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Valley Beth Shalom Haggadah
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The Seder table reflects the festive nature of this holiday. The more special you make it, the more special it feels! Each participant will need a cup for wine/grape juice. We will share four cups of wine...good wine is highly recommended! At the center of the table is the "Seder Plate" (see the illustration on the back cover). This plate contains the symbolic foods we will use for "props" as we tell the story. These include:
- Bitter Herbs. Most families use horseradish. You will need enough so that everyone at the table can have about a teaspoonful.
- A green vegetable. Parsley is commonly used, although any green vegetable is acceptable -- lettuce, celery, green peppers, etc.
- Salt water. We will be dipping the greens in salt water.
- Charoset. This is a sweet "relish" made up of chopped apples, nuts, and sweet wine. Everyone will need about a tablespoonful. (But you'll probably want lots more!)
- A roasted shankbone, or any bone, to represent the Passover offering that was made at the ancient Temple of Jerusalem.
- A roasted egg. This represents the holiday offering in the ancient Temple.
For generations, Jewish families have shared the ancient story of the Exodus at the Seder table. They found in this story a unique vision of human history and experience. They found a unique set of ethics. They found the strength to hope, despite the darkest of circumstances. This remarkable story forms the core of our identity as a people, and our philosophy of life. For the story of enslavement and liberation is not a one-time event, but an eternal process. We hope that your Seder is inspiring, stimulating, warm and fun.
- In every generation, we must see ourselves as if we personally were liberated from Egypt. We gather tonight to tell the ancient story of a people's liberation from Egyptian slavery. This is the story of our origins as a people. It is from these events that we gain our ethics, our vision of history, our dreams for the future. We gather tonight, as two hundred generations of Jewish families have before us, to retell the timeless tale.
- Yet our tradition requires that on Seder night, we do more than just tell the story. We must live the story. Tonight, we will re-experience the liberation from Egypt. We will remember how our family suffered as slaves; we will feel the exhilaration of redemption. We must re-taste the bitterness of slavery and must rejoice over our newfound freedom. We annually return to Egypt in order to be freed. We remember slavery in order to deepen our commitment to end all suffering; we recreate our liberation in order to reinforce our commitment to universal freedom.
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 waters cover the sea’ (Isaiah 11:9).
Baruch atah Adonai Elohaynoo melech ha-olam, asher keedshanoo b’meetzvotav v’tzeevanoo l’hadleek ner shel yom tov.
Praised are You, Lord our God, Whose presence fills the universe, Who has sanctified our lives through Your commandments and commanded us to kindle the festival lights.
Baruch ata Adonai, Elohaynoo melech ha-olam, sheh’hech’eeyanoo v’keeyemanoo, v’heegeeanoo la-z’man ha-zeh.
Praised are You, Lord our God, Whose presence fills the universe,Who has given us life and strength and enabled us to reach this moment of joy.
Baruch Ata Adonai Elohaynoo melech ha-olam hazen et ha-olam koolo b'toovo b'chen b'chesed oov'rachameem. Hoo notayn lechem l'chol basar kee l'olam chasdo, oov'toovo ha-gadol tameed lo chasar lanoo mazon l'olam va'ed. Ba'ayoor sh'mo ha-gadol kee hoo zan oom'farnes la-kol, oo'mayteev la-kol oo-maycheen mazon l'chol b'ree-otav asher bara. Baruch ata Adona hazan et ha-kol.
The Biblical commandment states: "You shall eat and be satisfied and bless the Lord." Our tradition added that "a blessing does not enter the world except through the work of human hands." Strengthen our hands to rebuild the land of Israel, to support the needy, and to labor toward the Messianic era of world peace and justice.
"And God saw everything that God made, and it was very good?" The earth is endowed with a plenitude of blessings.
Let us add our blessings to those of God. We, who have received, know that we owe much to God's world. We are co-creators and co-sanctifiers with God, committed to mend the torn world.
V'al ha-kol, Adonai Elohaynoo, anachnoo modeem lach, oo'mevarcheem otach, yeet-barach sheem-chah, bi'fee kol chai tameed l'olam va-ed. Ka'katoov v'achalta v'sav'ata
oov'ayrachta et Adonai eloche'cha al ha-aretz ha-tovah asher natat lach. Barch ata Adonai al ha-aretz v'al ha- mazon.
The soul and the body are one. A people has spiritual and material needs. A people enjoys as much heaven above as it has land beneath its feet. We give thanks for the land of Israel and its citizens, our brothers and sisters, who have embraced the sick, the poor, the homeless and the fragile from the four corners of the earth. We join with them in the up building of the land and in the realization of our prophetic dreams for peace.
Oov'ney ye'roo'shalayeem eer ha-kodeh beem'hayrah b'yamaynoo. Baruch ata Adonai bonay b'rachamav yeroo'shalayeem. Amen
Grant peace for us, for all Israel and for all the families of the earth
עשה שלום במרומיו הוא יעשה שלום עלינו ועל כל ישראל ואמרו אמן
Oseh shalom beem'romav hoo ya'aseh shalom alaynoo b'al kol yeesrael v'eemroo amen.
The Hebrew word “Kiddush” means sanctification. But it is not the wine we sanctify. Instead, the wine is a symbol of the sanctity, the preciousness, and the sweetness of this moment. Held together by sacred bonds of family, friendship, peoplehood, we share this table tonight with one another and with all the generations who have come before us. Let us rise, and sanctify this singular moment.
HOW? We will drink four cups of wine at the Seder in celebration of our freedom. (Grape juice is fine too.) We stand, recite the blessing, and enjoy the first cup. L'chaim!
The blessing praises God for creating the "fruit of the vine." We recite the blessing, not over the whole grape, but over wine — squeezed and fermented through human skill. So, too, the motzee blessing is recited not over sheaves of wheat but over bread, leavened or unleavened, ground and kneaded and prepared by human hands. The blessing is over the product cultivated through human and divine cooperation: We bless the gifts of sun, seed and soil transformed by wisdom and purpose to sustain the body and rejoice the soul.
Baruch ata Adonai, Elohaynoo melech ha-olam, boray pree ha-gafen. Baruch atah Adonai, Elohynoo melech ha- olam, asher bachar banoo meekol am, v’romemanoo meekol lashon, v’keedshanoo b’meetzvotav. Va’teetayn lanoo Adonai Elohaynoo b’bahava, mo’adeem lsimcha, chageem oo-z’maneem l’sason. Et yom chag ha-matzot ha-zeh,
z’man chayrootaynoo, meekra kodesh, zecher leetzeeyat Meetzrayeem. Kee vanoo vacharta, v’otanoo keed- ashta meekol ha- ameem. Oo’mo’adday kodsheh’cha b’seemcha oo-v’sason heen’chaltanoo. Barcuch ata Adonai m’kadesh Yisrael v’ha-z’maneem.
Praised are You, Lord our God, Whose presence fills the universe. Who creates the fruit of the vine. Praised are You, Lord our God, Whose presence fills the universe, Who has called us for service
from among the peoples of the world, sanctifying our lives with Your commandments. In love, You have given us festivals for rejoicing and seasons of celebration, this Festival of Matzot, the time of our freedom, a commemoration of the Exodus from Egypt.
Praised are You, Lord, Who gave us this joyful heritage and Who sanctifies Israel and the festivals.
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Baruch ata Adonai, Elohaynoo melech ha-olam, sheh’hech’eeyanoo v’’keeyemanoo, v’heegeeanoo la-z’man ha-zeh.
Praised are You, Lord, our God, Whose presence
fills the universe, Who has given us the gifts of life and strength and enabled us to reach this moment of joy.
In the Torah, only the priests of the Temple are commanded to wash, and only before they partake of the sacrificial meal. Today, we have no Temple in Jerusalem, no altar, no priests and no sacrifices. Instead, every home can be a Temple, every table an altar, every meal a sanctified experience, and every Jew a priest. And eating, a mechanical biological function, can be transformed into a ritual filled with meaning.
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.
We have become slaves to the cities we build and to the cars we drive. It is the soil from which humanity came, the earth which each year displays the miracle of creation!
As Spring re-awakens all that is green, let us re-awaken our ties to the natural world and our bonds to the earth. We dip greens into salt water and acknowledge through our blessing that we are partners in the work of Creation.
Green vegetables represent the coming of Spring and the renewal of life. Many families use parsley for its rich green color. We dip vegetables in salt water, recite the blessing, then eat.
Baruch ata Adonai Elohaynoo melech ha-olam, boray pree ha- adamah.
Praised are You, Lord, our God, Whose presence fills the universe, Who creates the fruit of the earth.
At the center of the table, there is a plate with three matzahs. Take the middle matzah and break it in two. The larger piece is wrapped in a napkin, and hidden. The smaller piece is replaced between the other two on the Matzah plate. The hidden matzah is called the "afikoman"
or dessert. It is a tradition that children search for this hidden matzah, and finding it, ransom it back at Seder’s end. The Seder cannot end without this Afikoman, and so kids have been known to demand anything from a few candies to a new bike or a college education.
We are free, but we remember when we were slaves. We are whole, but we bring to mind those who are broken. The middle matzah is broken, but it is the larger part which is hidden. Because the future will be greater than the past, and tomorrow’s Passover nobler than yesterday’s exodus. The prospects for the dreamed future are overwhelming to the point of making us mute. So it is in silence, without blessing, that we break and hide the matzah and long for its recovery and our redemption.
The central imperative of the Seder is to tell the story. The Bible instructs: “ You shall tell your child on that day, saying: ‘This is because of what Adonai did for me when I came out of Egypt.' ” (Exodus 13:8) We relate the story of our ancestors to regain the memories as our own. Elie Weisel writes: God created man because He loves stories. We each have a story to tell — a story of enslavement, struggle, liberation. Be sure to tell your story at the Seder table, for the Passover is offered not as a one-time event, but as a model for human experience in all generations.
Ha lachma anya d’achaloo avhatana b’ara d’meetzrayeem. Kol dichfeen yay-tay vi’yachool, kol deetzreech yay-tay viyeesfsach. Hashata hach. Li’shana ha-ba-aa bi’arah di’yeesrael. Hashata av’day, li’shana ha-ba a bi’nay choreen.
This is the bread of affliction, which our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. Let all who are hungry come and eat. Let all who are in need, come and celebrate Passover. Today, we are here. Next year, in the land of Israel. Today, we are slaves. Next year, we will be free.
Written in Aramaic, this statement begins the narration of the Seder by inviting the hungry to our table.
Aramaic, Jewish legend has it, is the one language which the angels do not understand. Why then is Ha Lachma spoken in Aramaic? To teach us that where there is hunger, no one should rely upon the angels, noone should pray to the heavens for help. We know the language of the poor, for we were poor in the land of Egypt. We know that we are called to feed the poor and to call them to join our celebration of freedom.
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 make for me? How am I shaped by the experience of slavery and liberation? Here is the Torah’s response…Out of Exodus comes a fully-formed social vision, an ethic, and way of looking at history. Read each verse, and ask how the experience of Egypt shapes us, shapes our behavior, our society, our expectations for the world. This is the missing page from the Haggadah, the answer to Why?
Exodus 22:20 -- You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him,for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.You shall not ill-treat any widow or orphan.
Exodus 23: 5 -- When you see your enemy’s mule lying under its burden and would refrain from raising it, you must nevertheless raise it with him. You shall not subvert the rights of your needy in
their disputes. ... You shall not oppress a stranger for you know the soul of the strangerhaving yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt.
Leviticus 19:33 -- When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself,for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.I the Lord am your God.
Leviticus 25:35 -- If your kinsman, becomes poor, and his means fail, then you shall uphold him, you shall hold him as though a resident alien, let him live by your side: do not exact from him advance or accrued interest, but fear your God. Let him live by your side as your kinsman. Do not lend him money at advance interest or give him your food at accrued interest. I the Lord am your God,who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan,to be your God.
Deuteronomy 5:12-15 -- Observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; you shall not do any work -- you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your ox or your ass, or any of your cattle, or the stranger in your settlements so that your male and female slave may rest as you do.Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt
and the Lord your God freed you from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.
Deuteronomy 10:17 -- God shows no favor and takes no bribe but upholds the cause of the fatherless and the widow and befriends the stranger providing him with food and clothing. You too must befriend the stranger,for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
Deuteronomy 24:17ff -- You shall not subvert the rights of the stranger or the fatherless; you shall not take a widow's garment in pawn.Remember that you were a slave in Egyptand that the Lord your God redeemed you from there; therefore do I enjoin you to observe this commandment.
When you reap the harvest in your field and overlook a sheaf in the field, do not turn back to get it; it shall go to the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow -- in order that the Lord your God may bless you in all your undertakings. When you beat down the fruit of your olive trees, do not go over them again, this shall go to the stranger, the fatherless and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, do not pick it over again; that shall go to the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow.Always remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore do I enjoin you to observe this commandment.
Exodus 20:1-2 -- I am the LORD your God who
brought you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage.You shall have no other gods besides Me.
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.
Sheh-bi'chol ha-laylot ayn anoo mat-bee- leen afeeloo pa-am echad. Ha-laila hazeh sh'tay pi-ameem. Sheh- bi'chol ha-laylot anoo ochleem bayn yoshveen oo-bayn misoobeen. Ha-laila hazeh koolanoo misooveen.
Why is this night of Passover different from all other nights of the year? On all other nights, we eat either leavened or unleavened bread. Why on this night do we eat only matzah? On all other nights, we eat vegetables of all kinds. Why on this night must we eat bitter herbs? On all other nights, we do not dip vegetables even once. Why on this night do we dip twice greens into salt water and bitter herbs into sweet charoset? On all other nights, everyone sits up straight at the table. Why on this night do we recline and eat at leisure?
Asking questions is an important part of the Seder. Encourage everyone at the table to ask not just the questions listed in the book, but whatever question comes to mind during the Seder. The Seder is designed for distraction, digression, and discussion. So, if you don’t finish the whole thing tonight...there’s always tomorrow, or next year! What would be your four questions?
FOR DISCUSSION Look again at the Four Sons, for the simplicity of the account is deceptive.
What makes the Wise One wise? If he's wise, why must he ask a question?
Who is this Wicked One? Why is he at the table, instead of staying home on Seder night? What is his wickedness? Why does the text say, "were he in Egypt, he would not have been freed?" Is cynicism a form of slavery? What is the motivation for his cynicism? How do you suppose he became wicked? What turns children against the values of their parents?
Is the Simple One's simplicity a reflection of innocence and wonder, or indifference and apathy? Is there really ever such thing as an "innocent bystander' in life? Can one claim to be an "innocent bystander" to poverty, war, slavery, genocide?
Have you ever been "The One Who Does Not Know How To Ask?" So thoroughly confused, baffled, or overwhelmed by life that you couldn't even form the question?
Which one of these is you, now, in your life? Are you the Wise, the Wicked, the Simple, or the Silent?
Five rabbis, living under the Roman oppression in the second century, gather for a Seder and lose track of the time, until reminded by their students that dawn has come. Some scholars suggest that they used this Seder, with its themes of liberation from oppression, to plan a revolution. With their students posted as look-outs to warn of the approach of Roman authorities, the debate raged all night long:
Pacifism or militant revolt? Is there a right time to take up arms against an enemy? Do the ends of revolution justify the means of violence? Is war ever justified? Does Judaism require political freedom, political power to survive? May we step away from the world of politics and practice our spirituality, oblivious to the material conditions of human existence? Or is our spirituality tied intimately to the real lives of our people? Perhaps it was the passion of their teachers in debate, that moved the students to exclaim: Dawn has arrived!
A story is told of Rabbi Eliezer, Rabbi Joshua, Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah, Rabbi Akiba, and Rabbi Tarfon, who were sitting at a Seder in B'nay Brock. All night long, they told the story of the Exodus from Egypt until their students came and said
to them: “Our teachers, dawn has broken, it is time to say the morning prayer!”
“Pharonic oppression, deliverance, Sinai, and Canaan are still with us as powerful memories shaping our perceptions of the political world. The “door of hope” is still open; things are
not what they might be even when what they might be isn’t totally different from what they are. This is a central theme in Western thought, always present though elaborated in many different ways. We still believe, or many of us do, what the Exodus first taught, or what it has commonly been taken to teach about the meaning and possibility of politics and about its proper form:
First, that wherever you live, it is probably Egypt;
Second, that there is a better place, a world more attractive, a promised land;
Third, that “the way to the land is through the wilderness.” There is no way to get there from here to there except by joining together and marching.
Baruch Ha-Mokum. Baruch Hoo. Baruch Sheh-Natan Torah L'amo Yisrael. Baruch Hoo. Praised is God. Praised is the One who gave Torah to the People Israel. Praised is God.
There are many questions. Now we begin to answer. Our history moves from slaverytoward freedom. Our narration begins with degradation and rises to dignity. Our service opens with the rule of evil and advances to the kingdom of God.
1.We were slaves to Pharoah in Egypt and the Lord freed us from Egypt with a mighty hand. Had not the Holy One liberated our people from Egypt, then we, our children and our children's children would still be enslaved.
2.We were not born free men and women; we were not born believers in one God. We came from an ancestry of slaves and idol worshippers. Tonight, we celebrate not our genesis — what we were — but what we have become. We are a choosing people, and our choice has come out of tragic encounters with pagan superstition and political enslavement. We are a choosing people and we have discovered the meaning of our choice: to live as witnesses to one God who calls upon us to mend the world.
3. The Torah recounts the early history of the Jewish people. It describes how God commanded Abraham to leave his country and his father's house and
to go to the land of Canaan, where he would become the founder of "a great nation." Abraham and his wife, Sarah, obeyed God's command and journeyed to Canaan. There God blessed them and their family. Their son was Isaac, who married Rebecca. Their grandson was Jacob; and it was Jacob who went down to Egypt.
4. Why did Jacob journey to Egypt? Because Joseph, his son by his beloved Rachel, had become prime minister to Pharaoh, king of Egypt. When a famine broke out in Canaan, Joseph asked his father and all his family to join him there. Then Joseph granted his father and his brothers land, as Pharaoh commanded. And Israel dwelt in the land of Goshen; and they were fruitful and multiplied exceedingly.
5. Joseph died, and all his brothers, and all that generation. Now there arose a new Pharaoh over Egypt, who knew not Joseph. And he said unto his people, "Behold, the people of the children of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that if there be a war, they join themselves unto our enemies and fight against us." Therefore Pharaoh set over them taskmasters to afflict them with burdens. But the more the Egyptians afflicted them, the more the Israelites multiplied and the more they spread through the land.
6. The cruelest decree of all was the Pharaoh's order that every baby boy born to an Israelite woman be drowned in the River Nile. One couple, Amram and Yocheved, would not kill their newborn son. Instead, they hid him in their hut for three months. When his cries became too loud Yocheved placed him in a basket on the river. Their daughter Miriam watched to see what would happen.
7. As the Pharaoh's daughter came to bathe in the river she discovered the basket. She felt pity for the helpless child and decided to keep him as her own. She named him Moshe (Moses), which means "drawn from the water." Bravely, Miriam asked the princess if she needed a nurse to help her with the baby. The princess said yes, and so it happened that Yocheved was able to care for her own son and teach him about his heritage.
8. Moses would have lived at the Pharaoh's palace forever, but he could not ignore the suffering of his people. Once when he saw an Egyptian beating an Israelite slave, he could not control his anger, and he killed the Egyptian. Knowing his life would be in danger once the news of this deed spread, Moses fled to the land of Midian where he became a shepherd.
9. One day, while tending sheep on Mount Horeb, Moses saw a bush that seemed to be on fire, but was not burning up. From the bush, he heard God's voice calling him. God said, "I am the God of your ancestors. I have seen the suffering of the Israelites and have heard their cries. Iam ready to take them out of Egypt and bring them to a new land, a land flowing with milk and honey."
10. God told Moses to return to Egypt to bring the message of freedom to the Israelites and towarn Pharaoh that God would bring plagues on the Egyptians if he did not let the slaves go free. Moses was such a humble man that he could not imagine being God's messenger. " I will be with you," God promised Moses. With this assurance and challenge, Moses set out for Egypt.
11. When Moses asked Pharaoh to free the Israelites,
he refused. It was only then that God brought ten plagues on the Egyptians. Each one frightened Pharaoh, and each time he promised to free the slaves. But when each plague ended, Pharaoh did not keep his word. It was only after the last plague, the death of the firstborn of the Egyptians, that Pharaoh agreed to let the Israelites go. And so it was that God brought us forth out of Egypt, with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm and with great terror and with signs and with wonders.
12. And so God's promise to our ancestor Abraham was fulfilled, "Your children shall be strangers in a land not their own, and they shall be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation they shall serve, and in the end, they shall go free with abundance." (Genesis 15:13-4)
13. The experience of the Exodus was transforming. It made us a free people forever. Nomatter how oppressed we are, deep inside we remain free. We know now that history hasmeaning. We know that power cannot forever vanquish freedom. We know that God haspurposes in human history.
The Israelites were a prosperous, powerful people in Egypt. How did Pharoah manage to enslave them so quickly? The Israelites were 'well connected.' How did Pharoah persuade his people to join in the exploitation, enslavement, and ultimately, the genocide of their Israelite neighbors?
Moses had two identities — son of slaves, and prince of Egypt. He could have spent his lifetime in the palace. Why did he "go out to his brothers?" Why did he choose to identify with the slave and not the master?
Pharaoh's stubborn refusal to free the Israelites, despite the many plagues that ravaged Egypt, is attributed in the Bible to the "hardening of his heart." Why do nations persist in evil policies even when those policies bring devastation and humiliation?
The most devastating effect of slavery, ultimately, is that the slave internalizes the master's values and accepts the condition of slavery as his proper status. People who live in chronic conditions of poverty, hunger, and sickness tend to show similar patterns of acceptance and passivity. As with slaves,their deprivation deprives from their political and economic status and then becomes moral and psychological reality. It is this reality that was overthrown in the Exodus.
We got used to standing in line at seven o'clock in the morning, at twelve noon, and again at seven o'clock in the evening. We stood in a long queue with a plate in our hand into which they ladled a little warmed-up water with a salty or a coffee flavor. Or else they gave us a few potatoes. We got used to sleeping without a bed, to saluting every uniform, not to walk on the sidewalks, and then again to walk on the sidewalks. We got used to undeserved slaps, blows, and executions. We got accustomed to seeing piled up coffins full of corpses, to seeing the sick amidst dirt and filth, and to seeing the helpless doctors. We got used to the fact that from time to time one thousand unhappy souls would come here, and that from time to time, another thousand unhappy souls would go away.
—Peter Fischel, age 15, perished at Auschwitz, 1944
Menachem Mendel of Kotzk maintained that "whoever believes in miracles is a fool; and whoever does not believe in miracles is an atheist."
How can the idea of the miraculous be meaningful to us today? We may be guided by the biblical Hebrew term for miracle, nes, which means "sign." A miracle is an event that signifies something of significance, something that makes an important difference in my life or in the life of my community. A miracle is an intimation of an experience of transcending meaning. The sign-miracle does not refer to something beyond or contrary to logic or nature. It refers to events and experiences that make us take notice of the extraordinary in the ordinary, the wonder in the everyday, the marvel in the routine. Signs do not violate reason or nature. They are natural moments in our lives that we recognize as transforming.
—Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis
As we recite each of the Ten Plagues, we dip out a drop of wine from our wine cup. When human beings suffer, even evil human beings, our joy cannot be complete.
God brought Ten Plagues upon the Egyptians, and they were:
Blood | Dam
Blight | Dever
Boils | Shecheen
Hail | Barad
Locusts | Arbeh
Darkness | Choshech
Death of Firstborn |Makat Bechorot
When Israel saw the wondrous power which the Lord had wielded against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord; they had faith in the Lord and His servant Moses. Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord. They sang: "I will sing to the Lord for He has triumphedgloriously." Midrash: At that moment, the angels of heaven wanted to sing praises to God. But God silenced Mthem, saying: "My children are drowning in the sea and you want to sing before me?"
Moses confronts Pharaoh. The one represents the power of the moral, the other, a morality of power. Who will prevail? Can raw power extinguish the human spirit? Can the police state control the human imagination? The victory of God over Pharaoh is the foundation of the ultimate Jewish faith in the future. At the Red Sea, history became transparent — its pattern and meaning became visible.
We have so many reasons to be grateful to God tonight: for freedom and dignity, friendship and family, prosperity and health. Any one of these would have been enough - Day'aynoo!
Kama ma'alot tovot la-Makom alaynoo, Day'aynoo!
How many are the gifts that God has granted us!
Eeloo ho'tzee-anu me'meetzrayeem, Day'aynoo!
Eeloo seepayk tzarchaynoo ba-midbar arbaeem shana, Day'aynoo!
Eeloo heh-eh-cheelanoo et ha-man, Day'aynoo!
Eeloo kayr-vanoo leefnay har seeni, Day'aynoo!
Eeloo natan lanoo et ha-Shabbat, Day'aynoo!
Eeloo natan lanoo et ha-Torah, Day'aynoo!
Had God taken us out of Egypt...Day'aynoo!
It would have been enough! Had God carried us across the Sea... Day'aynoo!
It would have been enough! Had God cared for us for forty years... Day'aynoo!
It would have been enough! Had God given us the Sabbath... Day'aynoo!
It would have been enough! Had God given us the Torah... Day'aynoo!
It would have been enough! Had God brought us back to the Land of Israel... Day'aynoo!
It would have been enough! Had God returned us to Jerusalem... Day'aynoo!
It would have been enough! Had God helped us redeem our brothers and sisters... Day'aynoo! It would have been enough!
In each generation we must look at ourselves as though we personally had been redeemed from Egypt. As the Torah teaches: You shall tell your children on that day, saying, "It is because of what the Lord did for me when I went free out of Egypt." (Exodus 13:8) For the Holy One redeemed not only our ancestors: God redeemed us with them, as it says, "God brought us out of there so that God might bring us to the land promised to our ancestors." (Deuteronomy 6:23)
The Exodus gave us our freedom. It also taught us our ethics, our theology, our philosophy. How many commandments in the Torah are rooted in our experience of slavery and freedom?
I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods besides Me. (Exodus 20:1)
You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers In the land of Egypt. You shall not ill-treat any widow or orphan. (Exodus 22:20)
When you see the animal of your enemy lying under its burden and would refrain from raising it, you must nev- ertheless raise it with him. You shall not subvert the rights of your needy in their disputes ... You shall not op- press a stranger, for you know the feelings of the stranger having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 23: 5)
When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as
yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. I the Lord am your God. (Leviticus 19:33)
If your kinsman becomes poor and his means fail, then you shall uphold him. Let him live by your side: do not exact from him advance or accrued interest, but fear your God. Let him live by your side as your kinsman. Do not lend him money at advance interest or give him your food at accrued interest. I the Lord am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan; to be your God. (Leviticus 25:35)
Observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God; you shall not do any work — you, your son or your daughter, your male or female servant, your ox or your ass, or any of your cattle, or the stranger in your settlements so that your male and female servant may rest as you do. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt and the Lord your God freed you from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day. (Deut.5:12-15)
You shall not turn over to his master a slave who seeks refuge with you from his master. He shall live with you in any place he may choose among the settlements in your midst, wherever be pleases; you must not ill-treat him. (Deuteronomy 23:16)
You shall not subvert the rights of the stranger or the fatherless; you shall not take a widow's garment in pawn. Remember that you were a slave in Egypt
and that the Lord, your God redeemed you from there; therefore do I enjoin you to observe this commandment. (Deuteronomy 24:17)
When you reap the harvest in your field and overlook a sheaf in the field do not turn back to get it; it shall go to the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow -- in order that the Lord your God may bless you in all your undertakings. When you beat down the fruit of your olive trees, do not go over them again; this shall go to the stranger, the fatherless and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, do not pick it over again; that shall go to the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. Always remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore do I enjoin you to observe this commandment. (Deuteronomy 24:19-22)
-At this time in our festive meal, we recline more fully, we share our stories more openly, and we affirm our identities as a newly freed people. We have found the Afikoman and continue this gathering with celebration andsong. There re-united piece of matzah that makes our meal complete is the symbol of wholeness we feel in retelling the story of our people’s liberation. We now find ourselves more complete than when we started.
-Family has gathered, new friendships have been forged, and we must continue to tell our own story within the great narrative of the Jewish people. We are a part of the telling, our story today is as alive and important as the generations before us. We share this piece of matzah now and renew our promise to find wholeness in the world around us.
The prophet Elijah symbolizes the dreams of the Jewish people. Elijah challenged the injustice of the powerful and overthrew worship of idols. He healed the sick and protected the helpless. At the end of his days, Elijah was carried off to heaven in fiery chariot. The prophet Malachi promised that Elijah will return one day to announce the coming of the Messiah, when all the world will celebrate universal freedom. Legend relates that Elijah returns to earth each day to carry forward the work of bringing justice and peace.
This cup is Elijah's cup. In setting this cup at our table, we invite Elijah to join us, and we bring his passion for justice into our lives. But the cup is empty. No one has yet stepped forward to fill it.
According to Hasidic custom begun at the table of the master Rabbi Naftali of Ropschutz, we pass Elijah's cup from person to person at the table, each person pouring a little wine into Elijah's cup from our own cups, until it is filled. In this way we recognize that we must act together, each contributing our best talents and energies, to bring Elijah's promise to the world. Only through the efforts of our hands will the world be redeemed. We open the door, we stand, and we sing of the Jewish dream of freedom.
Eliyahu, Eliyahu, Eliyahu ha-gee-ladee.
Beem’hay’rah b’yamay’nu Yavo ay’laynu Eem mashiach ben daveed
Legend relates that Elijah enters the world each day in disguise, waiting for someone to do him a simple act of kindness. That one, caring act will trigger the redemption of the world. Where is Elijah? He could be anywhere - with a homeless family living on the street; in the AIDS ward ofyour local hospital; in a delapidated inner-city kindergarten classroom. He could even be the person sitting beside you right now.
When Israel was in Egypt land, "Let my people go!"
Oppressed so hard they could not stand. "Let my people go!"
Go down, Moses, way down in Egypt Land. Tell ol' Pharaoh: "Let my people go!"
The Lord told Moses what to do, "Let my people go!"
To lead the children of Israel through, "Let my people go!"
One morning when Pharaoh awoke in his bed,
there were frogs in his bed. And frogs on his head.
Frogs on his toes and frogs on his nose.
Frogs here! Frogs there! Frogs were jumping everywhere!