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The Pesach story begins in a broken world, amidst slavery and oppression. The sound of the breaking of the matza sends us into that fractured existence, only to become whole again when we find the broken half, the afikoman, at the end of the Seder.
This brokenness is not just a physical or political situation: It reminds us of all those hard, damaged places within ourselves. All those narrow places from which we want to break to free. In Hebrew, Egypt is called Mitzrayim, reminding us of the word tzar, narrow. Thus, in Hassidic thought, Mitzrayim symbolizes the inner straits that trap our souls. Yet even here we can find a unique value, as the Hassidic saying teaches us: "There is nothing more whole – than a broken heart."
We are free, but we remember when we were slaves. We are whole, but we bring to mind those who are broken. The middle matzah is broken, but it is the larger part which is hidden. Because the future will be greater than the past, and tomorrow’s Passover nobler than yesterday’s exodus. The prospects for the dreamed future are overwhelming to the point of making us mute. So it is in silence, without blessing, that we break and hide the matzah and long for its recovery and our redemption.
When we bless the green parsley and dip it in the salty water, we remember the spring, and we remember the long, sad years of our slavery.
When we left Egypt,
we bloomed and sprouted,
and songs dripped from our tongues
like shimmering threads of nectar.
All green with life we grew,
who had been buried,
under toil and sorrow,
dense as bricks.
All green in...
When we talk about God we are talking about the spiritual energy of the universe which makes it possible to transcend the tendency of human beings to pass on to others the hurt and pain that has been done to us, the force that permeates every ounce of Being and unites all in one transcendent and imminent reality. God is the Force in the universe that makes possible the transformation from “that which is” to “that...
We all carry around ideas and images of reality, frequently garnered from other people or from courses we have taken, books we have read, or from television, the radio, newspapers, the culture in general, which give us pictures of how things are and what is occurring. As a result, we often see our thoughts, or someone else's, instead of seeing what is right in front of us or inside of us. Often, we don't even bother to...
As we wash our hands for the first time this evening, we remember that we have the freedom to access resources that many do not. Ask yourself these questions:
In what ways are we free today?
What does freedom mean for Jews in America? For Jews around the world?
What does freedom mean for people of all backgrounds around the world? Are there many who are not free?
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 Wicked Child
I read the haggadah backwards this year
The sea opens,
the ancient Israelites slide back to Egypt
like Michael Jackson doing the moonwalk
Freedom to slavery
That’s the real story
One minute you’re dancing hallelujah,
shaking your hips to the j-j-jangle of the prophetesses’ tambourines,
the next you’re knee deep in brown...
Charoset is our symbol of mortar, recalling the brutal work conditions experienced by the Israelite slaves in Egypt. This year, we introduce a Charoset recipe that includes pine nuts.
Makes approximately 5-6 cups Charoset:
4 medium sized granny smith apples, cored, peeled, and 1/4 inch diced
1 cup dates (about 15-20)
3/4 cup pine nuts
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 cup sweet red wine
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...
What makes this night different from all [other] nights?
1) On all nights we need not dip even once, on this night we do so twice?
2) On all nights we eat chametz or matzah, and on this night only matzah?
3) On all nights we eat any kind of vegetables, and on this night maror?
4) On all nights we eat sitting upright or reclining, and on this night we all...
After performing most of the central mitzvot of the evening (telling the story of the Exodus eating matza and maror, etc.) and just before we are about to enjoy the festive holiday meal, the haggadah structures a moment in which we symbolically repeat the practice of Hillel the Elder who would “wrap” his portion of the paschal offering with matza and maror and eat it as a type of sandwich, in literal fulfillment of...
The Shehecheyanu is a prayer that Jews have been saying for over 2000 years to mark special occasions. Tonight, all of us here together is special occasion. Whether Jewish or not, we have come here under a shared belief that everyone is entitled to be free. We all believe that everyone is entitled to certain inalienable rights. We all believe that we must treat our brothers and sisters with common decency. That is...
A Jewish community that has lived in Kochi, India for more than 2,000 years starts preparing for Passover right after Hanukkah. They believe that if a Jewish woman were to make even the slightest mistake in Passover preparation during the 100 days before the actual seder, then the lives of her husband and her children would be endangered. They keep special rooms that hold all of the Passover...
More Clips from Hillel at UCLA
In today's world, Jews may identify themselves in a variety of ways. One may be ritually, culturally, or intellectually oriented or disconnected. And yet, however modified one's Judaism may be, there is still some level of concern about the Jewish people that causes Jews to at least ask the questions about the Exodus from Egypt. We must answer them, and enable them to learn.
The ritual Jew asks: "What are the...