My Journey Through the Haggadah- Forward
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My Journey Through the Haggadah- Forward
Some 3000 years ago, an event occurred whose reverberations have continued to the present day. This event was the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt and their escape from slavery. The slavery the Jews endured, and the subsequent Exodus, is indelibly etched into the psyche of the Jewish people. It permeates the Torah, our liturgy, and not only the Festival of Passover, which is the subject of this commentary, but the Shabbat and every Festival in the Jewish calendar.
It has a profound effect on our religion, on our relationship with our fellow Jews and our relationship with other peoples. It shaped our morality, our humanity, and the way we react with and treat each other. It entered so deeply into the subconscious of the whole Jewish Nation, that much of our day to day activities are unknowingly and unthinkingly shaped by it. It is no accident that Jews seem to be in the forefront of those seeking to better the lot of those less fortunate than themselves.
However the Exodus and freedom from slavery was not a reason in itself. It was only the beginning of the story. What does it matter if a group of slaves escaped from their masters. Who cares if an insignificant tribe living in a tiny corner of the imposing and glorious Egyptian Empire 3000 years ago, slipped over the border into the desert.
The Exodus was to lead exactly seven weeks later to the event that was a turning point in the direction that world civilization would take. The Exodus was the start of the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob the forefathers of the Jewish people, that their descendants would inherit the Land of Canaan. (Gen. Ch. 35 V. 12). But first they had to receive the rules that they were to live by and that event at Mt. Sinai seven weeks after the escape was the event that changed the world forever.
This event heralded a new era in man’s relationship to his fellow man. At first, it was hardly noticed, but as time went on the Exodus of the Children of Israel from Egypt and the two Tablets of Stone they received some seven weeks after that dash for freedom, had an increasing effect on the world. Today because of that event, the Jewish people for better or for worse, are seldom out of the front pages of the world’s newspapers and the television screens.
If the Exodus had not happened, there would not be a Jewish people today, there probably would not be democracy in the world, there would certainly have been no Christianity or Islam. The way of thinking especially towards others would perhaps have been different, There probably would not have been the idea of Hillel's "Golden Rule' "Not to do to others what you would not have others do to you". In short the world would have been an entirely different place. It is true that there is still evil and evil people in the world but now because of what happened 3000 years ago we know that there is a morality and a decency towards which we must strive.
That event, we celebrate during the Festival of Passover, more usually called by its Hebrew name ‘Pesach’. Probably no other home event has a more honoured and loved place in the Jewish Home than the Passover Seder which brings in the Festival and probably no other Jewish book has such an honoured and loved place in the Jewish home as the ‘Passover Haggadah’ .
Together with Rosh Hashanah (the New Year) and Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement), Pesach is part of the glue that binds the Jewish people together no matter how tenuous is the individual's commitment to the tenets of Judaism.
At the same time, to many people, the Passover Haggadah presents many difficulties, particularly to those whose attitude to the Seder is more than that of a slap up meal in the company of friends and relations. The Passover Haggadah has many facets; it is a book of history, study, prayers and hopes.
The Commandment, ‘Mitzvah’ in Hebrew, to celebrate the Passover, is contained in Exodus Ch.12 V.1-20. It is one of the three pilgrim festivals during which the Jewish people were enjoined to travel to the Temple at Jerusalem for its celebration. The others are, Shavuoth, the Feast of Weeks, the festival celebrated seven weeks after Passover which among other events commemorates the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai and Succoth, Tabernacles, celebrated in the autumn after Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. . On Passover, in Temple times, the main event was the “Passover Offering”, consisting of a lamb or young goat, for each family which was slaughtered and eaten as part of the meal at the Seder. If the lamb or goat was more than enough for a family, several families, joined together to share in the meal. This could only take place within the city of Jerusalem, all the celebrants had to be in a state of ritual purity, and the males had to have been circumcised.
The Torah tells us that Passover is to be celebrated throughout the generations in the spring. (Ex. Ch. 23 V. 15). We are commanded to tell our children what transpired in Egypt ( Ex.Ch. 12. V. 26–27 et al) so long ago, to discuss and to instruct not only the children but also each and every one of us, of the Exodus from Egypt, our escape from slavery and about the miracles and wonders that happened there. The Divine direction of those events, and the beginnings, of the welding together of the Jewish people as a nation. The Haggadah says “Even if we are all wise, if we are all clever, if we are all old, and even if we are all learned in the
Torah, it would still be our duty to tell the story of the going out of Egypt”. We are commanded "And you shall relate to your children on that day" (Ex Ch. 13 V 8), and that is precisely what we do on the Seder Night. As we recite the Haggadah during the Seder, we relate and recount to, and discuss with, the children and all those present, the story
of our deliverance on the anniversary of the day the Exodus from Egypt occurred. If we examine what we say, we will uncover and unfold the whole story and purpose of the Jewish people, to serve God and obey His commandments, and thus to be a “Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation” (Ex Ch. 19.V. 6). And so thereby impart to the nations of the world the knowledge and acknowledgement of the Almighty as Creator and Regulator of the
Universe and everything that is in it. However, the Commandment does not tell us what to say, or how to say it. To help us, the Haggadah, was compiled by the Sages and Rabbis many years ago. It has been hallowed by recitation throughout the ages and has been accepted by all traditions as the means of "Telling The Story" which is indeed what the word Haggadah means. It contains many allusions, quotes from the Bible and Talmud, quotes from sources which are today unknown, prayers, blessings, instructions, children's songs and an altogether seeming hotchpotch through which we thread our way during the Seder.
Each concept indeed in some cases just a word in the Haggadah triggers an aspect of Jewish practice and philosophy in much the same way that a student's notes will remind him of a whole lecture. This interpretation of the Haggadah, in all trepidation and humility will endeavour to explain some of those allusions and try and reveal some of the concepts behind them. It does not pretend to be erudite but tries to explain in simple language my own understanding during its recitation of our past our present and perhaps our future. This joins those countless editions of the Haggadah and commentaries published throughout the centuries which help to enlighten us about our long history as a people and perhaps ourselves.
Hopefully this guide will strike a spark, take the reader further up the road of Jewish knowledge and study, and make Passover and the Seder even more meaningful.
Just one more word, although I have taken great care, no Halachic, that is Jewish law, inferences should be drawn from it. Any Halachic questions should be addressed to a competent Rabbinical authority.
As we remember this struggle, we honor the midwives who were the first Jews to resist the Pharaoh. our legends tell us that Pharaoh, behaving in a way common to oppressors, tried to get Jews to collaborate in murdering their own people. He summoned the two chief midwives, Shifra and Pu'ah, and commanded them to kill newborn Jewish males at birth. He threatened the midwives with death by fire if they failed to follow his...
The Passover story is most often associated with the leadership of Moses, but in fact the cycle of protest that culminated in the Exodus from Egypt began with the courageous acts of two women who disobeyed Pharaoh’s decree to murder all Hebrew male babies born in Egypt. These women, Shifra and Puah, practiced a bold and noteworthy profession—midwifery. It was their commitment to preserving human life and their...
There is a word in Hebrew — Teshuvah — that means return. It is an acknowledgement that there is always a chance for forgiveness, redemption and change. Our traditions teach that Passover is open to all. Everyone is welcome at this table. There is always room. Because no one is ever turned away, there is always an opportunity for a rebirth of spirit.
As a sign of hospitality to all, we open the door to our...
It’s been a crazy week. The world with all its worries and bothers is still clamoring for your attention. The first step is to forget all that. Leave it behind. Enter into a timeless space, where you, your great-grandparents andMosesall coincide.
The beginning of all journeys is separation. You’ve got to leave somewhere to go somewhere else. It is also the first step towards freedom: You...
The first hand-washing of the seder is unusual. The rabbis point out that even a child would wonder at least two things: why do we wash without a blessing and why do we bother to wash when we will not be eating our meal for some time. They suggest that we wash our hands here in order to raise questions. Questions, both of wonder and of despair, are crucial to our time at the seder and, really, our growth as human...
By Noam Zion
In a culture of questions like that of the Rabbis, they wish to understand the purpose and the reason for each commandment and every social institution and to exercise free choice between options. This type of education is critical by nature and it generates not only the aspiration to political freedom, but also spiritual and intellectual freedom.
That is why the Rabbis took...
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.
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...
1. God, have You forgotten me?
I have forgotten how to breathe.
The air here is tight around me
Each day presses in and tomorrow feels impossibly far away
I long to feel Your wide, wide love
To feel hard earth beneath my cracked feet, shade on my bent back, cool mist on my sun-scorched skin
I long to hear sweet words
For respite from the sting that forces me...
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...
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...
Had G-d upheld us throughout 2,000 years of Dispersion,
But not preserved our hope for return...
Had G-d preserved our hope for return,
But not sent us leaders to make the dream a reality...
Had G-d sent us leaders to make the dream a reality,
But not given us success in the UN vote in 1947...
Had G-d given us success in the UN vote in 1947,
But not defeated our attackers...
More Clips from Yekutiel Atkins
At the end of the meal, we eat the Afikomen. This is the piece of the middle Matzah, which was broken in half and put away until now. Traditionally this has probably been "stolen" by somebody, most likely the youngest child and has to be “ransomed” because without it the Seder is unable to continue. The Master of the house will therefore, have to ‘bribe’ by a promise of a present to the...
We have now concluded the whole of the Seder celebration according to the regulations and precepts that have been laid down for us by our teachers. We have invited those who are needy to join us in our celebration. The children have asked why is this night different from all other nights. We have reviewed our history beginning with Laban who tried to stifle our faith almost at its...