This may take up to thirty seconds.
1. What do you consider your “promised land,” or heaven on earth?
2. In Hebrew, the word for Egypt is “Mitzraim,” which literally means “narrow place.” What is one way that you wish for our society to be more open?
3. Moses is considered one of the greatest leaders in our history — he is described as being smart, courageous, selfless and kind. Which of today’s leaders inspires you in a similar way?
4. Miriam was a prophetess and the sister of Moses who, after crossing the Red Sea, led the women in song and dance with tambourines. She is described as being courageous, confident, insightful and nurturing. Which musician or artist today inspires you in a similar way?
5. More recent and ongoing struggles for freedom include civil rights, GLBTQ equality, and women’s rights. Who is someone involved in this work that you admire?
6. Is there someone — or multiple people — in your family’s history who made their own journey to freedom?
7. Freedom is a central theme of Passover. When in your life have you felt most free?
8. If you could write an 11th commandment, what would it be?
9. What’s the longest journey you have ever taken?
10. How many non-food uses for matzah can you think of? Discuss!
11. Let’s say you are an Israelite packing for 40 years in the desert. What three modern items would you want to bring?
12. The Haggadah says that in every generation of Jewish history enemies have tried to eliminate us. What are the biggest threats you see to Judaism today?
13. The Passover seder format encourages us to ask as many questions as we can. What questions has Judaism encouraged you to ask?
14. Israel is central to the Passover seder. Do you think modern Israel is central to Jewish life? Why or why not?
15. The manna in the desert had a taste that matched the desire of each individual who ate it. For you, what would that taste be? Why?
16. Let’s say you had to swim across the Red Sea, and it could be made of anything except water. What would you want it to be?
17. If the prophet Elijah walked through the door and sat down at your table, what’s the first thing you would ask him?
18. Afikoman means “dessert” in Greek. If you could only eat one dessert for the rest of your life, what would it be?
19. What is something you wish to cleanse yourself of this year? A bad habit? An obsession or addiction?
20. The word “seder” means “order.” How do you maintain order in your life?
Download the PDF here: https://www.jewishboston.com/20-table-topics-for-your-passover-seder/
Long ago at this season, our people set out on a journey. On such a night as this, Israel went from degradation to joy. We give thanks for the liberation of days gone by. And we think of all who are still bound. May all who hunger come to rejoice in a new Passover. Let all the human family sit together, drink the wine of deliverance, and eat the bread of freedom:
Freedom from bondage and freedom from oppression
Freedom from hunger and freedom from want
Freedom from hatred and freedom from fear
Freedom to think and freedom to speak
Freedom to teach and freedom to learn
Freedom to love and freedom to share
Freedom to hope and freedom to rejoice
Soon, in our days.
Now in the presence of loved ones and friends, before us the symbols of festive rejoicing, we gather for our sacred celebration. With our elders and young ones, linking and bonding the past with the future, we heed once again the divine call to service. Living our story that is told for all peoples, whose shining conclusion is yet to unfold, we gather to observe Passover. For as long as one person is oppressed, none of us is truly free.
Adapted from Dara Sabadin
As Israel was about to be released from slavery, God instituted a new calendar: “This month shall (mark for you the beginning of months; the first of the months of the year for you.” (Exodus 12:2) Why is this the first mitzva (commandment) communicated to a free nation?
A slave’s time is not his own. He is at the beck and call of his master. Even when the slave has a pressing personal engagement, his taskmaster’s needs will take priority. In contrast, freedom is the control of our time. We determine what we do when we wake up in the morning; we prioritize our day. This is true for an individual, but also for a nation. God commands Israel to create a Jewish calendar because, as an independent nation, Israel should not march any more to an Egyptian rhythm, celebrating Egyptian months and holidays. Instead Israel must forge a Jewish calendar, with unique days of rest, celebration and memory. Controlling and crafting our time is the critical first act of freedom.
Kiddush says this out loud. We sanctify the day and define its meaning! We proclaim this day as significant, holy and meaningful. We fashion time, claim ownership of it, and fashion it as a potent .contact point with God, peoplehood and tradition. This is a quintessential act of Jewish freedom.
Today, we often feel short of time; that time controls us. Kadesh reminds us that true freedom and self-respect is to master and control time for ourselves, to shape our life in accordance with our values.
Rabbi Alex Israel teaches Bible and is the Director of the Pardes Community Education Program and the Pardes Summer Program
Before the blessing over the first cup of wine, say:
We are gathered here tonight to affirm our continuity with the generations of Jews who kept alive the vision of freedom in the Passover story. For thousands of years, Jews have affirmed that by participating in the Passover Seder, we not only remember the Exodus, but actually relive it, bringing its transformative power into our own lives.
The Hebrew word for Egypt, Mitzrayim, means “narrow straits.” Traditionally, Mitzrayim has been understood to mean a spiritual state, the “narrow place,” a place of confusion, fragmentation, and spiritual disconnection. There are many ways in which all of us, individually and collectively, may be trapped in Mitzrayim. Fear of the other, fear of our own true selves, fear of losing control. All of these can become "false gods" to which we may be enslaved. Even some of what passes for "spiritual growth" may lead us into a narrower, more constricted place as we attempt to cut off parts of ourselves that we don't like. It is only a short step from abusing facets of our own selves to abusing others as well.
The way out of Mitzrayim is through chesed, compassion—through embracing that which we have been taught to scorn within ourselves and others and through attempting to understand those who seem very different from us. Israel left Egypt with “a mixed multitude”; the Jewish people began as a multicultural mélange of people attracted to a vision of social transformation. What makes us Jews is not some biological fact, but our willingness to proclaim the mes- sage of those ancient slaves: The world can be changed, we can be healed.
Kiddush (the blessing over wine) | kadeish | קַדֵּשׁ
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָּפֶן:
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, borei p’ree hagafen.
Blessed are you, God, Ruler of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לַזְּמַן הַזֶּה:
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, she-hechiyanu v’key’manu v’higiyanu lazman hazeh.
Blessed are you, God, Ruler of the Universe, who has kept us alive, raised us up, and brought us to this happy moment.
Drink the first glass of wine.
The heart of the Passover Seder tells the story of the Jewish people’s exodus from slavery in Egypt. During the retelling of this story, we say the words, “ (Arami oved avi).” This phrase is sometimes translated as “My father was a wandering Aramean” and other times as “An Aramean sought to destroy my father.” Somewhere between the two translations lies the essence of the Jewish experience: a rootless people who have ed persecution time and time again.
Soon we will recite the words “Arami oved avi” as we retell the story of our people’s exodus from Egypt. These words acknowledge that we have stood in the shoes of the refugee. Today, as we celebrate our freedom, we commit ourselves to continuing to stand with contemporary refugees. In honor of this commitment and against the backdrop of terrible restrictions on refugees, we place a pair of shoes on the doorstep of our home to acknowledge that none of us is free until all of us are free and to pledge to stand in support of welcoming those who do not yet have a place to call home.
By Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt
On Passover, Jews are commanded to tell the story of the Exodus and to see ourselves as having lived through that story, so that we may better learn how to live our lives today. The stories we tell our children shape what they believe to be possible—which is why at Passover, we must tell the stories of the women who played a crucial role in the Exodus narrative. The Book of Exodus, much like the Book of Genesis, opens in pervasive darkness. Genesis describes the earth as “unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep.”
In Exodus, darkness attends the accession of a new Pharaoh who feared the Israelites and so enslaved them. God alone lights the way out of the darkness in Genesis. But in Exodus, God has many partners, first among them, five brave women. There is Yocheved, Moses’ mother, and Shifra and Puah, the famous midwives. Each defies Pharaoh’s decree to kill the Israelite baby boys. And there is Miriam, Moses’ sister, about whom the following midrash is taught:
[When Miriam’s only brother was Aaron] she prophesied... “my mother is destined to bear a son who will save Israel.” When [Moses] was born the whole house... filled with light[.] [Miriam’s] father arose and kissed her on the head, saying, “My daughter, your prophecy has been fulfilled.” But when they threw [Moses] into the river her father tapped her on the head saying, “Daughter, where is your prophecy?” So it is written, “And [Miriam] stood afar off to know what would be[come of] the latter part of her prophecy.”
Finally, there is Pharaoh’s daughter Batya, who defies her own father and plucks baby Moses out of the Nile. The Midrash reminds us that Batya knew exactly what she doing:
When Pharaoh’s daughter’s handmaidens saw that she intended to rescue Moses, they attempted to dissuade her, and persuade her to heed her father. They said to her: “It is the way of the world that when a king issues a decree, it is not heeded by the entire world, but his children and the members of his household do observe it, and you wish to transgress your father’s decree?”
But transgress she did.
These women had a vision leading out of the darkness shrouding their world. They were women of action, prepared to defy authority to make their vision a reality bathed in the light of the day. Retelling the heroic stories of Yocheved, Shifra, Puah, Miriam and Batya reminds our daughters that with vision and the courage to act, they can carry forward the tradition those intrepid women launched. While there is much light in today’s world, there remains in our universe disheartening darkness, inhumanity spawned by ignorance and hate. We see horrific examples in the Middle East, parts of Africa, and Ukraine. The Passover story recalls to all of us—women and men—that with vision and action we can join hands with others of like mind, kindling lights along paths leading out of the terrifying darkness.
As we prepare to wash our hands, we must remember that...many in the United States and around the world do not have access to clean water. Clean water is not a privilege; it is a basic human right. One in ten people currently lack access to clean water. That’s nearly 1 billion people in the world without clean, safe drinking water. Almost 3.5 million people die every year because of inadequate water supply.
We symbolize the uplifting of cleansed hands by raising hands into the air.
Tell me: how is this night different
From all other nights?
How, tell me, is this Passover
Different from other Passovers?
Light the lamp, open the door wide
So the pilgrim can come in,
Gentile or Jew;
Under the rags perhaps the prophet is concealed.
Let him enter and sit down with us;
Let him listen, drink, sing and celebrate Passover;
Let him consume the bread of affliction,
The Paschal Lamb, sweet mortar and bitter herbs.
This is the night of differences
In which you lean your elbow on the table,
Since the forbidden becomes prescribed,
Evil is translated into good.
We will spend the night recounting
Far-off events full of wonder,
And because of all the wine
The mountains will skip like rams.
Tonight they exchange questions:
The wise, the godless, the simple-minded and the child.
And time reverses its course,
Today flowing back into yesterday,
Like a river enclosed at its mouth.
Each of us has been a slave in Egypt,
Soaked straw and clay with sweat,
And crossed the sea dry-footed.
You too, stranger.
This year in fear and shame,
Next year in virtue and in justice.