There are some experiences in life that cannot be encountered suddenly in order to be fully enjoyed and appreciated. We anticipate our wedding day or becoming a parent or a grandparent. We think about certain family gatherings or special moments with friends, often preparing ourselves emotionally. Athletes gear up for a big game not only physically but mentally as well. This is how the Talmudic Sages viewed Passover, as an experience for which we should prepare both physically and spiritually. Thus they designated the entire month of Nisan, the month in which Passover occurs, as a month of “kedusha,” of sanctity. The Rabbinic Sages celebrated the beginning of the month of Nisan by reading a special portion from the Torah (Exodus 12:1-20), which tells the story of the first Exodus from Egypt. They called the Shabbat immediately prior to Passover “Shabbat Ha-Chodesh,” the Sabbath of THE month. (In an unusual alignment on the calendar, this year Shabbat Ha-Chodesh and Rosh Chodesh Nisan occur on the same day.) The Sages asked us to begin preparing for the monumental experience of the Passover Seder well in advance of the holiday so that when the evening finally comes, we’re ready and at our best.
How does one get ready for Passover? Of course, there is the physical transformation that takes place in our homes, including the changing of dishes, an exceptionally thorough cleaning of the house and the buying and cooking of special foods. But how does one get ready spiritually for Passover?
One way is to devote a little part of each day of the next two weeks to study and contemplation. To accomplish that, I share with you some resources that you can obtain either for an iPad or tablet, or in print. Each of these resources has something valuable to offer and can serve to enrich your Passover experience, not only at the Seder but during the entire holiday. Find something in one or more of these books to add to your Seder or to add to your family’s dinner conversation during Passover week. Even more important, allocate time to helping the homeless and the hungry, for discovering the time and inspiration to help those in need is truly the essence and the desired result of celebrating Passover.
Here are three of my favorite Haggadot. It’s not necessary to buy a copy for everyone at your Seder. Obtain one and quote from it, or pass it around.
- Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’ Haggadah is filled with interesting commentaries and essays.
- A Night to Remember: The Haggadah of Contemporary Voices by Noam Zion is truly my favorite. With beautiful color illustrations many insightful comments on each page, it’s worth having.
- Also by Noam Zion, A Different Night: The Family Participation Haggadah comes with a leaders’ guide and also in an abridged version.
- Jonathan Safran Foer’s New American Haggadah, with its clever page layout was published a few years ago and is still a beautiful addition to any Seder.
Whether you’re preparing to lead the Seder or want to know more about its content and origin, these books will provide an enormous amount of insight and information.
- Creating Lively Passover Seders: A Sourcebook of Engaging Tales, Texts and Activities by David Arnow offers explanations and Seder activities and discussion outlines.
- Passover: The Family Guide to Spiritual Participation by Ron Wolfson (author of Relational Judaism) and Joel Lurie Grishaver offers a wealth of information, explanations and a how-to guide at the back.
- Keeping Passover: Everything You Need to Know to Bring the Ancient Tradition to Life and to Create Your Own Passover Celebration by Ira Steingroot reads less like a sourcebook and more like prose and is a wonderful resource.
Passover is a bit more than two weeks away so now is the time to get ready!