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Redemption: In the Exodus story, the Jews were redeemed physically from slavery. While Pesach is "z'man heyruteinu," the season of our freedom, it is also a festival that speaks of spiritual redemption. Jews were freed from mental as well as physical slavery. It was as a physically and spiritually free people that the Jewish nation prepared to receive the Torah on Mt. Sinai. The seder also includes many allusions to a future messianic redemption. One of the clearest symbols is the Cup of Elijah placed on every seder table. Contained within the salvation from Egypt are the seeds of future redemption, as the Torah states, "This same night is a night of watching unto the Lord for all the children of Israel throughout their generations" (Exodus 12:42).
Creation: Passover is known by several names in Hebrew, including Chag HaAviv, holiday of the spring. Pesach celebrates spring, rebirth, and renewal, symbolized by the green “ karpas ” and the egg on the seder plate. It is also a time of “beginning,” as exemplified by the first grain harvest and the birth of Israel as a nation. Also, Nissan, this Hebrew month, was traditionally seen as the first month of the Jewish year.
Education: Four different times in the Torah, the Jews are commanded to repeat the story of the Passover (Exodus 12:26, 13:8, 14; Deuteronomy 6:20). The seder is centered around teaching the story of the exodus from Egypt. In fact, Haggadah means “the telling.” Two of the most important readings address education head on: the four questions and the four sons. The first encourages even the youngest children to begin asking questions, while the latter instructs us how to respond to different learning styles. Even at a seder without children present, the night takes on an educational feel. Thought provoking questions and supportive debate are encouraged.
Patterns of Four: Throughout the seder, you may notice the number four being repeated in many guises. This is based on the verse in Exodus that states, "I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments, and I will take you to Me for a people, and I will be to you a God…" (Exodus 6:6-7). Among many other patterns of four at the seder, we drink four cups of wine, ask four questions, and speak about four types of children.
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.
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.
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.
Too often during our daily lives we don’t stop and take the moment to prepare for whatever it is we’re about to do. Let's pause as we wash our hands to consider what we hope to get out of our evening together.
The karpas, the green vegetable, is the first part of the seder that makes this night different from all other nights. So far, the first glass of wine and the hand washing, though significant, do not serve to mark any sort of difference; they are regular parts of meals. The karpas, however, is not. As a night marked by difference, that difference starts now. Tonight, we celebrate difference with the karpas. Here, difference brings us hope, joy, and renewed life.
We also know that with difference can come pain and tears. We have shed these tears ourselves and we have caused others to shed tears. Some say we dip the karpas in salt water to remind ourselves of Joseph, whose brothers sold him into slavery and then dipped his fabulous, technicolor dream coat into blood to bring back to their father, Jacob. Difference can also be dangerous.
Tonight, we dip the karpas into salt water, and as we taste it, we taste both the fresh, celebratory hope of difference and the painful blood and tears that have come with it.
Together we say:
Brukha at Yah eloheynu ruakh ha'olam boreit p'ri ha'adamah.
You are Blessed, Our God, Spirit of the World, who creates the fruit of the earth.
This clip originally appeared on Ritualwell.org.
- Emma Goldman
Breaking the middle matzah | yachatz | יַחַץ
There are three pieces of matzah stacked on the table. We now break the middle matzah into two pieces. The host should wrap up the larger of the pieces and, at some point between now and the end of dinner, hide it. This piece is called the afikomen, literally “dessert” in Greek. After dinner, the guests must hunt for the afikomen in order to wrap up the meal. Because the meal cannot end until all guests taste the afikomen, whoever has found it may ransom it back to the other guests.
We eat matzah in memory of the quick flight of our ancestors from Egypt. As slaves, they faced many false starts before finally securing their freedom. So when the word of their freedom came, they took whatever dough they had and ran with it before it had the chance to rise, letting it bake in the sun, and thus looking something like matzah.
The host uncovers and holds up the three pieces of matzah and says:
This is the bread of poverty which our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. All who are hungry, come and eat; all who are needy, come and celebrate Passover with us. This year we are here; next year may we be in Israel. This year we are slaves; next year we will be free.
By Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Rabbi Lauren Holzblatt
On Passover, Jews are commanded to tell the story of the Exodus and to see ourselves as having lived through that story, so that we may better learn how to live our lives today. The stories we tell our children shape what they believe to be possible—which is why at Passover, we must tell the stories of the women who played a crucial role in the Exodus narrative.
The Book of Exodus, much like the Book of Genesis, opens in pervasive darkness. Genesis describes the earth as “unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep.”1 In Exodus, darkness attends the accession of a new Pharaoh who feared the Israelites and so enslaved them. God alone lights the way out of the darkness in Genesis. But in Exodus, God has many partners, first among them, five brave women.
There is Yocheved, Moses’ mother, and Shifra and Puah, the famous midwives. Each defies Pharaoh’s decree to kill the Israelite baby boys. And there is Miriam, Moses’ sister, about whom the following midrash is taught:
[When Miriam’s only brother was Aaron] she prophesied… “my mother is destined to bear a son who will save Israel.” When [Moses] was born the whole house… filled with light[.] [Miriam’s] father arose and kissed her on the head, saying, “My daughter, your prophecy has been fulfilled.” But when they threw [Moses] into the river her father tapped her on the head saying, “Daughter, where is your prophecy?” So it is written, “And [Miriam] stood afar off to know what would be[come of] the latter part of her prophecy.”2
Finally, there is Pharaoh’s daughter Batya, who defies her own father and plucks baby Moses out of the Nile. The Midrash reminds us that Batya knew exactly what she doing:
When Pharaoh’s daughter’s handmaidens saw that she intended to rescue Moses, they attempted to dissuade her, and persuade her to heed her father. They said to her: “Our mistress, it is the way of the world that when a king issues a decree, it is not heeded by the entire world, but his children and the members of his household do observe it, and you wish to transgress your father’s decree?”3
But transgress she did.
These women had a vision leading out of the darkness shrouding their world. They were women of action, prepared to defy authority to make their vision a reality bathed in the light of the day.
Retelling the heroic stories of Yocheved, Shifra, Puah, Miriam and Batya reminds our daughters that with vision and the courage to act, they can carry forward the tradition those intrepid women launched.
While there is much light in today’s world, there remains in our universe disheartening darkness, inhumanity spawned by ignorance and hate. We see horrific examples in the Middle East, parts of Africa, and the Ukraine. The Passover story recalls to all of us—women and men—that with vision and action we can join hands with others of like mind, kindling lights along paths leading out of the terrifying darkness.
1 Genesis 1:2 2 Babylonian Talmud, Megillah 14a 3 Babylonian Talmud, Sotah 12b
Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Appointed by President William Jefferson Clinton in 1993, she is known as a strong voice for gender equality, the rights of workers, and separation between church and state.
Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt is a rabbi at Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, D.C.. She is co-creator of two nationally recognized community engagement projects—MakomDC and the Jewish Mindfulness Center of Washington.
Image Credit: Time Magazine https://time.com/3823889/ruth-bader-ginsburg-2015-time-100/
Back to basics, get rid of what is bloated and inflated
“Letting go means just what it says. It’s an invitation to cease clinging to anything- whether it be an idea, a thing, an event, a particular time, or view, or desire. It is a conscious decision to release with full acceptance into the stream of present moments as they are unfolding. To let go means to give up coercing, resisting or struggling, in exchange for something more powerful and wholesome which comes out of allowing things to be as they are without getting caught up in your attraction to or rejection of them, in the intrinsic stickiness of wanting, of liking and disliking. It’s akin to letting your palm open to unhand something you have been holding on to.”
In a culture of questions like that of the Rabbis, they wish to understand the purpose and the reason for each commandment and every social institution and to exercise free choice between options. This type of education is critical by nature and it generates not only the aspiration to political freedom, but also spiritual and intellectual freedom.
That is why the Rabbis took the image of the first Jew, who obeyed unquestioningly the divine commandment of lech lecha - “Go out of your land” - and accorded the spiritual hero the content appropriate to their world.
The Rabbis, like Philo the first century Jewish philosopher, attribute to Abraham a search for truth that involved challenging the accepted beliefs of his idolatrous society. (See the midrash about Abraham the iconoclast in the Haggadah itself.)
It is noteworthy that the Rabbis, and following in their footsteps, Maimonides, painted a portrait of Abraham as a doubter, someone who questions society’s conventions and is searching for a philosophical truth. He also tries to free others from their intellectual bondage by creating a situation that forces them to pose questions, as Hillel did with the proselyte and as the Rabbis demanded that each parent do on Seder night with one’s own child.
Here, the Rabbis painted a portrait of Abraham based on the Biblical nucleus of the story of Sodom, in which God encourages Abraham to ask tough intellectual and moral questions, challenging the supreme authority - God.
“Shall not the judge of all the land be just?” - This rhetorical question seems defiant toward God, and yet God invited this defiance by involving Abraham in the debate concerning the fate of Sodom. Why? Why did God not fear rebellion? Why did God agree to enter in the extended negotiations that involved making concessions to the product of God’s own creation, Abraham?
The answer, in my opinion, lies in a radical educational approach - God’s desire to teach humans to willingly participate in God’s plan, out of rational understanding and recognition of the intrinsic justice of God’s Torah.
The Rabbis also took this direction and constructed an educational method based on the idea of the mentor, the apprentice. In this relationship, there are no questions that may not be asked, no doubt that may not be raised - as long as the true motive for the question is a genuine desire to learn.
Raising doubts, continuing tradition
The child and spiritual heir, who raised doubts and discovered the inner logic of the Seder, who queried and contributed to its ongoing design in a process of questions and answers, will continue the tradition most faithfully.
A genuine question is not a rebellion against authority, but rather authentic curiosity that enables the tradition to be passed on. It is not easy for authoritarian figures who are already convinced of the rationality of their world and of the unreason of other ways, to listen to criticism from the younger generation.
It is vital that the parent-teachers learn at the very least how to open themselves, their teachings and the existing social order to the new questions. If the parent and teacher discover they have innocent pupils before them who do not know how to ask, they must open up to them and open them up to the asking of incisive questions.
Democratic society can learn a great deal from the openness of our Rabbis to the culture of kushiyot - questions. A kushiya is not merely an educational tool to arouse the interest of students in the “material” of Passover, but rather an educational “form” that educates teacher and pupil, parent and child to the dialogue of freedom.
Why do we eat much on this night and others eat little?
Why do we eat the unleavened bread and throw our leavened bread away instead of donating it to the food pantry?
Why do we dip our food into sauce and salt andcharosetwhile others may not even havea crumb to dip?
Why do we lay back, relax and eat the food that comes to us so easily while others work to buy bread for their family?
This clip originally appeared on Ritualwell.org.
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?
Our tradition speaks of four children or four attitudes: the wise child, the wicked child, the simple child, and the one who does not know how to ask. Each child has a different reaction to hearing about slavery. . .
What does the wise child say? “What are the testimonies, the statutes, and the laws that apply to this situation? How are we to discern what God demands of us?” You are to answer this child: “God brought us out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage that we may understand the heart of those suffering in slavery, and use all our powers to redeem them.”
What does the wicked child say? “What does all this work have to do with you?” Notice: “you,” not him or her. The wicked child stays far removed from suffering, and thus has lost the essence of our teachings. You might ask this child: “If you had been in Egypt, would you have been redeemed? And if you do not lift a finger now, who will redeem those who languish in slavery?”
The simple child asks: “What’s this all about?” You should teach this child: God brought us out of Egypt with a strong hand, out of the affliction of slavery. So we must use our strength to abolish slavery around the world. We cannot stop our work until there are no longer any slaves, anywhere.
The child who does not know to ask, you must open his or her eyes to what is going on. For today, there are 27 million people living in slavery, and over 8 million of them are children. Surely this is one reason God took our people out of Egypt long ago – so that we might understand what slavery is like, and help free all those who remain enslaved.
And Egyptians made the Hebrews lives bitter with hard bondage,
in mortar, and in brick... Exodus 1:14
Brick Making in Pakistan: A Vignette
Since the 1960s, an estimated 750,000 landless Muslim peasants have hand molded hundreds of millions of mud bricks each year in Pakistan. The bricks are fired in some 7,000 vast but primitive kilns spread throughout the country.
With no other hope for sustenance, desperate families drift to kilns where they borrow money to buy food and tools from the owners. On a good day, a family will mold about fourteen hundred bricks for which they are paid two dollars. But their debts keep growing because kiln owners undercount the number of bricks produced, inflate the debt, and charge exorbitant prices for food and clothing.
Impoverished families, including young children, work as a unit. Without putting their children to work, these families would sink even deeper in debt. Even so, most families incur debts they will never earn enough to repay. If kiln owners suspect that a family may be planning to run away, they take a child to another location as a hostage.
According to one former kiln owner, "to intimidate brick makers, the owner just comes along and smashes all the freshly made raw bricks, a whole day's work, for no reason. If a young worker lifts his head or causes trouble, they will put his leg in the kiln oven for a second to burn it. This is common and brick makers are forced to watch." When a parent dies, the children inherit their mother's or father's debts, assuring another generation of bonded brick makers.
David Arnow, PhD
Author of Creating Lively Passover Seders www.livelyseders.com
Co-editor My People's Passover Haggadah both published by and available from www.jewishlights.com
This material was originally published by the New Israel Fund www.nif.org in its 2002 Passover Haggadah Supplement.
The story of our people is not one story. It could begin with any number of people in the Torah. Some people feel our story starts with Abraham, who left his father’s idolatry to follow the Eternal, on the promise that he would become the father of a great nation, after many troubles and afflictions. Some feel this is the heart of our story - that we are a mighty people who have been through many trials.
Others will look back to Adam and Eve and their exit from the Garden, as they had to leave their childlike innocence where all decisions were made for them, and assume the mantle of adulthood, where they had to make their own decisions and stand or fall by the consequences. Some feel that this is the heart of our story - that we could no longer let the masters (or God) make those decisions for us, but must now assume responsibility.
Still others tell the tale of Joseph, favored son of his father, who was sold into slavery in Egypt by his brothers. Some feel our story is that of the descent into slavery that began with Joseph's captivity by Pharaoh, and realizing we can never again take our freedom for granted, as Joseph himself had to learn.
But most of our stories on Passover begin with Moses and our exit from slavery in Egypt, because that is the story of our people - of the Eternal bringing us out of Mitzrayim. Many feel that this is the heart of our story - that we have suffered when we were strangers, so we must always reach out to the stranger and the sufferer, and welcome them in.
It is a familiar story, so why should we tell it? If we all know this story, why bother retelling it?
One reason is because we are commanded to do so. In Exodus 10:2, we are told “And in order that you should tell into the ears of your children and grandchildren, and you will all know that I am your God.”
Another reason is that as Jews, we are not satisfied with only the literal words of the story. We tell midrashim - attempts to explain what is not said - to understand better these people who came before us and suffered through slavery to come out as free persons on the other side.
Finally, whenever we are grateful for something, it is proper to tell others why we are grateful. By retelling this story, we remind ourselves of what we have to be thankful for - our freedom and our survival, often against overwhelming odds; our community and peoplehood, which have continued for five thousand, seven hundred, and ______ years; and our lives, of which every moment is precious. It would be remiss not to tell the story of our exodus from Egypt in this time of remembrance and gratitude.
Just as the Eternal promised Abraham, his family became a great nation. And just as the Eternal promised Abraham, we were a people who were enslaved and afflicted for four hundred years. This promise was both wise and true, for in order to become adults, we had to pass through the time of having no responsibilities beyond our whims, as with Adam and Eve, or our orders, as when we and Joseph were slaves in Egypt. This promise has been fulfilled, and we now thank the Eternal for bringing the descendants of Abraham out of Egypt and making us a great nation.
Raise the glass of wine and say:
וְהִיא שֶׁעָמְדָה לַאֲבוֹתֵֽינוּ וְלָֽנוּ
V’hi she-amda l’avoteinu v’lanu.
(This promise has sustained our ancestors and us.)
In the years we were slaves in Egypt, we grew until we became a great nation, the People Israel, even while enslaved. To stop us from growing and taking over Egypt, Pharaoh decreed that all our baby boys should be drowned, to prevent an Israelite uprising against their Egyptian masters. But the Eternal heard our cry, and brought us out of Egypt with a strong hand and an outstretched arm - not by any angel’s work but by the Eternal One’s intervention.
Let us all refill our cups.
[Take turns reading. Each person is invited to read a grouped set of lines - or to pass.]
Tonight we drink four cups of the fruit of the vine.
There are many explanations for this custom.
They may be seen as symbols of various things:
the four corners of the earth, for freedom must live everywhere;
the four seasons of the year, for freedom's cycle must last through all the seasons;
or the four matriarchs: Sarah, Rebecca, Leah, and Rachel.
A full cup of wine symbolizes complete happiness.
The triumph of Passover is diminished by the sacrifice of many human lives
when ten plagues were visited upon the people of Egypt.
In the story, the plagues that befell the Egyptians resulted from the decisions of tyrants,
but the greatest suffering occurred among those who had no choice but to follow.
It is fitting that we mourn their loss of life, and express our sorrow over their suffering.
For as Jews and as Humanists we cannot take joy in the suffering of others.
Therefore, let us diminish the wine in our cups
as we recall the ten plagues that befell the Egyptian people.
As we recite the name of each plague, in English and then in Hebrew,
please dip a finger in your wine and then touch your plate to remove the drop.
Blood - Dam (Dahm)
Frogs - Ts'phardea (Ts'phar-DEH-ah)
Gnats - Kinim (Kih-NEEM)
Flies - Arov (Ah-ROV)
Cattle Disease - Dever (DEH-vehr)
Boils - Sh'hin (Sh'-KHEEN)
Hail - Barad (Bah-RAHD)
Locusts - `Arbeh (Ar-BEH)
Darkness - Hoshekh (KHO-shekh)
Death of the Firstborn - Makkat B'khorot (Ma-katB'kho-ROT)
[Take turns reading. Each person is invited to read a grouped set of lines - or to pass.]
In the same spirit, our celebration today also is shadowed
by our awareness of continuing sorrow and oppression in all parts of the world.
Ancient plagues are mirrored in modern tragedies.
In our own time, as in ancient Egypt, ordinary people suffer and die
as a result of the actions of the tyrants who rule over them.
While we may rejoice in the defeat of tyrants in our own time,
we must also express our sorrow at the suffering of the many innocent people
who had little or no choice but to follow.
As the pain of others diminishes our joys,
let us once more diminish the ceremonial drink of our festival
as we together recite the names of these modern plagues:
Pollution of the Earth Indifference to Suffering
Let us sing a song expressing our hope for a better world.
by Joshua Ratner, Rabbis Without Borders
One of my favorite parts of the Passover seder is the singing that takes place after we finish eating. There are so many great, fun songs, from “Ehad Mi Yodeah” to "Chad Gadya."Perhaps my favorite song is “Dayenu.” The words are fairly easy to sing in Hebrew, and the chorus is so catchy that even those who don’t know Hebrew can easily join in. But beyond its functionality, the content of Dayenu (literally “it would have been enough”) also carries a deep amount of wisdom.
Dayenu consists of 15 stanzas referencing different historical contexts the Israelites experienced, from slavery in Egypt to the building of the Temple in Israel. After each stanza, we sing the chorus, signifying that if this was the total of God’s miraculous intervention into the lives of the Israelites, it would have been sufficient.
One of the primary purposes of the Passover seder is to make us feel as if we personally experienced the exodus from Egypt and the redemption from slavery to freedom. This is no less true for the way we understand the Dayenu song. Dayenu provides a powerful contemporary hashkafah (outlook on life), a call to mindfulness about the way we currently lead our lives. We live in an era when capitalism is our state (and increasingly global) religion. Consumption is unfettered by any internal sense of restraint, from the amount of soda we can drink to how much money Wall Street executives can make. We live in a world where it is okay that the richest 85 people in the world have total wealth equal to that of the poorest 3.5 billion people on the planet!
Dayenu reminds us that there is another way. Judaism offers an outlook on wealth, consumption, and sufficiency (sova) that is very counter-cultural. InPirkei Avot(Ethics of our Fathers) 4:1, Ben Zoma teaches: “Who is rich? The one who is content with what one has.” Even more austere, the Talmud instructs: “An individual who can eat barley bread but eats wheat bread is guilty of transgressing the law of bal tashchit (unlawful waste). Rabbi Papa states: one who can drink beer but drinks wine instead is guilty of transgressing the law of bal tashchit.” (Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 140b). Judaism is not, to be sure, an ascetic religion. We are encouraged to carve out occasions for excess, for enjoying the finer parts of living—on Shabbat, holidays, and other joyous occasions. But the wisdom of Judaism is that, if we want to experience delight on these special occasions, we also need moments of restraint. It is the juxtaposition of restraint and largess that creates a life of meaning.
Beyond the individual experience, we also are becoming increasingly aware of the global consequences of championing unbridled materialism over a sense of sufficiency. From income inequality to climate change, our refusal to entertain limits on what we do and how much we consume are wreaking destructive consequences. By returning to a sense of Dayenu, of thinking deeply about what is enough, we have the potential to change ourselves and our world. May we be blessed, on this Pesah and beyond, to replace the idolatry of consumption with an embrace of all that we have.
Sam Solomon 3-12-15
The symbols of Passover
The Symbols of Passover The bone that represents the sacrifice. It is weird to me that we sacrifice a lamb. How can we sacrifice such a sweet and innocent animal?
A hard boiled egg? A hard boiled egg? how can something so small have so much meaning?
We eat bitter herbs to remind us of our ancestors work as slaves. But why do we eat food that many love? I love the bitter herbs, the horseradish, hmm!
The haroset! the haroset represents the mortar and brick made by the Jews during the Jewish exodus from Egypt, I don’t completely understand how this symbolizes mortar and brick, I think it is an excuse to drink wine, and eat good snacks!
We wash our hands with a blessing!
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָֽׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו, וְצִוָּנוּ עַל נְטִילַת יָדָֽיִם
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al n’tilat yadayim.
Blessed are You, O Lord, Our God, King of the Universe, who commanded up to wash our hands.
We bless and eat the matzah!
(everyone takes a small piece of matzah)
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ עַל אֲכִילַת מַצָּה
All: Baruch Atah Adonai, elohaynu melech ha-olam, asher kidshanu bemitsvotav vetsivanu, all achilat matzah.
Blessed art thou, oh lord our God, king of the universe, who has sanctified us with thy commandments and commanded us to eat unleavened bread on Pesach.
(Eat the matzah)
We eat bitter herbs!
(Everyone take a portion of bitter herbs on a piece of matzah, and dip it in the sweet Charoset)
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ עַל אֲכִילַת מָרוֹר
Baruch atah Adonai elohaynu belech ha-olam, asher kidshanu bemitsvotav vetsivanu al achilat maror.
Blessed art thou, Oh Lord our God, King of the universe, who sanctifies us with his commandments and commands us to eat bitter herbs on Pesach.
Question for discussion: Why do we dip bitter in sweet?
In Talmud Pesachim, Rava teaches, "A person who swallows matzah without chewing fills the mitzvah, the commandment, to eat matzah. However, a person who swallows maror without chewing doesn't fulfill the mitzvah to eat maror."
Matzah is Biblical fast food. Matzah is flat because the Hebrews were in such a hurry to get out of Egypt, they didn't wait for their bread to rise. They rushed out, eating crackers, because they had to eat something. Matzah is optimistic, portable, light and undemanding.
Rashbam says that the mitzvah of eating matzah isn't connected to taste. It's connected to story. The Seder ends with a literal countdown, numbering the days until Shavuot, the holiday when the Hebrews get the Torah. Matzah is the food of the future. We eat matzah on Passover to remind us that we're on our way.
Charoset and Maror are the tastes of the past. Charoset is a sweet memory. Maror is a bitter encounter made fresh. Charoset is the sweetness of family, Maror the bitterness of Holocaust. These are our roots as individual people and as a People. Maror wants attention, and loves to get a reaction. Charoset is sweet, and also thick and heavy. Charoset is said to be the material the Hebrews used to make bricks. Sweetness between people and bricks are made of the same material. The presence of both forms a foundation.
The Hillel sandwich is the three of these together. Matzah, Maror and Charoset. Together, they are the present.
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?
Redeem and eat the afikomen!
Leader: We redeem the afikomen after the meal to bring our seder from the chaos of the meal back to a place of holiness and a focus on God in order to fully appreciate the act of saying grace immediately following redeeming the afikomen.
Let us all refill our cups.
Leader picks up cup for all to see.
This is the cup of hope.
The seder tradition involves pouring a cup for the Hebrew prophet Elijah. For millennia, Jews opened the door for him, inviting him join their seders, hoping that he would bring with him a messiah to save the world.
Yet the tasks of saving the world - once ascribed to prophets, messiahs and gods - must be taken up by us mere mortals, by common people with shared goals. Working together for progressive change,we can bring about the improvement of the world, tiqqun ha-olam - for justice and for peace, we can and we must.
Let us now symbolically open the door of our seder to invite in all people of good will and all those in needto work together with us for a better world.Let us raise our fourth cup as we dedicate ourselves to tiqqun olam, the improvement of the world.
"L' Tiqqun Olam!"
All drink the fourth cup.
We have come to the close of our Seder service.
For Jewish ritual, including the ritual of the Seder, is really Jewish philosophy. That is why we avoid doing the ritual just for the sake of the ritual; instead, we concentrate on understanding the meaning of the ritual act – the underlying philosophy the act comes to represent.
Once again we have recited the age old epic of Israel’s liberation from bondage, and have rededicated ourselves to the cause of man’s freedom from tyranny and oppression.
As we celebrated this festival tonight, so may we celebrate it, all of us together, next year again, in joy, in peace, in freedom and in Jerusalem!