The Four New Questions
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The Four New Questions
Mah Nishtana: What's New? What significant change has occurred in your life since this time last year? Name one meaningful piece of news.
Elijah's Cup is passed around as each guest speaks. A blessing or toast concludes the round.
Avadim Hayinu: Our Slavery. Identify the problem. What enslaves you today? What's holding you back from being freer, happy, and creative?
Use a blank note of paper - on one side write HOW AM I FREE and on the other side write HOW AM I NOT FREE
Dayenu: Enough. Identify possible solutions. What can you do to help end your enslavement and reduce that which holds you back from more freedom and creativity? What will help you fight the Pharaohs within?
This round can be about personal or societal slavery and oppressions.
L'shana Ha'baa: Future Vision - Next Year. We can't end the seder till we all commit to making the world a better place, with less oppression and more freedom. What is your vision of a freer world? What do you commit to in the coming year to help reduce slavery and oppression in the world?
This can be discussed over dessert!
We come together from our separate lives, each of us bringing our concerns, our preoccupations, our hopes, and our dreams. We are not yet fully present: The traffic, the last-minute cooking, the final details still cling to us. Our bodies hold the rush of the past few hours.
It is now time to let go of these pressures and really arrive at this seder. We do this by meditating...
Pour the Second cup: resistance to oppression [Read:] In every generation, a Pharaoh rises up to enslave us. In every generation, every human being must seek to free the community anew. [All join in singing:] When Israel was in Egypt's land, Let my people go; Oppressed so hard they could not stand, Let my people go! (Chorus:) Go down, Moses, 'Way down in Egypt's land; Tell ol' Pharaoh, Let my people go! Thus...
The Hebrew word “Kiddush” means sanctification. But it is not the wine we sanctify. Instead, the wine is a symbol of the sanctity, the preciousness, and the sweetness of this moment. Held together by sacred bonds of family, friendship, peoplehood, we share this table tonight with one another and with all the generations who have come before us. Let us rise, and sanctify this singular moment.
I grew up in an irreligious home. We rarely belonged to a Temple (Synagogue was too traditional) and attending a service was even rarer. When we did go to temple you would never a yarmulke except on the Rabbi & Cantor (sometimes). The only tallitot were these little vest things that the clergy wore. The only Hebrew was the Sh'ma, the Torah/Haftarah readings and the Mourner's Kaddish (which is really...
Why is there no orange on our Seder plate?
In the early 1980s, while speaking at Oberlin College Hillel, Susannah Heschel was introduced to an early feminist Haggadah that suggested adding a crust of bread on the Seder plate, as a sign of solidarity with Jewish lesbians (there's as much room for a lesbian in Judaism as there is for a crust of bread on the seder plate). Heschel felt that to...
When we break the Matzah in half, we are symbolizing the split of the red sea. When we break the Matzah, we symbolize the hope that we can eat. When the red sea split, it symbolized the permission; yes you may pass, after hearing the word NO NO NO. During the Seder we get bored and we ask “When can we eat” and until this breaking of the Matzah, we get told NO NO NO. It is hope that there is food,...
Is there really any reason for a sprig of parsley to be on the Seder Table? What is the connection between karpas and the Jewish People leaving Egypt?
Winter, with its bleak landscape and cold, short days, can lead to gloom and despondency.
In contrast, spring breeds hope. Seeds that have been frozen in the earth haven't died, and in the spring they re-awaken. Even when all is cold and dark,...
You can look at the four sons as four generations of Jews in America today. The first generation of eastern European Jewry who emigrated to America at the turn of the century are represented by THE WISE SON. This is the Jew who grew up with a strong connection to the Jewish way of life. His commitment to Judaism is unshakable.
His son, the second generation, is represented in the Wicked Son. This is the rebel who...
As we celebrate the Jewish people’s biblical exodus from Egypt, we remember that there are 60 million displaced people around the world, people fleeing violence and persecution in search of a safe place to call home. We are currently in the midst of the worst refugee crisis since World War II.
HIAS, the world’s oldest, and only Jewish, refugee resettlement organization, helps refugees find ways to live in...
Every year at the end of the Seder we say "Next Year in Jerusalem!"
But that can't mean physically. It would get overcrowded. Some of us do not have the means to get there. Some of us are too old or young or sick to travel.
No. Not physically. Mentally. We need to open our minds and hearts to a level where we can accept who we are as people on every level. These traditions we have were around for...
From COEJL’s “Preparing for Passover: Readings for the Seder Table”
Stewart Vile Tahl, COEJL
One of Passover’s lessons is learned to distinguish between more and enough. Dayenu means “it would have been enough for us.” Often, enjoying more wealth and comfort stimulates our desire for more – more attention, more comforts, more money, more, and more, and more. Passover and the...
O ur hands are the primary tools to interact with our environment. They generally obey our emotions: Love, fear, compassion, the urge to win, to be appreciated, to express ourselves, to dominate. Our emotions, in turn, reflect our mental state.
But, too often, each faculty of our psyche sits in its cell, exiled from one another. The mind sees one way, the heart feels another and our...
The answers to the first three questions are drawn from Michelle Alexander’s groundbreaking book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (2010). Excerpts are cited with “NJC” and the page number.
Why does America have the highest incarceration rate of any developed nation in the world?
Many factors have...