My Journey Through the Haggadah- Rachtza
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My Journey Through the Haggadah- Rachtza
Prior to eating any food or drinking any liquid, we are commanded by our Sages to bless the Almighty who provides us with food and drink. Although it is man who plants and reaps, it is the Almighty's design that what we plant grows into fruit, vegetables and vegetation that is the basis of all life. The blessing varies the blessing for fruit grown on trees, ends with "who creates the fruit of the trees", while the blessing for vegetables grown on the ground, ends with "who creates the fruit of the ground". Food that is neither fruit nor vegetables, such as meat, fish, cheese, eggs etc., and liquids, apart from wine, have their own blessing, which ends "by whose word all things exist". Food made of any of the five species of grain such as for example cake or pasta, have their own special blessing “who creates all kinds of food”
However, bread is of such importance called "the staff of life” that it has its own blessing, and ends "who brings forth bread from the earth". Bread is considered such an essential part of all meals that the Sages have decreed that the blessing on bread includes all the food that we eat in that meal.
Wine which is an important part of our lives in that we sanctify the Sabbath and Festivals with wine and is an essential part of the wedding and circumcision services, of all liquids has its own blessing which does not mention wine, but ends "who has created the fruit of the vine". Incidentally, the blessing for grapes from which wine is made is the standard one for fruit of the tree.
The table on which we eat our meals is compared to the Altar in the Temple and we give thanks to the Almighty for providing the meal we eat on it. By eating bread with the meal, we make what we eat into a “proper meal” as it were, as distinct from a snack. In the Temple of old the Priest would wash his hands before eating the Terumah, (the gift of the grain given to the Priest) To stress the importance of this “proper meal”, and to commemorate the action of the priest we also wash our hands, prior to the blessing we make over the bread. Washing the hands prior to a “proper meal” converts the blessing over bread into a blessing over all the individual foods and types of food we eat in that “proper meal”
This washing of our hands before a meal is called in Hebrew, נטילת ידי (‘netilat yadayim’) and is done by pouring water from a vessel twice (some say 3 times) over each hand in turn making the special blessing which appears next in the Haggadah. Between this blessing and the two which we make next, one over the Matzah as bread and one which we make only on the Seder night on eating Matzah in accordance with the commandment to eat Matzah, there should not be any distraction such as talking or untoward or unnecessary gesturing.
This is a modern interpretation of an ancient standard, which is part and parcel of the Seder: the Four Children. By reading and discussing the Four Children, and then responding to it through modern themes, we can come to an understanding of who we are and our relation to the our Children. The source of this section are four verses from the Tanakh which briefly mention children asking, or being told about, the Exodus...
Breaking the middle matzah | yachatz | יַחַץ
There are three pieces of matzah stacked on the table. We now break the middle matzah into two pieces. The host should wrap up the larger of the pieces and, at some point between now and the end of dinner, hide it. This piece is called the afikomen, literally “dessert” in Greek. After dinner, the guests must hunt for the afikomen in order to wrap up...
The question of why we eat maror would at first glance appear to be an obvious one. When I probe a little deeper, however, two questions emerge for me. First, why would I want to evoke pain and suffering on a night when I want to feel celebratory? My second question goes to the ritual itself. How is eating lettuce or horseradish supposed to help me experience or relate to the bitterness of slavery? No matter how much...
Jews from Spain, Italy, Sicily, Morocco, Tunisia, and Sardinia would bring the Seder plate to the table with ceremony. Sometimes, they would cover it with a nice scarf and sing as it arrived to the table. They would pass it from person to person around the table, and place it on each head for a moment. This demonstrates that we were once slaves in Egypt and carried heavy burdens on our heads. In...
Passover is a holiday about freedom. The Passover seder is a special ceremonial dinner in which we gather together to retell the story of the Israelite's freedom from bondage in Egypt. The Hebrew word for this Holiday, "Pesach" has two meanings. The first is "Passing over" and refers to the fact that the angel of death passed over the Israelite's homes. Pesach can also refer to the pascal lamb -- which was ritually...
According to the Book of Exodus, there was a famine in the land of Canaan (later known as Israel). Because of this famine, the Hebrew patriarch Jacob traveled with his extended family of 70 to Egypt to both live inbetter conditions and be with his son Joseph. Joseph’s wisdom had impressed the Pharaoh of Egypt to the point that he was appointed Viceroy of Egypt, which was second in power only to the Pharaoh.
In recounting our story, let us consider that we tell it to four children, one wise, one simple, one wicked and one innocent.
The wise child asks: How can I learn more about our people? To that child you shall direct our wealth of literature so that they may seek out this knowledge for themself.
The simple child asks: What is this all about? To that child you shall say simply , because we had faith we...
“Gentrification: “It’s not about race...” by Lindsay Foster Thomas, posted on the York and Fig blog on January 6, 2015.
There’s no doubt about it. I am a gentrifier. So, why don’t I feel like one? Maybe no one really does, but if I may be honest, I think it’s because I’m African-American. Does that mean I get some kind of free pass to gentrify without it weighing on my conscience? Not even a...
The seder opens with kiddush (the sanctification over wine). This is certainly unremarkable after all, kiddush is the opening act of every shabbat and holiday meal. But kiddush – a ritual .sanctification of time – has an intimate and unique connection to Pesach’s central theme: freedom. How so?
As Israel was about to be released from slavery, God instituted a new calendar: “This month shall (mark for you...
To be read following the chanting of the Four Questions.
1. The Torah demands, “Justice, justice shall you pursue!” (Deut 16:20). What are the obstacles to fulfilling this commandment in the context of criminal justice?
2. The Sage Hillel taught: “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow” (BT Shabbat 31a). At the heart of our Passover story is the remembrance of being...
More Clips from Yekutiel Atkins
At the end of the meal, we eat the Afikomen. This is the piece of the middle Matzah, which was broken in half and put away until now. Traditionally this has probably been "stolen" by somebody, most likely the youngest child and has to be “ransomed” because without it the Seder is unable to continue. The Master of the house will therefore, have to ‘bribe’ by a promise of a present to the...
We have now concluded the whole of the Seder celebration according to the regulations and precepts that have been laid down for us by our teachers. We have invited those who are needy to join us in our celebration. The children have asked why is this night different from all other nights. We have reviewed our history beginning with Laban who tried to stifle our faith almost at its...