They Say There's a Different Seder

In recent years, seder traditions have developed that our forefathers would have never imagined.

What does a pink grapefruit on the seder plate symbolize? And what should one think about when breaking the matza? And what exactly is the cup of Miriam the Prophetess? Very few Jews in Israel want or allow themselves to be absent from the seder, but in recent years seder traditions have developed that our forefathers would have never imagined.

The cup of Miriam the Prophetess. "The new customs, like the cup of Miriam and the ornamented tambourines ["Miriam's drums" in Hebrew], which have become part of the feminist seder, are based on interpretations describing a well that followed Miriam, Moses' sister, in the desert and quenched the thirst of the Israelites. Other commentaries describe Miriam standing on the shores of the sea that was miraculously parted and singing to the Israelites to encourage them to flee from their Egyptian pursuers." (Haaretz, April 19, 2005)

Without masks - a holistic seder. "Yachatz [the breaking of the matza at the beginning of the seder]. Wait, do not hurry to break the matza! ... It is one of the most moving moments of the seder night. Bring deep and true intention to breaking the matza. Hold the unbroken matza in your hands and look at it. This matza represents your true self. This is why it is so important for you to be completely whole before breaking it. Whole, without arrogance, without pride, without any inflated ego, without ideas and thoughts, without masks, without any damage." (From "The Holistic Haggadah: How Will You Be Different This Passover Night?" by Michael Kagan)

Family reading. An overwhelming majority (80 percent) of respondents in a survey researching the views of secular students said they would prefer to have the Haggadah read by all of the participants, while only 3 percent thought the reading should be left to men only. Just 16 percent would like to see bread on the seder table. Some 56 percent would not want to travel abroad on the seder night, compared to 43 percent who would. (From research conducted by Dr. Ezra Kopelowitz and Hadar Franco)

The world's biggest seder. This was the seder held by backpackers in Kathmandu in 2006, with about 2,000 participants. "Flashes go off all evening, despite the requests of Rabbi Hezki. It is not appropriate, but no one gets angry or makes any comments ... Rabbi Hezki acts wisely, and races through the Haggadah at a pace typical of the Megillah reading on Purim. A number of people go outside to smoke - I get drunk quickly. Itai comes to my table every few minutes and insists on having a drink with me. From this point onward, my memory becomes foggy." (Orr, from the Lametayel Web site)

In bed with a book. "A slightly more original method of saving calories is simply to skip the fattening meals. While there are many people who will not be able to withstand the [family] pressure - there are divorcees whose children are searching for the afikoman at the home of their "ex," married women who send their spouse and children to gorge themselves with charoset at grandma's house and sink into bed with a delightful book, and grandmas who take off overseas." (Haaretz, March 26, 2007)

Not for children. "KabaLove, the School for Love in Kabbala, is pleased to invite you to celebrate the seder night with Rabbi Ohad Ezrahi, Dawn Cherie Ezrahi and friends at the Merhav-Yah school in Rosh Pina. In general, we will follow the Haggadah, but - we will also examine what is constraining us, and from what we are ready to finally, with great daring, liberate ourselves, and we will drink the four cups in honor of this. Whoever wishes to remain here to sleep can do so, and those who want to can continue to sing with us the Song of Songs until Solomon kisses me with the kisses of his mouth because my love is better than wine, deep into the night, with this continuous love and divine compassion. The seder is not suited for children." (From the KabaLove Web site)

Trafficking in women. "At each and every seder, we are obligated to see ourselves as if we were born into terrible distress in Moldova and sold into prostitution in Israel." (Yuval Elbashan, Haaretz, September 12, 2002)

Pink grapefruit. At the seder of the Open House, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender center in Jerusalem, it is customary "to place a pink grapefruit on the seder plate. This custom represents the equality between all of the community's members, straight and LGBT alike." The participants: "There are those who cannot bring their partner home; there are those whose families have become estranged from them - and some come because women or men with a skullcap turn them on." (Yonatan Leibowitz, Ynet, April 3, 2006)

Fascinating and interesting things occur when Judaism stops being a monopoly and becomes an open market of creative ideas. The pink grapefruit and the cup of Miriam are no less legitimate than the afikoman and cup of Elijah the Prophet. They are now beginning to fight for their place. In another hundred years, who knows, perhaps they will already be a sacred and fossilized custom. And then it will be necessary to think of new content.