Mah Nishtanah? Is This Passover Different?

On Monday we will gather for the Seder, around tables set with a script, our Haggadah, to tell the story of Exodus in an orderly way. It may seem ludicrous to celebrate liberation and follow the order (seder) while we are still in the shadow of a six months war in Israel, with no end in sight.

The nightmare that began on October 7 shattered us and casted us into doubt and fear. At the same time, it has provided us with new understandings and insights, lenses through which we can experience and relate to the mythical story of Passover.

Mah Nishtanah? This year’s Seder is different as we cannot pass over, or gloss over elements of the Seder ritual as we struggle with the current complex matzav (situation) in Israel and the Middle East. People are displaced, in captivity, in battle, without homes, mourning and waiting for loved ones to return home.

Ways to Approach the Seder this Year 

First, let’s enter our Seder gatherings with humility, caring and be sensitive to one another. Because our hearts are broken and we feel raw with emotions and concerns, we need to be extra gentle with ourselves and others. If in past Seders we enjoyed strong debates, carelessly read through the Hagaddah and performed the ritual with delight, even having fun with the 10 plagues, we will find it harder to do so this year.

As challenging as it may appear, it is important to celebrate, and we should, but first, we also need to acknowledge our tender hearts. Please be kind and welcoming to all feelings. People may be angry, sad, confused and feeling despair for different reasons. Do not judge one another and avoid conversations that will cause conflicts. 

This year the sound of the breaking Matzah will be a reminder of the shattering of our broken hearts. The salt water will taste familiar. It will remind us of the tears we have shed for months. We will hear “Let my people go” not in Moses’s voice, but in the many voices asking for the release of the hostages in Gaza. Reading lines like: “we were slaves in Egypt and now we are free” and singing dayenu, it is enough, may feel like they are lies.

Make your Seder into a prayer

Yes, we need to be honest and real, and, also acknowledge what is good in our lives and in the world. Do express gratitude! Do sing Hallel and praise! Do enjoy the food, especially the sweets, to help sweeten the bitterness of this time. Because if we don’t see the good we succumb to despair and that is not the Jewish way. Ha’tikvah! Hope is the main path which we journey. A path of liberation, transformation and believing we can repair, overcome hardships and mend this world, again and again.

Seder Ritual Suggestions

During Ye’chatz time. Hold up the Matzah, the bread of affliction and freedom, break it ceremoniously and let people speak about how they feel broken. Then ask people to share hopes and prayers they have and wrap those into the afikoman half with a cloth napkin. Leave it on the table or hide it for the children to look for it. From then, the entire telling of the story and the meal will be a prayer toward the hidden hopes and prayers (tzafun) in the afikoman, the sweet dessert.

Leave an empty seat next to a full setting with wine and water for the hostages who cannot be at a Seder. Let the empty place be a prayer for their well-being and release.

Set a cup for Alijah with hope and prayers for when we need help from a force greater than human ability and agency.

I wish you and yours a sweet and meaningful holiday.

May you find sweetness, hope and joy in this holiday of liberation.

Chag hayrut sameach,

Rabbi Sigal


Mail: Kol HaNeshama

PO Box 21655

Sarasota, FL 34276

Phone: 941-244-2042
CLICK HERE to Email Us



South Gate Community Center

3145 Southgate Circle Sarasota, FL 34239



Sign up to receive the latest news and announcements from us.