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How is this Night Different?

Dr. Tamar Kadari
| 13/04/2020

This year we will indeed be different, but the seder will be no less meaningful.  Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies faculty offer some ways to celebrate given our current situation.

Compiled by Dr. Tamar Kadari, Dean of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies and a lecturer for Midrash and Aggadah

Dr. Gila Vachman, director of Torah Lishma in Tel  Aviv, offers some seder enrichment. 

According to the Mishnah, the conversation around the seder table should open with a question (“And here the son asks his father”). So that we know what to ask, the Mishnah offers us the familiar wording: “How is this night different from all other nights?” But when everything around is so different and unusual, perhaps this year we will take the opportunity to ask other questions, for example:


  • If you could replace the Corona with one of the Ten Plagues, which would you choose, and why?
  • What extra symbol would be appropriate to put on our seder table this year?
  • If Elijah the Prophet cannot come, because he is in quarantine, who would you want to come and visit in his place?
  • Of all the characters in the haggadah, who would you like to sit with you tonight at the Seder table?
  • And so on, in whatever way you imagine for yourself and/or your family.

Dr. Yair Paz, lecturer in Israel Studies, and currently called up from the reserves to  serve in the Home Front Command, shares practical recommendations for the family:

The essence of Passover – “And you should tell your children.” Passing the story of the people from parent to child, with an emphasis on future generations. Looking ahead, we understand that in order for us to celebrate the Seder as we are accustomed to in future generations, this time, we need to celebrate in a more limited format. And what is the best way of doing so?

We will encourage the seder celebration among the nuclear family: dress festively, prepare traditional foods, uphold traditions that can still be observed such as singing and reading from the Haggadah – with connection to the situation we are going through. Connected to family and home and we will all participate in their preparation. Cleaning  can be taught with children with a new emphasis on hygiene. We can reflect on this unique period: Freedom is the ability to choose – we have the freedom of choosing to protect our relatives. Let’s choose life, wisdom, using humor and connecting to the ten plagues. We survived Pharaoh and we will survive this too.

Professor Renee Levine Melammed, Women’s Studies and Sephardic Jewry, connects us to history: 

A document I found in an Inquisition era archive in Madrid reminded me of how Pesach was observed by the Jewish Anusim of Spain.  In 1509 an Anusa named Elvira Martinez announced to the Inquisition inspectors that she ate matza and fruit. I figured that in order to keep the laws of Passover, she limited herself to these two foods. And we, in our current frenzy, find online or supermarkets a few more options than matza and fruit.

Tamar Kadari is a senior lecturer for Midrash and Aggadah at the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies. She received her PhD in Midrashic literature from Hebrew University in Jerusalem and was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at The University of Pennsylvania. In 2009, Dr. Kadari received a grant from the Israeli Science Foundation (ISF) to head a research group preparing a critical edition of Song of Songs Rabbah. Her research interests include biblical women in the eyes of the rabbis, aesthetics and beauty in rabbinic literature and literary readings of midrash. Dr. Kadari is also a sculptor whose work has been exhibited in galleries in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

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