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As we sit down to this Seder it's impossible to ignore that this is our *second annual* Zoom Seder. In the time between last Seder and this Seder, our beloved planet has lost more than two and a half million people to a virus which has laid bare so many of the difficulties, discriminatory structures, and pressure points in our world and its economies and varied governments. Even with movements for justice around the world continuing and taking on even more and new missions during this time, our grief cannot be ignored.
It is difficult to embark on an ultimately celebratory holiday ritual without recognizing this. We cannot ever be asked or ask each other to leave our grief at the door. If anything has become clear over the last year it's that our grief accompanies us wherever we go -- and if we've only learned this in the last year let us reflect on how even that is a sign of privilege.
Like anything, grief can be a powerful tool, a (terrible) lesson in empathy, perhaps even a call to action.
And so this year it feels appropriate to set aside some time for our grief. Whether we need to name it and set it aside or use it as a guide through this evening's ritual, or something completely else -- grief is nothing if not individualized and mysterious -- let us give it the respect it deserves.
The Mourners' Kaddish has been said for centuries by the living on behalf of the dead in which the dead and death are not mentioned even once. It is a prayer for divinity and for peace.
While many only say the Mourner's Kaddish when they are ritually and personally in mourning, the ritual has been claimed by many to recognize the ways that grief lives in our everyday lives, so if you are moved to, please feel free. Let's take a moment to collect, quietly and individually, the things that we are mourning. Feel free to type these things into the chat.
יִתְגַּדַּל וְיִתְקַדַּשׁ שְׁמֵהּ רַבָּא. [ קהל: אמן]
בְּעָלְמָא דִּי בְרָא כִרְעוּתֵהּ וְיַמְלִיךְ מַלְכוּתֵהּ בְּחַיֵּיכון וּבְיומֵיכון וּבְחַיֵּי דְכָל בֵּית יִשרָאֵל בַּעֲגָלָא וּבִזְמַן קָרִיב, וְאִמְרוּ אָמֵן: [ קהל: אמן]
קהל ואבל: יְהֵא שְׁמֵהּ רַבָּא מְבָרַךְ לְעָלַם וּלְעָלְמֵי עָלְמַיָּא:
אבל: יִתְבָּרַךְ וְיִשְׁתַּבַּח וְיִתְפָּאַר וְיִתְרומַם וְיִתְנַשּא וְיִתְהַדָּר וְיִתְעַלֶּה וְיִתְהַלָּל שְׁמֵהּ דְּקֻדְשָׁא. בְּרִיךְ הוּא. [ קהל: בריך הוא:]
לְעֵלָּא מִן כָּל בִּרְכָתָא בעשי”ת: לְעֵלָּא לְעֵלָּא מִכָּל וְשִׁירָתָא תֻּשְׁבְּחָתָא וְנֶחֱמָתָא דַּאֲמִירָן בְּעָלְמָא. וְאִמְרוּ אָמֵן: [ קהל: אמן]
יְהֵא שְׁלָמָא רַבָּא מִן שְׁמַיָּא וְחַיִּים עָלֵינוּ וְעַל כָּל יִשרָאֵל. וְאִמְרוּ אָמֵן: [ קהל: אמן]
עושה שָׁלום בעשי”ת: הַשָּׁלום בִּמְרומָיו הוּא יַעֲשה שָׁלום עָלֵינוּ וְעַל כָּל יִשרָאֵל וְאִמְרוּ אָמֵן: [ קהל: אמן]
Translation (by Lab/Shul):
May our lives reflect the greatness of divine mystery everywhere, sparks within the process of creation
May the world be ruled by our highest aspirations, soon, in our lifetimes, and so we say: Amen
May the divine be known as a fountain of blessings: praised, honored, beautified, elevated, and exalted beyond any song or description that has ever been honored, and so we say: Amen
May an all-embracing peace shower down from the heavens refreshing the lives of all beings on earth.
May the source of peace inspire us to find and create peace for ourselves and for our community and for all beings on earth, and so we say: Amen
Our Passover meal is called a seder, which means “order” in Hebrew, because we go through 14 specific steps as we retell the story of the Israelites’ liberation from slavery.
Some people like to begin their seder by reciting or singing the names of the 14 steps:
קדש kadesh Blessing the wine
וּרְחַץ urchatz Ritual hand-washing in preparation of the meal
כַּרְפַּס karpas Dipping a green vegetable into salt water
יַחַץ yachatz Breaking the middle matzah
מַגִּיד magid Telling the story of Passover
רָחְצָה rachtza Hand-washing with a blessing in preparation for the meal
מוֹצִיא מַצָּה motzi matzah The blessing over the meal and matzah
מָרוֹר maror Dipping the bitter herb in sweet charoset
כּוֹרֵךְ koreich Eating a sandwich of matzah and bitter herb
שֻׁלְחָן עוֹרֵךְ shulchan oreich Eating the meal!
צָפוּן tzafoon Finding and eating the afikoman
בָּרֵךְ bareich Saying grace after the meal and inviting Elijah the prophet
הַלֵּל hallel Singing songs that praise God
נִרְצָה nirtzah Ending the seder and thinking about the future
Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech haolam, shehecheyanu, v'kiy'manu, v'higianu laz'man hazeh.
It is such a blessing that we live and are uplifted, that we are sustained by this world, and that we found our way here, for this moment.
The blessings below are for a weeknight. (On Shabbat we add the words in parentheses)
וַיְהִי עֶרֶב וַיְהִי בֹקֶר יוֹם הַשִּׁשִּׁי. וַיְכֻלּוּ הַשָׁמַיִם וְהָאָרֶץ וְכָל צְבָאַָם. וַיְכַל אֱלֹקִים בַּיוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי מְלַאכְתּוֹ אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה וַיִּשְׁבֹּת בַּיוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי מִכָּל מְלַאכְתּוֹ אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה. וַיְבָרֶךְ אֱלֹהִים אֶת יוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי וַיְקַדֵּשׁ אוֹתוֹ כִּי בוֹ שָׁבַת מִכָּל מְלַאכְתּוֹ אֲשֶׁר בֶָּרָא אֱלֹהִים לַעֲשׂוֹת
(Vay'hi erev vay'hi voker yom hashi-shi. Vay'chulu hashamayim v'ha-aretz v’choltzva’am. Vay’chal Elohim bayom hashvi’i, m'lachto asher asah, vayishbot bayom hashvi-i, mikol-mlachto asher asah. Vay'vareich Elohim, et-yom hashvi’i, vay'kadeish oto, ki vo shavat mikol-mlachto, asher-bara Elohim la-asot.)
(“And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. Now the heavens and all their host were completed. And on the seventh day God finished His work of creation which He had made. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, for on that day God rested from His work and ceased creating.)
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָפֶן
Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha’olam, borei p'ri hagafen.
Praised are you, Adonai, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who has created the fruit of the vine.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר בָּחַר בָּנוּ מִכָּל עָם וְרוֹמְמָנוּ מִכָּל לָשׁוֹן וְקִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו. וַתִּתֶּן לָנוּ יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ בְּאַהֲבָה (שַׁבָּתוֹת לִמְנוּחָה וּ) מוֹעֲדִים לְשִׂמְחָה, חַגִּים וּזְמַנִּים לְשָׂשׂוֹן, אֶת יוֹם (הַשַׁבָּת הַזֶה וְאֶת יוֹם) חַג הַמַצוֹת הַזֶה, זְמַן חֵרוּתֵנוּ (בְּאַהֲבָה), מִקְרָא קֹדֶשׁ, זֵכֶר לִיצִיאַת מִצְרָיִם. כִּי בָנוּ בָחַרְתָּ וְאוֹתָנוּ קִדַּשְׁתָּ מִכָּל הָעַמִּים, (וְשַׁבָּת) וּמוֹעֲדֵי קָדְשֶךָ (בְּאַהֲבָה וּבְרָצוֹן,) בְּשִׂמְחָה וּבְשָׂשׂוֹן הִנְחַלְתָּנוּ. בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי, מְקַדֵּשׁ (הַשַׁבָּת וְ) יִשְׂרָאֵל וְהַזְּמַנִּים.
Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha’olam, asher bachar banu mikol’am, v'rom'manu mikol-lashon, v'kid'shanu b'mitzvotav, vatiten-lanu Adonai Eloheinu b'ahavah (shabatot limnuchah u) moadim l'simchah, chagim uz'manim l'sason et-yom (hashabat hazeh v'et-yom) chag hamatzot hazeh. Z'man cheiruteinu, (b'ahavah,) mikra kodesh, zeicher litziat mitzrayim. Ki vanu vacharta v'otanu kidashta mikol ha’amim. (v'shabat) umo’adei kod’shecha (b'ahavah uv'ratzon) b'simchah uv'sason hinchaltanu. Baruch atah Adonai, m'kadeish (h’shabbat v') Yisrael v'hazmanim.
Praised are you, Adonai, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, Who has chosen us from among all people, and languages, and made us holy through Your mitzvot, giving us lovingly [Shabbat for rest] festivals for joy, and special times for celebration, this [Shabbat and this] Passover, this [given in love] this sacred gathering to commemorate the Exodus from Egypt. You have chosen us, You have shared Your holiness with us among all other peoples. For with [Shabbat and] festive revelations of Your holiness, happiness and joy You have granted us [lovingly] joyfully the holidays. Praised are you, Adonai, Who sanctifies [Shabbat], Israel and the festivals.
On Saturday night include the following section:
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא מְאוֹרֵי הָאֵשׁ. בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם הַמַבְדִיל בֵּין קֹדֶשׁ לְחֹל, ין אוֹר לְחשֶׁךְ, בֵּין יִשְׂרָאֵל לָעַמִּים, בֵּין יוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי לְשֵׁשֶׁת יְמֵי הַמַּעֲשֶׂה. בֵּין קְדֻשַּׁת שַׁבָּת לִקְדֻשַּׁת יוֹם טוֹב הִבְדַּלְתָּ, וְאֶת יוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי מִשֵּׁשֶׁת יְמֵי הַמַּעֲשֶׂה קִדַּשְׁתָּ. הִבְדַּלְתָּ וְקִדַּשְׁתָּ אֶת עַמְּךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל בִּקְדֻשָּׁתֶךָ. ,בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי הַמַּבְדִיל בֵּין קֹדֶשׁ לְקֹדֶשׁ
( Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha-olam, borei m'orei ha-eish.
Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha’olam, hamavdil bein kodesh l'chol bein or l'choshech, bein Yisrael la-amim, bein yom hashvi-i l'sheishet y'mei hama-aseh. Bein k'dushat shabat likdushat yom tov hivdalta. V'et-yom hashvi-i misheishet y'mei hama-aseh kidashta. Hivdalta v'kidashta et-am'cha yisra-eil bikdushatecha. Baruch atah Adonai, hamavdil bein kodesh l'kodesh.)
(Praised are You Adonai our God Lord of the universe who created the lights of fire.
Praised are you, Adonai, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who makes a distinction between the holy and profane, light and darkness, Israel and the nations, Shabbat and the six workdays. You have made a distinction between the holiness of Shabbat and the holiness of the festival, and You have sanctified Shabbat above the six work-days. You have set apart and made holy Your people Israel with your holiness. Praised are you, Adonai, who distinguishes between degrees of sanctity.)
Say this Shehechiyanu blessing the first Seder night only:
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לַזְּמַן הַזֶה
Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha-olam,
she’hecheyanu v'ki'manu v'higi-anu laz'man hazeh.
Praised are you, Adonai, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe,
who has sustained us, maintained us and enabled us to reach this moment in life.
Avigayil Halpern wrote:
In a stunning Senior Sermon, my friend Rabbi Mary Brett Koplen... points out that in the verses about the Plague of the Firstborn, the Torah makes visible a figure we would otherwise not have noticed.
וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה כֹּה אָמַר ה כַּחֲצֹת הַלַּיְלָה אֲנִי יוֹצֵא בְּתוֹךְ מִצְרָיִם׃ וּמֵת כׇּל־בְּכוֹר בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם מִבְּכוֹר פַּרְעֹה הַיֹּשֵׁב עַל־כִּסְאוֹ עַד בְּכוֹר הַשִּׁפְחָה אֲשֶׁר אַחַר הָרֵחָיִם וְכֹל בְּכוֹר בְּהֵמָה׃
Moses said, “Thus says the LORD: Toward midnight I will go forth among the Egyptians, and every first-born in the land of Egypt shall die, from the first-born of Pharaoh who sits on his throne to the first-born of the slave girl who is behind the millstones; and all the first-born of the cattle.”
Koplen moves our focus to the enslaved Egyptian woman “who is behind the millstones.” She points out that this woman, like the Israelites, was marginalized and enslaved in Egypt.
If we ever thought we were the only slaves in Egypt, if we ever thought we were the only people who have ever suffered unjustly, Exodus 11:5 comes to teach us gently, we were wrong...
What can we gather from the text's need to separate Hebrew slaves from other slaves, and at the same time to tell us that the other slaves suffered along with those who were deemed to be worthy of that suffering?
We also have other mentions in the Exodus story of the "Eirev Rav," which has been translated as the "mixed multitude" of people who left Egypt along with the Hebrews (Exod 12:38). Several scholars have identified this group as either Egyptian slaves, or descendents and community members who created families with Hebrews but were not themselves Hebrews. Were these the same people? Were they moved to join in the Exodus even after their first born children were killed in the plague? How closely tied are grief and solidarity?