This may take up to thirty seconds.
Retelling the Passover Story
Raise the tray with the matzot and say:
This is the bread of affliction that our fathers ate in the land of Egypt. Whoever is hungry, let him come and eat; whoever is in need, let him come and conduct the Seder of Passover. This year [we are] here; next year in the land of Israel. This year [we are] slaves; next year [we will be] free people.
The tray with the matzot is moved aside, and the second cup is poured.(Do not drink it yet).
Now the child asks "Mah Nishtana?"
What makes this night different from all [other] nights?
On all nights we need not dip even once, on this night we do so twice!
On all nights we eat chametz or matzah, and on this night only matzah.
On all nights we eat any kind of vegetables, and on this night maror!
On all nights we eat sitting upright or reclining, and on this night we all recline!
The tray is restored to its place with the matzah partly uncovered. Now we say "We were slaves. . ."
We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and the L-rd, our G-d, took us out from there with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm. If the Holy One, blessed be He, had not taken our fathers out of Egypt, then we, our children and our children's children would have remained enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt. Even if all of us were wise, all of us understanding, all of us knowing the Torah, we would still be obligated to discuss the exodus from Egypt; and everyone who discusses the exodus from Egypt at length is praiseworthy.
It happened that Rabbi Eliezer, Rabbi Yehoshua, Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah, Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Tarphon were reclining [at a seder] in B'nei Berak. They were discussing the exodus from Egypt all that night, until their students came and told them: "Our Masters! The time has come for reciting the morning Shema!"
Rabbi Eleazar ben Azaryah said: "I am like a man of seventy years old, yet I did not succeed in proving that the exodus from Egypt must be mentioned at night-until Ben Zoma explained it: "It is said, `That you may remember the day you left Egypt all the days of your life;' now `the days of your life' refers to the days, [and the additional word] `all' indicates the inclusion of the nights!"
The sages, however, said: "`The days of your life' refers to the present-day world; and `all' indicates the inclusion of the days of Mashiach."
Blessed is the Omnipresent One, blessed be He! Blessed is He who gave the Torah to His people Israel, blessed be He! The Torah speaks of four children: One is wise, one is wicked, one is simple and one does not know how to ask.
The wise one, what does he say? "What are the testimonies, the statutes and the laws which the L-rd, our G-d, has commanded you?" You, in turn, shall instruct him in the laws of Passover, [up to] `one is not to eat any dessert after the Passover-lamb.'
The wicked one, what does he say? "What is this service to you?!" He says `to you,' but not to him! By thus excluding himself from the community he has denied that which is fundamental. You, therefore, blunt his teeth and say to him: "It is because of this that the L-rd did for me when I left Egypt"; `for me' - but not for him! If he had been there, he would not have been redeemed!"
The simpleton, what does he say? "What is this?" Thus you shall say to him: "With a strong hand the L-rd took us out of Egypt, from the house of slaves."
As for the one who does not know how to ask, you must initiate him, as it is said: "You shall tell your child on that day, `It is because of this that the L-rd did for me when I left Egypt.'"
One may think that [the discussion of the exodus] must be from the first of the month. The Torah therefore says, `On that day.' `On that day,' however, could mean while it is yet daytime; the Torah therefore says, `It is because of this.' The expression `because of this' can only be said when matzah and maror are placed before you.
In the beginning our fathers served idols; but now the Omnipresent One has brought us close to His service, as it is said: "Joshua said to all the people: Thus said the L-rd, the G-d of Israel, `Your fathers used to live on the other side of the river - Terach, the father of Abraham and the father of Nachor, and they served other gods.
"And I took your father Abraham from beyond the river, and I led him throughout the whole land of Canaan. I increased his seed and gave him Isaac, and to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. To Esau I gave Mount Seir to possess it, and Jacob and his sons went down to Egypt."
Blessed is He who keeps His promise to Israel, blessed be He! For the Holy One, blessed be He, calculated the end [of the bondage], in order to do as He had said to our father Abraham at the "Covenant between the Portions," as it is said: "And He said to Abraham, `You shall know that your seed will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and they will enslave them and make them suffer, for four hundred years. But I shall also judge the nation whom they shall serve, and after that they will come out with great wealth.'"
According to the instructions of Rabbi Isaac Luria, the wine cup is now raised and the Matzot are covered.
This is what has stood by our fathers and us! For not just one alone has risen against us to destroy us, but in every generation they rise against us to destroy us; and the Holy One, blessed be He, saves us from their hand!
Put down the wine cup and uncover the Matzah.
Go forth and learn what Laban the Aramean wanted to do to our father Jacob. Pharaoh had issued a decree against the male children only, but Laban wanted to uproot everyone - as it is said: "The Aramean wished to destroy my father; and he went down to Egypt and sojourned there, few in number; and he became there a nation - great and mighty and numerous."
"And he went down to Egypt" forced by Divine decree. "And he sojourned there" - this teaches that our father Jacob did not go down to Egypt to settle, but only to live there temporarily. Thus it is said, "They said to Pharaoh, We have come to sojourn in the land, for there is no pasture for your servants' flocks because the hunger is severe in the land of Canaan; and now, please, let your servants dwell in the land of Goshen."
"Few in number" as it is said: "Your fathers went down to Egypt with seventy persons, and now, the L-rd, your G-d, has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven."
"And he became there a nation" this teaches that Israel was distinctive there.
"Great, mighty," as it is said: "And the children of Israel were fruitful and increased abundantly, and multiplied and became very, very mighty, and the land became filled with them."
"And numerous," as it is said: "I passed over you and saw you wallowing in your bloods, and I said to you `By your blood you shall live,' and I said to you `By your blood you shall live!' I caused you to thrive like the plants of the field, and you increased and grew and became very beautiful your bosom fashioned and your hair grown long, but you were naked and bare."
"The Egyptians treated us badly and they made us suffer, and they put hard work upon us."
"The Egyptians treated us badly," as it is said: Come, let us act cunningly with [the people] lest they multiply and, if there should be a war against us, they will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the land."
"And they made us suffer," as it is said: "They set taskmasters over [the people of Israel] to make them suffer with their burdens, and they built storage cities for Pharaoh, Pitom and Ramses."
"And they put hard work upon us," as it is said: "The Egyptians made the children of Israel work with rigor. And they made their lives bitter with hard work, with mortar and with bricks and all manner of service in the field, all their work which they made them work with rigor." And we cried out to the L-rd, the G-d of our fathers, and the L-rd heard our voice and saw our suffering, our labor and our oppression.
"And we cried out to the L-rd, the G-d of our fathers," as it is said: "During that long period, the king of Egypt died; and the children of Israel groaned because of the servitude, and they cried out. And their cry for help from their servitude rose up to G-d."
"And the L-rd heard our voice" as it said: "And G-d heard their groaning, and G-d remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."
"And he saw our suffering," this refers to the separation of husband and wife, as it is said: "G-d saw the children of Israel and G-d took note."
"Our labor," this refers to the "children," as it is said: "Every boy that is born, you shall throw into the river and every girl you shall keep alive."
"And our oppression," this refers to the pressure, as it is said: "I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them."
"The L-rd took as out of Egypt with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, and with a great manifestation, and with signs and wonders."
"The L-rd took us out of Egypt," not through an angel, not through a seraph and not through a messenger. The Holy One, blessed be He, did it in His glory by Himself!
Thus it is said: "In that night I will pass through the land of Egypt, and I will smite every first-born in the land of Egypt, from man to beast, and I will carry out judgments against all the gods of Egypt, I the L-rd."
"I will pass through the land of Egypt," I and not an angel;
"And I will smite every first-born in the land of Egypt," I and not a seraph;
"And I will carry out judgments against all the gods of Egypt," I and not a messenger;
"I- the L-rd," it is I, and none other!
"With a strong hand," this refers to the dever (pestilence) as it is said: "Behold, the hand of the L-rd will be upon your livestock in the field, upon the horses, the donkeys, the camels, the herds and the flocks, a very severe pestilence."
"And with an outstretched arm," this refers to the sword, as it is said: "His sword was drawn, in his hand, stretched out over Jerusalem."
"And with a great manifestation," this refers to the revelation of the Shechinah (Divine Presence), as it is said: "Has any G-d ever tried to take for himself a nation from the midst of another nation, with trials, signs and wonders, with war and with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, and with great manifestations, like all that the L-rd your G-d, did for you in Egypt before your eyes!"
"And with signs," this refers to the staff, as it is said: "Take into your hand this staff with which you shall perform the signs."
"And wonders," this refers to the blood, as it is said: "And I shall show wonders in heaven and on earth.
When saying the following words "blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke," spill three times from the wine in the cup. Do not remove wine by dipping a finger, but by spilling from the cup itself, and do so into a broken/chipped dish. (Have in mind that the cup symbolizes the aspect of malchut which contains an aspect of "anger and indignation." By means of our faculty of binah (understanding) we pour out [that aspect of "anger and indignation" - by spilling from the wine in the cup into a broken dish which represents kelipah, i.e., that which is called accursed [the principle of evil]).
Blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke
Another explanation: "Strong hand" indicates two [plagues]; "Outstretched arm," another two; "Great manifestation," another two; "Signs," another two; and "Wonders," another two.
These are the Ten Plagues which the Holy One, blessed be He, brought upon the Egyptians, namely as follows:
When saying the ten plagues, spill from the cup itself ten times, as stated above (and when spilling, again have in mind what was said above). The wine remaining in the cup (will have become 'wine that causes joy,' thus) is not to be spilled, but other wine is added to it [to refill the cup].
Slaying of the First-born.
Rabbi Yehudah referred to them by acronyms:
DeTzaCh (blood, frogs, lice);
ADaSh (beasts, pestilence, boils);
BeAChaV (hail, locust, darkness, first-born).
Rabbi Yosi the Gallilean said: How do you know that the Egyptians were stricken by ten plagues in Egypt, and then were struck by fifty plagues at the sea?
In Egypt it says of them, "The magicians said to Pharaoh `This is the finger of G-d.' At the sea it says, "Israel saw the great hand that the L-rd laid against Egypt; and the people feared the L-rd, and they believed in the L-rd and in His servant Moses."
Now, how often were they smitten by `the finger'? Ten plagues!
Thus you must conclude that in Egypt they were smitten by ten plagues, at the sea they were smitten by fifty plagues!
Rabbi Eliezer said: How do we know that each individual plague which the Holy One, blessed be He, brought upon the Egyptians in Egypt consisted of four plagues?
For it is said: "He sent against them His fierce anger, fury, and indignation, and trouble, a discharge of messengers of evil": `Fury,' is one; `Indignation,' makes two; `Trouble,' makes three; `Discharge of messengers of evil,' makes four.
Thus you must now say that in Egypt they were struck by forty plagues, and at the sea they were stricken by two hundred plagues.
Rabbi Akiva said: How do we know that each individual plague which the Holy One, blessed be He, brought upon the Egyptians in Egypt consisted of five plagues?
For it is said: "He sent against them his fierce anger, fury, and indignation, and trouble, a discharge of messengers of evil": "His fierce anger," is one; "fury," makes two; "indignation," makes three; "trouble," makes four; "discharge of messengers of evil," makes five. Thus you must now say that in Egypt they were struck by fifty plagues, and at the sea they were stricken by two hundred and fifty plagues.
How many levels of favors has the Omnipresent One bestowed upon us:
If He had brought us out from Egypt, and had not carried out judgments against them Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!
If He had carried out judgments against them, and not against their idols Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!
If He had destroyed their idols, and had not smitten their first-born Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!
If He had smitten their first-born, and had not given us their wealth Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!
If He had given us their wealth, and had not split the sea for us Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!
If He had split the sea for us, and had not taken us through it on dry land Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!
If He had taken us through the sea on dry land, and had not drowned our oppressors in it Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!
If He had drowned our oppressors in it, and had not supplied our needs in the desert for forty years Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!
If He had supplied our needs in the desert for forty years, and had not fed us the manna Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!
If He had fed us the manna, and had not given us the Shabbat Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!
If He had given us the Shabbat, and had not brought us before Mount Sinai Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!
If He had brought us before Mount Sinai, and had not given us the Torah Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!
If He had given us the Torah, and had not brought us into the land of Israel Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!
If He had brought us into the land of Israel, and had not built for us the Beit Habechirah (Chosen House; the Beit Hamikdash) Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!
Thus how much more so should we be grateful to the Omnipresent One for the doubled and redoubled goodness that He has bestowed upon us; for He has brought us out of Egypt, and carried out judgments against them, and against their idols, and smote their first-born, and gave us their wealth, and split the sea for us, and took us through it on dry land, and drowned our oppressors in it, and supplied our needs in the desert for forty years, and fed us the manna, and gave us the Shabbat, and brought us before Mount Sinai, and gave us the Torah, and brought us into the land of Israel and built for us the Beit Habechirah to atone for all our sins.
Rabban Gamliel used to say: Whoever does not discuss the following three things on Passover has not fulfilled his duty, namely:
Passover (the Passover-sacrifice),
Matzah (the unleavened bread)
Maror (the bitter herbs).
Passover - the Passover-lamb that our fathers ate during the time of the Beit Hamikdash - for what reason [did they do so]?
Because the Omnipresent passed over our fathers' houses in Egypt, as it is said:
"You shall say, It is a Passover-offering to the L-rd, because He passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians with a plague, and He saved our houses. And the people bowed and prostrated themselves."
Take the broken Matzah into your hand and say:
This Matzah that we eat for what reason? Because the dough of our fathers did not have time to become leavened before the King of the kings of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, revealed Himself to them and redeemed them.
Thus it is said: "They baked Matzah-cakes from the dough that they had brought out of Egypt, because it was not leavened; for they had been driven out of Egypt and could not delay, and they had also not prepared any [other] provisions."
Take the maror into your hand and say:
This maror that we eat for what reason? Because the Egyptians embittered our fathers' lives in Egypt, as it is said:
"They made their lives bitter with hard service, with mortar and with bricks, and with all manner of service in the field; all their service which they made them serve with rigor."
In every generation a person is obligated to regard himself as if he had come out of Egypt, as it is said: "You shall tell your child on that day, it is because of this that the L-rd did for me when I left Egypt."
The Holy One, blessed be He, redeemed not only our fathers from Egypt, but He redeemed also us with them, as it is said: "It was us that He brought out from there, so that He might bring us to give us the land that He swore to our fathers."
Cover the Matzah and raise the cup. The cup is to be held in the hand until the completion of the blessing, "Who Has Redeemed Us..."
Thus it is our duty to thank, to laud, to praise, to glorify, to exalt, to adore, to bless, to elevate and to honor the One who did all these miracles for our fathers and for us. He took us from slavery to freedom, from sorrow to joy, and from mourning to festivity, and from deep darkness to great light and from bondage to redemption. Let us therefore recite before Him Halleluyah, Praise G-d!
Halleluyah - Praise G-d! Offer praise, you servants of the L-rd; praise the Name of the L-rd. May the L-rd's Name be blessed from now and to all eternity. From the rising of the sun to its setting, the L-rd's Name is praised. The L-rd is high above all nations, His glory is over the heavens. Who is like the L-rd, our G-d, who dwells on high yet looks down so low upon heaven and earth! He raises the poor from the dust, He lifts the needy from the dunghill, to seat them with nobles, with the nobles of His people. He restores the barren woman to the house, into a joyful mother of children. Halleluyah - praise G-d.
When Israel went out of Egypt, the House of Jacob from a people of a foreign language, Judah became His holy one, Israel His dominion. The sea saw and fled, the Jordan turned backward. The mountains skipped like rams, the hills like young sheep. What is with you, O sea, that you flee; Jordan, that you turn backward? Mountains, why do you skip like rams; hills, like a pool of water, the flint-stone into a spring of water.
Blessed are You, G-d, our G-d, King of the universe, who has redeemed us and redeemed our fathers from Egypt, and enabled us to attain this night to eat matzah and maror. So too, G-d, our G-d and G-d of our fathers, enable us to attain other holidays and festivals that will come to us in peace with happiness in the rebuilding of Your city, and with rejoicing in Your service [in the Bet Hamikdash]. Then we shall eat
(Note: if the festival is on any day except Saturday night say:) of the sacrifices and of the Passover-offerings (If the Seder is on Saturday Night say:) of the Passover-offerings and of the sacrifices
whose blood shall be sprinkled on the wall of Your altar for acceptance; and we shall thank You with a new song for our redemption and for the deliverance of our souls. Blessed are You, G-d, who redeemed Israel.
Recite the following blessing, and drink the cup in the reclining position:
Blessed are You, L-rd, our G-d, King of the universe,
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.
While the Jews 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. That part of our Passover story is best described in the familiar song “Go Down Moses.”
When Israel was in Egypt's land,
Let my people go;
Oppressed so hard they could not stand,
Let my people go.
Go down, Moses,
Way down in Egypt's land;
Tell old Pharaoh
To let my people go!
"Thus saith the Lord," bold Moses said,
Let my people go;
"If not, I'll smite your first-born dead,"
Let my people go.
No more shall they in bondage toil,
Let my people go;
Let them come out with Egypt's spoil,
Let my people go.
The fourth cup of wine is poured
We now draw our attention to the two empty cups on the table--one of which is for Elijah the Prophet, and the other for Miriam the Prophetess. Tradition teaches us that each of these biblical characters plays an important task of bringing redemption.It is said that that Elijah the Prophet visits the homes of Jewish families on Passover, to check to see if we are all truly ready to welcome the stranger, and are thus prepared to enter as a people into the messianic age. To Elijah we each offer a little bit of wine from our own cups, as a symbolic gesture of our readiness for redemption.
To honor Miriam the Prophetess, we each pour not wine, but water into a cup. According to tradition, Miriam sustained the Israelites in the desert with water from her well, and to this day her life-giving waters still flow into wells everywhere,sustaining us all as we work to bring redemption and wait for Elijah.
And so we open the door, pass around the Elijah’s and Miriam’s cups so that everyone can contribute to them, and sing together their songs of redemption:
The leader breaks the middle Matzo, leaving one half on the Seder-dish, and hiding the other half as the Aphikomon to be eaten at the end of the meal.
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?
One custom is for the “leader” to ask for the seder plate to be removed, as if the meal were suddenly over. This is meant to prompt younger people to ask the four questions. The refilling of the wine cups is also meant to provoke the young, by implying that a second kiddush is about to be made.
All: On all other nights we eat leavened bread and matzah. Why on this night only matzah?
Reader: Avadot hayinu. We were slaves. We were slaves in Mitzrayim. Our mothers in their flight from bondage in Mitzrayim did not have time to let the dough rise. With not a moment to spare they snatched up the dough they had prepared and fled. But the hot sun beat as they carried the dough along with them and baked it into the flat unleavened bread we call matzah. In memory of this, we eat only matzah, no bread, during Passover. This matzah represents our rush to freedom.
All: On all other nights we eat all kinds of vegetables. Why on this night do we make certain to eat bitter herbs?
Reader: Avadot hayinu. We were slaves. We eat maror to remind us how bitter our ancestors’ lives were made by their enslavement in Mitzrayim.
All: On all other nights we do not usually dip food once. Why on this night do we dip twice?
Reader: Avadot hayinu. We were slaves. The first time we dip our greens to taste the brine of enslavement. We also dip to remind ourselves of all life and growth, of earth and sea, which gives us sustenance and comes to life again in the springtime. The second time we dip the maror into the charoset. The charoset reminds us of the mortar that our ancestors mixed as slaves in Mitzrayim. But our charoset is made of fruit and nuts, to show us that our ancestors were able to withstand the bitterness of slavery because it was sweetened by the hope of freedom.
All: On all other nights we sit on straight chairs. Why on this night do we relax and recline on pillows during the seder?
Reader: Avadot hayinu. We were slaves. Long ago, the wealthy Romans rested on couches during their feasts. Slaves were not allowed to rest, not even while they ate. Since our ancestors were freed from slavery, we recline to remind our selves that we, like our ancestors, can overcome bondage in our own time. We also recline to remind ourselves that rest and rejuvenation are vital to continuing our struggles. We should take pleasure in reclining, even as we share our difficult stories.
A) Some of the questions people are really asking as they participate in a seder:
1. How many more hours until we eat?
2. Why on this night do some of us traditionally eat balls of reconstituted fish parts?
3. Will G-d strike me down if I get up to go to the bathroom during the maggid?
4. Why on this night do said fish balls always have slice of carrot on top, and is it true that jelled broth is in fact the Jewish people’s most enduring contribution to humanity? (2)
B) A little discussion, eh?
Share four questions that are coming up for you at this time. They can be specific (like, why only four questions?) or general (What is the meaning of life and my existence and how did I end up here tonight?)
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 laws of Passover, starting from the beginning and ending with the laws of the Afikomen.
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 (with your attitude), 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 Passover tonight because of what God did for us when we went out of Egypt.’”
By a fitting answer to the questions of each of the four types of the sons of Israel, does the Torah explain the meaning of this night's celebration.
The wise son eager to learn asks earnestly: "What mean the testimonies and the statutes and the ordinances, which the Lord our God hath commanded us?" To him thou shalt say: "This service is held in order to worship the Lord our God, that it may be well with us all the days of our life".
The wicked son inquires in a mocking spirit: "What mean ye by this service?" As he says ye and not we, he excludes himself from the household of Israel. Therefore thou shouldst turn on him and say: "It is because of that which the Lord did for me when I came forth out of Egypt". For me and not for him, for had he been there, he would not have been found worthy of being redeemed.
The simple son indifferently asks: "What is this?" To him thou shalt say: "By strength of hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage".
And for the son who is unable to inquire, thou shalt explain the whole story of the Passover; as it is said: "And thou shalt tell thy son in that day, saying 'It is because of that which the Lord did for me when I came forth out of Egypt'".
After the meal we search for the afikoman. When the afikoman is found and returned to the leader, an olive-sized piece is distributed to each person, and all consume the afikoman with enthusiasm!