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 pray for all who are still bound.
God, 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 Amen.
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.
You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought you out of Egypt. You shall observe this day throughout the generations as a practice for all times.
We assemble in fulfillment of the mitzvah.
Remember the day on which you went forth from Egypt, from the house of slavery, and how G-d freed you with a mighty hand.
Lighting of the candles
May the festival lights we now kindle inspire us to use our powers to heal and not harm, to help and not hinder, to bless and not curse and to serve you Ado-nai of freedom.
Baruch Atah Ado-nai, Elo-heinu Melech Ha-olam, Asher Kid’shanu
B’mitzvotav V’tzivanu L’hadlik Ner Shel Yom Tov.
On Passover we celebrate our redemption from slavery and revel in our freedom. We gather around the Seder table with our loved ones, telling stories of our people's miraculous passage from Egypt to Sinai, to the Promised Land. At this time of rejoicing, we also remember the great responsibility that freedom creates to harness the power of our privilege on behalf of the oppressed and marginalized. As we recite the prayers over the first cup of wine, let us also pray for and work towards the moment when all human beings will celebrate their liberation in comfort and plenty.
God gave promises to our people, and with this first cup we recall them:
Adonai freed us from the burdens of Egypt.
Baruch Atah Ado-nai Elo-heinu Melech Ha-olam
Boreh Pree Ha-ga-fen.
We thank you God for giving us the gift of Festivals for joy and holidays
for happiness, among them this day of Pesach, the festival of our liberation,
a day of sacred assembly recalling the Exodus from Egypt.
The Blessing of Shecheyanu is recited at this point
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has kept us
in life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season.
Baruch Atah Ado-nai, Elo-heinu Melech Ha-olam, She-heche-yanu,
V'kiye-manu Vehigi-yanu La-z'man Ha-zeh.
The first cup of wine is drunk, and the cup is refilled.
This symbolic washing of the hands recalls the story of Miriam's Well. Legend tells us that this well followed Miriam, sister of Moses, through the desert, sustaining the Jews in their wanderings. Filled with waters of life, the well was a source of strength and renewal to all who drew from it. One drink from its waters was said to alert the heart, mind and soul, and make the meaning of Torah become alive.
Washing our hands is not to clean the surface but to represent us cleansing the soul and being open to knowledge, asking questions and considering all that's being said tonight.
Arise, my fair one,
and come away,
For the winter is past
flowers appear in the earth ,
the time of singing is here.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who creates the
fruit of the earth.
Baruch Atah Adonai Elo-heinu Melech Haolam Boreh Pree Ha’adamah.
Why do we eat Matzah?
We eat matzah in memory of the quick flight of our ancestors from Egypt. As slaves, they faced many false starts before finally securing their freedom. So when the word of their freedom came, they took whatever dough they had and ran with it before it had the chance to rise, letting it bake in the sun, and thus creating matzah.
This bread forms a bond between us all and reminds us of all those who are still facing affliction.
The host uncovers and holds up the three pieces of matzah and says:
This is the bread of affliction, the poor bread, which our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. All who are hungry, come and eat; all who are in want, come and celebrate Pesach with us. This year we are here; next year may we be in Israel. This year we are in bonds; next year may all be free.
The middle matzah on the plate is broken in half. One half is put back with the stack; the other half is placed in a napkin and the designated the Afikomen is put aside.
Uppermost of the three matzah is broken and distributed around the table.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with His laws and commanded us to eat matzah.
Baruch Atah Ado-nai, Elo-heinu Melech Ha-olam, Asher Kid’shanu B’mitzvotav V’tzivanu Al Achilat matzah.
Why do we eat Maror?
With the taste of bitterness just before our lips, we remind ourselves of the bitterness that led to the enslavement of our ancestors in Egypt. Tonight, we force ourselves to experience the sting of the maror so that we should remember that, appallingly, even centuries later, the bitterness of xenophobia still oppresses millions of people around the world, forcing them to flee their homes. As we taste the bitter herbs, we vow not to let words of hatred pass through our own lips and to root out intolerant speech wherever we may hear it, so that no one should fall victim to baseless hatred.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with His laws and commanded us to eat bitter herbs.
Baruch Atah Ado-nai, Elo-heinu Melech Ha-olam, Asher Kid’shanu B’mitzvotav V’tzivanu Al Achilat Maror.
The sage Hillel began the tradition of eating a sandwich of bitter maror and sweet charoset between two pieces of matzah. For the literal-minded, this fulfills the letter of the commandment to eat these things together. For those who prefer symbolism, we are reminded that bitterness and sweetness come side by side in life.This practice suggests that part of the challenge of living is to taste freedom even in the midst of oppression, and to be ever conscious of the oppression of others even when we feel that we are free.
1. On all other nights we eat either bread; on this night,why only matzah?
2. On all other nights we eat herbs or vegetables of any kind; on this night why bitter herbs?
3. On all other nights we do not dip even once; on this night why do we dip twice?
4. On all other nights we eat our meals in any manner; on this night why do we sit around the table together in a reclining position?
We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and God brought us out with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. And if God had not brought our ancestors out of Egypt, we and our children and our children’s children would still be subjected to Pharaoh in Egypt.
The Torah describes four children who ask questions about the Exodus. Tradition teaches that these verses refer to four different types of children.
The wise child asks, “What are the laws that God has commanded us?”
The parent should answer by instructing the child in the observances of Pesach, starting from the beginning to end.
The wicked child asks, “What does this Passover service mean to you?”
The parent should answer, “It is because of what God did for me when I came out of Egypt. Specifically ‘me’ and not ‘you.’ If you had been there, you wouldn’t have been redeemed.”
The simple child asks, “What is this Seder service?”
The parent should answer, “With a mighty hand God brought us out of Egypt. Therefore, we commemorate that event tonight through this Seder.”
And then there is child who does not know how to ask.
The parent should begin a discussion with that child based on the verse:
“And you shall tell your child on that day, ‘We commemorate Pesach tonight because of what God did for us when we went out of Egypt.’”
While people of the Jewish faith endured harsh slavery in Egypt, God chose Moses to lead them out to freedom. Moses encountered God at the burning bush and then returned to Egypt to lead the people out of Egypt. He demanded that Pharaoh let the Jewish people go.
But Pharaoh hardened his heart and refused to let the Jewish people go. That is why God sent the Ten Plagues.
Following the slaying of the first born, Pharaoh allowed the Jewish people to leave. They left Egypt in such haste that their dough did not rise, so they ate matzah. When Pharaoh changed his mind and chased after the Israelites, God miraculously caused the Red Sea to split, allowing the Israelites to cross safely. When the Egyptians entered the Sea, it returned to its natural state and the mighty Egyptian army was swept away by the mighty waters.
We understand the story through an explanation of the Pesach symbols:
Karpos - Flourishing of life and Spring
Charoset - symbolizes the mortar that the Israelite slaves used to construct buildings for Pharaoh.
Maror - The bitter herbs. The maror reminds us of the bitter pain and suffering the Israelites went through as slaves to the Egyptians.
Zeroa (shank bone) - the passing over of the angel of death when the blood of the lamb was painted of the doors of Jewish poeple.
Beitzah (egg) - Circle of life
Salt water - the tears shed by those enslaved
We remember upheaval that follows oppression and we pour ten drops for the plagues on Egypt:
With a finger, remove a drop of wine from your cup and wipe it on your plate, as each plague is mentioned...
Slaying of the First Born
Had God brought us out of Egypt and not divided the sea for us. - Dayeinu!
Had God divided the sea and not permited us to cross onto dry land, - Dayeinu!
Had God permitted us to cross to dry land and not sustained us for forty years in the desert, -Dayeinu!
Had God sustained us for forty years but not fed us with manna, - Dayeinu!
Had God fed us with manna but not given us the Shabbat, -Dayeinu!
Had God given us the Shabbat but not brought us to Mount Sinai, -Dayeinu!
Had God brought us to Mount Sinai but not given us the Torah, -Dayeinu!
Had God given us the Torah but not led us to the land of Israel, - Dayeinu!
Had God led us to the land of Israel but not built for us the temple, -Dayeinu!
Had God built for us the temple but not sent us prophets of truth, - Dayeinu!
Had God sent us the prophets of truth and not made us holy people, - Dayeinu!
A blessing is then said over the second cup of wine : Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.
Baruch Atah Ado-nai Elo-heinu Melech Ha-olam Boreh Pree Ha-ga-fen.
--Rabbi Menachem Creditor, Congregation Netivot Shalom, Berkeley, CA
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha’olam, asher kidshanu bemitvotav vetzivanu al netilat yadayim.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' אֱלֹֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶך הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ עַל נְטִילַת יָדָיִּם.
Blessed are You ETERNAL our God, Master of time and space, who has sanctified us with commandments and instructed us regarding lifting up our hands.
Remember with gratitude the redemption of our ancestors and rejoice with fruits of our struggle for freedom.
We feast now for there was a time we could not. We act and eat like Kings and Queens because we have been liberated.
The meal is only completed once the Afikoman is found! The leader of the seder and all those that want to join in must try find it!
The third cup - the cup of blessings
We remember the third promise: I will redeem you with an outstretched arm.
We pray that He who establishes peace in the heavens grant peace for us, for all Israel, and all of mankind, and let us say, Amen.
Oseh Shalom Bim-romav Hu Yaaseh Shalom Aleinu Ve-al Kol Yisrael Ve-Imru Amen
There was a vision that Elijah was carried away in chariots of fire and soon became associated with the end of days and the hopes of our people. It's said that when he returns all mankind will celebrate freedom.
He opens for us the realm of mystery and wonder. Let us open the door for Elijah!
Let Elijah in.
The fourth cup - the cup of acceptance
This is the cup that represents the end of the seder and the preservation of hope.
and we say: Next year in Jerusalem!