By Dave Savage
Is the traditional Manischewitz or Maxwell House haggadah your cup of tea? Does your family speed-read and skip through these and other published haggadot, looking for the fun parts and the basic Exodus story? Have you ever attempted to create a haggadah that your family would enjoy from beginning to end?
Many families and congregations have a long-standing tradition of creating a fun and meaningful haggadah by cutting and pasting, writing, editing, and revising materials that tell the Exodus story with a special emphasis and point of view. Versions are told from the women’s point of view and from the children’s perspective. There are versions with Yiddish and Ladino songs. Some haggadot have traditional G-d language, and some do not.
The key is to tell the basic story and to create a conversation about the issues the story brings up. Through the conversation, questions and answers, our history, values and traditions are remembered, reinforced and passed on to all who join us in this wonderful occasion.
When you create your own haggadah, it is important to consider the age, maturity and attention span of the people attending your seder. Be sure to assign parts to the children with age-appropriate vocabulary. If you are going to have guests who are not familiar with the seder traditions, be sure to add parts that explain what and why things are being said and done in a certain way. Adding humorous songs and readings is a good balance to the serious stories and discussion about freedom and slavery.
The flow of the seder can be improved if instructions are included in parentheses. The instructions enable people to prepare to do the rituals without spoken instructions disturbing the flow of the stories and readings. Also remember to number the pages. In our seders, we share the reading with everyone who attends. The blocks of text are sized so that each person has about the same amount to read. Be sure to mark the leader’s parts so that the rituals can be done without confusion.
I encourage you to find suitable materials in other haggadot and in the writings and songs of all freedom-loving people. Many seders include the words of Martin Luther King and Gandhi. The Internet is a wonderful source of material. Be sure to look at readings with an eye toward individual paragraphs, sentences or phrases that can be used and mixed with other things you have written or found.
You can get my whole haggadah by emailing email@example.com or by clicking here or, for a PDF, Haggadah 2015 2 23 15. If you like it, I would be glad to share my other holiday and Shabbat/Havdalah materials.
Dave Savage is co-author of “Heartfelt Memorial Services — Your Guide for Planning Meaningful Funerals, Celebrations of Life, and Times of Remembrance.” He has led interfaith community Seders through Northwest Unitarian Congregation and Congregation Kol Chaim.