Sharing our Own Naratives
The Seder seeks not only to strengthen our individual connections to the Jewish past, but also to forge our connections to each other. We begin the act of creating relationships and building community by sharing our own narratives with each other.
(Recited on Shabbat)
וַיְהִי עֶרֶב וַיְהִי בֹקֶר
יוֹם הַשִּׁשִּׁי, וַיְכֻלּוּ הַשָּׁמַיִם וְהָאָרֶץ וְכָל-צְבָאָם: וַיְכַל אֱלֹהִים בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי, מְלַאכְתּוֹ אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה, וַיִשְׁבֹּת בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי, מִכָּל-מְלַאכְתּוֹ אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה: וַיְבָרֶךְ אֱלֹהִים אֶת-יוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי, וַיְקַדֵּשׁ אֹתוֹ, כִּי בוֹ שָׁבַת מִכָּל-מְלַאכְתּוֹ, אֲשֶׁר-בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים לַעֲשׂוֹת
Vayehi erev vayehi voker yom hashishi vayechulu hashamayim veha'aretz vechol tezva'am. Vayechal elohim bayom hashvi'i melachto asher asah. Vayishbot bayom hashvi'i mikol melachto asher asah. Vayevarech elohim et yom hashvi'i vayekadesh oto. Ki vo shavat mikol melachto asher barah elohim la'asot.
There was evening and there was morning. On the sixth day, the heavens and the earth and all their hosts were completed. And God completed, on the seventh day, God’s work which God had made, and God ceased on the seventh day, all God’s work in which God had been engaged. And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it; because on it God ceased all God’s work which God had created.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָּפֶן:
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר בָּחַר בָּנוּ מִכָּל-עָם, וְרוֹמְמָנוּ מִכָּל-לָשׁוֹן, וְקִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו, וַתִּתֶּן-לָנוּ יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ בְּאַהֲבָה (לשבת שַׁבָּתוֹת לִמְנוּחָה וּ)מוֹעֲדִים לְשִׂמְחָה, חַגִּים וּזְמַנִּים לְשָׂשׂוֹן אֶת-יוֹם (לשבת הַשַּׁבָּת הַזֶה וְאֶת-יוֹם) חַג הַמַּצוֹת הַזֶּה. זְמַן חֵרוּתֵנוּ, (לשבת בְּאַהֲבָה,) מִקְרָא קֹדֶשׁ, זֵכֶר לִיצִיאַת מִצְרָיִם. כִּי בָנוּ בָחַרְתָּ וְאוֹתָנוּ קִדַּשְׁתָּ מִכָּל-הָעַמִים. (לשבת וְשַׁבָּת) וּמוֹעֲדֵי קָדְשֶׁךָ (לשבת בְּאַהֲבָה וּבְרָצוֹן) בְּשִׂמְחָה וּבְשָׂשׂוֹן הִנְחַלְתָּנוּ: בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה
יְיָ, מְקַדֵּשׁ (לשבת הַשַׁבָּת וְ) יִשְׂרָאֵל וְהַזְמַנִּים:
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha’olam, borei p’ri hagafen.
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha’olam, asher bachar banu mikolam, v’rom’manu mikol-lashon, v’kid’shanu b’mitzvotav, vatiten-lanu Adonai Eloheinu b’ahavah (shabbatot limnucha u’)moadim l’simchah, chagim uz’manim l’sason et-yom (hashabbat hazah v’et-yom) chag hamatzot hazeh. Z’man cheiruteinu, (b’ahavah) mikra kodesh, zeicher litziat mitzrayim. Ki vanu vacharta v’otanu kidashta mikolha’amim. (v’shabbat) umo’adei kod’shecha (b’ahavah uvratzon) b’simchah uv’sason hinchaltanu. Baruch Atah Adonai, m’kadeish (hashabbat v’) Yisrael v’hazmanim.
Blessed are You Adonai our God, Sovereign of the Universe who created the fruit of the vine.
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the Universe, who has chosen us from among the nations, and elevated us from other peoples, and sanctified us with commandments. Adonai our God gave us the seasons in love. as a joy, the holidays and the appointed times as a celebration, this holiday of Matzah. It is the time of our freedom, and is called holy as we remember the exodus from Egypt. For it us that God chose and sanctified from all the peoples. And You appointed us Your holy times in joy and gladness. ּBlessed are You Adonai, who
sanctifies Israel and the times.
The Green Vegetable
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה:
Barukh atta Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha-olam, borei p'ri ha-adamah.
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, who has created the fruit of the earth.
Take the middle matzah of the three on your Seder plate. Break it into two pieces. Wrap the larger piece, the Afikoman, in a napkin to be hidden later. As you hold up the remaining smaller piece, read these words together:
We now hold up this broken matzah, which so clearly can never be repaired. We eat the smaller part while the larger half remains out of sight and out of reach for now. We begin by eating this bread of affliction and, then, only after we have relived the journey through slavery and the exodus from Egypt, do we eat the Afikoman, the bread of our liberation. We see that liberation can come from imperfection and fragmentation. Every day, refugees across the globe experience the consequences of having their lives ruptured, and, yet, they find ways to pick up the pieces and forge a new, if imperfect, path forward.
Maggid – Beginning
Raise the tray with the matzot and say:
הָא לַחְמָא עַנְיָא דִי אֲכָלוּ אַבְהָתָנָא בְּאַרְעָא דְמִצְרָיִם. כָּל דִכְפִין יֵיתֵי וְיֵיכֹל, כָּל דִצְרִיךְ יֵיתֵי וְיִפְסַח. הָשַׁתָּא הָכָא, לְשָׁנָה הַבָּאָה בְּאַרְעָא דְיִשְׂרָאֵל. הָשַׁתָּא עַבְדֵי, לְשָׁנָה הַבָּאָה בְּנֵי חוֹרִין.
Ha lachma anya dee achalu avhatana b'ara d'meetzrayeem. Kol deechfeen yeitei v'yeichol, kol deetzreech yeitei v'yeefsach. Hashata hacha, l'shanah haba-ah b'ara d'yisra-el. Hashata avdei, l'shanah haba-ah b'nei choreen.
This is the bread of affliction, which our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. Let all who are hungry come and eat. Let all who are in need, come and share the Pesach meal. This year, we are here. Next year, in the land of Israel. This year, we are slaves. Next year, we will be free.
Refill the wine cups, but don’t drink yet.
Who Asks The Four Questions?
תנו רבנן: חכם בנו שואלו, ואם אינו חכם אשתו שואלתו. ואם לאו הוא שואל לעצמו. ואפילו
שני תלמידי חכמים שיודעין בהלכות הפסח שואלין זה לזה
The rabbis teach that if a son is wise enough, then he asks, but if he is not wise enough, then the man’s wife asks. But if he has no wife, then he asks himself. And even if there are only two wise sage, and both of them know all the laws of Passover, then each must ask each other
Rabbi Josh Franklin:
Who asks the four questions? The tradition has emerged that the youngest child at the table should ask four perscribed questions. The talmudic sages placed the emphasis simply on the act of questioning. Children should always be allowed to ask questions, but it also becomes the responsibility of the seder participants to take part in the tradition, even if they might already know the answer. Jewish tradition values a thoughtful question more than a good answer. On Passover, as we celebrate our freedom, we are also reminded that slaves lack the ability to ask questions. In simply posing questions, we show that we are free!
My father was a god and did not know it. He gave me The Ten Commandments neither in thunder nor in furry; neither in fire nor in cloud But rather in gentleness and love. And he added caresses and kind words and he added “I beg You,” and “please.” And he sang “keep” and “remember” the Shabbat In a single melody and he pleaded and cried quietly between one utterance and the next , “Do not take the name of God in vain,” do not take it, not in vain, I beg you, “do not bear false witness against your neighbor.” And he hugged me tightly and whispered in my ear “Do not steal. Do not commit adultery. Do not murder.” And he put the palms of his open hands On my head wit the Yom Kippur blessing. “Honor, love, in order that your days might be long On the earth.” And my father’s voice was white like the hair on his head. Later on he turned his face to me one last time Like on the day when he died in my arms and said I want to add Two to the Ten Commandments: The eleventh commandment – “Thou shall not change.” And the twelfth commandment – “Thou must surely change.” So said my father and then he turned from me and walked off Disappearing into his strange distances.
The Passover Haggadah recounts ten plagues that afflicted Egyptian society. In our tradition, Passover is the season in which we imagine our own lives within the story and the story within our lives. Accordingly, we turn our thoughts to the many plagues affecting our society today. Our journey from slavery to redemption is ongoing, demanding the work of our hearts and hands. Here are ten “modern plagues”:
In any given year, about 3.5 million people are likely to experience homelessness, about a third of them children, according to the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. A recent study by the U.S. Conference of Mayors showed the majority of major cities lack the capacity to shelter those in need and are forced to turn people away. We are reminded time and again in the Torah that the Exodus is a story about a wandering people, once suffering from enslavement, who, through God’s help, eventually find their way to their homeland. As we inherit this story, we affirm our commitment to pursue an end to homelessness.
About 49 million Americans experience food insecurity, 16 million of them children. While living in a world blessed with more than enough food to ensure all of God’s children are well nourished, on Passover we declare, “Let all who are hungry come and eat!” These are not empty words, but rather a heartfelt and age-old prayer to end the man-made plague of hunger.
Access to affordable housing, quality health care, nutritious food and quality education is far from equal. The disparity between the privileged and the poor is growing, with opportunities for upward mobility still gravely limited. Maimonides taught, “Everyone in the house of Israel is obligated to study Torah, regardless of whether one is rich or poor, physically able or with a physical disability.” Unequal access to basic human needs, based on one’s real or perceived identity, like race, gender or disability, is a plague, antithetical to the inclusive spirit of the Jewish tradition.
In the Talmud, the sage Ben Zoma asks: “Who is wealthy? One who is happy with one’s lot.” These teachings evidence what we know in our conscience—a human propensity to desire more than we need, to want what is not ours and, at times, to allow this inclination to conquer us, leading to sin. Passover urges us against the plague of greed, toward an attitude of gratitude.
Discrimination and hatred
The Jewish people, as quintessential victims of hatred and discrimination, are especially sensitized to this plague in our own day and age. Today, half a century after the civil rights movement in the United States, we still are far from the actualization of the dream Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. articulated in Washington, D.C., a vision rooted in the message of our prophets. On Passover, we affirm our own identity as the once oppressed, and we refuse to stand idly by amid the plagues of discrimination and hatred.
Silence amid violence
Every year, 4.8 million cases of domestic violence against American women are reported. Each year, more than 108,000 Americans are shot intentionally or unintentionally in murders, assaults, suicides and suicide attempts, accidental shootings and by police intervention. One in five children has seen someone get shot. We do not adequately address violence in our society, including rape, sex trafficking, child abuse, domestic violence and elder abuse, even though it happens every day within our own communities.
Humans actively destroy the environment through various forms of pollution, wastefulness, deforestation and widespread apathy toward improving our behaviors and detrimental civic policies. Rabbi Nachman of Brezlav taught, “If you believe you can destroy, you must believe you can repair.” Our precious world is in need of repair, now more than ever.
Stigma of mental illness
One in five Americans experiences mental illness in a given year. Even more alarming, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, nearly two-thirds of people with a diagnosable mental illness do not seek treatment, and minority communities are the least likely to search for or have access to mental health resources. Social stigma toward those with mental illness is a widespread plague. Historically, people with mental health issues have suffered from severe discrimination and brutality, yet our society is increasingly equipped with the knowledge and resources to alleviate the plague of social stigma and offer critical support.
We are living through the worst refugee crisis since the Holocaust. On this day, we remember that “we were foreigners in the land of Egypt,” and God liberated us for a reason: to love the stranger as ourselves. With the memory of generations upon generations of our ancestors living as refugees, we commit ourselves to safely and lovingly opening our hearts and our doors to all peace-loving refugees.
When faced with these modern plagues, how often do we doubt or question our own ability to make a difference? How often do we feel paralyzed because we do not know what to do to bring about change? How often do we find ourselves powerless to transform the world as it is into the world as we know it should be, overflowing with justice and peace?
Written in collaboration with Rabbi Matthew Soffer of Temple Israel of Boston
As we rejoice at our deliverance from slavery, we acknowledge that our freedom was hard-earned. We regret that our freedom came at the cost of the Egyptians’ suffering, for we are all human beings made in the image of God. We pour out a drop of wine for each of the plagues as we recite them.
Dip a finger or a spoon into your wine glass for a drop for each plague.
These are the ten plagues which God brought down on the Egyptians:
Blood | dam | דָּם
Frogs | tzfardeiya | צְפַרְדֵּֽעַ
Lice | kinim | כִּנִּים
Beasts | arov | עָרוֹב
Cattle disease | dever | דֶּֽבֶר
Boils | sh’chin | שְׁחִין
Hail | barad | בָּרָד
Locusts | arbeh | אַרְבֶּה
Darkness | choshech | חֹֽשֶׁךְ
Death of the Firstborn | makat b’chorot | מַכַּת בְּכוֹרוֹת
The Egyptians needed ten plagues because after each one they were able to come up with excuses and explanations rather than change their behavior. Could we be making the same mistakes? Make up your own list. What are the plagues in your life? What are the plagues in our world today? What behaviors do we need to change to fix them?
It would have been too much if only Columbine had been the single scar on the flesh of our country. Dayeinu!
It would have been too much if only the lecture halls at Virginia Tech had transformed into morgues. Dayeinu!
It would have been too much if only the innocence of Newtown’s young children had been savaged. Dayeinu!
It would have been too much if only Orlando’s nightclub had been drenched with the blood of innocent women and men. Dayeinu!
It would have been too much if only bullets had rained down upon a crowded plaza in Las Vegas. Dayeinu!
It would have been too much if only the fresh corpses of Parkland cried out from the grave. Dayeinu!
It would have been too much if even a single life was taken, because our tradition values every life as a world entire. Dayeinu!
Enough is Enough Dayeinu!
זֹאת כּוֹס מִרְיָם, כּוֹס מַיִם חַיּים. זֵכֶר לִיצִיאַת מִצִרָיִם
This is the cup of Miriam, the cup of living waters. Let us remember the well of Miriam gave life to the Israelites as the struggled through the wilderness.
דרש רב עוירא: בשכר נשים צדקניות שהיו באותו הדור נגאלו ישראל ממצרים
Rabi Avira taught: By the merit of righteous women, a generation of Israel was redeemed from Egypt. (Sotah 11b)
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, With conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. "Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Humanity manifests itself in brotherhood most frequently in “dark times.” This kind of humanity actually becomes inevitable when the times become so extremely dark for certain groups of people that it is no longer up to them, their insight or choice, to withdraw from the world. Humanity in the form of fraternity invariably appears historically among persecuted peoples and enslaved groups. ... This kind of humanity is the great privilege of pariah peoples; it is the advantage that the pariahs of this world always and in all circumstances can have over others. ...
It is as if under the pressure of persecution the persecuted have moved so closely together that the interspace ... has simply disappeared. This produces a warmth of human relationships which may strike those who have had some experience with such groups as an almost physical phenomenon. ...
In its full development it can breed a kindliness and sheer goodness of which human beings are otherwise scarcely capable. Frequently it is also the source of a vitality, a joy in the simple fact of being alive, rather suggesting that life comes fully into its own only among those who are, in worldly terms, the insulted and injured
I speak to you as an American Jew.
As Americans we share the profound concern of millions of people about the shame and disgrace of inequality and injustice which make a mockery of the great American idea.
As Jews we bring to this great demonstration, in which thousands of us proudly participate, a two-fold experience -- one of the spirit and one of our history.
In the realm of the spirit, our fathers taught us thousands of years ago that when God created man, he created him as everybody's neighbor. Neighbor is not a geographic term. It is a moral concept. It means our collective responsibility for the preservation of man's dignity and integrity.
From our Jewish historic experience of three and a half thousand years we say:
Our ancient history began with slavery and the yearning for freedom. During the Middle Ages my people lived for a thousand years in the ghettos of Europe . Our modern history begins with a proclamation of emancipation.
It is for these reasons that it is not merely sympathy and compassion for the black people ofAmerica that motivates us. It is above all and beyond all such sympathies and emotions a sense of complete identification and solidarity born of our own painful historic experience.
When I was the rabbi of the Jewish community in Berlin under the Hitler regime, I learned many things. The most important thing that I learned under those tragic circumstances was that bigotry and hatred are not '.the most urgent problem. The most urgent, the most disgraceful, the most shameful and the most tragic problem is silence.
A great people which had created a great civilization had become a nation of silent onlookers. They remained silent in the face of hate, in the face of brutality and in the face of mass murder.
America must not become a nation of onlookers. America must not remain silent. Not merely black America , but all of America . It must speak up and act,. from the President down to the humblest of us, and not for the sake of the Negro, not for the sake of the black community but for the sake of the image, the idea and the aspiration of America itself.
Our children, yours and mine in every school across the land, each morning pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States and to the republic for which it stands. They, the children, speak fervently and innocently of this land as the land of "liberty and justice for all."
The time, I believe, has come to work together - for it is not enough to hope together, and it is not enough to pray together, to work together that this children's oath, pronounced every morning from Maine to California, from North to South, may become. a glorious, unshakeable reality in a morally renewed and united America.