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I gave my tenth and last performance of the Ma Nishtanah during the second night of seder at the age of ten. Friends and family gathered around the table to witness the final impassioned rendition. You see, when you're the son of a Cantor, people expect a lot of you. And I delivered year after year. Question after question. That night was no exception. Some children need the crutch of transliteration. I didn't even need a Hagaddah. Going completely off book, I begged of the table: "Ma nishtana ha-laila ha-zeh mi-kol ha-leilot?" Without a script, I had the freedom to gesture, to look into their eyes and demand to know why we were dipping our herbs twice that evening. To my recollection there was applause. But truth be told, the glory of the four questions is short lived. There's always someone younger, cuter, just waiting to take your place. And quite literally, with a baby sister who was turning five, I was getting too old for it.
I haven't sung that song in 16 years. So this year, I created a new set of questions that have been on my mind:
1. If the purpose of engaging the children during the seder is to fulfill the duty of passing the story down, wouldn't it make more sense just to plop them in front of a television and pop in "The Prince of Egypt?" The story itself is far less convoluted than the one in the Haggadah. Not to mention the fact that it is told through a medium targeted at children, complete with modern animation and an award winning sound track. I'm an adult and still have trouble wrapping my head around the part about the five rabbis and difference between anger, wrath, indignation, trouble and messengers of evil.
2. I know that it's not particularly Jewish, but being as it is probably the most famous seder, I can't help but wonder: who sang the Ma Nishtanah at the last supper (I would assume it was John as he was the youngest disciple)? Furthermore did they have an afikoman? And if everyone present was eating matzah why are they never depicted with crumbs all over their robes? Also, at the end did they bother saying 'Next year in Jerusalem?'
3.When do we eat?*
*In the interest of the third question, I have removed the fourth.
We come together from our separate lives, each of us bringing our concerns, our preoccupations, our hopes, and our dreams. We are not yet fully present: The traffic, the last-minute cooking, the final details still cling to us. Our bodies hold the rush of the past few hours.
It is now time to let go of these pressures and really arrive at this seder. We do this by meditating...
Rumi, the Persian poet of the soul, understands the meaning of love in this way:
Your task is not to seek love
But merely to seek and ﬁnd all the barriers
That you have built against it.
The same can be said of freedom; we build barriers against it, barriers born of fear-fear of death, fear of not having enough, fear of not being enough, fear...
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 Meditation on the Four Children
by Rabbi Brant Rosen
As Jews, how do we respond when we hear the tragic news regularly coming out of Israel/Palestine? How do we respond to reports of checkpoints and walls, of home demolitions and evictions, of blockades and military incursions?
It might well be said that there are four very different children deep inside each of us, each reacting in his or her own...
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”:
Imagine you are standing on the bank of the sea of reeds and you look forward and all you see is water. Suddenly, you look behind you and you see the Egyptian army quickly approaching you. The Israelites pled to Moses and Moses spoke to God. God told Moses, raise your staff over the water and I will split the seas. So Moses did, and nothing happened.
Suddenly a man named Nachshon started walking into the water. ...
For a well-formatted printable ritual, and for more information about Rabbis Organizing Rabbis, please visit http://www.rac.org/ror/
The traditional Ha Lachma Anya is found at the beginning of the Maggid, or “storytelling,” section of the Haggadah. This ritual connects both our Exodus story and the Jewish immigrant narrative to the reality of aspiring Americans...
By Marge Piercy
The courage to let go of the door, the handle.
The courage to shed the familiar walls whose very
stains and leaks are comfortable as the little moles
of the upper arm; stains that recall a feast,
a child’s naughtiness, a loud blistering storm
that slapped the roof hard, pouring through.
The courage to abandon the graves dug into the hill,
The 1951 Refugee Convention clearly states that host countries must permit asylum seekers and refugees to engage in both wage-earning and self-employment. According to asylum experts, “the right [to work] has been recognized to be so essential to the realization of other rights that without the right to work, all other rights are meaningless.” Even with these legal protections, though, outside of the United States,...
We have come together this evening for many reasons.
We are here because Spring is all around, the Earth is reborn,
and it is a good time to celebrate with family and friends.
We are here because we are Jews,
because we are members of the Jewish nation,
with its deep historic roots and its valuable old memories and stories.
We are here to remember the old story of the...
Reader 40: In recent history, we have added an additional piece of matza in our Seder. This matza is set aside as a symbol of hope for the Jews of the World. It reminds us of the links that exist amongst us. While we observe this festival of freedom, we know that there are some areas in the world where discrimination towards Jews still exist.