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Introduction

Welcome to our seder, which reflects the work and thoughtfulness of members of the staff and lay leadership of IADS and BCCI, with generous support from The Jewish Fund. We are grateful to everyone who helped prepare and participate in the seder this afternoon.

Our religious traditions share the sacred narrative in Exodus of the Israelites being freed from slavery in Egypt. At Passover, we perform rituals and ask questions that challenge us to examine what that story means to us today. Tonight we again ask the question: If the Hebrew word for Egypt is Mitzrayim, which can also mean "narrow places," what are the narrow places in our lives today?

There are many answers to that question--personal answers, answers for our city, for our nation, and our world. As we join together, we continue to mourn the lives that were lost and the lives that were forever changed by the COVID pandemic. We have lost jobs, struggled through health challenges, worked to raise our families during especially challenging circumstances, lost loved ones to depression and suicide, and been separated from one another in profound ways. We are also aware of the violence that is pervasive across the globe, including in Eastern Europe. 

We have learned how interconnected we truly are. Our actions affect one another and the world around us. And the remarkable progress human beings were able to make as we worked together--whether in providing support to one another or developing a vaccine with awesome speed--give us hope that we can address the challenges to come. In particular, as clergy and as parents, we are concerned about the devastating effects of climate change on our communities and on all of Creation. 

The Exodus story focuses on the redemption from Mitzrayim, from "narrow places." We are in a narrow place--we have an opportunity to prevent some of the most severe consequences of our changing climate but we are running out of time. The choices we make in the next decade will determine whether millions of people will be uprooted from their homes, thousands of species will go extinct, and our Earth is no longer able to support life as we know it. 

We believe that human ingenuity and partnership can avert this crisis, but only if we are committed to working together and uplifting the sanctity of life. It will require moving out of a narrow place. We need to move from misinformation to knowledge, being overwhelmed to being active, having despair to having hope.

Climate change will affect each of us differently--based on where we live, and most accutely, our age. Our children and grandchildren will inherit a world shaped by our choices.

We build hope when we develop relationships with one another, learn about choices that can help rather than hurt the planet, and read our sacred narrative about enslaved people who never thought redemption could come, but it did. We hope, as each of us asks and answers questions together today, that you will find a teacher and start a relationship with someone in this room.

We invite you to be open to hearing stories, asking difficult questions, and shaping a new narrative for our future.

Pastor Aramis Hinds and Rabbi Ariana Silverman

Introduction

In the Jewish tradition, lighting candles and saying a blessing over them marks a time of transition, from the end of one day to the beginning of the next, from ordinary time to sacred time. This afternoon we are not actually marking the beginning of Passover, but rather commencing a sacred time of learning and fellowship. We light candles because they symbolize the light we are trying to bring into our communities and into the world. May they help us to see one another more clearly.

Blessed are you, God, who commands us to kindle light.

Kadesh

At Passover we drink four glasses of wine to symbolize four promises God made to God's people:

"I will free you from the burdens of a narrow place"

"I will deliver you from the straits of that bondage"

"I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and a demonstration of my power," and

"I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God"

Our memory of the experiences of bondage across generations shed light on the scope and urgency for continued work towards liberation. We express gratitude for the ability to work as God’s partners in continual redemption as we recognize our opportunity to prevent further suffering. If we can heal what is broken, and prevent further destruction, we will truly be acting as God's people.

As our wine cups overflow in this time of fellowship, we hold out hope for the day when every person in search of a sustainable and just world can recall this story of deliverance from a narrow place. Blessed are You, God, who frees the oppressed.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָּפֶן

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

Blessed are You, Ruler of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.

Urchatz

We value water for its ability to clean and purify. It also keeps us alive. We live in a place where water is bountiful enough that symbolically washing our hands and having water on our tables feels natural and joyful. But we know that our changing climate will cause both drought in some parts of the world and more severe storms and flooding in others. As we dip our hands in the water, we sanctify them to work for a world in which water continues to support life.

Karpas

The salt water on our table traditionally represents the tears of slaves. Dipping food in salt water is a symbol of freedom, for in ancient times only the wealthy had condiments in which to dip their food, while slaves did not. The green vegetable we dip in the water suggests the possibility of growth and renewal even in the midst of a narrow place. Parsley also grows from the Earth, which in Hebrew is Adamah. The Hebrew word for human is Adam. As we praise God for the fruit of the Adamah, we remember that we, too, are reliant on the Earth to live.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה

Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech HaOlam, Borei P'ri Ha-Adamah.

Blessed are You, Ruler of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the earth.

Yachatz

We break the middle matzah in two, hiding the larger piece, for more is always hidden than revealed. The broken, hidden matzah becomes the afikomen and we must search it out, for it becomes the bread of redemption. It is often some form of brokenness that sends us on our journey in search of freedom. After all, it is through the cracks that the light streams in, even in in the darkest places.

We consider: What forms of brokenness speak most powerfully to you? What kinds of mending and healing seem possible?

We say together: This is the bread of affliction, the simple bread which our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. Let all who are hungry come and eat with us. Let all who are enslaved become free. Let all who are oppressed become liberated.

הָא לַחְמָא עַנְיָא דִּי אֲכָלוּ אַבְהָתָנָא בְאַרְעָא דְמִצְרָיִם. כָּל דִכְפִין יֵיתֵי וְיֵיכֹל, כָּל דִצְרִיךְ יֵיתֵי וְיִפְסַח. הָשַּׁתָּא הָכָא, לְשָׁנָה הַבָּאָה בְּאַרְעָא דְיִשְׂרָאֵל. הָשַּׁתָּא עַבְדֵי, לְשָׁנָה הַבָּאָה בְּנֵי חוֹרִין.

Ha lachma anya di achalu avahatana b'ara d'Mitzrayim. Kal dichfin yeitei v'yeichul. Kal ditzrich yeitei v'yifsach. Hashata hacha, l'shanah haba'ah b'ara d'Yisrael. Hashata avdei. L'shana haba'ah b'nei chorin.

Maggid - Beginning

The Maggid is the section of the Seder where we fulfill the commandment of telling the story of our deliverance. Without the Maggid, there is not a Seder -- it is truly the heart of the ritual. Its beauty lies in the compilation of shared questions, answers, discourse and praise. This afternoon we turn to you to tell your story. 

-- Four Questions

How is this night different from all other nights?

Why on this night, as we explore our journey towards freedom and justice, do we eat the bread of poverty and persecution?

We must remember that we can never truly be free until all people everywhere can share in our freedom. We remember that, fortunate as we may be, there are still so many people in our region who have no choice but to eat the bread of poverty and persecution.

Why on this night, do we combine the message of Passover with a discussion of racial justice?

As we create a space where people feel comfortable sharing their stories of deliverance from a narrow place, we advance relationships and strategies for liberation in our journey towards wholeness.

Why on this night do we dip the herbs twice, first in salt water and then in sweet charoset?

We dip first in salt water, because on this night, we recognize that there are people throughout our region whose tears still drench their food. Then we dip again in the charosset to represent not only the mortar that our enslaved ancestors were forced to use, but also the mortar that we must all use to build a better community and a sweeter world.

Why on this night, do we celebrate freedom with a call to action?

In a traditional seder, a posture of reclining at the table is adapted into the celebration of freedom because it is a behavior historically allowed only for free people. Tonight we celebrate our freedom from a narrow place with a call to action, challenging ourselves to understand that we cannot simply recline! There is still much work to do to impact the lives of others.

-- Ten Plagues

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 the plagues that we continue to experience in modern times. The biblical ten plagues were sent to Egypt as a warning. We should also recognize and respond to modern plagues as a warning of the dangers of inaction.

Although the list could certainly be longer, here are ten modern plagues that deserve our attention:

  • Wildfires
  • Temperature Extremes
  • Displacement of People and Animals
  • Drought
  • Flooded Cities
  • Acidic Oceans
  • Severe storms
  • Asthma and cancer epidemics in targeted neighborhoods
  • Mass Extinctions of plants and animals
  • Death of Humans

If we understand these plagues as warnings, what can be done to avert them? At your table, please think of 10 actions we can do to mitigate the damage (for example: transition to renewable energy, eat less meat, etc.).

-- Cup #2 & Dayenu

We now bless the 2nd cup of wine/grape juice. We hope that our blessings will reaffirm our committment to protecting God's Creation.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָּפֶן

Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech Haolam, borei p'ri hagafen.

Blessed are you, Spirit of the universe, who makes the fruit of the vine.

Rachtzah

We once again wash our hands to prepare ourselves to eat symbolic foods.

In Jewish practice, it is customary to perform a ritual washing of one’s hands before consuming a meal that includes bread or matzah. Tonight, even beyond the ritual of tradition, we renew our committment to using our hands to make the world a better place.

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.

Motzi-Matzah

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

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

Matzah, like all bread, represents the culmination of the work of many hands. It takes a lot of people to plant the seeds, harvest the grain, grind the flour, bake the bread and deliver the loaves to our homes. We are grateful to all of them, and grateful that there was fertile soil, ample water, and adequate sunshine to allow the wheat to grow.

בְָּרוּךְ 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.

Maror

Dipping the bitter herb in sweet charoset | maror |מָרוֹר

For the people of God, even the bitterness of a history of bondage in "narrow places" is interjected with sweet demonstrations of love, grace, faithfulness, and progression towards the goal of full and lasting freedom. Similarly, our concern for the Earth is coupled with joy and awe at how well it has supported life. We acknowledge 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 perhaps it reminds us to hold both.

ברוּךְ אַתָּה יְיַָ 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

The Talmud (a collection of Jewish law and rabbinic teachings) records a debate from ancient times in which the foremost teachers and interpreters of the law debated how to eat the seder's required foods: meat from the Passover sacrifice, maror, and matzah. Rabbi Hillel advocated eating them all together, but other rabbis argued they should be eaten separately. They said each food has its own blessing and its own symbolism. Eating them together would be unnecessary and even confusing. Hillel, however, argued that by combining the symbol of slavery (maror), the symbol of redemption (matzah), and the symbol of God's hand in it (korban pesach), we remind ourselves that even the most bitter circumstances can end.

Because the Temple is not standing, there is nowhere to offer the Passover sacrifice, so the lamb is omitted from the sandwich today. Instead, maror and haroset are eaten together and included it in the sandwich.

Combine haroset and maror between two pieces of matzah and eat your Hillel Sandwich!

Shulchan Oreich

Eating the meal! | shulchan oreich | שֻׁלְחָן עוֹרֵךְ

Enjoy! And as you eat, take the opportunity to share stories of deliverance from your narrow places. Don't shy away from discussion of the difficult questions of what's required to advance the journey to freedom for all people. When you’re done we’ve got a little more seder to go, including final two cups of wine!

Tzafun

Finding and eating the Afikomen | tzafoon | צָפוּן

The playfulness of finding the afikomen reminds us that we can balance our concerns with optimism and hope, and the rich satisfaction of advancing the dignity of God's people and the health and well-being of our communities. As we eat the afikomen, our last taste of matzah, we are grateful for joy and happiness in our lives.

Bareich

We use this moment to praise God, Ruler of Everything, whose goodness sustains the world. We are grateful for the food that has nourished our bodies, giving us the strength to do God's work in the world. God is our spiritual center and the origin of love and compassion. We pray that God, the source of peace, will grant peace to us and to the entire world. Amen.

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.

Hallel

Singing songs that praise God | hallel | הַלֵּל

This is the time set aside for singing. We are so honored that the BCCI Praise Ministry will lead us in song.

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.

Nirtzah

The fourth cup is the cup of praise and restoration. Over the course of our seder, we have supported one another, and we have held space for one another. Now is the time to go back into our respective communities and circles of influence, energized with new insights and a greater sense of urgency to move beyond the "narrow place" of our current relationship to the Earth. We can move to a place of increased learning and stewardship. We are all capable of making a difference and we are forever discovering new ways to care for our world. Now is the time to be thankful for the chance that we all have been given to do good, and now is the time to take a stand so that we can be proud of our care of the Earth moving forward.

We hope for a promised land; a future where our plagues no longer haunt us and our actions and blessings improve the world in which we live, and to that we say…

לְשָׁנָה הַבָּאָה בִּירוּשָׁלָֽיִם

L’shana haba-ah biy’rushalayim

NEXT YEAR IN JERUSALEM!

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