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On behalf of myself, Rachel, and Lucy, I want to thank you all for joining the first Seder we've ever hosted in our own home. We hope it is a joyful and meaningful experience for everyone. Tonight has been the culmination of many, many hours of hard work by me, Lucy, Deb, Adam, Cheryl, and Lew...but especially my beautiful wife Rachel. Her love and dedication to this holiday is an inspiration to us all.
There are many stresses in our everyday life.....for some it's our jobs (do I really have to go back tomorrow??), for some it's family obligations (but aren't Lucy and Nadav adorable??), for some it's financial obligations (why won't the coffers replenish faster??)...I could go on....
However, for me, Pesach is a celebration. It is a time to relax, recline, enjoy those around us, and to celebrate. It is a celebration not only of our biblical freedom from slavery, but even if just for a moment – freedom from the daily challenges that make our lives “interesting”. Thanks for joining our celebration!
From Molly Beth's Hagaddah
We wash our hands without reciting a blessing.
Hands that are spackled with paint, sticky with jelly, or muddy from digging in the garden need to be washed. But at the seder, dressed in crisp holiday clothes, our hands are not stained or soiled. So why wash them?
Think about the cool tickle of water over your fingers. As it cleans the body, it also wakes up the mind, helping us to appreciate that no food is ordinary. A carrot stick, a leaf of lettuce, a stalk of celery - all grew and reached our table with the blessings of God and the hard work of human beings.
Usually, when we wash our hands before eating, we say a blessing. We will do that later in the seder, but now we wash without a blessing. That's one of the things that makes this night different from all other nights!
Some parsley or other green vegetable is distributed to all present, who dip it in salt water, and before partaking of it say together:
BORUCH ATTO ADONOI ELOHENU MELECH HO‘OLOM BORE P’RI HO’ADOMO.
Praised art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, Creator of the fruit of the earth.
We are about to take the middle matzah and divide it in half. This matzah which we break and set aside is a symbol of our unity with Jews throughout the world. We will not conclude our Seder until the missing piece (the Afikomen) is found and spiritually reunited. This is a reminder of the indestructible link which infuses us as a world family.
We cannot forget those who remain behind in any land of persecution, fearful of a growing public anti-Semitism or bigotry. To those still seeking liberty of life, to those striving courageously to build a better Jewish life in the country of their choice and to those of all humankind that strive to live a free and equal existence with all people of the world regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity and religion, we pledge our continued vigilance, support, and solidarity.
Later, we will search for the hidden piece of matzah. In much the same way, we seek to reconnect with our neighbors throughout the world. Once having found the missing half, we will be able to continue our Seder. So, too, will the continued bonding of Diaspora Jewry with our homeland allow Israel to grow and blossom as the eternal core of our collective Jewish identity.
We pray that they may live in peace, in a land at peace, with a world knowing war no more. We pray that the characteristics that make each human unique will be celebrated everywhere, with a world embracing diversity and knowing prejudice no more.
For the daily meal, there is one loaf of bread; but on the Sabbath there are two loaves as a reminder of the double portion of manna which fell on Friday for the Children of Israel as they traveled in the wilderness. (Exodus 16:22) In honor of Passover, a third matzah was added specifically for the Passover Seder experience.
We break the middle matzah in half and place the larger piece of matzah, the Afikomen, in a napkin and hide it.
The door is opened as a sign of hospitality.
The matzot are uncovered and held up.
Behold the matzah, bread of infliction, which our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. Let all who are hungry come and eat; all who are needy, come and celebrate the Passover with us.
We should all consider how God's help has been our unfailing stay and support through ages of trial and persecution. Ever since God called our forefather Abraham from the bondage of idolatry to God's service of truth, God has been our Guardian; for not in one country alone nor in one age have violent men risen up against us, but in every generation and in every land, tyrants have sought to destroy us; and the Holy One, blessed be God, has delivered us from their hands. The Torah tells us that when Jacob our forefather was a homeless wanderer, he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there, few in number. All the souls of his household were threescore and ten. And Joseph was already in Egypt; he was the governor over the land. And Joseph placed his father and his brethren, and gave them a possession, as Pharaoh had commanded. And Israel dwelt in the land of Goshen; and they got them possessions therein, and were fruitful, and multiplied exceedingly. And Joseph died, and all his brethren, and all that generation. Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who knew not Joseph. And he said unto his people: 'Behold, the people of the children of Israel are too many and too mighty for us; come, let us deal wisely with them, lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that when there befalleth us any war, they also join themselves unto our enemies, and fight against us, and get them up out of the land'. Therefore they set over them taskmasters to afflict them with burdens. And they built for Pharaoh store-cities, Pithom and Raamses. But the more the Egyptians afflicted them, the more the Israelites multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians dealt ill with us, and afflicted us, and laid upon us cruel bondage. And we cried unto the Lord, the God of our fathers, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction and our toil and our oppression. And the Lord brought us forth out of Egypt, with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm and with great terror and with signs and with wonders. God sent before us Moses and Aaron and Miriam. And God brought forth His people with joy, His chosen ones with singing. And God guided them in the wilderness, as a shepherd his flock. Therefore God commanded us to observe the Passover in its season, from year to year, that God's law shall be in our mouths, and that we shall declare His might unto our children, His salvation to all generations.
All read in unison:
Who is like unto Thee, O Lord, among the mighty?
Who is like unto Thee, glorious in holiness, Fearful in praises, doing wonders?
The Lord shall reign for ever and ever.
During the time when Pharaoh issued his decree to kill Israelite males, Moses, who later was to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt to freedom, was an infant. His concerned mother, Jochebed placed him in a basket of reeds in the Nile River while Moses’ sister Miriam watched from a distance to see who would come to find him. The basket was found by the Pharaoh’s daughter, who decided to raise the infant as her own son and named him Moses. She unknowingly hired Jochebed as a nurse to care for him, and Jochebed secretly taught Moses his Israelite heritage. At age 40, on a visit to see his fellow Israelites, Moses saw an Egyptian taskmaster beating an Israelite slave and in his rage, killed the Egyptian. Fearing for his life, Moses fled Egypt. He fled across the desert, for the roads were watched by Egyptian soldiers, and took refuge in Midian, an area in present-day northwestern Saudi Arabia along the eastern shores of the Red Sea.
While in Midian, Moses met a Midianite priest named Jethro and became a shepherd for the next 40 years, eventually marrying one of Jethro’s daughters, Zipporah. Then, when Moses was about 80 years of age, God spoke to him from a burning bush and said that he and his brother Aaron were selected by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt to freedom. At first, Moses hesitated to take on such a huge task, but eventually Moses and his brother Aaron set about returning to Egypt, commencing what was to be the spectacular and dramatic events that are told in the story of Passover. It is said that the Israelites entered Egypt as a group of tribes and left Egypt one nation. It has also been estimated that the Passover exodus population comprised about 3 million people, plus numerous flocks of sheep who all crossed over the border of Egypt to freedom in Canaan.
Under the reign of Pharaoh Thutmose III in Egypt in 1476 BCE, the Israelite leader Moses (“Moshe” in Hebrew) – guided by God – led his people out of Egypt after a series of 10 plagues that were created by God and initiated by Moses. Prior to most of the plagues, Moses had warned the Pharaoh about each plague and that it would devastate his people, if he refused to let the Israelites go. After the first two plagues, the Pharaoh refused to let them go because his court magicians were able to re-create the same miracles, and so the Pharaoh thought: “This proves that the Israelite God is not stronger than I.” But when the third plague occurred, the Pharaoh’s magicians were not able to duplicate this miracle; however, that still did not change the Pharaoh’s mind about letting the Israelites leave Egypt. After each subsequent plague, the Pharaoh agreed to let the Israelites go, but the Pharaoh soon changed his mind and continued to hold the Israelites as slaves. Finally, after the 10th plague, the Pharaoh let the Israelites go for good.
With your finger tip, remove one drop of wine from your cup and wipe it on your plate, as each plague is mentioned…
The Second Cup – The 10 Plagues
Blood – דָּם
Frogs – צְפֵרְדֵּעַ
Lice – כִּנִים
Wild Beasts – עָרוֹב
Blight – דֶּבֶר
Boils – שְׁחִין
Hail – בָּרַד
Locusts – אַרְבֶּה
Darkness – חשֶׁךְ
Slaying of the First-Born – מַכַּת בְּכוֹרוֹת
When the Pharaoh finally agreed to free the Israelite slaves, they left their homes so quickly that there wasn’t even time to bake their breads. So they packed the raw dough to take with them on their journey. As they fled through the desert they would quickly bake the dough in the hot sun into hard crackers called matzah. Today to commemorate this event, Jews eat matzah in place of bread during Passover.
Though the Israelites were now free, their liberation was incomplete. The Pharaoh’s army chased them through the desert towards the Red Sea. When the Israelites reached the sea they were trapped, since the sea blocked their escape. When the Israelites saw the Egyptian army fast approaching toward them, they called out in despair to Moses. Fortunately, God intervened and commanded Moses to strike his staff on the waters of the Red Sea, creating a rift of land between the waves, enabling the Israelites to cross through the Red Sea to safety on the other side. Once the Israelites were safely across, God then commanded Moses to strike the waters of the Red Sea with his staff again, just as the Egyptian army followed them through the parted Red Sea. The waters came together again, drowning the entire Egyptian army and the Israelites were saved.
On The Importance Of Questions
The eldest reads:
Nobel Prize winning physicist Isaac Isadore Rabi’s mother did not ask him: “What did you learn in school today?” each day. She asked him: “Did you ask a good question today?”
The oldest teenager, or the person older than 19, yet closest to the teen years reads:
Why do the same questions get asked each year?
I probably have more questions than the youngest, why does a child ask the questions?
How come we ask these questions, but you rarely give a straight answer?
Does anyone have other questions to add?
Questioning is a sign of freedom, and so we begin with questions.
To ritualize only one answer would be to deny that there can be many, often conflicting answers. To think that life is only black and white, or wine and Maror, bitter or sweet, or even that the cup is half empty or half full is to enslave ourselves to simplicity.
Each of us feels the challenge to search for our own answers. The ability to question is only the first stage of freedom. The search for answers is the next.
Can we fulfill the promise of the Exodus in our own lives if we do not search for our own answers?
Does every question have an answer? Is the ability to function without having all the answers one more stage of liberation? Can we be enslaved to an obsessive search for the answer?
Do you have the answer?
פֿאַרוואָ אין די נאַכט פֿוּן פסח אנדערש פֿוּן אַלע נאַכט פֿוּן אַ גאַנץ יאָר?
אַלע נאַכט פֿוּן אַ גאַנץ יאָר עסן חמץ אָדער מצה; אַבער די נאַכט פֿוּן פסח, עסן מיר נאָר מצה.
אַלע נאַכט פֿוּן אַ גאַנץ יאָר עסן אַלערליי גרינסן; אַבער די נאַכט פֿוּן פסח, עסן מיר ביטערע גרינסן.
אַלע נאַכט פֿוּן אַ גאַנץ יאָר טרינקן מיר ניט אַיין אַפֿילוּ אַיין מאָל; אַבער די נאַכט פֿוּן פסח, טרינקן מיר צוײ מאָל.
אַלע נאַכט פֿוּן אַ גאַנץ יאָר טרינקן מיר מיר סיי זיצנדיק אוּן סיי אָנעשאָרט; אַבער די נאַכט פֿוּן פסח, עסן מיר נאָר אָנעשאָרט.
Kuanto fue demudada la noche la esta mas ke todas las noches?
Ke en todas las noches non nos entinyentes afilu vez una, i la noche la esta dos vezes?
Ke en todas las noches nos comientes levdo o sesenya i la noche la esta todo el sesenya?
Ke en todas las noches nos comientes resto de vedruras i la noche la esta lechugua?
Ke en todas las noches nos comientes i bevientes tanto asentados i tanto arescovdados i la noche la esta todos nos arescovdados?
Уем отличается эта ночь от других ночей?
Во все другие ночи мы едим либо хомец, либо мацу в эту ночьтоль ко мацу;
Во все другие ночи мы едим разную зелень, а в эту ночь-лтшь горькую;
Во все другие ночи мы ни разу не обмакиваем /пищу/, а в эту ночь-дважды;
Во все другие ночи мы едим сидяили возлегая, а в эту ночь-возлегая.
THE FOUR CHILDREN –
Some consider the four sons – or four children – to be representative of different “child parts” within each of us. Others say that the four children are, in reality, representative of four typical reactions by young people to their first experience with the story of Passover. Each should be dealt with differently, but it is important that each child understand the meaning and history of the holiday.
ארבהאה בנים דברה תורה: אחד חכם אחד רשע אחד תם ואחד שאינו יודע לשאול
Arba banim di'bra Torah: Echad Chacham, Echad Rasha, Echad Tahm, V'echad Sheh'eino Yodeah Leeshol.
The Torah speaks of four types of children: one is wise, one is wicked, one is simple, and one does not know how to ask.
Chacham, mah hu omer?
The Wise One asks: "What is the meaning of the laws and traditions God has commanded?" You should teach him all the traditions of Passover, even to the last detail (the Afikoman).
Rasha, mah hu omer?
The Wicked One asks: "What does this ritual mean to you?" By using the expression "to you" he excludes himself from his people and denies God. Shake his arrogance and say to him: "It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt." Say, "For me" and not for him – for had he been in Egypt, he would not have been freed.
Tam, mah hu omer?
The Simple One asks: "What is all this?" You should tell him: "It was with a mighty hand that the Lord took us out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage."
V’Sheeino yodeah lishol?
As for the One Who Does Not Know How To Ask, you should open the discussion for him, as it is written: "And you shall explain to your child on that day, ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt’."
THE FOUR CHILDREN: Your Turn!
Take a minute to think about your own version of the four sons.
שאינו יודע לשאול
(Does Not Know How to Ask)