One custom is for the “leader” to ask for the seder plate to be removed, as if the meal were suddenly over. This is meant to prompt younger people to ask the four questions. The refilling of the wine cups is also meant to provoke the young, by implying that a second kiddush is about to be made.
All: On all other nights we eat leavened bread and matzah. Why on this night only matzah?
Reader: Avadot hayinu. We were slaves. We were slaves in Mitzrayim. Our mothers in their flight from bondage in Mitzrayim did not have time to let the dough rise. With not a moment to spare they snatched up the dough they had prepared and fled. But the hot sun beat as they carried the dough along with them and baked it into the flat unleavened bread we call matzah. In memory of this, we eat only matzah, no bread, during Passover. This matzah represents our rush to freedom.
All: On all other nights we eat all kinds of vegetables. Why on this night do we make certain to eat bitter herbs?
Reader: Avadot hayinu. We were slaves. We eat maror to remind us how bitter our ancestors’ lives were made by their enslavement in Mitzrayim.
All: On all other nights we do not usually dip food once. Why on this night do we dip twice?
Reader: Avadot hayinu. We were slaves. The first time we dip our greens to taste the brine of enslavement. We also dip to remind ourselves of all life and growth, of earth and sea, which gives us sustenance and comes to life again in the springtime. The second time we dip the maror into the charoset. The charoset reminds us of the mortar that our ancestors mixed as slaves in Mitzrayim. But our charoset is made of fruit and nuts, to show us that our ancestors were able to withstand the bitterness of slavery because it was sweetened by the hope of freedom.
All: On all other nights we sit on straight chairs. Why on this night do we relax and recline on pillows during the seder?
Reader: Avadot hayinu. We were slaves. Long ago, the wealthy Romans rested on couches during their feasts. Slaves were not allowed to rest, not even while they ate. Since our ancestors were freed from slavery, we recline to remind our selves that we, like our ancestors, can overcome bondage in our own time. We also recline to remind ourselves that rest and rejuvenation are vital to continuing our struggles. We should take pleasure in reclining, even as we share our difficult stories.
A) Some of the questions people are really asking as they participate in a seder:
1. How many more hours until we eat?
2. Why on this night do some of us traditionally eat balls of reconstituted fish parts?
3. Will G-d strike me down if I get up to go to the bathroom during the maggid?
4. Why on this night do said fish balls always have slice of carrot on top, and is it true that jelled broth is in fact the Jewish people’s most enduring contribution to humanity? (2)
B) A little discussion, eh?
Share four questions that are coming up for you at this time. They can be specific (like, why only four questions?) or general (What is the meaning of life and my existence and how did I end up here tonight?)
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