Tonight we gather together to celebrate Passover, our holiday of freedom. We will eat a great meal together, enjoy (at least!) four glasses of wine, and tell the story of our ancestors’ liberation from slavery in Egypt. We welcome our friends and family members from other backgrounds to reflect with us on the meaning of freedom in all our lives and histories. We will consider the blessings in our lives, pledge to work harder at freeing those who still suffer, and begin to cast off the things in our own lives that oppress us.
All Jewish celebrations, from holidays to weddings, include wine as a symbol of our joy.The seder starts with wine and then gives us three more opportunities to refill our cup and imbibe. Let's get to it:
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָּפֶן
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, borei p’ree hagafen.
We praise God, Ruler of Everything, 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.
We praise God, Ruler of Everything,
who has kept us alive, raised us up, and brought us to this happy moment.
(Participant)Passover, like many of our holidays, combines the celebration of an event from our Jewish memory with a recognition of the cycles of nature. As we remember the liberation from Egypt, we also recognize the stirrings of spring and rebirth happening in the world around us. The symbols on our table bring together elements of both kinds of celebration.
(Participant)We now take a sprig of parsley, representing our joy at the dawning of spring after our long, cold winter. Wedip our parsley into salt water, a symbol of the tears our ancestors shed as slaves.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, borei p’ree ha-adama.
Blessed art Thou, Eternal our God, Ruler of the Universe, who creates the fruits of the earth.
On Passover, we have three matzot on the table; the third matzoh is the “bread of affliction” reminding us of our enslavement in Egypt. We now take the middle of the three matzot and break it in two. By breaking “bread” we signify hospitality and invite all who are hungry to join us. The smaller piece of matzoh is replaced between the other two matzot. The larger piece is wrapped in a napkin — symbolic of our ancestors wrapping their dough in their garments when they departed Egypt — and set aside as the “afikomen” to be eaten after the meal. Together we say the words which join us with our people and with all who are in need.
All recite these words:
Behold the Matzoh, bread of poverty and affliction which our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. Let all who are hungry come and eat. Let all who are needy share the hope of this Passover celebration. Next year may all men and women be free.
The wine glasses are refilled
Historically, the Passover Seder was established as a discussion with plenty of questions and answers. A tradition developed that the youngest person asks the questions, although anybody may ask them. The point of this is that everyone is encouraged to participate in the Seder. The rabbis who originated the traditional Seder ceremony produced the Four Questions, helping to produce questions in case nobody had their own questions. Asking questions is a central tradition in Jewish life, after all.
מַה נִּשְׁתַּנָּה הַלַּֽיְלָה הַזֶּה מִכָּל הַלֵּילות
Ma nishtana halaila hazeh mikol haleilot?
I see this night is different from all other nights.
שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָֽנוּ אוֹכלין חָמֵץ וּמַצָּה הַלַּֽיְלָה הַזֶּה כֻּלּוֹ מצה
Shebichol haleilot anu ochlin chameitz u-matzah. Halaila hazeh kulo matzah.
On all other nights we eat both leavened bread and matzah. Why do we only eat matzah.tonight?
שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָֽנוּ אוֹכְלִין שְׁאָר יְרָקוֹת הַלַּֽיְלָה הַזֶּה מָרוֹר
Shebichol haleilot anu ochlin shi’ar yirakot haleila hazeh maror.
On all other nights we eat all kinds of vegetables without thinking of it. Why do we emphasize the bitter herbs tonight?.
שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אֵין אָֽנוּ מַטְבִּילִין אֲפִילוּ פַּֽעַם אחָת הַלַּֽיְלָה הַזֶּה שְׁתֵּי פְעמים
Shebichol haleilot ain anu matbilin afilu pa-am echat. Halaila hazeh shtei fi-amim.
On all other nights, we don’t necessarily dip the vegetables. Sometimes, we put salad dressing on them. Why do we dip the vegetables twice tonight?
שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָֽנוּ אוֹכְלִין בֵּין יוֹשְׁבִין וּבֵין מְסֻבִּין. :הַלַּֽיְלָה הַזֶּה כֻּלָּֽנוּ מְסֻבין
Shebichol haleilot anu ochlin bein yoshvin uvein m’subin. Halaila hazeh kulanu m’subin.
On all other nights we eat either sitting normally or reclining. Why do we try to recline tonight?
FOUR ANSWERS Later, we will read and explore the whole story of the Exodus from Egypt, but first we give a simple answer to each of these four questions.
We eat matzoh because when our ancestors were told by Pharaoh that they could leave Egypt, they had no time to allow their bread to rise, so they baked hurriedly, without leavening.
At the Seder, we eat bitter herbs to remind us of the bitterness our ancestors experienced when they were oppressed as slaves.
At the Seder table, we dip food twice; once in salt water to remind us of the tears shed in slavery and again in haroset, to remind us that there is sweetness even in bitter times. In ancient times, slaves ate hurriedly, standing or squatting on the ground. Symbolically, as a sign of freedom, we lean and relax as we partake of wine and symbolic food.
The Torah says we are to speak these words before God and say, “My father was a wandering Aramean. He went down into Egypt and sojourned there. With few in number, he became there a great and populous nation. The Egyptians dealt harshly with us and afflicted us and imposed hard labor upon us. And we cried out to the Lord, the God of our fathers and God heard our cry and saw our affliction and our oppression. He brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm and with great signs and wonders.”
We will now recount the Passover story. As we read, we will go around the table with each person taking a turn to read a paragraph out loud:
Our patriarch Abraham and his wife Sarah went to the land of Canaan, where he became the founder of “a great nation.” God tells Abraham, “Know this for certain, that your descendants will be strangers in a strange land, and be enslaved and oppressed for four hundred years. But know that in the end I shall bring judgment on the oppressors.” Abraham’s grandson, Jacob and his family went down to Egypt during a time of famine throughout the land. In Egypt, Jacob and the Israelites lived and prospered until a new Pharaoh arose who said, “Behold the children of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. Let us then deal shrewdly with them, lest they become more powerful, and in the event of war, join our enemies in fighting against us and gain control over the region.”
The Egyptians set taskmasters over the Israelites with forced labor and made them build cities for Pharaoh. The Egyptians embittered the lives of the Israelites with harsh labor but the more they were oppressed, the more they increased and the Egyptians came to despise them. Pharaoh ordered, “Every Hebrew boy that is born shall be thrown in the Nile River and drowned.” God remembered the covenant that he made with Abraham and Sarah and called to Moses, telling him to appear before Pharaoh and demand that the Hebrew people be released from bondage. But Pharaoh refused to free the Israelites. Nine times Moses and his brother Aaron went to Pharaoh, and each time that Pharaoh refused Moses’ request, God sent a plague to Egypt.
After the ninth plague, Moses summoned the elders of Israel and told them to have their families mark their door posts and lintels with the blood of a lamb saying, “none of you shall go out of his house until the morning for God will pass through to smite the first born of the Egyptians; and when he sees the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, God will pass over your doors.” It is written in the Torah that God hardened the heart of Pharaoh during Moses’ pleas.
Finally when God brought down the tenth plague upon them — the death of the first-born of all the Egyptians — a great cry went up throughout Egypt, and Pharaoh allowed Moses to take his people out of the land and deliver them to a new land. It is written: “And it shall come to pass, when you come to the land which God will give you, according as He has promised, that you shall keep this service to commemorate the Exodus. And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say to you, “What mean you by this service?” you shall say, it is the sacrifice of God's Passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt.
As we rejoice at our deliverance from slavery, we acknowledge that our freedom was hard-earned. We regret that our freedom came at the cost of the Egyptians’ suffering. We pour out a drop of wine for each of the plagues as we recite them. Dip a finger or a spoon into your wine glass for a drop for each plague. These are the ten plagues which God brought down on the Egyptians:
Blood | dam |דָּם
Frogs | tzfardeiya |צְפַרְדֵּֽעַ
Lice | kinim |כִּנִּים
Beasts | arov |עָרוֹב
Cattle disease | dever |דֶּֽבֶר
Boils | sh’chin |שְׁחִין
Hail | barad |בָּרָד
Locusts | arbeh |אַרְבֶּה
Darkness | choshech |חֹֽשֶׁךְ
Death of the Firstborn | makat b’chorot |מַכַּת בְּכוֹרוֹת
When governments end the escalating production of devastating weapons, secure in the knowledge that they will not be necessary, Dayenu.
When all women and men are allowed to make their own decisions on matters regarding their own bodies and personal relationships without discrimination or legal consequences, Dayenu.
When children grow up in freedom, without hunger, and with the love and support they need to realize their full potential, Dayenu.
When the air, water, fellow creatures and beautiful world are protected for the benefit and enjoyment of all and given priority over development for the sake of profit, Dayenu.
When people of all ages, sexes, races, religions, sexual orientations, cultures and nations respect and appreciate one another, Dayenu.
When each person can say, "This year, I worked as hard as I could toward improving the world so that all people can experience the joy and freedom I feel sitting here tonight at the seder table," Dayenu v'lo Dayenu - It will and will not be enough.
Day, dayenu, day, dayenu, day, dayenu, dayenu, dayenu...
Ilu hotsi hotsianu, hotsianu mi-Mitzrayim, hotisanu mi-Mitzrayim, Dayenu Ilu natan natan lanu, natan lanu et ha-Shabbat, natan lanu et ha-Shabbat, Dayenu. Ilu natan natan lanu, natan lanu et ha-Torah, natan lanu et ha-Torah, Dayenu.
The Matzah is to remind us that before the dough our ancestors prepared for bread had time to rise, God revealed the might, power and presence of God unto them and redeemed them.
The Bitter Herbs are to remind us that the Egyptians embittered the lives of our ancestors in Egypt.
In gratitude for the miracles which God has performed for our ancestors and for us from the days of old to this time, we raise our cups of wine and together we say:
Therefore, we should¬ thank and praise, laud and glorify, exalt and honor, extol and adore God who performed all these miracles for our ancestors and for us. God brought us from slavery to freedom, from sorrow to joy, from mourning to festivity, from darkness to great light, and from bondage to redemption.
Let us, then say...
THE CUP OF DELIVERANCE - We raise our cups as we recall the second promise of liberation to the people of Israel.
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, borei p'ri ha-gafen. Praised be thou, O Lord Our God, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine!
All drink the entire second cup of wine
Take the three matzot - the broken piece between the two whole ones – and hold them in your hand and recite the following blessing:
Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha-olam, hamotzi lechem min ha-aretz.
Praised are you, Adonai, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who provides sustenance from the earth.
Before eating the matzah, put the bottom matzah back in its place and continue, reciting the following blessing while holding only the top and middle piece of matzah.
Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha-olam, asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu al achilat matzah.
Praised are you, Adonai, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who has taught us the way of holiness through commandments, commanding us to eat matzah.
Break the top and middle matzot into pieces and distribute them everyone at the table to eat a while reclining to the left.
(Participant)In creating a holiday about the joy of freedom, we turn the story of our bitter history into a sweet celebration. We recognize this by dipping our bitter herbs into the sweet charoset. We don’t totally eradicate the taste of the bitter with the taste of the sweet, but we recognize that the sweet means more when layered over the bitter. We first eat only the maror with the charoset, and then we eat the maror and charoset together on the matzah. This symbolizes the journey from slavery to freedom.
ברוּךְ אַתָּה יְיַָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָֽׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּֽנוּ עַל אֲכִילַת מרוֹר:
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al achilat maror.
Blessed art Thou, Eternal our God, Ruler of the Universe,who made us holy through obligations andcommanded us to eat bitter herbs.
It's almost time to eat! Before we chow down, let's fill that third glass of wine and give thanks for the meal we're about to consume.
On Passover, this becomes something like an extended toast to the forces that brought us together:
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָּפֶן
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, borei p’ree hagafen.
Group says: We praise force of the world, that created the fruit of the vine, that sustains the world.
[Everyone: Drink the third glass of wine.]
Now, LET'S EAT!
TZAFUN - The Afikomen is Found and Eaten
Go look for the hidden piece of matzoh. Whoever finds it gets a reward! We are supposed to not eat anything else after we each eat a piece of this matzoh, but I like real dessert so.....we are going to eat that too.
BLESSING AFTER the MEAL - adapted by Marcia Falk
BARUKH ATAH ADONAI, HAZAN ET HA’KOL.
Let us acknowledge the source of life, source of all nourishment. May we protect the bountiful earth that it may continue to sustain us, And let us week sustenance For ALL who dwell in the world. Amen
Let us all refill our cups.
Leader picks up cup for all to see.
This is the cup of hope.
The seder tradition involves pouring a cup for the Hebrew prophet Elijah. For millennia, Jews opened the door for him, inviting him join their seders, hoping that he would bring with him a messiah to save the world.
Yet the tasks of saving the world - once ascribed to prophets, messiahs and gods - must be taken up by us mere mortals, by common people with shared goals. Working together for progressive change,we can bring about the improvement of the world, tiqqun ha-olam - for justice and for peace, we can and we must.
Let us now symbolically open the door of our seder to invite in all people of good will and all those in needto work together with us for a better world.Let us raise our fourth cup as we dedicate ourselves to tiqqun olam, the improvement of the world.
"L' Tiqqun Olam!"
All drink the fourth cup.
Nirtzah marks the conclusion of the seder. I'm glad you all could join and hope that you had a good time!
Our seder is over, according to Jewish tradition and law. As we had the pleasure to gather amongst friends for a seder this year, we hope to once again have the opportunity in the years to come. . As we say…
לְשָׁנָה הַבָּאָה בִּירוּשָׁלָֽיִם
L’shana haba-ah biy’rushalayim
NEXT YEAR IN JERUSALEM!