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Shalom Aleichem, friends, family and strangers who have gathered in my surprisingly large kitchen. Thank you for coming to help me start what I hope is a new tradition. Before we do that, I just wanted to say a few things to those of you who have gathered, both those who have years of seder experience and those who are totally new. To the latter, I hope the rest of us do justice to Passover tonight.

Passover is a Jewish holiday, that is true. But even in the most religious household if you removed the recitation of blessings and talmudic parables you would be left with the essence of Passover: storytelling. After 30 years of Seders,I can sing some songs, and remember some blessings, but the rabbinic proverbs are not what I remember. What I remember is my Zeyde stopping mid sentence during a hurried Yiddish version of magid to lean over and get my sister and I's attention to tell us something about "the war.". How my mother and uncle would regale us with stories of the plum tree in their backyard in house in Munkachevo. Passover seders are where I learned the history of my family.

An ancient rabbinic text instructs us, “Each person in every generation must regard himself or herself as having been personally freed from Egypt.” The story of the Jews is Egypt is meant to act a vehicle for talking about struggle, liberation, equality, freedom, human rights, and justice. To my grandfather, this meant telling my sister and I about the war; for my mother and uncle, it was their childhood in the USSR.

Tonight’s Seder is not just the retelling of an ancient story.And that is where you come in. This seder belongs to you, and I encourage you to tell your story, whatever it may be, if the Spirit (or perhaps the fourth glass of wine) compels you.

"I cannot afford the luxury of fighting one form of oppression only. I cannot afford to believe that freedom from intolerance is the right of only one particular group. And I cannot afford to choose between the fronts upon which I must battle these forces of discrimination, wherever they appear to destroy me. And when they appear to destroy me, it will not be long before they appear to destroy you." -- Audre Lorde


Martin Luther King Jr. wrote from the Birmingham city jail that "an unjust law is a human that is is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just." King was arguing against laws that separated the races, and he turned to a leading thinker of his century to buttress the case. "Segregation, to use the terminology of the jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an I-it relationship for an I-Thou relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things." It is possible to imagine that King had in mind the story of Shifra and Puah, the midwives who delivered Moses when he argued for the equality of God's Children.

Passover is the most politically radical of all holidays in part because, as the scholar Nahum Sarna has noted, the book of Exodus contains the first known example in ancient literature of civil disobedience. Shifra and Puah were instructed by Pharoah to kill the sons of the Israelites. Pharoah was the law. But the law was unjust. So there two heroic midwives broke one law, and most certainly risked their lives, in order to honor a higher law: "The midwives feared Fod and they did not do as the King of Egypt spoke to them, and they allowed the boys to live." Without Shifra and Puah, no Moses; no Moses, no liberation, no Sinai, no Toarh. Their bravery forces us to ask ourselves: Are there times when we should have resisted an unjust man - made law?


[On weekdays begin here:]

סַבְרִי מָרָנָן וְרַבָּנָן וְרַבּוֹתַי. בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה', אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָּפֶן
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה', אֱלהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר בָּחַר בָּנוּ מִכָּל-עָם וְרוֹמְמָנוּ מִכָּל-לָשׁוֹן וְקִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו. וַתִּתֶּן לָנוּ ה' אֱלֹהֵינוּ בְּאַהֲבָה (לשבת: שַׁבָּתוֹת לִמְנוּחָה וּ) מוֹעֲדִים לְשִׂמְחָה, חַגִּים וּזְמַנִּים לְשָׂשוֹן, (לשבת: אֶת יוֹם הַשַׁבָּת הַזֶּה וְ) אֶת יוֹם חַג הַמַּצּוֹת הַזֶּה זְמַן חֵרוּתֵנוּ, (לשבת: בְּאַהֲבָה) מִקְרָא קֹדֶשׁ זֵכֶר לִיצִיאַת מִצְרָיִם. כִּי בָנוּ בָחַרְתָּ וְאוֹתָנוּ קִדַּשְׁתָּ מִכָּל הָעַמִּים, (לשבת: וְשַׁבָּת) וּמוֹעֲדֵי קָדְשֶׁךָ (לשבת: בְּאַהֲבָה וּבְרָצוֹן) בְּשִׂמְחָה וּבְשָׂשוֹן הִנְחַלְתָּנוּ

Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has chosen us from all peoples and has raised us above all tongues and has sanctified us with His commandments. And You have given us, Lord our God, [Sabbaths for rest], appointed times for happiness, holidays and special times for joy, [this Sabbath day, and] this Festival of Matsot, our season of freedom [in love] a holy convocation in memory of the Exodus from Egypt. For You have chosen us and sanctified us above all peoples. In Your gracious love, You granted us Your [holy Sabbath, and] special times for happiness and joy.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה', מְקַדֵּשׁ (לשבת: הַשַׁבָּת וְ) יִשְׂרָאֵל וְהַזְּמַנִּים
Blessed are You, O Lord, who sanctifies [the Sabbath,] Israel, and the appointed times.

[בּמוצאי שבת מוסיפים]
[On Saturday night add the following two paragraphs:]

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה', אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא מְאוֹרֵי הָאֵשׁ. בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה', אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם הַמַּבְדִיל בֵּין קֹדֶשׁ לְחֹל, בֵּין אוֹר לְחשֶׁךְ, בֵּין יִשְׂרָאֵל לָעַמִּים, בֵּין יוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי לְשֵׁשֶׁת יְמֵי הַמַּעֲשֶׂה. בֵּין קְדֻשַּׁת שַׁבָּת לִקְדֻשַּׁת יוֹם טוֹב הִבְדַּלְתָּ, וְאֶת-יוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי מִשֵּׁשֶׁת יְמֵי הַמַּעֲשֶׂה קִדַּשְׁתָּ. הִבְדַּלְתָּ וְקִדַּשְׁתָּ אֶת-עַמְּךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל בִּקְדֻשָּׁתֶךָ

Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who creates the light of the fire. Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who distinguishes between the holy and the profane, between light and darkness, between Israel and the nations, between the seventh day and the six working days. You have distinguished between the holiness of the Sabbath and the holiness of the Festival, and You have sanctified the seventh day above the six working days. You have distinguished and sanctified Your people Israel with Your holiness.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה', הַמַּבְדִיל בֵּין קֹדֶשׁ לְקֹדֶשׁ
Blessed are You, O Lord, who distinguishes between the holy and the holy.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה', אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לַזְּמַן הַזֶּה
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe,
who has granted us life and sustenance and permitted us to reach this season.

[שותה בהסיבת שמאל ואינו מברך ברכה אחרונה]
[Drink while reclining to the left and do not recite a blessing after drinking the wine.]


Urchatz is the first of two times when we wash our hands during the Passover seder. This first time, we do so without blessing.