The Sayder (Sedar)

Images I always loved Passover.  To me, it is like a Jewish Thanksgiving.  The food is the same every year, we are thankful and reflective and you know no matter how religious you are or not that every Jew is sitting down around the world celebrating Passover. 

Passover has been constant over the year and what I mean by that is it is always the same.  We read from the Haggadah, we go through the prayers, we do the four questions, we sing Dayenu, we eat matzoh ball soup.  This year was different.  We were on a plane the first night.  Total screw up on my part but the second night we went to a friends house who is trying as an adult to discover as well as figure out how Judaism will play a role in his life.  Keep in mind he grew up in an orthodox household.

Together with a small group of friends who are also looking to figure out Judaism in their lives, they created a site call The Sayder.  A group of about 18 of us sat around the table for a sedar which was lead by a rabbi (although he is going to rabbinical school coming this fall) and we followed The Sayder.  It was one of the best sedars I have ever been too.  I can't get it out of my head.  I only wished we had this type of service around my table growing up.  This sedar was a conversational, interactive and a learning opportunity.  It also made me feel part of the Jewish community which is significant. 

We began the Sayder with every person telling their name and say one significant thing that changed in their life since last Passover.  Since I didn't know everyone at the table, that was a great way to start.  It was insightful and gave us each a slight glimpse into where each of us were in our lives.  The afikoman was hidden at this point.  We did follow some classic parts like four glasses of wine, etc.

Then we were to name organizations that we thought we making significant changes in the world today to make the world a better and freer place.  I named Hot Bread Kitchen.  At that point we broke up into pairs and discussed what is enslaving you today and holding you back from being freer.  The conversations were really interesting as we then returned to the table.  At this point we had some food.  

Next question was what solutions can we identify to make life better and freer.  Conversations flowed from the changes taking place in the Middle East, to giving back, to Governments being dysfunctional, etc.  Then we had dinner.

Our last question was each of our visions for a freer world.  How did we hope to see the world next year at this time.  Also we searched for the afikomen and who ever found it decided which non-profit organization we would donate money to.  Hot Bread Kitchen was chosen and so I was thrilled. 

Then came dessert.  It was a long night but incredibly insightful, thoughtful and engaging.  I keep thinking about the night.  Next year, not in Jerusalem but at my house with my kids and friends that can't get home from the girls college and we will follow The Sayder. 

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Comments (Archived):

  1. Viktor Ovurmind

    My interest in Judaism isn’t because of any faith but because my mind accommodates a randomness and messiness which means that I remain in contradictions and get in trouble a lot for not having a “fixed point of view”.I would guess that I am 70% right brain and 30% left brain in natural focus. One of the reasons that observing Judiasm appeals to me is that (along with observing philosophers who take philosophy 101 seriously), there is a certain rigor I have noticed in practicing Jews that stems from a maturation of a religion through five millenniums.It makes me wonder what form Christianity will take after five millenniums rather than in the two that it presently occupies? I think that may explain why new age interests those people born in religions that dominate the western world – since religions such as Buddhism and the spiritual collection of Vedic and Dravidian stories which have been structured as modern Hinduism have longer maturation in terms of millennia.The question of maturation is one I find relevant more because the effects of the industrial revolution served to cut off roots rather than strengthen the foundation. I look at the emergence of a consumer culture having watered down attention and therefore the rigor that any form of thinking requires be it a practice (which can be management or religion), or as an art or as a science.One way I notice the difference between religions that have retained maturation and those which have been reduced in their original complexity (I use that word for failure to think of a more suitable one) is the practice of oral traditions vs. written.Today as I see it, we are moving from the written culture to a visual culture and this transition to eye, from hand (symbolized by the printing press culture) and the prior ear culture (oral tradition), means that we are going to see more written about a world that requires right brain preference.Ironically, this is a world that should suit me once there is a right brain bias in full swing – but I don’t think that life should be about swinging from one state to another or from left minded thoughts to right minded thoughts. The pendulum of intelligence is that which we can find in the middle grounds – a ground formed between a consumed mythological past and an consumable illusionist future.While my natural tendency is to enjoy the wellspring of modern day diversity and my rebellious spirit is always a danger to those who believe in the conformity power of tribes or groups, my appreciation of Judiasm is furthered when I observe those who practice it with rigor.In observing what we might call the fundamentalist or traditionalist – I can strengthen my own left brain, while learning to appreciate the nuance and maturation of a practice that has survived the wrath and woe of generations.It is this sophistication of personal practice which I feel can be effected by the differing maturation points in the continuum of religions that humanity has given rise to.I am always mindful that religion, politics and sex are powerful forces that can take on a life of their own and so I balance the maturation of those practitioners who pass their faith to the next generation, to those who have rediscovered their faith or have unfrozen a left brain bias and now allow curiosity and discovery to inform their particular life journey.Grounding such discovery down to the perspective a solitary learner is essential in my point of view – it is a search than a share, a child-like wonder rather than adult authority.In observing the rigor of practice one understands that this is a hugely humble undertaking, where humility and forgiveness must surely become the supreme guiding lights, for the more thought we put to these things, the more thought we generate, yet rigor intuitively as I am concerned, is about peeling away to the essential.That act has a degree of difficulty that only a few engage – so I recognize that I am much better off trying in trying to observe with respect without trying to change what it is I observe – but certainly in the process it provides me an appreciation why certain thoughts have traveled and survived through generations and yet some are perishable and changeable as our present day consumer society.The key personally here for me then is balancing the right brain enjoyment of art, science and practice while living in actions that ensure an equally strengthened left brain.My personal qualifier being that the journey I read here is one of continuous learning and immersion into “know thyself” and while as horrible as the news in this world can be, observing even the first tender footsteps of a personal journey are equally lightening steps that might one day help in an aggregating effect to escape the wretched past. Thus I blend the power of the negative with the power of the positive.What I see Judiasm do in its celebrations is to acknowledge the wretched past and preserve the wisdom not to allow history to repeat itself – and in honoring these sacrificial milestones, there should develop within us, the exploration of that wisdom that practice has retained and that informs a brief lifetime of our own experiences.[v.o.M.]

    1. Gotham Gal

      Judaism, perhaps because of the long history, is a thinking man’s religion.There are a variety of different levels, reform, conservative, orthodox,etc., which allows people to practice their faith at a level that we eachfeel comfortable with. As I know people who are more committed to makingJudaism part of their life than I am, but at least I can understand it,appreciate it and respect their desires.

      1. Viktor Ovurmind

        This idea that we all have levels which we find personal equilibrium with is one that I duly accept as a natural part of finding ourselves, without trying to be anything other than who we are and more important in terms of finding the richness of the unfulfilled or more to the point the filling potential of life which I will later on here describe as a reception.That is why I focus on the word practice rather than religion. If Judaism is the religion of the thinking man then I embrace it even more, so long I remain a thinking man and not an intellectual.Just as Peter Drucker points out that management and medicine is a practice, religion is a practice also. The way I look at levels of practice is that there is something to be gained at the different intensities, but but there is something additional that comes to mind, which is the private practice, the personal practice and public practice.My private practice is nobody’s business but my own, my personal practice is to think out aloud and observe like this, and my public practice is to recognize that I am not alone in the universe and that the universe will merrily keep on going and growing with or without me.Those three types of practice exist within each level of participation (levels here formulated as in the ones you have outlined). Then I guess, what affects that practice is the orientation rather than merely the intensity of it. Here it is about how we individually choose to come to it fresh and new and work backwards into the practice, or do we begin at the beginning and work forwards into the practice.My practice has always been about working backwards, whereas the way society is educated is mostly in forward looking practice. My observations then reflect exactly that which I do not do. The learning in this observation then means that when I look at a subject such Judiasm, one year from now I will have improved my orientation and not just focus on the intensity or level of practice. Intensity fills us with knowledge but orientation enables us to uncover our own nuggets of wisdom.I therefore value looking at your journey not because I am saying that one way is better than another or a similar useless and baseless value judgement, but because I am the learner here. This is why I don’t tweet and I do not blog, but I am a thinking man and I above all I recognize the limitations of my own thinking. It is impossible as I see it to learn what we already know; for we are not learning in that situation but simply retreading, remembering or reminding ourselves of what it is we know. If I am not uncomfortable writing this, then the unknown is out of my reach.I don’t want to know more for than I am simply filled with knowledge but I do want to focus on practice, and here again, there is more to religion than just spiritual practice, but I feel that it encompasses physical practice, spiritual practice and social practice also. You will probably agree with me here but I don’t want to agree to agree or agree to disagree – the benefit of your blog is that you are providing the gift, for people (or thinkers) like me to see your practice. You are the giver here and I am the receiver. We are both thinkers, the only difference being that my mother would refer to her religion as a thinking woman’s religion.We live in age of givers today that is why sharing is celebrated and givers have the advantage of receiving in abundance. I am a receiver here, for I believe that in the age of givers there must be those who cultivate their ability to receive. If giving is a gift, then learning to receive is a blessing. Yet it forms one more layer of practice and so religion (any religion) is of no consequence to me, but the mere fact that religion at its best is a practice, rather than a science or an art – in that for me lies the rub.[v.o.M.]

  2. Amy Bevilacqua

    What a wonderful, mindful way to spend an evening. Regardless of if or how we all worship, this is a great way to connect with family or new friends. Thank you so much for sharing.

  3. Debbie Stier

    YOU: “I always loved Passover.”ME: ME TOOOOOOOOO!!!!!And if it wouldn’t break my father’s heart, I’d beg you to get me an invite for next year.

    1. Gotham Gal

      you are in!

  4. Tracey Jackson

    I am totally doing this next year. Great idea. I always want to do Seder with my kids and they want it, but growing up the way I did I don’t know the prayers or anything> Bt if I do it this way it works! THANK YOU. Sounds like something we should all do once a month.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Once a month might not be a bad idea

  5. Cookiemoo

    Our family couldn’t get together for the first two nights, so we had our Seder last night, after your “Sayder” post. We only did a five minute Seder as our Grandson is only turning 3 years next week. We began it my me asking “How is this Passover different from last Passover?” My Grandson answered “Baby Teddy” is here (our 8 month old Grandson)! Thanks for this post. As they get older, we incorporate more of these ideas into the Seder.

    1. Gotham Gal

      I love that. 3 year olds sitting through a long sedar is definitely not theway to go!

  6. artyowza

    I wrote down your four questions…… and will use them.These are questions I asked myself today………..How and where can I show my deep caring?What is the most enriching conversation or collaboration I can have?What if I were the Dali Lama’s mother?What is the highest good health impact of my business?

    1. Gotham Gal


  7. TanyaMonteiro

    1) Share one significant thing that changed in your life since last passover?2) Name one organisation that is making significant change in helping our world be a better and freer place?3) What is enslaving you today and holding you back from being freer?4) What solutions can you identify to make better and freer?5) How do we hope to see the world this time next year?Brilliant questions and ones that could be used at any holiday/celebration. Thanks, love how this makes me think

    1. Gotham Gal

      can absolutely be used at any holiday. love how you broke it down.

  8. ShanaC

    After looking at the sponsors, I think they may know this already, but it can’t hurt:This is the kind of thing that would probably go well with next years application cycle of the Jewish New Media Fund (info here: ) If any of the people behind this see it, you should totally apply, because most of this years winner’s were sort of lame….

    1. Gotham Gal

      i will pass that one on.