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Once a year it is a mitzvah for Jews to set themselves free. No matter what is happening in the outside world, celebrating Passover means rediscovering our inner freedom. Every year, each of us goes through our own version of “Escape From Egypt.” In the Haggadah we are told: “Each Jew is required to see himself as if he personally escaped from Egypt.” In 15 steps, the seder takes us from Slavery to Freedom.
The Haggadah was the creation of the Rabbis. It was their way of fulfilling the Mitzvah: “Remember this day on which you came out from Egypt, the house of slavery, how the Lord brought you out by strength of hand.” Exodus 6:6-7. The foods, blessings and ceremonies of the seder take us through history. The seder’s 15 steps take us from slavery to freedom, from degradation to dignity, from the rule of evil towards the rule of God.
To make a seder work we have to transform our table from the place we usually eat into a time machine. We do that with a simple glass of wine. The “magic words” we use are the words of the Kiddush. This bracha is the way we create Passover. The act of blessing the wine changes the week into holy time. It starts the holiday. We both toast God and tell ourselves that a significant moment has arrived.
In the Torah God makes 4 promises to the Jewish People:
1. I will bring you out.
2. I will deliver you.
3. I will redeem you.
4. I take you as my people. Exodus 6:6-7
The seder is built aroung 4 cups of wine. Each cup remembers a promise.
With this first cup, we begin to go free.
To go on the seder-journey we need to be ready. Passover cleaning has prepared our house. Hametz is food which has become leaven. It is bloated. A house which is ready for Passover has just the basics. The Hametz has been removed. Passover is getting back to basics.
Urhatz is a ritual washing. It has nothing to do with personal cleanliness but with ritual cleanness. Before we begin the unique seder rituals we do Urhatz. No blessing is said. This is just an act of preparation.