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Nothing on the Seder table is selected randomly; each item has it’s purpose and often it’s specific place. The Seder plate holds at least six of the ritual items that are discussed during the Seder: the shankbone, maror, charoset, karpas, salt water, orange, roasted egg, and boiled egg.
(to the tune of “Frère Jacques”)
Hard Boiled Egg
Karpas and Charoset
One of the most striking symbols of Passover is the roasted lamb shankbone (called zeroah), which commemorates the paschal (lamb) sacrifice made the night the ancient Hebrews fled Egypt. Some say it symbolizes the outstretched arm of God (the Hebrew word zeroah can mean “arm”). Many vegetarians use a roasted beet instead. This isn’t a new idea; the great Biblical commentator Rashi suggested it back in the eleventh century.
MAROR (BITTER HERB)
Bitter herbs (usually horseradish) bring tears to the eyes and recall the bitterness of slavery. The Seder refers to the slavery in Egypt, but people are called to look at their own bitter enslavements.
There’s nothing further from maror than charoset (“cha-ROH-set”), the sweet salad of apples, nuts, wine, and cinnamon that represents the mortar used by the Hebrew slaves to make bricks.
Karpas is a green vegetable, usually parsley (though any spring green will do). Karpas symbolizes the freshness of spring. Some families still use boiled potatoes for karpas, continuing a tradition from Eastern Europe where it was difficult to obtain fresh green vegetables.
Salt water symbolizes the tears and sweat of enslavement, though paradoxically, it’s also a symbol for purity, springtime, and the sea.
The tradition of putting an orange on the seder plate in is a response to a less evolved rabbi who told a young girl that a woman belongs on a bimah as much as an orange on a Seder plate. The orange is now said to be a symbol of the fruitfulness of all Jews, whether they be gay, straight, male or female.
The roasted egg (baytsah) is a symbol in many different cultures, usually signifying springtime and renewal. Here it stands in place of one of the sacrificial offerings which was performed in the days of the Second Temple. Another popular interpretation is that the egg is like the Jewish people: the hotter you make it for them, the tougher they get.
BOILED EGG (TO EAT)
May we reflect on our lives this year and soften our hearts to those around us. Another year has passed since we gathered at the Seder table and we are once again reminded that life is fleeting. We are reminded to use each precious moment wisely so that no day will pass without bringing us closer to some worthy achievement as we all take a moment to be aware of how truly blessed we are.
Our faith gives us many holidays to celebrate throughout the year and they are all times for self reflection, gently guiding us to a better path in life. We are each given a chance to reflect on our past year; to think about where we have been and how we will live our lives in the year to come. We reaffirm our commitment to lead good and meaningful lives, promoting peace wherever we go.
Use this piece in tandem with the telling of the Exodus story. Think about the connection between the Jewish story of Exodus from Egypt to more contemporary examples of persecution and forced migration. How did the formation of the territory now known as the United States depend upon the forced migration of people already residing on the land?
The Hebrews’ Exodus from Egypt is a climactic...
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...
Remember the days of old:consider the years of many generations (Deut. 32:7)
Every year, hundreds of giant sea turtles swim hundreds of miles from their homes near Brazil to a tiny island in the Atlantic Ocean in order to find their mates. For years, scientists tried to understand how the turtles could find their way every time, from so far away. It was a tiny island, and even airplanes sometimes had trouble...
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...
Every year at the end of the Seder we say "Next Year in Jerusalem!"
But that can't mean physically. It would get overcrowded. Some of us do not have the means to get there. Some of us are too old or young or sick to travel.
No. Not physically. Mentally. We need to open our minds and hearts to a level where we can accept who we are as people on every level. These traditions we have were around for...
The Pesach story begins in a broken world, amidst slavery and oppression. The sound of the breaking of the matza sends us into that fractured existence, only to become whole again when we find the broken half, the afikoman, at the end of the Seder.
This brokenness is not just a physical or political situation: It reminds us of all those hard, damaged places within ourselves. All those narrow places from which we...
Following the framework of the Four Questions of the Passover haggadah, we ask four alternative questions for discussion. These questions are meant to spark conversations that can happen throughout the seder.
Read this narrative aloud and then discuss the question below.
“When I found out I got into the University, I immediately called...
At Passover each year, we read the story of our ancestors’ pursuit of liberation from oppression. When confronting this history, how do we answer our children or our contacts when they ask us how to pursue justice in our time?
WHAT DOES THE REVOLUTIONARY CHILD ASK?
“The Torah tells me, ‘Justice, justice you shall pursue,’ but how can I pursue justice?”
Empower him always to seek pathways...
The Leader of the Seder only, now washes his/her hands from an ewer into a bowl held
by another celebrant, wiping them dry on a hand towel. We have accepted the need for
leadership, we wash the leaders's hands. This small, formal act of service is a symbol of
our recognition of their leadership. This is an ancient Jewish...
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”:
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 start the seder by noticing what is out of the ordinary and then investigating its meaning further. How is this night different from all other nights? On all other nights, we depend on the exploitation of invisible others for our food, clothing, homes, and more. Tonight, we listen to the stories of those who suffer to create the goods we use. We commit to working toward the human rights of all workers....
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(to the tune of “I Could Have Danced All Night”)
I could have eaten more,
I could have eaten more,
but it’s afikomen time.
The Seder rituals
and all those victuals,
the evening was sublime.
I had my matzo with charoset
and matzo dipped in chocolate too.
I drank down all my wine
and now I’m feeling fine.
How good to share this meal with you!
CHAD GADYA, CHAD GADYA
dizabin aba bitrei zuzei,
chad gadya, chad gadya.
dizabin aba bitrei zuzei,
chad gadya, chad gadya.
An only kid! An only kid
My father bought for two zuzim
Chad gadya, Chad gadya
Then came the cat and ate the kid
My father bought For two zuzim
Chad gadya, Chad...