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The whole point of the seder is to ask questions. This is your time to ask about things that confuse you, things you don’t understand, or even things you don’t agree with. There really is no is no such thing as a stupid question, especially tonight.
- Joy Levitt (age 16)
Questions are not only welcome during the course of the evening but are vital to tonight’s journey. Our obligation at this seder involves traveling from slavery to freedom, prodding ourselves from apathy to action, encouraging the transformation of silence into speech, and providing a space where all different levels of belief and tradition can co-exist safely. Because leaving Mitzrayim--the narrow places, the places that oppress us—is a personal as well as a communal passage, your participation and thoughts are welcome and encouraged.
We remember that questioning itself is a sign of freedom. The simplest question can have many answers, sometimes complex or contradictory ones, just as life itself is fraught with complexity and contradictions. To see everything as good or bad, matzah or maror, Jewish or Muslim, Jewish or “Gentile”, is to be enslaved to simplicity. Sometimes, a question has no answer. Certainly, we must listen to the question, before answering.
¿Qué hace diferente a esta noche de todas las [demás] noches? ¿Ma nishtaná haláila hazé micól haleilót?
1) En todas las noches no precisamos sumergir ni siquiera una vez, ¡y en esta noche lo hacemos dos veces? ...shebejól haleilót éin ánu matbilín afílu paám eját, haláila hazé shtéi peamím?
2) En todas las noches comemos jametz o matzá, ¡en esta noche solamente matzá? ...shebejól...
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...
We all carry around ideas and images of reality, frequently garnered from other people or from courses we have taken, books we have read, or from television, the radio, newspapers, the culture in general, which give us pictures of how things are and what is occurring. As a result, we often see our thoughts, or someone else's, instead of seeing what is right in front of us or inside of us. Often, we don't even bother to...
The first words in the creation of the universe out of the unformed, void and dark earth were God’s “Let there be light." Therein lies the hope and faith of Judaism and the obligation of our people: to make the light of justice, compassion, and knowledge penetrate the darkness of our time till the prophecy be fulfilled, ‘that wickedness vanish like smoke and the earth shall be filled with knowledge of God as the...
From COEJL’s “Preparing for Passover: Readings for the Seder Table”
Stewart Vile Tahl, COEJL
One of Passover’s lessons is learned to distinguish between more and enough. Dayenu means “it would have been enough for us.” Often, enjoying more wealth and comfort stimulates our desire for more – more attention, more comforts, more money, more, and more, and more. Passover and the...
A Rabbi who came to America in the 1920's relates the following story:
"When I first came into the city, I saw a big store. I walked inside and noticed people taking shopping carts and going aisle to aisle, piling as much food as they wanted into their carts. No one said anything to them, and no one stopped them. People filled up their wagons to their hearts' content. This seemed very strange to me. Indeed, this...
Around our tables sit four daughters:
The wise daughter understands that not everything is as it appears. She is the one who speaks up, confident that her opinion counts. She is the one who can take the tradition and ritual that is placed before her, turn it over and over, and find personal meaning in it. She is the one who can find the secrets in the empty spaces between the letters...
The next item on our plate is the karpas: the vegetable representing spring. Many families use a green leafy vegetable because the green makes people think about freshness, coming alive, being healthy- all the wonderful things that go along with freedom. But when families do not have enough resources they can't always get fresh fruits and vegetables. When our family lived in Eastern Europe it was also...
Why is there no orange on our Seder plate?
In the early 1980s, while speaking at Oberlin College Hillel, Susannah Heschel was introduced to an early feminist Haggadah that suggested adding a crust of bread on the Seder plate, as a sign of solidarity with Jewish lesbians (there's as much room for a lesbian in Judaism as there is for a crust of bread on the seder plate). Heschel felt that to...