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Introduction
Source : Alexandra Benjamin

The word Haggadah means the Telling. On many other festivals we are commanded to listen. We must hear the Megillah on Purim, we must hear the Shofar on Rosh Hashana. But on Pesach we are commanded to speak. We must speak of our past, we must tell our own stories, we must seek out our voice. This Seder Nashim is about giving voice to our experiences. Tonight we embrace our rich heritage as Jewish Women, create new rituals and establish safe and supportive space for one another.

Introduce yourself by sharing your name according to your maternal line.

Kadesh
Source : A Night to Remember: The Haggadah of Contemporary Voices by Mishael Zion and Noam Zion http://haggadahsrus.com/NTR.html
The Four Cups of the Seder are structurally connected to the four verbal performances this evening:

(1) Kiddush, sanctifying the holiday (2) Maggid, the storytelling (3) Birkat HaMazon, completing the Pesach meal; and (4) Hallel, completing the festival Psalms.

The Talmud connects the Four Cups to God's Four Promises to Israel: "Tell the children of Israel: I am Adonai! I will take them out... I will rescue them… I will redeem them… and I will marry them taking them as my people and I will be their God" (Exodus 6:6-7, Jerusalem Talmud Pesachim 10:1).

However, two 16th C. mystic rabbis identify the Four Cups with the Four Matriarchs of Israel. The Maharal of Prague (famous for the legend of Golem) and Rav Isaiah Horowitz of Tsfat explain:

(1) The Cup of Kiddush stands for Sarah who was the mother of a community of converts, believers by choice.

(2) The Cup of Maggid is for Rebecca who knew how to mother both Esav and Jacob, two opposed natures.

(3) The Cup of the Blessing after Eating represents Rachel whose son Joseph provided the whole family of Jacob with bread in a time of great famine.

(4) The Cup of Hallel (Praise) is for Leah who came to realize that the pursuit of the impossible, Jacob's love, must give way to appreciation of what one has. When her fourth child was born, Judah, she praised God: " This time I will thank God " (Genesis 29:35).

Kadesh

We dedicate the four cups of wine to important or inspirational women in our lives - individually or as a community - who have worked towards redemption and freedom in their own ways. Please take a minute to think about who you would like to dedicate each of the four cups to.

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Kadesh
Source : Alexandra Benjamin

Traditionally each of the cups of wine are linked to one of the statements of redemption spoken by God in the Torah “I will bring you out”. “I will deliver you”. “I will redeem you”. "I will gather you to me.” (Exodus 6:6-7).

This cup of wine therefore corresponds to the first statement “I will bring you out of slavery” For women the first step to freedom was equality in the law.  The struggle for this freedom began in the desert, when the daughters of Zelephachad demanded their right on inheritance.  It continues today, as there are still countries in the world where women do not have the right to vote. This cup of wine is dedicated to all of those women, the daughters of Zelephachad, the Suffragettes and modern campaigners, who have fought for women’s equality in the law.

-- Four Questions
Source : Jane Jacobs

At all other סדרים, our minds can be full of stressful anticipation for the night different from all other nights, whether we are surrounded by our nearest and dearest, our friends, or complete strangers. Tonight, may we enjoy a calming and empowering evening surrounded by our "sisters".

At all other סדרים, we can be concerned about food- whether we have eaten too much or too little, whether people find what we've prepared tasty, how we're going to survive the sheer quantities of matzot and our overall appearance. Tonight, may we all be free of food and body consciousness, anxieties and insecurities.

At all other סדרים, we read of the heroic struggles and soul-searching of our forebears as they left Egypt. Tonight, we will consider our personal acts of heroism as we struggle to break free from the shackles which imprison our respective souls, and celebrate the many Heroines in our daily lives.

 

-- Four Children
Source : JWA / Jewish Boston - The Wandering Is Over Haggadah; Including Women's Voices

Around our tables sit four daughters.

Wise Daughter

The Wise daughter understands that not everything is as it appears.

She is the one who speaks up, confident that her opinion counts. She is the one who can take the tradition and ritual that is placed before her, turn it over and over, and find personal meaning in it. She is the one who can find the secrets in the empty spaces between the letters of the Torah.

She is the one who claims a place for herself even if the men do not make room for her.

Some call her wise and accepting. We call her creative and assertive. We welcome creativity and assertiveness to sit with us at our tables and inspire us to act.

Wicked Daughter

The Wicked daughter is the one who dares to challenge the simplistic answers she has been given.

She is the one who asks too many questions. She is the one not content to remain in her prescribed place. She is the one who breaks the mold. She is the one who challenges the status quo.

Some call her wicked and rebellious. We call her daring and courageous. We welcome rebellion to sit with us at our tables and make us uneasy.

Simple Daughter

The Simple daughter is the one who accepts what she is given without asking for more.

She is the one who trusts easily and believes what she is told. She is the one who prefers waiting and watching over seeking and acting. She is the one who believes that the redemption from Egypt was the final act of freedom. She is the one who follows in the footsteps of others.

Some call her simple and naive. We call her the one whose eyes are yet to be opened. We welcome the contented one to sit with us at our tables and appreciate what will is still to come.

Daughter Who Does Not Know How to Ask

Last is the daughter who does not know how to ask.

She is one who obeys and does not question. She is the one who has accepted men's definitions of the world. She is the one who has not found her own voice. She is the one who is content to be invisible.

Some call her subservient and oppressed. We call her our sister. We welcome the silent one to sit with us at our tables and experience a community that welcomes the voices of women.

(Used with permission of the Temple Emunah Women's Seder Haggadah Design Committee)

-- Exodus Story

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 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. 

-- Ten Plagues
Source : JWA / Jewish Boston - The Wandering Is Over Haggadah; Including Women's Voices

The traditional Haggadah lists ten plagues that afflicted the Egyptians. We live in a very different world, but Passover is a good time to remember that, even after our liberation from slavery in Egypt, there are still many challenges for us to meet. Here are ten “modern plagues”:

Inequity - Access to affordable housing, quality healthcare, nutritious food, good schools, and higher education is far from equal. The disparity between rich and poor is growing, and opportunities for upward mobility are limited.

Entitlement - Too many people consider themselves entitled to material comfort, economic security, and other privileges of middle-class life without hard work.

Fear - Fear of “the other” produces and reinforces xenophobia, anti-immigrant sentiment, antisemitism, homophobia, and transphobia.

Greed - Profits are a higher priority than the safety of workers or the health of the environment. The top one percent of the American population controls 42% of the country’s financial wealth, while corporations send jobs off-shore and American workers’ right to organize and bargain collectively is threatened.

Distraction - In this age of constant connectedness, we are easily distracted by an unending barrage of information, much of it meaningless, with no way to discern what is important.

Distortion of reality - The media constructs and society accepts unrealistic expectations, leading to eating disorders and an unhealthy obsession with appearance for both men and women.

Unawareness - It is easy to be unaware of the consequences our consumer choices have for the environment and for workers at home and abroad. Do we know where or how our clothes are made? Where or how our food is produced? The working conditions? The impact on the environment?

Discrimination - While we celebrate our liberation from bondage in Egypt, too many people still suffer from discrimination. For example, blacks in the United States are imprisoned at more than five times the rate of whites, and Hispanics are locked up at nearly double the white rate. Women earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man. At 61 cents to the dollar, the disparity is even more shocking in Jewish communal organization.

Silence - Every year, 4.8 million cases of domestic violence against American women are reported. We do not talk about things that are disturbing, such as rape, sex trafficking, child abuse, domestic violence, and elder abuse, even though they happen every day in our own communities.

Feeling overwhelmed and disempowered - When faced with these modern “plagues,” how often do we doubt or question our own ability to make a difference? How often do we feel paralyzed because we do not know what to do to bring about change?

-- Cup #2 & Dayenu
Source : Alexandra Benjamin

The second statement of redemption is “I will deliver you.” Equality in law means little if it is not matched in fact. We all have the right to equal pay but the wage gap between men and women is still more than 20%. We all have the right to vote but only 20% of Knesset members are women. The second cup of wine is dedicated to those women who battle in the courts, in the family and in society for equality in fact.

Drink the second cup of wine

Bareich

Leader: רַבּוֹתַי נְבָרֵךְ. Rabotai n’vareich.

All together:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, הַזָּן אֶת הָעוֹלָם כֻּלּוֹ בְּטוּבוֹ בְּחֵן בְּחֶסֶד וּבְרַחֲמִים הוּא נוֹתֵן לֶחֶם לְכָל בָּשָׂר, כִּי לְעוֹלָם חַסְדּוֹ. וּבְטוּבוֹ הַגָּדוֹל תָּמִיד לֹא חָסַר לָנוּ וְאַל יֶחְסַר לָנוּ מָזוֹן לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד. בַּעֲבוּר שְׁמוֹ הַגָּדוֹל כִּי הוּא אֵל זָן וּמְפַרְנֵס לַכֹּל וּמֵטִיב לַכֹּל וּמֵכִין מָזוֹן לְכָל בְּרִיּוֹתָיו אֲשֶׁר בָּרָא. בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, הַזָּן אֶת הַכֹּל

Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha-olam, hazan et ha-olam kulo b’tuvo, b’chein b’chesed uv-rachamim, hu noten lechem l’chol basar, ki l’olam chasdo, uv-tuvo hagadol, tamid lo chasar lanu v’al yechsar lanu mazon l’olam va’ed. Ba-avur sh’mo hagadol, ki hu Eil zan um’farneis lakol, u-meitiv lakol u-meichin mazon l’chol-b’riyotav asher bara. Baruch atah Adonai, hazan et hakol.

Praised are you, Adonai, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who nourishes the whole world. Your kindness endures forever. May we never be in want of sustenance. God sustains us all, doing good to all, and providing food for all creation. Praised are you, Adonai, who sustains all.

Share: What is something you are grateful for this evening?

Bareich
Source : Alexandra Benjamin
“I will redeem you”. Modern Feminists focus not just on rights but on experience. We create female experiences to fill the gap from the past. We redeem our heritage. Jewish feminists no longer reject the bible out of hand as patriarchal. Instead we write our own commentaries and midrashim to insert the voices of women. We create our own rituals, such as Simchat Bat and sederim such as these. Not to replicate men’s rituals but to create our own. The third cup of wine is dedicate to the creative and innovative women who are creating new Jewish expressions for all of us; who choose not to reject, but to redeem.
Hallel
Source : miriamscup.com; "Miriam’s Cup blessing" 1996 Kol Ishah, Wayland, MA;

Participant:

The Talmud teaches, "If it wasn’t for the righteousness of women of that generation, we would not have been redeemed from Egypt." The tradition of Miriam's Cup originated in Boston 1981 when a group of women who participated in a Rosh Chodesh (women’s study) group decided to honor the Prophetess Miriam during their families’ Passover Seder. By adding Miriam's Cup to our Seder table, next to the Cup of Elijah, we draw attention to the importance of Miriam and the other women of the Exodus story.

The Prophetess Miriam was bold and brave and provided strong leadership and constant encouragement to the Israelites throughout their long journey. She saved Moses from death and led the Israelites in song and dance to praise God for the miracle of splitting the Red Sea. Miriam's Cup is filled with water as a symbol of Miriam's Well. There are many legends about Miriam’s Well. It is said to have been a magical source of water that followed the Israelites for their 40 years in the desert because of the merit of Miriam. The waters of this well were said to be healing and sustaining. Thus, Miriam’s Cup is a symbol of her courage and all that sustains us through difficult times, while Elijah’s Cup is a symbol of a future Messianic time, reminding us that we must achieve balance in our own lives, not only preparing our souls for redemption, but rejuvenating our souls for the present.

DIRECTIONS: Miriam's Cup is lifted and we recite together:

This is the Cup of Miriam, the cup of living waters. Let us remember the Exodus from Egypt. These are the living waters, G-d’s gift to Miriam, which gave new life to Israel as we struggled with ourselves in the wilderness. Blessed art Thou, Lord our G-d, Who brings us from the narrows into the wilderness, sustains us with endless possibilities, and enables us to reach a new place."

Hallel

And the women dancing with their timbrels followed Miriam as she sang her song.

Sing a song to the One whom we’ve exalted, Miriam and the women danced and danced the whole night long.

And Miriam was a weaver of unique variety, the tapestry she wove was one which sang our history, with every strand and every thread she crafted her delight,

A woman touched with spirit she dances toward the light.

Chorus

And Miriam the prophet took her timbrel in her hand, And all the women followed her just as she had planned, And Miriam raised her voice in song She sang with praise and might, We’ve just lived through a miracle, we’re going to dance tonight.

When Miriam stood upon the shores and gazed across the sea,

the wonder of this miracle she soon came to believe,

whoever thought the sea would part with an outstretched hand,

and we would pass to freedom and march to the Promised Land.

Chorus

And Miriam the prophet took her timbrel in her hand, And all the women followed her just as she had planned, And Miriam raised her voice in song She sang with praise and might, We’ve just lived through a miracle, we’re going to dance tonight.

Hallel
Source : Debbie Friedman, JulieWohlCreations (image)

And the women dancing with their timbrels
Followed Miriam as she sang her song
Sing a song to the One whom we've exalted.
Miriam and the women danced and danced
the whole night long.

And Miriam was a weaver of unique variety.
The tapestry she wove was one which sang our history.
With every thread and every strand
she crafted her delight.
A woman touched with spirit, she dances
toward the light.

And the women dancing with their timbrels
Followed Miriam as she sang her song
Sing a song to the One whom we've exalted.
Miriam and the women danced and danced
the whole night long.

As Miriam stood upon the shores and gazed across the sea,
The wonder of this miracle she soon came to believe.
Whoever thought the sea would part with an outstretched hand,
And we would pass to freedom, and march to the promised land.

And the women dancing with their timbrels
Followed Miriam as she sang her song
Sing a song to the One whom we've exalted.
Miriam and the women danced and danced
the whole night long.

And Miriam the Prophet took her timbrel in her hand,
And all the women followed her just as she had planned.
And Miriam raised her voice with song.
She sang with praise and might,
We've just lived through a miracle, we're going to dance tonight!

And the women dancing with their timbrels
Followed Miriam as she sang her song
Sing a song to the One whom we've exalted.
Miriam and the women danced and danced
the whole night long.

Hallel
Source : Alexandra Benjamin

Our final cup of wine is for the statement ‘And He gathered us to Him’ Today we gather together as women, seeking support, sustenance and inspiration for one another. Women have gathered together throughout the ages to be with one another in good times and in bad. The final cup is dedicated to women who give of themselves to other women and create a sisterhood.

Drink the Fourth cup of wine

Conclusion

What are you taking away from our experience together, into the rest of your Passover holiday and into life?