“The immediate purpose of the seder is to establish a narrative, not to draw morals from it”

The ultimate purpose of the Seder is to recommit us to justice, to recognizing that everything in Torah is mediated by our experience of the G-d Who hates slavery intervening to redeem us from slavery. But the immediate purpose of the Seder is to root that experience in our minds, and the minds of our children, as uncontroversial and incontrovertible memory rather than as potentially controversial history. The immediate purpose of the seder is to establish a narrative, not to draw morals from it.

When we impose meaning on the story, rather than simply telling it, we transform experience into opinion. The story by itself must generate the meaning. So long as we share memory, our conflicts as to the obligations imposed by that memory will occur within, and perhaps even strengthen, our shared identity. They will be conflicts of interpretation about a common text. But if the controversy is allowed to feed back into the memory – if our political differences no longer stem from a shared memory – those same conflicts risk turning us into multiple people, with multiple Torahs.

Now it is human and proper for Jews’ opinions to find their way into their divrei Torah at the Seder, just as every Jew experienced the original Exodus and Revelation at Sinai uniquely. And it is beautiful and necessary for Jews to experience the Seder as generating obligations to act, to change the world toward greater morality and justice. But we need the Exodus to be available to inspire our descendants as it inspired us; we cannot risk having it be seen as the constructed past of a dead ideology.

Rabbi Aryeh Klapper, “Why I Oppose Adding Symbols to the Seder Plate”, moderntorahleadership (14 April 2014) [https://moderntoraleadership.wordpress.com/2014/04/14/why-i-oppose-adding-symbols-to-the-seder-plate]