With people staying in place to celebrate Passover with immediate family only, in accordance with government guidelines for the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the number of seders taking place around the world will be greater this year than ever before.
Hundreds of thousands of people cannot travel to gather together as guests with extended family and friends, or with their broader communities, and instead need to stay put and prepare to hold seders in their own dining rooms.
Many will be trying their hands at putting together a seder and sharing the Exodus story for the first time.
With Passover beginning April 8, Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries are preparing “Seder-to-Go” kits assembled and on people’s doorsteps ahead of the holiday.
The kits have until now largely been used by emissaries to bring Passover to those who are either hospitalized or homebound.
Now, as coronavirus spreads, the kits support families in quarantine or practicing social distancing.
International versions are being translated and locally printed in Taiwan, Japan, Romania, Malta, Switzerland, Sweden, Portugal, England, Scotland, Turkey, Australia, Spain, Ukraine, Montenegro, Cyprus, Serbia, Poland and Denmark.
The kits come with a seder guide and Hebrew-English Haggadah, matzah bag and containers that can be filled with the various elements of the seder plate.
Those hosting a seder for the first time may find Rabbi Menchem Posner’s FAQ useful.
How will I get the house clean in time?
The key is that spring cleaning is not Passover cleaning. You only need to remove actual, edible chametz, not dust, and only from places where you could have conceivably put chametz in the first place during the year.
Also, if there is a place that you cannot clean or check, you can simply close it off and sell it to a non-Jew for the duration of the holiday. This may include your second car, which may not be in use to ferry the kids to school or soccer practice, since everything is closed. Just lock it, include it in your sale, and you need not worry about the pretzels lodged in the bucket seats.
How will I know what to do when?
Leading a seder is a lot simpler than it seems. Why? Because you have your cheat sheet right in front of you. A standard Haggadah has all the instructions and guidance necessary to walk through the 15 steps of the seder like a pro.
So just pull out your Haggadah and read through it in advance.
What supplies do I need?
- Haggadah booklets
- Matzah (shmurah matzah is ideal)
- Wine or grape juice
- Maror (bitter herbs, typically romaine lettuce or grated horseradish)
- Vegetable for dipping (karpas)
- Saltwater (yep, just salt and water)
- Food for your Passover feast (i.e., food that is kosher for Passover and does not contain roasted meat)
- Roasted shank (make sure it still has some meat on it)
- Eggs (hardboiled)
Can you suggest some ballpark quantities?
Wine: Every individual needs to drink four cups of wine or grape juice, so a bottle of wine per person per seder is a safe bet. (If you have small, three-ounce cups, a single bottle might be enough for two nights.)
Matzah: If you’re alone, three matzahs for each evening will cover you just fine. You should factor in an additional two matzahs per additional participant.
Maror: Each person needs to have two portions of maror (one eaten alone and one as part of the Hillel Sandwich), each one at least two-thirds of an ounce (total). Preparing two ounces per person per night will have you covered.
Vegetables, saltwater and charoset: A minimal amount will do.
Roasted shank: This is not eaten at all, so you just need one per seder plate.
Egg: One egg per seder plate is fine. Some have the custom for all participants to eat an egg during the meal. If this is the case, prepare a few extra.
Feast food: Bear in mind that you will be eating after having imbibed two cups of wine or grape juice, and lots of matzah and maror, so you may not be too hungry.
What if I cannot get supplies?
Kosher matzah is almost impossible to bake at home, so try to purchase some in advance. Your local rabbi can probably help with that.
If you can’t procure kosher wine, use another (kosher) fruit juice.
Most groceries carry romaine lettuce and horseradish for bitter herbs, and as of now it seems that these supplies will remain available in the US. Shop sooner rather than later to be sure.
If you cannot get an egg or a bone for the seder plate, any kosher-for-Passover cooked food will do.
What should I do if my Hebrew isn’t good enough?
The word haggadah means “telling,” and the main purpose of the evening is to tell over the events of the Exodus and to expound upon them in the traditional manner. If you don’t understand Hebrew, it is perfectly acceptable to use a translation.
What if there is no child to ask the Four Questions?
Everyone at the seder, even adults, should ask the Four Questions.
Should I still open the door for Elijah?
This question should be answered after you carefully review the guidelines from your local health officials as close as you can to Passover.
Can I invite my neighbors?
This question should be answered after you carefully review the guidelines from your local health officials as close as you can to Passover. For example, in Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has issued a “stay at home” order through April 11.
Keep in mind, the less we mix the safer we are. We want to celebrate Passover as beautifully as possible, but we also want to survive to celebrate next year!
If you fear that someone will be without seder supplies, please prepare a box and drop it off before Passover outside his or her home, taking whatever precautions are necessary.