Many times throughout history, the Jewish people have lived without freedom. The Haggadah tells the story of one of those times. It tells the story of how the Jewish people were freed from being slaves in Eqypt which is called the Exodus. By reading the words of the Haggadah and by eating special food, we perform the Mitzvah written in the Torah. “You shall tell the Passover story to your children in the days to come”.The word “Haggadah” means a retelling.The obligation to tell and retell the story of the exodus from slavery to one’s children is the core of the Seder ritual. Tonight, is a time for joy and relaxation as we celebrate the triumph of all people who have struggled for control over their own lives and fought and won over the forces of oppression.
The special meal for Pesach is called the seder. The word seder means order. The order of the seder meal helps us tell the story in a step by step way. Tonight we eat Matzoh the “bread of affliction” to remind us of our past so that in our lives we will be neither slave nor Pharoah, but that we will recognize injustice and try to stop it. Tonight is a time to renew our courage and a chance to awaken to the present with fresh insight.
In the Torah, one of the most important ideas is freedom. Freedom is not the right to do whatever you want but the opportunity to do what is right. A person who is free may choose to say yes when everyone else is saying no. Throughout the seder meal, we celebrate the journey to freedom and remember that none of us are free till all of us are free. Let us do what our ancestors have done for thousands of years. Let us remember the story of the Exodus from Eqypt, let us link ourselves with all who came before us.Let us celebrate freedom.
Our Passover celebration begins with the lighting of the candles. As we light these candles may we rededicate ourselves to keep alive the burning flame of justice.
(The candles are lit as these blessings are said by everyone):
Nvarech et ruach ha’olam asher kidashatnu bemitzvoteha vetzivatnu lehadlik ner shel yom tov.
Let us bless the source of life, that brings us to this year’s spring and to this year’s seder.
May the festival lights we now kindle
Inspire us to use our powers
To help and not to harm, cause joy and not sorrow, create and not destroy and help all to be free.
In the Pesach story, freedom is discussed in many different ways. We stop to think about this four different times in the seder with a cup of wine.
We dedicate this first cup of wine to Sping, openness to learning and change, to new beginnings
(The wine is poured as these blessings are said by everyone):
Nvarech et ruach ha’olam boray pri hagafen.
Let us bless the source of life that nurtures fruit on the vine
as we weave the branches of our lives into the tradition
and tradition into the branches of our lives.
(Everyone drinks the first cup of wine or juice)
Rabbi Meir ben Tzipporah v’Nechemia haLevi was often asked about the meaning of the roasted egg. It remains on the Seder Plate, yet never discussed. The egg reminds us of many things. Its presence on the Seder Plate represents the holiday sacrifice our ancestors made when the Temple stood. But, as with any good symbol it is rich with meaning. The egg itself is symbolic of life and reminds us of the blossoming world around us. The egg’s roundness reminds us of the unending nature of life. But why is it roasted? Some tell us that, like the roasted egg, the Jewish people gets harder and stronger the more they are tested.
Matzoh: (Unleavened bread of our ancestors)
This is the poor people’s bread that our ancestors ate when they fled the land of Egypt.
Let all who hunger come and eat it with us .
Next year may we be free. Next year may we be living in peace in a new era of love and respect for all humanity and all the creatures of the green hills of Earth.
( the uppermost of the three matzot is broken and distributed among the group. The Middle Matza is broken for the Afikomen)
Yachatz - Breaking of the middle matzah – why now?
(Something broken reminds us of how things are made of parts. In Mitzrayim each slave was a part of the group called the Israelites. In order for each part to be strong and healthy each Hebrew had to take responsibility for helping other Hebrews. Only with teamwork, each part helping the other parts, could the Hebrews remain hopeful that they would not be slaves forever.)
Why do we talk about 4 children?
(This part of the seder comes from Rabbinic midrash or Rabbis interpretation of the torah. The Torah speaks about children in connection with the Pesach story 4 times using the exact same words. Rabbis made sense of why the same thing was said 4 times by explaining that each time was supposed to represent different types of children.)
How would we respond to each of these 4 types of children?
The eager child: (Teach this child about the details of the seder. Talk about freedom and the need to transform the world.)
The child who does not want to attend the seder: (We invite you to join us and listen and be with us so that you hear what the seder means to us.)
The quiet child: (We tell her that we are telling a story from a long time ago in another place when Hebrews were forced to work as slaves. Tonight we are celebrating our freedom.)
The child who is too young to ask: (Tell the child, we do this every year to celebrate spring and family and how much we love each other and you.)
Even though they were slaves, the Children of Israel continued to have more children. Pharoah was scared of them because of their large population. Pharoah thought that the Children of Israel might join with his other enemies and try to overthrow him and his family as rulers of Egypt.
Because Pharoah was scared of the Hebrews, he decided to make things difficult for Hebrew mothers (all male, Hebrew babies were to be killed). He ordered the two head Hebrew midwives, Shifrah and Pu’ah, to cooperate with him. He commanded them to make life difficult for some of their own people – the Hebrew mothers. The midwives recognized that Pharoah was trying to use Israelites to hurt other Israelites. Instead of following Pharoahs orders, the midwives secretly took special care of the babies and mothers. If a woman did not have enough food, they went to the other Hebrews and arranged that there would be enough for both mother and child.
Naming the Plagues
We remove a drop from our cups at the mention of the plagues. Removing wine reminds us that our freedom came at the same time as terrible misfortunes were visited upon the Egyptians. The ten plagues are:
(For each plague from the story, somebody mention a modern day problem in our society)
Dom (blood), Tzfardaya (frogs), Keeneem (lice), Orov (flies), Dever (cattle disease), Shcheen (boils), Barad (hail), Arbeh (locusts), Choschech (darkness), Makat bchorot (slaying of the first born)
(What are some possible lessons of the plagues?)
Two times so far we've talked about
this matzah here to figure out
And now's our chance to take a bite
to remind us of the slaves rushed flight
But first some blessings say we should
Thank God for our gifts so good
Ba-ruch A-tah A-do-nai, E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech Ha-o-lam,
Ha-mo-tzee le-chem meen ha-a-retz.
O Holy One of Blessing, Your Presence fills creation;
Thank you for the nourishing goodness of bread.
Ba-ruch A-tah A-do-nai, E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech Ha-o-lam,
a-sher keed-sha-nu be-meetz-vo-tav, vee-tzee-va-nu
al a-chee-lat ma-tzah.
O Holy One of Blessing, your Presence fills creation;
You have made us special with your Mitzvot, and You have
Instructed us to eat Matzah during Pesach
Maror: Bitter Herbs (perceived) – We take a break from the story here to eat Maror. Why?
(We are taught that “In every generation all of us are obliged to regard ourselves as if we ourselves went forth from the land of Egypt.” So it is not enough to remember, we must ourselves enter the story and, through symbols and ceremony and food, make it our own. Maror helps reminds us of the bitterness of slavery, the bitterness of being treated as property rather than a human being. As we taste the bitterness, our mouths and eyes water. We think of the tears of bitterness caused by intolerance or injustice.)
Blessing the bitter herbs
Old Traditional blessing: Baruch atah adonay eloheynu meleh ha’olam asher kidshanu bemitzvotav v’tzivanu al achilat maror.
Alternative language blessing: Nvarech et ruach ha’olam asher kidashtanu b’mitzvotechah v’tzivanu al achilat maror.
We remember the stories of our people, we are reminded of how hard it was for the Israelites to be slaves and we are reminded to not take our freedom for granted.
Now we partake of the charoset, which symbolizes the mortar which our enslaved ancestors used for building. Though the labor was bitter, it was made bearable by the sweetness of hope. We combine some charoset with some maror between two pieces of matzoh to soften the bitterness of suffering. This is known as the "Hillel sandwich" after one of the most famous of all Rabbis.
You may now eat everything in sight, but save room for dinner.
The Third Cup
(Pour the third cup of wine)
Reader 1: The swords have not yet been put aside, and the time of the plowshare and the pruning hooks is still to come. But the journey has begun. Towards that redemption, let us lift once again our glasses of wine and
join in the blessing:
Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha’olam boreh p’ri ha-gafen.
We praise You, O God, Sovereign of the Universe, Who brings forth the fruit of the vine.
(Leaning to the left, all drink the third cup of wine.)
Reader 1: That's the difficulty in these times: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to meet the horrible truth and be shattered.
It's really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because, in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can't build my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusio, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a
wilderness. I hear the ever-approaching thunder, which will destroy us too. I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.
Group: In the meantime, I must uphold my ideals, for perhaps the time will come when I shall be able to carry them out.
- Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank.
Find the Aﬁkomen, symbolizing part of you that was split off and must be reintegrated into your full being to be a whole and free person.
The fourth cup of wine is poured
We now draw our attention to the two empty cups on the table--one of which is for Elijah the Prophet, and the other for Miriam the Prophetess. Tradition teaches us that each of these biblical characters plays an important task of bringing redemption.It is said that that Elijah the Prophet visits the homes of Jewish families on Passover, to check to see if we are all truly ready to welcome the stranger, and are thus prepared to enter as a people into the messianic age. To Elijah we each offer a little bit of wine from our own cups, as a symbolic gesture of our readiness for redemption.
To honor Miriam the Prophetess, we each pour not wine, but water into a cup. According to tradition, Miriam sustained the Israelites in the desert with water from her well, and to this day her life-giving waters still flow into wells everywhere,sustaining us all as we work to bring redemption and wait for Elijah.
And so we open the door, pass around the Elijah’s and Miriam’s cups so that everyone can contribute to them, and sing together their songs of redemption:
The Fourth Cup of Wine Dedicated to Hope
The swords have not yet been put aside, and the time of the plowshare and the pruning hooks is still to come. But the journey has begun. Towards that redemption, let us lift once again our glasses of wine and join in the blessing:
We remember the words of Anne Frank: “That's the difficulty in these times: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to meet the horrible truth and be shattered. It's really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because, in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can't build my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness. I hear the ever-approaching thunder, which will destroy us too. I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again. In the meantime, I must uphold my ideals, for perhaps the time will come when I shall be able to carry them out.- Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank.
Freedom. It isn’t once, to walk out
under the Milky Way, feeling the rivers
of light, the fields of dark—
freedom is daily, prose-bound, routine
remembering. Putting together, inch by inch
the starry worlds. From all the lost collections.