May the light of the candles we kindle together tonight bring radiance to all who live in darkness. May this season, marking the deliverance of our people from Pharaoh, rouse us against anyone who keeps others in servitude. In gratitude for the freedom we enjoy, may we strive to bring about the liberation of all people everywhere. Lighting these candles, we create the sacred space of the Festival of Freedom; we sanctify the coming-together of our friends and family.
בָרוּךְ אַתָה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ רוּחַ הַעוֹלָם
אָשֶר קִדְשָנוּ בְמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָנוּ לְהָדלִיק נֵר שֶל יוֹם טוֹב
Baruch atah, Adonai, eloheinu ruach ha’olam, asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu l’hadlik ner shel Yom Tov.
Blessed are you, Adonai our God, Breath of Life, who sanctifies us with your commandment to kindle the holiday lights.
בָרוּךְ אַתָה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם שֶהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְמָנוּ
וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לַזְמַן הַזֶה
Baruch atah, Adonai, eloheinu melech ha’olam,
shehecheyanu v’kiy’manu v’higiyanu lazman hazeh.
Blessed are you, Adonai, sovereign of all worlds, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this moment.
First Cup of Wine
[The following sentence is a kabbalistic kavanah, aimed at encouraging us to sanctify and drink our wine with the holy intention of connecting transcendence and immanence, God far above with God deep within.]
I take upon myself the mitzvah of this first of four cups of wine, in the name of the unification of the Holy Blessed One with Shekhinah!
Tonight we drink four cups of wine. Why four? Some say the cups represent our matriarchs— Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah—whose virtue caused God to liberate us from slavery.
Another interpretation is that the cups represent the Four Worlds: physicality, emotions, thought, and essence. Still a third interpretation is that the cups represent the four promises of liberation God makes in the Torah: I will bring you out, I will deliver you, I will redeem you, I will take you to be my people (Exodus 6:6-7.) The four promises, in turn, have been interpreted as four stages on the path of liberation: becoming aware of oppression, opposing oppression, imagining alternatives, and accepting responsibility to act.
This first cup of wine reminds us of God’s first declaration: “I will bring you out from the
בָרוּךְ אַתָה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶר בָחַר בָנוּ עִם כָל הַעָמִים וְרוֹמְמָנוּ עִם כָל-
לָשׁוֹן, וְקִדְשָנוּ בְמִצְוֹתָיו, וַתִתֶן-לָנוּ יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ בְאַהֲבָה שַבָתוֹת לִמְנוּחָה וּמוֹעֲדִים
לְשִמְחָה, חַגִים וּזְמַנִים לְשָשׂוֹן אֶת-יוֹם הַשַבָת הַזֶה וְאֶת-יוֹם הַמַצוֹת הַזֶה. זְמַן
חֵרוּתֵנוּ, בְאַהֲבָה, מִקְרָא קֹדֶשׁ, זֵכֶר לִיצִיאַת מִצְרָיִם. כִי בָוּ בָחַרְתָ וְאוֹתָנוּ קִדַשְתָ
עִם כָל-הָעַמִים. וְשַבָת וּמוֹעֲדֵי קָדְשֶךָ בְאַהֲבָה וּבְרָצוֹן בְשִמְחָה וּבְשָשׂוֹן
הִנְחַלְתָנוּ: בָרוּךְ אַתָה יְיָ, מְקַדֵשׁ הַשַבָת וְיִשְרָאֵל וְהַזְמֲנִים.
Baruch atah, Adonai, eloheynu melech ha’olam, asher bakhar banu im kol ha-amim, v’rom'manu im kol lashon, v’kidshanu b’mitzvotav. Va-titen lanu Adonai eloheynu, b’ahavah (shabatot limnucha u-) mo’adim l’simkha, hagim u-z’manim l’sason, et yom (ha-(shabbat hazeh v'et yom) ha-Pesach hazeh, z’man cheruteinu, (b'ahavah) mikra kodesh, zecher l’tziat mitzrayim. Ki vanu vacharta, v’otanu kidashta, im kol ha’amim u-moadim kadshekha (b'ahavah uvratzon) v’simcha uv-sason hin-khaltanu. Baruch atah, Adonai, m’kadesh (ha-shabbat v') Yisrael v’hazmanim.
We praise You, Sovereign of Existence! You have called us for service along with other peoples, and have hallowed our lives with commandments. In love You have given us (Shabbat and) festivals for rejoicing, seasons of celebration, including this (Shabbat and this) Festival of Matzot, the time of our freedom, a commemoration of the Exodus from Egypt. Praised are You, our Eternal God, Who gave us this joyful heritage and Who sanctifies (Shabbat and) Israel and the festivals.
בָרוּךְ אַתָה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְרִי הַגָפֶן.
Baruch atah, Adonai, eloheinu melech ha’olam, borei p’ri hagafen.
Blessed are you, Adonai our God, Ruler of the Universe, creator of the fruit of the vine.
[After the blessing, drink the wine/juice and then refill.]
Who are you?
I'm Yisrael. I'm a God-wrestler. I'm someone who wrestles with the holy, with the Source of All Being, with my understanding of ultimate reality, and I expect God to wrestle back. I dance with God. I waltz with Torah. I stay up all night grappling with angels, and even if I come away limping, I know I come away blessed. I'm a wandering Aramean, and I'm wearing my traveling shoes. I'm a child of the house of Israel, and my community and I and anyone else who hears freedom's call—are walking into the wilderness together.
Where are you coming from?
I'm coming from Mitzrayim. From the narrow place. From slavery. From constriction. From the birth canal. I'm coming from hard labor. I'm coming from the surfeit of sweetness that lulls me into forgetting the world's imperfections. I've been settling for what hurts, too fearful to risk something new. I'm coming from suffering and isolation. I'm coming from addiction to my work, addiction to success, addiction to separation. I'm coming from "if I stopped working, I'm not even sure who I'd be."
Where are you going?
I'm going to Yerushalayim. I'm going to Ir Shalem, the city of wholeness. I'm going to Ir
Shalom, the city of peace. I'm going where talking to God is a local call. I'm heading toward my best imaginings of community and connection. I'm clicking my ruby slippers with fervent kavanah and moving toward the meaning of home. Maybe I'm going to a place; maybe I'm going to a state of mind. Maybe it's an asymptotic progression toward something that can't be reached. Maybe it's the journey that defines me.
I am Yisrael. I am coming from Mitzrayim. And the moon is almost full: tomorrow we're packing our bags. Grabbing the flatbread. And setting out. It's time to go.
When I see the word "Israel"
When I see the word
wrestles with God
When I see the word
I do not see
the chosen few
I see those few who choose
Those few who choose
to wrestle with You,
in which both wrestlers
and in which the one
I see those few who choose,
among the many nations among all people,
those few who choose
to make love
and those who say:
I betroth myself to you
whether it feels like honey
or a thornbush
because even the thornbush
When I see the world
I know many claim it as their own
As a title a privilege a status
As if God chose them
they are right in this:
but they are wrong in thinking:
God breathes through many begotten sons
God wrestles through his glorious perverts
and as there is only one contestant
for better or for worse...
is an embrace
do you seek God? God seeks you.
Who will you allow
to be victorious?
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