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Matzah, unleavened bread, reminds us both the bread of poverty that the ancient Israelites ate in Egypt and the bread of freedom that they ate in their rushed escape to freedom. Three matzot sit on a plate at the center of the table. At this point of the seder, we break the middle matzah in two, wrap one portion in a napkin, and set it aside, hidden from sight.
This division reminds us of the forced separation of communities and families, parents from children, spouses and siblings from each other. The visible half becomes our bread of affliction, representing the suffering of those who do not know where their loved ones are. The hidden half, called the afikoman, represents the horrors hidden from our sight. At the end of the seder, we look for the afikoman, and similarly commit to seeking redemption. Until families and communities become one whole again, our seder cannot truly end.
I am 38 years old, married and a father of two children. I was born in Niala, South Darfur. My father was murdered during an attack on our village in 2003. We had to run away and seek refuge in the “Kalma” refugee camp. My mother, wife and children still live there until today. I miss them very much and I don’t know what their situation is. I came to Israel to seek protection but I was imprisoned. I have been in prison for almost two years. I don’t want to be in prison any more. –Testimony of A.A.M.S., 1/18/14 1
We pour a second cup, the cup of storytelling, and over it we begin to tell tales of Exodus old and new.
"A Not-So-Serious Passover Play for the Classroom or the Dining Room" by S. Mitchell
CHARACTERS: Slave Narrator, G_d (as a voice offstage), Moses, Aaron, Burning Bush, Pharoah
SLAVE NARRATOR: In Egypt we Hebrews had a difficult life. All day we worked under the whips of the taskmasters, making bricks and stacking them into giant pyramids, using nothing but our bare hands and a mixture of apples, raisins...
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...
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...
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...
Before the blessing over the first cup of wine, say:
We are gathered here tonight to affirm our continuity with the generations of Jews who kept alive the vision of freedom in the Passover story. For thousands of years, Jews have affirmed that by participating in the Passover Seder, we not only remember the Exodus, but actually relive it, bringing its transformative power into our own...
A Cup to our Teachers: To those we have known and those whose work has inspired us, and made space for our lives. We are grateful to you who did and said things for the first time, who claimed and reclaimed our traditions, who forged new tools. Thank you to the teachers around us of all ages-- the people we encounter everyday--who live out their values in small and simple ways, and who are our most regular and loving...
Source 1: Babylonian Talmud
Context: The Babylonian Talmud is a collection of Jewish stories, laws and debates grounded in the Bible and other Jewish texts. It was compiled in the fifth century in modern-day Iraq, but many portions of it are much older. Here, the Talmud quotes and comments on a passage from a second-century text called the Mishnah. The Mishnah asks, “How long must a person live in a city to be...
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...
Immediately following birkat hamazon (grace after meals) we drink the third of four cups of wine. We pour the fourth cup which will be for the upcoming completion of Hallel. We also pour a fifth cup that is situated in the middle of the table called Kos Shel Eliyahu (Elijah’s Cup).
This cup is left undrunk until such time as the halakhic question is answered: Do the Jews in Israel drink the fifth cup which...
If there is a hard, high wall and an egg that breaks against it, no matter how right the wall or how wrong the egg, I will stand on the side of the egg. Why? Because each of us is an egg, a unique soul enclosed in a fragile egg. Each of us is confronting a high wall. The high wall is the system which forces us to do the things we would not ordinarily see fit to do as individuals . . . We are all human...
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...
Sam Solomon 3-12-15
The symbols of Passover
The Symbols of Passover The bone that represents the sacrifice. It is weird to me that we sacrifice a lamb. How can we sacrifice such a sweet and innocent animal?
A hard boiled egg? A hard boiled egg? how can something so small have so much meaning?
We eat bitter herbs to remind us of our ancestors work as slaves. But why do we eat food that...
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.
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...