The first step of the Seder is Kadesh, in which we recite the Kiddush over wine (or grape juice), sanctifying the night and the holiday, and celebrating our freedom. 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 the Seder.
The four (or five, if you'd like) cups of wine used in the Seder symbolize the four blessings the Hebrews received in the story of Exodus.
Cup #1: The Cup of Sanctification
Cup #2: The Cup of Deliverance
Cup #3: The Cup of Redemption
Cup #4: The Cup of Restoration
Optional Cup #5: The Cup of Hope (Elijah's Cup)
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 lives. 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, as well as our dedication to help ensure the freedom of people from all walks of life.
Now, it's time for our first glass of wine! Have someone else fill your cup, and return them the favor. This way, we are all like nobility, whose cups are filled by someone else.
Before we drink, we give thanks for the force -- whether you believe it is God or nature or pure luck -- that keeps us alive, gives us food to eat and water to drink, and has brought us together to celebrate this moment. Below is the blessing over the wine for the festival of Passover (with parentheses when the Seder falls on Shabbat). The Shehecheyanu is recited after the kiddush, immediately before drinking the wine.
Let us raise our glasses, recite the blessing and enjoy the first cup!
Leader: Va’yihi erev va’y’hi voker
Yom ha’shishi. Va’yihulu ha’shamayim v’haaretz v’hol tzva’am. Va’yihal Elohim ba’yom ha’shvi’i milahto asher asah, va’yishbot ba’yom ha’shvi’i mikolmlahto asher asah. Va’yivareh Elohim et yom ha’shvi’i va’yikadeish oto, ki vo shavat mikol milahto, asher bara Elohim la’asot.
Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech haolam, asher bachar banu mikol am v'rom'manu mikol lashon v'kid'shanu b'mitzvotav, b'ahavah Shabbatot lim'nuchah u moadim l'simchah chagim uz'manim l'sason et yom; et yom (haShabbat hazeh v'et) chag hamatzot hazeh z'man cheiruteinu b'ahavah mikra kodesh zeicher litziat Mitzrayim. Ki vanu vacharta v'otanu kidashta mikol haamim v'Shabbat umoadei kodsh'cah b'ahavah uv'ratzon b'simchah uv'sason hinchaltanu. Baruch atah Adonai, m'kadeish haShabbat v'Yisrael v'hazmanim.
Blessed is the force of the universe that chose us from all peoples, exalting us and sanctifying us with commandments, giving us Sabbaths of rest, feasts of gladness and seasons of joy; (this Shabbat day and) this festival of matzot, season of our freedom, in love, a holy commemoration, a reminder of the Exodus from Egypt. You have chosen us from all peoples, consecrating us to your service, giving us the Sabbath, a sign of your love and favor and the Festivals, a time of gladness and joy. Blessed is the force that sanctifies Shabbat, our people Israel, and the Festivals.
Everyone: Baruch atah adonai, eloheinu melekh ha-olam, borei p'ri hagafen.
Blessed is the force that created the fruit of the vine.
(Shehecheyanu blessing) Baruch atah Adonai eloheinu melekh ha-olam, she-hecheyanu v'ki-yemanu v-higiany lazeman hazeh.
Blessed is the force of the universe that has kept us alive, sustained us and brought us to this special moment.
[Drink the first cup of wine and recline to the left.]
Why do we recline? Reclining at the Seder is an outward display of freedom. In ancient Egypt, royalty would often have special lounges upon which they would recline while eating their meals. On the night of the Seder, we project the feeling that a Jewish life is a royal life. Jewish law makes a point of saying that even a pauper is obligated to recline at the Seder. Often times people equate wealth with freedom, the assumption being that "the wealthier I become, the freer I will be." To this, the pauper's reclining at the Seder retorts, "It's not how much you have that determines your freedom, but what you do with what you have." No matter how numerous or how meager your possessions, when they are used to help others and to promote meaningful endeavors, they are instruments of freedom.
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