Jew­ish Text

Passover Par­o­dies: Short Plays for the Seder Table

Shoshana Hant­man
  • From the Publisher
April 1, 2014

What was the least inter­est­ing seder you ever attend­ed? And what was the most interesting?

If your expe­ri­ence is like most of ours, your worst seders were dry read­ings of the hag­gadah, uno­rig­i­nal and done by rote. The bet­ter seders, on the oth­er hand, were imag­i­na­tive and thought-pro­vok­ing. The best may even have includ­ed a clever surprise.

An incred­i­ble 95% of Amer­i­can Jews par­tic­i­pate in a Passover seder every year; it’s the best-attend­ed Jew­ish rit­u­al. Yet most par­tic­i­pants find the seder dull, repet­i­tive, and incom­pre­hen­si­ble. They attend out of a sense of duty, but they don’t enjoy it.

Passover Par­o­dies is a series of ten-minute plays for the Passover seder table. Fam­i­lies select one each year (or more, if they’re ambi­tious) to read aloud. Like the tra­di­tion­al humor­ous Purim-shpiel, the plays enter­tain, edu­cate, and pro­voke the dis­cus­sion that is sup­posed to dom­i­nate a seder.

A fam­i­ly might choose to exam­ine Jew­ish tra­di­tion through the eyes of Sher­lock Holmes (“This crack­er was pro­duced by some­one in a most urgent rush. Fur­ther­more, it has been bro­ken along one side. A seg­ment has been removed. Why? That is what we must endeav­or to find out.”) … or expe­ri­ence the exo­dus from Casablan­ca (“I remem­ber every detail: the Egyp­tians wore skirts, you wore a tallis. But most­ly I remem­ber the wow fin­ish. A guy in a bas­ket, float­ing in the bul­rush­es, with a com­i­cal look on his face because he has a dia­per that needs chang­ing.”) … or star­ring four young Marx Broth­ers (“Pharoah, you have to let my peo­ple go. If you don’t, my ances­tors would rise from their graves and I’d only have to bury them again.”).

They might let Hermione Granger explain the mag­ic of the ten plagues, or chal­lenge tra­di­tion­al God-belief on Sig­mund Freud’s couch.

Some of these plays can replace parts of the seder; for exam­ple, the Shake­speare play (“Much Ado About Bup­kes”) tells the Exo­dus sto­ry. Oth­ers can com­ple­ment the rit­u­als, or pro­vide new view­points, or sim­ply add humor to what can be a dry cer­e­mo­ny. Read­ers can choose the themes they like, per­haps read­ing a dif­fer­ent skit each year. The plays also vary in cast size, to accom­mo­date both large and small seders.

Discussion Questions