,” she writes, “it’s actually the second seder that has consistently stood out over the years as the better of the two seders. The second seder affords us an opportunity that the first seder doesn’t — the chance to fine-tune the details.”
After the rush of preparations for yom tov, the adults are aren’t “quite as exhausted as the night before. We end up having more patience and energy for the kid’s many performances, and the whole experience ends up feeling smoother, more refined, and more relaxed.”
Rabbi Eytan Hammerman of Mahopac, N.Y., favors a smaller, more intimate atmosphere on the second night. First seder: “Time to be with family.” Second seder: “A time to be with community.” His congregation, Temple Beth Shalom, sponsors a second seder. It’s “interactive, fun and, certainly, shorter than the seder at my home on the first night of Pesach,” he writes.
Announce at the start of the seder that “no interesting questions are permitted. Anyone who violates this … will be punished and have a candied nut” or some similar Pesach goodie thrown at the offender. “This sets a fun tone for the evening, and usually produces some giggles … and some good questions.” (threejews.net).
Bring an object for the seder plate, a small, non-chametz object “that is not normally found on the seder table” but has some connection to the holiday’s themes. The objects are placed on a second seder plate, and passed around during the evening, with everyone asked to explain one item he or she had not brought. (joshfeigelson.wordpress.com).
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