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Introduction
Source : OurJewishCommunity.org

INTRODUCTION

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.

Introduction
Source : Unknown
  • In every generation, we must see ourselves as if we personally were liberated from Egypt. We gather tonight to tell the ancient story of a people's liberation from Egyptian slavery. This is the story of our origins as a people. It is from these events that we gain our ethics, our vision of history, our dreams for the future. We gather tonight, as two hundred generations of Jewish families have before us, to retell the timeless tale.
  • Yet our tradition requires that on Seder night, we do more than just tell the story. We must live the story. Tonight, we will re-experience the liberation from Egypt. We will remember how our family suffered as slaves; we will feel the exhilaration of redemption. We must re-taste the bitterness of slavery and must rejoice over our newfound freedom. We annually return to Egypt in order to be freed. We remember slavery in order to deepen our commitment to end all suffering; we recreate our liberation in order to reinforce our commitment to universal freedom.
Introduction
Source : ayeka -original

"Let All Who Are Hungry"  

We are wired to give. 

One of the worst feelings in the world is not being needed by others. 

I once asked a group of high school kids: "When was the last time you felt really good about yourselves?" Each responded by sharing an act of kindness and selfless giving. 

But a slave has nothing to offer. Drained of energy and time, the slave's emotional and physical resources are depleted. With no ability to give, the slave loses his/her sense of humanity, and feels empty, worthless, and incapable of generosity.

And so we begin the Seder by proclaiming: "Let all who are hungry come and eat!" We are no longer slaves with nothing to give. No matter what our situation, we defiantly declare that we have food in abundance and that we can't wait to share it with the world - a moment of exaggerated and piercing "largeness". 

This sentence should not be read. It should be raucously screamed. It is tantamount to announcing: "I am a giving person! I am overflowing with goodness and kindness! I have a full tank of giving to share with everyone!"

Activity for Seder: 

Share a moment when you either carried out - or witnessed - an act of extraordinary giving. 

Kadesh
Source : many

Usually on Pesach one first recites the blessings and then lights the candles without covering one’s eyes.

May these candles, lit on the Festival of Freedom, bring light into our hearts and minds. May they renew our courage to act for justice and freedom here and now. May they illumine the path to truth, justice and peace. And so we repeat the ancient blessing:

All woman say ….Blessing #1:

Bo-ruch A-toh Ado-noi E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech Ho-olom A-sher Ki-de-sho-nu Be-mitz-vo-sov Ve-tzi-vo-nu Le-had-lik Ner Shel Yom Tov.

English:Blessed are you, Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who sanctified us by commanding us to light the holiday candles.

Blessing #2:Bo-ruch A-toh Ado-noi E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech Ho-olom She-heche-yo-nu Ve-ki-yi-mo-nu Ve-higi-o-nu Liz-man Ha-zeh English:Blessed are you, Blessed are you, Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who has kept us alive and brought us to this happy moment in our lives.

Kadesh
Source : Chabad.org & Our Jewish Lights

Just where did the rabbis themselves determine the idea of instituting four cups of wine? The rabbis wrote these instructions in Tractate Pesachim during the time of Roman rule in Israel, and during that time it was customary at Roman feasts or banquets (known as symposiums (sym – together, posium – drinking wine)) to begin the festivities by drinking wine. This was followed by going into the dining hall and eating the main meal which was accompanied by more wine. At the end of the main meal, more wine would be served to the guests. The rabbis of Roman times in Israel added a fourth cup of wine - the kiddush cup - to sanctify God and His merciful deeds.

Many reasons are given for drinking four cups of wine. Here are some of them:

When promising to deliver the Jews from Egyptian slavery, G‑d used four terms to describe the redemption (Exodus 6:6-8): a) "I shall take you out..." b) "I shall rescue you..." c) "I shall redeem you..." d) "I shall bring you..."

We were liberated from Pharaoh's four evil decrees: a) Slavery. b) The ordered murder of all male progeny by the Hebrew midwives. c) The drowning of all Hebrew boys in the Nile by Egyptian thugs. d) The decree ordering the Israelites to collect their own straw for use in their brick production.

The four cups symbolize our freedom from our four exiles: The Egyptian, Babylonian, and Greek exiles, and our current exile which we hope to be rid of very soon with the coming of Moshiach.

The words "cup of wine" are mentioned four times in Pharaoh's butler's dream (Genesis 40:11-13). According to the Midrash, these cups of wine alluded to the Israelites' liberation.

According to Kabbalah, there are four forces of impurity (anti-divinity, or kelipah). On Passover, when we celebrate our physical freedom, we also celebrate our liberation from these spiritual forces. Our physical departure from Egypt was a reflection of our spiritual one—we were pulled from the clutches of depravity and impurity and set on the path to receiving the Torah and connecting with G‑d

Kadesh
Source : Orginial

Wine can symbolize many things. The first glass of wine symbolizes hope. When Moses started to plead for freedom, the reality of possibly being free became believable. This first glass of wine symbolizes the hope that this Seder will be over and we can eat food. Had we not had this vary sip of the wine, the reality that this Seder will end, would have seemed like a dream far out of reach. Had Moses not plead for freedom, it would have seemed impossible. 

 

Kadesh
Source : Original

Leader: The word seder means "order", and the Passover ritual follows a very specific order. Throughout the meal, we drink four glasses of wine — a symbol of the four promises made to Moses about the liberation of the Jewish people. In the book of Exodus it is written that God told Moses: 

Leader: I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will rid you out of their bondage. I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments. I will take you to me for a people, and ye shall know that I am the Lord, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.

Leader: To begin the seder, we share this first cup of wine. We drink this cup in remembrance of the first promise: I will bring you out.   

Raise your wine glass.

All:   Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha-olam,  borei p'ri hagafen.

(Blessed art thou, the LORD our God, who createth the fruit of the vine)

Drink your wine.  

Kadesh
Source : Unknown

Our first cup of wine (or grape juice) is for the physical spring that we see, hear, smell, touch. It is one of the many miracles we see every year. Green forces its way through the cracks of the hard earth. Birds begin to venture out and sing. The scent of flowers perfumes the air. Warmth begins to creep into our skin and make us feel alive again.

We raise our cups and recite:

Baruch atah adonai, elohaynu melech ha'olam, borei p'ri ha'gafen.

Karpas
Source : Free Siddur Project, adapted

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha’olam, borei p’ri ha’adamah.

Yachatz
Source : http://ajws.org/what_we_do/education/publications/holiday_resources/passover_seder_reading_2009.pdf

Breaking the matzah

There are three pieces of matzah stacked on the table. We now break the middle matzah into two pieces. The host should wrap up the larger of the pieces and, at some point between now and the end of dinner, hide it. This piece is called the afikomen, literally "dessert." After dinner, the guests will have to hunt for the afikomen.

Reader 1: Ha lachma anya—this is the bread of affliction. At the seder we begin as slaves. We eat matzah, the bread of affliction, which leaves us hungry and longing for redemption. It reminds us of a time when we couldn’t control what food was available to us, but ate what we could out of necessity. The matzah enables us to taste slavery— to imagine what it means to be denied our right to live free and healthy lives.

But, while we will soon enjoy a large meal and end the seder night as free people, millions of people around the world can not leave the affliction of hunger behind. Let us awaken to their cries and declare:

Kol dichfin yeitei v’yeichol—let all who are hungry, come and eat. As we sit at our seder and contemplate our people’s transition from slavery to freedom, let us hope for a time when all who are hungry will eat as free people. Let us pray:

Let all people gain autonomy over their sources of sustenance.

Let local farms flourish and local economies strengthen.

Let exploitation of natural resources cease so that the land may nourish its inhabitants.

Let communities bolster themselves against the destruction wrought by flood and drought.

Let our world leaders recognize food as a basic human right and implement policies and programs that put an end to world hunger.

Hashata avdei—this year we are still slaves. Leshanah haba’ah b’nei chorin—next year we will be free people.

This year, hunger and malnutrition are still the greatest risks to good health around the world. Next year, may the bread of affliction be simply a symbol, and may all people enjoy the bread of plenty, the bread of freedom.

Yachatz
Source : http://ajws.org/what_we_do/education/publications/holiday_resources/passover_seder_reading_2009.pdf


Ha lachma anya—this is the bread of affliction.

At the seder we begin as slaves. We eat matzah, the bread of affliction, which leaves us hungry and longing for redemption. It reminds us of a time when we couldn’t control what food was available to us, but ate what we could out of necessity. The matzah enables us to taste slavery— to imagine what it means to be denied our right to live free and healthy lives.


But, while we will soon enjoy a large meal and end the seder night as free people, 963 million people around the world can not leave the affliction of hunger behind. Each day, 25,000 adults and children die from hunger and malnutrition. In fact, a child dies every six seconds because he or she is starving.  Let us awaken to their cries and declare:


Kol dichfin yeitei v’yeichol—let all who are hungry, come and eat.

As we sit at our seder and contemplate our people’s transition from slavery to freedom, let us hope for a time when all who are hungry will eat as free people:

Let all people gain autonomy over their sources of sustenance.


Let local farms flourish and local economies strengthen.


Let exploitation of natural resources cease so that the land may nourish its inhabitants.


Let communities bolster themselves against the destruction wrought by flood and drought.


Let our world leaders recognize food as a basic human right and implement policies and programs that put an end to world hunger.

The Passover seder inspires us to take action and commit ourselves to working toward these and other sustainable changes. As the seder guides us from scarcity to plenty, let us empower others on their paths to sustenance.

Hashata avdei—this year we are still slaves.  Leshanah haba’ah b’nei chorin—next year we will be free people.

This year, hunger and malnutrition are still the greatest risks to good health around the world. Next year, may the bread of affliction be simply a symbol, and may all people enjoy the bread of plenty, the  bread of freedom.

Maggid - Beginning
Source : Edmond Fleh

I am a Jew because, born of Israel and having lost her, I have felt her live again in me, more loving than myself. I am a Jew because, born of Israel and having regained her. I wish her to live after me, more living than myself.

I am a Jew because the faith of Israel demands of me no abdication of the mind.

I am a Jew because the faith of Israel requires of me all the devotion of the mind.

I am a Jew because in every place where suffering weeps, the Jew weeps.

I am a Jew because every time when despair cries out, the Jew hopes.

I am a Jew because, for Israel, the world is not yet completed: we are completing it.

I am a Jew because for Israel, Humanity is not yet fully formed; humanity must

perfect itself.

Edmond Fleg

-- Four Questions
Source : ayeka

Ma Nishtana  and Making a Change 

The life of a slave never changes. 

The clothes are the same. The food is the same. The routine is the same. 

At the very beginning of the Seder, we ask an important question: "Ma nishtana ha'lailah hazeh?"

Why? We could surely ask the same question during Succot, when we sleep outside in a fragile booth. Or on Purim when we put on masks and drink all day. Why on Passover?

Because the changes on this night are more fundamental - in fact, change itself is Passover in a nutshell. On Passover, we move - we PASS OVER - from slavery to freedom. We're not stuck; we're not trapped. We can control our lives and change what we want. And once we change what we want, everything changes.  

Every child learns Ma Nishtana ; we even ask our youngest children, before they have any experience of life, to recite it, like a mantra. From the earliest stages we have to imbed it deep inside - we are free. We can be different. 

Ma Nishtana is the song of hope. Things can be different. We are slaves no longer. 

Activity for Seder: 

Make the seder table different this year. Put something new on it - sparkles, chocolates, a gimmick or props. Encourage conversation - "Ma nishtana?"

-- Four Questions
Source : A Humanist Modern Version of Haggadah, Eszter Hargittai

FOUR QUESTIONS

Traditionally, the youngest person present asks:

Why is this night different from all other nights?

1. On all other nights we eat either bread or matsah. Why, on this night, do we eat only matsah?

2. On all other nights we eat herbs of any kind. Why, on this night, do we eat only bitter herbs?

3. On all other nights, we do not dip our herbs even once. Why, on this night, do we dip them twice?

4. On all other nights, we eat either sitting or leaning. Why, on this night, do we eat while leaning?

A different guest readers each ANSWER:

1. MATZAH:

Matsah is the symbol of our affliction and our freedom.  Legend has it that when Moses and his followers fled Egypt, they moved so quickly that the bread they baked did not have time to rise.  However, scholars have noted that long before the Jews celebrated Passover, farmers of the Middle East celebrated Khag Ha-matsot, the festival of unleavened bread, at this time of year. This was a festival where unleavened bread was made from the new grain harvest that took place at this time of the year. The old fermented dough was thrown out so that last year's grain would not be mixed with this year's. Therefore, the new season began with the eating of unleavened bread--matsah. Later on, the Jewish people incorporated this agricultural festival into the celebration of freedom and renewal we now call Passover.  Let us all eat a piece of matzah.

2. BITTER HERBS

Tradition says that this root is to remind us of the time of our slavery. We force ourselves to taste pain so that we may more readily value pleasure. Scholars inform us that bitter herbs were eaten at the Spring festival in ancient times. The sharpness of the taste awakened the senses and made the people feel at one with nature's revival. Thus, the horseradish is the stimulus of life, reminding us that struggle is better than the complacent acceptance of injustice.  Let us all eat bitter herbs.

3. DIPPING

The first time, the salty taste reminds us of the tears we cried when we were slaves. The second time, the salt water and
the green help us to remember the ocean and green plants and the Earth, from which we get air and water and food that enable us to live.  Let us all dip the parsley in salt water twice.

4. RECLINING

This question goes back to ancient times in Rome, when it was the custom for rich people to eat while lying on a couch leaning on one elbow as slaves and servants fed them. The Jewish people thought of this relaxed type of eating as a sign of freedom and prosperity, so they would lean to one side eating at the Seder on Passover, the festival of freedom. Today, we who are free eat while sitting up, even at Passover, but the question remains in the service as a reminder of how it was when our people longed for freedom.

MORE QUESTIONS:

Reader: We have answered the four traditional questions, but there are still more questions to be answered. There are other special foods on our Seder plate: a sweet condiment (kharoset), a roasted shank bone (z'ro-ah), and a roasted egg (baytsa). Why are they here?

A different guest reads each answer:

Charoset: Apples, nuts, cinnamon, and wine are combined to make this sweet condiment. It is the color of clay or mortar. It reminds us of the bricks and mortar that the Israelites are said to have made when they built the Pharaohs' palaces and cities. At the same time, the taste of kharoset is sweet, and it reminds us of the sweetness
of freedom.  Let us now all eat kharoset on a piece of matsah.

Shank bone: The bone represents the lamb that was the special Paschal sacrifice on the eve of the exodus from Egypt, and annually, on the afternoon before Passover, in the Holy Temple. 

Egg: The egg represents life.  Each of us begins as an egg and grows to adulthood. The egg reminds us of our evolutionary past and the gifts of human inheritance. But the egg is fragile. It represents potential that can be destroyed. Left alone, it would perish. Growing life needs warmth and love and security, guidance, hope, and vision. To achieve their full potential, human beings need the support and encouragement of family and community.  The egg symbolizes the fragility and interdependence of life.

-- Four Questions
Source : Unknown

מַה נִּשְּׁתַּנָה הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה מִכָּל הַלֵּילוֹת
שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ אוֹכְלִין חָמֵץ וּמַצָּה,


-הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה כּוּלוֹ מַצָּה.
שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ אוֹכְלִין שְׁאָר יְרָקוֹת,


 - הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה מָרוֹר.
שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אֵין אֶנוּ מַטְבִּילִין אֲפִילוּ פַּעַם אֶחָת,


- הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה שְׁתֵּי פְעָמִים.
שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ אוֹכְלִין בֵּין יוֹשְׁבִין וּבֵין מְסֻבִּין,


 - הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה כֻּלָנו מְסֻבִּין

-- Exodus Story
Source : The Litvak Family Haggadah

Participant:  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.” And so you tell him:

Participant:  In the beginning, our ancestors worshipped idols, but God called us to holy service. In the city of Ur, our father Abraham was the first person to know that the Lord is God, the Lord is One.  Abraham rebelled against the universal practice of bowing down to idols. For this, Abraham had to flee to the land of Canaan, where he became the founder of a great nation. Abraham and his wife, Sarah, had a son, Isaac, who married Rebecca.

Participant: Their son Jacob married Leah and Rachel, together with their servants Bilhah and Zilpah. Jacob had 12 sons, but his favorite was Joseph, and unto this son he bestowed a coat of many colors.  Joseph’s brothers grew jealous and they sold him to the Ishmaelites as a slave.

 Participant: Joseph came to Egypt as a slave, but God had blessed him with a gift for interpreting dreams. He came to the attention of Pharaoh, who had dreamed of seven fat cows that were eaten by seven lean cows.  Joseph told him what no one else could:  seven years of plenty would be followed by seven years of famine.  Pharaoh made Joseph Viceroy over all Egypt, charged with collecting grain in the years of plenty, to be stored against the years of famine. 

 Participant:  When Jacob and his tribe could no longer find enough food in Canaan, he sent his sons down to Egypt to plead for sustenance.  Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not know him.  He tested them, and when they showed that their souls had grown, he revealed himself to them amid tears of joy.  Soon, Jacob and all his people joined his sons in Egypt, and there our nation prospered and multiplied. 

 Participant:  Few in number as it is said: “Our fathers went down to Egypt with seventy persons, and now, the Lord, our God, has made us as numerous as the stars of heaven.”  And we became there a nation – this teaches that Israel was distinctive there, we did not lose our ways. 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 us.”

 Participant:  We praise the Eternal who keeps faith with the children of Israel. God’s promise of Redemption in ancient days sustains us now. As we read in the Torah: “Know this for certain, that your descendents will be strangers in a strange land, and be enslaved and oppressed for four hundred years. But know also that in the end I shall bring judgment on the oppressors, and your offspring will go forth with great prosperity.”

  All raise their cups of wine, and say this with great joy:

 Not once, nor twice, nor three times was our destruction planned, but in every generation they rise up to destroy us, yet the Holy One, Blessed be He, delivers us from their midst.

  All replace their cups untasted. 

Leader: Name something in your life that represents freedom for you and why.

One by one...

The Matzah is uncovered.

Group:  Arami ovaid avi.  My father was a wandering Aramean.

Participant:  After Joseph’s generation died, there arose a new Pharaoh over Egypt. And he said to his people, “Look, the Israelites are increasing and growing mighty. Let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they become more powerful, and in war join our enemies and overwhelm us.”

Participant: So they set taskmasters over us with forced labor and made us build cities for Pharaoh; Pithom and Raamses. The Egyptians embittered our lives with hard labor. But the more we were oppressed, the more we increased and spread over the land, so that the Egyptians came to despise and dread us.  Pharaoh charged his soldiers, saying, “Every male child that is born among the Israelites shall be thrown into the Nile.” And we cried out to the Lord, God of our ancestors.

Participant: God heard our cry and remembered the covenant that was made with our mothers and fathers. And God said, “I will go through the land of Egypt...and I will mete out justice against all the gods of Egypt.”

-- Exodus Story
Source : original

This is not your normal dinner-time conversation, either in terms of subject matter or expectations.   But this is a conversation we must have, at least once in a while.  That being said, we should choose the right circumstance in which to have it.  And in the car on the way to soccer practice is not the right time or place.

But with matzah and maror in front of us, everyone is in the mood. We have to grab this opportunity to speak deeply about our goals and limitations, our anxieties and talents and expectations. Tonight is a great chance to move forward, stimulated visually by matzah and maror and in so many other ways,  and there is simply no limit to what we can accomplish and in what realm we may work.  Let us be sure we are using this precious time, with matzah and maror before us, to take substantial steps on our journey.

Particularly matzah and maror .  This is not a night of illusions, of reckless fantasy.  No, we have both in front of us. The matzah , bread of dreams and faith, proof of Hashem's love of us and willingness to express that love, and the maror , testament to the difficulty and bitterness involved in bringing our dreams to fruition. Tonight we have no illusions. We acknowledge how hard it will be.  And with that in mind, we dig deeper into our conversation.

Before you read the next paragraph, look around again. Look at the matzah and maror .  Open up your sense of smell.  Listen to the sound of people reading, pages turning, children playing. Breathe in the feeling of Seder night.


יָכוֹל מֵרֹאשׁ חֹדֶשׁ, תַּלְמוּד לוֹמַר בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא. אִי בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא יָכוֹל מִבְּעוֹד יוֹם, תַּלְמוּד לוֹמַר בַּעֲבוּר זֶה. בַּעֲבוּר זֶה לֹא אָמַרְתִּי אֶלָּא בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁיֵשׁ מַצָּה וּמָרוֹר מֻנָּחִים לְפָנֶיךָ::

 

One might 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.

From shame to pride

 

Be encouraged! From wherever you are now you can reach your loftiest goals. After all, the Pesach story begins with shame: 'Our ancestors were idol worshipers.'  Before Avraham, we cannot say that our lineage was anything special per se. But in a short period of time they became prime candidates for manifesting the Divine in the world.

Don't be afraid to admit where you are holding stuck right now. It is a necessary first step on the long journey to freedom.


מִתְּחִלָּה עוֹבְדֵי עֲבוֹדָה זָרָה הָיוּ אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, וְעַכְשָׁיו קֵרְבָנוּ הַמָּקוֹם לַעֲבוֹדָתוֹ. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוֹשֻׁעַ אֶל כָּל הָעָם כֹּה אָמַר יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, בְּעֵבֶר הַנָּהָר יָשְׁבוּ אֲבוֹתֵיכֶם מֵעוֹלָם תֶּרַח אֲבִי אַבְרָהָם וַאֲבִי נָחוֹר וַיַּעַבְדוּ אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים:

 

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 Hashem, 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.

 

***

Raw deal, huh? Eisav gets a nice piece of land, and we get to go down to Egypt! It would have been nice, in some way, to get the white picket fence and the station wagon, but Hashem was giving us an opportunity to deepen.

The journey to Egypt proved to be absolutely essential in the process of reaching real freedom. And the key ingredient of our sojourn in Egypt was the invitation to develop emunah.   Emunah would ultimately serve to help us navigate the most difficult periods in our individual and collective lives, and it is a skill we learned in Egypt. It kept us alive and real when the overwhelming gravity was toward despair.  So our time to Egypt would ultimately serve us more than a picket fence. It would prepare us for the eventuality of our picket fence being picked up by a tornado and carried far away, allowing us to keep a smile on our face as we go to the lumber yard to get some more wood to rebuild.

 

Are you jealous of someone else's life?  Jealousy is an oppressive slavery.  How can you shift perspective?

 

וָאֶקַּח אֶת אֲבִיכֶם אֶת אַבְרָהָם מֵעֵבֶר הַנָּהָר וָאוֹלֵךְ אוֹתוֹ בְּכָל אֶרֶץ כְּנָעַן וָאַרְבֶּה אֶת זַרְעוֹ וָאֶתֵּן לוֹ אֶת יִצְחָק, וָאֶתֵּן לְיִצְחָק אֶת יַעֲקֹב וְאֶת עֵשָׂו, וָאֶתֵּן לְעֵשָׂו אֶת הַר שֵׂעִיר לָרֶשֶׁת אוֹתוֹ, וְיַעֲקֹב וּבָנָיו יָרְדוּ מִצְרָיִם:

 

"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."

***


בָּרוּךְ שׁוֹמֵר הַבְטָחָתוֹ לְיִשְׂרָאֵל, בָּרוּךְ הוּא, שֶׁהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא חִשַּׁב אֶת הַקֵּץ לַעֲשֹוֹת. כְּמָה שֶׁאָמַר לְאַבְרָהָם אָבִינוּ בִּבְרִית בֵּין הַבְּתָרִים. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, וַיֹּאמֶר לְאַבְרָם יָדֹעַ תֵּדַע כִּי גֵר יִהְיֶה זַרְעֲךָ בְּאֶרֶץ לֹא לָהֶם וַעֲבָדוּם וְעִנּוּ אֹתָם אַרְבַּע מֵאוֹת שָׁנָה. וְגַם אֶת הַגּוֹי אֲשֶׁר יַעֲבֹדוּ דָּן אָנֹכִי וְאַחֲרֵי כֵן יֵצְאוּ בִּרְכוּשׁ גָּדוֹל:

 

( the wine cup is now raised and the Matzot are covered)


וְהִיא שֶׁעָמְדָה לַאֲבוֹתֵינוּ וְלָנוּ. שֶׁלֹּא אֶחָד בִּלְבָד עָמַד עָלֵינוּ לְכַלּוֹתֵנוּ אֶלָּא שֶׁבְּכָל דּוֹר וָדוֹר עוֹמְדִים עָלֵינוּ לְכַלּוֹתֵנוּ, וְהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מַצִּילֵנוּ מִיָּדָם:

 

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.'"

 

( 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 .  This next section is a stream of images from the Exodus text with some insights from our sages.  Each one of them offers an opportunity to contemplate, to share, and to pray.  There are no rules for how this section is supposed to look, so be creative!

 

 

Death of the spirit

 

Pharaoh tried to kill the male children, but Ya'akov's uncle Lavan tried to kill all of us, as it says 'An Aramean tried to do away with my forefather (Ya'akov).' And yet we find no record that Lavan tried to kill Ya'akov. What's the story?

Lavan never tried to harm Ya'akov's body─but he did try to kill his spirit. We are told that Lavan tricked Ya'akov 100 times. We also see plainly that Lavan's attacks on Ya'akov's morale and confidence were severe. He worked tirelessly to make Ya'akov doubt himself and his self-worth.

Had he succeeded, Ya'akov might have given up.  He might have just bought a house in the 'burbs. Praise to G-d that Ya'akov's spirit was stronger than Lavan's assault. In parallel to our own descent into Egypt, Ya'akov turned Lavan's attacks into a source of strength, finding spirit and identity in the midst of the battle.  And in so doing, Ya'akov guaranteed that we, his great-great-grandchildren, would be able to find and take care  of ourselves amidst the noise and confusion of life in the 21st century melting pot.

 

צֵא וּלְמַד מַה בִּקֵּשׁ לָבָן הָאֲרַמִּי לַעֲשֹוֹת לְיַעֲקֹב אָבִינוּ. שֶׁפַּרְעֹה לֹא גָזַר אֶלָּא עַל הַזְּכָרִים וְלָבָן בִּקֵּשׁ לַעֲקוֹר אֶת הַכֹּל. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר:

אֲרַמִּי אֹבֵד אָבִי וַיֵּרֶד מִצְרַיְמָה וַיָּגָר שָׁם בִּמְתֵי מְעָט, וַיְהִי שָׁם לְגוֹי גָּדוֹל עָצוּם וָרָב:

 

Go and learn what Lavan the Aramean wanted to do to our father Ya'akov. Pharaoh had issued a decree against the male children only, but Lavan 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."

 

Will and won't

 

It is hard to say that Hashem 'wants' us to go through the pain of personal exile, but we can certainly say it usually happens because it must, by force of our personalities.  For example, the rabbis trace the Egyptian exile to Avraham questioning Hashem's promise of the land of Israel: 'How shall I know that I will really inherit it?' Hashem responds, 'You shall surely know, for your children will be slaves in a land that is not theirs.'   Avraham in a sense 'caused' the exile through his apparently legitimate question.

Should Avraham not have said that?  Should he have restrained himself?  Impossible. That comment was a perfect reflection of who Avraham was at that time. He had no choice but to say it. And Hashem had no choice (so to speak) but to provide the Egyptian exile as a way to work through that flaw─that lack of complete faith─in the character of Avraham and his descendants.

Our falls are a direct result of our flaws. But they are also a gift─a way to work through the results of our flaws in a direct and lasting way. Our falls are moments when the results of our flaws are merely drawn out. But they are already there. The Egyptian exile was already there in Avraham, just by dint of his lack of total faith. His lack of faith was already an exile. And Hashem gave him the gift of seeing it, feeling it and experiencing it in such a real way that he was compelled─through his descendants─to work through it until it was completely gone.

 

Can you connect the hardships in your life to your flaws?  Can you see them as an opportunity to work through those flaws?


 וַיֵּרֶד מִצְרַיְמָה אָנוּס עַל פִּי הַדִּבּוּר:

 

"And he went down to Egypt" forced by Divine decree.

 

Temporary insanity

 

Just as it is impossible for the soul to be permanently mired in Egypt, our journeys away from authenticity and maximization of potential are only temporary. Though we may feel lost, out of touch, and too far gone─and we may look at others as being equally unredeemable, there is simply no such category. The Jewish soul cannot be extinguished.  So understand that it does not matter where you have fallen to. Regardless of how estranged you may feel from Hashem or Torah or soul or identity, there is always a way back, because the connection to the Source is a part of the very fabric of your existence.

Tonight is the best night to get back on track because tonight is Pesach──'skipping'. It is written that on Pesach we can 'skip' right back into the groove, easily overcoming intellectual, emotional and spiritual obstacles that would ordinarily stop the process before it began. Tonight we are free of the constraints of cause and effect and sequence. Tonight we are free to choose where and what and how we want to be, and to start being it.


וַיָגָר שָׁם, מְלַמֵּד שֶׁלֹּא יָרַד יַעֲקֹב אָבִינוּ לְהִשְׁתַּקֵּעַ בְּמִצְרַיִם אֶלָּא לָגוּר שָׁם. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֶל פַּרְעֹה לָגוּר בָּאָרֶץ בָּאנוּ כִּי אֵין

מִרְעֶה לַצֹּאן אֲשֶׁר לַעֲבָדֶיךָ כִּי כָבֵד הָרָעָב בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנָעַן,

 וְעַתָּה יֵשְׁבוּ נָא עֲבָדֶיךָ בְּאֶרֶץ גֹּשֶׁן:

 

"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."

 

A small seed and a big tree

 

We went to Egypt as 70 souls, and left numbering 600,000 men between 20 and 60, not to mention women and children. And these are only the one out of five Israelites that left.  And that is a generous opinion – some say only one out of 500 left.  Those 70 souls were a seed, containing the precise spiritual-genetic information of what would become the Jewish people.

And we each have a seed of those 70 inside of us, as Rebbe Nachman writes. That seed cannot be broken, but it must be watered in order to grow to its full strength. Let us not ever doubt that such a seed lies within us.  As R' Shlomo of Radomsk writes, a seed properly planted and maintained will grow. Inevitably.

The soul in us – a manifestation of the 70 - may be small in power compared to the other powers and voices that crowd our minds and hearts. When the courtroom of decision is in session, the soul's voice is quiet and easily ignored.  But the small seed of Israel planted in Egypt grew to be so vast that it burst open the womb that held it.  So it is for us─one day, if we nourish this seed, it will grow to the point where it will take us over.


בִּמְתֵי מְעָט, כְּמָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, בְּשִׁבְעִים נֶפֶשׁ יָרְדוּ אֲבוֹתֶיךָ מִצְרָיְמָה וְעַתָּה שָׂמְךָ יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ כְּכוֹכְבֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם לָרוֹב:

 

"Few in number" as it is said: "Your fathers went down to Egypt with seventy persons, and now, Hashem, your G-d, has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven."

 

A diamond, unmistakably

 

But that seed of soul, quiet as it is, is unmistakable in its power and worth. When this voice speaks in us it resonates with ageless wisdom, balance, and foresight. Its voice expresses who we are more accurately than any other within us. To find it is to find ourselves.


וַיְהִי שָׁם לְגוֹי, מְלַמֵּד שֶׁהָיוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל מְצֻיָּנִים שָׁם

 

"And he became there a nation" this teaches that Israel was distinctive there.

The beanstalk

 

See how your soul thrives with even a bit of attention! One session of arm curls or shoulder presses will not make you strong.  But sit and learn Torah for half an hour and your soul will breathe deeply, shedding years of neglect in an instant.  A person hears an inspirational class or has a deep conversation, and suddenly she wants to turn her whole life over. This beanstalk grows quickly, all the way up to heaven.


גָּדוֹל עָצוּם, כְּמָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, וּבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל פָּרוּ
 וַיִּשְׁרְצוּ וַיִּרְבּוּ וַיַּעַצְמוּ בִּמְאֹד מְאֹד וַתִּמָּלֵא הָאָרֶץ אֹתֵם 

"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."

 

My, how you've grown!

 

See how your soul wants to grow! See how it fights to reach the surface of your life, to take over your conscious faculties, your body and mind and heart. 'You shall live, in your blood!'  Her efforts are not in vain. She will not be suppressed.

R’ Kook writes of two ways to help something grow. One way is by making space so that it may grow. The other is by pushing back, giving strong resistance so that its strength will build, like a spring. Then, when the pressure is released (or broken) it will grow with unstoppable force.

This next verse speaks of this unstoppable growth like grass of the field, growing, multiplying, and then reaching for the crown that is rightfully hers.  R’ Kook describes 'the passion of this nation for its wondrous and powerful goal, with a holy fire that burns in the heart of every Jew, even when it does not know its nature and its particular character.'  And even though she is naked, says R’ Kook, of actions that reflect this ultimate goal, still this is only an external lacking. The clothes she needs to reflect that inner beauty will be had soon enough. But know clearly that her yearning to grow, and the certainty that she will succeed, are undeniable.

Can you feel that fire that Rav Kook is talking about?  What would you have to do to cultivate it?

 

וָרָב, כְּמָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, רְבָבָה כְּצֶמַח הַשָּׂדֶה נְתַתִּיךְ וַתִּרְבִּי וַתִּגְדְּלִי וַתָּבֹאִי בַּעֲדִי עֲדָיִים שָׁדַיִם

נָכֹנוּ וּשְׂעָרֵךְ צִמֵּחַ וְאַתְּ עֵרֹם וְעֶרְיָה:

וָאֶעֱבוֹר עָלַיִךְ וָאֶרְאֵךְ מִתְבּוֹסֶסֶת בְּדָמָיִךְ וָאֹמַר לָךְ בְּדָמַיִךְ חֲיִי וָאֹמַר לָךְ בְּדָמַיִךְ חֲיִי

 

"And numerous," as it is said: "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. 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!'

Unfair judgment

 

How did the Egyptians deal with us in an 'evil way', as the Torah says?  By assuming they knew what we would do: 'If there should be a war, they will join our enemies.'  As R’ Kook said, 'They considered us to be bad people.'  It is ironic, considering how we are commanded throughout the Torah to be kind to the Egyptians because they 'hosted us' for so long.

The greatest violence we can do to our soul is to 'consider ourselves bad.' This is also the greatest violence we can do to each other─to somehow assume that another person is 'rotten to the core'. Impossible! That person's soul is perfectly good and yearning to be free just like mine is.

וַיָּרֵעוּ אֹתָנוּ הַמִּצְרִים, כְּמָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, הָבָה נִתְחַכְּמָה לוֹ פֶּן יִרְבֶּה וְהָיָה כִּי תִקְרֶאנָה מִלְחָמָה וְנוֹסַף גַּם הוּא עַל שֹוֹנְאֵינוּ וְנִלְחַם בָּנוּ וְעָלָה מִן הָאָרֶץ:

 

"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."

 

Affliction by distraction

 

The soul wants to do its work.  It wants opportunities to connect─through mitzvah and Torah, and also through music and love and relationship. It wants opportunities to express its uniqueness and power.  It is a horrible affliction, then, to make the soul use its power for vain projects like building the cities of Pitom and Raamses.  How much time do you spend on the projects and pursuits that mean the most to you?  What prevents you from allocating time according to your real priorities?

וַיְעַנּוּנוּ כְּמָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר וַיָּשִׂימוּ עָלָיו שָׂרֵי מִסִּים לְמַעַן עַנּוֹתוֹ בְּסִבְלוֹתָם וַיִּבֶן עָרֵי מִסְכְּנוֹת לְפַרְעֹה אֶת פִּתֹם וְאֶת רַעַמְסֵס

 

"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."

 

Hard work - inner clarificaiton

 

We are told that the Egyptians worked us ' be-fa'rech ' - interpreted by the rabbis as 'soft (rach) mouth (peh)'.  In short, we were seduced into working, slowly and deliberately. At first, the Egyptians were kind, offering us an opportunity to make some extra cash.  Eventually, we were completely enslaved.

How difficult it is to navigate sweet words with a bitter core!  It is far easier when the enemy is clear. But when we have to decide, to choose between our urge to offer a hand and our need to protect ourselves, we often do not know how to respond.

Ambiguity tests us to the core. We are told that the yetzer harah (our bad inclination) works in the same way: it seduces us with something appealing, only slightly off track from where we thought we should be, and lays breadcrumbs down a path from which it is difficult to return. But it is hard to make decisions in ambiguous situations, particularly if you are trusting and naive. If, for example, you are someone who keeps Shabbat according to halacha, and you are presented with a family celebration that  is on Shabbat but too far to walk, it is a very difficult decision to make.  After all, it is family, and Cousin Joey's Bar Mitzvah only happens once, and it is just this one time, and what will the family say, etc.

Too hard to figure out. This is peh rach, the soft mouth, seducing us away from our clear purpose until we are suddenly miles away.

 

וַיִּתְּנוּ עָלֵינוּ עֲבוֹדָה קָשָׁה, כְּמָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, וַיַּעֲבִדוּ מִצְרַיִם אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּפָרֶךְ

 

­"And they put hard work upon us," as it is said:

 "The Egyptians made the children of Israel work with rigor.

 

The only way out

 

There is only one way out of such situations─to cry out to the Creator with all your might! When you are confused, do not assume that you should be able to figure it out yourself.  Some questions are simply too difficult.  Call out to the Maker! Say 'I am confused! I have no idea what to do! I do not even know who I am anymore!'  This is the beginning of the connection that leads to redemption.

Leader: Possible Discussion:  Do we see prayer as playing a real role in moving forward?  What is prayer?  Is it mean to change our mind, or G-d's mind?  How and how often do we pray? 


וַנִּצְעַק אֶל יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, כְּמָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, וַיְהִי בַיָּמִים הָרַבִּים הָהֵם וַיָּמָת מֶלֶךְ מִצְרַיִם וַיֵאָנְחוּ בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל מִן הָעֲבֹדָה וַיִּזְעָקוּ, וַתַּעַל שַׁוְעָתָם אֶל הָאֱלֹהִים מִן הָעֲבֹדָה:

 

"And we cried out to Hashem, 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."

An ancient practice

 

When we pray, we tap into an ancient ancestral practice, one instituted by our ancestors ages ago. When we pray, then, Hashem hears not just our own prayers but the entire legacy of prayer. The merit of Avraham, Yitzhak and Ya'akov come to our aid.

On this night, several thousand years ago, Ya'akov stood in a tent, wearing his brother's robes, with goat skin on his arms and neck, and he offered his father food to eat. Yitzhak his father was confused: 'The voice is the voice of Ya'akov, but the hands are the hands of Eisav.'

The rabbis hear in this comment many levels of depth.  At the center is the association of Ya'akov and his future children with voice. 'Ya'akov's is the voice'. That night─this night─we were given the mandate of prayer as sustenance. Or, as Rebbe Nachman reads the line from Psalm 42, 'Prayer to G-d is my life.'

Call out, tonight, and let the merit of our ancestors all the way back to Avraham carry our prayer to the highest heights.  Call out about your ambiguities, your lack of clarity.   Can't do it?  Then cry out about that.  

 

וַיִּשְׁמַע יְהֹוָה אֶת קֹלֵנוּ, כְּמָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, וַיִּשְׁמַע אֱלֹהִים אֶת נַאֲקָתָם וַיִזְכֹּר אֱלֹהִים אֶת בְּרִיתוֹ אֶת אַבְרָהָם אֶת יִצְחָק וְאֶת יַעֲקֹב::

 

"And Hashem heard our voice" as it said: "And G-d heard their groaning, and G-d

remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."

 

Hashem's diagnosis

 

As Hashem hears our faint prayers, He hears to the depths of our problems and struggles. He sees the core of what prevents us from manifesting our full power in the world.  And at the center of our struggle is that many of us are alone. Even some of us who are married are alone.

A partner gives us context, a sense of place.  A partner helps turn our raw material into something useful and positive.  A partner makes us feel the value of what we have to offer. A partner can serve as a midwife of sorts to help us be born again, and yet again, greater and greater.

Hashem sees that we are alone, that we need support. This is something only Hashem can see clearly. It is something we might not even share with ourselves. Now is the time to pray for anyone you know who is still looking for his or her soul-mate -and also to pray for the husbands and wives who live in the same home but do not yet share a place in each other's hearts.

Leader: Possible sensitive discussion topic, with the right crowd:  Does your committed relationship make you feel more free?  Has it redefined freedom for you?  Why do some people end up feeling stuck in relationship?

 

וַיַּרְא אֶת עָנְיֵנוּ, זוֹ פְּרִישׁוּת דֶּרֶךְ אֶרֶץ. כְּמָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר

 וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וַיֵּדַע אֱלֹהִים

 

"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."

The children

 

Hashem sees our struggles─not just how they affect us, but how they affect our children. Mitzrayim, the Hebrew name for Egypt, in its root means tzar, narrow or constricted. Unless something dramatic happens, we will most likely pass our unhealthy and unnecessary constrictions, our Mitzrayim, onto our children. For the sake of our children, Hashem, free us from our bondage. Free us so that our children can be free to unlock their own potentials without having to work through our blocks.

This is the time to cry out about your children, about all the children you know, about the next generation, about Jewish education, about assimilation and intermarriage, about being good parents, about raising our kids to be mensches. And if you know someone who has not succeeded in having kids, or who is struggling to raise them, or whose children are sick G-d forbid, this is the time to pray for them.

Leader: Discussion Topic:  Are our children more free than we are?  Is that freedom true freedom?  Are we Pharaohs to our children?  What would it mean to truly free our children? 

וְאֶת עֲמָלֵנוּ, אֵלּוּ הַבָּנִים. כְּמָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר

 כָּל הַבֵּן הַיִּלוֹד הַיְאֹרָה תַּשְׁלִיכוּהוּ וְכָל הַבַּת תְּחַיּוּן:

"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."

Stress

Many of us cannot achieve the equilibrium we need in order to make good decisions. We are constantly fighting against time, forced to work ourselves beyond our abilities, forced to take on tasks we cannot handle, and forced to maintain relationships without necessary resources.

This is the time to cry out about the stresses of the world that prevent you from fully manifesting your potential. This is the time to cry out about the job that makes you feel like a slave, or the pressure that makes you act or speak before you are ready.

וְאֶת לַחֲצֵנוּ, זוֹ הַדְּחַק. כְּמָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, וְגַם רָאִיתִי אֶת הַלַּחַץ אֲשֶׁר מִצְרַיִם לוֹחֲצִים אוֹתָם

"And our oppression," this refers to the pressure, as it is said: "I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them."

Soul Surgery

We are all in need of soul-enhancement surgery. This is the most delicate surgery there is, and it requires the best doctor. For this reason, Hashem Himself, so to speak, has to do it. We need Hashem to take us out of the Egyptian labyrinth.

Like any delicate surgery, the exact balance must be struck–removing what must be removed, leaving what must be left, re-routing what must be rerouted, with just the right amount of anesthesia.  It is a delicate process to disarm our defenses in exactly the right way, to reconstruct our ego enough to bring change─but not so much that we lose our personality in the process.  Only Hashem knows just how much inspiration, frustration, hope, realism, community, individuality, faith, doubt, joy, questions, answers, intellect, emotion, fatigue, and energy to give us in order to get us started on the process of redemption.

 

וַיּוֹצִאֵנוּ יְהֹוָה מִמִּצְרַיִם בְּיָד חֲזָקָה וּבִזְרֹעַ נְטוּיָה וּבְמֹרָא גָּדוֹל וּבְאֹתוֹת וּבְמֹפְתִים:

וַיּוֹצִאֵנוּ יְהֹוָה מִמִּצְרַיִם, לֹא עַל יְדֵי מַלְאָךְ וְלֹא עַל יְדֵי שָׂרָף וְלֹא עַל יְדֵי שָׁלִיחַ. אֶלָּא הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא בִּכְבוֹדוֹ וּבְעַצְמוֹ. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, וְעָבַרְתִּי בְאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם בַּלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה וְהִכֵּיתִי כָל בְּכוֹר בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם מֵאָדָם וְעַד בְּהֵמָה וּבְכָל אֱלֹהֵי מִצְרַיִם אֶעֱשֶׂה שְׁפָטִים אֲנִי יְהֹוָה:

וְעָבַרְתִּי בְאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם בַּלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה, אֲנִי וְלֹא מַלְאָךְ. וְהִכֵּיתִי כָל בְּכוֹר בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם אֲנִי וְלֹא שָׂרָף. וּבְכָל אֱלֹהֵי מִצְרַיִם אֱעֶשֶׂה שְׁפָטִים אֲנִי וְלֹא הַשָּׁלִיחַ. אֲנִי יְהֹוָה, אֲנִי הוּא וְלֹא אַחֵר: בְּיָד חֲזָקָה, זוֹ הַדֶּבֶר. כְּמָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, הִנֵּה יַד יְהֹוָה הוֹיָה בְּמִקְנְךָ אֲשֶׁר בַּשָּׂדֶה בַּסּוּסִים בַּחֲמוֹרִים בַּגְּמַלִּים בַּבָּקָר וּבַצֹּאן דֶּבֶר כָּבֵד מְאֹד:

וּבִזְרֹעַ נְטוּיָה, זוֹ הַחֶרֶב. כְּמָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, וְחַרְבּוֹ שְׁלוּפָה בְּיָדוֹ נְטוּיָה עַל יְרוּשָׁלָיִם:

 

"Hashem took as out of Egypt with a strong hand and an outstretched arm,

and with a great manifestation, and with signs and wonders."

"Hashem 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 Hashem."  "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- Hashem," it is I, and none other!  "With a strong hand," this refers to the dever (pestilence) as it is said: "Behold, the hand of Hashem 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."

Two ways to bring change

The Malbim writes that the plague of the first born happened through the Divine Presence revealing itself in its glory. The light was so intense that those who could not absorb it were shattered by it.

The same is true in trying to move our lives forward -sometimes this happens through analysis, hard work, breaking open, and criticism.  And another way is through a revelation of light, joy, love, connection, hope, possibility, and future. We are hoping that, tonight, Hashem will show us just who we are and what we are capable of, and that that revelation will break through our walls─with love.

 

וּבְמוֹרָא גָּדוֹל, זוֹ גִּלּוּי שְׁכִינָה. כְּמָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, אוֹ הֲנִסָּה אֱלֹהִים לָבֹא לָקַחַת לוֹ גּוֹי מִקֶּרֶב גּוֹי בְּמַסּוֹת בְּאֹתֹת וּבְמוֹפְתִים וּבְמִלְחָמָה וּבְיָד חֲזָקָה וּבִזְרוֹעַ נְטוּיָה וּבְמוֹרָאִים גְּדוֹלִים כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה לָכֶם יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם בְּמִצְרַיִם לְעֵינֶיךָ:

וּבְאֹתוֹת, זֶה הַמַּטֶּה. כְּמָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, וְאֶת הַמַּטֶּה הַזֶּה תִּקַּח בְּיָדֶךָ אֲשֶׁר תַּעֲשֶׂה בּוֹ אֶת הָאֹתֹת: וּבְמוֹפְתִים זֶה הַדָּם. כְּמָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר. וְנָתַתִּי מוֹפְתִים בַּשָּׁמַיִם וּבָאָרֶץ:

 

"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 Hashem 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.

-- Ten Plagues
Source : Adapted from JewishBoston.com

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, for we are all human beings. 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:

דָּם Blood | dam |

צְפַרְדֵּֽעַ Frogs | tzfardeiya |

כִּנִּים Lice | kinim |

עָרוֹב Beasts | arov |

דֶּֽבֶר Cattle disease | dever |

שְׁחִין Boils | sh’chin |

בָּרָד Hail | barad |

אַרְבֶּה Locusts | arbeh |

חֹֽשֶׁךְ Darkness | choshech |

מַכַּת בְּכוֹרוֹת Death of the Firstborn | makat b’chorot |

The Egyptians needed ten plagues because after each one they were able to come up with excuses and explanations rather than change their behavior. Could we be making the same mistakes? What are the plagues in your life? What are the plagues in our world today? What behaviors do we need to change to fix them? 

 
-- Cup #2 & Dayenu
Source : ayeka

Jerusalem - the First Among Visions

A slave has no hope. 

For a slave, yesterday, today, and tomorrow are all the same, and hoping for a better life - for change - invites bitter disappointment.

In contrast, a free person dares to envision change, to imagine a better future.

At the culmination of the Seder we dare to proclaim: "Next Year in Jerusalem." We have been saying this for 2000 years, through good years and bad. We are free - free to dream - free to create.  It doesn't get more powerful than this.

Abraham Joshua Heschel writes: "Jerusalem is not the first among cities. She is the first among visions. Her power is in her promise. What is the mystery of Jerusalem? A promise: peace and God's presence." At the Seder, we dare to dream - and we end the Seder by envisioning utopia. 

Activities for Seder: 

  • Appreciate the beauty and depth of the seder's final moment! Get everyone up, dance around the table and sing "L'shana Haba'a b'Yerushalayim" at the top of your lungs!
  • Have everyone share a "Jerusalem Moment" - a highpoint they experienced in Jerusalem or that could only happen in Jerusalem. 
Motzi-Matzah
Source : original

Matzah. It’s flat, it has holes in it, it breaks easily, it crumbles, it’s bitter, and it’s nothing creative, yet Jewish people and Non-Jewish people that observe Passover eat it every day for at least 8 days out of the year. Sometimes more.

 “Something second hand and broken, still can make a pretty sound, and that second hand white baby grand still has something beautiful to give.” Megan Hilty

Every year we look at Matzah like it’s nothing special. But it represents something more than a large bland cracker. It represents hope. Matzah still has a beautiful lesson to teach us, and even though the Matzah in front of us is broken, it still has a beautiful story to tell.

Maror
Source : ayeka

Maror  

Bad times. Chewing on bad times. 

In our family, we have a custom of biting into a big chunk of horseradish during the Seder. Faces turn red; eyes wince; we're burning from the inside. 

And then it is over. A big "Aahhh". Everyone takes a big breath. We've survived maror .  

The bitterness of maror is an essential part of Seder. The Torah tells us that the Paschal sacrifice should be eaten together with maror to remind us how the Egyptians embittered our lives with hard, mind-numbing work. 

Slavery imprinted trauma on our souls that did not disappear when we crossed the Red Sea. Generations of anguish - physical and spiritual - do not just vanish. They linger in the inner recesses of our lives, waiting to be triggered. They can control us. 

The bitterness of disempowerment and persecution is still with us, whether or not we choose to acknowledge it. We need to revisit the bitterness every year - to face it, taste it, and conquer it. 

With the exhaling of the "Aahhh" comes fresh hope of moving ahead. We will not let lingering bitterness paralyze or diminish us. We have confronted it head on, and survived to tell the Haggada. 

Activity for Seder: 

Is there any difficult moment in Jewish History that gives you hope? 

Koreich
Source : www.jewishworldwatch.org

Although this mixture of chopped fruits and nuts represents the mortar of the bricks made in captivity, the sweetness reminds us that even in despair, there is hope. That is why we dip the bitter herbs in the charoset. Where we see injustice, pain and suffering, we must also look for hope, for a remedy, for a solution.

Be the light. As long as the Darfurians are driven from their homes, persecuted, raped and slaughtered, we will shine a light so the world cannot be indifferent and turn away. We pray with the refugees of Darfur for the day when they can safely return to their land and rebuild their lives. We continue to work on all fronts for their safety, even when hope seems elusive. We are buoyed by the fact that even in these darkest times, they have not lost hope.

Charoset question:

What is it that enables one to find hope in the midst of despair?

Shulchan Oreich
Source : Original

Leader: We are now ready to eat the seder meal! In some Jewish traditions, we begin by eating eggs and salt water. The egg on the seder plate, Beitzah, has many meanings. It is a symbol of Spring and rebirth. It is also historically a symbol of mourning, and represents the fall of the great Temple in Jerusalem. There are also some who say it represents the Jewish people, for the more it is boiled, the harder it gets.

Leader: There are some who say that the salt represents tears once again, and others who claim it is in memory of the crossing of the Red Sea.

Shulchan Oreich
by VBS
Source : Valley Beth Shalom Haggadah

 -At this time in our festive meal, we recline more fully, we share our stories more openly, and we affirm our identities as a newly freed people. We have found the Afikoman and continue this gathering with celebration andsong. There re-united piece of matzah that makes our meal complete is the symbol of wholeness we feel in retelling the story of our people’s liberation. We now find ourselves more complete than when we started.

-Family has gathered, new friendships have been forged, and we must continue to tell our own story within the great narrative of the Jewish people. We are a part of the telling, our story today is as alive and important as the generations before us. We share this piece of matzah now and renew our promise to find wholeness in the world around us.

Tzafun
Source : original

Much of our Seder has been dedicated to the nourishment of the more subtle levels of experience –subtle expression, perception, experience, relationship, and gratitude. But the first matzah we ate tonight was not meant to be subtle─it is the staff of life, borne of necessity, eaten to satisfy hunger rather than for the sake of enjoyment. Now, as we stand at the ready to eat the afikoman , we are seeking to nourish our more nuanced sides.

Needs are most often not as subtle as wants. I need to eat; but I want a crepe. I need a life partner; but I want him or her to be tall, fit, interested in water-sports, non-smoking, etc.  Our needs are essentially shared with all of humankind─our wants make us who we are as individuals. We often do not feel privileged to indulge in wants─getting our basic needs met seems enough of a challenge in many aspects of life. We are therefore forced, quite often, to keep our desires buried deep inside, where they will not be quashed by ‘reality’.

But tonight we eat a food that nourishes only those aspects of ourselves. This is the afikoman ─no longer staff of life, equally calibrated for all, but bread of desire, of enjoyment, of subtlety and uniqueness. This bread is tzafun ─hidden because it addresses the completely unique soul deep within us.  It helps that part of us grow in strength as a pathway to connection and holiness.

This bread is the perfect food for each of us as individuals. It contains the exact spiritual vitamins each of us needs in order to thrive.  The piece you have is perfectly designed for you.  

Bareich
Source : ayeka

Opening the door for Elijah 

Elijah lived centuries after the Exodus. 

There is no connection between his actions and the Jews leaving Egypt. Yet he has become one of the central figures and symbols of the Passover Seder. Moses - the hero of the Exodus - is practically never mentioned. Yet we all know about Elijah's cup and opening the door for Elijah. 

We pour the cup but do not drink it. We open the door but no one comes in. 

The prophet Malachi says: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and awesome day of God. And he will turn the heart of fathers to their children and the heart of children to their fathers . . . "

Elijah brings together the hearts of people and generations. Elijah is the peacemaker in a world of strife and discord. Opening the door for Elijah is a harbinger of the future redemption to come. 

The Seder is not about a single moment of redemption that occurred thousands of years ago. By remembering the exodus from Egypt, we rekindle our hope in the ultimate breakthrough - however long it takes - to peace and harmony. 

Elijah is the messenger of hope. 

Would we recognize Elijah if he were standing at the door when we opened it? Can a complete stranger actually bring us peace and hope in our lives? 

Activity for Seder: 

Have you ever had an "Elijah the Prophet moment" - when a complete stranger suddenly appeared and brought you peace and hope? 

 
Hallel
Source : From a variety of sources (Social Justice Haggadah, The Wandering is Over, Modernist Humanist Haggadah)

The Fourth Cup of Wine

The Cup of Elijah, The Cup of Hope

Reader 1: Let us all fill our wine glasses. Reader 1 picks up Elijah's cup for all to see.

This is the cup of Elijah. According to Jewish tradition, the Prophet Elijah was a brave man who denounced the slavery of his day. Legend teaches that he will return one day to lead everyone to peace and freedom. It was customary during the Passover Seder to open the door of the house for Elijah, in the hope that the age of universal peace may soon be at hand.

Group: We, too, open the door to peace, knowing that Elijah's task is really our own. Only when we have made a world where nation shall not lift up sword against nation, where justice is universal, and where each person is free, will the age-old dream of peace be real. Let us bring peace and justice to the world!

Reader 1: Let us now open the door.

MIRIAM'S CUP:

Although Miriam, a prophet and the sister of Moses, is never mentioned in the traditional Haggadah text, she is one of the central figures in the Exodus story.

According to Jewish feminist writer Tamara Cohen, the practice of filling a goblet with water to symbolize Miriam’s inclusion in the seder originated at a Rosh Chodesh group in Boston in 1989. The idea resonated with many people and quickly spread.

Reader 2: The story has been told of a miraculous well of living water which had accompanied the Jewish people since the world was spoken into being. The well comes and goes, as it is needed, and as we remember, forget, and remember again how to call it to us. In the time of the exodus from Mitzrayim, the well came to Miriam, in honor of her courage and action, and stayed with the Jews as they wandered the desert. Upon Miriam’s death, the well again disappeared.

Reader 3: It is the women of our story who make its unfolding possible. Shifrah and Puah, the midwives who disobey Pharaoh's order to kill all newborn boys; Yocheved and Miriam, the mother and sister of Moses; Pharaoh's daughter who rescues Moses from the Nile. Pharaoh pays little mind to the women, yet it is their daring actions that began it all. It is because of them that we are here tonight; it is because of them that we are able to thank God for our freedom, just as Miriam led us in song to God after we crossed through the parted waters.

Group: With this ritual of Miriam’s cup of water, we honor all Jewish women. We commit ourselves to transforming all of our cultures into loving, welcoming spaces for people of all genders.

We will end our seder with a fourth cup of wine, which we bless now:

Blessing: Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, borei p’ree hagafen.
We praise God, Ruler of Everything, who creates the fruit of the vine.

Hallel
Source : Alexandra Benjamin

Our final cup of wine is for the statement ‘And He gathered us to Him’ Today we gather together as women, seeking support, sustenance and inspiration for one another. Women have gathered together throughout the ages to be with one another in good times and in bad. The final cup is dedicated to women who give of themselves to other women and create a sisterhood.

Drink the Fourth cup of wine

Nirtzah
Source : Social Justice Haggadah

Reader: Each cup we raise this night is an act of memory and of reverence. The story we tell, this year as every year, is not yet done. It begins with them, then; it continues with us, now. We remember not out of curiosity or nostalgia, but because it is our turn to add to the story.

Group
Our challenge this year, as every year, is to feel the exodus, to open the gates of time and to become one with those who crossed the Red Sea from slavery to freedom.

Reader
Our challenge this year, as every year, is to know the Exodus, to behold all those in every land who have not yet made the crossing.

Group
Our challenge this day, as every day, is to reach out our hands to them and help them cross to freedomland.

Reader
We know some things that others do not always know - how arduous is the struggle, how very deep the waters to be crossed and how treacherous their tides, how filled with irony and contradiction and suffering are the crossing and then the wandering.

Group
We know such things because we ourselves wandered in the desert for forty years. Have not those forty years been followed by thirty two centuries of struggle and of quest? Heirs to those who struggle and quested, we are old timers at disappointment, veterans at sorrow, but always, always, prisoners of hope.

Reader
The hope is the anthem of our people (Hatikvah), and the way of our people. For all the reversals and all the stumbling blocks, for all the blood and all the hurt, hope still dances within us. That is who we are, and that is what this Seder is about.

Group
For slaves do become free, and the tyrants are destroyed. Once it was by miracles; today it is by defiance and devotion.

Reader
In the words of the great black abolitionist, Harriet Tubman: "I have heard their cries, and I have seen their tears, and I would do anything in my power to set them free."

Group
Let us make this Passover not only the season of our freedom, but also a time of freedom for everyone.

Together, we say:

Next Year in Jerusalem!!
Lishana Ha-baah Bi-yerushalyim

Next year, may we all dwell in peace!

Nirtzah
Source : Shlock Rock

 Who knows 1? I know 1! 1 is Our God, 1 is Our God, 1 is Our God, in the heavens and the earth.

Who knows 2? I know 2! 2 are the tablets that Moses brought and ….

Who knows 3? I know 3! 3 are the fathers, and ….

Who knows 4? I know 4! 4 are the mothers, and ….

Who knows 5? I know 5! 5 are the books of the Torah, and ….

Who knows 6? I know 6! 6 are the books of the Mishnah and ….

Who knows 7? I know 7! 7 are the days in a week and ….

Who knows 8? I know 8! 8 are the days till circumcision and ….

Who knows 9? I know 9! 9 are the months of pregnancy, and ….

Who knows 10? I know 10! 10 are the 10 commandments and ….

Who knows 11? I know 11! 11 are the stars in Joseph's dream and ….

Who knows 12? I know 12! 12 are the Tribes of Israel and ….

Who knows 13? I know 13! 13 are the attributes of God and ….

Commentary / Readings
Source : OurJewishCommunity.org

Rabbi Baum talks about leading a chocolate seder for Passover.  Complete with all the symbols:

Parsley instead of strawberries

Chocolate sauce instead of salt water

Frosting/pudding with marshmallows and chocolate chips instead of typical charoset (made of apples, nuts and wine)

Chocolate covered matzah or chocolate graham crackers in place of boring matzah

Chocolate milk in place of wine

Bittersweet chocolate in place of maror (bitter herbs, usually horesradish)

Cadburry eggs instead of roasted eggTwix bar in place of shankbone

Cover
Source : Marge Piercy

The cup of Elijah holds wine;
the cup of Miriam holds water.
Wine is more precious
until you have no water.

Water that flows in our veins
water that is the stuff of life
for we are made of breath
and water, vision

and fact. Elijah is
the extraordinary; Miriam
brings the daily wonders:
the joy of a fresh morning

like a newly prepared table,
a white linen cloth on which
nothing has yet spilled.
The descent into the heavy

waters of sleep healing us.
The scent of bread baking,
roasting chicken, fresh herbs,
the faces of friends across

the table: what sustains us
every morning, every evening,
the common daily miracles
like the taste of cool water.