A Strategic Plan for Your Seder

A Strategic Plan for Your Seder

by Daniel R. Weiss

Harvard Business School professor David J. Collis, in his book Thinking Strategically, identifies seven steps in strategic thinking: 1. Seeing the big picture, 2. Articulating strategic objectives, 3. Identifying relationships, patterns, and trends, 4. Getting creative, 5. Analyzing information, 6. Prioritizing your actions, and 7. Making trade-offs.

These seven steps provide a powerful framework to understand the fifteen steps in the Passover Seder.

1. Seeing the big picture = קדש Kadesh (Blessing over the wine)

Our Passover Seder begins with singing the order of the evening. We see the Seder Plate, an enticement for all that we will speak about during the Seder. We bless the wine to begin our evening. The Kiddush reminds us to remember the Exodus from Egypt (זכר ליציאת מצרים). The Seder itself is a recounting of the Exodus.

2. Articulating strategic objectives = ורחץ Urchatz (washing hands) and כרפס Karpas (green vegetable)

Step two focuses on what we hope to achieve. One objective is to answer the question, why do we celebrate Passover in the spring? One answer is that spring is a time of renewal. We do our spring cleaning looking for a fresh start. Washing our hands symbolically wipes away the old. And eating a green vegetable dipped in salt water reminds us that we can overcome our strongest obstacles; even those that may be tear inducing. The Passover story is about the ability to overcome great adversity and chart a course for the future. Our objective during the Seder is to internalize this message.

3. Identifying relationships, patterns, and trends = יחץ Yachatz

The leader of the Seder lifts three Matzot showing the importance of all Jews and our relationship one to another. The middle matzah is broken, and half is placed in another location to be used as the Afikomen (dessert) we cannot complete the Seder until we come back to it, as it serves as a centerpiece for the entire Seder.

The matzot can symbolize three types of Jews, Kohen, Levi and Yisrael, or the three Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They may be a reminder of three angels that came to visit Abraham. In fact, numbers are important in the Seder, three matzot, four cups of wine (five if you count the cup for Elijah), four questions, ten plagues and the three things that must be mentioned during the Seder, Pesach (paschal offering), Matzah, and Maror (the bitter herb).

I also like to think they stand for the Mishna in Pirke Avot (1:2), which states that the world stands on three things: on Torah, on Avoda (service of the heart) and Gemilut Chasadim (acts of loving kindness). Breaking the middle matzah reminds us of our strained relationships with each other and with God. Having identified the true problem, that something is broken, we must use the Seder to fix it.

4. Getting Creative = מגיד Maggid (Telling the story of the Exodus), רחצה Rachtza (Hand washing by everyone at the Seder), מוציא מצה Motzei Matzah (Eating Matzah), מרור Maror (Bitter Herb), כורך Korech (Eating Matzah, Maror and Charoset)

The telling of the Passover story (Maggid) starts with הא לחמא עניא, Ha Lachma Anya, where we essentially state that we were slaves, we were freed, we celebrate here today and hope that next year we will be in Israel.

The Maggid is our opportunity to find creative ways to keep everyone’s attention during the Seder. We look for new alternatives, visualize new possibilities and open ourselves to new information. Creativity allows these alternatives and possibilities to sink in, especially for our children.

By eating the Matzah, Maror and Charoset, we begin the meal. We complete this step of getting creative and finding possible solutions, having internalized how we arrived to where we are, not only during the Seder itself, but so too in our personal journeys.

5. Analyzing information = שלחן עורך Shulchan Orech (The Meal), צפון Tzafun (Eating the Afikomen) Once we start to think of alternatives, it is time to analyze the data. The meal offers the opportunity for discussion and resolving unanswered questions, often with the most important questions becoming the dinner conversation.

We complete this step by bringing the broken piece of Matzah back to the table and eating it as our last piece of food during the Seder. Perhaps this is the beginning of our resolution, as we realize and internalize the broken piece of our own Avoda, the service of our heart.

6. Prioritizing your actions = ברך Barech (Blessing for the food we have eaten), הלל Hallel (Songs of praise to God)

Once the meal is complete, many feel that the Seder is over. But much more is left to be done. We have seen the big picture, come up with strategic objectives, identified relationships, patterns and trends, gotten creative and analyzed the data. Now it is time to put it into action by offering praises to God.

The Seder reminds us time and again about the miracles that God performs on our behalf. Yet, the Seder is not complete until we truly realize that our Avoda will only be pure once our own middle matzah is put back together.

7. Making trade-offs = נרצה Nirtza (acceptable, pleasing or desirable)

Realizing that our priorities lie in the service of our heart, our actions become pleasing to others and to ourselves. We proclaim that next year we will be in Jerusalem and we sing songs of our history (Adir Hu, Echad Mi Yodea, and Chad Gadya). These songs provide a recap of our seven steps. They bring us back to our strategic objective and take us again on a journey toward self-awareness. Nirtza sets the stage for our recognition of advantages and disadvantages, and how our actions set a course for balancing who we are and who we want to be.

And that is what Passover is all about. It is our opportunity to find balance, to come to conclusions about who we are, how we got there and who we want to be. The gift of the Seder is our opportunity to realize that we may have become broken, but with strategic thinking, we can make ourselves whole again.

Shabbat Shalom,


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