Traditional Passover Seder Table with Haggadah

The Telling

Story-telling is essential to Passover — and Jewish tradition.

In The Arabian Nights, the heroine Scheherazade saves her own life by weaving so entrancing a tale that the sultan, who had planned to execute her, keeps her alive night after night to hear the next chapter. 

By our stories we live. Haggadah means “telling.” On Passover night we tell the story. As the writer Philip Pullman said, “Thou shalt not’ might reach the head but it takes ‘Once upon a time’ to reach the heart.”

Rabbi Nachman of Breslov said that most people tell stories to put others to sleep, but his stories are to wake people up. The Jewish people tell stories to rouse our souls to wonder, to spur memory, to reignite the sparks of our people. In every land, through countless languages, we carried our chronicles and fables, adding stories with every step. 

On the night of the seder we will touch each other’s hearts as we reenact the rituals of our ancestors. We will hear again the anguish of our history and the promises of God. For thousands of years we have told the tale; from parents to children its words have lifted our hearts and stirred our souls. 

Rabbi David Wolpe’s musings are shared in My Jewish Learning’s Shabbat newsletter, Recharge, a weekly collection of readings to refresh your soul. Sign up to receive the newsletter.

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