The long history of our people is one of contrasts — freedom and slavery, joy and pain, power and helplessness. Passover reflects these contrasts. Tonight as we celebrate our freedom, we remember the slavery of our ancestors and realize that many people are not yet free.
Each generation changes — our ideas, our needs, our dreams, even our celebrations. So has Passover changed over many centuries into our present
holiday. Our nomadic ancestors gathered for a spring celebration when the sheep gave birth to their lambs. Theirs was a celebration of the continuity of life. Later, when our ancestors became farmers, they celebrated the arrival of spring in their own fashion. Eventually these ancient spring festivals merged with the story of the Exodus from Egypt and became a new celebration of life and freedom.
As each generation gathered around the table to retell the old stories, the symbols took on new meanings. New stories of slavery and liberation, oppression and triumph were added, taking their place next to the old. Tonight we add our own special chapter as we recall our people’s past and we dream of the future.
For Jews, our enslavement by the Egyptians is now remote, a symbol of communal remembrance. As we sit here in the comfort of our modern world, we think of the millions who still suffer the brutality of the existence that we escaped thousands of years ago.
Lighting of the Holiday Candles
May these candles, lighted on the Festival of Freedom, bring light into our hearts and minds. May they renew our courage to act for justice and freedom here and now. May they illumine the path to truth, justice and peace. And so we repeat the ancient blessing:
ברוך אתה יי אלהינו מלך העולם אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו להדליק נר של יום טוב
Baruch atah Adonai Elohaynoo melech ha-olam, asher keedshanoo b’meetzvotav v’tzeevanoo l’hadleek ner shel (Shabbat v’shel) yom tov.
Praised are You, Lord our God, Whose presence fills the universe, Who has sanctified our lives through Your commandments and commanded us to kindle the Shabbat and festival lights.
ברוך אתה יי אלהינו מלך העולם שהחינו וקימנו והגיענו לזמן הזה
Baruch ata Adonai, Elohaynoo melech ha-olam, sheh’hech’eeyanoo v’keeyemanoo, v’heegeeanoo la-z’man ha-zeh.
Praised are You, Lord our God, Whose presence fills the universe, Who has sanctified our lives through Your commandments and commanded us to kindle the festival lights.
The Four Cups
The cups parallel the four expressions in the Torah which describe our freedom from Egypt. The first cup, which also serves as Kiddush, parallels "I will take you out," when Hashem helped us recognize that we were Egyptian Jews, and not Jewish Egyptians. This is the essence of Kiddush sanctification - the realization that the Jewish People play a unique role in this world. The Haggada, the story of our physical exodus from Egypt, is recited over the second cup, symbolizing our physical salvation, which is parallel to "I will save you." A person is a slave to his physical needs. When the people were fed by Hashem in the wilderness, as we are today in a less miraculous manner, they were liberated from the shackles of the physical world in order to concentrate on loftier matters. Birkas HaMazon, the blessings which remind us that Hashem provides for our sustenance, is recited over the third cup, paralleling "I will redeem you" - the goal of the Exodus was the formation of a unique relationship with Hashem. Hallel is recited over the fourth cup. Hallel is the praise we bestow on Hashem, recognizing that He said "I will take you to be My nation."
Kadesh- blessing the wine
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ
Blessed are You, Lord
Baruch atta Adonai
אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הַעוֹלָם
our God, Ruler of the
Eloheinu melekh ha'olam
בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָּפֶן
who creates the fruit of the vine
bo-ray p'ree ha-ga-fen
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ
Blessed are You, Lord
Baruch atta Adonai
אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הַעוֹלָם
our God, Ruler of the
Eloheinu melekh ha'olam
who has granted us life, sustained us
וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לַזְּמַן הַזֶּה׃
enabled us to reach this occasion.
va'higiy'anu laz'man hazeh.
Why do we wash our hands all the time?
This washing, even though it is an official task of the Seder, is done without a blessing. It is strictly for cleanliness purposes.
And why not?
We're about to handle food. It seems so easy for us. We turn on the tap, and there it is. But water is scarce. May we be aware of our water as we continue the Seder.
The first hand-washing of the seder is unusual. The rabbis point out that even a child would wonder at least two things: why do we wash without a blessing and why do we bother to wash when we will not be eating our meal for some time. They suggest that we wash our hands here in order to raise questions. Questions, both of wonder and of despair, are crucial to our growth as human beings. As Jews we have permission to ask questions, even of God, when we see and experience suffering.
Karpas is the dipping of the vegetables in the salt water.
Each person takes a piece of the parsley and dips it in the salt water, and proclaims that this serves as a reminder of my enslaved ancestors in Egypt’s tears.We need to re-taste the breaking labor of Egypt to liberate ourselves from it once again. It was this labor that prepared us for freedom. It was this labor that gave us a humble spirit to accept wisdom.
The reason we use parsley is because it represents the grass of spring. Some people believe that we should use roots that come from the ground.
Annie's tradition- Instead of using parsley, my family also uses potatoes.
The blessing that goes along with this ritual is:
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה
Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, King of the universe, Who creates the fruit of the land.
Baruch atah A-donay, Elo-heinu Melech Ha’Olam borei pri ha-adamah.
What other vegetables can we use for this ritual?
An interesting remembrance of dipping twice is to recall our coming and going from Egypt. Recall the first Jew to Egypt, Yosef, was sold by his brothers. They masked the sale to their father by dipping his coat in blood to appear that he was killed. It’s fitting then that we left Egypt with a second dipping: the hyssop branch into blood to spread on our doorways before the final plague to the firstborn. 200 years of History in a Double Dip!
Speaking of Yosef’s Technicolor Dream Coat...
Rabbi Pesach Krohn highlights that Rashi when describing the material of colorful coat that Yaakov gave to Yosef,“ uses the words “KARPAS utecheiles." Weird! How is a coat, a Technicolor dream coat, like a vegetable?! In order to remember why/how we were leaving Egypt, we must first remember why/how we got there in the first instance. It all started with the “ktonet pasim” the colorful coat that Yosef's brothers dipped in blood to trick their father that his son, their brother Yosef, was dead, while his brothers instead sold him into slavery. Yosef ended up a slave in Egypt, and the story of the Jews in Egypt begins... [please insert a little speech here about loving one another.] This is why we start the seder with KARPAS, we are essentially going in timeline order -- first the prequel and then it all begins...
The Alexander Rebbe (Yismach Yisroel) notes that Veggies are usually served as a side dish, but tonight – they are our most exciting main starter. (Don’t pretend like you aren’t devouring tons of parsley right now) Symbolizing that things and people which are so often written off as secondary can be elevated, just like the slaves of Egypt (R Shlomo Einhorn, NYC)
Springtime for Karpas
Q. Why is Passover in the springtime? This was no coincidence; in fact it was a blessing. G-d could have taken us out of bondage in the cold of winter or the heat of summer, but instead G-d took us out in perfect weather, Spring! The color green of karpas reminds us of this small detail, and helps us recognize that G-d went “above and beyond” in every aspect of our redemption, even the weather forecast.
This is the bread of affliction which our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. Let all who are hungry come and eat; let all who are needy come and celebrate the Passover with us. Now we are here; next year may we be in the Land of Israel. Now we are slaves; next year may we be free.
We break the matzah as we broke the chains of slavery, and as we break chains which bind us today. We will no more be fooled by movements which free only some of us, in which our so - called “freedom” rests upon the enslavement or embitterment of others.
Traditionally, seders require three matzot. Why three? Three are our patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Three are the segments of the people Israel, Kohen, Levi and Yisrael. The three matzot could even represent thesis, antithesis and synthesis: the two opposites in any polarized situation, and the solution which bridges them.
Matzah is both a reminder of our past and a symbol of our future. It was first used to celebrate the spring festival when our farming ancestors threw out their sour dough — the leavening — and baked unleavened bread to welcome the New Year.
Later the Matzah became associated with the Exodus from Egypt. As the Torah says, “And they baked unleavened bread from the dough which they brought out of Egypt. There was not sufficient time to allow it to rise, for they were fleeing Egypt and could not wait.” Matzah recalls the slavery of our ancestors, their triumph over tyranny.
In our own generation, Matzah has become a symbol of hope, urging us to speak for those who do not yet know freedom. We who celebrate Passover commit ourselves to the continuing struggle against oppression. We become the voices for those locked within prison cells, for those exiled from their homes, their families, their communities. We who know freedom are the guardians of their ideas.
Maggid – Beginning
Raise the tray with the matzot and say:
הָא לַחְמָא עַנְיָא דִי אֲכָלוּ אַבְהָתָנָא בְּאַרְעָא דְמִצְרָיִם. כָּל דִכְפִין יֵיתֵי וְיֵיכֹל, כָּל דִצְרִיךְ יֵיתֵי וְיִפְסַח. הָשַׁתָּא הָכָא, לְשָׁנָה הַבָּאָה בְּאַרְעָא דְיִשְׂרָאֵל. הָשַׁתָּא עַבְדֵי, לְשָׁנָה הַבָּאָה בְּנֵי חוֹרִין.
Ha lachma anya dee achalu avhatana b'ara d'meetzrayeem. Kol deechfeen yeitei v'yeichol, kol deetzreech yeitei v'yeefsach. Hashata hacha, l'shanah haba-ah b'ara d'yisra-el. Hashata avdei, l'shanah haba-ah b'nei choreen.
This is the bread of affliction, which our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. Let all who are hungry come and eat. Let all who are in need, come and share the Pesach meal. This year, we are here. Next year, in the land of Israel. This year, we are slaves. Next year, we will be free.
Refill the wine cups, but don’t drink yet.
Maggid means retelling the story of the exodus from Egypt.
In every generation, we must see ourselves as if we personally were liberated from Egypt. We gather tonight to tell the ancient story of a people's liberation from Egyptian slavery. This is the story of our origins as a people. It is from these events that we gain our ethics, our vision of history, our dreams for the future. We gather tonight, as two hundred generations of Jewish families have before us, to retell the timeless tale.
Yet our tradition requires that on Seder night, we do more than just tell the story. We must live the story. Tonight, we will re-experience the liberation from Egypt. We will remember how our family suffered as slaves; we will feel the exhilaration of redemption. We must re-taste the bitterness of slavery and must rejoice over our newfound freedom. We annually return to Egypt in order to be freed. We remember slavery in order to deepen our commitment to end all suffering; we recreate our liberation in order to reinforce our commitment to universal freedom.
Raise the tray with the matzot and say:
This is the bread of affliction that our fathers ate in the land of Egypt. Whoever is hungry, let him come and eat; whoever is in need, let him come and conduct the Seder of Passover. This year [we are] here; next year in the land of Israel. This year [we are] slaves; next year [we will be] free people.
The tray with the matzot is moved aside, and the second cup is poured.
(Do not drink it yet).
It’s tradition that the youngest person in the family asks the questions. The rabbis who created the set format for the Seder gave us the Four Questions to help break the ice in case no one had their own questions. Asking questions is a core tradition in Jewish life. If everyone at your Seder is around the same age, perhaps the person with the least Seder experience can ask them – or everyone can sing them all together.
מַה נִּשְׁתַּנָּה הַלַּֽיְלָה הַזֶּה מִכָּל הַלֵּילות?
Mah nish-ta-nah ha-lai-lah ha-zeh mi-kol ha-lei-lot?
Why is this night different from all other nights?
:שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָֽנוּ אוֹכלין חָמֵץ וּמַצָּה הַלַּֽיְלָה הַזֶּה כֻּלּוֹ מצה
She-b'chol ha-lei-lot a-nu och-lin cha-meitz u-ma-tzah? Ha-lai-lah ha-zeh, ku-lo ma-tzah?
Why on all other nights we eat both leavened bread and matzah, and tonight we only eat matzah?
שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָֽנוּ אוֹכְלִין שְׁאָר יְרָקוֹת הַלַּֽיְלָה הַזֶּה מָרוֹר:
She-b'chol ha-lei-lot a-nu och-lin sh'ar y'ra -kot. Ha-lai-lah ha-zeh ma-ror?
On all other nights we eat all kinds of vegetables, but tonight why do we only eat bitter herbs?
. שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אֵין אָֽנוּ מַטְבִּילִין אֲפִילוּ פַּֽעַם אחָת הַלַּֽיְלָה הַזֶּה שְׁתֵּי פְעמים:
She-b'chol ha-lei-lot ein anu mat-bi-lin a-fi-lu pa-am, e-hat. Ha-lai-lah ha-zeh, sh'tei f'a-mim?
On all other nights we aren’t expected to dip our vegetables at all. Why, tonight, do we do it twice?
שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָֽנוּ אוֹכְלִין בֵּין יוֹשְׁבִין וּבֵין מְסֻבִּין. :הַלַּֽיְלָה הַזֶּה כֻּלָּֽנוּ מְסֻבין:
She-b'chol ha-lei-lot a-nu och-lin bein yosh-vin o'vein m-subin. Ha-lai-lah na-zeh ku-la-nu m-su-bin?
On all other nights we eat either sitting normally or reclining. Why do we sit reclining tonight?
Four times the Torah commands us to tell our children about the Exodus from Egypt and because of this, traditional Haggadot speak of four kinds of sons. The Hebrew word for “children” is the same word as “sons” and either can be used. Our sages teach that perhaps there is really a part of each of the four children in us all.
The wise child questions, “What is the meaning of the laws and observanc- es which the Lord, our God, has commanded you?” In response to this child we explain the observances of the Passover in-depth.
The scornful child questions, “What does this service mean to you?” This child says “to you” and does not feel a part of our observances. By excluding God — and himself, this child would not have been redeemed had he or she been in Egypt. We ask this child to listen closely and become part of our tra- ditions and learn what the Seder means.
The simple child questions, “What is this ceremony about?” We say, “We are remembering a time long ago when we were forced to work as slaves. God made us a free people and we are celebrating our freedom.” We hope by observing the Seder year after year, this child will come to appreciate the mes- sage of the Passover holiday.
The innocent child doesn't think to question. To this child we say, “In the spring of every year we remember how we were brought out of slavery to freedom.”
Some rabbis remind us that there is also a fifth child... the one who is not at this table. This is the person who should be with us, but is not... and we mark his absence.
As we tell the story, we think about it from all angles. Our tradition speaks of four different types of children who might react differently to the Passover seder. It is our job to make our story accessible to all the members of our community, so we think about how we might best reach each type of child:
What does the wise child say?
The wise child asks, What are the testimonies and laws which God commanded you?
You must teach this child the rules of observing the holiday of Passover.
What does the wicked child say?
The wicked child asks, What does this service mean to you?
To you and not to himself! Because he takes himself out of the community and misses the point, set this child’s teeth on edge and say to him: “It is because of what God did for me in taking me out of Egypt.” Me, not him. Had that child been there, he would have been left behind.
What does the simple child say?
The simple child asks, What is this?
To this child, answer plainly: “With a strong hand God took us out of Egypt, where we were slaves.”
What about the child who doesn’t know how to ask a question?
Help this child ask.
Start telling the story:
“It is because of what God did for me in taking me out of Egypt.”
Do you see yourself in any of these children? At times we all approach different situations like each of these children. How do we relate to each of them?
A long time ago the Jews were slaves in Egypt. Pharaoh made them build pyramids. He decreed that all baby boys born to Jewish parents would be killed. So Moses’s parents Jochebed and Amram sent Moses in a basket down the Nile River with his sister Miriam watching the basket containing her brother. The basket floated to where the daughter of Pharaoh was. She kept the child, called him her own and raised him in the palace. One day Moses was walking through the fields where the Israelite men were working and he saw an Egyptian servant whip a Hebrew man. Moses struck the Egyptian and killed him. Then Moses ran out to the desert. There he found a burning bush that is not being consumed by the fire. God spoke through the bush to Moses. God told Moses to go tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. So, Moses went to Pharaoh and told him to let the Israelites go.
Pharaoh refused, so God created the ten plagues. After the first three or so, Moses went to him and asked again. Pharaoh refused, so God created three or so more plagues. After that, Moses went again, and of course, Pharaoh refused. After the tenth plague Moses and his brother fearlessly went past the guard men and wild animals that surrounded his chamber. Moses went to Pharaoh and said “Let my people go.” Pharaoh finally decided to free the children of Israel from slavery. All of Israel packed up their belongings and left Egypt. Again Pharaoh changed his mind and went after the Israelites. God sent a barricade of smoke and fire that blocked the Egyptians from gaining on Moses and his people. Then Moses parted the Red Sea and allowed the Jews to pass through to the other side. The blockade retreated when the Jews were safely through the sea. Pharaoh and his men went after the crossing people and were drowned by the closing of the water. The Israelites were then freed from being enslaved in Egypt.
By Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman
Our rabbis teach that all Jews must see themselves as if they had come out of Egypt. The Exodus from Egypt is not a story of a distant past but a living memory which must shape our present lives and identities as Jews.
Memory is a tricky thing in which we are not merely passive recipients of past events, but active participants in shaping the memory and determining its features. The critical question we have to ask ourselves is what story we choose to tell. What do we remember from Egypt and most importantly what do we take away from that memory as a foundation block for contemporary Jewish life?
The Exodus story, as retold by our tradition, has many facets, each weaving its own narrative and moral lesson. The most dominant and common one portrays our liberation from Egypt as a story of Jewish election. It tells of our suffering in Egypt, of a God who remembers God’s covenant with our forefathers, and who reaches down with a mighty hand and outstretched arm and with great miracles to free us and to make us God’s inheritance and chosen people.
In telling the story we remember the liberation, so we can bask in the light of God’s love and care and feel the pride and dignity of being God’s chosen people. We count, relish, magnify, and multiply each miracle as evidence both of God’s unique love for us and as a foundation for the promise of things yet to come.
This story has served us well, especially in the darkest moments of exile as we awaited our next liberation story. It served to create a pride of membership even when our precarious political status seemed to suggest that we were the abandoned child. As our freedom and power increased with the rebirth of Israel and our newfound acceptance in the Western world the pride taken from the story served and serves as an ongoing catalyst for our people to strive for excellence and to define ourselves by our achievements. It is a story which embeds us with a sense of dignity and self-worth in which to be a Jew and to be mediocre is viewed as a contradiction in terms unworthy of the people who were freed by God from Egypt.
This story, however, can and at times has a darker side. Pride can be the mother of arrogance, and chosenness, instead of serving as a catalyst for achievement, can be the foundation for entitlement. The story of God’s love can give birth to a sense of superiority and a denigration of those who were not the recipients of that love.
In truth this darker side can be found throughout our tradition, as the Exodus story was sometimes used to discriminate between Jew and non-Jew. It even finds its way into the ending of the traditional Passover Haggadah with the calling for God to pour out God’s wrath upon the nations that do not know God.
As we tell the story it is important that we own this part as well, for to ignore it will allow it to fester and to influence our soul. It is only when a symptom of an illness is recognized that appropriate acts can be instituted to activate healing.
As a part of this healing there is a dimension of the Exodus which rarely enters into the telling of the story or the traditional Haggadah, but which had significant impact on the Jewish moral code. It is the part of the story that precedes the liberation and which speaks of our humble and suffering past. It obligates us to use this memory as a catalyst for responsibility toward all who are in a similar circumstance.
If the first story unites us with fellow Jews, the second places us forever in the midst of the community of sufferers. It tempers our pride with a measure of humility to ensure that arrogance and entitlement never become our inheritance. It channels our drive to achieve into areas which do not merely service our own interests but the needs of all, especially the downtrodden and forgotten.
If the prayer, “Pour out Your Wrath,” is the personification of our darker side, then the beginning of the Haggadah, “This is the bread of affliction, which our forefathers ate in the land of Egypt. All who are hungry, let them come and eat. All who are needy, let them join us at our table,” is meant to serve as its antidote.
Both, however, are present in our story. It behooves our people, whose liberation story serves as a catalyst for excellence, that we recognize that it is our responsibility to determine which side of the story we tell and which side we allow to define our future as a people. It is true that we were once slaves; now, however, we are free. As a free people the power is now in our hands to be a force for good or for evil. It is in our hands to show that Jewish pride and a sense of God’s love for us need not lead to arrogance and blindness to the needs and rights of others. It is in our hands to determine which story will define us as a people. Here too mediocrity and being Jewish must be a contradiction in terms.
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, 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 organization.
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?
During the Exodus, God performed miracles every step of the way. At our Seder we sing a song,“Dayenu,” in which we list all of those miracles and after each one the refrain is “dayenu” “it would have been enough.” Is that true? Stuck in the desert between a charging army of Egyptians and the Red Sea, doesn’t seem like a point in which we would think, “It’s okay God, you did your part, I’m good.”
Perhaps the intention of this song is that we need to make sure to appreciate and be grateful for each and every thing others do for us. In order to do that, we must remember those events uniquely, and here at the Seder we get a chance to do that.
Discussion Question: In what ways have others helped you? Is there anyone you think you should make an extra effort to say "Thank you" to?
This song, found in the Seder, thanks God for the myriad miracles that took place at the time of the Exodus. “Dayenu” can also allow us to express our gratitude for all that has taken place in recent times. In 1988, CLAL (The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership) produced this modern version of
Dayenu to recall the many miracles of the modern state of Israel. This reading speaks of the Jewish community’s custom of reaching out to those in need, such as the Jews in the Former Soviet Union and Ethiopia. When we celebrate the successes of the past, we can also remember the ongoing need to help those who are oppressed in other communities.
Had God upheld us throughout two thousand year of Dispersion
But not preserved our hope for return, Dayenu
Had God preserved our hope for return
But not sent us leaders to make the dream a reality, Dayenu
Had God sent us leaders to make the dream a reality
But not given us success in the U.N. vote, Dayenu
Had God given us success in the U.N. vote
But not defeated our attackers in 1948, Dayenu
Had God defeated our attackers in 1948
But not unified Jerusalem, Dayenu
Had God unified Jerusalem
But not led us toward peace with Egypt, Dayenu
Had God returned us to the Land of our ancestors
But not filled it with our children, Dayenu
Had God filled it with our children
But not caused the desert to bloom, Dayenu
Had God caused the desert to bloom
But not built for us cities and towns, Dayenu
Had God rescued our remnants from the Holocaust's flames
But not brought our brothers from Arab lands, Dayenu
Had God brought our brothers from Arab lands
But not opened the gates for Russia's Jews, Dayenu
Had God opened the gate for Russia's Jews
But not redeemed our people from Ethiopia, Dayenu
Had God redeemed our people from Ethiopia
But not planted in our hearts a covenant of One People, Dayenu
Had God planted in our hearts a covenant of One People
But not sustained in our souls a vision of a perfected world, Dayenu!
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ עַל נְטִילַת יָדַיִם.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר
קִדְשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ עַל נְטִילַת יָדַיִם.
Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha-olam
asher kidishanu b'mitz'votav v'tzivanu
al n'tilat yadayim.
Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the Universe Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us concerning washing of hands.
According to Jewish law we wash our hands before eating because there was a law to be pure. The blessing above is said before every time we eat bread. Back in ancient times they would do this also, so we follow this ritual as our ancestors did.
The procedure for washing is identical to the washing done earlier at Urchatz. However this washing will be followed by two other blessings and one should try not to speak from the time of the blessing until after eating the matzah. One tradition is that everyone except the leader of the Seder goes to the kitchen. A large cup is filled with water which is poured two times on the left and two times to the right. The rachtzah blessing is recited, hands are dried, and everyone returns to the table to recite the next two blessings before eating the matzah. Then someone brings water and the cup to the leader of the table can wash at the table.
Does it make sense in modern times to wash our hands before every time we eat bread?
The matzah for the Seder is baked out of wheat, rye, oats, barley, or spelt. When moistened and allowed to ferment and rise, these five types of grains become "chametz:" leavened foods which are prohibited on Passover. Matzah derives from the same grains which are chametz. So, too, are the vices and virtues of our lives interwoven; our energies for good and evil intricately connected. Of itself, the grain is neither good nor evil, neither matzah nor chametz. What makes it one or the other is the intention and use to which it is assigned. Each, in its proper place, has its purpose. It is we, not the neutral grain, who consecrate or desecrate, who turn it into leavened bread or matzah.
-On Passover, we eat theology and drink ethics. On our plates, in our cups, with the posture of our bodies, in the gesture of our hands, in the way we eat, drink and sing, in the way we converse with one another are found the teachings of our people.
-The bitter herbs may not be simply swallowed. The must be chewed and tasted. It is not enough to talk abstractly about oppression, to analyze the causes which led to slavery, to read about the forced labor camps. To the best of our ability we are to experience the lives embittered by totalitarian punishment. To taste the bitter herbs is part of the process of feeling the affliction of body and spirit which a subjugated people suffers.
-Yet, when the maror is eaten, it is mixed with the cinnamoned charoset, perhaps to teach us that memory cannot be immersed only in darkness and despair. The sweet mixture is not to be the dominant taste as the maror is dipped in the charoset. The charoset is not meant to eradicate the bitter, only to remind us that there is goodness in the world, however small, and hope in the future, however slight. Without the charoset, the only lasting memory would be that of torture and shame.
Ba-ruch a-tah A-do-nai, E-lo-hey-nu Me-lech ha-o-lam, Ha-motzi le-chem min ha-a-retz.Praised are you, Adonai our God, Ruler of the universe, who brings bread from out of the earth.Ba-ruch a-tah A-do-nai, E-lo-hey-nu Me-lech ha-o-lam, A-sher ki-d’-sha-nu b’-mitz-vo-tav, v’-tzi-va-nu Al a-chilat ma-tzah.
Praised are you, Adonai our God, Ruler of the universe, who makes us holy through Your commandments, and commands us to eat matzah.
At the point of Motzi matzah one should have three matzot on the Seder plate. The top matzah and the bottom matzah is full, and the middle matzah is the matzah that was broken for the procedure of Yachatz larger piece of the broken matzah is off the table hidden away to be used later for the Afikoman, and the smaller piece is in between the two full pieces. It is a positive commandment to eat matzah on the Seder night. To fulfill one's obligation, one must eat a correct measure described as the size of an olive.
At this point we fulfill the mitzvah to eat matzah on the night of passover. Each person should have two thirds of a piece of matzah on their plate; half a piece of matzah if hand baked matzah is used. The leader of the seder lifts all three matzahs from the seder plate and recites a blessing.
Usually we only say one blessing over bread, but why do we say two this time?
Bitterness isn't just a tradition in the Jewish community--it's a commandment. Here we answer some frequently asked questions about Passover's bitter herbs, also known as maror.
Q: Where does the commandment to eat bitter herbs come from?
A: In Exodus 12:8 the Torah commands us to eat the paschal sacrifice, "with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs." This same law is repeated in Numbers 9:20. Though we do not have the paschal sacrifice any more the obligation to eat the bitter herbs remains.
Q: What qualifies as a bitter herb?
A: The Hebrew word used is maror, which comes from the root mar, meaning bitter. In the Talmud, the rabbis came up with a list of qualifications for whatever vegetable you use as maror. It should be bitter, have sap, and be grayish in appearance. It also needs to be a vegetable that grows from the earth, not from a tree. (Pesahim 39a) Though we tend to refer to maror in English as an herb, it would be more accurate to say vegetable.
Q: What are some examples of things that could be bitter herbs at my seder this year?
A: The Mishnah (Pesahim 2:6) lists five possibilities that can be used at the seder, but it's hard to know for certain exactly what plants they are referring to. The one that is most clear is called hazeret in Hebrew, which is commonly understood to mean lettuce. So many halakhic authorities today say the best form of bitter herbs is romaine lettuce, even though it is not initially bitter, but has a bitter aftertaste. The outer older leaves of romaine lettuce can contain a grayish milky sap that is very bitter. If lettuce is not available, any vegetable is suitable, and other common options are celery and horseradish (also known as chrein).
Q: What is the symbolism of maror?
A: Though it isn't explicit in the Torah, bitter herbs are commonly held to be a symbol of the bitterness the Israelites felt when they were slaves in Egypt. By eating the herbs we feel bitterness ourselves, and can more easily imagine ourselves as slaves. When we dip the maror in the haroset we are associating the bitterness we feel with the hard labor the Israelites experienced at the hands of the Egyptians.
Q: Why would we say a blessing over something that's bitter and symbolizes hardship and suffering?
A: When we dip maror in haroset we recognize that bitter and sweet often come together in life. To be a Jew is to see both the bitter and the sweet in the world, and to bless God for both. Maror also reminds us that misery is not meaningless. The pain that the Israelites suffered as slaves in Egypt was not for naught. It led to their cries for freedom, and ultimately their redemption.
This response is adapted from Rabbi Aryeh Ben David's article "Looking Back: Denial or Integration?" We eat the Hillel sandwich at the Passover Seder because of the verse that says, "You shall eat (the paschal lamb with) matzot and bitter herbs," and this way Hillel fulfilled the two commands at the same time. The past, that which has been discarded and remains distasteful, is symbolically represented by the bitter herb, the maror. Rabban Gamliel states that whoever does not mention three things during the seder - Pesach, Matzah and Maror - has not fulfilled his/her obligation in the retelling of the story of the exodus. The Hagadah offers no alternative of denial. We must taste and talk about the bitterness. But then the Hagadah instructs us to understand this bitterness of the past, the maror, on a deeper level. The Hagadah tells of Hillel who would make a sandwich of the matzah and the maror. Now the taste of freedom - matzah, and the taste of bitterness - maror, have become united. Now the joy of the present and the trials of the past have blended into one experience. In Egypt, the bitterness of their travail induced the Jewish people to call out to God, ultimately catalyzing their redemption. The pain of this bitterness was the first step toward their freedom. God's bringing them out, their freedom, was the response to their distress. The bitterness was not simply a phase of their lives, rather the precipitating force behind their ultimate freedom. What is Hillel trying to convey through this joining of the matzah and the maror? The truest integration of the past and the present is not when one recognizes that there were many stages in one's life, but when one understands that all of these stages ultimately enabled me to become whom I am today. That my being is not just the product of the "good moments" and the "good decisions", but rather that I am the composite whole of all of my previous moments and decisions. I could not have become who I am today without all of my previous experiences, since they all ultimately yielded this personality. The deepest level of integration of one's past together with one's present occurs when one can look back and say, "The powers and qualities that I am blessed with today are the composite result of my entire life. These qualities would not exist as they are if not for all of my previous experiences." Hillel wanted to teach that the sweet taste of the present is inseparable from the bitter taste of the past. The sweetness would not exist if not for those times of bitterness. Looking back, even the maror becomes part of the taste of freedom. No denial. Not merely a phase. Rather a whole life. That was the process necessary for the true freedom of the Jewish people. That is the process necessary for each individual Jew.
The Seder Plate
Think of the Seder Plate as a “combination plate” dinner that formed the meal in ancient days. The foods were not merely symbolic, but were eaten—from the plate. As the Seder menu changed, the foods on the Seder Plate required explanation. (clockwise from the upper-right-of-center)
Zeroa (shankbone), represents the Passover offering made in Temple times. It will be explained during the Seder. At vegetarian Seders it has become customary to use a red beet instead. No classic prooftext exists for the use of a beet. Some people refer to Talmud Bavli Pesachim 114b. However, this comment actually deals with rice (!) and beets as additional foods at the meal itself—not a symbolic food on the Seder Plate. Nonetheless, the blood-red color of the beet serves as a metaphoric stand-in for the blood of the lamb shank. I suggest scoring and roasting a beet with its greens.
Beitzah (boiled or roasted egg), represents the holiday offering made in the days of the Temple. It plays no role in the Seder. It will be explained during the Seder.
Maror (bitter herbs), though possibly horehound, it is usually a piece of unground horseradish, represents the bitterness of slavery in Egypt.11 It will be explained during the Seder.
Charoset ( a mixture of chopped nuts, apples and wine (and other wonderful ingredients) represents the clay the Jews used to make bricks for the Egyptians.12 It will be explained during the Seder.
Chazeret another bitter herb, usually ground horseradish, or a bitter lettuce such as endive. It plays no role in the Seder, and will not be explained.
Karpas any green vegetable (parsley, celery—some traditions suggest a boiled potato), represents the new
The meal is now served. It is customary to start with hard-boiled eggs in or with salt water, various explanations have been made for this custom such as, the roundness of the egg symbolizes life, The salt water has also been connected to the Reed Sea over which we passed on our way out of Egypt to the Promised Land so indirectly reminding us of the Song of the Sea as mentioned earlier.. It has also been compared to the tears shed during our long and difficult Exile.
Hard-boiled eggs are also eaten as a sign of mourning. The first day of Pesach is the same day of the week as is Tisha b'Av (the Ninth of Av), the day of the destruction of both Temples, which we commemorate by a 25 hour fast. We thus connect life and the time of our redemption from Egypt to the day of mourning for the Temple and exile from our Land to the redemption and return to Eretz Yisrael, thus coming a full circle as is the egg. Together with the piece of roasted meat on the Seder dish we also place a roasted egg as a symbol of the Chagiga offering which was brought on every festival, the egg that we eat is perhaps a reminder of that. This roasted egg may now be eaten. If not eaten now it should be eaten at some time and not thrown away as it symbolizes the special festival offering.
Tzafun is the part of the Seder when we eat the Afikomen. One tradition after you find the Afikomen is that the person who finds it gets a prize. After we finish eating our meals, the head of the Seder takes the half piece of matzah that was put away after Yachatz, takes a piece, and splits the rest up into pieces for the other people at the table. We should eat the Afikomen comfortably while we’ve eaten enough but still have room for dessert. We eat the Afikomen in memory of the Passsover sacrifice which was served at the end of the meal. Tzafun is like the dessert of the Seder.
The word "Tzafun" literally means "Hidden." During this part of the seder we bring the Afikomen out of hiding.
Why do you think we sometimes get a prize for finding the Afikomen? (Hint: You need the Afikomen to finish the Seder)
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:
Our Seder now ends. Together we say, “Next year in Jerusalem. Next year may all men and women everywhere be free!”