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Before beginning the Seder, it is important to make sure that you have everything necessary. No Seder table is complete without the following:
1) Three Whole (unbroken) Matzot -- which should be covered by a cloth. One should try to use shmura (specially watched) matzah for the Seder, and one should make certain that the matzah is marked Kosher for Passover.
2) Wine (grape juice) and Wine Glasses -- All participants should be given a glass or cup (minimum size of 3.3 ounces) from which to drink the required Four Cups of Wine (wine is preferable, grape juice if necessary). Of course, only Kosher for
Passover wine or grape juice should be used.
3) The Seder Plate - It is traditional to place the following items on a special Seder Plate as a way of “beautifying” the mitzvot of the Seder. The items should be placed as diagramed below:
--- Bay’tza /Roasted (hardboiled) Egg -- The egg is included as a symbol of the cycle of life because of its round shape.
--- Z’roa /Shank Bone -- The offering brought to the Temple on Passover was a lamb. Because we do not have the Temple today, we place the shank bone of a lamb or the bone of another kosher animal or fowl on the Seder Plate, to symbolize that offering.
--- Maror /Bitter Herbs – Bitter herbs are part of the Seder to remind participants of the bitterness and pain of slavery.
--- Karpas /Vegetable -- A vegetable, usually a piece of celery, parsley or potato, which is dipped in salt water as required for the Seder ritual.
--- Charoset – A tasty mixture of chopped walnuts, wine, cinnamon and apples that represents the mortar the Jewish slaves used to build Pharaoh’s cities (recipes may vary by community).
---Chazeret/Bitter Vegetable – Chazeret is a bitter vegetable, like lettuce or celery, which is sometimes placed on the Seder Plate to remind us of the bitter lives of the Israelites as slaves.
4) Salt Water -- in which to dip the karpas. Salt water reminds us of the tears of the Jewish slaves. Usually, the salt water is not placed on the Seder Plate, but near it.
5) Elijah’s Cup -- Toward the end of the Seder, this cup is filled with wine, the door is opened, and Elijah the prophet, the harbinger of the Messianic age, is invited to come to the Seder, and hopefully, begin our final redemption.
In the following section of the Haggadah, a text from the Torah found in Deuteronomy is analyzed in detail, giving a more complete picture of the threat to the Children of Israel and their redemption through Divine intervention. For each phrase, the rabbis brought in an additional proof text based on other sections of the Bible.
NJOP's Beginners Haggadah takes explores the deeper elements of this section:
Who was Laban?
Laban was Jacob’s father-in-law, the father of both Rachel and Leah. When Jacob left his parents’ household, he went to his Uncle Laban, in Padan-Aram -- thus Laban is called an Aramean. Laban was a cheater and a thief -- accumulating wealth was his obsession. When Jacob wanted to marry Rachel, Laban indentured him for seven years, and then switched Rachel and Leah. When Jacob discovered the treachery the next day, Laban allowed him to marry Rachel as well, but at the price of another 7 years of labor. When Jacob and his family decided to leave Padan Aram after 20 years of working for Laban, his father-in-law was greatly angered, yet feigned being hurt by Jacob’s desire to take away his grandchildren (when all he really wanted was Jacob’s wealth). The Haggadah mentions Laban before describing the Jewish enslavement and redemption in order to underscore the cycle of history. Laban sought to use Jacob for his own purposes, to keep him in Padan-Aram for his own benefit, with false words. So too, Jacob’s descendents were lulled by kind words into a false sense of security in Egypt.
One might question the swift descent of the Jewish nation from the esteemed family of the Viceroy (Joseph) to abject slavery. Xenophobia, the fear of foreigners, is a common historic phenomenon. One would think, however, that transforming a nation into slaves would take generations or cause an uprising. The Sages teach that the Egyptians were cunning and enslaved the Jews through artifice. This is understood from the Hebrew term used in the Bible to describe the rigorous work: pherach which can be broken up to mean peh rah, meaning evil speech, and can also be understood to relate to peh rach, soft, gentle speech.
Language is a powerful tool, and Pharaoh well understood this. When he decided to enslave the Jews, he declared a national labor week in which all loyal citizens were expected to participate in order to help build the great store cities of Pithom and Ramses, with Pharaoh himself in the lead. The Jews, wanting to show their devotion to their host country, joined enthusiastically. The next day, however, the Jews came, but the Egyptians did not return. Shortly there-after, the Jews found themselves surrounded by taskmasters who demanded that they produce the same amount of work that they had done as volunteers the day before. It was through soft, gentle and cunning words that Pharaoh lured the Jews into slavery.
The next step of the Seder is to fulfill the mitzvah of eating bitter herbs (usually fresh ground horseradish or romaine lettuce). Maror is symbolic of the bitterness of slavery. We do not, however, eat the maror alone, but temper it with a small amount of
charoset*. Some people have the custom of dipping the maror into charoset and then shaking off the charoset. (*A tasty mixture of chopped walnuts, wine, cinnamon and apples that represents the mortar the Jewish slaves used to build Pharaoh’s cities--recipes may vary by community).
Everyone takes some maror and dips it in the charoset. All then recite the following blessing, after which everyone should immediately eat their maror without leaning to the left.
Ba’ruch Ah’tah Ah’doh’nai Eh’lo’hay’nu Melech ha’o’lam ah’sher kidishanu b’mitz’vo’tav v’tzee’vanu al ah’chee’laht ma’ror.
Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us in His commandments and commanded us to eat bitter herbs.
***POINTS TO PONDER***
How Much Maror?
In order to fulfill the commandment of eating maror, the rabbis determined that one must eat a k’zayit (“like an olive”) of maror. Depending on what one chooses to use for maror, this measurement translates into:
--For those eating grated horseradish: a little more than one ounce.
--For those eating romaine lettuce leaves: enough leaves to cover an area roughly the size of a sheet of paper.
--For those eating stalks of lettuce: an amount comparable to an area equal to a 3x5 photograph.
One may look at this mixture of the bitter herbs (a reminder of slavery) with the sweet charoset as symbolic of the fact that not all that one considers bitter lacks sweetness, and vice-versa. It was only through the bitterness of slavery that the
Jews were able to recognize and accept the freedom inherent in the Torah and to unite into one nation.
As you eat the maror , reflect on what significance maror has to you:
According to tradition, Elijah (Eliyahu) is the prophet who will return as a harbinger of the coming of the Messiah. He is therefore invited as a guest to every Seder.
The fourth cup of wine is poured, as well as Elijah’s Cup.The front door is opened for Elijah while the following paragraph is recited:
Pour Your wrath upon the heathen nations who do not recognize You and upon the sinful kingdoms that do not invoke Your Name. For they have devoured Jacob and destroyed His dwelling place. Pour Your anger upon them and let Your fiery wrath overtake them. Pursue them in indignation and annihilate them from beneath the heavens of the L-rd
Sh’foach cha’maht’chah el ha’goyim ah’sher lo y’dah’ooh’chah, v’ahl mahm’la’choat ah’sher b’shim’chah lo kah’rah’ooh. Kee ah’chahl et Yaakov v’et nah’vay’hoo hay’sha’moo. Sh’foch ah’lay’hem zah’meh’chah vah’chah’roan ahph’chah ya’see’gaym. Tir’doaf b’ahf v’tah’sh’mee’daym mee’tah’chaht sh’may Ah’doh’nai.
***POINTS TO PONDER***
A Night of Guarding:
The night of the Seder is known as Lel Shee’murim, the night of watching, because G-d protected the Israelites during the plague of the firstborn. By opening the door, we demonstrate that we believe that it is truly a Lel Shee’murim, and that we are not concerned that evil might be lurking on the other side of the door.
Eliyahu HaNavi, Elijah the Prophet, lived in the 9th century B.C.E. in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. A fierce and fiery prophet, Eliyahu fought against the idolatry brought into the country by Queen Jezebel, who married Ahab, King of Israel. Tradition notes that just before the coming of the Messiah, Eliyahu will settle every doubtful case of Jewish law. Eliyahu’s cup of wine,
which is placed on the Pesach Seder table, is linked to a Talmudic dispute as to whether four or five cups of wine are to be used at the Seder celebration. Hence the extra cup, known as Eliyahu’s Cup, conveys the idea that the question could not be solved by the authorities of the Talmud and therefore must wait for Eliyahu’s decision.
Eliyahu is also invited to join every brit milah (circumcision) celebration. Can you think of what ties these two occasions together?
Nirtza ends the Seder with a declaration that the Seder has now reached its conclusion and an assertion of our hope that we will be able to celebrate the next Passover as it was celebrated in the days of our ancestors, in Jerusalem. Then, just when
all the participants are tired and a bit tipsy, the songs begin. The end of the Seder is the time for such Passover favorites as Who Knows One and Chad Gad Yah ?
The Seder now concludes according to Halacha (Jewish law), with all its ordinances and statutes. Just as we were privileged to arrange it tonight, so may we be granted to perform it again. O Pure One who dwells in the heights above, establish us as a people numerous beyond counting once again, speedily guide the off-shoots of Your planting (Israel) as a redeemed people, to the land of Zion with song.
Cha’sahl see’door Pesach k’hil’cha’to, k’chol mish’pah’to v’choo’ka’to. Ka’ah’sher za’chee’noo l’sah’der oh’to, kain niz’keh la’ah’so’toh. Zahch sho’chain m’o’nah. Ko’maim k’hal ah’daht mee ma’nah. B’ka’rov na’hail nit’ay cha’nah. P’doo’yim l’Tzee’yon b’ree’nah.
Next year in Jerusalem!
L’shah’na ha’ba’ah bee’Yerushalayim.
YOUR THOUGHTS: What is the significance of saying “Next Year in Jerusalem?” What is the difference between the modern, physical city and the spiritual ideal of Jerusalem?