On behalf of Stephanie, Alexa, Jordan and myself, I would like to thank you all for joining us at the first Seder we’ve ever hosted in our new home. We are so grateful that you are all able to join us in this joyous festival meal that is sure to be as delicious as it memorable.
While the word seder literally means order, for our family it has another special meaning, it also means memories. Each year of our lives we have sat at our family's seder table, building a treasure chest of memories rich with tradition, love, and yiddishkeit, from which we draw each day of our lives. As children we sat at the table of our parents and as we became parents, we set the table for our children.
We thank everyone here for joining us tonight and helping us add to the beauty of the memory of all those with whom we have been blessed to share a seder over the years. In the words of someone most of here will recognize, "Thanks for the memories" - for being part of them and for helping us to make more of them. Now, let's get started.
Usually on Pesach one first recites the blessings and then lights the candles without covering one’s eyes.
May these candles, lit on the Festival of Freedom, bring light into our hearts and minds. May they renew our courage to act for justice and freedom here and now. May they illumine the path to truth, justice and peace. And so we repeat the ancient blessing:
All woman say ….Blessing #1:
Bo-ruch A-toh Ado-noi E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech Ho-olom A-sher Ki-de-sho-nu Be-mitz-vo-sov Ve-tzi-vo-nu Le-had-lik Ner Shel Yom Tov.
English:Blessed are you, Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who sanctified us by commanding us to light the holiday candles.
Blessing #2:Bo-ruch A-toh Ado-noi E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech Ho-olom She-heche-yo-nu Ve-ki-yi-mo-nu Ve-higi-o-nu Liz-man Ha-zeh English:Blessed are you, Blessed are you, Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who has kept us alive and brought us to this happy moment in our lives.
A Traditional Woman’s’ Prayer at Candle Lighting
May it be Your will, God of our ancestors, that You grant my family and all Israel a good and long life. Remember us with blessings and kindness; fill our home with your Devine Presence. Give me the opportunity to raise my children, grandchildren, unborn grandchildren and grand-dog, to be truly wise, lovers of God, people of truth, who illuminate the world with Torah, good deeds and the work of the Creator. Please hear my prayer at this time. Regard me as a worthy descendant of Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, our mothers, and let my candle burn and never be extinguished. Let the light of your face shine upon us. Amen.
Here we are, ready to perform the mitzvah of the first cup of wine and to dedicate this whole evening "to telling the story of miracles and wonders that were performed by our ancestors in Egypt on the night of the 15th of the month of Nisan, more than 3200 years ago. This recalls God's promise of redemption to the people of Israel, as it says, "Remember the day of your Exodus from Egypt" (Exodus 13:3).
Fill the first cup of wine
We are gathered here tonight to affirm our continuity with the generations of Jews who kept alive the vision of freedom in the Passover story. For thousands of years, Jews have affirmed that by participating in the Passover Seder. We not only remember the Exodus, but actually relive it, bringing its transformative power into our own lives.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָפֶן.
Ba-ruch a-tah, A-do-nai,E-lo-hei-nu me-lech ha-o-lam,bo-rei p'ri ha-ga-fen. (Amen) Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the vine. (Amen)
Drink the first cup of wine.
Slaves eat quickly, stopping neither to wash nor to reflect. Tonight, we are free. We washed our hands before we came to the table to express our respect for the blessings that are ours.
At this point in the seder, it is traditional to eat a green vegetable dipped in salt water. The green vegetable represents rebirth, renewal and growth; the salt water represents the tears of enslavement.
Baruch atah, Adonai, eloheinu ruach ha’olam, borei p’ri ha’adamah.
Blessed are you, Adonai, Breath of Life, creator of the fruit of the earth.
We take the piece of matzah that rests in the middle of the pile. We hold it up for the rest of the guests to see, and we announce, "This is how God split the Red Sea." We break the matzah in half. The bigger piece we set aside to become the afikoman. The smaller piece is returned to the pile.
Maggid means retelling the story of the exodus from Egypt.
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.
Raise the tray with the matzot and say:
This is the bread of affliction that our fathers ate in the land of Egypt. Whoever is hungry, let him come and eat; whoever is in need, let him come and conduct the Seder of Passover. This year [we are] here; next year in the land of Israel. This year [we are] slaves; next year [we will be] free people.
The tray with the matzot is moved aside, and the second cup is poured.
(Do not drink it yet).
It’s tradition that the youngest person in the family asks the questions. The rabbis who created the set format for the Seder gave us the Four Questions to help break the ice in case no one had their own questions. Asking questions is a core tradition in Jewish life. If everyone at your Seder is around the same age, perhaps the person with the least Seder experience can ask them – or everyone can sing them all together.
מַה נִּשְׁתַּנָּה הַלַּֽיְלָה הַזֶּה מִכָּל הַלֵּילות?
Mah nish-ta-nah ha-lai-lah ha-zeh mi-kol ha-lei-lot?
Why is this night different from all other nights?
:שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָֽנוּ אוֹכלין חָמֵץ וּמַצָּה הַלַּֽיְלָה הַזֶּה כֻּלּוֹ מצה
She-b'chol ha-lei-lot a-nu och-lin cha-meitz u-ma-tzah? Ha-lai-lah ha-zeh, ku-lo ma-tzah?
Why on all other nights we eat both leavened bread and matzah, and tonight we only eat matzah?
שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָֽנוּ אוֹכְלִין שְׁאָר יְרָקוֹת הַלַּֽיְלָה הַזֶּה מָרוֹר:
She-b'chol ha-lei-lot a-nu och-lin sh'ar y'ra -kot. Ha-lai-lah ha-zeh ma-ror?
On all other nights we eat all kinds of vegetables, but tonight why do we only eat bitter herbs?
. שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אֵין אָֽנוּ מַטְבִּילִין אֲפִילוּ פַּֽעַם אחָת הַלַּֽיְלָה הַזֶּה שְׁתֵּי פְעמים:
She-b'chol ha-lei-lot ein anu mat-bi-lin a-fi-lu pa-am, e-hat. Ha-lai-lah ha-zeh, sh'tei f'a-mim?
On all other nights we aren’t expected to dip our vegetables at all. Why, tonight, do we do it twice?
שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָֽנוּ אוֹכְלִין בֵּין יוֹשְׁבִין וּבֵין מְסֻבִּין. :הַלַּֽיְלָה הַזֶּה כֻּלָּֽנוּ מְסֻבין:
She-b'chol ha-lei-lot a-nu och-lin bein yosh-vin o'vein m-subin. Ha-lai-lah na-zeh ku-la-nu m-su-bin?
On all other nights we eat either sitting normally or reclining. Why do we sit reclining tonight?
I've added a fifth question to the seder this year:
Why is it that in any other form, this matzoh we eat is the bread of affliction which our forefathers ate when the holy one, blessed be he brought us forth with an outstretched arm from bondage in the land of egypt. But, when combined with salt, schmaltz, and chicken broth, becomes a delicious comfort food served by Jewish bubbys year round?
The Four Answers
Answer 1: We were slaves in Egypt. Our ancestor in flight from Egypt did not have time to let the dough rise. With not a moment to spare they snatched up the dough they had prepared and fled. But the hot sun beat as they carried the dough along with them and baked it into the flat unleavened bread we call matzah.
Answer 2: The first time we dip our greens to taste the brine of enslavement. We also dip to remind ourselves of all life and growth, of earth and sea, which gives us sustenance and comes to life again in the springtime.
Answer 3: The second time we dip the maror into the charoset. The charoset reminds us of the mortar that our ancestors mixed as slaves in Egypt. But our charoset is made of fruit and nuts, to show us that our ancestors were able to withstand the bitterness of slavery because it was sweetened by the hope of freedom.
Answer 4: Slaves were not allowed to rest, not even while they ate. Since our ancestors were freed from slavery, we recline to remind ourselves that we, like our ancestors, can overcome bondage in our own time. We also recline to remind ourselves that rest and rejuvenation are vital to continuing our struggles. We should take pleasure in reclining, even as we share our difficult history.
At the end of the biblical book of Genesis, Joseph brings his family to Egypt. Over the following centuries, the descendants of Joseph's family (the Hebrews) become so numerous that when a new king comes to power he fears what might happen if the Hebrews decide to rise against the Egyptians. He decides that the best way to avoid this situation is to enslave them. According to tradition, these enslaved Hebrews are the ancestors of modern day Jews.
Despite pharaoh's attempt to subdue the Hebrews they continue to have many children. As their numbers grow, pharaoh comes up with another plan: he will send soldiers to kill all newborn male babies who were born to Hebrew mothers. This is where the story of Moses begins.
In order to save Moses from the grisly fate pharaoh has decreed, his mother and sister put him in a basket and set it afloat on the river. Their hope is that the basket will float to safety and whomever finds the baby will adopt him as their own. His sister, Miriam, follows along as the basket floats away. Eventually it is discovered by none other than pharaoh's daughter. She saves Moses and raises him as her own, so that a Hebrew child is raised as a prince of Egypt.
When Moses grows up he kills an Egyptian guard when he sees him beating a Hebrew slave. Then Moses flees for his life, heading into the desert. In the desert he joins the family of Jethro, a Midian priest, by marrying Jethro's daughter and having children with her. He becomes a shepherd for Jethro's flock and one day, while out tending the sheep, Moses meets God in the wilderness. The voice of God calls out to him from a burning bush and Moses answers: "Hineini!" ("Here I am!" in Hebrew.)
God tells Moses that he has been chosen to free the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt. Moses is not sure he can carry out this command. But God reassures Moses that he will have help in the form of God's aide and his brother, Aaron.
One day when Moses was taking care of his sheep, he saw a burning bush and heard a voive coming from the bush. It was the mighty voice of God. God told Moses to go back to Egypt and free the Jewish Slaves from cruel Pharaoh.
So Moses listened to God an he returned to Egypt and demanded that pharaoh release the Hebrews from bondage. Pharaoh refused! As a result God sends ten plagues upon Egypt. Pharaoh promised to free the Jewish slaves, but then he refused again when the plagues subsided.
1. Blood - The waters of Egypt are turned to blood. All the fish die and water becomes unusable.
2. Frogs - Hordes of frogs swarm the land of Egypt.
3. Lice - Masses of gnats or lice invade Egyptian homes and plague the Egyptian people.
4. Wild Animals - Wild animals invade Egyptian homes and lands, causing destruction and wrecking havoc.
5. Blight - Egyptian livestock is struck down with disease.
6. Boils - The Egyptian people are plagued by painful boils that cover their bodies.
7. Hail - Severe weather destroys Egyptian crops and beats down upon them.
8. Locusts - Locusts swarm Egypt and eat any remaining crops and food.
9. Darkness - Darkness covers the land of Egypt for three days.
10. Death of the Firstborn - The firstborn of every Egyptian family is killed. Even the firstborn of Egyptian animals die.
The tenth plague is where the Jewish holiday of Passover derives its name, because while the Angel of Death visited Egypt it "passed over" Hebrew homes, which had been marked with lambs blood on the doorposts.
The Jewish slaves were not affected by any of the plagues. It was the last, and the most fierce plague, the slaying of the first born, that finally made the Pharoah surrender, and allow the Jewish people to leave Egypt.
However, the Egyptians soon chased after the Jewish slaves on horseback and nearly caught up with them when the Jews were stranded at the Red Sea. At that point, Moses was commanded by God to lift up his staff, and the waters parted. The slaves safely passed through the sea, and the pursuing Egyptian army was drowned. The Jewish people were free!!!!!
Moses told the Jewish people to celebrate Pesach every year to remember that once they were slaves in Egypt, and now they are free. That is why we celebrate Pesach today.
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.A full cup is the symbol of complete joy. Though we celebrate the triumph of our sacred cause, our happiness cannot be complete so long as others had to be sacrificed for its sake. We shall, therefore, diminish the wine in our cups as we recall the plagues visited upon the Egyptians, to give expression to our sorrow over the losses which each plague exacted.
We now recite the list of the ten ancient plagues, pouring off wine as each one is mentioned.Each additional drop of wine we now pour out of our cups is hope and prayer that people will cast out the plagues that today threaten everyone everywhere they are found, beginning in our own heartsGod brought Ten Plagues upon the Egyptians, and they were:
Blood - Dam ... Frogs - Tzefardeah ... Lice - Kinim ... Beasts - Arov ... Blight - Dver ... Boils - Sh'himHail - Barad ... Locusts - Arbeh . .. Darkness - Hoshekh ... Death of the Firstborn - Macat B'khorot.
The Matzah Show
(to the theme of "The Muppet Show")
It's time to burn some chometz
It's time to bless the lights
It's time to start the seder, on the Matzah Show tonight
It's time to put on kittels
It's time to lean left, not right
It's time to raise the 4 cups, on the Matzah Show tonight
It's time to ask some questions
It's time to leave Egypt tonight
It's time to get things started on the most sensational
Inspirational, celebrational, sederational
This is what we call the Matzah Show!!!!!
(Discussion #1: How could Kermit be a plague?)
The upper Matzo is broken and distributed. All then read in unison:
BORUCH ATTO ADONOI ELOHENU MELECH HO‘OLOM HAMOTZI LEḤEM MIN HO’ORETZ.
Praised art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who bringest forth bread from the earth.
BORUCH ATTO ADONOI ELOHENU MELECH HO‘OLOM ASHER KIDD’SHONU B’MITZVOSOV V’TZIVONU AL ACHILAS MATZO.
Praised art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who hast sanctified us through Thy commandments, and ordained that we should eat unleavened bread.
Eat the Matzo.
Maror is the bitter herbs (horse radish). We eat them to remind us of the bitter times the Jews had in Egypt.
Now please place some maror on a piece of matzah and recite the following prayer:
Baruch Ata Ado-nai Elo-heinu Melech Haolam Asher Ki-d’shanu Be-mitzvotav Vetzivanu al Achilat Maror.
Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, King of the universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us concerning the eating of Maror.
While the English Earl of Sandwich is generally credited for inventing the snack of his namesake, Hillel may have originated it two thousand years ago by combining matzah, a slice of paschal lamb, and a bitter herb. Jews no longer sacrifice and eat the lamb, so the Passover sandwich is only matzah, charoset, and a bitter herb now.
Each person receives some bitter herbs and ḥaroses, which they place between two pieces of matzo.
All say in unison: “Kein ah-saw Hillel” and eat the sandwich reclining.