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Introduction
Happy Passover!

Tonight we gather together to celebrate Passover, our holiday of freedom. We will eat a great meal together, enjoy (at least!) four glasses of wine, and tell the story of our ancestors’ liberation from slavery in Egypt. We welcome our friends and family members from other backgrounds to reflect with us on the meaning of freedom in all our lives and histories. We will consider the blessings in our lives, pledge to work harder at freeing those who still suffer, and begin to cast off the things in our own lives that oppress us.

Introduction

Whats the point of sitting at a table for two hours re-reading the same story every year? To follow traditions that are not relevant to our society today. Yet I still sit there every year, silent. Waiting for the only part I can connect to... the eating. 

Kadesh
Source : The Wandering is Over Haggadah, JewishBoston.com

All Jewish celebrations, from holidays to weddings, include wine as a symbol of our joy – not to mention a practical way to increase that joy. The seder starts with wine and then gives us three more opportunities to refill our cup and drink.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָּפֶן

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, borei p’ree hagafen.

We praise God, Ruler of Everything, who creates the fruit of the vine.

We praise God, Ruler of Everything, who chose us from all peoples and languages, and sanctified us with commandments, and lovingly gave to us special times for happiness, holidays and this time of celebrating the Holiday of Matzah, the time of liberation, reading our sacred stories, and remembering the Exodus from Egypt. For you chose us and sanctified us among all peoples. And you have given us joyful holidays. We praise God, who sanctifies the people of Israel and the holidays.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם
 שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לַזְּמַן הַזֶּה

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam,
she-hechiyanu v’key’manu v’higiyanu lazman hazeh.

We praise God, Ruler of Everything,
who has kept us alive, raised us up, and brought us to this happy moment.

Drink the first glass of wine!

Kadesh
by VBS
Source : VBS Haggadah

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. 

Kadesh
Source : Design by Haggadot.com
Kadesh

Urchatz
Source : The Wandering is Over Haggadah, JewishBoston.com
Water is refreshing, cleansing, and clear, so it’s easy to understand why so many cultures and religions use water for symbolic purification. We will wash our hands twice during our seder: now, with no blessing, to get us ready for the rituals to come; and then again later, we’ll wash again with a blessing, preparing us for the meal, which Judaism thinks of as a ritual in itself. (The Jewish obsession with food is older than you thought!)

To wash your hands, you don’t need soap, but you do need a cup to pour water over your hands. Pour water on each of your hands three times, alternating between your hands. If the people around your table don’t want to get up to walk all the way over to the sink, you could pass a pitcher and a bowl around so everyone can wash at their seats… just be careful not to spill!

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 to consider what we hope to get out of our evening together tonight. Go around the table and share one hope or expectation you have for tonight's seder.

Karpas
Source : The Wandering is Over Haggadah, JewishBoston.com

Passover, like many of our holidays, combines the celebration of an event from our Jewish memory with a recognition of the cycles of nature. As we remember the liberation from Egypt, we also recognize the stirrings of spring and rebirth happening in the world around us. The symbols on our table bring together elements of both kinds of celebration.

We now take a vegetable, representing our joy at the dawning of spring after our long, cold winter. Most families use a green vegetable, such as parsley or celery, but some families from Eastern Europe have a tradition of using a boiled potato since greens were hard to come by at Passover time. Whatever symbol of spring and sustenance we’re using, we now dip it into salt water, a symbol of the tears our ancestors shed as slaves. Before we eat it, we recite a short blessing:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, borei p’ree ha-adama.

We praise God, Ruler of Everything, who creates the fruits of the earth.

We look forward to spring and the reawakening of flowers and greenery. They haven’t been lost, just buried beneath the snow, getting ready for reappearance just when we most needed them.

-

We all have aspects of ourselves that sometimes get buried under the stresses of our busy lives. What has this winter taught us? What elements of our own lives do we hope to revive this spring?

Karpas
Source : Original Illustration from Haggadot.com
Dip Parsley in Saltwater

Karpas
Source : Original
When we bless the green parsley and dip it in the salty water, we remember the spring, and we remember the long, sad years of our slavery.

When we left Egypt,

we bloomed and sprouted,

and songs dripped from our tongues

like shimmering threads of nectar.

All green with life we grew,

who had been buried,

under toil and sorrow,

dense as bricks.

All green in the desert we grew,

casting seeds at a promise.

All green we grew. 

Yachatz
Source : The Wandering is Over Haggadah, JewishBoston.com

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 will have to hunt for the afikomen in order to wrap up the meal… and win a prize.

We eat matzah in memory of the quick flight of our ancestors from Egypt. As slaves, they had faced many false starts before finally being let go. 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, leaving it looking something like matzah.

Uncover and hold up the three pieces of matzah and say:

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 we will be in Israel. This year we are slaves; next year we will be free.

These days, matzah is a special food and we look forward to eating it on Passover. Imagine eating only matzah, or being one of the countless people around the world who don’t have enough to eat.

What does the symbol of matzah say to us about oppression in the world, both people literally enslaved and the many ways in which each of us is held down by forces beyond our control? How does this resonate with events happening now?

Maggid - Beginning
Source : The Wandering is Over Haggadah, JewishBoston.com

Pour the second glass of wine for everyone.

The Haggadah doesn’t tell the story of Passover in a linear fashion. We don’t hear of Moses being found by the daughter of Pharaoh – actually, we don’t hear much of Moses at all. Instead, we get an impressionistic collection of songs, images, and stories of both the Exodus from Egypt and from Passover celebrations through the centuries. Some say that minimizing the role of Moses keeps us focused on the miracles God performed for us. Others insist that we keep the focus on the role that every member of the community has in bringing about positive change.

Maggid - Beginning
Source : The Dinner Party Download: http://www.dinnerpartydownload.org/four-dollar-toast/

Should we worry about what the price of our food means for the people around us? Does raising the cost of staples by making them into something rarefied and unique add variety to our lives or does it separate us from people who eat to sustain themselves?

The Dinner Party Download: The Value of Four-Dollar Toast

February 14, 2014

Brendan Francis Newnam:When did the San Francisco toast trend begin?

John Birdsall:Really about a year ago, when a place called The Mill opened. And The Mill has two businesses inside. One is Four Barrel Coffee. The other one is Josey Baker Bread. And Josey Baker is a great guy who just really loved bread and he started a bread CSA a few years ago.

He was bartending at the time and he would make bread at home, really studied bread-making, and then you could pick up your loaves at the bar and eventually, he saved up enough money that he got a baking space and so now he shares space with Four Barrel Coffee.

Brendan Francis Newnam:So it sounds like Josey really cares about his bread, he’s a craftsman, and I’m looking at this toast and it is beautiful, it’s thick, there’s variations; you’re having a raisin bread, I’m having a dark rye. It’s hearty bread. Still, people writing about the toast, though, haven’t focused exclusively on the quality of the bread. The price tag raised a few eyebrows.

John Birdsall:Right. So the way that $4 toast became this kind of meme in San Francisco was that a few tech writers jumped on it. Last summer, this story in Venture Beat was titled “$4 Toast: Why The Tech Industry Is Ruining San Francisco.”

The thing to know about San Francisco right now is that it’s really awash in tech money. And $4 toast became a symbol of this new tech class, really. You know, everyone thinks of them as these 25-year-old engineers who are making tons of money buying a prime real estate in places where other San Franciscans are priced out of.

Brendan Francis Newnam:So it’s like a gentrification debate.

John Birdsall:Right, exactly. And $4 toast became the convenient symbol of everything that’s wrong about the new tech economy.

Brendan Francis Newnam:Because that’s a lot of money for a slice of toast. It sounds like a lot of money for a slice of toast, right?

John Birdsall:$4 dollars for a thick slice of toast that took intention and time and patience. And this whole other network of farmers who are raising grains in a certain way and, you know, a miller who is milling it in a certain way. I feel like I’m buying that whole system, and I’m helping to keep that system alive.

You know, a lot of people in San Francisco and the tech industry, they’re creative people, kind of making stuff that exists in the cloud somewhere. It’s not tangible. And the thing about Josey Baker’s bread is that it’s tangible, it takes time and patience and it takes knowledge. And so there’s kind of a fascination by this tech creative class for things like that.

Brendan Francis Newnam:So I don’t really know where I come down on this. I’m a little torn. On the one hand, I’m like, yeah, this is quality stuff. We pay money for a latte, and the beans and coffee really don’t cost that much money, that’s a huge mark-up. But something about toast…it just seems silly that just heated up bread would be over maybe even $2 dollars.

John Birdsall:Well, two things. One, you know, San Francisco has this amazing and very old bread culture…

Brendan Francis Newnam:Sourdough, you’re talking about?

John Birdsall:…Yeah, exactly. So our sourdough tradition goes back to the 19th century. Even in the 20th century, you know, over in Berkeley, Steve Sullivan of Acme Bread, started making levains, started making spontaneously fermented sourdough along French lines. And so bread is one of those great foods of San Francisco. So to pay a premium for bread here doesn’t seem outrageous to a lot of people.

Brendan Francis Newnam:It’s in San Francisco’s DNA, so people are comfortable buying high quality product and spending a little bit more money for it.

John Birdsall:Right. The other thing is that in the West, we sort of look to American traditions and European traditions — like English traditions — and think of toast as something that’s very insignificant. In fact, if you look East rather than West, you know, if you look to Asia — especially Japan — you see this very old cafe culture that’s devoted to toast. There are these very old cafes in Tokyo — like Paulista Cafe, which is over 100 years old — and their specialty is these toast sets. So it tends to be middle-aged businessmen who go there, they’ll buy coffee and they’ll buy a single, thick slice of toast that’s been buttered and sliced.

Maggid - Beginning
Source : Original Design from Haggadot.com
Hannah Szenes Quote

-- Four Questions
Source : JewishBoston.com

The formal telling of the story of Passover is framed as a discussion with lots of questions and answers. The tradition that the youngest person asks the questions reflects the centrality of involving everyone in the seder. 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

Ma nishtana halaila hazeh mikol haleilot?

Why is this night different from all other nights?

שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָֽנוּ אוֹכלין חָמֵץ וּמַצָּה  הַלַּֽיְלָה הַזֶּה כֻּלּוֹ מצה  

Shebichol haleilot anu ochlin chameitz u-matzah. Halaila hazeh kulo matzah.

On all other nights we eat both leavened bread and matzah.
Tonight we only eat matzah.

שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָֽנוּ אוֹכְלִין שְׁאָר יְרָקוֹת הַלַּֽיְלָה הַזֶּה מָרוֹר

Shebichol haleilot anu ochlin shi’ar yirakot haleila hazeh maror.

On all other nights we eat all kinds of vegetables,
but tonight we eat bitter herbs.

שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אֵין אָֽנוּ מַטְבִּילִין אֲפִילוּ פַּֽעַם אחָת  הַלַּֽיְלָה הַזֶּה שְׁתֵּי פְעמים

Shebichol haleilot ain anu matbilin afilu pa-am echat. Halaila hazeh shtei fi-amim.

On all other nights we aren’t expected to dip our vegetables one time.
Tonight we do it twice.

שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָֽנוּ אוֹכְלִין בֵּין יוֹשְׁבִין וּבֵין מְסֻבִּין.  :הַלַּֽיְלָה הַזֶּה כֻּלָּֽנוּ מְסֻבין

Shebichol haleilot anu ochlin bein yoshvin uvein m’subin. Halaila hazeh kulanu m’subin.

On all other nights we eat either sitting normally or reclining.
Tonight we recline.

-- Four Questions
Source : Design by Haggadot.com
Why?

-- Four Questions
Source : Hillel Quote, Design from Haggadot.com
Torah On One Foot

-- Four Questions
Source : Original by Heidi Aycock

On all other nights, we get biscuits and rolls,
Fluffy and puffy and full of air holes.
Why on this night, why, tell me why,
Only this flat stuff that’s always so dry.

On all other nights, we eat all kinds of greens,
And I’m starting to like them – except lima beans.
Why on this night, I ask on my knees,
Do we eat stuff so bitter it makes grownups wheeze?

On all other nights, we dip vegies just once –
Just try dipping twice and they’ll call you a dunce.
Why on this night, why, tell me true,
Why double-dipping’s the right thing to do.

On all other nights, we sit up when we munch.
You’ll choke if you slump! You’ll croak if you hunch!
Why on this night, if anyone knows,
Do we get to recline on my mom’s good pillows.

Why is this night so different from most?
Why do we do things so odd and so gross?
Why do we tell the same stories and stuff?
Because when it’s Pesach, it’s never enough!

-- Four Children
Source : The Wandering is Over Haggadah, JewishBoston.com

As we tell the story, we think about it from all angles. Our tradition speaks of four different types of children who might react differently to the Passover seder. It is our job to make our story accessible to all the members of our community, so we think about how we might best reach each type of child:

What does the wise child say?

The wise child asks, What are the testimonies and laws which God commanded you?

You must teach this child the rules of observing the holiday of Passover.

What does the wicked child say?

The wicked child asks, What does this service mean to you?

To you and not to himself! Because he takes himself out of the community and misses the point, set this child’s teeth on edge and say to him: “It is because of what God did for me in taking me out of Egypt.” Me, not him. Had that child been there, he would have been left behind.

What does the simple child say?

The simple child asks, What is this?

To this child, answer plainly: “With a strong hand God took us out of Egypt, where we were slaves.”

What about the child who doesn’t know how to ask a question?

Help this child ask.

Start telling the story:

“It is because of what God did for me in taking me out of Egypt.”

-

Do you see yourself in any of these children? At times we all approach different situations like each of these children. How do we relate to each of them?

-- Four Children
Source : Eli Lebowicz, Lebowicz@gmail.com
The Four Sons

The Four Sons as represented by the Bluth boys from Arrested Development.
-- Exodus Story
Source : The Wandering is Over Haggadah, JewishBoston.com

Our story starts in ancient times, with Abraham, the first person to have the idea that maybe all those little statues his contemporaries worshiped as gods were just statues. The idea of one God, invisible and all-powerful, inspired him to leave his family and begin a new people in Canaan, the land that would one day bear his grandson Jacob’s adopted name, Israel.

God had made a promise to Abraham that his family would become a great nation, but this promise came with a frightening vision of the troubles along the way: “Your descendants will dwell for a time in a land that is not their own, and they will be enslaved and afflicted for four hundred years; however, I will punish the nation that enslaved them, and afterwards they shall leave with great wealth."

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.

For not only one enemy has risen against us to annihilate us, but in every generation there are those who rise against us. But God saves us from those who seek to harm us.

The glass of wine is put down.

In the years our ancestors lived in Egypt, our numbers grew, and soon the family of Jacob became the People of Israel. Pharaoh and the leaders of Egypt grew alarmed by this great nation growing within their borders, so they enslaved us. We were forced to perform hard labor, perhaps even building pyramids. The Egyptians feared that even as slaves, the Israelites might grow strong and rebel. So Pharaoh decreed that Israelite baby boys should be drowned, to prevent the Israelites from overthrowing those who had enslaved them.

But God heard the cries of the Israelites. And God brought us out of Egypt with a strong hand and outstretched arm, with great awe, miraculous signs and wonders. God brought us out not by angel or messenger, but through God’s own intervention. 

-- Ten Plagues
Source : The Wandering is Over Haggadah, JewishBoston.com

As we rejoice at our deliverance from slavery, we acknowledge that our freedom was hard-earned. We regret that our freedom came at the cost of the Egyptians’ suffering, for we are all human beings made in the image of God. We pour out a drop of wine for each of the plagues as we recite them.

Dip a finger or a spoon into your wine glass for a drop for each plague.

These are the ten plagues which God brought down on the Egyptians:

Blood | dam | דָּם

Frogs | tzfardeiya |  צְפַרְדֵּֽעַ

Lice | kinim | כִּנִּים

Beasts | arov | עָרוֹב

Cattle disease | dever | דֶּֽבֶר

Boils | sh’chin | שְׁחִין

Hail | barad | בָּרָד

Locusts | arbeh | אַרְבֶּה

Darkness | choshech | חֹֽשֶׁךְ

Death of the Firstborn | makat b’chorot | מַכַּת בְּכוֹרוֹת

The Egyptians needed ten plagues because after each one they were able to come up with excuses and explanations rather than change their behavior. Could we be making the same mistakes? Make up your own list. What are the plagues in your life? What are the plagues in our world today? What behaviors do we need to change to fix them? 

-- Cup #2 & Dayenu
Source : The Wandering is Over Haggadah, JewishBoston.com

As all good term papers do, we start with the main idea:

ּעֲבָדִים הָיִינוּ הָיִינו. עַתָּה בְּנֵי חוֹרִין  

Avadim hayinu hayinu. Ata b’nei chorin.

We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt. Now we are free.

We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and God took us from there with a strong hand and outstretched arm. Had God not brought our ancestors out of Egypt, then even today we and our children and our grandchildren would still be slaves. Even if we were all wise, knowledgeable scholars and Torah experts, we would still be obligated to tell the story of the exodus from Egypt.

-- Cup #2 & Dayenu
Source : The Wandering is Over Haggadah, JewishBoston.com

The plagues and our subsequent redemption from Egypt are but one example of the care God has shown for us in our history. Had God but done any one of these kindnesses, it would have been enough – dayeinu.

אִלּוּ הוֹצִיאָֽנוּ מִמִּצְרַֽיִם, דַּיֵּנוּ

Ilu hotzi- hotzianu, Hotzianu mi-mitzrayim Hotzianu mi-mitzrayim, Dayeinu

If God had only taken us out of Egypt, that would have been enough!

אִלּוּ נָתַן לָֽנוּ אֶת־הַתּוֹרָה, דַּיֵּנוּ

Ilu natan natan lanu, natan lanu et ha-Torah, Natan lanu et ha-Torah , Dayeinu

If God had only given us the Torah, that would have been enough.

 The complete lyrics to Dayeinu tell the entire story of the Exodus from Egypt as a series of miracles God performed for us. (See the Additional Readings if you want to read or sing them all.)

Dayeinu also reminds us that each of our lives is the cumulative result of many blessings, small and large. 

-- Cup #2 & Dayenu
Source : The Wandering is Over Haggadah, JewishBoston.com

We have now told the story of Passover…but wait! We’re not quite done. There are still some symbols on our seder plate we haven’t talked about yet. Rabban Gamliel would say that whoever didn’t explain the shank bone, matzah, and marror (or bitter herbs) hasn’t done Passover justice.

The shank bone represents the Pesach, the special lamb sacrifice made in the days of the Temple for the Passover holiday. It is called the pesach, from the Hebrew word meaning “to pass over,” because God passed over the houses of our ancestors in Egypt when visiting plagues upon our oppressors.

The matzah reminds us that when our ancestors were finally free to leave Egypt, there was no time to pack or prepare. Our ancestors grabbed whatever dough was made and set out on their journey, letting their dough bake into matzah as they fled.

The bitter herbs provide a visceral reminder of the bitterness of slavery, the life of hard labor our ancestors experienced in Egypt.

-- Cup #2 & Dayenu
Source : The Wandering is Over Haggadah, JewishBoston.com

בְּכָל־דּוֹר וָדוֹר חַיָּב אָדָם לִרְאוֹת אֶת־עַצְמוֹ, כְּאִלּוּ הוּא יָצָא מִמִּצְרָֽיִם

B’chol dor vador chayav adam lirot et-atzmo, k’ilu hu yatzav mimitzrayim.

In every generation, everyone is obligated to see themselves as though they personally left Egypt.

The seder reminds us that it was not only our ancestors whom God redeemed; God redeemed us too along with them. That’s why the Torah says “God brought us out from there in order to lead us to and give us the land promised to our ancestors.”

---

We praise God, Ruler of Everything, who redeemed us and our ancestors from Egypt, enabling us to reach this night and eat matzah and bitter herbs. May we continue to reach future holidays in peace and happiness.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָּפֶן

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, borei p’ree hagafen.

We praise God, Ruler of Everything, who creates the fruit of the vine.

Drink the second glass of wine!

-- Cup #2 & Dayenu
Source : Abraham Joshua Heschel, Design by Haggadot.com
Heschel on Radical Amazement

-- Cup #2 & Dayenu
Source : Original Illustration from Haggadot.com
Old & New Passover Symbols

Rachtzah
Source : The Wandering is Over Haggadah, JewishBoston.com

As we now transition from the formal telling of the Passover story to the celebratory meal, we once again wash our hands to prepare ourselves. In Judaism, a good meal together with friends and family is itself a sacred act, so we prepare for it just as we prepared for our holiday ritual, recalling the way ancient priests once prepared for service in the Temple.

Some people distinguish between washing to prepare for prayer and washing to prepare for food by changing the way they pour water on their hands. For washing before food, pour water three times on your right hand and then three times on your left hand.

After you have poured the water over your hands, recite this short 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.

We praise God, Ruler of Everything, who made us holy through obligations, commanding us to wash our hands.

Rachtzah
Source : Original
Rachtzah

Motzi-Matzah
Source : JewishBoston.com

The blessing over the meal and matzah | motzi matzah | מוֹצִיא מַצָּה

The familiar hamotzi blessing marks the formal start of the meal. Because we are using matzah instead of bread, we add a blessing celebrating this mitzvah.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, הַמּוֹצִיא לֶֽחֶם מִן הָאָֽרֶץ

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, hamotzi lechem min ha-aretz.

We praise God, Ruler of Everything, who brings bread from the land.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָֽׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתַָיו וְצִוָּֽנוּ עַל אֲכִילַת מַצָּה

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al achilat matzah.

We praise God, Ruler of Everything, who made us holy through obligations, commanding us to eat matzah.

Distribute and eat the top and middle matzah for everyone to eat.

Maror
Source : JewishBoston.com

Dipping the bitter herb in sweet charoset | maror  |מָרוֹר   

  In creating a holiday about the joy of freedom, we turn the story of our bitter history into a sweet celebration. We recognize this by dipping our bitter herbs into the sweet charoset. We don’t totally eradicate the taste of the bitter with the taste of the sweet… but doesn’t the sweet mean more when it’s layered over the bitterness?

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָֽׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּֽנוּ עַל אֲכִילַת מרוֹר

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al achilat maror.

We praise God, Ruler of Everything, who made us holy through obligations, commanding us to eat bitter herbs.

Koreich
Source : JewishBoston.com

Eating a sandwich of matzah and bitter herb | koreich | כּוֹרֵךְ

When the Temple stood in Jerusalem, the biggest ritual of them all was eating the lamb offered as the pesach or Passover sacrifice. The great sage Hillel would put the meat in a sandwich made of matzah, along with some of the bitter herbs. While we do not make sacrifices any more – and, in fact, some Jews have a custom of purposely avoiding lamb during the seder so that it is not mistaken as a sacrifice – we honor this custom by eating a sandwich of the remaining matzah and bitter herbs. Some people will also include charoset in the sandwich to remind us that God’s kindness helped relieve the bitterness of slavery.

Shulchan Oreich
Source : JewishBoston.com

Eating the meal! | shulchan oreich | שֻׁלְחָן עוֹרֵךְ

Enjoy! But don’t forget when you’re done we’ve got a little more seder to go, including the final two cups of wine!

Shulchan Oreich

With all that hard work and praying LETS EAT!!!

Tzafun
Source : JewishBoston.com

Finding and eating the Afikomen | tzafoon | צָפוּן

The playfulness of finding the afikomen reminds us that we balance our solemn memories of slavery with a joyous celebration of freedom. As we eat the afikomen, our last taste of matzah for the evening, we are grateful for moments of silliness and happiness in our lives.

Bareich
Source : The Wandering is Over Haggadah, JewishBoston.com

Refill everyone’s wine glass.

We now say grace after the meal, thanking God for the food we’ve eaten. On Passover, this becomes something like an extended toast to God, culminating with drinking our third glass of wine for the evening:

We praise God, Ruler of Everything, whose goodness sustains the world. You are the origin of love and compassion, the source of bread for all. Thanks to You, we need never lack for food; You provide food enough for everyone. We praise God, source of food for everyone.

As it says in the Torah: When you have eaten and are satisfied, give praise to your God who has given you this good earth. We praise God for the earth and for its sustenance.

Renew our spiritual center in our time. We praise God, who centers us.

May the source of peace grant peace to us, to the Jewish people, and to the entire world. Amen.

The Third Glass of Wine

The blessing over the meal is immediately followed by another blessing over the wine:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָּפֶן

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, borei p’ree hagafen.

We praise God, Ruler of Everything, who creates the fruit of the vine.

Drink the third glass of wine!

Hallel
Source : JewishBoston.com

Singing songs that praise God | hallel | הַלֵּל

This is the time set aside for singing. Some of us might sing traditional prayers from the Book of Psalms. Others take this moment for favorites like Chad Gadya & Who Knows One, which you can find in the appendix. To celebrate the theme of freedom, we might sing songs from the civil rights movement. Or perhaps your crazy Uncle Frank has some parody lyrics about Passover to the tunes from a musical. We’re at least three glasses of wine into the night, so just roll with it.

Fourth Glass of Wine

As we come to the end of the seder, we drink one more glass of wine. With this final cup, we give thanks for the experience of celebrating Passover together, for the traditions that help inform our daily lives and guide our actions and aspirations.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָּפֶן

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, borei p’ree hagafen.

We praise God, Ruler of Everything, who creates the fruit of the vine.

Drink the fourth and final glass of wine! 

Hallel
Source : JewishBoston.com

The Cup of Elijah

We now refill our wine glasses one last time and open the front door to invite the prophet Elijah to join our seder.

In the Bible, Elijah was a fierce defender of God to a disbelieving people. At the end of his life, rather than dying, he was whisked away to heaven. Tradition holds that he will return in advance of messianic days to herald a new era of peace, so we set a place for Elijah at many joyous, hopeful Jewish occasions, such as a baby’s bris and the Passover seder.

אֵלִיָּֽהוּ הַנָּבִיא, אֵלִיָּֽהוּ הַתִּשְׁבִּיאֵלִיָּֽהוּ, אֵלִיָּֽהוּ,אֵלִיָּֽהוּ הַגִּלְעָדִי

בִּמְהֵרָה בְיָמֵֽנוּ יָבוֹא אֵלֵֽינוּ

עִם מָשִֽׁיחַ בֶּן דָּוִד

עִם מָשִֽׁיחַ בֶּן דָּוִד

Eliyahu hanavi
Eliyahu hatishbi
Eliyahu, Eliyahu, Eliyahu hagiladi
Bimheirah b’yameinu, yavo eileinu
Im mashiach ben-David,
Im mashiach ben-David

Elijah the prophet, the returning, the man of Gilad:
return to us speedily,
in our days with the messiah,
son of David.

Nirtzah
Source : The Wandering is Over Haggadah, JewishBoston.com

Nirtzah  marks the conclusion of the seder. Our bellies are full, we have had several glasses of wine, we have told stories and sung songs, and now it is time for the evening to come to a close. At the end of the seder, we honor the tradition of declaring, “Next year in Jerusalem!”

For some people, the recitation of this phrase expresses the anticipation of rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem and the return of the Messiah. For others, it is an affirmation of hope and of connectedness with  Klal Yisrael, the whole of the Jewish community. Still others yearn for peace in Israel and for all those living in the Diaspora.

Though it comes at the end of the seder, this moment also marks a beginning. We are beginning the next season with a renewed awareness of the freedoms we enjoy and the obstacles we must still confront. We are looking forward to the time that we gather together again. Having retold stories of the Jewish people, recalled historic movements of liberation, and reflected on the struggles people still face for freedom and equality, we are ready to embark on a year that we hope will bring positive change in the world and freedom to people everywhere.

In  The Leader's Guide to the Family Participation Haggadah: A Different Night, Rabbi David Hartman writes: “Passover is the night for reckless dreams; for visions about what a human being can be, what society can be, what people can be, what history may become.”

What can  we  do to fulfill our reckless dreams? What will be our legacy for future generations?

Our seder is over, according to Jewish tradition and law. As we had the pleasure to gather for a seder this year, we hope to once again have the opportunity in the years to come. We pray that God brings health and healing to Israel and all the people of the world, especially those impacted by natural tragedy and war. As we say…

לְשָׁנָה הַבָּאָה בִּירוּשָׁלָֽיִם

L’shana haba-ah biy’rushalayim

NEXT YEAR IN JERUSALEM!

Conclusion

After the seder everybody tells stories and sings songs and hangs out. Then all the kids stay at our grandparents house for a sleepover and we stay up very late and having fun

Commentary / Readings

To me, freedom means the ability for people to express themselves however they want without being judged or punished for it. They should be able to say whatever they want and be whoever they want to be. 

Commentary / Readings
Source : Avodah
Passover is a time for us to reflect on our own freedom and an opportunity to connect our lives with the struggles of others. At AVODAH, we support emerging Jewish leaders as they work to address some of the most pressing issues in the fight against poverty. We study the complex (and often overlapping) systemic issues that impact people in our country, and explore how Jewish tradition calls on us to respond. This year, we’ve collected stories and insights from members of the AVODAH network to explore ten modern plagues of domestic poverty. Use this resource as a way to bring discussion to your own Seder table about the reasons so many people in America live in poverty today.

The learning we do at AVODAH asks us to question previously-held assumptions, and to challenge ourselves to explore perspectives with which we may not agree. Going into those uncomfortable spaces is often the core of meaningful learning. I encourage you to embrace those difficult moments, should they arise as you study this supplement. The seder is a time for wrestling with deep questions; let our questions be a part of your process.

With blessings for a Passover of learning, joy, and a renewed effort to build a more just world,

Cheryl Cook Executive Director, AVODAH  

Hunger By Jenny Waxberg and Erin Butler

Background: One of the most common assumptions is that if someone is hungry, that person does not have a job and is living on the streets. What most people don’t realize is that circumstances can change and anyone can experience hunger at some point. It could be the family with two incomes that unexpectedly must get by on one income. It could be the household with mounting medical bills that make it difficult to make ends meet at the end of the month. It could be the senior on a fixed income after a lifetime of hard work. Hunger is a silent but growing epidemic.

People live in food insecure homes if they do not always know where to find the next meal. Many citizens turning to soup kitchens and food pantries are employed but their wages cannot keep up with the cost of living.

Discuss: What does hunger look like to you?

A Kavanah/Intention: May we all answer the Passover call, ‘May all who are hungry come eat’ by educating ourselves about hunger in America and supporting work to alleviate hunger.

Jenny Waxberg and Erin Butler were AVODAH Fellows in 2014 and work at City Harvest in New York.

Lack of Affordable Housing

by Yonah Liberman

Background: The plague of unaffordable housing and rampant homelessness is nothing new. The problems facing the tenants I work with — leaky ceilings, no heat or hot water, patch repairs — are problems that people have faced for centuries. What’s new is the way intentional neglect has reared its ugly head. As a tenant organizer working with people living in multifamily buildings that are in foreclosure, I’ve seen firsthand how landlords get away with it. Private equity firms come together and take out enormous mortgages from banks to buy up millions of dollars worth of property. The “business model” revolves around harassing tenants into leaving their homes so landlords can raise the rents and cut maintenance costs. When people refuse to leave their homes, landlords can’t raise the rents, and they can’t pay back the bank. The bank sells the buildings to the highest bidder, unless tenants get organized and put pressure on it to sell their buildings at a lower price to a responsible investor. That’s the goal I and the tenants I work with strive for everyday.

Discuss: What does the concept of “housing as a human right” mean to you?

A Kavanah/Intention: I intend to fight for the right for all people to housing by holding my elected officials to their promises to build and preserve affordable housing. And if I am living in an urban community, I intend to deepen my understanding of my neighborhood and how I can keep it affordable for my neighbors.

Yonah Lieberman was an AVODAH corps member in 2013-2014 and worked as a tenant organizer at Urban Homesteading Assistance Board in New York.

Healthcare

by Emily Unger

Background: Last week at work, one of my clients called me. He sounded exhausted and unwell. He had suddenly become very sick, he told me. He thought that he needed to go to the hospital. But he was afraid because he couldn’t afford to pay a huge bill. I counseled him that the most he would have to pay for a short hospitalization was the cost of his insurance deductible, but even this amount — over $1,000 — was more than his entire monthly income. He had been putting off medical treatment for days out of fear for the cost.

I eventually persuaded my client to see a doctor, but every day, countless others are faced with a similar choice. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, most Americans who once had no health insurance will now be covered. However, many states still refuse to expand their Medicaid programs, leaving millions of the poorest Americans completely uninsured. Moreover, many barriers — unaffordably high co-pays and deductibles, lack of cultural competency among healthcare providers, inaccessibility of health care facilities to people with disabilities — remain, preventing even those with basic health insurance from receiving needed medical care.

Discuss: Share a time when you had to rely on your medical insurance and consider what would have happened had you not been covered.

A Kavanah/Intention: May our healthcare system provide the best possible healing to all those in need, and enable our providers to be the best possible healers.

Emily Unger was an AVODAH corps member in 2013-2014 and worked as an AmeriCorps Paralegal at the New York Legal Assistance Group

The Threat to Voting Rights byAmelia van Iwaarden

Background: Bend the Arc launched our Voting Rights Campaign to mobilize the Jewish community to support the passage of the Voting Rights Amendment Act (VRAA). This bipartisan bill includes modern protections against discrimination in voting in every part of the country. Last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Shelby County v. Holder scrapped the enforcement mechanisms in the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act, which provided protections against discriminatory voting laws at the state and local levels. Since the Supreme Court’s ruling, we have already seen a flurry of state and local efforts that will make it difficult for communities of color, women, first-time voters, the elderly, and those living in poverty to cast their vote. In my work, I am helping to develop leaders — both organizers in diverse religious communities, and Jewish leaders in social justice organizations — who are addressing systemic issues of racial and economic injustice of which voter suppression is a symptom.

Discuss: There are some who say that there is no need for Jews to be involved in this work, because most American Jews do not belong to the groups experiencing discrimination. Why is it important for Jews to be in this fight as Jews? What role do you think we can play as Jews in protecting voting rights for all Americans?

A Kavanah/Intention: Exodus 22:20 tells us “ You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” This Passover, as we celebrate our freedom, let us recommit to ending oppression wherever we see it.

Amelia van Iwaarden was an AVODAH Fellow in 2014, working at Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice

Debt by ErikaVan Gundy

Background: Debt is a primary force that traps individuals in a cycle of deepening poverty. A number of factors contribute to the strong effect that debt has on poverty, including required payments on interest accrued, late fees, predatory products targeted to the short-on-cash, and the inherent insecurity of one’s financial future. In the finance world, there is a distinction between “good debt” and “bad debt,” one which grows in value and the other which becomes costlier over time, respectively. However, debt (student loan, credit card, medical, or other) is almost universally a stressor for those in its grips and an extra factor in decisions such as where to live, what to eat that day, and how many jobs are needed to pay for the above and more. As a financial counselor for low-income New Yorkers, I see debt in terms of people and control. For my clients, debt is a dozen calls per day from creditors seeking repayment, piles of mail that sit unopened out of fear, and a constant tax on mental, financial, and emotional bandwidth.

Discuss: In taking on debt, there is an expectation and hope that your“future self”will be better off than your current self. Reflect on this for a moment. What does this hope mean, and how does it change the way we think about debt and debtors? How can this hope be channeled otherwise as it relates to financial or other aspects of someone’s life?

A Kavanah/Intention: I intend to speak with people from different parts of my life to better understand their experiences with debt, the situations that led them into debt, and how their subsequent decisions were impacted.

Erika Van Gundy was an AVODAH Fellow in 2014 and works for the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs Office of Financial Empowerment

Education byLaura Taishoff

Background: A significant proportion of positive life outcomes depend on the foundation of a quality education. But what does it really mean? We need students to pursue challenging coursework and succeed academically, but education is also about empowerment and building character. It is no secret that the students with the greatest needs are often in the schools with the fewest resources available to meet them. In New Orleans, a city where an overwhelming majority of schools are either private or charter, access to quality education for the city’s most at-risk population is a cocktail of school closings, staff changes, and school-based arrests. I am a high school special education teacher working with students who are past the typical age range for their schooling. They are overage for a variety of factors, but one of the most prevalent is that other schools pushed them out. Despite the fact that they have consistently been denied access to a quality education, these are the students who are pursuing a diploma when it would undoubtedly be easier not to. We should simultaneously be inspired by them and ashamed that so many of them exist.

Discuss: In your best memories of school, how did you feel? Creative? Boundless? Praised? How would it have felt to be told you were not smart or made to feel as if your school did not want you there?

A Kavanah/Intention: I commit to doing my part to create a world in which every student, no matter what neighborhood the student is from, attends a school where students are challenged academically and empowered to be the future leaders of our world.

Laura Taishoff is a special education teacher at ReNew Accelerated High School in New Orleans. Laura is an alumna of the AVODAH 2009-2010 New Orleans cohort.

The Decline of Labor Rights by Lee M. Leviter

Background: For the past several decades, median earnings have been stagnant while hours worked have steadily increased. Why have we been working harder for less and less? Because decreasing union density has led to the disempowerment of workers in all sectors of the economy. Although workers are best able to improve their working conditions when they can make collective demands of their employer, many seek to vilify and weaken collective employee action. Companies like Walmart continue to fight unionization while paying so little that many of their full-time employees qualify for food stamps. Standing together in a union, these workers could negotiate for higher wages. In New York, we have heard calls for a higher minimum wage from workers in the fast-food industry, where pay can be as little as $8 an hour. It’s nearly impossible to survive in New York City at such a wage. As an attorney, I help represent public sector teachers, nurses, and other civil servants in New York City, where the same political and economic pressures threaten public sector employment as a pathway to the middle class

Discuss: If you are an employee, what aspects of your job would you change if you could join with your co-workers and ask? If you are an employer, how would you respond if an employee – or a group of employees – asked to change a particular aspect of the job?

A Kavanah/Intention: As we celebrate freedom this Passover, let us remember that we empower ourselves to fight oppression by acting together.

Lee Leviter was an AVODAH Fellow in 2014 and works as an attorney representing several major public-sector unions.

Immigration byMerri Nicholson

Background: During my AVODAH year at CASA de Maryland, young people (commonly referred to as DREAMers) led the way in utilizing grassroots organizing to successfully pass the Maryland DREAM Act, which expanded access to higher education to students without documentation. These DREAMers also pushed for comprehensive immigration reform that would provide a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented people currently living in the United States. Many of these people are the cornerstone of economies from which we all benefit, such as construction and agriculture. They proudly pay taxes and immigrated for the same reasons our families did, to seek a better life or escape violence. Unlike when our families came to the United States, current restrictions make it impossible for most to obtain legal status. Fixing our immigration system will strengthen our communities by keeping families together and lift many out of poverty with expanded access to opportunities such as higher education and quality jobs.

Discuss: What caused your family to come to America? If it wasn’t recent, would they still have been able to immigrate in today’s political climate?

A Kavanah/Intention: May we see a Jewish community that fully embraces our immigrant roots by working for justice in solidarity with those coming to America seeking a better tomorrow.

Merri Nicholson is a research assistant at Academy Health in Washington, DC. Merri is an alum of the AVODAH 2012-2013 Washington, DC cohort.

Systemic Oppression byEmily Saltzman

Background: Oppression is largely defined as the use of authority or power in a cruel or unjust manner. Institutional oppression refers to the power of large systems or institutions that determine the cultural or professional standards for our society. Often these systems were developed from a framework, intentionally or not, that propels certain communities towards success, while keeping others from it. There is also an inextricable link between systematic oppression and poverty. For example, transgender communities of color are more likely to experience poverty due to transphobia in a labor force layered with racism in the educational system. This does not mean that individual members of this community cannot break the cycle of poverty, but it does mean that due to systematic oppression, they will have to struggle harder to reach success.

As Jews, we often think about oppression as it relates to our community’s historical struggle for religious freedom. This experience with historical oppression gives us a jumping-off point to address issues of systematic oppression with which we may not all have first-hand experience, including racism, classism, homophobia, sexism, ableism, and transphobia. Our ability to tap into our personal experiences with antisemitism in addition to our community’s struggle allows us to build solidarity with these communities and adds to our call for tikkun olam —to repair the world—because it is a world we share.

Discuss: As Jews, how can we use our experience of oppression to build solidarity with and support communities who are currently experiencing oppression? How might we inadvertently contribute to certain oppressive systems?

A Kavanah/Intention: I intend to challenge myself and my family to think more concretely about the ways systematic oppression affects our lives and what we can do individually to question the systems that we work and live in.

Emily Saltzman is a social worker focusing on comprehensive sexuality education in addition to being a Steering Committee Member of the Undoing Racism Internship Project. Emily is an alumna of the AVODAH 2008-2009 New York City cohort.

Intersecting Oppressions by Rabbi Stephanie Ruskay

Background: Hunger, healthcare, education, threats to voting rights, systemic oppression, lack of affordable housing, immigration, debt, labor restrictions. For many, these plagues intersect and overlap for people in poverty, increasing the obstacles that they must face. High health care bills can trigger hunger, inability to pay for adequate housing and long-term debt. An insufficient immigration policy can limit educational opportunities. Threats to voting rights limit the ability of individuals and communities to advocate for policies that could alleviate the challenges they face. Each individual plague has the capacity to devastate, and the combination can paralyze.

There are a variety of perspectives on how to address these plagues. We divide ourselves by political affiliation, sure that our policy and perspective is the best way forward. And yet, year after year, there are poor people to invite into our seders. Year after year, we create a set of contemporary plagues to read at our seders, because the society we’ve constructed is imperfect. We continue to dream of a redeemed and just world, and wonder how to get there.

This Passover, as always, we retell the story of our exodus from slavery to freedom. We remember the Egyptians by spilling a drop of wine for each plague that afflicted them, sacrificing some of the sweetness of the wine to honor the humanity of our enemy. This action reminds us that we were all made in God’s image. It compels us to connect even with those whom we consider our foes.

We live in a polarized society and often find ourselves believing the worst about one another. We have different ideas about how a just society looks and how it requires us each to behave. Our sages teach us that we cannot live without a chevruta, someone who challenges our “facts” and demands that we reconsider our opinions. Though we may disagree about how to get there, we must remember that our ultimate goal is to alleviate the intersecting oppressions that foster a system in which many don’t have the resources to meet their needs or a path through which they can attain them.

Discuss: Can you share a time in which someone (maybe even someone at your seder) inspired you to reconsider and expand your ideas about how to alleviate poverty? What contributed to your ability to think differently (and hopefully even act)?

Having considered this contemporary list of intersecting plagues and oppressions, how might the Jewish community contribute to creating a more just world for all people?

A Kavanah/Intention: May we always assume goodwill as we work to pursue justice and may our assumption of goodwill inspire it in others, so that together we bring about more civil discourse among pursuers of justice.

Rabbi Stephanie Ruskay is AVODAH’s Director of Alumni and Community Engagement

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Commentary / Readings
Source : Rabbi Gilah Langner, T'ruah

by Rabbi Gilah Langner

The Exodus story is fundamental to Judaism. The liberation from Egypt defines us as a people. As a touchstone for Jewish identity, it was our essential passage as we prepared for revelation. We do not reenact the Exodus story only once a year during Pesach. Our liturgy has us sing the great Song of the Sea every morning, to signal our daily redemption from slavery. Redeeming those who remain captive and preventing future enslavement must be our moral imperative every day.

Hoshech : The Plague of Not Seeing. The ninth plague – hoshech, or darkness, that covered the Egyptians’ habitations must have been terrifying indeed. The Egyptians couldn’t see; our tradition describes this darkness as so thick that you could touch it, feel it. And yet, long before the plague itself descended, the Egyptians had trouble seeing what was going on around them. They refused to see the humanity of the slaves who were building the legacy of Egypt with backbreaking unpaid labor; they ignored the institution of slavery that made possible the amassing of wealth in their society. A willful blindness had spread through the land even before the plague of darkness was unleashed.

We too, in our own days, often choose darkness when we do not want to see. We ignore the exploitation of domestic workers in our midst. We don’t look past the cheap consumer goods we eagerly scoop up to pause and ask about how they are made, and by whom. We close our eyes to the fact that 27 million people live in conditions of slavery in our world today.

As we recount the plagues at our Seder tables this year, let us open our own eyes to the slavery that we too often fail to see.

Environmental Destruction and Slavery. For centuries, commentators on the Bible have tried to explain the plagues recounted in the Book of Exodus. Some modern scholars have theorized that a volcano on the Greek island of Santorini in the 16th century B.C.E. might have precipitated a chain reaction, complete with lightning and hailstorms, and an ash cloud that could have blotted out the light of the sun. Even if geology and archaeology were to yield “explanations” for the plagues, their meaning for us transcends such explanations. Perhaps with the recounting of the plagues, the Torah is pointing out a profound connection between slavery and environmental turmoil. The dramatic upheaval in the natural world that the plagues represented – an apparent reversal of the laws of nature – was needed to “wake the Egyptians up” to the abomination of slavery.

Present-day slavery also promotes the violation of the natural world. Greed and the drive for power fuel both the human slave trade and a profound disregard for the quality of our environment. As stewards of the earth, we must fight against slavery as well as the environmental destruction that is a by-product of throwaway human labor.

Moses. If you search the traditional Haggadah, you won’t find the name of the man who led the Israelites out of Egypt. Moses is strangely absent, written out of the annual ritual of reenactment. The Torah tells us that Moses was the most humble of men, but surely this is taking humility too far! The message in Moses’s silence, though, is clear: we cannot wait for a Moses before tackling the problem of modern slavery. We are not free to defer action until a prominent leader, celebrity or powerful politician leads the way. The fight against modern slavery and trafficking is in our hands.

B’farech. The Torah uses a curious word to refer to the enslavement of the Israelites: Va-ya’avidu Mitzrayim et Bnei Yisrael b’farech. The Egyptians enslaved the Israelites with hard labor. An alternative reading of the term b’farech is b’feh rakh – “with soft words.” That is, the Egyptians deceived the Israelites about their intentions, using false promises and deceptions. By the time the truth was revealed, it was too late; we were already enslaved.

How often we see this today when modern slave owners speak with “soft words”. They might promise parents they will look after their children, but reduce those children to hideous servitude and prostitution. Slave owners in dozens of countries lure people into service by offering a loan to “help them out” in an emergency. The needy are then paid a pittance and charged high interest rates on the “loan”. These victims can never repay the loan, and may enslave their children as well as themselves on account of those “soft words”. B’farech.

Hardening of Pharaoh’s Heart. For years I have been troubled by God’s “hardening of the heart” of Pharaoh. Why did God continue to harden Pharaoh’s heart, especially if God knew the eventual outcome of Israel’s pleas for freedom? Did Pharaoh have any hope of changing his mind and embarking on a path of repentance? It seemed to me as though God was, as it were, bullying Pharaoh, or at least propping him up each time in order to land another punch.

But perhaps we are meant to understand by this phrase something about the true nature of slave ownership. Perhaps it requires a permanently hardened heart to perpetuate the monstrous institution of slavery. Look at slave owners around the world today for examples of the hardening of the human heart.

Core of Slavery. Our rabbis tell us that Israel underwent three critical experiences related to slavery: first, we were strangers in strange land ( gerut) ; second, we were enslaved and forced to work ( avdut ); and third, we were afflicted ( inui ), which means subjected to harsh conditions and a loss of human dignity.

Although millennia have passed, these experiences are still at the core of modern slavery. Across the continents of Asia, Africa, and elsewhere, people are transported from their homes by the threat or use of violence, deception, or coercion, and turned into gerim, strangers in foreign lands. The loss of one’s home and freedom of movement allows for enslavement ( avdut)  at the hands of ruthless slave owners, and results in a lifetime of poverty, hard labor, and forced servitude. Finally, the humiliation and loss of personal dignity that is inui is a daily experience for millions, particularly women and young girls.

Today it is we who must become the redeemers. Our freedom comes with the responsibility for liberating others who remain enslaved now, at Passover, and throughout the year, until every human being can enjoy the dignity of freedom.

Commentary / Readings
Source : Bangitout.com Seder Sidekick

 10. Waiter assures you the rolls on the table are "hand-made shmurah"

9.  You ask for Marror, they bring an old Tabasco bottle

8.  They confuse the Hillel Sandwich with a Reuben on rye

7.  After The 2nd cup, waiter asks if you'd like to enjoy another beer with your dinner

6.  Hagadah starts with kolnidre

5.  Maitre-D keeps greeting everyone with "Who's ready for Latkas!??"

4.  Menu describes Karpas as a fresh fish-cake set in a light citrus tartar sauce

3.  Hotel owner interrupts seder with "Who wants to meet the Wise-ass Son?"

2.  Afikomen is found behind the hotel bar, next to the pretzels
1.  The 5th and most frequent question asked during your Seder: "Do you want to charge this to your room?"

Songs
Source : JewishBoston.com
Who knows one?

At some seders, people go around the table reading a question and the answers in one breath. Thirteen is hard!

Who knows one?

I know one.

One is our God in Heaven and Earth

Who knows two?

I know two.

Two are the tablets of the covenant

One is our God in Heaven and Earth

Who knows two?

I know two.

Three are the patriarchs

Two are the tablets of the covenant

One is our God in Heaven and Earth

Who knows four?

I know four.

Four are the matriarchs

Three are the patriarchs

Two are the tablets of the covenant

One is our God in Heaven and Earth

Who knows five?

I know five.

Five are the books of the Torah

Four are the matriarchs

Three are the patriarchs

Two are the tablets of the covenant

One is our God in Heaven and Earth

Who knows six?

I know six.

Six are the orders of the Mishnah

Five are the books of the Torah

Four are the matriarchs

Three are the patriarchs

Two are the tablets of the covenant

One is our God in Heaven and Earth

Who knows seven?

I know seven.

Seven are the days of the week

Six are the orders of the Mishnah

Five are the books of the Torah

Four are the matriarchs

Three are the patriarchs

Two are the tablets of the covenant

One is our God in Heaven and Earth

Who knows eight?

I know eight.

Eight are the days for circumcision

Seven are the days of the week

Six are the orders of the Mishnah

Five are the books of the Torah

Four are the matriarchs

Three are the patriarchs

Two are the tablets of the covenant

One is our God in Heaven and Earth

Who knows nine?

I know nine.

Eight are the days for circumcision

Seven are the days of the week

Six are the orders of the Mishnah

Five are the books of the Torah

Four are the matriarchs

Three are the patriarchs

Two are the tablets of the covenant

One is our God in Heaven and Earth

Who knows ten?

I know ten.

Ten are the Words from Sinai

Nine are the months of childbirth

Eight are the days for circumcision

Seven are the days of the week

Six are the orders of the Mishnah

Five are the books of the Torah

Four are the matriarchs

Three are the patriarchs

Two are the tablets of the covenant

One is our God in Heaven and Earth

Who knows eleven?

I know eleven.

Eleven are the stars

Ten are the Words from Sinai

Nine are the months of childbirth

Eight are the days for circumcision

Seven are the days of the week

Six are the orders of the Mishnah

Five are the books of the Torah

Four are the matriarchs

Three are the patriarchs

Two are the tablets of the covenant

One is our God in Heaven and Earth

Who knows twelve?

I know twelve.

Twelve are the tribes

Eleven are the stars

Ten are the Words from Sinai

Nine are the months of childbirth

Eight are the days for circumcision

Seven are the days of the week

Six are the orders of the Mishnah

Five are the books of the Torah

Four are the matriarchs

Three are the patriarchs

Two are the tablets of the covenant

One is our God in Heaven and Earth

Who knows thirteen?

I know thirteen

Thirteen are the attributes of God

Twelve are the tribes

Eleven are the stars

Ten are the Words from Sinai

Nine are the months of childbirth

Eight are the days for circumcision

Seven are the days of the week

Six are the orders of the Mishnah

Five are the books of the Torah

Four are the matriarchs

Three are the patriarchs

Two are the tablets of the covenant

One is our God in Heaven and Earth

Songs
Source : JewishBoston.com

Chad Gadya

חַד גַּדְיָא, חַד גַּדְיָא

דְזַבִּין אַבָּא בִּתְרֵי זוּזֵי

חַד גַּדְיָא, חַד גַּדְיָא

Chad gadya, chad gadya

Dizabin abah bitrei zuzei

Chad gadya, chad gadya.

One little goat, one little goat:

Which my father brought for two zuzim.

One little goat, one little goat:

The cat came and ate the goat,

Which my father bought for two zuzim.

One little goat, one little goat:

The dog came and bit the cat

That ate the goat,

Which my father bought for two zuzim.

One little goat, one little goat:

The stick came and beat the dog

That bit the cat that ate the goat,

Which my father bought for two zuzim.

One little goat, one little goat:

The fire came and burned the stick

That beat the dog that bit the cat

That ate the goat,

Which my father bought for two zuzim.

One little goat, one little goat:

The water came and extinguished the

Fire that burned the stick

That beat the dog that bit the cat

That ate the goat,

Which my father bought for two zuzim.

One little goat, one little goat:

The ox came and drank the water

That extinguished the fire

That burned the stick that beat the dog That bit the cat that ate the goat,

Which my father bought for two zuzim.

One little goat, one little goat:

The butcher came and killed the ox,

That drank the water

That extinguished the fire

That burned the stick that beat the dog That bit the cat that ate the goat,

Which my father bought for two zuzim.

One little goat, one little goat:

The angle of death came and slew

The butcher who killed the ox,

That drank the water

That extinguished the fire

That burned the stick that beat the dog That bit the cat that ate the goat,

Which my father bought for two zuzim.

One little goat, one little goat:

The Holy One, Blessed Be He came and

Smote the angle of death who slew

The butcher who killed the ox,

That drank the water

That extinguished the fire

That burned the stick that beat the dog That bit the cat that ate the goat,

Which my father bought for two zuzim.

Songs
Source : Louis Armstrong (trad.)

When Israel was in Egypt’s land,
Let My people go!
Oppressed so hard they could not stand,
Let My people go!

Refrain:
Go down, Moses,
Way down in Egypt’s land;
Tell old Pharaoh
To let My people go!

No more shall they in bondage toil,
Let My people go!
Let them come out with Egypt’s spoil,
Let My people go!

You need not always weep and mourn,
Let My people go!
And wear these slav’ry chains forlorn,
Let My people go!

Your foes shall not before you stand,
Let My people go!
And you’ll possess fair Canaan’s land,
Let My people go!