Telling the Story

One of the main goals of Seder night is to tell the story of the exodus from Egypt. This is done not only by reading the Haggadah, but rather through a variety of methods – which we will learn about here.

Resource Ages: 12-14


And even if we are all wise, all knowledgeable, all elders 

All familiar with the Torah

We are commanded to tell the story of the exodus from Egypt 

And the more the story is told, the better. 

(From the Passover Haggadah)

וַאֲפִילוּ כֻּלָּנוּ חֲכָמִים כֻּלָּנוּ נְבוֹנִים כֻּלָּנוּ זְקֵנִים 

כֻּלָּנוּ יוֹדְעִים אֶת הַתּוֹרָה

מִצְוָה עָלֵינוּ לְסַפֵּר בִּיצִיאַת מִצְרָיִם

וְכָל הַמַּרְבֶּה לְסַפֵּר בִּיצִיאַת מִצְרַיִם הֲרֵי זֶה מְשֻׁבָּח

(מן ההגדה של פסח)

Foundations for Planning

Essential Questions

  • What can we learn from different generations?
  • How is the Torah story my story?

Content Questions Related to the Essential Questions

  • Why is it important to tell our people’s story? Why is it important to tell the story of the exodus from Egypt? 
  • What are different ways that the exodus story is told on Seder night? (foods, traditions, songs, texts, etc.) 
  • Why do we tell the same story every year? 
  • How can I make Seder night and the Haggadah relevant to myself, my family and my community?

Background for Teacher

The principle component of Seder night is telling the story of the exodus from Egypt. This story is one of the foundations of Judaism and it appears often throughout the Torah and Tanach (Hebrew bible). The story has been passed down from generation to...

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The principle component of Seder night is telling the story of the exodus from Egypt. This story is one of the foundations of Judaism and it appears often throughout the Torah and Tanach (Hebrew bible). The story has been passed down from generation to generation through both oral and written traditions. Recalling the Israelites’ redemption and departure from slavery to freedom is a  mitzvah (commandment)  in the Torah.

The story also has a central place in cultures influenced by the Torah, namely Christianity and Islam. It has become a  symbol of freedom and independence in these cultures and, as a result, was also adopted by various freedom movements, such as the abolitionist movement in the United States and the fight to release Soviet prisoners of Zion, which adopted as one of its main slogans the words “Let my people go”, as Moses said to Pharaoh. 

The liberation from slavery to freedom is one of the first gifts that the Israelites received as a nation. We will try to understand what this story means to us today and how we can retell it in the context of our lives.

The exodus story is told on Seder night using a variety of different methods, including reading the biblical verses which tell the story in the Haggadah and the Sages’ commentaries of them, eating special foods on the Seder plate which  represent various elements of the story, and performing symbolic actions related to the story.

Optional Hooks
In-Depth Discussion
Suggested Activities
Further Study

Each student should recall a family story that they’ve heard numerous times. They are then asked to respond to at least three of the four questions listed in the template.

Ask a few of the students to tell their story to the others. You can write on the board different reasons why we would want to tell the same story many times within the family and also on a national level.

Click here to view our consolidated list of suggested interactive pedagogies for classroom discussion.

  1. Why do we tell the exodus story on Seder night? To whom is the story told? 
  2. If we are all “wise” and “knowledgeable” – what is the purpose of the story? (For whom is it intended – only those listening, or also those telling?) 
  3. When we hear the same story several times, is anything made new for us? What is responsible for this change? Give an example using stories you have heard several times (if you did the opening activity, you can base your answer on that). 
  4. On Seder night, we don’t just tell the story from the Torah; we also add midrashim (commentaries), food, songs, symbolic activities, etc. Give examples of the various ways we tell the story. What is the reason for this variety? 
  5. Storytelling involves two sides – the listener and the narrator. What does each  side gain? Is the listener passive? Does the narrator just tell the story, or do they also receive something?
  6. Would you prefer to listen to the exodus story, or tell it? Why?
  • On Seder night, we tell the story of the exodus using a variety of different methods. Try out a few ideas in class; the students can then implement them on Seder night:

– Pass the Story: One student will begin telling the story; he or she will stop in the middle of a sentence and another student will take over. This can go on until the whole class has participated, or once the story is over (whichever comes later).

– And Now, The News: Each time, choose a different group of students. One student will play a character from the story (Moses, Miriam, a frog, etc.) and the others will interview them.

– Story in Emojis: The students will create comics in which every square represents a different part of the story using emojis. You can also just write out the story and include emojis throughout. Finish the activity with a question: What does this storytelling method add to the story? What is the benefit of using more than one method to tell a story?

  • The Haggadah says: “In every generation, a person must see him/herself as though they left Egypt”. Rambam changed the word “see” (לראות) to “show” (להראות), and this led to a tradition in various Jewish ethnic groups of acting out the exodus story. Divide the class into groups and have each group put on a play telling a part of the story, with an emphasis on integrating themes of slavery, freedom, security, connection to our people, etc.. 
  • If you’ve learned about the Seder plate: Bring an empty Seder plate to class and show it to the students. Divide the students into small groups and have each group consider how they can  tell the story of the holiday using the plate and its foods. They can then present their story to the class.
  • Below is the text of a script telling the exodus story, used by one ethnic tradition on Seder night. It can be integrated in the activities. In the original play, the children dress up as Israelites leaving Egypt.
    The adults ask: Who are you?
    The children answer: Israelites.
    The adults add: Where did you come from?
    The children answer: Egypt.
    Adults: And what were you in Egypt?
    Children: Slaves.
    Adults: And what are you now?
    Children: Free people.
    Adults: And who took you out of Egypt?
    Children: God.
    Adults: And where are you going?
    Children: To Jerusalem.
    Adults: And what will you eat on the way?
    Children: Manna.
    Adults: And what will you do here?
    Children: We will tell you the story of our exodus from Egypt.
  • Teach the “Dayenu” segment of the Haggadah, which tells about the exodus through song.  
  • The “Four Sons segment of the Haggadah deals with different ways to tell the exodus story, in accordance with different personality traits.   
  • Learn about the Seder plate, which tells the story of the exodus through symbolic foods.
  • Watch this video which  presents the exodus story through shadows.