Minimalist/Story-retelling: The Exodus
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Minimalist/Story-retelling: The Exodus
Each new generation of Israelites, since the days of Joseph and his brothers, had multiplied greatly in the Narrow Places so that the land was filled with them.
A new Pharoah came to power there. “Look,” Pharoah said to his courtiers, “there are too many Israelites among us. We must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies to fight against us.” So Pharoah put slave masters over the Israelites to oppress them with forced labor.
Pharoah said to two Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, “When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him.” The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what Pharoah told them to do; they let the boys live. God was kind to the midwives and the Israelite people continued to become even more numerous.
A Levite woman, Jochebed, gave birth to a son. She hid him for three months until she could do so no longer. With her daughter Miriam's help, Jochebed placed the baby boy in a papyrus basket in the Nile River. When Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, she saw the basket among the reeds. She opened it, saw the baby was crying, and felt sorry for him. Pharoah's daughter named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water.”
After Moses grew up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew; seeing no one else around, he killed the Egyptian and hid the body in the sand. When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses. Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian for a long time.
During that long period, Pharoah died but the slavery continued. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out to God. God heard their groaning and remembered the covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob.
One day, Moses was shepherding flocks in the wilderness near Mt Horeb, when an angel of God appeared in fiery flames within a bush. Moses saw the bush was on fire but that it did not burn up. God called to Moses from within the bush and said, “I have seen the misery of my people in the Narrow Places. I have come down to rescue them and to bring them up into a land flowing with milk and honey. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of there.”
Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of the Narrow Places?”
And God said, “I will be with you.”
Then Moses said to God, “So I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask, ‘What's his name?’ What shall I tell them?”
And God said, “ I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I am has sent me to you.’”
Then Moses said to God, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me?”
And God said, “Throw your staff on the ground.” It became a snake. God encouraged Moses to reach out and take hold of the snake's tail. It turned back into a staff in his hand.
And God said, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” So Moses put his hand into his cloak, and when he took it out, the skin was leprous. Moses put his hand back into his cloak, and when he took it out again, it was restored.
And God said, “If they do not believe you or pay attention to the first sign, they may believe the second. And if they do not believe these two signs, pour some Nile river-water on the dry ground - it will become blood.”
Then Moses said to God, “But I have never been eloquent - I am slow of speech and tongue.”
And God said, “Who gave human beings their mouths? I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”
Then Moses said, “Please send someone else.”
And God said, “What about your brother, Aaron? I know he can speak well. You shall speak to him, he will speak to the people for you, and I will help you both speak."
Moses returned to the Narrow Places. He, his brother Aaron, and his sister Miriam brought together all the elders of the Israelites. Aaron told them everything God had said to Moses, performing the signs before the people. When the Israelites understood that God had seen and heard their misery, they bowed down and worshiped God.
Moses and Aaron went to the new Pharoah and said, "The God of Israel says: 'Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness." Pharoah replied, "Who is this God that I should obey and let Israel go? I don't know him and I won't let them go. It seems these people are lazy, so I will no longer have the slave masters supply them straw for bricks." The Israelites, in turn, found fault in Moses and Aaron for this extra burden.
Then Moses said to God, "Why have you brought more trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me? You have not rescued your people at all."
And God said, "Now you will see what I will do to Pharoah: because of my mighty hand, he will let them go and he will even drive them out of the country."
Moses and Aaron returned to Pharoah as God advised. Aaron threw down his staff in front of Pharoah and his courtiers. The staff became a snake. Unimpressed, Pharoah's court magicians threw down their staffs which also became snakes. Aaron's snake ate their snakes, but Pharoah was not moved to let the Israelites go.
And God said to Moses, "Go down with Aaron to meet Pharoah by the Nile tomorrow morning. Tell Pharoah that the God of the Hebrews has sent me to say to you: 'Let my people go so that they will worship me in the wilderness.' Then strike the waters of the Nile with the staff so that Pharoah knows who God is. But Pharoah's heart will be hardened, so I have a few other ideas in store for him. . . . "
Free people ask questions. We begin our Seder with questions. Although the custom is that the youngest at the table asks, tradition instructs that all must ask:
Ma Neeshtana ha-laila ha-zeh meekol ha-laylot? Sheh-bichol ha-laylot anoo ochleem chametz oo-matzah. Halailah hazeh chametz oomatz. Sheh-bi'chol ha-laylot anoo ochleem sheh-ar yerakot. Ha-lailah hazeh maror.
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...
– Jen Stein
This year, on the seder plate
instead of the bloodied shank bone
we place a cluster of sweet grapes
which serve as a symbol of fertility,
of new life and abundance.
We choose this, life, and not death:
for before us is set life and death
the blessing and the curse.
Therefore, we choose life
that we may invite...
1) 64% felt unsafe at school due to sexual orientation
2) 44% felt unsafe at school due to gender identification
3) 42% of LGBT youth have experienced cyber bullying
4) 42% of LBGT youth say the community in which they live in is not accepting of LGBT people
5) Only 77% of LGBT youth say they know things will get better
6) 60% LGBT students report feeling unsafe at school because of...
Slaves eat quickly, stopping neither to wash nor to reflect. Tonight, we are free. We wash and we express our reverence for the blessings that are ours.
Pass a bowl of water, a small cup and a towel around the table. Everyone pours three cupfuls over their fingers. There is no blessing over this washing.
The Seder is all about answering questions. But one question remains unanswered, and that’s the most important question – Why? We are taught, “ In every generation, each person must see him/herself as if s/he were redeemed from Egypt.” But why? Why return to Egypt year after year? Why re-taste the bitterness of slavery? Ask the Torah – What difference does this experience...
Korech: Mixing the Bitter and the Sweet
One of my favorite moments of the seder comes just before dinner is served. It is called Korech. It is also known as the Hillel sandwich. It is the moment when we eat maror (the bitter herbs) and the charoset (the sweet apple and nut mixture) on a piece of matzah. What a strange custom to eat something so bitter and something so sweet all in one...
Maimonides urged us to care for our bodies so that we would be free to concentrate our energies on God. In the modern world, one of the greatest threats to our physical health is mental stress. Stress causes insomnia, digestive problems, heart disease, autoimmune disorders, depression, memory impairment and countless other complications. As women, we are particularly vulnerable to the stress caused by multiple and...
Passover is a time for us to reflect on our own freedom and an opportunity to connect our lives with the struggles of others. At AVODAH, we support emerging Jewish leaders as they work to address some of the most pressing issues in the fight against poverty. We study the complex (and often overlapping) systemic issues that impact people in our country, and explore how Jewish tradition calls on us to respond. This year,...
Mah Nishtana: What's New? What significant change has occurred in your life since this time last year? Name one meaningful piece of news.
Elijah's Cup is passed around as each guest speaks. A blessing or toast concludes the round.
Avadim Hayinu: Our Slavery. Identify the problem. What enslaves you today? What's holding you back from being freer, happy, and...
“Gratitude is the moral memory of mankind. If every grateful action were suddenly eliminated, society would crumble.”
– Georg Simmel
Gratitude and happiness are intertwined and for good reason. It is no coincidence that positive psychology practitioners and happiness experts state that in order to increase your contentment in life you need to boost your level of...
1. What do you consider your “promised land,” or heaven on earth?
2. In Hebrew, the word for Egypt is “Mitzraim,” which literally means “narrow place.” What is one way that you wish for our society to be more open?
3. Moses is considered one of the greatest leaders in our history — he is described as being smart, courageous, selfless and kind. Which of today’s leaders inspires you in a...
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ספירת העומר :
Counting of the Omer begins on the second day of Pesach as spiritual preparation and anticipation for the giving of the Torah on Shavuot.
Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the Lord. Leviticus 23:16
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה אֲדֹנָי אֱלֹהֵינוּ...
While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,
Let us swear allegiance to a land that's free.
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer:
God bless America, land that I love,
Stand beside her and guide her
Through the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans white with foam,