Last night, as has become traditional (three times makes a tradition, right?), I held a second-night Pesach seder that I bill as the "it takes as long as it takes; you had lunch, right?" seder. In other words, the goal is plenty of good discussion, tangents welcome, and we'll get to the meal when we get there and meanwhile I'll put out some snacks.
We were five this year, having lost a couple people at the last minute. Our group included our new associate rabbi and another minyan member joining us for the first time; the others have been to this before. I asked everybody to bring something to share -- something from another haggadah, other readings or teachings, new songs, etc -- and, of course, plenty of questions.
We had a blast! We left few tangents unexplored, and I saw some haggadot that were new to me and interesting. (When people have a chance to answer the email I just sent, I'll update this post with specifics.) I heard some new songs (learning will take more than the one hearing, but now I know about them), and it turned out that some of the melodies I know were new to some others. And I take it as a good sign when a discussion about torah text gets to the point where somebody says "do you have a BDB" (a standard lexicon) or "pass the Jastrow" (dictionary of Aramaic terms). Why yes, we were taking apart grammar on the spot to answer niggling questions.
Here's a thing that only registered for me this year, despite using this same haggadah for three years now: you know that part at the beginning of Magid (the story) where many haggadot say "My father was a wandering Aramean"? Our haggadah (Silverman 2013) says "An Aramean sought to destroy my father". !!! The latter understanding is Rashi's (we learned), reading oved (wandering) instead as ibed (destroyed). That raised some eyebrows over grammar, and it turns out it does with Ibn Ezra too, who opts for the "wandering" version. Huh, interesting. Tonight I found an article at My Jewish Learning that talks about this.
I didn't notice exactly when we started, but it was about three hours until we got to the meal. To make that possible and not butt-numbing, I continued something I learned from Lee Gold: do the pre-meal part in the living room on the comfy chairs. We're supposed to be able to recline in comfort during this part; if space permits, I've found it helpful to actually do that. This wouldn't work with a large group, but with a large group we probably wouldn't be able to have this kind of discussion and interaction anyway.
Dinner conversation was enjoyable and wide-ranging, and then we went back to the living room for the after-meal parts, including a pretty rousing Hallel. It turns out we all like Hallel. :-)
I was able to share some things from "Hagada - Mi Yodeya?", and I sent everybody home with a copy. (You can download yours here.)
Food notes: During the earlier part, in addition to the ritual foods, I put out raw vaggies and almonds to munch on. Dinner was: (hard-boiled eggs,) ginger-coconut soup (with assorted veggies), gefilte fish, baked chicken with rosemary and sage, roasted red peppers stuffed with butternut squash and sweet onions, roasted small potatoes (golden and red) with sea salt, green salad with fruit (brought by a guest), and assorted desserts including cookies brought by a guest. (I was a wizard of multi-tasking on Friday!) For those wondering about the soup: everybody is presumed to have had chicken soup with matzah balls the previous night and one guest is a vegetarian, so I wanted something non-meat and didn't want to just use something that came in a box. I saw this soup recipe in a newspaper recently (it was a fish soup but I adapted it) and decided to make that.