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The seder officially begins with a physical act: lighting the candles. In Jewish tradition, lighting candles and saying a blessing over them marks a time of transition, from the day that is ending to the one that is beginning, from ordinary time to sacred time. Lighting the candles is an important part of our Passover celebration because their flickering light reminds us of the importance of keeping the fragile flame of freedom alive in the world.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה, יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ, מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֺלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָֽׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֺתָּיו, וְצִוָֽנוּ לְהַדְלִיק נֵר שֶׁל יוֹם טוֹב
Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu melech ha'olam asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav, v'tzivanu l'hadlik ner shel Yom Tov.
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the Universe, who has sanctified us with laws and commanded us to light the festival lights.
As we light the festival candles, we acknowledge that as they brighten our Passover table, good thoughts, good words, and good deeds brighten our days.
Why do we light two candles, when the prayer uses the singular "neir" for one? We are told in the 4th commandment to "remember" and "keep" the Sabbath and the two candles reflect the two acts.
“Hagaddah” means “the telling.”
Our friend Steve collects Haggadot, because each one tells the story a little differently. The story is the same each year, but our context, our perspective, our emphasis is different, and that is the whole point of retelling the story.
This has been a different year. What will we tell about it in future years? Mad Max style stories of social meltdown? Stories of signs and wonders? Each year we tell the story differently because we see ourselves differently.
Previous Haggadot were shaped by a chance encounter with a Chabad rabbi in the parking lot of a Phish concert. From there it was on to Josh Fleet and his "Geulah Papyrus" Haggadah and to Emily Aviva Kapor-Mater's "Shir Ge'ulah" Haggadah - the song of liberation. It borrows from the "JewBelong" inclusive Haggadah.
It is the sum of a year of changing, difficult, stressful view points, and a story of how we will find our way out -- a figurative Afikomen search.
"All of us get lost in the darkness, dreamers learn to steer by the stars" -- Neil Peart
The seder is divided into two halves - the story of our past redemption from bondage in Egypt, and the future redemption of our selves from "spiritual hametz" - arrogance, indulgence and selfishness. The Seder is like a concert - a nicely composed first set, a break for a meal, a raucous second set and the encore in Jerusalem.
The Haggadah speaks to us as children and as adults, before and after slavery, but it focuses on patterns of four - four cups of wine, four questions, four children, and four words - bring, deliver, redeem, take - to describe our physical and spiritual journey. It is the most musical of our holidays, and the most subject to interpretation.
The choices we make in our youth help mold who we become. Part of telling the Passover story is to ensure that our children use it as a guide to making good choices as they struggle with a generation of challenges.
Choose the introduction that seems so out of place. Choose a second hand guitar because it teaches you discipline. Choose your heroes' amazing tones in words and sounds. Choose wearing a cape, because it’s who you are. Choose staying out all night because life is lived out loud. Make the choices that bring, deliver, redeem and take us to a world free from all forms of bondage.
All Jewish celebrations, from holidays to weddings, include wine as a symbol of our joy.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָּפֶן
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, borei p’ree hagafen.
We praise G-d, Ruler of Everything, who creates the fruit of the vine.
We praise God who lovingly gave to us this time of celebrating the Holiday of Matzah, the time of liberation, reading our sacred stories, and remembering the Exodus from Egypt. For you chose us and sanctified us among all peoples. And you have given us joyful holidays. We praise God, who sanctifies the people of Israel and the holidays.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם,
שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לַזְּמַן הַזֶּה
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, she-hechiyanu v’key’manu v’higiyanu lazman hazeh.
We praise God, Ruler of Everything, who has kept us alive, raised us up, and brought us to this happy moment.
Drink the first glass of wine!
Water is refreshing, cleansing, and clear, so it’s easy to understand why so many cultures and religions use water for symbolic purification. We will wash our hands twice during our seder: now, with no blessing, to get us ready for the rituals to come; and then again later, we’ll wash again with a blessing, preparing us for the meal, which Judaism thinks of as a ritual in itself. (The Jewish obsession with food is older than you thought!)
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.
Miriam’s Cup rests on the table, welcoming Miriam the prophet, sister of Moses and Aaron. It is a symbol of the well of water that followed the people Israel through the wilderness. The well provided physical nourishment through water, but also spiritual nourishment, as a constant reminder of the Divine presence within the community. It remains on our table throughout our seder, guiding us in our journey as we reenact the exodus from slavery to freedom tonight.
Miriam encouraged her people to sing and to dance on their way to freedom. We think of our own journey into uncharted landscapes, and of the song inside each of us waiting to be sung. Like Miriam, without knowing the steps, we should take a chance.
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 our green vegetable, representing our joy at the dawning of spring after our long, cold winter, a symbol of spring and sustenance, and 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.
Tonight, we enjoy a bounty of food set before us, but where did it come from? How did these vegetables we are now eating get to our table? How many hands did they pass through? Did those hands belong to workers who were treated and paid fairly? Tonight, when we celebrate our liberation from bondage, how can we fight for the freedom of others kept in virtual slavery so that we can eat?
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.
This year, our matzah comes from Vermatzah and is "eco Kosher" - baked with a broader sense of “good practice” in everyday life that draws on the deep well-springs of Jewish wisdom and tradition about the relationships between human beings and the earth
Our great uncle Ziemel Resnick shared a tent with David Ben Gurion in World War I. Years later, his seders in Asbury Park were the stuff of family legend, mildly terrifying to a six year old, where you would share the table with a 2nd cousin and a NJ state politician, not sure who was who. Once found, Uncle Ziemel fit the Afikomen back into the middle matzah, to show that it was in fact the missing piece, and he would say “Nothing that is broken off is lost as long as the children remember to search for it.” He knew the sacrifices that would be made to overcome the willful negligence of the British and the aggression of the Arab states to create an independent Israel. Uncle Ziemel’s searches included guns, ammunition, explosives, and parts for tanks and airplanes, funneled to the Haganah by way of secret meetings atop an Asbury Park ferris wheel. He remembered all of his fights for freedom, each and every Seder.
Pesach leads us to look at things in before and after states - chametz and Kosher L'Pesach. Slavery and freedom. Winter and Spring. Before and after the meal. The middle matzah and the afikomen. For some of these, once the change occurs, there's no going back to the before state. But what is kosher can be made trayfe; freedom can erode into different kinds of slavery. Part of our figurative search must be to identify and then address the comfort and complacency that let us slide backwards.
Pour the second glass of wine for everyone.
The Haggadah doesn’t tell the story of Passover in a linear fashion. We don’t hear of Moses being found by the daughter of Pharaoh – actually, we don’t hear much of Moses at all. Instead, we get an impressionistic collection of songs, images, and stories of both the Exodus from Egypt and from Passover celebrations through the centuries. Some say that minimizing the role of Moses keeps us focused on the miracles God performed for us. Others insist that we keep the focus on the role that every member of the community has in bringing about positive change.
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.
Around our tables sit four daughters:
The wise daughter understands that not everything is as it appears. She is the one who speaks up, confident that her opinion counts. She is the one who can take the tradition and ritual that is placed before her, turn it over and over, and find personal meaning in it. She is the one who can find the secrets in the empty spaces between the letters of the Torah. She is the one who claims a place for herself.
The wicked daughter is the one who dares to challenge the simplistic answers she has been given. She is the one who asks too many questions. She is the one not content to remain in her prescribed place. She is the one who breaks the mold. She is the one who challenges the status quo. Some call her wicked and rebellious but we call her daring and courageous.
The simple daughter is the one who accepts what she is given without asking for more. She is the one who trusts easily and believes what she is told. She is the one who prefers waiting and watching over seeking and acting. She is the one who believes that the redemption from Egypt was the final act of freedom. She is the one who follows in the footsteps of others.
Daughter Who Does Not Know How To Ask
Last is the daughter who does not know how to ask. She is one who obeys and does not question. She is the one who is content to be invisible. She has yet to find her voice.
The four questions, like most of the seder, are meant to be participatory. They are a jumping off point for exploration of the themes of Passover and our identities as modern Jews. According to the Babylonian Talmud, the ancient rabbis would remove the seder plate in an effort to stimulate discussion, exempting the table from the "mah nishtana" if the questions flowed. Even the Hebrew lends itself to discussion, as the word for simple - tam - also means "perfect." The simple son or daughter asks the most perfect question around which everyone may learn.
Our story starts in ancient times, with Abraham, the first person to have the idea that maybe all those little statues his contemporaries worshiped as gods were just statues. The idea of one God, invisible and all-powerful, inspired him to leave his family and begin a new people in Canaan, the land that would one day bear his grandson Jacob’s adopted name, Israel.
God had made a promise to Abraham that his family would become a great nation, but this promise came with a frightening vision of the troubles along the way: “Your descendants will dwell for a time in a land that is not their own, and they will be enslaved and afflicted for four hundred years; however, I will punish the nation that enslaved them, and afterwards they shall leave with great wealth."
This promise has sustained our ancestors and us.
For not only one enemy has risen against us to annihilate us, but in every generation there are those who rise against us. But God saves us from those who seek to harm us.
In the years our ancestors lived in Egypt, our numbers grew, and soon the family of Jacob became the People of Israel. Pharaoh and the leaders of Egypt were alarmed by this great nation growing within their borders, so they enslaved us. We were forced to perform hard labor, building cities for the pharoahs. The Egyptians feared that even as slaves, the Israelites might grow strong and rebel. So Pharaoh decreed that Israelite baby boys should be drowned, to prevent the Israelites from overthrowing those who had enslaved them.
But God heard the cries of the Israelites. And God brought us out of Egypt with a strong hand and outstretched arm, with great awe, miraculous signs and wonders. God brought us out not by angel or messenger, but through God’s own intervention.
For two generations we have been told that the Israelites "built the pyramids." But the great pyramids of Egypt were constructed in roughly 2300 BCE, about 1,000 years before it is estimated that the Israelites became enslaved in Mitzrayim. Exodus tells us that we build "great cities, Pithon and Ramses" but the Greek translation adds "cities Pithon, Ramses and On" - On is also known as Heliopolis, the City of the Sun. Many of the religious structures in Heliopolis were obelisks, a larger form of a religious pillar like those used by the Caananites in the time of Abraham.
The prophet Jeremiah wrote of the downfall of Egypt, calling for the "destruction of the pillars of the House of the Sun." Heliopolis is written in Hebrew as "Beit Shemesh," and the the pillars - "matzevot" in Hebrew -- were the obelisks engraved to Egyptian deities.
Heliopolis was sacked by the Persians a few centuries later, as Jeremiah had accurately predicted, and the obelisks laid toppled until Julius Caesar sent his armies to retrieve them in the first century. 1,700 years later, they were distributed to major cities in the world, given the nickname "Cleopatra's Needles". One arrived in Central Park, New York where the inscriptions were interpreted to show that the original pillars had been defaced and modified by Ramses II, the pharoah mentioned in Exodus, during his continued construction of Heliopolis.
Wine in the Passover seder represents the joy, celebration, and redemption of the Jewish people, taken from slavery to freedom. We spill drops of wine – we sacrifice bits of joy of the Exodus’ conclusion – when we count the ten plagues that HaShem brought on Pharoah and the Egyptians. The Jews’ freedom was earned at the cost of others’ suffering, and because of this, we do not lick our fingers after we spill drops of wine.
Throughout Jewish law and teachings, it is improper to take delight in another’s hardship. We do not enjoy the sweetness of wine as we remember how G-d made our ancestors’ captors suffer.
As we rejoice at our deliverance from slavery, we acknowledge that our freedom was hard-earned. 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.
Today, even more than in previous years, we face ten modern plagues that bring suffering around the globe:
Making War, Teaching Hate, Spoiling the Earth, Perverting Government, Inciting Violence, Neglect of Human Needs, Oppression of Peoples and Nations, Corruption of Culture, Subjugation of Science, Erosion of Freedoms.
After nine plagues, it is likely the Egyptian food sources were teetering between inedible and inhumane: insects breeding disease, water damage leading to mold and rot, carcasses of dead animals taking their toll. What if the first born died because they ate first and the most among family members, and brought about their own deaths? Perhaps the 10th plague tells us about the dangers of privilege.
John Scalzi defines privilege as "playing the game of life on the lowest difficulty setting." If you're a cis white straight male, you play at "easy"; if you're a person of color, a woman, gay or trans, the difficulty goes up simply by showing up for life. Passover teaches us to remember that we were strangers in a strange land, and to remove privilege as we go forward.
The plagues also show us a picture of increasing ecological disaster - a scientific admonition to literally "repair the world" through our actions. How are we supposed to digest the ten plagues and the parting of the Red Sea as miracles while also believing in the science of climate change and global ecology? Former Princeton University President Shirley Tilghman offers a clue in a lecture at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: “We must avoid the suggestion that science and faith are mutually exclusive — they are different manifestations of the human experience." Science tells us the odds in life, and faith tells us to place the bet.
Exodus 14 verses 19-21 tell the tail end of the Exodus, as the Jews approach the Red Sea with the Egyptian army in hot pursuit. They are 3 verses of 72 characters each, a highly unusual pattern in the Torah. If you reverse the order of the middle verse, as it deals with HaShem's severity in bringing darkness to the Egyptian army, and line up the 3 verses, reading down the columns as an acrostic you get the 72 "Names of God" revealed to the Israelites. They are names in that they represent ways in which HaShem may be manifest in the world. But even then, with all of the possibilities of calling for Divine help exposed, it's up to the Israelites to literally take the first step.
God said to Moses, "Why are you crying out to Me? Speak to the Children of Israel! Lift up your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea, and split it. Then the Children of Israel will corss the sea on dry land." The Midrash explains that nothing happened until Nachshon ben Amminadav actually stepped into the waves at the last minute. Prayer is good, but the Israelites had to get off the schneid and do something.
The first step to freedom is terrifying. Especially when it involves water, violence, and the unknown.
Tony Lopez was a Cuba-born sculptor whose large-scale roosters dot the "Calle Ocho" in Miami's Little Havana. He is also the creator of Miami's Holocaust Memorial, an outstretched hand reaching up - to the open sky, toward freedom. Cuban artists who found refuge in Miami share similar tales - of imprisonment, of crossing the sea under uncertain conditions, of the joy of hearing their Miranda rights read when the Coast Guard arrested them because, for the first time, they had actual rights. Today, the "Ladies in White" attend Sunday Mass in Cuba, holding flowers, walking silently as an opposition group to the political imprisonment of journalists, librarians and activists.
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.
Dayenu has fifteen verses, supposedly to represent the fifteen steps leading to the inner court of the Second Temple - the landing place of the 15th stanza of Dayenu. The first five verses deliver us from slavery, the next five bring miracles and wonders, and the last five deal with our closeness to HaShem, or our delivery to a moral and ethical life of Torah. Rather than asking if "it would have been enough," going fifteen rounds with Dayenu makes us examine life as free people.
During Iranian and Afghani seders, people hit each other with green onions during the 9th verse of Dayenu when we proclaim that the manna from heaven would have been good enough. Why? It's a reminder of being a slave in Egypt, at the far end of a lashing. Another interpretation is that it's a reference from Numbers 11:5-6, where the Israelites long for the onions they had in Egypt. The onion-slinging is a modern day repentence for their whining in the desert. However dismayed they were with the daily manna it was preferable to slavery. And finally, it eliminates hierarchy - kids hit parents, parents hit grandparents, cousins hit cousins, and it continues until someone gets an onion in the eye.
Los Angeleno-Iranian Jew Sam Yebri writes "One Passover, I even attacked the back of my mother's head because she had refused to buy me any video games that year. I was 17."
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.
In the early 1980s, Susanna Heschel was lecturing at Oberlin College Hillel and discovered a feminist themed Haggadah that suggested putting a crust of bread on the Seder plate to represent groups that were marginalized in Judaism, especially women. Heschel changed that practice so that an orange would be used – not violating the rules of Passover, and to symbolize the fruitfulness of inclusion. Heschel adds that oranges have seeds so we remember to spit out hate, bigotry, and exclusion.
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!
“Mitzrayim,” Hebrew for Egypt, literally means narrow straits. Judaic commentary has always viewed Mitzrayim as more than the literal escape from slavery, more than an escape from a place of narrow straits, an obviously accurate physical description of Egypt, but metaphorically the leaving behind or “exodus” from a narrow place – the place that squeezes the life out of the human soul and body. Mitzrayim is viewed as an intrinsically constrictive state; a state where we are unable to express ourselves and be free, to be who we are as we seek to define ourselves to others.
How will we bring, deliver, redeem and take ourselves out of the straits?
Expand your sense of the possible.
Expect no more of anyone than you can deliver yourself.
Concern yourself with what is right rather than who is right.
Never forget that, no matter how certain, you might be wrong.
Learn the needs of those around you and respect them.
Avoid the pursuit of happiness. Seek to define your mission and pursue that.
10 of the 25 "Principles of Adult Behavior" , by John Perry Barlow
The blessing over the meal and matzah | motzi matzah | מוֹצִיא מַצָּה
The familiar hamotzi blessing marks the formal start of the meal. Because we are using matzah instead of bread, we add a blessing celebrating this mitzvah.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, הַמּוֹצִיא לֶֽחֶם מִן הָאָֽרֶץ
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, hamotzi lechem min ha-aretz.
We praise God, Ruler of Everything, who brings bread from the land.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָֽׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתַָיו וְצִוָּֽנוּ עַל אֲכִילַת מַצָּה
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al achilat matzah.
We praise God, Ruler of Everything, who made us holy through obligations, commanding us to eat matzah.
Distribute and eat the top and middle matzah for everyone to eat.
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.
Eating a sandwich of matzah and bitter herb | koreich | כּוֹרֵךְ
When the Temple stood in Jerusalem, the biggest ritual of them all was eating the lamb offered as the pesach or Passover sacrifice. The great sage Hillel would put the meat in a sandwich made of matzah, along with some of the bitter herbs. While we do not make sacrifices any more – and, in fact, some Jews have a custom of purposely avoiding lamb during the seder so that it is not mistaken as a sacrifice – we honor this custom by eating a sandwich of the remaining matzah and bitter herbs. Some people will also include charoset in the sandwich to remind us that God’s kindness helped relieve the bitterness of slavery.
"Tzafun" means "hidden." When we hunt for the afikomen we discover something that is hidden, sometimes in plain sight. The classical interpretation is that by leaving the tzafun until late in the seder, the children will be incented to pay attention. Once found, we loosely wrap the matzah to remind us that we packed in haste.
As adults, however, tzafun tells us to listen more carefully to Uncle Ziemel and remember the search - what was hidden and now discovered? What -isms are hidden - racism, sexism, ageism, classism -- and best left behind as we are spiritually redeemed from Egypt?
In Jane Leavy's book "Last Boy," her biography of Yankees star and her childhood hero Mickey Mantle, she distinguishes memory and memorabilia. "Memorabilia is a goal, a get...memory is a process, albeit a faulty one." When we are focused on the memorabilia, the next object, we are enslaved to the pursuit of things. The Afikomen is a literal "get", but it's a B plot to the main story that is the result of superimposing thousands of years of memories.
The Third Glass of Wine
We bless the third cup of 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 Cup of Elijah
We now open the front door to invite the prophet Elijah to join our seder.
In the Bible, Elijah was a fierce defender of God to a disbelieving people. At the end of his life, rather than dying, he was whisked away to heaven. Tradition holds that he will return in advance of messianic days to herald a new era of peace, so we set a place for Elijah at many joyous, hopeful Jewish occasions, such as a baby’s bris and the Passover seder.
אֵלִיָּֽהוּ הַנָּבִיא, אֵלִיָּֽהוּ הַתִּשְׁבִּי,
אֵלִיָּֽהוּ, אֵלִיָּֽהוּ,אֵלִיָּֽהוּ הַגִּלְעָדִי.
בִּמְהֵרָה בְיָמֵֽנוּ יָבוֹא אֵלֵֽינוּ
עִם מָשִֽׁיחַ בֶּן דָּוִד,
עִם מָשִֽׁיחַ בֶּן דָּוִד.
Eliyahu hanavi Eliyahu hatishbi Eliyahu, Eliyahu, Eliyahu hagiladi Bimheirah b’yameinu, yavo eileinu Im mashiach ben-David, Im mashiach ben-David
Elijah the prophet, the returning, the man of Gilad: return to us speedily, in our days with the messiah, son of David.
A Song Of Rebellion
Praise rising up. Praise unlawful assembly.
Praise the road of excess and the palace of wisdom.
Praise glass houses. Praise the hand that cradles the stone.
Praise Galileo. Praise acceleration.
Praise wayward daughters. Praise their wayward sons.
Praise the power of indulgence.
Praise those who tear down walls and climb fences.
Praise Legal Aid attorneys.
Praise Schrödinger and his cat.
Praise those who remember what they are told to forget.
Praise the electrical storm and the still small voice.
Praise those who see it coming. Praise those who do it anyway.
Praise whatever happens next.
With the fourth cup of wine we praise HaShem for taking the Israelites as G-d's people.
Baruch ata adonai, eloheinu melech ha’olam, borei pri hagafen.
ברוך אתה י-י אלוקינו מלך העולם בורא פרי הגפן
(Drink the fourth cup.)
The end of the Seder is the conclusion of a journey, the one that takes us from child to adult, from bondage to freedom, from hidden to revealed, from questioning to certain of our actions.
The Jews left Egypt and survived.
Life is a wilderness and they were savage.
Life is an awakening and they were alert.
Life is a flowering and they blossomed.
Life is a struggle and they struggled.
Life is a gift and they were free to accept it.
From "Bashert" by Irena Kelpsisz
Rabbi David Hartman writes: “Passover is the night for reckless dreams; for visions about what a human being can be, what society can be, what people can be, what history may become.”
In the year ahead may we travel safely, march forward, make space for others, and move past our limitations.
לְשָׁנָה הַבָּאָה בִּירוּשָׁלָֽיִם
L’shana haba-ah biy’rushalayim
NEXT YEAR IN JERUSALEM!