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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.
Like almost every Jewish holiday and ritual, we begin the Passover Seder by saying a blessing over grape juice, otherwise known as "Kadesh." While we only recite a blessing over one cup of grape juice at this point in the seder, we actually recite blessings over four cups of grape juice throughout the entire seder. These four cups represent the four promises made by God to Moses during the Book of Exodus, for God promised Moses and the Israelites that he would (1) Take them out of Egypt, (2) Free them from slavery, (3) Redeem them as a people, and (4) Take them into the land of Israel. Each time we recite a blessing over grape juice, we are recalling the promises that God made to the Israelites, while our thanking God for giving these special days on the Jewish calendar for us to celebrate.
According to the Jewish law we are obligated to wash our hands before we partake in the Karpas or dipping the vegetables in salt water. We do not say a blessing at this point in the service while washing our hands.
Urchatz ― "Why do we wash our hands at this point in this Seder?" the Rabbis asks. "Because it is an unusual activity which prompts the children to ask questions." The very name Haggadah means "telling," for the goal of the Seder is to arouse curious questions, and provide satisfying answers.
Eric’s tradition- instead of getting up and washing hands one person comes around with a bowl and water to wash hands
What does washing of the hands symbolize?
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?
Yachatz is the breaking of the matzah. It is the fourth step of the Seder. The word yachatz means dividing. There are three matzot (the plural of matzah in Hebrew) on the table to symbolize Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The three pieces of matzah are uncovered and the middle one is broken. We do this to symbolize the binding of Isaac, which is when God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac to test him and see if he would do it. Don't worry, this didn't actually happen! When Abraham was about to sacrifice him, God told Abraham to stop and Isaac was saved.
The bigger piece is then hidden somewhere in the room. You will be looking for it later in the Seder. This piece is called the afikomen, a word that comes from the Greek word for "dessert." It is not called that because it is sweet, but because it is the last item of food eaten at the Seder. The practice of hiding the afikomen was introduced during the Middle Ages by Jewish families to make the Seder more entertaining and exciting for children. The smaller piece is kept in the matzah bag with the other two matzot.
Afikomen is eaten during the Tzafun (which comes from the word hidden) step, because it has been hidden away, from the beginning of the meal until the end of the meal.
(Psalms 31:20): How great is the goodness that you have hidden for those who fear you. We hide it in cushions to symbolically guard it, in fulfillment of the verse: And you shall guard the matzot (Exodus 17).
For what other reasons could there be three matzot?
These four questions form the central theme of all Seder meals during Passover and refer to how and why Passover is different from all days of the year. These questions are traditionally given to the youngest child in the family at the Seder table to be read aloud. The traditional format of the story is that there is one question with four clauses. The main question is "why is this night different from all other nights?" This story is then continued with the story about The Four Sons. This is an effort by early Jewish communities to encourage the future generation children and youth to be aware of their traditions and history.
The Four Important Questions:
1. Why do we eat only Matzah on Pesach and not all kinds of breads and crackers like other nights? When Pharaoh finally ordered Jews to get out of Egypt after the tenth plague, they were in such a hurry to get away from slavery that they had no time to let their dough rise and bake their bread, so they took the raw dough with them on their journey and baked it into hard crackers called Matzah in the hot dessert. That is why we eat only Matzah on this day to remind us of their struggles.
2. Why do we eat bitter herbs or Maror at our Seder? Maror or the bitter herbs are eaten to remind us of the bitterness of slavery and harsh and cruel ways in which Israelite people were treated as slaves under the Pharaoh in Egypt.
3. At our Seder, why do we dip the parsley in salt water and the bitter herbs in charoset? Parsley represents new life and spring while salt water represents tears of Israelite slaves and how hard they worked in Egypt. Parsley dipped in salt water that represents new life that emerged from the tears and hardship of the Israelite slaves. Charoset has a coarse texture like clay used to make bricks for the Pharaoh's buildings.
4. Why do we lean on a pillow while eating tonight and do not sit straight like other nights? Leaning on a pillow signifies the comforts of freedom. As slaves, our ancestors had little comforts, so we lean on a pillow to assert that we are free now and we can sit straight or lean on a pillow as much as we like.
Discussion Question: What other questions about the uniqueness of the Seder can you think of?
Every son poses a different question about the Passover festival and each of the four sons is a different type of a Jewish person, depending upon the question asked by the son about the festival of Passover. In the Haggadah, the four sons are the wise, wicked, simple and the one who does not know how to ask.
The wise son is a genuine individual with intellectual curiosity, is not at all rebellious but is religious. He puts forward the question 'What is the meaning of the testimonies, statutes and laws which the Lord has commanded us?'
The wicked son is intentionally vague and haughtily puts up the question 'What does this service mean to you?' By doing so, the wicked son makes an attempt to separate himself from the Jewish community.
The simple son is unsophisticated and has a child-like attitude in educating himself about Judaism. He plainly puts forward the question 'What is this?' He is not intellectual, but has a kind and generous heart and knows about Judaism from experience.
The fourth son is the one who does not know how to ask and is least bothered about Judaism; he does not want to learn and does not listen.
Discussion Question:Who could each son represent in today's world?
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.
The ten plagues were sent by God to the Egyptians to help convince Pharaoh to let the Israelites go free.
1. Blood - Blood turned all the water in Egypt to blood- whether in lakes or jars.
2. Frogs - Frogs hopped around Egypt.
3. Lice - (Head) Lice was brought upon all of the Egyptians.
4. Wild animals - Wild animals ran free in Egypt- possibly attacking Egyptians.
5. Cattle plagues - Cattle plague killed and diseased all of the cattle and livestock.
6. Boils - Boils appeared on the Egyptian's skin and blistered.
7. Hail - Hail rained down.
8. Locusts - Locusts came and ate all of the crops needed for food.
9. Darkness - Darkness was only brought upon the Egyptians that was impossible to see through, and light remained on the side of the Israelites.
10. Death of the first born - The Israelites put the blood of a lamb on the door posts to protect themselves from the killing of the first born. If there was no blood, the first born would die including the son of Pharaoh. *This is where the Jewish concept of putting something on the door post comes from.
A custom is to dip your finger in wine or grape juice and make dots for each one of the 10 plagues.
Why do you think these plagues were chosen out of all the punishments possible?
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?
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?
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?
Maror comes from the hebrew word for bitter. The maror symbolizes the bitterness of slavery in Egypt. Only certain vegetables are to be used to make maror such as horseradish and romaine lettuce (the most common vegetables used because they are bitter). The blessing for the maror is:
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ עַל אֲכִילַת מָרוֹר
Praised are you, Adonai our God, Ruler of the universe, who makes us holy through Your commandments, and commands us to eat Maror.
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-ror.
Some traditions include putting the maror on lettuce and making a sandwich or dipping the maror in charoset.
Why do we have a seder for Passover?
We do the Koreich step so we can fulfill our obligation of Matzah and Maror according to all sides of an argument regarding the performance of the commandments of eating matzah and maror at the time when we had the Holy Temple.
Take the bitter herb and place it in between two pieces of matzah (One piece from the top matzah and one piece from the bottom matzah)
Some people dip the bitter herb in the charoset.
At this time we say the words: “This is what Hillel did, at the time that the Temple stood. He wrapped up some Pesach lamb, some matzah and some bitter herbs and ate them together.”
Alex: My family eats the matzah with the charoset as a sandwich. I don’t think it’s that good so I only have a small bite.
Hannah: I think the sandwhich has a spicy and bitter taste and should be consumed in small quantities.
Did you know that Moses isn't mentioned in the haggadah. In your opinion, why do you think Moses isn't mentioned in the haggadah?
It’s traditional to begin the actual Seder meal with each person eating a hardboiled egg.A hardboiled egg symbolizes the korban chagigah (festival sacrifice) that was offered in the Temple in Jerusalem and was then eaten as part of the meal on Seder night. The egg is a symbol of mourning for the loss of the two Temples, the first of which was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.E. and the second of which was destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E. Hard boiled eggs were traditionally the food of mourners and therefore they are an appropriate symbol for the loss of these holy sites. On every Jewish festival, we remember to mourn for the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem.
We are now ready to consume this Passover lunch! At this time please put down the haggdahs, recline, and enjoy our festive meal.
In your opinion, what can the hardboiled egg symbolize
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)
Bareich is the part of the Seder when we give thanks for the food we’ve just eaten. First we say grace over our meals, which is known as “Birkat Hamazon.” After this, we bless the third cup of wine. Finally, we sing “Eliyahu HaNavi” and welcome the prophet Elijah into our Seder with the Cup of Elijah. Every Passover at this time we open our door for the prophet Elijah. We also have a cup of wine that we save for Elijah for the end of the Seder.
The word "Bareich" means "Bless," because during this part of the Seder we thank God for the food we've just eaten and for allowing us to have our Seder.
Discussion Question: Why do you think we open our doors to welcome the prophet Elijah? What message do we get from this?