The Passover Seder: Order matters

By Gabrielle Beacken

Why is this night different from all other nights?

It’s the central question posed on Passover.

The Seder table. Photo by Gila Brand.

The Seder table. Photo by Gila Brand.

There are factual answers. Jews all around the world eat matzo instead of bread and dip their vegetables twice in salt water throughout the night.

Then there are the obvious answers that any person who’s attended a Seder will understand: Jews sit at a crowded table filled with hungry friends and family who have been nibbling on their salted vegetables, voluntarily waiting more than an hour to eat their first bite of matzo.

Passover is different from all other nights not only because of what Jews do, but how they do it. Order matters. Seder, in Hebrew, means order.

The Passover Seder consists of 15 parts. Yes, 15. The most popular is number five, Maggid, (reciting of the Haggadah, the story of Passover) and, of course, number 11, Shulchan Aruch (eating the main course).

Those are my two favorite parts of the Seder.

The one who recites the story needs to evoke pathos, “setting the scene” with details and emotion. A good storyteller allows guests to feel the heat of the infinitely burning bush that Moses speaks to.

I’ve become acquainted with the fine elements of storytelling because, luckily for me, I’ve been able to learn from a proficient Passover storyteller for the last 10 years. Even at 91 years old, Charlie Brunswick, an energetic and profusely sweet man, manages to spark my interest and attention to a story I’ve been told my entire life.

Gabrielle Beacken. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Gabrielle Beacken. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

With purposeful pauses and the interjection of personal stories, Charlie illustrates the Jews’ struggle as slaves and their journey to freedom. The table is respectfully silent as his words depict the pain of the oppressed and the gratitude of the free.

The history and lessons of Passover were instilled during my days as a student at the Hebrew Academy of Morris County.

Amy Brunswick, hostess of an always-fun Seder in her Morristown home, never fails to ask my siblings or me a Passover trivia question. I never worry about the answer; if it does not come to me immediately, Amy’s young and clever niece, Eve, surely will supply it.

The Seder night is filled with thoughtful discussion and debate that permit guests to learn from one another. Even when their opinions don’t line up, the free speech is important. That’s what Passover is all about: Freedom.

Why is this night different from all other nights?

We wonder, we ask, and we tell, but most importantly, we learn from those more wise and experienced than ourselves.

Hush, the table whispers as Maggid is approaching, for Charlie is about to tell, for Charlie is about to teach.

Gabrielle Beacken of Randolph is a student at The College of New Jersey.




  1. Henriette Moëf Roth says:

    How nice to get this insight into how Passover is celebrated by my niece Amy Brunswick Schwartz and her family. I always observe it in the home of my son Albert and his sweet wife Lanping. This year, their twin daughters recited the “Ma Nishtanah” (Four Questions) in both English and Hebrew. The search for the Afikomen was won by Allison.

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