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Food is associated with life. When the mourners return from the cemetery, they are served a meal with specific foods. By feeding the mourners and insisting that they make a commitment to life even in the face of loss, the community expresses its concern and caring for the mourners. Like the foods of the seder, the foods which make up the mourner's meal are deeply symbolic. For instance, the hard-boiled egg, common to both the seder and the meal of comfort is the symbol of new life, and of survival and strength, even in difficult circumstances.
Is matzo poor man's bread or the food of free men? Can it be both? If we regard it as the Bread of Affliction why did we carry dough on our backs out of Egypt, to let it bake in the hot sun without leavening and rising? Can one Matzo be both a symbol of wretchedness and deliverance?
Matzo is a paradox.
Not only is it so, but in breaking the middle matzo we also break with symmetry....
The question of why we eat maror would at first glance appear to be an obvious one. When I probe a little deeper, however, two questions emerge for me. First, why would I want to evoke pain and suffering on a night when I want to feel celebratory? My second question goes to the ritual itself. How is eating lettuce or horseradish supposed to help me experience or relate to the bitterness of slavery? No matter how much...
– Jen Stein
This year, on the seder plate
instead of the bloodied shank bone
we place a cluster of sweet grapes
which serve as a symbol of fertility,
of new life and abundance.
We choose this, life, and not death:
for before us is set life and death
the blessing and the curse.
Therefore, we choose life
that we may invite...
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...
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...
We sanctify the name of God and proclaim the holiness of this festival of Passover. With a blessing over wine, we lift our wine, our symbol of joy; let us welcome the festival of Passover.
In unison, we say…
Our God and God of our ancestors, we thank You for enabling us to gather in friendship, to observe the Festival of Freedom. Just as for many centuries the Passover Seder has brought together families...
Here is a kid and adult friendly alternative to for the Maggid section (the Passover story section) of the Haggadah. This short play is in the style of "sedra scenes" -- a contemporary take which makes the story current but stays true to the Exodus narrative. I've written it for large crowds -- so there are 13 parts, but if you have a smaller gathering you can easily double up.
More Clips from Kalsman Institute
The seder ritual seems to have it backward: One would think that we should eat the maror first, just as the bitter slavery preceded the liberation. But in truth, our chronology is not so simple. We need to have tasted freedom to really understand oppression. Maybe the lingering aftertaste of the matza can help see us through suffering and oppression. So it is, that the love we shared with our...
Finding and Eating the Afikoman
In hiding and seeking the afikoman, we reunite the two parts separated at the beginning of the seder. At this moment, we have the opportunity to discover lost parts of ourselves, to become reconciled with relatives who have become distant and to find wholeness in aspects of Judaism which may not have been part of our...