We don't know how long this will last. They are a very festive people. –Elaine Benes
About three thousand years ago, ancient Israelites fused a shepherds’ spring celebration of the birthing of lambs and a farmers’ spring celebration of the sprouting of barley into a spring celebration of their liberation from slavery and the downfall of a tyrant.
About two thousand years ago, the Jewish people reshaped that celebration into a Seder, a story and meal that could be eaten and told at home. The Passover story and celebration entered the memory stream of Christianity through the teachings of Jesus in the Last Supper, which seems to have been a Passover Seder. Still later, Islam welcomed Moses as a prophet.
In 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King was planning to take part in a Passover Seder with the family of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who marched and prayed and struggled alongside him against racism an militarism in America. But ten days before the Seder, Dr. King was murdered.
“Prayer is meaningless unless it is subversive, unless it seeks to overthrow and to ruin the pyramids of callousness, hatred, opportunism, falsehoods. The liturgical movement must become a revolutionary movement, seeking to overthrow the forces that continue to destroy the promise, the hope, the vision.” -Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, 1970
Passover allows us a chance to connect with each other and with ourselves, and to help us remember all the ways we enslave ourselves when we lapse into automatic, familiar thought patterns.
We enslave ourselves when we remain in Mitzrayim, the narrow place of confusion and disconnection with our own and others' essential nature. As human beings we all want to be happy and avoid suffering. In the Jewish tradition, ritual is used to bring us to an awareness of the present, and to connect us with our past. ( Contributed by Andrew Marantz )
[RABBI'S OPENING MONOLOGUE IN 'ANGELS OF AMERICA' ABOUT THE DEATH OF SARAH IRONSON]
This good and righteous woman... she was not a person, but a whole kind of a person - the ones that crossed the ocean that brought with us to America, the villages of Russia and Lithuania. And how we struggled! And how we fought! For the family... for the Jewish home! Descendants of this immigrant woman, you do not grow up in America - you and your children, and their children with their goyische names. You do not live in America - no such a place exists. Your clay is the clay of some litvak shtetl, and your air is the air of the steppes, because she carried that Old World on her back, across the ocean, in a boat! And she put it down on Grand Concourse Avenue... on Flatbush. You can never make that crossing that she made, for such great voyages in this world do not any more exist. But every day of your lives, the miles - that voyage from that place to this one - you cross. Every day! You understand me? In you, that journey... is ( Contributed by Marlene Edelstein )
"LOVE POEM,"BY WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS
Sweep the house clean,
hang fresh curtains in the windows
put on a new dress and come with me!
The elm is scattering its little loaves
of sweet smells from a white sky!
Who shall hear of us in the time to come?
Let him say there was a burst of fragrance
from black branches. ( Contributed byRobin Marantz Henig & Jeff Henig)
THE ORDER OF THE EVENING
Our Passover meal is called a seder , which means “order” in Hebrew, because we go through 14 specific steps as we retell the story of our ancestors’ liberation from slavery in Egypt.
Some people like to begin their seder by reciting or singing the names of the 14 steps – this will help you keep track of how far away the main course is!
Kiddush (the blessing over wine) | kadeish |קַדֵּשׁ
Ritual hand-washing in preparation for the seder | urchatz |וּרְחַץ
Dipping a green vegetable in salt water| karpas |כַּרְפַּס
Breaking the middle matzah | yachatz |יַחַץ
Telling the story of Passover | magid |מַגִּיד
Ritual hand-washing in preparation for the meal | rachtza |רָחְצָה
The blessing over the meal and matzah | motzi matzah |מוֹצִיא מַצָּה
Dipping the bitter herb in sweet charoset | maror |מָרוֹר
Eating a sandwich of matzah and bitter herb | koreich |כּוֹרֵךְ
Eating the meal! | shulchan oreich |שֻׁלְחָן עוֹרֵךְ
Finding and eating the Afikomen | tzafoon |צָפוּן
Saying grace after the meal and inviting Elijah the Prophet | bareich |בָּרֵךְ
Singing songs that praise God | hallel |הַלֵּל
Ending the seder and thinking about the future | nirtzah |נִרְצָה
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