This may take up to thirty seconds.
“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 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.
Prompt: If you had to translate the 10 plagues into modern day plagues, what do you think they would be?
Chat GPT: While there is no definitive answer to this question, here are some possible modern-day interpretations of the ten plagues.
1. Water to Blood: Pollution of rivers, lakes, and oceans caused by human activity, such as industrial waste and oil spills.
2. Frogs: Invasive species taking over ecosystems, causing harm to native animals and plants.
3. Lice/Gnats: The spread of diseases carried by insects, such as malaria, West Nile virus, and Lyme disease.
4. Wild Animals: Habitat destruction and loss of biodiversity, leading to conflicts between humans and wildlife.
5. Pestilence/Livestock Epidemic: The spread of animal diseases, such as swine flu and avian flu, which can also infect humans.
6. Boils: Outbreaks of infectious diseases, such as Ebola, COVID-19, and other pandemics.
7. Hail: Severe weather events, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods, caused by climate change and other environmental factors.
8. Locusts: Crop failures and food shortages caused by climate change, land degradation, and other factors.
9. Darkness: Light pollution and other environmental factors that disrupt natural rhythms, such as migration patterns and hibernation.
10. Death of the Firstborn: The disproportionate impact of environmental problems on vulnerable populations, such as low-income communities and communities of color.
Of course, these interpretations are subjective and open to debate, but they can serve as a starting point for reflecting on the relevance of the plagues to our modern world.
For the chief musician, on common instrument: 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 refusal of obedience. Praise the young on Raamses Street.
Praise Galileo. Praise acceleration.
Praise bombshells and en masse.
Praise sit-down strikes. Praise outside agitators.
Praise Red Emma. Praise her pistol and praise her restraint.
Praise living your life. Praise Joan of Arc.
Praise wayward daughters. Praise their wayward sons.
Praise the power of indulgence.
Praise Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses. Praise the nail
and the printing press. Praise the First Amendment.
Praise free verse. Praise yellow sunﬂowers.
Praise red wheelbarrows and transcendental leanings.
Praise illicit beauty. Praise the poets of Guantanamo.
Praise the poets of Burma. Praise the noisy streets.
Praise those who tear down walls and climb fences.
Praise Letters from Prison. Praise those who say yes.
Praise the bound notebook and what is within.
Praise Legal Aid attorneys. Praise kitchen-table conspiracies.
Praise insomnia. Praise our hunger. Praise days
we are the bread. Praise farmers’ markets.
Praise Al Gore and quantum physics.
Praise Schrödinger and his cat. Praise jumping in.
Praise talking snakes. Praise history & run-on sentences.
Praise what are the odds? Praise purposeful wandering.
Praise the best minds of any generation. Praise John Brown.
Praise Newt Gingrich. Praise enough is enough.
Praise Walt Whitman and the self. Praise the body’s
wild intelligence. Praise ACT UP and Vagina Monologues.
Praise getting satisfaction. Praise Gertrude Stein.
Praise cross-dressing. Praise untouchables,
partisans and riffraff. Praise slackers. Praise those
who talk back. Praise sympathy for the devil.
Praise the oldest profession. Praise mothers of the disappeared.
Praise mothers of the found. Praise mothers not yet mothers.
Praise not looking away. Praise realists and Cubists.
Praise prohibitionists & remorse. Praise hitting your head
against the wall. Praise giving peace a chance.
Praise Zionist conspiracies. Praise free elections.
Praise Selma, Alabama and early voting. Praise mutiny.
Praise backyard whiskey and those who cook with ﬁre.
Praise Priscilla the Monkey Girl. Praise her admirers.
Praise Freud and Marx and Sinatra. Praise Earhardt.
Praise those who remember what they are told to forget.
Praise agnostics. Praise what we are not supposed to praise.
Praise the electrical storm and the still small voice.
Praise all the proverbs of hell. Praise those
who see it coming. Praise those who do it anyway.
Praise whatever happens next.
Baruch Atah Adonai, eloheinu Melekh ha-olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tsivanu lirdof tzedek
Brucha Yah Shechinah, eloheinu Malkat ha-olam, asher kid’shatnu b’mitzvotayha vitzivatnu lirdof tzedek
Blessed is the Source, who shows us paths to holiness, and commands us to pursue justice.
Calligraphy by: Ruben Shimonov
At its surface, Chad Gadya is a funny song about a string of unfortunate events that befall a young goat and progress until G-d intervenes and smotes the Angel of Death, stopping the chain of escalation in its tracks.
However, on closer look, it contains a number of themes worth exploring: Why did the cat eat the goat in the first place? Are each of the events in the song directly related to one another, or do they happen by coincidence? Why didn't G-d do something sooner?
What stands out to me is the presence of the Angel of Death throughout the entire song, even though we don't become aware of its existence until the second-to-last verse. Whether or not we want to acknowledge it, the Angel of Death remains very present in our world today. It lives in the injustices that plague our society, thriving in modern-day slavery, inequity, and indifference.
Let's say that each event in the song is a direct response to the one that comes before it. It might appear that each successive actor acts out of malice, in an attempt to complicate the situation. But all of them are simply performing normal functions: a cat eats its prey, a dog bites a cat, an ox drinks some water, and so on. While I don't condone beating dogs with sticks, taken individually (and in the context of the song's time), each of action seems relatively benign.
Of course a stick would burn if it caught fire; that's what sticks do! Of course a butcher slaughtered the ox; that's what butchers do!
Taken collectively, however, we recognize that each portion of the song builds on the one that came before it, creating an increasingly difficult situation that escalates until G-d steps in. In this, we see how we might be complicit in the systems that perpetuate harm and injustice, even though we might not be aware. Even though we might be doing what the world says we're supposed to do.
What if one part of the song hadn't gone the way it was "supposed" to? What if the butcher let the ox drink its water in peace? What if, despite the laws of nature, the fire hadn't ignited the stick? What if the cat resisted its urge to snack on the goat?
Chad Gadya is more than an enteraining way to end the Seder. It calls us to be aware of our actions and the impact they have in the world. It reminds us that the pursuit of justice sometimes requires stepping out of our comfort zones, breaking rules, and disrupting perpetual cycles. It is on us to recognize the Angel of Death in our world and choose life.