The Four Sons
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The Four Sons
By a fitting answer to the questions of each of the four types of the sons of Israel, does the Torah explain the meaning of this night's celebration.
The wise son eager to learn asks earnestly: "What mean the testimonies and the statutes and the ordinances, which the Lord our God hath commanded us?" To him thou shalt say: "This service is held in order to worship the Lord our God, that it may be well with us all the days of our life".
The wicked son inquires in a mocking spirit: "What mean ye by this service?" As he says ye and not we, he excludes himself from the household of Israel. Therefore thou shouldst turn on him and say: "It is because of that which the Lord did for me when I came forth out of Egypt". For me and not for him, for had he been there, he would not have been found worthy of being redeemed.
The simple son indifferently asks: "What is this?" To him thou shalt say: "By strength of hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage".
And for the son who is unable to inquire, thou shalt explain the whole story of the Passover; as it is said: "And thou shalt tell thy son in that day, saying 'It is because of that which the Lord did for me when I came forth out of Egypt'".
From singing Dayenu we learn to celebrate each landmark on our people's journey. Yet we must never confuse these way stations with the goal. Because it is not yet Dayenu. There is still so much to do in our work of tikkun olam, repairing the world.
When governments end the escalating production of devastating weapons, secure in the knowledge that they will not be necessary, Dayenu.
When all women and men...
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...
The first words in the creation of the universe out of the unformed, void and dark earth were God’s “Let there be light." Therein lies the hope and faith of Judaism and the obligation of our people: to make the light of justice, compassion, and knowledge penetrate the darkness of our time till the prophecy be fulfilled, ‘that wickedness vanish like smoke and the earth shall be filled with knowledge of God as the...
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...
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,...
A word about God: everyone has his or her own understanding of what God is. For some people, there is no God, while for others, God is an integral part of their lives. While we may not agree on a singular concept of God, we share a common desire for goodness to prevail in the world. And this is the meaning of tonight: freedom winning out over slavery, good prevailing over evil.
Please consider the source of...
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...
As you bless the four cups of wine and remember the different ways God protected the Children of Israel during their exodus from Egypt, offer these words of blessing for the ways we can stand in support of today’s refugees as they journey to safety. This is the first of the blessings over the four cups of wine that we say throughout the Passover Seder. You will find the other three blessings interspersed...
Passover is a time for us to reflect on our own freedom and an opportunity to connect our lives with the struggles of others. At AVODAH, we support emerging Jewish leaders as they work to address some of the most pressing issues in the fight against poverty. We study the complex (and often overlapping) systemic issues that impact people in our country, and explore how Jewish tradition calls on us to respond. This year,...
When God sent the plague of the firstborn...all the firstborn Egyptians went to speak to their fathers and said "Everything which Moses has said has come true, don't you want us to live? Let us get the Hebrew slaves out of our homes now. Otherwise we are dead." The fathers answered "even if all of Egypt dies they are not leaving." All the firstborn gathered...
This symbolic washing of the hands recalls the story of Miriam's Well. Legend tells us that this well followed Miriam, sister of Moses, through the desert, sustaining the Jews in their wanderings. Filled with mayim chayim, waters of life, the well was a source of strength and renewal to all who drew from it. One drink from its waters was said to alert the heart, mind and soul, and make the meaning of Torah become...
One element of the story of the exodus that the Roberts' version elides is God's hardening of Pharaoh's heart. Moses Maimonides (ca 1135 - 1204 CE) recognized this element of the story as a significant paradox since it seemed to suggest that God forced Pharaoh to make the wicked decisions that brought about the punishment of the plagues. As Maimonides recognizes, if this were so, then the notion that the plagues were a...
On Passover, Jews are commanded to tell the story of the Exodus and to see ourselves as having lived through that story, so that we may better learn how to live our lives today. The stories we tell our children shape what they believe to be possible—which is why at Passover, we must tell the stories of the women who played a crucial role in the Exodus narrative.
The Book of Exodus, much like the Book of...
More Clips from Eileen Levinson
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
For the chief musician, on common instrument: a song of rebellion.
Praise rising up. Praise unlawful assembly.
Praise the road of excess and the palace of wisdom.
Praise glass houses. Praise the hand that cradles the stone.
Praise refusal of obedience. Praise the young on Raamses Street.
Praise Galileo. Praise acceleration.
Praise bombshells and en masse.