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Make Space, Take Space
Relationship before task
Practice self focus; be accountable
“Try on” others lived experiences and perspectives
Practice “Both/And” thinking
“Oops”, “Ouch”, and the “Teachable Moment”
It’s OK to disagree; Not OK to shame, blame, or attack self or others, focus on the issue not the person
Be aware of both intent and impact
Notice both process and content
I bring an open heart and open mind
I recognize that the wisdom of the whole community is greater than the wisdom of any one
I am uncovering what is both conscious and unconscious in my awareness
I am taking responsibility for my words and actions
I am listening with all of my senses
I am learning how both my intention and my impact on others matters
I am holding others with integrity, keeping their stories in confidence, and sharing only the things I have learned
In every generation, Pharaoh.
In every generation, Freedom.
About three thousand years ago, ancient Israelites fused a shepherds’ spring celebration of the birthing of lambs and a farmers’ spring celebration of the sprouting of barley into a spring celebration of their liberation from slavery and the downfall of a tyrant at the hands of YHWH, the Breath of Life. They celebrated the overthrow of tyrants by gathering a million strong, bringing barley-bread and newborn lambs to the Temple in Jerusalem.
About two thousand years ago, the Jewish people reshaped that celebration into a Seder, a story and meal that could be eaten and told at home. The Passover story and celebration entered the memory stream of Christianity as well, through the Palm Sunday demonstrations of a group of Jews who came to ancient Jerusalem one spring, part of the general Jewish ferment against the Roman Empire. This particular group was led by Jesus, waving palm branches as a symbol of resistance. It entered Christianity more deeply still through the teachings of Jesus in the Last Supper, which seems to have been a Passover Seder.
Still later, Islam welcomed Moses as a prophet, as it is written:
“In the name of Allah, most benevolent, ever-merciful... We narrate to you from the history of Moses and Pharaoh in all verity, for those who believe. The Pharaoh became high and mighty in the land, and divided the people into different classes. He impoverished one class, slaying its males and sparing its women, for he was indeed a tyrant. We [God] wished him to favor those who were weak in the land and make them leaders and heirs and establish them in the country.”
(Al-Quran, 28: 1-6; Ahmed Ali translation)
In modern times, the experience of slavery for African-Americans and their hope of liberation were crystallized into dozens of songs and thousands of sermons about the Exodus of ancient Israelites from slavery.
In 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King was planning to take part in a Passover Seder with the family of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who marched and prayed and struggled alongside him against racism and militarism in America. But ten days before the Seder, Dr. King was murdered, called across a different river to a different Land of Promise. That day was 50 years ago today on April 4, 1968.
His death called forth a Black uprising in many American cities, followed by the U.S. Army’s armed occupation of many inner-city communities, including my neighborhood in Washington DC.
Walking past the troops as I prepared for that Passover 50 years ago, I was overwhelmed to find myself feeling and thinking, “This is Pharaoh’s Army!”
That experience renewed and transformed my own understanding of the Seder. I felt myself called to write a Freedom Seder that would celebrate the freedom struggles of Black America and of other peoples alongside the Jewish tale of liberation.
Now it is we who renew the Seder, rebirthing the Telling of freedom itself as the Telling rebirths us.
Forty nine years after the first Freedom Seder, the profound questions Dr. King raised in his Riverside Church speech exactly one year before his death—militarism, racism, materialism as the triplets of danger corrupting American society—have risen before us again, as he warned they might. The link between constant warfare abroad and constant shortfalls in meeting human needs at home has become even clearer. Even larger numbers of people have lost their jobs and stand on the edge of the pit of poverty.
Forty nine years after the first Freedom Seder, new Pharaohs have arisen. The institutional Pharaohs of our day are pressing down not just one people, one community, or another, but all the peoples on our planet and the web of life itself. In this Freedom Seder, we address Dr. Martin Luther King’s warning about “the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism,” which have threatened the very earth that sustains us all. For the Passover story reminds us: not only do new Pharaohs arise in every generation; so also do new grass-roots movement to free ourselves from these new pharaohs.
Today as well, we face Plagues that trouble the earth and all humanity. Who and what are the institutional pharaohs in our time? What are the destructive Plagues of our own generation? What can we do to bring Ten Blessings, Ten Healings, on the earth in our own lifetimes? It is time for a new birth of freedom, time for a new freedom seder.
—Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Director
—Arlene Goldbard, Chair of the Board
Why we recline:
When drinking the four cups and eating the matzah, we lean on our left side to accentuate the fact that we are free people. In ancient times only free people had the luxury of reclining while eating. We ask that this year you consider what it means to recline when so many are not yet free from oppression. This is not a simple question, and so there is no simple answer. In solidarity, you may choose not to recline. Or perhaps we can rest tonight in order to let go of the weight of our fears — our fear of others; of being visible as Jews; of committing to work outside of what is familiar and comfortable — so that we may lean into struggle tomorrow.
Tonight we open ourselves up as a community with our minds stayed on freedom. Torah tells us that the first promise of God to our ancestors was to be taken out of the narrow place that had defined our generations. In this promise we are gifted with the hope of not only escape but of new life in the open. For many this gift is met with skepticism - for what we all we know is our bondage and our limits. We invite you tonight to join us in stepping out of the narrowness of skepticism, and into the openness of hope.
“If you are only skeptical, then no new ideas make it through to you. You never learn anything new. You become a crotchety old person convinced that nonsense is ruling the world. (There is, of course, much data to support you.) But every now and then, maybe once in a hundred cases, a new idea turns out to be on the mark, valid and wonderful. If you are too much in the habit of being skeptical about everything, you are going to miss or resent it, and either way you will be standing in the way of understanding and progress.” - Carl Sagan
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.
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.
As we sip this first cup of wine we reflect not only on the promise of being taken out of narrow places but on the hope, opportunity, and responsibility of being and building in wide spaces. When have I been extended an opportunity and hope to leave a narrow space? What open spaces have I found or been part of building?
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!)
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 and share with a partner what we hope to get out of our evening together tonight.
At the beginning of the karpas section of the Seder, the leader reads: Centuries ago, only those who were free enjoyed the luxury of dipping their food to begin a meal. In celebration of our people’s freedom, tonight, we, too, start our meal by dipping green vegetables. However, we also remember that our freedom came after tremendous struggle. And so, we dip our vegetables into salt water to recall the ominous waters that threatened to drown our Israelite ancestors as they fled persecution in Egypt, as well as the tears they shed on that harrowing journey to freedom. As we dip, we recognize that, today, there are more than 65 million people still making these treacherous journeys away from persecution and violence in their homelands. As we dip the karpas into salt water tonight, we bring to mind those who have risked and sometimes lost their lives in pursuit of safety and liberty.
We dip for the Rohingya father who walked for six days to avoid military capture in his native Myanmar before he came to the Naf River and swam to Bangladesh.
We dip for the El Salvadorean brother who escaped the violent control of gangs in his home country to flee to the US, only to be quickly deported
We dip for the Somali and Ethiopian refugees deliberately drowned when the smuggler who promised them freedom forced them into the Arabian Sea.
Leader: We dip for these brave souls and for the thousands of other refugees who have risked their lives in unsafe and unforgiving waters across the globe this past year.
It is a green vegetable that we dip tonight – a reminder of spring, hope, and the possibility of redemption even in the face of unimaginable difficulty. As we mourn those who have lost their lives in search of freedom, we remain hopeful that those who still wander will find refuge.
There are three pieces of matzah stacked on the table. We break the middle matzah in half, acknowledging our own brokenness and recognizing that imperfect people can usher in liberation. 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." After dinner, the guests will have to hunt for the afikomen.
The broken matzah may also be seen as symbolizing the need for the Jewish people to give up the idea of running and controlling all of Palestine, when in fact what we need is viable solution in which every human being is free and each group’s right to self determination is recognized.
We cannot celebrate this Passover without acknowledging the biggest distortion in Jewish life today – the often blind worship of the State of Israel in an era when Israel has become for the Palestinian people the current embodiment of Pharaoh-like oppression.
Israel, the state of the Jewish people, has in some ways failed to embody the highest values of the Jewish tradition in the way it treats our brothers and sisters, the Palestinian people. This treatment includes the human rights violations and the slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza, the seizing of Arab and Bedouin lands, the imprisonment of thousands of Palestinians without a trial by their peers.
While both many Jews around the world and many Americans are in denial about the brutality of Israel’s occupation and the suffering caused by its blockade of Gaza, the revelations by Israeli soldiers themselves of acts of brutality they personally witnessed their peers committing in Gaza and the West Bank, and assaults on random West Bank Palestinians and the destruction of their olive trees, documented by the soldiers’ organization Breaking the Silence, cause many Jews to be deeply saddened and outraged at Israel’s behavior. These are not isolated incidents. They are the inevitable consequence of imposing and enforcing occupation.
We acknowledge that Israel is not the worst perpetrator of human rights violations in the world. Our own country, the United states has committed atrocities far beyond the situation in Israel and Palestine. We also acknowledge how anti-semitism has been overlooked in far-left narratives about the conflict. And we are aware that the attempt by Hamas to bomb the cities of Israel in the summer of 2014 contributed greatly to an electoral victory of the hard-right-wing in Israel, which is unlikely to allow equal rights to emerge. And we have great compassion for Israelis who fear that the violence of the Islamic State, only a short distance from Israel, might spill over to Palestinians.
The political discussion surrounding the conflict often polarizes the recurring reactionary violence attributing it to once side. But the way to prevent all this is to end the conflict with Palestinians and create a lasting peace by manifesting a spirit of generosity and seeing the spirit of humanity in the Palestinian people as it is in all people including even the most reactionary Israelis.
What pieces of this text do you resonate with? What pieces do your struggle with?
In what ways do you participate in conversations and communities that reinforce the binaries you may hold to be true?
Group 1: Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
1) We eat matzah as a symbol of the urgency of redemption. The Israelites did not have time to wait for their bread to rise-- the moment to act was upon them. What is the urgency in addressing the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the occupation of Gaza and the West bank (The occupation is almost 51 years old this year.)
2) We eat maror to remember the bitterness of oppression. In our day, many Jews feel the State of Israel is acting in the likes of the Pharaoh to the Palestinian people. How can the taste of bitter herbs inspire action to repair this broken system?
3) We recline to experience the ease of privilege. For millennia, we adopted this pose on seder night most often in contrast to Jews’ daily experience of oppression. As we recline tonight, we shall discuss the distortion of facts in the media on both sides which oversimplifies the issues and strips away the humanity of those whose lives are being impacted.
4) What’s your vision of the path the Jewish people should pursue this year, next year, and the year after that consistent with your own highest values, flowing from the Torah’s teaching that every human being is created in the image of God and deserving of deep respect and caring from us?
Group 2: Climate Justice:
The impacts of climate change are already being felt, especially by the poorest and most vulnerable who have contributed least to the causes of the problem. This is the injustice at the core of the climate problem: Those least responsible are worst affected. While the international community debates the steps to take to solve the problem — the scale of the impacts and the numbers of people affected increase. This is the argument behind climate justice and a driver for a more urgent response to the global problem, in a way that treats all people and countries fairly and ultimately prevents dangerous and irreversible climate change. (World Resources Institute)
The status quo is leaving poor, disenfranchised communities with the burden of pollution from our current energy and transportation sectors. Transitioning our society to clean energy and a sustainable built environment will not only avert climate disruption, but drastically improve public health in low income and/or minority communities.
1) We eat matzah as a symbol of the urgency of redemption. The Israelites did not have time to wait for their bread to rise-- the moment to act was upon them. What is the urgency in addressing the causes of anthropogenic climate disruption?
2) We eat maror to remember the bitterness of oppression. How does local and global pollution lead certain communities to feel as though they are helplessly mistreated by the operations of outside entities (governments and international corporations)?
3) We recline to experience the ease of privilege. 55% of Americans think climate change won’t affect them, leading them to not combat it. How can we include the urgency of climate change and environmental injustice into our lives?
4)How can we help reduce environmental injustice and promote tangible climate action?
Group 3: Racial Justice
1) We eat matzah as a symbol of the urgency of redemption. The Israelites did not have time to wait for their bread to rise-- the moment to act was upon them. What is the urgency in addressing the United States’ struggle with racial injustice?
2) We eat maror to remember the bitterness of oppression. In our day the U.S. criminal justice system has become broken, disproportionately impacting people of color. Examples of this injustice include mass incarceration, police brutality, and the school to prison pipeline. How can the taste of bitter herbs inspire action to repair this broken system?
3) We recline to experience the ease of privilege. For millennia, we adopted this pose on Seder night most often in contrast to Jews’ daily experience of oppression. In our own day, many Jews feel largely at ease because of their assimilation into white culture. As we recline tonight, what are the limitations and responsibilities of those of us who carry privilege to end systemic racial injustice in our congregations, communities and country?
4) How can individuals here tonight contribute to racial justice movements such as Black Lives Matter in the UCLA and greater Los Angeles community?
Group 4: Gender Inequality
1) We eat matzah as a symbol of the urgency of redemption. The Israelites did not have time to wait for their bread to rise-- the moment to act was upon them. What is the urgency in addressing the United States’ struggle with gender inequality?
2) We eat maror to remember the bitterness of oppression. In our day, although gender inequality is seen as a thing of the past, women, transgender and queer folk are regularly disadvantaged and discriminated against. How do you think we can directly combat gender discrimination in the workplace/school?
3) We recline to experience the ease of privilege. For millennia, we adopted this pose on Seder night most often in contrast to Jews’ daily experience of oppression. In our own day, many white women are able to feel more at ease than our sisters of color because of our white or white passing privilege. How can we ensure that our feminism is intersectional and addresses all of the identities of the women we are fighting for and with? The term “intersectional,” coined by scholar and activist Kimberlé Crenshaw, is the idea that multiple identities intersect to create a whole; in order to fully understand someone’s identity, we must think of each separate identity as linked to all the others. As an example, a white Jewish woman is all three parts of her identity; she cannot simply separate her race, religion and gender when these identities intersect and interplay with one another constantly.
4) It’s easy to be theoretical when we talk about the struggle for justice. What are concrete ways that we as UCLA students can fight for gender equality?
A 5th Question
Passover is a time of remembrance but also one of renewal — of looking ahead toward the spring and new growth that will sustain us through the seasons to come. Once we spent spring in the desert. It was harsh and difficult but from that journey grew a people who have endured for centuries. What would happen if we took that journey again, not alone in the wilderness but surrounded by friends and allies, leaving no one behind?
At Passover each year, we read the story of our ancestors’ pursuit of liberation from oppression. When confronting this history, how do we answer our children when they ask us how to pursue justice in our time?
What does the activist child ask?
“The Torah tells me, ‘Justice, justice you shall pursue,’ but how can I pursue justice?”
Empower her always to seek pathways to advocate for the vulnerable. As Proverbs teaches, “Speak up for the mute, for the rights of the unfortunate. Speak up, judge righteously, champion the poor and the needy.”
What does the skeptical child ask?
“How can I solve problems of such enormity?”
Encourage him by explaining that he need not solve the problems, he must only do what he is capable of doing. As we read in Pirke Avot—The Ethics of our Ancestors, “It is not your responsibility to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.”
What does the indifferent child say?
“It’s not my responsibility.”
Persuade her that responsibility cannot be shirked. As Abraham Joshua Heschel writes, “The opposite of good is not evil, the opposite of good is indifference. In a free society where terrible wrongs exist, some are guilty, but all are responsible.”
And the uninformed child who does not know how to ask... Prompt him to see himself as an inheritor of our people’s legacy. As it says in Deuteronomy, “You must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
At this season of liberation, let us work toward the liberation of all people.
Let us respond to our children’s questions with action and justice.
Our story starts in ancient times, with Abraham, the first person to have the idea that 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.
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 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, racism, 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 organizations.
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?
Have you experienced any of these plagues? Are there any you would add to the list?
Singing Dayenu is a 1000-year old Passover tradition. The 15-stanza poem thanks G-d for 15 blessings bestowed upon the Jews in the Exodus. Had G-d only parted the seas for us, “It would have been enough” we say for each miracle or divine act, thus humbly appreciating the immensity of the gifts. KB Frazier’s reworking of the poem addresses us, rather than G-d. It calls us to greater action for justice, saying “lo dayenu” (it would not have been enough) in recognition of the work still unfinished.
1. If we had sparked a human rights revolution that would unite people all over the world and not followed our present day Nachshons (leaders) as they help us part the sea of colonialism, white supremacy, and institutional racism — Lo Dayenu
2. If we had followed Nachshons like the youth leaders in Ferguson and not heeded the words they spoke from Black Liberation Leader Assata Shakur: It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains — Lo Dayenu
3. If we had truly sh’ma (listened) to the stories, pain and triumphs of our brothers and sisters of color without feeling the need to correct, erase or discredit them and did not recognize the Pharaohs of this generation — Lo Dayenu
4.If we had advocated for genocide recognition and reparations for Jews, Armenians, Rwandans, Cambodians, Romani, Sudanese, and all persecuted peoples — Lo Dayenu
5. If we had protested police murders of unarmed black and brown individuals, even with legal retribution — Lo Dayenu
6. If we had protested the IDF’s use of drones dropping tear gas and their firing live ammunition at protesters and forgotten that we are all b'tselem elohim, created in G-d’s image — Lo Dayenu
7. If we were to stand on podiums announcing that Islam means peace, that our hands shake when we hear of violent far off attacks signed with names that are similar to ours — Lo Dayenu
8. If we were to voice stories of women who were fired from their jobs, ignored on subways, pushed in lines, asked to leave in restaurants — Lo Dayenu
9. If we were asked to translate our names, our lives, the constant misunderstanding and the constant tired need to defend our right to exist, breathe, walk the same space and not be seen as unwanted, dangerous, a risk, another — Lo Dayenu
10. If we had marched, chanted, listened, learned and engaged in this new civil rights movement and not realized that this story is our story, including our people and requiring our full participation — Lo Dayenu
11. If we had concluded that our work is not done, that the story is still being written, that now is still the moment to be involved and that we haven’t yet brought our gifts and talents to a global human rights revolution — Lo Dayenu
We must work together to progress from Lo Dayenu to Dayenu in the coming years. Ken Yehi Ratzon. ◆
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.
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.
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.
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.
Together, we recite:
ָבּרוּךְ ַא ָתה יי, ֱאלֹ ֵהינוּ ֶמ ֶלךְ ָהעוֹ ָלם, ַהמּוֹ ִציא ֶלֶחם ִמן ָהָאֶרץ.
Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, hamotzi lechem min haaretz
Blessed are You, Eternal our God, Sovereign of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.
As we bless the matzah we thank God for bringing forth bread from the earth and commanding us to eat matzah. Although we verbally thank God for giving us the tools to sustain ourselves, we must also show our gratitude with action. Let us work to show full appreciation and understanding of the environmental and human impacts of our food consumption. Furthermore, let us work to ensure that sustainable food is accessible to everyone.
Together, we recite:
ָבּרוּךְ ַאָתה יי ֱאלֹ ֵהינוּ ֶמֶלךְ ָהעוָֹלם, ֲא ֶשר ִקְד ָשנוּ ְבּ ִמ ְצווָֹתיו, ְו ִצָוּנוּ ַעל ֲאִכיַלת ַמ ָצה.
Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al achilat matzah.
Blessed are You, Eternal our God, Sovereign of the universe, who has sanctified us with Your commandments and ordained that we should eat unleavened bread.
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.
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.
"If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?" Pirkei Avot, 1:14
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!
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.
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 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!
Gathered around the Seder table, we pour four cups, remembering the gift of freedom that our ancestors received centuries ago. We delight in our liberation from Pharaoh's oppression.
We drink four cups for four promises fulfilled.
The first cup as God said, "I will free you from the labors of the Egyptians."
The second as God said, "And I will deliver you from their bondage."
The third as God said, "I will redeem you with an outstretched arm with great judgements."
The fourth because God said, "I will take you to be My People."
We know, though, that all are not yet free. As we welcome Elijah the Prophet into our homes, we offer a fifth cup, a cup not yet consumed.
A fifth cup for the 60 million refugees and displaced people around the world still waiting to be free-- from refugee camps in Chad to the cities and towns of Ukraine, for the Syrian refugees still waiting to be delivered from the hands of tyrants, for the thousands of asylum seekers in the United States still waiting in detention for redemption to come, for all those who yearn to be taken in not as strangers but as fellow human beings.
This Passover, let us walk in the footsteps of the One who delivered us from bondage. When we rise from our Seder tables, may we be emboldened to take action on behalf of the world's refugees, hastening Elijah's arrival as we speak out on behalf of those who are not yet free.
אֵלִיָּֽהוּ הַנָּבִיא, אֵלִיָּֽהוּ הַתִּשְׁבִּי,
אֵלִיָּֽהוּ, 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.
Along with the cup for the Prophet Elijah, we have a cup for the Prophetess Miriam, sister of Moses, one of the central figures in the Exodus story. Miriam has long been associated with water – she watched over Moses when he was placed in the Nile River and provided the Israelites with life-sustaining water during their wandering in the desert. The tradition of Miriam’s cup is meant to honor Miriam’s role in the story of the Jewish people and draw attention to the importance of the other women of the Exodus story who have sometimes been overlooked but about whom our tradition says, "If it wasn't for the righteousness of women of that generation we would not have been redeemed from Egypt" (Babylonian Talmud, Sotah 9b).
זאת כּוֹס ִמריָם, כּוֹס ַמיִם ַחיִּים זֵכר ִליציאַת ִמצריִם
Zot kos Miryam, cos mayim chayim zecher litziat Mitzrayim.
This is the cup of Miriam, the cup of living waters, a reminder of the Exodus from Egypt.
Let us remember the Exodus from Egypt. These are the living waters, God’s gift to Miriam, which gave new life to Israel as we struggled with ourselves in the wilderness. Blessed are You God, Who brings us from the narrows into the wilderness, sustains us with endless possibilities, and enables us to reach a new place.
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 think of the strength of this community. The strength we find in believing in the power of people, the power of love, the power of something greater than ourselves, and the power of working to make the world a better place.
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!
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 us, "Next year in Jerusalem!" is a symbol, not necessarily about the physical location of Jerusalem, but a symbol of hope, holiness, and the joining together of different communities. In this context, Jerusalem is not a physical place but a metaphor for the spiritual and emotional place where we want to be in the year to come.
Next Year in a More Just World by American Jewish World Service
The traditional aspiration, "Next Year in Jerusalem," is our people's millennia-old hope for redemption. At AJWS, our yearning takes the form of hope and action for a more just world.
Join us, this year, in helping achieve...
Peace in societies torn by war
Freedom from bigotry and oppression
Equality for minorities shunned by prejudice and hatred
Respect for the aspirations and humanity of women and girls
Acceptance for people persecuted for who they are or whom they love
Sustenance for communities living in hunger
A safe harbor for refugees and survivors of violence
And the promise of dignity and human rights for all
Together, with those around this Seder table and with our global family connected by our collective pursuit of justice, we pray: "Next year in a more just world." And through our actions from this Passover to the next, let us make this dream a reality.
לְשָׁנָה הַבָּאָה בִּירוּשָׁלָֽיִם
L’shana haba-ah biy’rushalayim
Where do you hope to be in the coming year?