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The point of Passover is the Spring
The pure sheer gorgeous outrageousness of it all
Hope amid despair,
The destination that our hearts demand and somehow find,
The sun, at last.
For we were slaves in the Land of Egypt
And we went free.
Let Passover be,
Especially this year,
One great booming voice of promise,
The human project rediscovered, come alive, for each of us
In our own way,
Though shut up in our homes,
We meet remotely,
With the miracle of spring to let us know
That every winter ends,
Ours among them.
Long ago at this season, our people set out on a journey.
On such a night as this, Israel went from degradation to joy.
We give thanks for the liberation of days gone by.
And we pray for all who are still bound.
God, may all who hunger come to rejoice in a new Passover.
Let all the human family sit together, drink the wine of deliverance, and eat the bread of freedom:
Freedom from bondage and freedom from oppression
Freedom from hunger and freedom from want
Freedom from hatred and freedom from fear
Freedom to think and freedom to speak
Freedom to teach and freedom to learn
Freedom to love and freedom to share
Freedom to hope and freedom to rejoice
Soon, in our days Amen.
Now in the presence of loved ones and friends, before us the symbols of festive rejoicing, we gather for our sacred celebration. With our elders and young ones, linking and bonding the past with the future, we heed once again the divine call to service. Living our story that is told for all peoples, whose shining conclusion is yet to unfold, we gather to observe Passover.
You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought you out of Egypt. You shall observe this day throughout the generations as a practice for all times.
We assemble in fulfillment of the mitzvah.
Remember the day on which you went forth from Egypt, from the house of slavery, and how G-d freed you with a mighty hand.
We sanctify the name of God and proclaim the holiness of this festival of Passover. With a blessing over wine, we lift our wine, our symbol of joy; let us welcome the festival of Passover.
In unison, we say…
Our God and God of our ancestors, we thank You for enabling us to gather in friendship, to observe the Festival of Freedom. Just as for many centuries the Passover Seder has brought together families and friends to retell the events that led to our freedom, so may we be at one with Jews everywhere who perform this ancient ritual linking us with our historic past. As we relive each event in our people’s ancient struggle, and celebrate their emergence from slavery to freedom, we pray that all of us may keep alive in our hearts the love of liberty. May we dedicate our lives to the abolition of all forms of tyranny and injustice.
Reclining on our left side demonstrates our freedom from slavery. We hold our first cup of wine and we recite:
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָפֶן
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheynu Melech Ha’Olam Borey P’ree Hagafen.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, Who creates the fruit of the vine.
To wash your hands, you don’t need soap, but you do need a cup to pour water over your hands. Pour water on each of your hands three times, alternating between your hands. If the people around your table don’t want to get up to walk all the way over to the sink, you could pass a pitcher and a bowl around so everyone can wash at their seats… just be careful not to spill!
Too often during our daily lives we don’t stop and take the moment to prepare for whatever it is we’re about to do.
Let's pause to consider what we hope to get out of our evening together tonight. Go around the table and share one hope or expectation you have for tonight's seder.
Passover, like many of our holidays, combines the celebration of an event from our Jewish memory with a recognition of the cycles of nature. As we remember the liberation from Egypt, we also recognize the stirrings of spring and rebirth happening in the world around us. The symbols on our table bring together elements of both kinds of celebration.
We now take a vegetable, representing our joy at the dawning of spring after our long, cold winter. Most families use a green vegetable, such as parsley or celery, but some families from Eastern Europe have a tradition of using a boiled potato since greens were hard to come by at Passover time. Whatever symbol of spring and sustenance we’re using, we now dip it into salt water, a symbol of the tears our ancestors shed as slaves. Before we eat it, we recite a short blessing:
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, borei p’ree ha-adama.
We praise God, Ruler of Everything, who creates the fruits of the earth.
We look forward to spring and the reawakening of flowers and greenery. They haven’t been lost, just buried beneath the snow, getting ready for reappearance just when we most needed them.
We all have aspects of ourselves that sometimes get buried under the stresses of our busy lives. What has this winter taught us? What elements of our own lives do we hope to revive this spring?
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” in Greek. After dinner, the guests will have to hunt for the afikomen in order to wrap up the meal… and win a prize.
We eat matzah in memory of the quick flight of our ancestors from Egypt. As slaves, they had faced many false starts before finally being let go. So when the word of their freedom came, they took whatever dough they had and ran with it before it had the chance to rise, leaving it looking something like matzah.
Uncover and hold up the three pieces of matzah and say:
This is the bread of poverty which our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. All who are hungry, come and eat; all who are needy, come and celebrate Passover with us. This year we are here; next year we will be in Israel. This year we are slaves; next year we will be free.
These days, matzah is a special food and we look forward to eating it on Passover. Imagine eating only matzah, or being one of the countless people around the world who don’t have enough to eat.
What does the symbol of matzah say to us about oppression in the world, both people literally enslaved and the many ways in which each of us is held down by forces beyond our control? How does this resonate with events happening now?
Ilu lu lu, finu nu nu X2
Ilu lu lu, finu nu nu, malei shira kayam x2
Were our mouths as full of song as the sea [we could not praise You enough]
Ha lachma anya d’achaloo avhatana b’ara d’meetzrayeem. Kol dichfeen yay-tay vi’yachool, kol deetzreech yay-tay viyeesfsach. Hashata hach. Li’shana ha-ba-aa bi’arah di’yeesrael. Hashata av’day, li’shana ha-ba a bi’nay choreen.
This is the bread of affliction, which our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. Let all who are hungry come and eat. Let all who are in need, come and celebrate Passover. Today, we are here. Next year, in the land of Israel. Today, we are slaves. Next year, we will be free.
Written in Aramaic, this statement begins the narration of the Seder by inviting the hungry to our table. Aramaic, Jewish legend has it, is the one language which the angels do not understand. Why then is Ha Lachma spoken in Aramaic? To teach us that where there is hunger, no one should rely upon the angels, no one should pray to the heavens for help. We know the language of the poor, for we were poor in the land of Egypt. We know that we are called to feed the poor and to call them to join our celebration of freedom.
In a culture of questions like that of the Rabbis, they wish to understand the purpose and the reason for each commandment and every social institution and to exercise free choice between options. This type of education is critical by nature and it generates not only the aspiration to political freedom, but also spiritual and intellectual freedom.
That is why the Rabbis took the image of the first Jew, who obeyed unquestioningly the divine commandment of lech lecha - “Go out of your land” - and accorded the spiritual hero the content appropriate to their world.
The Rabbis, like Philo the first century Jewish philosopher, attribute to Abraham a search for truth that involved challenging the accepted beliefs of his idolatrous society. (See the midrash about Abraham the iconoclast in the Haggadah itself.)
It is noteworthy that the Rabbis, and following in their footsteps, Maimonides, painted a portrait of Abraham as a doubter, someone who questions society’s conventions and is searching for a philosophical truth. He also tries to free others from their intellectual bondage by creating a situation that forces them to pose questions, as Hillel did with the proselyte and as the Rabbis demanded that each parent do on Seder night with one’s own child.
Here, the Rabbis painted a portrait of Abraham based on the Biblical nucleus of the story of Sodom, in which God encourages Abraham to ask tough intellectual and moral questions, challenging the supreme authority - God.
“Shall not the judge of all the land be just?” - This rhetorical question seems defiant toward God, and yet God invited this defiance by involving Abraham in the debate concerning the fate of Sodom. Why? Why did God not fear rebellion? Why did God agree to enter in the extended negotiations that involved making concessions to the product of God’s own creation, Abraham?
The answer, in my opinion, lies in a radical educational approach - God’s desire to teach humans to willingly participate in God’s plan, out of rational understanding and recognition of the intrinsic justice of God’s Torah.
The Rabbis also took this direction and constructed an educational method based on the idea of the mentor, the apprentice. In this relationship, there are no questions that may not be asked, no doubt that may not be raised - as long as the true motive for the question is a genuine desire to learn.
Raising doubts, continuing tradition
The child and spiritual heir, who raised doubts and discovered the inner logic of the Seder, who queried and contributed to its ongoing design in a process of questions and answers, will continue the tradition most faithfully.
A genuine question is not a rebellion against authority, but rather authentic curiosity that enables the tradition to be passed on. It is not easy for authoritarian figures who are already convinced of the rationality of their world and of the unreason of other ways, to listen to criticism from the younger generation.
It is vital that the parent-teachers learn at the very least how to open themselves, their teachings and the existing social order to the new questions. If the parent and teacher discover they have innocent pupils before them who do not know how to ask, they must open up to them and open them up to the asking of incisive questions.
Democratic society can learn a great deal from the openness of our Rabbis to the culture of kushiyot - questions. A kushiya is not merely an educational tool to arouse the interest of students in the “material” of Passover, but rather an educational “form” that educates teacher and pupil, parent and child to the dialogue of freedom.
The formal telling of the story of Passover is framed as a discussion with lots of questions and answers. The tradition that the youngest person asks the questions reflects the centrality of involving everyone in the seder. The rabbis who created the set format for the seder gave us the Four Questions to help break the ice in case no one had their own questions. Asking questions is a core tradition in Jewish life. If everyone at your seder is around the same age, perhaps the person with the least seder experience can ask them – or everyone can sing them all together.
מַה נִּשְׁתַּנָּה הַלַּֽיְלָה הַזֶּה מִכָּל הַלֵּילות
Ma nishtana halaila hazeh mikol haleilot?
Why is this night different from all other nights?
שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָֽנוּ אוֹכלין חָמֵץ וּמַצָּה הַלַּֽיְלָה הַזֶּה כֻּלּוֹ מצה
Shebichol haleilot anu ochlin chameitz u-matzah. Halaila hazeh kulo matzah.
On all other nights we eat both leavened bread and matzah.
Tonight we only eat matzah.
שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָֽנוּ אוֹכְלִין שְׁאָר יְרָקוֹת הַלַּֽיְלָה הַזֶּה מָרוֹר
Shebichol haleilot anu ochlin shi’ar yirakot haleila hazeh maror.
On all other nights we eat all kinds of vegetables,
but tonight we eat bitter herbs.
שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אֵין אָֽנוּ מַטְבִּילִין אֲפִילוּ פַּֽעַם אחָת הַלַּֽיְלָה הַזֶּה שְׁתֵּי פְעמים
Shebichol haleilot ain anu matbilin afilu pa-am echat. Halaila hazeh shtei fi-amim.
On all other nights we aren’t expected to dip our vegetables one time.
Tonight we do it twice.
שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָֽנוּ אוֹכְלִין בֵּין יוֹשְׁבִין וּבֵין מְסֻבִּין. :הַלַּֽיְלָה הַזֶּה כֻּלָּֽנוּ מְסֻבין
Shebichol haleilot anu ochlin bein yoshvin uvein m’subin. Halaila hazeh kulanu m’subin.
On all other nights we eat either sitting normally or reclining.
Tonight we recline.
(source: edited from The Wandering is Over Haggadah)
As we tell the story, we think about it from all angles. Our tradition speaks of four different types of children who might react differently to the Passover seder. It is our job to make our story accessible to all the members of our community, so we think about how we might best reach each type of Beatle:
What does John, the wise Beatle, say?
The wise Beatle asks, What are the testimonies and laws which God commanded you?
You must teach this Beatle the rules of observing the holiday of Passover.
“Is there anybody ...to listen to my story…?” - John, “Girl”
What does Paul, the wicked Beatle, say?
The wicked Beatle asks, What does this service mean to you?
To you and not to himself! Because he takes himself out of the community and misses the point, set this Beatle’s teeth on edge and say to him: “It is because of what God did for me in taking me out of Egypt.” Me, not him. Had that Beatle been there, he would have been left behind.
“You got to give the other fella hell ... so live and let die” - Paul, “Live and Let Die”
What does Ringo, the simple Beatle, say?
The simple Beatle asks, What is this?
To this Beatle, answer plainly: “With a strong hand God took us out of Egypt, where we were slaves.”
“Oh what joy for every girl and boy, knowing they're happy and they're safe” - Ringo, “Octopus’s Garden”
What about George, the Beatle who doesn’t know how to ask a question?
Help this Beatle ask.
Start telling the story:
“It is because of what God did for me in taking me out of Egypt.”
“I don't know, I don't know” - George, “Something”
Do you see yourself in any of these Beatles? At times we all approach different situations like each of these Beatles. How do we relate to each of them?
The wise child asks: How can I learn more about our people? To that child you shall direct our wealth of literature so that they may seek out this knowledge for themself.
The simple child asks: What is this all about? To that child you shall say simply , because we had faith we were redeemed from slavery.
The wicked child asks: What good is this to you? To that child you shall say, do not exclude yourself by saying "to you" but say instead "to us", for only together can we succeed.
The innocent child does not know how to ask. For this child you shall tell them that we were taken out of Egypt so that we could be free.
Say to all of the children, that you may know who you are, get wisdom, get understanding and it shall preserve you, love it and it shall keep you.
Jews are a people of memory and action. On Passover, we use stories and rituals to remember and retell the narrative of our collective liberation. We share the ancient Exodus story, year after year, so that it resonates through the generations as a narrative of deliverance from slavery to freedom. In Hebrew, Egypt is called Mitzrayim, which means “a narrow place.” Every year, the Haggadah asks us not only to share the story of the Exodus, but challenges us to actively engage in the process of combating oppression. We are encouraged to connect the biblical story of Exodus to communal and individual struggles for liberation, and are reminded that the fight for freedom is ongoing.
Let’s discuss the process of Exodus, moving from “a narrow place” to a place of freedom. Every day, people fight for freedom on interpersonal, systemic, global and local levels. What are modern struggles for liberation? Discuss the following questions either in pairs or as a group to inspire thought, conversation and action:
Why do you think the text starts with “We were slaves” instead of “Our ancestors were slaves?” How does this quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. "no one is free until we are all free," connect to Avadim Hayinu? How are we free today? How are we still struggling? Share something that you are doing or can commit to doing to help move yourself or others from “a narrow place” to a place of shared freedom.
The Frog Song (Shirley Cohen)
One morning when Pharoah awoke in his bed
There were frogs in his bed, and frogs on his head
Frogs on his nose and frogs on his toes
Frogs here, frogs there
Frogs were jumping everywhere.
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 made in the image of God. 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:
Blood | dam | דָּם
Frogs | tzfardeiya | צְפַרְדֵּֽעַ
Lice | kinim | כִּנִּים
Beasts | arov | עָרוֹב
Cattle disease | dever | דֶּֽבֶר
Boils | sh’chin | שְׁחִין
Hail | barad | בָּרָד
Locusts | arbeh | אַרְבֶּה
Darkness | choshech | חֹֽשֶׁךְ
Death of the Firstborn | makat b’chorot | מַכַּת בְּכוֹרוֹת
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? Make up your own list. 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?
As all good term papers do, we start with the main idea:
ּעֲבָדִים הָיִינוּ הָיִינו. עַתָּה בְּנֵי חוֹרִין
Avadim hayinu hayinu. Ata b’nei chorin.
We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt. Now we are free.
We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and God took us from there with a strong hand and outstretched arm. Had God not brought our ancestors out of Egypt, then even today we and our children and our grandchildren would still be slaves. Even if we were all wise, knowledgeable scholars and Torah experts, we would still be obligated to tell the story of the exodus from Egypt.
The plagues and our subsequent redemption from Egypt are but one example of the care God has shown for us in our history. Had God but done any one of these kindnesses, it would have been enough – dayeinu.
אִלּוּ הוֹצִיאָֽנוּ מִמִּצְרַֽיִם, דַּיֵּנוּ
Ilu hotzi- hotzianu, Hotzianu mi-mitzrayim Hotzianu mi-mitzrayim, Dayeinu
If God had only taken us out of Egypt, that would have been enough!
אִלּוּ נָתַן לָֽנוּ אֶת־הַתּוֹרָה, דַּיֵּנוּ
Ilu natan natan lanu, natan lanu et ha-Torah, Natan lanu et ha-Torah , Dayeinu
If God had only given us the Torah, that would have been enough.
The complete lyrics to Dayeinu tell the entire story of the Exodus from Egypt as a series of miracles God performed for us. (See the Additional Readings if you want to read or sing them all.)
Dayeinu also reminds us that each of our lives is the cumulative result of many blessings, small and large.
A Post-Quarantine Dayenu
By Rabbi Sarah Marion
When this quarantine ends, and we never again take a single hug, handshake, or human touch for granted….Dayenu, it will be enough.
When this quarantine ends, and we return to the rushing, swirling, spinning world with a newfound appreciation for slowing down…
When life resumes, but, this time, with more room for rest, laughter, creativity, connection and play…Dayenu, it will be enough.
When this quarantine ends, and we mourn the loss of school days, play dates, family vacations, but we focus, as well, on the tremendous life lessons that our children learned throughout it all…Dayenu, it will be enough.
When this quarantine ends, and we look our doctors, nurses and healthcare workers in the eye and thank them, from the bottom of our hearts, for putting their lives on the line so that we could live…Dayenu, it will be enough.
When this quarantine ends, and we use all that we have learned to ensure that we are never again so woefully unprepared for a global health pandemic…Dayenu, it will be enough.
When this quarantine ends, and we don’t stop protesting, organizing, lobbying - doing whatever we need to do - until affordable, accessible and adequate health care for every American becomes a reality….Dayenu, it will be enough.
When this quarantine ends, and we understand the incredible ways that quarantining millions to avoid one plague has only exacerbated countless others - plagues like domestic violence, poverty, racism and greed, just to name a few…
When this quarantine ends, and we re-focus our attention and our energy towards abolishing all the other horrific plagues that still pervade our world…Dayneu, it will be enough.
When this quarantine ends, and we realize that going back to “normal” is not what we should want or hope for…Dayenu, it will be enough.
When this quarantine ends, and we live each day of our lives with more fullness, more compassion, more gratitude, more purpose and more joy than ever before…Dayenu, Dayenu, then it will truly be enough.
We have now told the story of Passover…but wait! We’re not quite done. There are still some symbols on our seder plate we haven’t talked about yet. Rabban Gamliel would say that whoever didn’t explain the shank bone, matzah, and marror (or bitter herbs) hasn’t done Passover justice.
The shank bone represents the Pesach, the special lamb sacrifice made in the days of the Temple for the Passover holiday. It is called the pesach, from the Hebrew word meaning “to pass over,” because God passed over the houses of our ancestors in Egypt when visiting plagues upon our oppressors.
The matzah reminds us that when our ancestors were finally free to leave Egypt, there was no time to pack or prepare. Our ancestors grabbed whatever dough was made and set out on their journey, letting their dough bake into matzah as they fled.
The bitter herbs provide a visceral reminder of the bitterness of slavery, the life of hard labor our ancestors experienced in Egypt.
On all other Passovers, we review all items on the Seder plate....on this Passover, let's discuss the orange.
In the early 1980s, while speaking at Oberlin College Hillel, Susannah Heschel, a well-known Jewish feminist scholar, was introduced to an early feminist Haggadah that suggested adding a crust of bread on the seder plate, as a sign of solidarity with Jewish lesbians (which was intended to convey the idea that there's as much room for a lesbian in Judaism as there is for a crust of bread on the seder plate).
Heschel felt that to put bread on the seder plate would be to accept that Jewish lesbians and gay men violate Judaism like hametz [leavened food] violates Passover.
So at her next seder, she chose an orange as a symbol of inclusion of gays and lesbians and others who are marginalized within the Jewish community. She offered the orange as a symbol of the fruitfulness for all Jews when lesbians and gay men are contributing and active members of Jewish life.
She writes, "Somehow, though, the typical patriarchal maneuver occurred: My idea of an orange and my intention of affirming lesbians and gay men were transformed. Now the story circulates that a man said to me that a woman belongs on the bimah as an orange on the seder plate. A woman's words are attributed to a man, and the affirmation of lesbians and gay men is erased. Isn't that precisely what's happened over the centuries to women's ideas?"
And the women dancing with their timbrels,
Followed Miriam as she sang her song.
"Sing a song to the One whom we've exalted."
Miriam and the women danced the whole night long.
And Miriam was a weaver of unique variety.
The tapestry she wove was one which sang our history.
With every thread and every strands crafted her delight-
A woman touched with spirit, she dances toward the light.
As Miriam stood upon the shores and gazed across the sea,
The wonder of this miracle she soon came to believe.
Whoever thought the sea would part with an outstretched hand,
And we would pass to freedom and march to the Promised Land.
And Miriam the prophet took her timbrel in her hand,
And all the women followed her just as she had planned.
And Miriam raised her voice with song, She sang with praise and might,
We/ve just lived through the miracle, We're going to dance tonight.
בְּכָל־דּוֹר וָדוֹר חַיָּב אָדָם לִרְאוֹת אֶת־עַצְמוֹ, כְּאִלּוּ הוּא יָצָא מִמִּצְרָֽיִם
B’chol dor vador chayav adam lirot et-atzmo, k’ilu hu yatzav mimitzrayim.
In every generation, everyone is obligated to see themselves as though they personally left Egypt.
The seder reminds us that it was not only our ancestors whom God redeemed; God redeemed us too along with them. That’s why the Torah says “God brought us out from there in order to lead us to and give us the land promised to our ancestors.”
We praise God, Ruler of Everything, who redeemed us and our ancestors from Egypt, enabling us to reach this night and eat matzah and bitter herbs. May we continue to reach future holidays in peace and happiness.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָּפֶן
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, borei p’ree hagafen.
We praise God, Ruler of Everything, who creates the fruit of the vine.
Drink the second glass of wine!
--Rabbi Menachem Creditor, Congregation Netivot Shalom, Berkeley, CA
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha’olam, asher kidshanu bemitvotav vetzivanu al netilat yadayim.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' אֱלֹֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶך הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ עַל נְטִילַת יָדָיִּם.
Blessed are You ETERNAL our God, Master of time and space, who has sanctified us with commandments and instructed us regarding lifting up our hands.
The seder is an exercise in moral optimism. Look around at all the symbols arranged on the table. They either remind us of suffering - of tears and of bitterness, and of a God too distant who allows the groans to go on too long - or they speak of a hope-fed future - of spring and of fertility, and of a next year that will see us safe in a Jerusalem of peace.
The afikoman is the symbol that bridges the gap between the tear-stained past and the happier future. It embodies the faith that there is always a way, concealed though it might be, to make the transition from the suffering that we know to the future that we dream. The belief in moral progress is of the essence of the seder's optimism. It is of the essence of a people's faith. And so we have the ritual of deliberate concealment, of taking the very thing needed to conclude the seder and hiding it, jus tin order to reveal it at the last possible moment. We make a game of it, for the sake of our children, knowing that we enact in the ritual our deepest faith of their future.
To go through the rituals of the seder, including those four cups of wine, is to feel that, despite our own more sober reflections, a way can be found. We are all in this together, and a way can be found. We will unconceal it, for the sake of our children, as they will unconceal it, for the sake of their children. We sit together with our great diversities of worldviews, for we are celebrants of freedom and will brook no tyranny of thought. But we all eat the afikoman together, gesturing toward a sense of the world that sustains us in our hope.
~The New American Hagaddah
Dipping the bitter herb in sweet charoset | maror |מָרוֹר
In creating a holiday about the joy of freedom, we turn the story of our bitter history into a sweet celebration. We recognize this by dipping our bitter herbs into the sweet charoset. We don’t totally eradicate the taste of the bitter with the taste of the sweet… but doesn’t the sweet mean more when it’s layered over the bitterness?
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָֽׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּֽנוּ עַל אֲכִילַת מרוֹר
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al achilat maror.
We praise God, Ruler of Everything, who made us holy through obligations, commanding us to eat bitter herbs.
Let us pause a moment to consider the character of Hillel, a central and formative personality within the pantheon of Rabbinic figures, and to consider why, perhaps, the haggadah asks us to spend a moment recreating Hillel’s personal practice of eating the Pesach sacrifice.
Hillel, founder of the great and influential Beit Hillel, is well known for his personal qualities of tolerance, humility and pursuit of peace. Many of the tales of Hillel and his teachings reflect this characterization. This is expressed in famous citations such as: “Hillel says: Be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving your fellow creatures and drawing them near to the law.” The quality of being a rodef shalom (pursuer of peace) requires the ability to recognize the value of different perspectives and the skill of unifying conflicting truths into a harmonious whole. It requires the recognition that single individuals perceive only a portion of the complete truth. Hillel says: “If I am not for myself, who is for me? And when I am for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?"
The Rabbis of the Talmudic world joined Hillel in this understanding, promoting this view and ruling that Halakha (Jewish law) should follow Beit Hillel as “…they were kindly and modest, they studied their own rulings and those of Beit Shammai (Hillel’s halakhic opponent), and were even “...so [humble] as to mention the actions of Beit Shammai before their own." Appropriately, the haggadah depicts Hillel as requiring the consumption of the Pesach sacrifice the food of redemption, through an act of combining − the korekh. Only the harmonious merging of a variety of components produces the true redemptive experience
Leah Rosenthal teaches Talmud
Korech: Mixing the Bitter and the Sweet
One of my favorite moments of the seder comes just before dinner is served. It is called Korech. It is also known as the Hillel sandwich. It is the moment when we eat maror (the bitter herbs) and the charoset (the sweet apple and nut mixture) on a piece of matzah. What a strange custom to eat something so bitter and something so sweet all in one bite. I can taste it now, just thinking about it, and the anticipation is almost too much to bear. I dread it, and I long for it all at the same time. Why do we do such a thing? We do it to tell our story.
The Jewish people tells our story through our observance of Jewish holidays throughout the year. The holidays of Passover, Chanukah and Purim remind us just how close the Jewish people has come to utter destruction and how we now celebrate our strength and our survival with great joy, remembering God’s help and our persistence, and our own determination to survive.
We also tell the story throughout our lifetime of Jewish rituals. The breaking of a glass at a Jewish wedding reminds us that even in times of life’s greatest joys we remember the sadness of the destruction of the Temple. When we build a home, some Jews leave a part unfinished to remember that even when building something new, we sense the times of tragedy in the Jewish people. And on Passover we mix the sweet charoset with the bitter maror, mixing bitter and sweet of slavery and freedom all in one bite.
Throughout each year and throughout our lifetimes, we challenge ourselves to remember that even in times of strength, it is better to sense our vulnerability, rather than bask in our success. We all have memories of times in which bitter and sweet were mixed in our lives, all in the same bite. Judaism says, sometimes life is like that. We can celebrate and mourn all at the same time. And somehow, everything will be ok. What is your korech moment?
Eating the meal! | shulchan oreich | שֻׁלְחָן עוֹרֵךְ
Enjoy! But don’t forget when you’re done we’ve got a little more seder to go, including the final two cups of wine!
Finding and eating the Afikomen | tzafoon | צָפוּן
The playfulness of finding the afikomen reminds us that we balance our solemn memories of slavery with a joyous celebration of freedom. As we eat the afikomen, our last taste of matzah for the evening, we are grateful for moments of silliness and happiness in our lives.
Giving Thanks for our Food
Hebrew (Aramaic, actaully): בריך רחמנא מלכא דעלמא מריה דהאי פיתא
Transliteration: Brich rachamana malka d'alma ma'arey d'hai pita
Translation: Blessed is the merciful One, ruler of the world, creator of this bread.
Refill everyone’s wine glass.
We now say grace after the meal, thanking God for the food we’ve eaten. On Passover, this becomes something like an extended toast to God, culminating with drinking our third glass of wine for the evening:
We praise God, Ruler of Everything, whose goodness sustains the world. You are the origin of love and compassion, the source of bread for all. Thanks to You, we need never lack for food; You provide food enough for everyone. We praise God, source of food for everyone.
As it says in the Torah: When you have eaten and are satisfied, give praise to your God who has given you this good earth. We praise God for the earth and for its sustenance.
Renew our spiritual center in our time. We praise God, who centers us.
May the source of peace grant peace to us, to the Jewish people, and to the entire world. Amen.
The Third Glass of Wine
The blessing over the meal is immediately followed by another blessing over the wine:
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָּפֶן
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, borei p’ree hagafen.
We praise God, Ruler of Everything, who creates the fruit of the vine.
Drink the third glass of wine!
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.
On our table tonight, we have two extra cups, one of wine and one of water.
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.
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.
Excerpted from :Invisible The Story of Modern Day Slavery A Social Justice Haggadah What you make of liberation - That is the trick. Can you, unshackled, set someone else free?
Hallel is a time to offer words of praise and song. Consider singing some of your favorite songs about justice or read the words below. You may also consider singing “Pitchu Li” before you begin the reading.
Pitchu li sha’arei tzedek avo vam odeh Yah.
Open for me the gate sof righteousness that I may enter them and praise God.
Open up the gates of freedom.
Open them to those in need of safety and protection.
Open up the gates of mercy.
Open them to those who forget that we were once strangers in the land of Egypt, the narrow place.
Open up the gates of justice.
Open them to those who remember that we know the soul of the stranger. Open up the gates of righteousness.
Open them to those who walk hand-in-hand and heart-to-heart with today’srefugees and asylum seekers.
Together, we will find the path to freedom.
Pour the fourth cup of wine.
CHORUS: Pharaoh, Pharaoh, whoa baby, let my people go! (2x)
A burnin' bush told me just the other day
That I should go to Egypt and say,
"It's time to let my people be free -
Listen to God if you won't listen to me!"
Well me and and my people goin' to the Red Sea,
With Pharaoh's best army comin' after me.
I took my staff, stuck it in the stand,
And all of God's people walked on dry land.
Now Pharaoh's army was a-comin' too,
So whattaya think that God did do?
Had me take my staff and clear my throat,
And all of Pharaoh's army wished they had a boat.
Well that's the story of the stubborn goat.
Pharaoh should've know that chariots don't float.
The lesson is simple, it's easy to find,
When God says, "GO!" you had better mind!