Maggid: Rabban Gamliel
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Maggid: Rabban Gamliel
Rabban Gamliel says that anyone who has not discussed three central symbols has not fulfilled the obligation of the seder. These are the Passover lamb, Pesach in Hebrew, representing freedom; matzah, representing poverty; and bitter herbs, maror in Hebrew, representing suffering.
I have been out of jail [in Israel] for a few weeks now. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate my freedom after what I have been through. I take nothing for granted…My only wish is to remain free. Please, just leave me my freedom and let me live my life in peace.—Testimony of an anonymous refugee from Eritrea
When we reached Sinai, our traffickers raised the bounty, demanding that our families pay $30,000 each… I now work in a big house and do whatever is asked of me…I work 10 hours a day, six days a week, earning $71 per day…What is most important to me now is paying off my debt. My family borrowed money from so many people to secure my freedom from the torture camp in Sinai, money that needs to be repaid.—Testimony of an anonymous refugee from Eritrea.
The Israeli government has imposed restrictions making it difficult for asylum seekers to work, so paying back these debts while paying for food and shelter is an extraordinary challenge.
Many among us were tortured…in Sinai. When we reached this democratic State of Israel, we didn’t expect such harsh punishment in prison...We lost all hope and became frustrated by this situation, so that we ask you to either provide us with a solution or send us to our country, no matter what will happen to us, even if we have to endure [the] death penalty by the Eritrean regime.—Testimony of an anonymous refugee from Eritrea
Pesach is many things to many people. Its customs are familiar and can be viewed with many lenses. The symbols are universal and are subject to almost any reading: social justice, class, the Holocaust, Middle East politics, American politics, agriculture, the environment, the list is endless, and the proliferation of interpretations is evidence that this is fertile territory.
A few things – maybe only two –...
Breaking the middle matzah | yachatz | יַחַץ
There are three pieces of matzah stacked on the table. We now break the middle matzah into two pieces. The host should wrap up the larger of the pieces and, at some point between now and the end of dinner, hide it. This piece is called the afikomen, literally “dessert” in Greek. After dinner, the guests must hunt for the afikomen in order to wrap up...
Pack Nothing. Bring only your determination to serve and your willingness to be free.
Don’t wait for the bread to rise.
Take nourishment for the journey, but eat standing, be ready to move at a moment’s notice.
Do not hesitate to leave your old ways behind - fear, silence, submission.
Do not take time to explain to the neighbors.Tell only a few trusted friends and family...
“To approach the Other in conversation is to welcome his expression, in which at each instant he overflows the idea a thought would carry away from it. It is therefore to receive from the Other beyond the capacity of the I, which means exactly: to have the idea of infinity. But this also means: to be taught. The relation with the Other, or Conversation, is a non-allergic relation, an ethical relation; but inasmuch as...
Maimonides urged us to care for our bodies so that we would be free to concentrate our energies on God. In the modern world, one of the greatest threats to our physical health is mental stress. Stress causes insomnia, digestive problems, heart disease, autoimmune disorders, depression, memory impairment and countless other complications. As women, we are particularly vulnerable to the stress caused by multiple and...
The seder opens with kiddush (the sanctification over wine). This is certainly unremarkable after all, kiddush is the opening act of every shabbat and holiday meal. But kiddush – a ritual .sanctification of time – has an intimate and unique connection to Pesach’s central theme: freedom. How so?
As Israel was about to be released from slavery, God instituted a new calendar: “This month shall (mark for you...
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...
Traditionally, The Four Sons (or Children) include a wise son, a wicked (or rebellious) son, a simple son and one who does not even know enough to ask. Each of the first three ask questions about the Seder, essentially "Explain all this to me - what are my responsibilities?" "What has all this nonsense you are babbling about got to do with me?" and "What IS all this anyway?" while the fourth is silent - requiring the...
Passover is a holiday with many different themes. This breadth ensures that no two seders will ever be exactly alike and encourages each of us to engage equally, whether this is the first or hundredth seder you’ve attended. It also challenges each of us to connect to the seder on a personal, individual level. The themes offered are just a sampling, what other themes are you drawn to?
I will deliver you...
Just as we remember all of the times throughout history when the nations of the world shut their doors on Jews fleeing violence and persecution in their homelands, so, too, do we remember with gratitude the bravery of those who took us in during our times of need — the Ottoman Sultan who welcomed Spanish Jews escaping the Inquisition, Algerian Muslims who protected Jews during...
The central imperative of the Seder is to tell the story. The Bible instructs: “ You shall tell your child on that day, saying: ‘This is because of what Adonai did for me when I came out of Egypt.' ” (Exodus 13:8) We relate the story of our ancestors to regain the memories as our own. Elie Weisel writes: God created man because He loves stories. We each have a story to tell — a story of enslavement, struggle,...
More Clips from Truah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
Hamotzi thanks God for bringing bread from the earth. This bread results from a partnership between God and humanity: God provides the raw materials and people harvest, grind, and bake. So too must we remember that combating human trafficking requires partnerships: among survivors, allies, lawyers, social workers, law enforcement, diplomats, people of faith…the circles of involvement are...
Our hands were touched by this water earlier during tonight's seder, but this time is different. This is a deeper step than that. This act of washing our hands is accompanied by a blessing, for in this moment we feel our People's story more viscerally, having just retold it during Maggid. Now, having re-experienced the majesty of the Jewish journey from degradation to dignity, we raise our hands in holiness, remembering...
The beauty of Urchatz was revealed to me during a women's seder. Each participant washed the hands of another with care and kavanah (intentionality)—and without words. The sisterhood created in the sacred silence elevates communal consciousness. How will we utilize this state of purity? V'ahavtah l're'echa kamochah - to love the other as ourself.
How will this ancient wisdom propel us...