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The art of the seder

  • Chief Rabbi 15-HOME
"The Pesach seder is not a presentation; it is not a shiur nor a lecture, but a dialogue, a conversation" says the Chief Rabbi.
by Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein | Mar 25, 2015


Each and every year we begin this conversation with Ma Nishtanah - the four questions. We ask: “In what way is this night different from all other nights?” We encourage everyone to ask. And we all do our best to find answers.

This thread of questions-and-answers weaves its way across the telling of the Exodus. Clearly, this is not simply about imparting information. Indeed - as we learn in the Haggadah itself - even if a person knows many of the answers, he or she must still engage in the dialogue. 

The question-and-answer format promotes this dialogue and that really is the art of a good seder - finding a way to draw participants into a discussion so that it becomes real and relevant to everyone present.

From a psychological perspective, this question-and-answer format engages participants and helps them take ownership of the narrative. Having this sense of ownership is a very important concept when it comes to Torah in general. 

Learning Torah is not just about absorbing information or grasping a set of instructions. Rather, it necessitates internalising the content. In learning Torah, we debate and discuss, we probe and we question. We think things through and own the knowledge. 

We all know that the greater the investment, the greater the reward. The more we invest ourselves in the process of understanding the Exodus; the more it becomes a part of who we are.

There is great wisdom in the Torah’s approach to perform this mitzvah of recounting the Exodus in a question-and-answer format. The Chumash alludes to it: “…when your son will ask you at some future time, ‘what is this?’ you shall say to him: ‘With a strong hand Hashem removed us from Egypt, from the house of bondage’.”

The entire discussion of the Exodus - in both the Torah and the Haggadah - is characterised by a question-and-answer format.  

The transmission from one generation to the next of the great origins of our people - of our dramatic Exodus from Egypt and our wondrous liberation from slavery - are the heart and soul of the seder experience.

So much of the structure and content of the seder is geared towards children. As parents, we need to reflect deeply on how we continue the great chain of transmission; on how we give over, in a relevant and interesting way, the essence of our people, as given to us by G-d, and as transmitted through the ages.

And even if there are no children at our seders, we should all engage in the learning process with a child-like wonder and appreciation for our Torah heritage.

In this spirit, and as part of the Generation Sinai programme - an ongoing platform for parents and children to learn Torah together - packs of learning cards are being made available to the community for use at the seder.

Chief Rabbi logo newThese cards - which utilise a questions-and-answer format characteristic of the seder itself - will, Please G-d, facilitate lively discussions, and enrich the sharing of new ideas between parents and children during the precious moments of our Pesach seders.

The driving vision of Generation Sinai is to bring parents and children together on a regular basis to learn Torah. Once a year, just before Shavuot, Generation Sinai brings parents and children together at their schools and on three other occasions during the year, Generation Sinai provides interactive Torah learning material for parents and children to engage with at home.

It is significant that three of the four sessions of Generation Sinai take place at home, rather than at school, because this is indeed the message: that our homes - not only our shuls and schools - can be places of Torah learning.

Together, we can create a culture of Torah learning in our homes. And perhaps the Pesach seder points the way to how this can be accomplished. Together, let’s create seders that are fun and fascinating and interactive and conducted in a joyful spirit as, within our families, we embark on the great journey of learning Torah together.

In this merit, we can extend the magic of the seder, so that as families we share in dynamic Torah learning experiences throughout the year - and watch our homes become beacons of light, and an inspiration to us all.


If you would like a pack of Generation Sinai seder cards, e-mail [email protected]





  1. 2 Mel 27 Mar
    oh please
  2. 1 Choni 28 Mar
    Lets rather cease uttering the "lie" "next year in Jerusalem".


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