Haggadah Pesach (Unit 4)

  • 40 minutes
  • Grades: 7-8
  • Lesson Plan

by: Laura Notowitz and Alison Hurwitz of Milken Community Middle School

This unit was designed to help students learn more about the Haggadah and how to actively participate in the Pesach Seder. The unit uses “A Different Night: The Family Participation Haggadah” as the central text. This lesson focuses on slavery and freedom.


Students learn about the value of questioning, and why this value is deemed quintessential in the story of Pesach, and in Judaism in general. Students will appreciate that the ability to ask questions is in fact an expression of freedom.



Cartoon and questions from p.28 in A Different Night.

Set Induction:

Questioning is essential to Judaism!! Learning is a never-ending quest and Judaism places a very high priority on education. Why are questions central to being Jewish? As Jews, we know what’s it’s like to be slaves (we were slaves in Egypt), and as slaves, you are forbidden to question. Slaves are only supposed to do what they are told. There is no freedom to wonder, to ask, or to imagine life being different.

Activity One:

Asking questions is the heart of what freedom is about.

Students read the essay “Freedom – The Ability to Conceive of Alternative Possibilities” in A Different Night teacher’s guide (p.78). You’re free and with that freedom, comes the responsibility to tell the story. If you’re free, you have a responsibility to uphold your free society with rules. Doing things for a purpose. We’re responsible to tell the story!

Read Haggadah, p.22 – “Now you shall teach your child.”

Rambam: “You can’t treat a slave with harsh labor.” Slaves exist in the Tanach but there were rules to protect those slaves. In Egypt, however, the slaves had to do pointless work – i.e. moving rocks to one place and then back to the original location. There was no purpose. It was demoralizing work, designed to make people struggle.

People have to know why they are doing something. They have to know there is a purpose. You do not work without knowing. This means that you are free, and this means that you tell your story. Tell why we are here today.

The essence of freedom is asking why and the freedom to make choices. Or from Francis Bok’s book on contemporary Sudanese slaves who writes: “why does no one love me”.

Beginning of Maggid: 

p. 34 of A Different Night In the Haggadah, there is a debate between Rav and Shmuel about what slavery is. Rav says that slavery is spiritual (we were idol worshippers), if your mind is free, you can’t be made into a slave. It is based on his personal experience. The body was enslaved but the mind is still free.

Then, Shmuel says Avadim Hayinu, we did hard labor. Slavery is political and if we have no political freedom, we are slaves. From his life experience.

Ask the class: What do you think slavery is? Can somebody else enslave you?

Two different answers: yes and no. Homework and taking out the trash are not slavery. If you allow yourself to feel like a victim you are enslaved.

Lead a discussion on slavery/freedom.

Use the quotes about slavery and freedom in the appendix.

The book The Importance of One includes stories of people. Mo Berg baseball player and spy for US. People you would not hear of.

Are there stories of people who were enslaved but were not?

Paul Rusesabegina. He made a difference. Under guard…..was he enslaved? The scene at the end where he said, “Fine, Kill me.” He was free.

Categorize the cartoons or pick one that they relate to? We start in Ganut and go to Shevach……mirrors the progress of the Exodus.


Complete the poetry assignment, from Slavery to Freedom. Instructions appear on the handout (see appendix).


A rubric for marking the poetry assignment is attached to the homework.

Previous Units:
Unit 1
Unit 2
Unit 3