Next year on the seder plate


Rabbi Barry Dov Lerner | Special to WJW

What do you remember most vividly about your earliest seder experiences?
Many of us remember them with the input of family and friends, and most are pleasant if not inspiring. And now, this year, we have the most recent memories, supplemented perhaps with pictures, melodies and memories of sedarim from the past.

But are we ready to say “Dayenu” — enough? Passover may now be ending, but I’m already planning for next year. Why?

The famed Reform preacher Rabbi Stephen S. Wise often taught that for each Shabbat he composed three sermons: one was the first one he wrote; second was the d’var Torah that he actually preached; and last was on the way home, the one he should have shared.
Passover has similar parallels.

There is the seder we plan, the seder we celebrated and then the seder we should have planned. But there is next year for what we will perform.

The recipes for each meal are reviewed and chosen. Haggadot are examined, potential seder discussion topics and new biblical and archaeological discoveries that can’t be overlooked are marked with Post-its, ready for an appearance.

However, I must also think ahead.

For next year, there are an increasing number of seder plate symbols, so much so that the table itself must become the seder “plate” [k’arah] to contain them all.

Let’s plan to continue sharing a list of all the new and innovative seder plate symbols that have evolved to address the issue of inclusivity and bringing in those who still feel marginalized.

Some once-new additions have become semi-traditional and are well-known, such as the orange on the seder plate. I found in my files one I had forgotten — an alternative symbol for LGBTQ inclusivity.

Here is the backstory: Invited to a seder, a guest asked the host if she could add cinnamon sticks. When asked why, she explained: “Judaism has made huge strides towards inclusiveness for the LGBT community. I chose to add cinnamon sticks to my seder plate because it can be bitter by itself or be used to sweeten a greater whole; we do use it in charoset. Many traditions use it to symbolize spirituality, healing and love — and when you combine them you get acceptance. I finally feel the LGBT community is fully accepted by Judaism and use the cinnamon stick to symbolize it.”

The host, a Conservadox rabbi said, “You can never take anything away from the seder, but you can always add. I like the symbolism. When you come over, make sure you bring a sealed glass bottle of cinnamon sticks so we can add one to the seder plate.”

For next year, we should encourage the use of additional edible and even inedible symbols to promote asking questions. Encourage everyone to seize this opportunity to new meaning for a new symbol for freedom, justice and blessing in a place where there is still none.

Rabbi Barry Dov Lerner is the president of Traditional Kosher Supervision, Inc.

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