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Nothing on the Seder table is selected randomly; each item has it’s purpose and often it’s specific place. The Seder plate holds at least six of the ritual items that are discussed during the Seder: the shankbone, maror, charoset, karpas, salt water, orange, roasted egg, and boiled egg.

(to the tune of “Frère Jacques”)

Roasted Shankbone
Hard Boiled Egg
Karpas and Charoset
Bitter Herbs

One of the most striking symbols of Passover is the roasted lamb shankbone (called zeroah), which commemorates the paschal (lamb) sacrifice made the night the ancient Hebrews fled Egypt. Some say it symbolizes the outstretched arm of God (the Hebrew word zeroah can mean “arm”). Many vegetarians use a roasted beet instead. This isn’t a new idea; the great Biblical commentator Rashi suggested it back in the eleventh century.

Bitter herbs (usually horseradish) bring tears to the eyes and recall the bitterness of slavery. The Seder refers to the slavery in Egypt, but people are called to look at their own bitter enslavements.

There’s nothing further from maror than charoset (“cha-ROH-set”), the sweet salad of apples, nuts, wine, and cinnamon that represents the mortar used by the Hebrew slaves to make bricks.

Karpas is a green vegetable, usually parsley (though any spring green will do). Karpas symbolizes the freshness of spring. Some families still use boiled potatoes for karpas, continuing a tradition from Eastern Europe where it was difficult to obtain fresh green vegetables.

Salt water symbolizes the tears and sweat of enslavement, though paradoxically, it’s also a symbol for purity, springtime, and the sea.

The tradition of putting an orange on the seder plate in is a response to a less evolved rabbi who told a young girl that a woman belongs on a bimah as much as an orange on a Seder plate. The orange is now said to be a symbol of the fruitfulness of all Jews, whether they be gay, straight, male or female.

The roasted egg (baytsah) is a symbol in many different cultures, usually signifying springtime and renewal. Here it stands in place of one of the sacrificial offerings which was performed in the days of the Second Temple. Another popular interpretation is that the egg is like the Jewish people: the hotter you make it for them, the tougher they get.

May we reflect on our lives this year and soften our hearts to those around us. Another year has passed since we gathered at the Seder table and we are once again reminded that life is fleeting. We are reminded to use each precious moment wisely so that no day will pass without bringing us closer to some worthy achievement as we all take a moment to be aware of how truly blessed we are.

Our faith gives us many holidays to celebrate throughout the year and they are all times for self reflection, gently guiding us to a better path in life. We are each given a chance to reflect on our past year; to think about where we have been and how we will live our lives in the year to come. We reaffirm our commitment to lead good and meaningful lives, promoting peace wherever we go.

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Pesach is a time of inclusion.

On seder night, there are two moments where we metaphorically open our doors and invite others in. One is at the opening of the Magid portion of the seder, when we say, “All who are hungry come and eat.” There is a beautiful message here: we were once slaves; poor and hungry, and we remember our redemption by sharing what we have with others.

The other, comes towards the end of the seder, when we have the custom of pouring a fifth cup of wine, which we claim is for Elijah the Prophet. This is a statement of faith, a statement that says that although we are a free people, our redemption is not yet complete, and we believe that it will come.

From the most downtrodden to the most celebrated, the message is clear: everyone is welcome and everyone is necessary. Why is it that we go out of our way to include all at our seder table? Perhaps it is because when we make room for others, we have the opportunity to make room for ourselves as well. In fact, the Mishnah (Pesahim 10:5) teaches us that:

בכל דור ודור חייב אדם לראות את עצמו כאילו הוא יצא ממצרים In every generation a person is obligated to see themselves as if they left Egypt

The seder presents us with the obligation of identifying with the generation that left Egypt and internalizing that experience. And through that internalization, we come to feel the redemption as if it was our own as well to - לראות את עצמו. Further, the reliving of the story of the Exodus affords us the opportunity see one’s true self. It is only when we are able to see ourselves clearly, that we are able to be redeemed. But perhaps the only way we are able to see ourselves, is when we are truly able to see those around us. This message of inclusion is Pardes’s message too, and our hope is that this Haggadah Companion which offers something for everyone, will add new meaning to your seder and help bring the Jewish people a little closer together.

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On Passover, Jews are commanded to tell the story of the Exodus and to see ourselves as having lived through that story, so that we may better learn how to live our lives today. The stories we tell our children shape what they believe to be possible—which is why at Passover, we must tell the stories of the women who played a crucial role in the Exodus narrative.  The Book of Exodus, much like the Book of Genesis, opens in pervasive darkness. Genesis describes the earth as “unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep.”1 In Exodus, darkness attends the accession of a new Pharaoh who feared the Israelites and so enslaved them. God alone lights the way out of the darkness in Genesis. But in Exodus, God has many partners, first among them, five brave women.  There is Yocheved, Moses’ mother, and Shifra and Puah, the famous midwives. Each defies Pharaoh’s decree to kill the Israelite baby boys. And there is Miriam, Moses’ sister, about whom the following midrash is taught:   

[When Miriam’s only brother was Aaron] she prophesied… “my mother is destined to bear a son who will save Israel.” When [Moses] was born the whole house… filled with light[.] [Miriam’s] father arose and kissed her on the head, saying, “My daughter, your prophecy has been fulfilled.” But when they threw [Moses] into the river her father tapped her on the head saying, “Daughter, where is your prophecy?” So it is written, “And [Miriam] stood afar off to know what would be[come of] the latter part of her prophecy.”2

Finally, there is Pharaoh’s daughter Batya, who defies her own father and plucks baby Moses out of the Nile. The Midrash reminds us that Batya knew exactly what she doing:   

When Pharaoh’s daughter’s handmaidens saw that she intended to rescue Moses, they attempted to dissuade her, and persuade her to heed her father. They said to her: “Our mistress, it is the way of the world that when a king issues a decree, it is not heeded by the entire world, but his children and the members of his household do observe it, and you wish to transgress your father’s decree?”3

But transgress she did.  These women had a vision leading out of the darkness shrouding their world. They were women of action, prepared to defy authority to make their vision a reality bathed in the light of the day.  Retelling the heroic stories of Yocheved, Shifra, Puah, Miriam and Batya reminds our daughters that with vision and the courage to act, they can carry forward the tradition those intrepid women launched.  While there is much light in today’s world, there remains in our universe disheartening darkness, inhumanity spawned by ignorance and hate. We see horrific examples in the Middle East, parts of Africa, and the Ukraine. The Passover story recalls to all of us—women and men—that with vision and action we can join hands with others of like mind, kindling lights along paths leading out of the terrifying darkness. 

Source : Reproductive Justice Seder Insert

From Oppression to Liberation:
For the Pursuit of Reproductive Justice in this Generation

The four cups of wine we drink this evening are symbols of our freedom and God's presence in our lives. But, as the seder ritual reminds us, freedom is an ongoing journey. True freedom can only be enjoyed when all our sisters, brothers and others are freed of the many burdens that would delay or deny their inherent dignity. As women, we still know the shackles of oppression all too well. In modern society, we still experience the exploitation of women and girls in our workplaces, medical facilities, and even governing bodies. By allowing this oppression to continue, we fail to recognize the holiness and moral agency present in all of God’s children.

Tonight, we retell the story of the Exodus and consider how it applies to our lives today. We are reminded that there is still bitterness in the world and iniquity in our homes and communities: politicians seeking to control women's reproductive destinies; perpetrators of domestic and sexual violence seeking to control women’s bodies; and societal barriers seeking, perhaps inadvertently, to limit a woman’s ability to recognize her full potential. These examples and others are today’s plagues; they remind us of the constraints Pharaoh placed on our Israelite ancestors.

At tonight’s seder, instead of feeling despair, we envision - and commit to achieving - a society in which every person exerts full autonomy over their own reproductive and sexual life. At tonight’s seder, we celebrate the values that lead us to work toward reproductive justice. This expanded social justice framework acknowledges the different systems of oppression that impact our lives and impede our ability to truly make our own decisions about our reproductive and sexual health. We renew our commitment to not only safeguard our legal rights to access the care we need but to go further, ensuring every person’s ability to meaningfully do so regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, income and other unique life circumstances. We pledge to leave the next generation a society in which reproductive freedom has truly been reached.

The readings in this resource packet seek to inspire our commitment to reproductive justice. They are designed to be read before you drink each of the four cups of wine.

Let us tonight honor those who are working tirelessly to bring us out of this metaphoric Egypt and pledge to renew our own fight toward achieving justice and freedom for all.

Chag Sameach!

Coordinated by the following: Jewish Women International, National Council of Jewish Women, Religious Action Center
of Reform Judaism in association with Women of Reform Judaism, and Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

For more information on reproductive justice, please visit
For all Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism resources, please visit

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Dispelling the Urban Legend of the Orange on the Seder Plate

By Rabbi Robyn Frisch

If you, like me, are past the age of 40, you may remember years ago hearing the claim that Little Mikey of LIFE cereal fame died from the explosive effects of mixing Pop Rocks candy with soda pop. Or you may have heard that children’s television show host Mr. Rogers (Fred Rodgers) always wore long-sleeved shirts and sweaters on his show to conceal the tattoos on his arms he obtained while serving in the military. Or perhaps you’ve heard that alligators live under the New York City sewer system. But, in reality, none of these stories are true. They’re all “urban legends.” And I’m proud to say that I never believed any of them (well, except the one about Mikey and Pop Rocks—I did believe that one for awhile…).

But there’s another urban legend, one connected to the Passover seder, that I’ve believed for years. In fact, I’ve told this story many times at my own seders. It’s the story of the “orange on the seder plate.” And until this week, I always thought the story I told was true—after all, I’d heard it so many times, and read it in so many different places.

The story goes something like this: Professor Susannah Heschel was giving a lecture in Miami Beach, when a man stood up and yelled: “A woman belongs on a bimah like an orange belongs on a seder plate.” In order to show that women DO belong on the bimah—that women have the right to a place in Jewish ritual and in Jewish leadership—Heschel and others began to place oranges on their seder plates. (According to another version of the story, the man yelled: “A woman belongs on thebimah like a piece of bread belongs on the seder plate.” Wanting to make a point about women’s rightful place in Judaism, but not wanting to place bread, which is forbidden on Passover, on her seder plate, Heschel replaced “bread” with “an orange,” since the incident took place in Florida, “The Orange State.”)

I learned the story of “the orange on the seder plate” sometime in the late 1990s, when I was a rabbinical student. At the time I was in my early 30s, hosting my own seders for the first time.  Like many of my colleagues, I strived to make my seders authentic, relevant and meaningful by balancing tradition with creativity and innovation. I embraced the traditional symbols of the seder (the four cups of wine, matzah, egg, parsley, etc.) and also newer symbols, such as Miriam’s Cup and the orange. For the past 15 years or so, when I’ve gone to the produce store to buy parsley, horseradish and apples and nuts for my charoset, I’ve made sure to purchase an orange for my seder plate as well. And at every seder I’ve hosted, I’ve shared the “story of the orange on the seder plate” and how it represents women’s equality in Judaism.

But recently I found out that the story I’ve been telling simply isn’t true. Here’s the TRUE STORY, in Professor Susannah Heschel’s own words, from an article that she wrote for The Jewish Daily Forward in 2013:

“At an early point in the seder… I asked each person to take a segment of the orange, make the blessing over fruit and eat the segment in recognition of gay and lesbian Jews and of widows, orphans, Jews who are adopted and all others who sometimes feel marginalized in the Jewish community.

“When we eat that orange segment, we spit out the seeds to repudiate homophobia and we recognize that in a whole orange, each segment sticks together. Oranges are sweet and juicy and remind us of the fruitfulness of gay and lesbian Jews and of the homosociality that has been such an important part of Jewish experience, whether of men in yeshivas or of women in the Ezrat Nashim.”

Heschel went on to write of the Miami Beach lecture urban legend:

“That incident never happened! Instead, my custom had fallen victim to a folktale process in which my original intention was subverted. My idea of the orange was attributed to a man, and my goal of affirming lesbians and gay men was erased.

“Moreover, the power of the custom was subverted: By now, women are on the bimah, so there is no great political courage in eating an orange, because women ought to be on the bimah.

“For years, I have known about women whose scientific discoveries were attributed to men, or who had to publish their work under a male pseudonym. That it happened to me makes me realize all the more how important it is to recognize how deep and strong patriarchy remains, and how important it is for us to celebrate the contributions of gay and lesbian Jews, and all those who need to be liberated from marginality to centrality. And Passover is the right moment to ensure freedom for all Jews.”

I’m glad to have finally learned the “true story” of “the orange on the seder plate.” And now that I know it, will I still put an orange on MY seder plate this Passover? I sure will! But, like Professor Heschel, I’ll invite each of the participants at my seder to take a segment of the orange, make the blessing over fruit that grows on trees and eat the segment in recognition of gay and lesbian Jews and of widows, orphans, Jews who are adopted, interfaith couples and families and all others who sometimes feel marginalized in the Jewish community.

After all, the Passover seder is very much a time for asking questions (for the importance of questions in the Passover seder—beyond the “Four Questions”—see my blog from last year about the seder). And if I’ve learned anything from discovering the truth about the urban legend of the “orange on the seder plate,” it’s that we need to constantly be questioning: even those things that we’re confident we already “know.”

For more on Passover and seders, visit Interfaith Family's Guide to Passover for Interfaith Families.

Source : me

Pesach is many things to many people. Its customs are familiar and can be viewed with many lenses. The symbols are universal and are subject to almost any reading: social justice, class, the Holocaust, Middle East politics, American politics, agriculture, the environment, the list is endless, and the proliferation of interpretations is evidence that this is fertile territory.

A few things – maybe only two – about the holiday are unavoidable, as in, Pesach wouldn't be Pesach if not for these things. One is symbolic/metaphorical, the other is cultural. The most important theme of Pesach is freedom from slavery. The holiday commemorates the time when the Hebrews were freed from slavery in Egypt. We eat unleavened bread, which is cheap road food. The charoset symbolizes mortar used by the slaves to make bricks. Every symbol is meant to remind us that these people were slaves. Slavery – actual, physical forced labor – provides a vivid frame of reference to talk about all other kinds of oppression: colonialism, the 1%, governments, mental illness, bullies, crime, the criminal justice system, corporate welfare. Pesach is the holiday where we openly celebrate the oppressed, the underdog. So, unlike other more nationalistic holidays like Hanukah, Pesach is really a day for us to remember the oppressed.

The cultural aspect of the holiday that is unavoidable is that it is Jewish. For most non-practicing, non-believing Jews, Pesach is the one annual event where we remember our Jewishness. We observe the customs. We sing in Hebrew. We eat traditional food. We inhabit the world of our ancestors, both known and unknown, recent and ancient.

All seders are the same at their core, and every seder is unique. Seders are both modular and constant. They have a dual nature. Seder means "order," implying that there are rules, but the order goes only so far. This is a holiday that celebrates freedom after all. So interpret each ritual and symbol in your own way.

Source : Library of Congress; Photograph by Marion S. Trikosko,

Signs carried by many marchers, during the March on Washington, 1963
Source : Wikipedia
Hinei Mah tov u-ma nayim                               הִנֵּה מַה טוֹב וּמַה נָּעִים

Shevet achim gam yachad                                      שֶׁבֶת אָחִים גַּם יַחַד

Behold how good and how pleasant it is for people to dwell together.

Source : HIAS Seder Supplement
As we celebrate the Jewish people’s biblical exodus from Egypt, we remember that there are 60 million displaced people around the world, people fleeing violence and persecution in search of a safe place to call home. We are currently in the midst of the worst refugee crisis since World War II.

HIAS, the world’s oldest, and only Jewish, refugee resettlement organization, helps refugees find ways to live in safety and with dignity as we also mobilize the Jewish community’s response to the global refugee crisis. This Passover, we hope you will find inspiration in weaving the story of the Jewish people’s exodus from Egypt together with the stories of today’s refugees as we offer words of blessing and hope and commit ourselves to acting on behalf of refugees worldwide in the days to come. 


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.

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.

Welcome to Sinai. As you have just crossed the Red Sea, you have had to make many hard choices: freedom or slavery? Pettiness or tolerance? Materialism or life. In many ways, we are in shock of our recent actions. We find ourselves reflecting on what we’ve done. Did we really just leave Egypt? Did a band of slaves—no—ex-slaves really push the leader of one of the greatest empires of our time to let his workforce just leave? Many of us are in shock. Some of us are crying. All of us realize that it is important to never forget our actions and the actions of our ancestors. We know what we have done will rock the world for generations to come.

Which brings our journey to today 5776. Although the Seder as we know it today wasn’t developed for hundreds of years after we became free, it has become the standard for how we remember our escape from the hand of tyranny. Thank you very much for joining us this evening as we remember the way things once were and look forward to the future.

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On this night we retrace our steps from then to now, reclaiming years of desert wandering.

On this night we ask questions, ancient and new, speaking of servitude and liberation, service and joy.

On this night we welcome each soul, sharing stories of courage, strength, and faith.

On this night we open doors long closed, lifting our voices in songs of praise.

On this night we renew ancient hopes and dream of a future redeemed.

On this night we gather around Seder tables remembering our passage from bondage to freedom.

On this night we journey from now to then, telling the story of our people’s birth.

Source : Meg Valentine

A word about God: everyone has his or her own understanding of what God is. For some people, there is no God, while for others, God is an integral part of their lives. While we may not agree on a singular concept of God, we share a common desire for goodness to prevail in the world. And this is the meaning of tonight:  freedom winning out over slavery, good prevailing over evil.

Please consider the source of benevolence in your life, be it God, or a belief in humanity, and hold that source in your hearts as we move through the evening.

Source : James Baldwin
“If the concept of God has any validity or any use, it can only be to make us larger, freer, and more loving."

-James Baldwin

Source : Design by

Source : Rabbi Alex Israel for
The seder opens with kiddush (the sanctification over wine). This is certainly unremarkable after all, kiddush is the opening act of every shabbat and holiday meal. But kiddush – a ritual .sanctification of time – has an intimate and unique connection to Pesach’s central theme: freedom. How so?

As Israel was about to be released from slavery, God instituted a new calendar: “This month shall (mark for you the beginning of months; the first of the months of the year for you.” (Exodus 12:2) Why is this the first mitzva (commandment) communicated to a free nation?

A slave’s time is not his own. He is at the beck and call of his master. Even when the slave has a pressing personal engagement, his taskmaster’s needs will take priority. In contrast, freedom is the control of our time. We determine what we do when we wake up in the morning; we prioritize our day. This is true for an individual, but also for a nation. God commands Israel to create a Jewish calendar because, as an independent nation, Israel should not march any more to an Egyptian rhythm, celebrating Egyptian months and holidays. Instead Israel must forge a Jewish calendar, with unique days of rest, celebration and memory. Controlling and crafting our time is the critical first act of freedom.

Kiddush says this out loud. We sanctify the day and define its meaning! We proclaim this day as significant, holy and meaningful. We fashion time, claim ownership of it, and fashion it as a potent .contact point with God, peoplehood and tradition. This is a quintessential act of Jewish freedom.

Today, we often feel short of time; that time controls us. Kadesh reminds us that true freedom and self-respect is to master and control time for ourselves, to shape our life in accordance with our values.

Rabbi Alex Israel teaches Bible and is the Director of the Pardes Community Education Program and the Pardes Summer Program

Source : The Wandering is Over Haggadah,

All Jewish celebrations, from holidays to weddings, include wine as a symbol of our joy – not to mention a practical way to increase that joy. The seder starts with wine and then gives us three more opportunities to refill our cup and drink.

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.

We praise God, Ruler of Everything, who chose us from all peoples and languages, and sanctified us with commandments, and lovingly gave to us special times for happiness, holidays and 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!

by VBS
Source : VBS Haggadah

The Hebrew word “Kiddush” means sanctification. But it is not the wine we sanctify. Instead, the wine is a symbol of the sanctity, the preciousness, and the sweetness of this moment. Held together by sacred bonds of family, friendship, peoplehood, we share this table tonight with one another and with all the generations who have come before us. Let us rise, and sanctify this singular moment.

HOW? We will drink four cups of wine at the Seder in celebration of our freedom. (Grape juice is fine too.) We stand, recite the blessing, and enjoy the first cup. L'chaim!

The blessing praises God for creating the "fruit of the vine." We recite the blessing, not over the whole grape, but over wine — squeezed and fermented through human skill. So, too, the motzee blessing is recited not over sheaves of wheat but over bread, leavened or unleavened, ground and kneaded and prepared by human hands. The blessing is over the product cultivated through human and divine cooperation: We bless the gifts of sun, seed and soil transformed by wisdom and purpose to sustain the body and rejoice the soul. 

Baruch ata Adonai, Elohaynoo melech ha-olam, boray pree ha-gafen. Baruch atah Adonai, Elohynoo melech ha- olam, asher bachar banoo meekol am, v’romemanoo meekol lashon, v’keedshanoo b’meetzvotav. Va’teetayn lanoo Adonai Elohaynoo b’bahava, mo’adeem lsimcha, chageem oo-z’maneem l’sason. Et yom chag ha-matzot ha-zeh,

z’man chayrootaynoo, meekra kodesh, zecher leetzeeyat Meetzrayeem. Kee vanoo vacharta, v’otanoo keed- ashta meekol ha- ameem. Oo’mo’adday kodsheh’cha b’seemcha oo-v’sason heen’chaltanoo. Barcuch ata Adonai m’kadesh Yisrael v’ha-z’maneem.

Praised are You, Lord our God, Whose presence fills the universe. Who creates the fruit of the vine. Praised are You, Lord our God, Whose presence fills the universe, Who has called us for service

from among the peoples of the world, sanctifying our lives with Your commandments. In love, You have given us festivals for rejoicing and seasons of celebration, this Festival of Matzot, the time of our freedom, a commemoration of the Exodus from Egypt. Praised are You, Lord, Who gave us this joyful heritage and Who sanctifies Israel and the festivals.

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Baruch ata Adonai, Elohaynoo melech ha-olam, sheh’hech’eeyanoo v’’keeyemanoo, v’heegeeanoo la-z’man ha-zeh.

Praised are You, Lord, our God, Whose presence fills the universe, Who has given us the gifts of life and strength and enabled us to reach this moment of joy. 

Source : JQ International GLBT Haggadah

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.

Source : HIAS Seder Supplement
As you bless the four cups of wine and remember the different ways God protected the Children of Israel during their exodus from Egypt, offer these words of blessing for the ways we can stand in support of today’s refugees as they journey to safety. This is the first of the blessings over the four cups of wine that we say throughout the Passover Seder. You will find the other three blessings interspersed throughout this supplement.

I will free you... 

As we remember our own liberation from bondage in Egypt, we express gratitude for the ability to work as God’s partners in continued and continual redemption for today’s refugees. As our wine cups overflow in this moment of joy, we hold out hope for the day when every person in search of refuge in every corner of the earth can recall a story of freedom, reflect on a journey to security from violence and persecution and no longer yearn for a safe place to call home. Blessed are You, Adonai our God, who frees those who are oppressed.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָּפֶן

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, borei p’ree hagafen.

Blessed are You, Ruler of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine. 

Source : Aviva Cantor, The Egalitarian Hagada
As we remember this struggle, we honor the midwives who were the first Jews to resist the Pharaoh.  our legends tell us that Pharaoh, behaving in a way common to oppressors, tried to get Jews to collaborate in murdering their own people.  He summoned the two chief midwives, Shifra and Pu'ah, and commanded them to kill newborn Jewish males at birth.  He threatened the midwives with death by fire if they failed to follow his commands.

But the midwives did not follow orders.  Instead of murdering the infants, they took special care of them and their mothers.  When Pharaoh asked them to account for all the living children, they made up the excuse that Jewish women gave birth too fast to summon midwives in time.

The midwives' acts of civil disobedience were the first stirrings of resistance among the Jewish slaves. The actions of the midwives gave the people courage both to withstand their oppression and to envision how to overcome it.  It became the forerunner of the later resistance.  Thus Shifra and Pu'ah were not only midwives to the children they delivered, but also to the entire Jewish nation, in its deliverance from slavery.


Four Cups Of Wine

Many people wonder why we drink four cups of wine on Passover. Well there are many reasons. First of all wine is a royal drink that symbolises freedom. So it seems appropriate to drink it on Passover because they became free. Also g-d convinced the Jews that they should leave Egypt using four statements, 1 I shall take you out, 2 I shall rescue you, 3 I shall redeem you, and 4 I shall bring you. That is part of the reason why we drink four cups on passover.

Source : Deborah Putnoi Art

Source : The Wandering is Over Haggadah,
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!)

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.

Source :

O ur hands are the primary tools to interact with our environment. They generally obey our emotions: Love, fear, compassion, the urge to win, to be appreciated, to express ourselves, to dominate. Our emotions, in turn, reflect our mental state.

But, too often, each faculty of our psyche sits in its cell, exiled from one another. The mind sees one way, the heart feels another and our interface with the world ends up one messy tzimmes.

Water represents the healing power of wisdom. Water flows downward, carrying its essential simplicity to each thing. It brings them together as a single living, growing whole. We pour water over our hands as an expression of wisdom pouring downward passing through our heart and from there to our interaction with the world around us.

by VBS
Source : VBS Haggadah
Slaves eat quickly, stopping neither to wash nor to reflect. Tonight, we are free. We wash and we express our reverence for the blessings that are ours.

Pass a bowl of water, a small cup and a towel around the table. Everyone pours three cupfuls over their fingers. There is no blessing over this washing.

Source : Original Design from

Source :
1. Hannah Senesh was a Hungarian Jew, one of 37 Jews who lived in the British Mandate for Palestine (now Israel), who were trained by the British army to parachute into Yugoslavia during the Second World War in order to help save the Jews of Hungary, who were about to be deported to the German death camp at Auschwitz.

2. Senesh was arrested at the Hungarian border, imprisoned and tortured, but she refused to reveal details of her mission and was eventually tried, and executed by firing squad. She is regarded as a national heroine in Israel, where several streets, a headquarters the zionist youth movement Israel Hatzeira and a kibbutz are named after her, and her poetry is widely known.

3. Senesh enrolled in a Protestant private school for girls which also accepted Catholic and Jewish pupils; however, she had to pay twice the regular tuition because she was Jewish. This, along with the realization that the situation of the Jews in Hungary was becoming precarious, prompted Szenes to embrace Judaism. She announced to her friends that she had become a Zionist and joined Maccabea, a Hungarian Zionist students organization.

4. Senesh graduated in 1939 and decided to emigrate to what was then the British Mandate of Palestine in order to study in the Girls’ Agricultural School at Nahalal.

5. In 1941, she joined Kibbutz Sdot Yam and then joined the Haganah, the paramilitary group that laid the foundation of the Israel Defense Forces. In 1943, she enlisted in the British army in the Woman’s Auxiliary Air Force as an Aircraftwoman 2nd Class and began her training in Egypt as a paratrooper for the British Special Operations Executive (SOE).

6. In March 1944, she and two male colleagues, Yoel Palgi and Peretz Goldstein, were parachuted into Yugoslavia and joined a partisan group. After landing, they learned the Germans had already occupied Hungary, so the men decided to call off the mission as too dangerous. Szenes continued and headed for the Hungarian border.

7. At the border, she was arrested by Hungarian gendarmes, who found the British military transmitter she was carrying, used to communicate with the SOE and other partisans. She was taken to a prison in Budapest, tied to a chair, stripped, then whipped and clubbed for three days. The guards wanted to know the code for her transmitter so they could find out who the other parachutists were. She did not tell them, however, even when they brought her mother into the cell and threatened to torture her too.

8. Whilst in jail, Szenes used a mirror to flash signals out of the window to the Jewish prisoners in other cells, and communicated with them using large cut-out letters in Hebrew that she placed in her window one at a time and by drawing the Magen David in the dust. She tried to keep their spirits up by singing, and through all the things Szenes went through she still kept her spirit high and stayed true to her mission.

9. Senesh was tried for treason on October 28, 1944. There was an eight-day postponement to give the judges more time to find a verdict, followed by another postponement, this one because of the appointment of a new Judge Advocate. She was executed by a firing squad before the judges had returned a verdict. She kept diary entries until her last day, November 7, 1944 when she was killed by a German firing squad. One of them read: "In the month of July, I shall be twenty-three/I played a number in a game/The dice have rolled. I have lost," and another: "I loved the warm sunlight."

Source : The Wandering is Over Haggadah,

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?

Source : Alex Weissman,

The karpas, the green vegetable, is the first part of the seder that makes this night different from all other nights. So far, the first glass of wine and the hand washing, though significant, do not serve to mark any sort of difference; they are regular parts of meals. The karpas, however, is not. As a night marked by difference, that difference starts now. Tonight, we celebrate difference with the karpas. Here, difference brings us hope, joy, and renewed life.

We also know that with difference can come pain and tears. We have shed these tears ourselves and we have caused others to shed tears. Some say we dip the karpas in salt water to remind ourselves of Joseph, whose brothers sold him into slavery and then dipped his fabulous, technicolor dream coat into blood to bring back to their father, Jacob. Difference can also be dangerous.

Tonight, we dip the karpas into salt water, and as we taste it, we taste both the fresh, celebratory hope of difference and the painful blood and tears that have come with it.

Together we say:

Brukha at Yah eloheynu ruakh ha'olam boreit p'ri ha'adamah.

You are Blessed, Our God, Spirit of the World, who creates the fruit of the earth.

This clip originally appeared on

Source : Aish/Pollock
Salt Water

Salt is unique in that it is bitter on its own, yet sweetens and brings out the taste of that which it is added to. For this reason, salt is the staple of suffering.

There are two perspectives of suffering – Purposeless Suffering and Purposeful Suffering.

Purposeless Suffering is suffering without reason, value, or an end-goal, and is therefore completely bitter. It is based on a keyhole view of life: “What is right in front of my eyes is all there is and there is no grander scheme.”

We squint in order to focus on something in the distance.

The Kabbalists explain that for this reason, the reaction of a person in pain is to close his eyes, since physical eyes don't see the spiritual purpose. Just as a person squints, which is a partial closing of one's eyes in order to focus on something in the physical distance, one may close his eyes completely in order to focus on something in the "spiritual distance.”

Purposeful Suffering is sweetened by understanding the greater context – that all is from God and for the best.

At the Seder, we dip the Karpas into saltwater in order to embody the concept of Purposeful Suffering – that we view any suffering in life as a surgery for our ultimate betterment rather than meaningless torture. (Additionally, we dip Karpas into salt water to represent the tears cried by the Jewish people while enslaved under Egyptian rule.)

We see these two sides of salt expressed by the Dead Sea. Due to its high salt concentration, the Dead Sea contains no life within it, yet has an incredible capacity to heal. On its own, the Dead Sea is "bitter," but when a person dips into the Dead Sea, he is "sweetened."

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 also dip Karpas to help us remember the sweetness of life. How the universe  works in cycles and the spring will always come back around providing us with new life. 

Source : The Wandering is Over Haggadah,

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?

Source : Original: Trisha Arlin

The top Matzoh

And bottom Matzoh are,

it is said,

Pesach substitutes

For the two loaves of challah on Shabbat,

Supposedly a reminder

Of the two portions of manna

They received  in the dessert

Every Friday before Shabbat.


But the middle matza?!


That's for the seder.

We break it in half

And call it the bread of affliction,

Just like the unleavened bread

We ate as we fled slavery


Matza Number Two,

The afflicted matza,

We break it in half

And separate ourselves from joy

So we don't forget the pain

That has been ours.

We break it in half

And separate ourselves from the joy

So we can remember the pain

Of others.

All this pain

Lives in this first half of the afflicted matzoh

And we eat this half now,

So that we do not forget that we were slaves

So that we do not enslave others.



We separate the second half of the afflicted matza

(The Afikomen)

From all that hurt

So that we don't forget the  joy that can follow the sorrow.

So that we don't forget the times that we changed things for the better.

And after the meal we will search for that happiness

And we will find it.

And then we eat the Afikomen together

So we don't forget that it is good to be alive

 And we are obligated to share that joy.

Blessed One-ness, we are so grateful for the obligations to remember pain and share joy.



Source :

By Rabbi Melissa Klein, Rabbi Joanna Katz, Rabbi Julie Greenberg, Rabbi Jo Hirschmann, Susan Kaplow, Rabbi Sue Levi Elwell

This year, we add a padlock and a key to our seder plate.

Those of us who are blessed to live in our own homes tend to associate locks and keys with protection and access. Many of us have homes that keep us safe and that allow us to go in and out as we please. In contrast, for more than two million individuals who are incarcerated in the United States — the majority of whom are people of color — the lock represents the reality of being locked up and then locked out. Upon leaving prison with a felony conviction, these Americans “enter a hidden underworld of legalized discrimination and permanent social exclusion” (Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow, p. 13). They are locked out of jobs, housing opportunities, and in many places, voting rights. In Michelle Alexander’s words, “Today a criminal freed from prison has scarcely more rights, and arguably less respect, than a freed slave or a black person living ‘free’ in Mississippi at the height of Jim Crow” ( The New Jim Crow, p. 141).

We place the lock and key on our seder plate tonight to ally ourselves with those who are behind bars, with those who are labelled as felons in the community, and with the parents, children, and other family members of those who are locked up and locked out. The key represents our commitment, as Jews who know a history of oppression, to join the movement to end mass incarceration in the United States. The key reminds us of our potential to partner with the Source of Liberation to unlock a more promising, dignified future for us all.

The task may seem overwhelming, yet each of us can do our part to help transform the criminal justice system here in the United States. The first step to transformation is awareness, and thus we ask questions and learn from one another this seder night.


The material in this haggadah supplement may be challenging to process. We recommend allowing each person at the seder table to share reactions and feelings, as well as personal experiences, without interruption or judgment. By sharing in this way, we make the seder table a sacred space for connection and deepened understanding.

To view the full  Passover Haggadah Supplement: Crying Out Against Mass Incarceration, click here.

This clip is provided by Ritualwell.

True freedom requires sacrifice and pain. Most human beings only think they want freedom. The truth is they yearn for the bondage of social order, rigid laws, materialism. The only freedom man really wants is to be comfortable.

- Emma Goldman

Source : Jews United For Justice,

Maggid - Beginning
Source : The Wandering is Over Haggadah,

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.

Maggid - Beginning
Source :

In Hopes of Freedom From Abuse For All

Author unknown. Adapted by Hannah Litman and Rachel Novick.

Sometimes, we cannot say Dayenu. Wehave the right to say, “No, this is not enough, I will not settle for this.”

Sometimes, we wish we could say Dayenu. What would be enough?

Together: When we can make choices about our own bodies, our own identities, and our own lives, Dayenu

When courts, law enforcement and mental health professionals stop blaming the victim, Dayenu

When the Jewish community protects abuse survivors,


When our voices are listened to and believed without judgment or question,


When money and power can no longer protect abusers,


When the community focuses on stopping the abusers instead of blaming us for staying,


When Jewish law and secular law can guarantee our right to safety,


When every person can find true shalom bayit,


When anyone who is in danger can also be in safety,


Maggid - Beginning
Source : AJWS
By Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Rabbi Lauren Holzblatt

On Passover, Jews are commanded to tell the story of the Exodus and to see ourselves as having lived through that story, so that we may better learn how to live our lives today. The stories we tell our children shape what they believe to be possible—which is why at Passover, we must tell the stories of the women who played a crucial role in the Exodus narrative.

The Book of Exodus, much like the Book of Genesis, opens in pervasive darkness. Genesis describes the earth as “unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep.”1 In Exodus, darkness attends the accession of a new Pharaoh who feared the Israelites and so enslaved them. God alone lights the way out of the darkness in Genesis. But in Exodus, God has many partners, first among them, five brave women.

There is Yocheved, Moses’ mother, and Shifra and Puah, the famous midwives. Each defies Pharaoh’s decree to kill the Israelite baby boys. And there is Miriam, Moses’ sister, about whom the following midrash is taught:

[When Miriam’s only brother was Aaron] she prophesied… “my mother is destined to bear a son who will save Israel.” When [Moses] was born the whole house… filled with light[.] [Miriam’s] father arose and kissed her on the head, saying, “My daughter, your prophecy has been fulfilled.” But when they threw [Moses] into the river her father tapped her on the head saying, “Daughter, where is your prophecy?” So it is written, “And [Miriam] stood afar off to know what would be[come of] the latter part of her prophecy.”2

Finally, there is Pharaoh’s daughter Batya, who defies her own father and plucks baby Moses out of the Nile. The Midrash reminds us that Batya knew exactly what she doing:

When Pharaoh’s daughter’s handmaidens saw that she intended to rescue Moses, they attempted to dissuade her, and persuade her to heed her father. They said to her: “Our mistress, it is the way of the world that when a king issues a decree, it is not heeded by the entire world, but his children and the members of his household do observe it, and you wish to transgress your father’s decree?”3

But transgress she did.

These women had a vision leading out of the darkness shrouding their world. They were women of action, prepared to defy authority to make their vision a reality bathed in the light of the day.

Retelling the heroic stories of Yocheved, Shifra, Puah, Miriam and Batya reminds our daughters that with vision and the courage to act, they can carry forward the tradition those intrepid women launched.

While there is much light in today’s world, there remains in our universe disheartening darkness, inhumanity spawned by ignorance and hate. We see horrific examples in the Middle East, parts of Africa, and the Ukraine. The Passover story recalls to all of us—women and men—that with vision and action we can join hands with others of like mind, kindling lights along paths leading out of the terrifying darkness.

1 Genesis 1:2 2 Babylonian Talmud, Megillah 14a 3 Babylonian Talmud, Sotah 12b 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Appointed by President William Jefferson Clinton in 1993, she is known as a strong voice for gender equality, the rights of workers, and separation between church and state.

Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt is a rabbi at Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, D.C.. She is co-creator of two nationally recognized community engagement projects—MakomDC and the Jewish Mindfulness Center of Washington.

Maggid - Beginning
Source :
All Who Are Hungry

The Power of Choice

The Haggadah is asking which of two categories we fall under: Are we here because we are hungry, or are we here because we are needy?

"Need" is defined as "awareness of a lack."

Freedom is not simply something that's "nice" to have; rather it is a necessary factor to our very being. As much as we need food to exist, we need freedom to live. Just as a man starving in the desert scrambles for even the slightest morsel of food, we should be searching for ideas of personal freedom!

Slavery is not just being ordered around by a guard with a whip. Even a life outside of prison can really be a life of horrendous slavery. Not "knowing" what to do with one's life is just as much slavery as not being "allowed" to do it.

Making poor choices and becoming dependent on desires is another form of slavery. A heroin addict or even a smoker is often a slave to his body's desires. Materialism, too, may be addictive. Many forces pull on a person's body and cloud the desires of the soul. If a person loses sight of what is truly meaningful, he no longer experiences true freedom. "Desire" enslaves as much as any drug.

Imagine that you have no material possessions. Zero. Ask yourself: "Now what is the quality of my life?" This will tell you if your soul is really free from the desires of your body.

Or, as the Haggadah says, ask a more immediate question: "Why am I at the Passover table? Am I hungry and want to get the Haggadah over with so we can get to the meal? If you have ever worked on a very meaningful project that had you so engrossed you completely forgot about eating, then you know what it is like to be aware you need to eat without being hungry. Your body needs food; your car needs gas. But hunger is a desire that controls you.

Or ... are you at the Passover table because you are needy? Do you recognize a lack freedom and therefore wish to participate in the Seder that is a lesson in freedom? Do you feel that your soul is restrained, that life is lacking it's luster? Do you ever feel that even though you don't have someone telling you what to do, at the same time you don't know what to do? Do you want to satiate your need for freedom?

Which is it? The answer will tell you whether your body or your soul is in charge! We can let our body pull us so that our drive is to eat, or let our soul take control and strive for freedom. If you come to the Passover table because you are hungry, then you have made the choice of following your body. The point is not to become an aesthetic and starve yourself. Rather, it is an issue of who is in control ― your stomach or your soul?

These two choices are in front of you. Make a real choice now. And don't be a hypocrite: If you came for the meal, then skip the Haggadah and go straight to the chicken soup! Or, take the Haggadah seriously as a guide-book to finding freedom. Make a decision!

This choice is not only for Passover. It's a choice we can make every day of our lives. Look to yourself and determine what is driving you, your stomach or your mind. Your eyes or your heart. Does the idea of a meaningful idea get you excited as much as the smell of chocolate cake?

The most important step is to decide. Because the alternative of not choosing is paralysis. Today, many young people find it difficult to choose a spouse, a career, a roommate ― and certainly a life direction. "Choosing" is one of life's greatest pleasures. Right or wrong decisions bring success or failure. But for those who make no decisions, there is simply nothing. The Haggadah exhorts us: Start choosing today

Maggid - Beginning
Source : Wherever You Go, There You Are

Back to basics, get rid of what is bloated and inflated

“Letting go means just what it says. It’s an invitation to cease clinging to anything- whether it be an idea, a thing, an event, a particular time, or view, or desire. It is a conscious decision to release with full acceptance into the stream of present moments as they are unfolding. To let go means to give up coercing, resisting or struggling, in exchange for something more powerful and wholesome which comes out of allowing things to be as they are without getting caught up in your attraction to or rejection of them, in the intrinsic stickiness of wanting, of liking and disliking. It’s akin to letting your palm open to unhand something you have been holding on to.”

-- Four Questions
Source :

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.

-- Four Questions

Four Questions:

Why should we be conscious of the people who we consider strangers?

Why are human beings treated as if they are disposable based on their living circumstances?

Why is it important to reach out to individuals who don’t have the same rights as us?

Despite what we hear about the working conditions, why do we still support the industries?

-- Four Questions
Source : Lab/Shul Sayder

Mah Nishtana: What's New? What significant change has occurred in your life since this time last year? Name one meaningful piece of news. ​Elijah's Cup is passed around as each guest speaks. A blessing or toast concludes the round. Avadim Hayinu: Our Slavery. Identify the problem. What enslaves you today? What's holding you back from being freer, happy, and creative? ​Use a blank note of paper - on one side write HOW AM I FREE and on the other side write HOW AM I NOT FREE Dayenu: Enough. Identify possible solutions. What can you do to help end your enslavement and reduce that which holds you back from more freedom and creativity? What will help you fight the Pharaohs within? ​This round can be about personal or societal slavery and oppressions. L'shana Ha'baa: Future Vision - Next Year. We can't end the seder till we all commit to making the world a better place, with less oppression and more freedom. What is your vision of a freer world? What do you commit to in the coming year to help reduce slavery and oppression in the world? ​This can be discussed over dessert!

-- Four Questions
Source : HIAS Seder Supplement
Following the framework of the Four Questions of the Passover haggadah, we ask four alternative questions for discussion. These questions are meant to spark conversations that can happen throughout the seder.

First Question

Read this narrative aloud and then discuss the question below.

“When I found out I got into the University, I immediately called my ‘real’ mom in Afghanistan, whom I haven’t seen since I was 14. My family, which belongs to the Hazaras, lived under the constant threat of the Taliban, until, one day the latter tried to run me over with a car. My parents feared for my life, and sent me to Iran. At first I was crying all the time. It hurt too much being on my own. When things got tougher there too, I headed to Europe.

I was just 17 when I came once more close to dying, this time in my attempt to cross to Samos on a boat from Turkey, along with four more Afghans. I had never seen the sea before and although I knew how to swim, the waves terrified me. When the sea got really rough and the oars of the boat broke one after another, there was panic. I was rowing with all the strength I had in me. What kept me going was a 13-year-old boy who was constantly asking me ‘If I fall in the sea, will you save me?’ ‘As long as I am alive, you have nothing to fear’, I kept telling him. We are still good friends with this boy.

I love Thessaloniki, the town where I live now, but if I could, I would return to Afghanistan without second thoughts. My country is beautiful, there are amazing landscapes, natural resources and high mountains. The only thing missing is peace...” —Hamid, age 25, from Afghanistan, now living in Greece

Through the Passover Seder, we reconnect with our biblical journey to liberation, and, yet, we retell the story now mindful of those who are not yet free—those whose futures are, therefore, bound up in our future. We recognize, as Hamid does in this powerful narrative, that the way we live has bearing on the lives of those who are not yet free. Why do you think we retell this story each year? With an eye to the struggles of our time, whose future do you feel is bound up in yours?

Second Question

Put yourself back into the story of the Exodus: What do you remember from leaving Egypt? 

Third Question

What do you think makes some people stay and continue to experience unimaginable trauma and others flee in search of refuge and asylum? Can you understand both decisions? 

Fourth Question

Just as we open the door for Elijah, to what or to whom do you want to open the door in your own life this year? What fears do you have about doing so? 

from the HIAS Seder Supplement

For more information about how to become part of the Jewish response to the global refugee crisis, visit 

-- Four Questions
Source :

The answers to the first three questions are drawn from Michelle Alexander’s groundbreaking book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (2010). Excerpts are cited with “NJC” and the page number.

Question #1

Why does America have the highest incarceration rate of any developed nation in the world?

Many factors have increased the incarceration rate, including the War on Drugs, the imposition of mandatory minimum sentencing, and privatization of prisons, which creates financial incentives for keeping people in prison.

“The impact of the drug war has been astounding. In less than thirty years, the U.S. penal population exploded from around 300,000 to more than 2 million, with drug convictions accounting for the majority of the increase. The United States now by far has the highest incarceration rate in the world.” (NJC, p. 6)

Incarceration is a tool of social control.

“[D]rug crime was declining, not rising, when a drug war was declared in 1972. From a historical perspective, however, the lack of correlation between crime and punishment is nothing new. Sociologists have frequently observed that governments use punishment primarily as a tool of social control, and thus the extent or severity of punishment is often unrelated to actual crime patterns.” (NJC, p. 7)

Question #2

Who is being locked up in the United States?

There is a strong racial dimension to the pattern of incarceration.

“No other country in the world imprisons so many of its racial or ethnic minorities. The United States imprisons a larger percentage of its black population than South Africa did at the height of apartheid. In Washington, D.C., our nation’s capitol, it is estimated that three out of four young black men (and nearly all those in the poorest neighborhoods) can expect to serve time in prison. Similar rates of incarceration can be found in black communities across America.

“These stark racial disparities cannot be explained by rates of drug crime. Studies show that people of all colors use and sell illegal drugs at remarkably similar rates . . . This is not what one would guess, however, when entering our nation’s prisons and jails, which are overflowing with black and brown drug offenders.” (NJC, p. 6)

The Egyptians dealt harshly with us and oppressed us; they imposed heavy labor upon us. (Deuteronomy 26:6, Haggadah)

Two Personal Stories

Michelle Alexander describes two experiences of harsh treatment in the criminal justice system:

“Imagine you are Emma Faye Stewart, a thirty-year-old, single African-American mother of two who was arrested as part of a drug sweep in Hearne, Texas. All but one of those people arrested were African- American. You are innocent. After a week in jail, you have no one to care for your two small children and are eager to get home. Your court-appointed attorney urges you to plead guilty to a drug distribution charge, saying the prosecutor has offered probation. You refuse, steadfastly proclaiming your innocence. Finally, after almost a month in jail, you decide to plead guilty so you can return home to your children. Unwilling to risk a trial and years of imprisonment, you are sentenced to ten years probation and ordered to pay $1,000 in fines, as well as court and probation costs. You are also now branded a drug felon. You are no longer eligible for food stamps; you may be discriminated against in employment; you cannot vote for at least twelve years; and you are about to be evicted from public housing. Once homeless, your children will be taken away from you and put in foster care.

“A judge eventually dismisses all cases against the defendants who did not plead guilty. At trial, the judge finds that the entire sweep was based on the testimony of a single informant who lied to the prosecution. You, however, are still a drug felon, homeless, and desperate to regain custody of your children.

“Now place yourself in the shoes of Clifford Runoalds, another African-American victim of the Hearne drug bust. You returned home to Bryan, Texas, to attend the funeral of your eighteen-month-old daughter. Before the funeral services begin, the police show up and handcuff you. You beg the officers to let you take one last look at your daughter before she is buried. The police refuse. You are told by prosecutors that you are needed to testify against one of the defendants in a recent drug bust. You deny witnessing any drug transaction; you don’t know what they are talking about. Because of your refusal to cooperate, you are indicted on felony charges. After a month of being held in jail, the charges against you are dropped. You are technically free, but as a result of your arrest and period of incarceration, you lose your job, your apartment, your furniture, and your car. Not to mention the chance to say good-bye to your baby girl.” (NJC, pp. 97-98)

Question #3

Why are so many African Americans, as well as other people of color, being treated like criminals?

Mass incarceration is a tool to reinforce a racial caste system in the United States.

“Slavery defined what it meant to be black (a slave), and Jim Crow defined what it meant to be black (a second-class citizen). Today mass incarceration defines the meaning of blackness in America: black people, especially black men, are criminals. That is what it means to be black.

“The temptation is to insist that black men ‘choose’ to be criminals; the system does not make them criminals, at least not in the way that slavery made blacks slaves or Jim Crow made them second-class citizens. The myth of choice here is seductive, but it should be resisted. African Americans are not significantly more likely to use or sell prohibited drugs than whites, but they are made criminals at drastically higher rates for precisely the same conduct. In fact, studies suggest that white professionals may be the most likely of any group to have engaged in illegal drug activity in their lifetime, yet they are the least likely to be made criminals. . . . Black people have been made criminals by the War on Drugs to a degree that dwarfs its effect on other racial and ethnic groups, especially whites. And the process of making them criminals has produced racial stigma. (NJC, pp. 196-197)

Question #4
Why do we, as Jews and friends of Jews, ask these questions on this seder night?

We cried out to the Eternal One, the God of our ancestors, who heard our plea and saw our plight, our misery, and our oppression. (Deuteronomy 26:7, Haggadah)

There are Jews of color who have personal stories to tell about experiencing racism; there are Jews of all colors who have personal stories to tell about incarceration and the criminal justice system. But the issue affects us all, whether or not we have personal stories to tell. As the people of the Exodus, we are called to witness the suffering of our neighbors, to open ours eyes and to cry out in the name of justice.

Then the Eternal One freed us from Egypt by a mighty hand, by an outstretched arm and awesome power, and signs and portents. (Deuteronomy 26:8, Haggadah)

Dismantling the system of mass incarceration and creating a system of justice and dignity for all Americans calls for wisdom, perseverance, hard work, and faith. We must raise our voices and build alliances. We pray for the ability to see clearly, to act with compassion, and to forgive ourselves for the ways we have unknowingly been agents of oppression. We pray for courage, guidance, and strength as we celebrate Passover, our festival of freedom.

We read together the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr, from his letter from a Birmingham, Alabama jail on April 16, 1963:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

-- Four Children
Source : 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 child:

What does the wise child say?

The wise child asks, What are the testimonies and laws which God commanded you?

You must teach this child the rules of observing the holiday of Passover.

What does the wicked child say?

The wicked child 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 child’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 child been there, he would have been left behind.

What does the simple child say?

The simple child asks, What is this?

To this child, answer plainly: “With a strong hand God took us out of Egypt, where we were slaves.”

What about the child who doesn’t know how to ask a question?

Help this child ask.

Start telling the story:

“It is because of what God did for me in taking me out of Egypt.”


Do you see yourself in any of these children? At times we all approach different situations like each of these children. How do we relate to each of them?

-- Four Children
Source : Religious Action Center
A discussion can take place regarding with which of the four children each guest identifies most, followed by a consideration of which populations are currently "unable to ask," who might be considered "simple," and more. Examples for a new set of four children may include: One who sees the pain of others and works to relieve suffering. One who cares only about him/herself. One who cares only about other Jews but not other populations. One who doesn't know where to begin.
-- Four Children
Source : Original by Archie Gottesman
You can look at the four sons as four generations of Jews in America today. The first generation of eastern European Jewry who emigrated to America at the turn of the century are represented by THE WISE SON. This is the Jew who grew up with a strong connection to the Jewish way of life. His commitment to Judaism is unshakable.

His son, the second generation, is represented in the Wicked Son. This is the rebel who wants to succeed in his new life and take on Western values. Although he has grown up in a home full of Jewish values and an integrated Jewish life, he rejects this in favor of integrating into Western society and becoming accepted as the new American.

His son, the third generation, is represented by the Simple Son. This child has spent Seder nights at his grandparents' table and has seen his grandmother light the Shabbat candles. He has a spattering of knowledge picked up at Hebrew school, but he doesn't know the meaning behind any of the symbols and is not very motivated to go beyond what he sees.

His son, the fourth generation, is represented in the "One who doesn't know how to ask." This child does not have memories of his great grandparents. He celebrates the American holidays and other than knowing that he is a Jew, has no connection whatsoever to Judaism. He sits at a traditional Seder night and does not even know what to ask because it is all so foreign to him.

Today there is a fifth son, who is off in India or out at the movies on Seder night, not even aware that Passover exists. Anyone sitting at the Seder table is still connected to the Jewish people and heritage just by being there. We just need to get him interested enough to ask a question so a door can be opened for him.

-- Four Children
Source :,,,
The Voice of a Sexual Assault Survivor

What I do remember is waking up the next morning in a strange room, alone, cold, mostly naked and confused. In a panic I got my clothes together. My heart sank into my stomach as I looked down at the blood-stained sheets. I was so frightened I didn’t know what to do. I was hurriedly “pushed” out the door by the guy who lived in the room. Not much was said.

The Voice of the Real Me

My dad was standing in the kitchen, fighting a laugh. My mom was crying. Like ugly crying. She slapped me in the way that only mothers can. The kind of slap that conveys love and somehow brings you in for a hug simultaneously. She kept repeating between sobs that I didn’t “look gay” and how people were so mean to gay people and she didn’t want people to be mean to her oldest daughter.

The Voice of a Former Sex Slave

In 1995, I fell in love with a military man, who persuaded me to move with him to an undisclosed remote area. There, I was raped and beat continually while handcuffed to a door of an abandoned house. Eventually, through circumstances, I made my escape, but not before he had confiscated my naturalization papers, driver’s license and social security card. With no proof of my identity, I could not acquire adequate shelter. I felt like an animal that has been cast into the street. My life became a scenario of sojourning from one homeless shelter to another.

The Voice of an Ally

The first step in advocating on behalf of others is to take a curious, humble, and open approach. An ally is open to learning new things and challenging their own assumptions. The lives of people we care about, our friends, family, and colleagues can be powerful catalysts for action. When we speak out against injustice because it’s the right thing to do, regardless if someone we know and care about is affected, we act on behalf of our core values. As allies, we are often insulated from the vulnerabilities that people face in the world. We must be willing to take a risk in becoming an ally on behalf of the values and people we care about.

-- Four Children
Source : Adapted from

At Passover each year, we read the story of our ancestors’ pursuit of liberation from oppression. When confronting this history, how do we answer our children or our contacts when they ask us how to pursue justice in our time?


“The Torah tells me, ‘Justice, justice you shall pursue,’ but how can I pursue justice?”

Empower him always to seek pathways to advocate for the vulnerable. As Proverbs teaches, “Speak up for the mute, for the rights of the unfortunate. Speak up, judge righteously, champion the poor and the needy.”

Give him readings, invite him to protests and public speeches, and encourage him to learn and to build the revolutionary organization.


“How can I solve problems of such enormity?”

Encourage her by explaining that she need not solve the problems, she must only do what she is capable of doing. As we read in Pirke Avot, “It is not your responsibility to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.”

Show her the long history of class struggle, the consistency of the working class rising up against the capitalist class and the few examples of success. Let her read about the Russian revolution and see the most backwards capitalist country in its time turn into the most progressive in just a few weeks of socialism. These examples are our guide.


“It’s not my responsibility.”

Persuade him that responsibility cannot be shirked. As Abraham Joshua Heschel writes, “The opposite of good is not evil, the opposite of good is indifference. In a free society where terrible wrongs exist, some are guilty, but all are responsible.”

Show how capitalism is destroying the earth so that none of us can live on it. Show how crisis affects people of all classes, not just the most oppressed. Finally, show how the failure to build leadership leads to confusion at best, and bloody reaction at worst.


Prompt her to see herself as an inheritor of our people’s legacy. As it says in Deuteronomy, “You must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

Tell her about the infinite possibilities of socialism, the promises of the transitional program, and the joyous future we can build under socialism.

-- Four Children

The Fifth Question: What can we do to help alleviate poverty?

There are numerous charities which aim to get donations to end poverty. It is important to make food and money to these various charities to help others. We must remember that we were once "strangers in the land of Egypt" (Exodus 23:9). This quote appears numerous times in the Torah and explains to us to have sympathy for others because we were once abused and manipulated so we should consider to help others.

-- Exodus Story

Long ago, Pharaoh ruled the land of Egypt. He enslaved the Jewish people and made them work very hard building his cities.   song: Bang bang bang Phaoraoh was especially cruel to Jewish children. One mother hid her baby, Moses, in a basket in the river. Pharoah's daughter found him and took him home to live in the palace. Moses grew up. He saw the slaves working so hard. He had a fight about it and ran away to be a shepherd. While he was looking after the sheep, he saw a bush on fire that did not burn up and heard God's voice telling him to go back to Egypt, to tell Pharoah to let the Jewish people go.  Song: when Israel was in Egypt land When Moses went to Pharoah, he said "Let my people go". Pharaoh said "No". So, God sent the 1st plague -Blood. Moses went to Pharoah. He said, "Let my people go". Pharaoh said "No". So, God sent the 2nd plague - Frogs. Moses went to Pharoah. He said, "Let my people go". Pharoah said, "No". Song: One morning when Pharoah woke in his bed The 3rd plague was Lice. Moses went to Pharoah. He said, "Let my people go". Pharaoh said, "No". The 4th plague was Wild Beasts. Moses went to Pharoah. He said, "Let my people go". Pharoah said, "No". The 5th plague was Cattle Disease. Moses went to Pharoah. He said, "Let my people go". Pharoah said, "No". The 6th plague was Boils. Moses went to Pharoah. He said "Let my people go". Pharaoh said," No". The 7th plague was Hail stones. Moses went to Pharoah. He said, "Let my people go". Pharoah said, "No". The 8th plague was Locusts. Moses went to Pharoah. He said, "Let my people go". Pharaoh said, "No". The 9th plague was Darkness. Moses went to Pharoah. He said, "Let my people go". Pharoah said, "No". The last plague was Death. Pharoah said "Yes"   song: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10  plagues in Egypt's land The people got ready to leave very quickly, so quickly that their bread didn't have time to rise; it baked into matzah. They walked through the desert to the sea. Pharoah's soldiers chased after them. When they got to the sea, Moses held up his his staff and the sea divided. The Jewish people walked through the sea to freedom and a new future.

-- Exodus Story
Source : The Wandering is Over Haggadah,

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."

Raise the glass of wine and say:

וְהִיא שֶׁעָמְדָה לַאֲבוֹתֵֽינוּ וְלָֽנוּ

V’hi she-amda l’avoteinu v’lanu.

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.

The glass of wine is put down.

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 grew alarmed by this great nation growing within their borders, so they enslaved us. We were forced to perform hard labor, perhaps even building pyramids. 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. 

-- Exodus Story
Source : From The New American Haggadah, Edited by Jonathan Safran Foer; Selection by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein
Kafka once wrote in his journal: "You can hold yourself back from the sufferings of the world. That is something you are free to do and it accords with your nature. But perhaps this very holding back is the one suffering you could avoid."

The "you" that Kafka is addressing might be himself, or it might be each of us. But it also could be -- and here's the stunner -- the God of Exodus Himself. It accords with His nature, too, to hold Himself back from the sufferings of the world, something He is quite free to do, and apparently does rather well, withdrawing into the godlike completeness of His remove until He is wrenched out of it by receiving suffering humanity's revelation, which comes in the form of wails.

Wails come straight from a soul stripped down to the bone, and they are always a revelation. To hear someone's wails is to see a self revealed in ways usually kept hidden, driven by extremes to dropping poses and speech. Wailing draws the hearer into an intimate space, whether the hearer wants to be there or not -- and the God this passage would appear not to have wanted to be there, and we can all sympathize with His desire to be anywhere else. But then He is there, summoned out of His remoteness by revelation. Revelation is generally presented as proceeding from God to man. Here the revelation travels in the opposite direction. The God of Exodus is not so unlimitedly free after all. He is bound by moral obligations, even if it takes an unwelcome revelation to remind Him.

Tonight we dream of freedom. But should we dream of some godlike freedom that draws us ever more distantly away from one another, self-contained our preoccupations with self-image and the ways and means for self-projection and self-protection, then this passage reminds us of what we chance to lose. It is in the intimate spaces that the unwelcome and necessary revelations come, and we withdraw from those intimate spaces at our peril.

-- Exodus Story

In 2008, we moved from Boise to Corvallis Oregon. Why did we leave? The job? Were we through with Boise? Did we need to begin a new chapter in our lives? We were uncertain about many things. The economy, tearing ourselves from the place we had raised a family. Our move was very difficult physically and emotionally. There were many things we clung to here in Boise. People, places and things that were familiar to us and gave us comfort. Yet we had to leave.

We moved in June of 2008 to a house on a mountaintop. In June of 2009, we moved again to a more traditional neighborhood. In June 2010, after navigating many unknowns and transitions we returned to Boise. But Boise was new again and we as a family were once again settled.

At some point along the way, my kids had turned me on to Lada Gaga. One of her big hits was a tune called Speechless wherin she pleads with her father to undergo complicated but life-saving surgery. This emotional melody seemed a natural fit to the story of the Exodus.

As I re-wrote the words to Speechless, I imagined myself in Moses' situation. A reluctant leader, not entirely sure where he was going or why he was wandering. Leading a tribe who had some reservations about leaving a place they were rooted.

Moses, first confronts G-d about the commandment he has received, then as he confronts Pharoh, then back to G-d, questioning again. Finally faith carries him through.

Homeless Lyrics by Oliver Thompson, (based on Speechless) by Lady Gaga from “The Fame Monster”

Home, Home, Home

I can't believe what you said to me. Last night I’m all alone. You threw your flames up. The bush won’t burn out, won’t burn out

I can't believe what you said to me. I couldn’t look you in your eyes, I’ve gotta lead us out of bondage, To the promised land

Could you free us from this yoke? Or will my tribe think it’s a joke?

I'll have to leave again, Oh Lord you've left me homeless. You've left us homeless so homeless

I don’t have any strength, Oh G-d you've left me homeless. You've left us homeless, so homeless

I can't believe how you laughed at me, On your throne your word is law. You’re the oppressor, Yet I take pity, such pity

I can't believe you wont let us go, There’s a plague upon your land.He's gonna get you and after he's through,

You’ll be a lonely broken man

It’s really not complicated; We’re leavin’ this place that’s gated.

Raise my staff and cross to the other side, through the sea of reeds

I'll never bow to you, Oh Pharoh we’ll go homeless, We’re headed homeless, we're homeless

I'll never trust again, Oh Lord you've left me homeless

You've left us homeless, so homeless

Home Home Home, Home Home Home

And after all of us had traveled for some time, Would you give us some food? Could you spare us a drop of wine?

And after 40 years of wandering with our pain, Well you made us your own,

yeah you brought us all home, And we’d do it all over again

I'll never doubt again, I'll never fear again

I'm learning as I cry, Won't even ask you why, I'll never be again …

Home, Homeless not homeless yeah, No longer homeless, not homeless

Your presence comforts me. Oh Lord, I’m never homeless., No I’m not homeless, not homeless

Some men may follow me, you’ve shown me my destiny, No longer homeless Oh oh oh

-- Exodus Story
Source : Abraham Lincoln Quote, Design by

-- Exodus Story
Source : Design by

-- Exodus Story
-- Exodus Story
Source : HIAS Seder Supplement

To use at the beginning of the Maggid, the telling of the Passover story.

The heart of the Passover Seder is the Maggid, meaning storytelling. Maggid comes from the same root as Haggadah, which means telling. The Maggid tells the story of the Jewish people’s exodus from slavery in Egypt. During the Maggid, we say the words, “ (Arami oved avi). ” This phrase is sometimes translated as “My father was a wandering Aramean” and other times as “An Aramean sought to destroy my father.” Somewhere between the two translations lies the essence of the Jewish experience: a rootless people who have fled persecution time and time again.

At this point in the Seder walk with your guests to your front door and place a pair of shoes on your doorstep and read together:

“As we recite the words ‘Arami oved avi,’ we acknowledge that we have stood in the shoes of the refugee. Today, as we celebrate our freedom, we commit ourselves to continuing to stand with contemporary refugees. In honor of this commitment, we place a pair of shoes on our doorstep of this home to acknowledge that none of us is free until all of us are free and to pledge to stand in support of welcoming those who do not yet have a place to call home.”

Invite family and friends to join you by placing a pair of shoes on their doorstep as well. Encourage them this Passover to support welcoming the world’s refugees and stand up against the xenophobia and hatred being levied against these most vulnerable people. You might also direct them to the HIAS website for ways they can amplify their support.

from the HIAS Seder Supplement

-- Exodus Story
Source : Abraham Joshua Heschel Quote, Design by

-- Exodus Story
Source :
Source 1: Babylonian Talmud

Context: The Babylonian Talmud is a collection of Jewish stories, laws and debates grounded in the Bible and other Jewish texts. It was compiled in the fifth century in modern-day Iraq, but many portions of it are much older. Here, the Talmud quotes and comments on a passage from a second-century text called the Mishnah. The Mishnah asks, “How long must a person live in a city to be counted among the people of that city?”, and presents the response, “Twelve months. If a person bought a house, he is immediately considered a to be a person of that city.” This prompts the Talmud to dive deeper and to consider what specific communal obligations a person takes on, depending on how long they have lived in the city.

Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Bava Batra 8a

When a person comes to live in a city, in thirty days, that person becomes obligated to contribute to the soup kitchen; in three months, to the communal charity fund; in six months, to the clothing fund; in nine months, to the burial fund; and in twelve months, for contributing to the upkeep of the city walls.

Guiding Questions:

● This text envisions newcomers slowly easing their way into communal obligations. Why might this be so?

● Do you agree with the list of obligations outlined here? What would you add or subtract from this list?

● What do you understand to be the rationale behind the prioritization of needs outlined in this text? Why do you think that new residents might take on these responsibilities in this order?

● Given these obligations, at what point in time does a newcomer move from being a newcomer to a “resident”? Do you agree with this timeline?

● What else does it take to become a member of the community besides contributing in the ways outlined in this text? Is contributing to these funds sufficient?

Source 2: Jewish Encyclopedia

Jewish Encyclopedia, “Hospitality: Duty of Guest” (citations omitted and formatting adjusted)

The guest [in Jewish tradition] was [instructed] to show his gratitude to the host in various ways. . . .:

● While the host was to break bread first, the guest was expected to pronounce grace after the meal, in which he included a special blessing for the host...

● The guest was expected to leave some of the food on his dish, to show that he had more than enough.

If, however, the host asked him to finish his portion, it was not necessary for him to leave any.

● It was the duty of the guest to comply with all the requests of the host.

● He might not give of his meal to the son or to the daughter or to the servant of the host without the host's permission.

Guiding Questions:

● What responsibilities does this text put on guests? What other responsibilities do you think guests have in general?

● The phrase “being hospitable” most often refers to a host’s responsibilities. How does it feel to put parallel responsibilities on the guest?

● When you’re serving as a host, what makes for an ideal guest? What makes someone a bad guest?

● To what extent are people moving into a new neighborhood “guests”?

● How might the traditional Jewish responsibilities of guests be similar to or different from the responsibilities of someone moving into a new community?

● Does it matter how long a newcomer intends to live in the neighborhood? Does it matter if they’re renting or if they’ve bought a place to live?

Closing Questions (for the full group):

● What came up for you and your partner while reading these sources?

● When a person moves to a new neighborhood, for how long are they a “guest”? Can they ever fully become a “host”?

● What types of communal obligations does a guest/newcomer have? What types of communal obligations does a host/resident have?

● What are the steps of stages of transitions from guest to host, newcomer to resident, if the shift is even possible?

-- Exodus Story
Source : From the eighth chapter of Eight Chapters (introduction to commentary on Pirkei Avot in the Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah)

One element of the story of the exodus that the Roberts' version elides is God's hardening of Pharaoh's heart. Moses Maimonides (ca 1135 - 1204 CE) recognized this element of the story as a significant paradox since it seemed to suggest that God forced Pharaoh to make the wicked decisions that brought about the punishment of the plagues. As Maimonides recognizes, if this were so, then the notion that the plagues were a punishment as well as a means of the liberation of the Jews would both destroy the notion that moral responsibility depends upon the assumption that human beings are moral agents and any corresponding notion of divine justice (though it should be noted that Maimonides' conception of "divine justice" is, in turn, not altogether obvious). Below is a passage from chapter eight of Maimonides' "Eight Chapters" (his introduction to his commentary on Pirkei Avot in his Commentary on the Mishnah ). What do you make of the Rambam's attempt to reconcile this element of the story with a reasonable conception of human agency and divine justice?


Pharaoh and his followers disobeyed by choice, without force or compulsion. They oppressed the foreigners who were in their midst and treated them with sheer injustice. As it is clearly said: And he said to his people: Behold, the people of Israel… Come, let us deal shrewdly with them. This action was due to their choice and to the evil character of their thought; there was nothing compelling them to do it. God punished them for it by preventing them from repenting so that the punishment which His justice required would befall them. What prevented them from repentance was that they would not set [Israel] free.

God explained this to [Pharaoh] and informed him that if He had only wanted to take [Israel] out [of Egypt], He would have exterminated [Pharaoh] and his followers, and they would have gone out. But in addition to taking them out, He wanted to punish [Pharaoh] for oppressing them previously. As He had said at the very outset: And also that nation, whom they shall serve, I will I judge. It was not possible to punish them if they repented, so they were prevented from repenting and they continued holding [Israel]. This is what He says: Surely now I have put forth my hand. . . but because of this I have left you standing, etc.

No disgrace need be attached to us because of our saying that God may punish an individual for not repenting, even though He leaves them no choice about repentance, For He, may be exalted, knows the sins, and His wisdom and justice impose the extent of the punishment. He may punish in this world alone, He may punish in the other [world] alone, or He may punish in both realms. His punishment in this world varies: He may punish with regard to the body, money, or both. He may impede some of man’s voluntary movements as a means of punishment, like preventing his hand from grasping, as He did with Jeroboam, or the eye from seeing, as He did with the men of Sodom who had united against Lot.

Similarly, He may prevent the choice of repentance so that a man does not at all incline toward it and is destroyed for his sin. It is not for us to know His wisdom to the extent of knowing why He punished this individual with this kind of punishment and did not punish him with another kind, just as we do not know the reason he determined this species to this form and not another form. But the general rule is that all of His ways are just. He punishes the sinner to the extent of his sin and He rewards the beneficent man to the extent of his beneficence.

-- Exodus Story
Source : Hannah Szenes Quote, Design by

-- Ten Plagues
Source :

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 to signify having a little less sweetness in our celebration. Dip a finger or a spoon into your wine glass for a drop for each plague.

These are the ten plagues:

BLOOD / dam
FROGS / tzfardeiya
LICE / kinim
BEASTS / arov
BOILS / sh’chin
HAIL / barad
LOCUSTS / arbeh
DARKNESS / choshech
DEATH OF THE FIRSTBORN / makat b’chorot

Even though we are happy that the jews escaped slavery, let us once more take a drop of wine as we together recite the names of these modern plagues:


-- Ten Plagues
Source : The Wandering is Over Haggadah,

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? 

-- Ten Plagues
Source :

By Avigayil Halpern

Blood: Young girls tuck tampons quickly into backpacks, secret them in purses, hide them in Ugg boots. It’s not blue dye that the river is running with, and periods are more trouble than the pamphlet in that goody bag from middle-school health class would leave one to believe. “It’s beautiful to be female,” we’re told, but nobody accounts for cramps and cramps and cramps and bloodied sheets and cramps. We are under no obligation to love our bodies, to delight in the “privilege” of femaleness, not when we are compelled to hide it.

Frogs: They hear our voices blurred into the high-pitched hum of a summer night, ribbet ribbet,like, ribbet. We are alive, vibrant, excited, communicating. We speak fast, sentences overlapping, as the men across the Shabbat table snicker at our pace and our tone. If they listened, they would hear us speak of politics. If they listened to our chirping, they would hear us planning our way into every crevice of their world. We will fill it with our voices.

Lice: Squirming, fidgeting, wanting to crawl out of our skin. A teacher detains us in the hall to talk about our thighs – it’s supposed to be about the skirt, but the fabric that’s there isn’t the problem. The heels we wore to that interview hurt our nervous, trembling feet as we talk about our favorite books, our biggest challenges. We feel it, all over, all the time, itching in our souls as we adjust the tight-but-not-too-tight skirt.

Wild Animals: We clutch keys in our hand on the walk home, never feeling safe alone at night. Alone with a trusted male friend, the thought still occurs; after all, so many rapes are committed by those who are close. Who says we’ll be the one to avoid it? The numbers mean we’re never safe, always wondering, fearing we’ll be pounced on.

Cattle Pestilence: Herded into classrooms, desks in straight rows, filling out bubble after bubble with that pencil. We lose our humanity in ID numbers and testing tricks, cattle in high schools on Sunday morning. Do we need an extra calculator? How long is this section? Am I about to ruin my future? Phone rings, scores will be canceled. Don’t open the book until we’re told. d c a b a b b b b b b. Crap, that can’t be right.

Boils: Flawed, flawed skin. Primer, concealer, foundation, powder, contour, highlight. Remove with alcohol and oil. Exfoliate. Face wash. Moisturizer. How much does this cost? How much of this is toxic? We work to unlearn the idealization of perfect faces on glossy pages, and still cringe at the dark circles, the and that one zit near our nose. We fill landfills and souls with the garbage from our “beauty” routines, but we’re never satisfied, always something more we need to fix our “tainted” skin.

Hail: Fire and ice. Smart or likable. Hot or serious. Sexual or respectable. Mature or excited. Intellectual or fun. Strong or elegant. Choose.

Locusts: They descend on us, pick us bare, for the future of the Jewish people. We don’t align with denominations. We don’t look good in demographic surveys. We don’t care about continuity. We care about meaning, and that scares them. We do not exist to feed the future. We are not here to raise Jewish children. We are here to be Jews in our own right. Consume us, envelop us into your structure. There’ll be nothing left.

Darkness: We girls are still not welcomed into the halls of study, into the mazes of letters. We fight for the Talmud, and look blindly at the reading notation over and under the Torah text. We are left in the dark about how to sing those words, in the dark about the culture of Jews interpreting and creating our texts for thousands of years. We bring our flashlights, weaving our way through forms frozen, stagnated by the dark they themselves have created.

Death of the Firstborn: This is not our plague. We are not the firstborn. We are secondary, taken for granted, always in the ensemble but never given a starring role. We have been here for centuries, mothers and sisters and wives of the firstborn. We are the bat mitzvah girls given jewelry where our male friends got books. We are the teenagers given strange looks when we walk into the beit midrash and slide a volume of Talmud from the shelf. We are the stranger, higher voices singing the words of the Torah from the bima. We are reading it. It will be ours.

-- Ten Plagues
Source : HIAS Seder Supplement

Remembering the ten plagues that God brought upon the Egyptians when Pharaoh refused to free the Israelites, we have the opportunity tonight to recognize that the world is not yet free of adversity and struggle. This is especially true for refugees.

After you pour out a drop of wine for each of the ten plagues that Egypt suffered, we invite you to then pour out drops of wine for ten modern plagues afflicting refugee communities worldwide and in the United States. After you have finished reciting the plagues, choose a few of the expanded descriptions to read aloud.

1. Violence 2. Dangerous journeys 3. Poverty 4. Food insecurity 5. Lack of access to education 6. Xenophobia 7. Anti-refugee legislation 8. Language barriers 9. Workforce discrimination 10. Loss of family


Most refugees initially flee home because of violence that may include sexual and gender-based violence, abduction, or torture. The violence grows as the conflicts escalate. Unfortunately, many refugees become victims once again in their countries of first asylum. A 2013 study found that close to 80% of refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) living in Kampala, Uganda had experienced sexual and gender-based violence either in the DRC or in Uganda.

Dangerous Journeys

Forced to flee their home due to violence and persecution, refugees may make the dangerous journey to safety on foot, by boat, in the back of crowded vans, or riding on the top of train cars. Over the last two years, the United States has seen record numbers of unaccompanied minors fleeing violence in Central America. Many of these children have survived unimaginably arduous journeys, surviving abduction, abuse, and rape. Erminia, age 15, came to the United States from El Salvador two years ago. As she walked through the Texas desert, her shoes fell apart and she spent three days and two nights walking in only her socks. “There were so many thorns,” she recalls, “and I had to walk without shoes. The entire desert.”

Lack of access to education

Though the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees affirms that the right to education applies to refugees, a recent education assessment found that 80% of Syrian refugee children in Lebanon were not in school.4 Research shows that refugee children face far greater language barriers and experience more discrimination in school settings than the rest of the population. Muna, 17, a Syrian refugee living in Jordan, who dropped out of school, said, “We can’t get educated at the cost of our self-respect.”

Loss of Family

It is not uncommon for refugees to lose multiple immediate family members in the violent conflicts that cause them to flee home. These losses, as well as the fact that they may become separated from their family members during flight, can have major consequences on the family structure. Paola7, a refugee living in Jaque, Panama8 explains, “Fifteen years ago, paramilitaries invaded my community in Jurado, Colombia. The group began to massacre the locals, forcing many of us to flee our lifelong homes. I escaped across the border to Panama. Before the massacre, I had five children. Two of them died in the violence, and I don’t know anything about the remaining three, who all left the community many years ago. I am now 62 years old. I have two young grandchildren for whom I am the sole caretaker and provider.”


Just as a 1939 poll from the American Institute of Public Opinion found that more than 60% of Americans opposed bringing Jewish refugees to the United States in the wake of World War II, today we still see heightened xenophobia against refugees. This fear can manifest through workplace discrimination, bias attacks against Muslim refugees, and anti-refugee legislation. In recent months, there has been a frightening surge in anti-refugee sentiment here in the United States, a trend we expect will grow in the months to come.

from the HIAS Seder Supplement

-- Ten Plagues
1) 64% felt unsafe at school due to sexual orientation

2) 44% felt unsafe at school due to gender identification

3) 42% of LGBT youth have experienced cyber bullying

4) 42% of LBGT youth say the community in which they live in is not accepting of LGBT people

5) Only 77% of LGBT youth say they know things will get better

6) 60% LGBT students report feeling unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation

7) LGBT youth are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide as their straight peers

8) LGBT students are twice as likely to say that they were not planning on completing high school or going on to college

9) LGBT youth who reported higher levels of family rejection during adolescence are three times more likely to use illegal drugs

10) Half of gay males experience a negative parental reaction when they come out and in 26% of those cases the youth was thrown out of the home

-- Ten Plagues
Source : NPR:

Jill Levore's book Ghettoside argues that black boys are being murdered by their peers and their murders are being ignored by the police. In following the stories of a few victims in LA she finds the good cops among the indifferent and explores how a distrust in the police and a disbelief that the police would work for the community leaves disaster in its wake. 

NPR Fresh  Air: 'Ghettoside' Explores Why Murders Are Invisible In Los Angeles

Janurary 26, 2015 

Dave Davies, Host

LEOVY: There's no way to fit it in any kind of understanding of the natural order of things. It's always going to feel colossally wrong. It's going to feel like something's been taken from you arbitrarily by another human being. The way people respond to homicide deaths of loved ones - it's the worst pain that I've seen a human being experience that isn't physical. It's astounding what people go through, and it often gets worse as the years go by, instead of better. Doing "The Homicide Report," I had people who contacted me who had lost their loved ones 20, 30 years before, and would say, you know, I'm just going through my hardest phase now.

There was a woman I interviewed. Her son was a black man, I think in his 20s or 30s, maybe even a little bit older - an adult, black man that got no coverage. She would go to the cemetery at night, and she would lie, overnight, spread-eagled on the grave. It's - I've heard stories like that from other people, too. The other version of it that I've run into is going to the spot on the street where the son is killed and lying there.

You know, I had a mother - in one of the anecdotes that I didn't include in the book - who, at the funeral, after they cemented the vault in the wall where her son was, she flattened herself against the wet cement, and they - the relatives had to peel her off. She would've climbed in there, I think, if she could have.

DAVIES: The first section of your book is called The Plague. What's the plague you're referring to?

LEOVY: Well, most simply, it refers to the quotation I use for the book, which is from Albert Camus's novel, "The Plague." I love the metaphor of the plague because Camus is talking about bubonic plague in a quarantined Algerian city, a walled city, and that's exactly - especially in the years where the homicide rate was much higher, that's how South LA felt. There were neighborhoods that felt like a walled city. One of the officers I interviewed for the book says it's like I'm not even in America, anymore. This is a place with different rules and radically different daily events.

And then in very public health terms, it is a plague. The rate of homicide for black Americans has been five to eight times the white rate, going back decades. Year after year after year, we're talking about thousands and thousands of people. I think - I have in my footnotes, 1995, which was after the big crime wave of the early '90s - 1995 to 2005 - that decade of falling crime - total homicides in the U.S., I think, are 187,000. Well, about 90,000 of those victims were black, mostly black, adult men. And they're 13 percent of the population. And so that's astounding - those numbers.

DAVIES: You note that black men in particular are being, you know, murdered at an alarming rate. How many of these murderers get solved? Well, looking at numbers from LAPD from about '88 through the early 2000s, around 40 percent, if the victims are black men. And I have no reason to think that that's different with agencies, by the way. I've done sort of spot surveys of sheriffs and other agencies. It seems to be pretty consistent across the board. On paper, it's going to look a little more. When they report it to the federal government, they add in what's called cleared others.

DAVIES: That's cleared others - cleared meaning solved, yeah.

LEOVY: Yes, and so that gets you maybe up to the high 40s, low 50 percent. But you also have to consider that injury shootings, which are very similar to homicides, have much lower solve rates - in the LAPD, maybe 25 percent if you don't count cleared other. So if you put that all together, it ends up with better-than-average odds of getting away with it if you injure somebody by shooting them or kill them.

DAVIES: So there's all these families who want justice for their victims, and it doesn't happen, at least not from the police. What's the impact on the community of the failure to solve so many of these shootings?

LEOVY: A pervasive atmosphere of fear, rampant intimidation because, I think, the killers are emboldened. I did a story in the early 2000s where a colleague, Doug Smith, and I looked at all the unsolved homicides in LAPD South Bureau over about 15 years. And we came up with the finding that there were 40 or so unsolved homicides per square mile...


LEOVY: ...In the South Bureau area of the LAPD. So think about what that means in real terms. It's one thing if you hear, vaguely, of a homicide that doesn't involve anyone you know far away from you. It's another if it happens on your street. And it's another, still, if you know who did it, and they never get arrested. And by the way, they did it again, and they still didn't get arrested. And maybe there's three or four others around you. Imagine what that does to people and what that does to their own assessment of safety and how they're going to respond.

I spoke to a mother, once, in South Bureau - black woman - her son had just been murdered. I think this was maybe a couple of days after the murder. I had gone to her door. And it was one of these cases where the police just had no witnesses. The case wasn't going anywhere. The mother told me that since the murder, the killers, who she knew, who were, I think, the gang members who lived on her street, had been knocking on her door and taunting her and laughing at her - her grief. She had another surviving son, and he was, I think, 15, 16. And you could see that he was thinking really, really hard about this situation. And that's something you see all the time. I go to a lot of funerals, and I always study the pallbearers because they're generally young men the same age as the victim. And you can just see the smoldering anger and grief in their faces and how they're trying to hold it down and try not to cry. And then they march out and collect in knots in the parking lot after the funeral, and you could tell what they're talking about. They're talking about, what we do now?

DAVIES: You write that when there's a homicide, you describe situations where there's a murder scene, and a crowd naturally gathers. And things are said at the police lines that reflect a lot of the community's attitude towards the police and what they perceive as their attitude toward the crimes and the victims. Do you want to talk a bit about that?

LEOVY: Police hear that all the time. They hear that all the time. You don't care because he's black. You're not going to solve it because he's black. And it's very interesting, I - in terms of Ferguson and some of the other recent controversies - I was thinking that this is so complicated because there is, very definitely, a standard black grievance against police that you hear in South LA, that has to do with the generally understood problem - too much consent searches, we say, in LA, too much stop-and-frisk, too heavy of law enforcement, too much presumption of guilt when you take stops.

What I hear, when I'm in these neighborhoods, is a combination. It's a two-pronged grievance. There's another half of that. And the other half is, I get stopped too much for nothing, and the police don't go after the real killers. They don't go after the really serious criminals in this neighborhood. They're stopping me for what I've got in my pocket, but I know someone who got killed down the street. And they haven't solved the homicide, and yet, that second half seems to never break out and make it into the national dialogue about it. To me, it has always been that double-sided grievance of too much of the wrong kind of policing, not enough of the policing we actually want in these neighborhoods....

LEOVY: You know, I think it varies across the police force. One of the fascinating things to me is the way people change. A lot of officers that work in gang unit or were patrol officers end up sort of graduating into homicide units, and I've seen this over the years. They change once they start working homicide. One of the detectives in my book says, you know, I worked patrol for so many years and I never saw this. I never saw the pain to the extent that is present in homicide work. So there's this kind of personal transformation that people go through. I think you hear - you hear harder views from other functions in the police department. Homicide work is so different because it's intimate because it involves long-term relationships with families because it really gets the police officer into homes and into people's emotional lives, both witnesses and bereaved families. And not a lot of police work is like that. And there is a lot of work - and I would actually extend this to some fire department employees, some of the medical staffers who you see working - where it's very glancing, where you just have momentary contact with people and then you have to move on. You see these glimpses of misery. You can't do anything with it and you just have to go on to the next call. And I think that you see a lot of exasperation in people and to me that's a defense mechanism.

-- Cup #2 & Dayenu
Source : The Wandering is Over Haggadah,

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.

-- Cup #2 & Dayenu
Source : HIAS Seder Supplement
I will deliver you...

Just as we remember all of the times throughout history when the nations of the world shut their doors on Jews fleeing violence and persecution in their homelands, so, too, do we remember with gratitude the bravery of those who took us in during our times of need the Ottoman Sultan who welcomed Spanish Jews escaping the Inquisition, Algerian Muslims who protected Jews during pogroms in the French Pied -Noir, and the righteous gentiles hiding Jews in their homes during World War II. In the midst of the current global refugee crisis, we aspire to stand on the right side of history as we ask our own government to take a leadership role in protecting the world’s most vulnerable refugees. May we find the bravery to open up our nation and our hearts to those who are in need. Blessed are You, Adonai our God, who delivers those in search of safety.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָּפֶן

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, borei p’ree hagafen.

Blessed are You, Ruler of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.

-- Cup #2 & Dayenu
Source : My Jewish Learning

What is a Miriam’s Cup?

A Miriam’s Cup is a new ritual object that is placed on the seder table beside the Cup of Elijah. Miriam’s Cup is filled with water. It serves as a symbol of Miriam’s Well, which was the source of water for the Israelites in the desert. Putting a Miriam’s Cup on your table is a way of making your seder more inclusive.

It is also a way of drawing attention to the importance of Miriam and the other women of the Exodus story, women who have sometimes been overlooked but about whom our tradition says, "If it wasn’t for the righteousness of women of that generation we would not have been redeemed from Egypt" (Babylonian Talmud, Sotah 9b).

There are many legends about Miriam’s well. It is said to have been a magical source of water that followed the Israelites for 40 years because of the merit of Miriam. The waters of this well were said to be healing and sustaining. Thus Miriam’s Cup is a symbol of all that sustains us through our own journeys, while Elijah’s Cup is a symbol of a future Messianic time.

This is the Cup of Miriam, the cup of living waters. Let us remember the Exodus from Egypt. These are the living waters, God’s gift to Miriam, which gave new life to Israel as we struggled with ourselves in the wilderness. Blessed are You God, Who brings us from the narrows into the wilderness, sustains us with endless possibilities, and enables us to reach a new place."

Miriam's cup should be passed around the table allowing each participant to pour a little water form their glass into Miriam's cup.  This symbolizes the support of notable Jewish women throughout our history which are often not spoken about during our times of remembrance. 

-- Cup #2 & Dayenu
Source : Adaptation by Brandi Ullian

Singing "Dayenu" is a much-loved tradition at the Passover Seder. We recognize all the things that God gave the Israelites throughout their exodus and journey in the desert, and respond with the phrase "Dayenu," meaning "it would have been enough." But even those who don't believe in a supernatural God can still sing "Dayenu" honestly.

"Dayenu" is a song all about appreciating what we have and what we’ve been given. It is easy to get lost in the great lists of things we don’t have and the demands we are always fighting for. However, we should take stock of what we do have and appreciate those gifts, because it's possible we could have much less or nothing at all.

If I had only one pair of shoes and not two, dayenu! If I had a tiny apartment and not a house, dayenu! If I had a only two meals a day to eat and not three, dayenu!

The traditional "Dayenu" recounts everything the Israelites were thankful for as they left Egypt. The message is that just one of these events that led to their freedom, "it would have been enough." We'll only sing a few of the verses, but you can read the translated text of the full song below.


Ilu ho-tsi, ho-tsi-a-nu, Ho-tsi-anu mi-Mitz-ra-yim Ho-tsi-anu mi-Mitz-ra-yim Da-ye-nu! (Had we not been taken out of Egypt, it would've been enough!)

Chorus: Da-da-ye-nu, Da-da-ye-nu, Da-da-ye-nu, Da-da-ye-nu, Da-ye-nu Da-ye-nu

Ilu na-tan, na-tan la-nu, Na-tan la-nu et-ha-Sha-bat, Na-tan la-nu et-ha-Sha-bat, Da-ye-nu! (Had we not been given the Sabbath, it would have been enough!)


Ilu na-tan, na-tan la-nu, Na-tan la-nu et-ha-To-rah, Na-tan la-nu et-ha-To-rah, Da-ye-nu! (Had we not been sent the Torah, it would have been enough!)


Had we been taken out of Egypt and not had judgment executed upon the Egyptians, it would've been enough. Had judgment been executed upon the Egyptians and not upon their idols, it would've been enough. Had judgment been executed upon their idols, and not their firstborn, it would've been enough. Had judgment been executed upon their firstborn, and we had not received their wealth, it would've been enough. Had we received their wealth, and not had the sea split for us, it would've been enough. Had the sea been split the sea for us, and we had not been led through it to dry land, it would've been enough. Had we been led to dry land, and our enemies not drowned in the sea behind us, it would've been enough for us. Had our enemies drowned, and our needs not have been provided for in the desert for 40 years, it would've been enough. Had we been supported in the desert and not been given bread, it would have been enough. Had we been given bread and not been given the Sabbath, it would have been enough. Had we been given the Sabbath and not been brought to Mount Sinai, it would have been enough. Had we been brought to Mount Sinai and not been sent the Torah, it would have been enough. Had we been sent the Torah and not been brought to Israel, it would have been enough. Had we been brought to Israel and not been built the Holy Temple, it would have been enough.

-- Cup #2 & Dayenu
Source : The Wandering is Over Haggadah,

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. 

-- Cup #2 & Dayenu
Source : The Wandering is Over Haggadah,

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.

-- Cup #2 & Dayenu
Source : Earth Justice Seder
From COEJL’s “Preparing for Passover: Readings for the Seder Table” Stewart Vile Tahl, COEJL

One of Passover’s lessons is learned to distinguish between more and enough. Dayenu means “it would have been enough for us.” Often, enjoying more wealth and comfort stimulates our desire for more – more attention, more comforts, more money, more, and more, and more. Passover and the Haggadah teach us to be mindful of what our real needs are, of what constitutes “enough.”

What constitutes enough for you? What material objects or consumptive activities could you do without?

Make up your own verses to the Dayenu tune, stating what would be enough and what can be done without.

For example: If we had enough clothes for comfort and we didn’t have such full closets – Dayenu If we ate meat only on special occasions and we ate vegetarian most of the time – Dayenu If we biked or walked to our daily destinations and we didn’t own private automobiles – Dayenu If we purchased from bulk containers and we didn’t have disposable packaging – Dayenu If our stuff was built to last and we rarely threw anything away – Dayenu And your own verses...

The Second Cup: Climate Change Adaption

Our climate is changing at an accelerating rate. As global sea levels, temperatures, and the frequency of extreme weather events rise, our national and international community must join together to help the international community adapt. Adapting means recognizing that our disrupted climate has impacts on daily life for people around the world. Our second cup of wine is our second promise: We will provide the communities most vulnerable to the effects of climate change with the information and resources necessary to adapt. Forests are natural buffers for climate change, so protecting forests are an important component of adaptation.

Together, we recite:

ָבּרוּךְ ַא ָתה יי, ֱאל ֵהינוּ ֶמ ֶלךְ ָהעו ָלם, בּו ֵרא ְפ ִרי ַה ֶג ֶפן.

Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, borei p’ri hagafen Blessed are You, Eternal our God, Sovereign of the universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine.

For more information on the environmental justice, please visit .  For all Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism resources, please visit .

-- Cup #2 & Dayenu
If we were to end a single genocide, but not stop the wars that kill people as we sit here.

it would not be sufficient

If we were to end those bloody wars, but not disarm the nations

it would not be sufficient

If we were to disarm the nations, but not prevent some people from starving while others wallowed in luxury

it would not be sufficient

If we were to make sure that no person starved, but we were not to free the daring poets from their jails,

it would not be sufficient 

If we were to free the poets from their jails, but not train people's minds so that they could understand the poets,

it would not be sufficient

If were were to educate all the people to understand the poets, but not teach the people to share in the community of human kind. 

If would not be sufficient! 

-- Cup #2 & Dayenu
Source : Jeffrey Goldberg in The New American Haggadah
Who can say we’ve actually left? “Wherever you live, it is probably Egypt,” Michael Walzer wrote. Do you live in a place where some people work two and three jobs to feed their children, and others don’t even have a single, poorly paid job? Do you live in a community in which the rich are fabulously rich, and the poor humiliated and desperate? Do you live among people who worship the golden calves of obsessive acquisitiveness, among people whose children are blessed by material abundance and cursed by spiritual impoverishment? Do you live in a place in which some people are more equal than others? In America, the unemployment rate for African-Americans is nearly twice as high as it is for whites. Black people are five times as likely to be incarcerated as whites. Infant mortality in the black community is twice as high as it is among whites. America is a golden land, absolutely, and for Jews, it has been an ark of refuge. But is has not yet fulfilled its promise. The same is true for that other Promised Land. Jewish citizens of Israel have median household incomes almost double that of Arab citizens and an infant mortality rate less than half that of Arabs. Israel represents the greatest miracle in Jewish life in two thousand years--and its achievements are stupendous (and not merely in comparison to its dysfunctional neighbors)--and yet its promise is also unfulfilled. The seder marks the flight from the humiliation of slavery to the grandeur of freedom, but not everyone has come on this journey. It is impossible to love the stranger as much as we love our own king, but aren’t we still commanded to bring everyone out of Egypt?
-- Cup #2 & Dayenu
From singing Dayenu we learn to celebrate each landmark on our people's journey. Yet we must never confuse these way stations with the goal. Because it is not yet Dayenu. There is still so much to do in our work of tikkun olam, repairing the world.

When governments end the escalating production of devastating weapons, secure in the knowledge that they will not be necessary, Dayenu.

When all women and men are allowed to make their own decisions on matters regarding their own bodies and personal relationships without discrimination or legal consequences, Dayenu.

When children grow up in freedom, without hunger, and with the love and support they need to realize their full potential, Dayenu.

When the air, water, fellow creatures and beautiful world are protected for the benefit and enjoyment of all and given priority over development for the sake of profit, Dayenu.

When people of all ages, sexes, races, religions, sexual orientations, cultures and nations respect and appreciate one another, Dayenu.

When each person can say, "This year, I worked as hard as I could toward improving the world so that all people can experience the joy and freedom I feel sitting here tonight at the seder table," Dayenu v'lo Dayenu - It will and will not be enough.

-- Cup #2 & Dayenu
Source : Joshua Ratner, Rabbis Without Borders

by Joshua Ratner, Rabbis Without Borders

One of my favorite parts of the Passover seder is the singing that takes place after we finish eating. There are so many great, fun songs, from “Ehad Mi Yodeah” to "Chad Gadya."Perhaps my favorite song is “Dayenu.” The words are fairly easy to sing in Hebrew, and the chorus is so catchy that even those who don’t know Hebrew can easily join in. But beyond its functionality, the content of Dayenu (literally “it would have been enough”) also carries a deep amount of wisdom.

Dayenu consists of 15 stanzas referencing different historical contexts the Israelites experienced, from slavery in Egypt to the building of the Temple in Israel. After each stanza, we sing the chorus, signifying that if this was the total of God’s miraculous intervention into the lives of the Israelites, it would have been sufficient.

One of the primary purposes of the Passover seder is to make us feel as if we personally experienced the exodus from Egypt and the redemption from slavery to freedom. This is no less true for the way we understand the Dayenu song. Dayenu provides a powerful contemporary hashkafah (outlook on life), a call to mindfulness about the way we currently lead our lives. We live in an era when capitalism is our state (and increasingly global) religion. Consumption is unfettered by any internal sense of restraint, from the amount of soda we can drink to how much money Wall Street executives can make. We live in a world where it is okay that the richest 85 people in the world have total wealth equal to that of the poorest 3.5 billion people on the planet!

Dayenu reminds us that there is another way. Judaism offers an outlook on wealth, consumption, and sufficiency (sova) that is very counter-cultural. InPirkei Avot(Ethics of our Fathers) 4:1, Ben Zoma teaches: “Who is rich? The one who is content with what one has.” Even more austere, the Talmud instructs: “An individual who can eat barley bread but eats wheat bread is guilty of transgressing the law of bal tashchit (unlawful waste). Rabbi Papa states: one who can drink beer but drinks wine instead is guilty of transgressing the law of bal tashchit.” (Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 140b). Judaism is not, to be sure, an ascetic religion. We are encouraged to carve out occasions for excess, for enjoying the finer parts of living—on Shabbat, holidays, and other joyous occasions. But the wisdom of Judaism is that, if we want to experience delight on these special occasions, we also need moments of restraint. It is the juxtaposition of restraint and largess that creates a life of meaning.

Beyond the individual experience, we also are becoming increasingly aware of the global consequences of championing unbridled materialism over a sense of sufficiency. From income inequality to climate change, our refusal to entertain limits on what we do and how much we consume are wreaking destructive consequences. By returning to a sense of Dayenu, of thinking deeply about what is enough, we have the potential to change ourselves and our world. May we be blessed, on this Pesah and beyond, to replace the idolatry of consumption with an embrace of all that we have.

Hag Sameach!

-- Cup #2 & Dayenu
Source : Abraham Joshua Heschel, Design by

-- Cup #2 & Dayenu
Source : Original Illustration from

-- Cup #2 & Dayenu
Source : Original Illustration from

Scallions Aren’t Just For Eating: There is a Persian custom of hitting each other with scallions during Dayenu. The scallions represent the whips of our oppressors. Although this may seem a little morbid, young and old alike have a wonderful time violating social norms and slamming each other with green onions. - Rachel Kobrin, My

-- Cup #2 & Dayenu
Source : Sue Fishkoff, JTA
The olive branch is a universal symbol of peace, associated with the dove in the story of Noah's Ark and the Flood.

Olive trees mature slowly, so only when there was an extended time of peace, with agriculture left undisturbed, could the olive tree produce its fruit. In 2008, Jewish Voice for Peace promoted putting an olive on the seder plate as part of its Trees of Reconciliation project, which sought to donate 3,000 olive saplings to Palestinian farmers to replant trees torn down to make room for Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

This year, we have olives on our seder plate to remind us that not only are we not free until everyone is free, but we are not free until there is peace in our homes, in our community and in our world.

Adonai oz l’amo yitein, Adonai yivarech v’et amo v’shalom.

God give strength to our people, God bless our people with peace.

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

Blessed are you, Adonai, who gives us the fruit of the tree.

-- Cup #2 & Dayenu
Source : Michelle Shain
Maimonides urged us to care for our bodies so that we would be free to concentrate our energies on God. In the modern world, one of the greatest threats to our physical health is mental stress. Stress causes insomnia, digestive problems, heart disease, autoimmune disorders, depression, memory impairment and countless other complications. As women, we are particularly vulnerable to the stress caused by multiple and exhausting commitments to our families, friends, jobs and communities. This year, let us learn how to say “Enough!”    

If we agree to serve one volunteer committee, but not two or three… דַּיֵּנוּ

If we work 45 hours in a week, but not 60… דַּיֵּנוּ

If we serve two courses for Shabbat dinner, but not three or four… דַּיֵּנוּ

If we buy a dessert, instead of making one from scratch… דַּיֵּנוּ

If we wash the floor every other Friday morning, instead of every Friday morning… דַּיֵּנוּ

If we clear away the clutter, but don’t dust the shelves… דַּיֵּנוּ

If we buy a gift certificate, instead of spending hours searching for the perfect gift… דַּיֵּנוּ

If we usually schlep to the less expensive supermarket, but not always… דַּיֵּנוּ

If we take on one of the big projects coming up at work, but not all of them… דַּיֵּנוּ

If we go to one of the events organized by our friends this week, but not all them… דַּיֵּנוּ

If we do what we can, and then go to bed at a reasonable hour… דַּיֵּנוּ

Source : The Wandering is Over Haggadah,

As we now transition from the formal telling of the Passover story to the celebratory meal, we once again wash our hands to prepare ourselves. In Judaism, a good meal together with friends and family is itself a sacred act, so we prepare for it just as we prepared for our holiday ritual, recalling the way ancient priests once prepared for service in the Temple.

Some people distinguish between washing to prepare for prayer and washing to prepare for food by changing the way they pour water on their hands. For washing before food, pour water three times on your right hand and then three times on your left hand.

After you have poured the water over your hands, recite this short blessing.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָֽׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו, וְצִוָּנוּ  עַל נְטִילַת יָדָֽיִם

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al n’tilat yadayim.

We praise God, Ruler of Everything, who made us holy through obligations, commanding us to wash our hands.

Source :

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.

Source : Martin Luther King, Jr.

We still have a long, long way to go before we reach the promised land of freedom. Yes, we have left the dusty soils of Egypt, and we have crossed a Red Sea that had for years been hardened by long and piercing winter of massive resistance, but before we reach the majestic shored of the promised land, there will still be gigantic mountains of opposition ahead and prodigious hilltops of injustice.

Let us be dissatisfied until the tragic walls that separate the outer city of wealth and the comfort from the inner city of poverty and despair shall be crushed by the battering rams of the forces of justice.

Let us be dissatisfied until those who live on the outskirts of hope are brought into the metropolis of daily security.

Let us be dissatisfied until slums are cast into the junk heaps of history, and every family will live in a decent sanitary home.

Let us be dissatisfied until the dark yesterdays of segregated schools will be transformed into bright tomorrows of quality integrated education.

Let us be dissatisfied until integration is not seen as a problem but as an opportunity to participate in the beauty of diversity.

Let us be dissatisfied until men and women...will be judged on the basis of the content of their character, not on the basis of the color of their skin.

Let us be dissatisfied until from every city hall, justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.

Let us be dissatisfied until the day when nobody will shout, "White Power!" when nobody will shout, "Black Power!" but everybody will talk about God's power and human power.

Source :

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.

Source : Earth Justice Seder

The bitter herbs serve to remind us of how the Egyptians embittered the lives of the Israelites in servitude. When we eat the bitter herbs, we share in that bitterness of oppression. We must remember that slavery still exists all across the globe. When you go to the grocery store, where does your food come from? Who picked the sugar cane for your cookie, or the coffee bean for your morning coffee? We are reminded that people still face the bitterness of oppression, in many forms. 

Together, we recite: 

ָבּרוּךְ ַאָתה יי ֱאלֹ ֵהינוּ ֶמֶלךְ ָהעוָֹלם, ֲא ֶשר ִקְד ָשנוּ ְבּ ִמ ְצווָֹתיו, ְו ִצָוּנוּ ַעל ֲאִכיַלת ָמרוֹר

Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al achilat maror. 

Blessed are You, Eternal our God, Sovereign of the universe, who has sanctified us with
Your commandments and ordained that we should eat bitter herbs. 

{ GREENING TIP }  Start a garden in your community and use the produce for synagogue gatherings or donate it to your local food pantry or soup kitchen. 

For more information on the environmental justice, please visit .  For all Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism resources, please visit .

Source : Rabbi Zvi Hirschfield in

The question of why we eat maror would at first glance appear to be an obvious one. When I probe a little deeper, however, two questions emerge for me. First, why would I want to evoke pain and suffering on a night when I want to feel celebratory? My second question goes to the ritual itself. How is eating lettuce or horseradish supposed to help me experience or relate to the bitterness of slavery? No matter how much fiery hot horseradish we put in our mouths, it seems to me we are not any closer to understanding the experience of the Israelites in Egypt.

I believe that our use of maror at the seder is less about experiencing the hardships of Egypt, but rather an opportunity to experience and reflect how we can meaningfully engage sorrow and pain in both our personal and national lives. Suffering and sadness are part of everyone’s story. It is the unavoidable price we pay for being vulnerable and limited. We need tools and opportunities to integrate the hard and painful parts of our lives into our story without allowing them to erase all the joy and gratitude we still want to experience.

The Baal HaTanya (Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liady, 1745-1812) draws a fascinating distinction between two types of sadness. The first he refers to as bitterness, a form of regret or sadness that emerges from a sense that things are broken, or less than ideal. This form of sadness is positive, he says, because it emerges from a place of idealism, hope, and a powerful desire to change. We are “bitter” because we sense that a vital and healthy part of ourselves is not finding expression in the world. It is precisely our capacity for hope and transformation that makes this type of sadness possible. Our sense of loss is informed by our appreciation for a whole. The second type of sadness is depression. This type of sadness “closes our hearts” with despair, numbs our feelings, and blocks out all joy. From this perspective, perhaps we eat maror to explore how to move from a sadness that holds us back to a sadness that can lead to growth and change. When dealing with hard things I often find I am choosing between allowing sadness to dominate my mood or trying to ignore it and put it aside altogether. The narrative of the seder refutes this false dichotomy. We don’t deny the difficulties and pain, but maybe we can put it into a wider context that includes joy and gratitude. We make room for sadness but we don’t let it take over. We eat the maror with the matza.

Another approach emerges from a comment of Rabbi Yeshayahu Horowitz (1568-1630) in a drasha about Pesach. Commenting on the talmudic requirement to chew the maror as opposed to just swallowing it, he writes that our teeth represent 32 levels of wisdom, and that by chewing the maror with our teeth we sweeten it. As opposed to denying difficulty or sadness we must engage it and reflect upon it. Although I am never grateful for going through the painful moments of my life, I am sometimes surprised at what they teach me about myself and who I am. Both as individuals and as a people, we are products of our challenges as much as our successes; sadness as well as joy. While I cannot deny the hard feelings associated with the difficult or sad moments of my life, I can “sweeten” them by accepting them as an essential part of my story. The suffering in Egypt and the memory of that suffering was part of what made the Jewish people.

 Our eating of maror and talking about slavery might also carry with it a lesson about the negative power of shame. I don’t like sharing my stories of pain or difficulty. They often feel like stories of failure. It often feels like my pain is a result of my inadequacy in managing my life or lack of success. If I were a better person, more capable, wiser, more powerful, my story would be all about happiness. Sadness becomes associated with failure. By including the pain and humiliation in our national story of birth and redemption we are reminding ourselves that pain, sadness, and difficulty are part of everyone’s story. I don’t need to paper over it or pretend it’s not there. My challenge is to include fully the hard parts of my story, both individually and nationally, and still feel joy and gratitude. Our plates include bitter herbs right next to the matza and the wine.

Rabbi Zvi Hirschfield teaches Talmud, Halakha and Jewish Thought.

Source :

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.

Source : Earth Justice Seder

The great sage Hillel provided us with the tradition of constructing the Hillel sandwich, combining the bitterness of the maror with the sweetness of the charoset between the fortitude of the two pieces of matzah--the symbol of freedom. Through this ritual, we think about mortar and brick. We think of the Israelites traveling through the desert with no homes, no place to land and build up their strong communities, and only the matzah as a reminder of their freedom. It is not until they came to the biblical Promised Land that they experienced the sweetness of their redemption.

We sit tonight in a place of both freedom and comfort, while we remember the bitterness of the hardships of our ancestors. But what about those who cannot foresee their own redemption from the impending impacts of climate change, those who literally do not have the infrastructure that the mortar and brick of redemption affords? There are people all over the world on the edges of shorelines which are slowly slipping away, whose homes cannot withstand the rising waters and violent winds of extreme weather caused by climate change. Already over 22 million people a year are being displaced from their homes due to natural disasters (Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, 2014).

Tonight, as we eat this sandwich, let us remember the privilege of our infrastructure and the freedom and comfort that our homes provide us. The bitterness of the salty ocean waters continues to destroy many people's homes, for many a symbol of sweetness and freedom. Without proper adaptation and mitigation, people will continue to lose their homes. They will continue to be wandering, without a strong community or place they can call home.

The world’s poor are being hit hardest by climate change. Learn more: ( > What We Do > Climate Change)

For more information on the environmental justice, please visit .
For all Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism resources, please visit .

Source : Leah Rosenthal in
After performing most of the central mitzvot of the evening (telling the story of the Exodus eating matza and maror, etc.) and just before we are about to enjoy the festive holiday meal, the haggadah structures a moment in which we symbolically repeat the practice of Hillel the Elder who would “wrap” his portion of the paschal offering with matza and maror and eat it as a type of sandwich, in literal fulfillment of the verse “it shall be eaten on matzot and maror”. We too prepare a combination of matza and maror (and haroset) and eat in remembrance of this practice and of the Pesach tradition during the time when the Temple still stood.

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 “ [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

Source : Original

In Talmud Pesachim, Rava teaches, "A person who swallows matzah without chewing fills the mitzvah, the commandment, to eat matzah. However, a person who swallows maror without chewing doesn't fulfill the mitzvah to eat maror."

Matzah is Biblical fast food. Matzah is flat because the Hebrews were in such a hurry to get out of Egypt, they didn't wait for their bread to rise. They rushed out, eating crackers, because they had to eat something. Matzah is optimistic, portable, light and undemanding.

Rashbam says that the mitzvah of eating matzah isn't connected to taste. It's connected to story. The Seder ends with a literal countdown, numbering the days until Shavuot, the holiday when the Hebrews get the Torah. Matzah is the food of the future. We eat matzah on Passover to remind us that we're on our way.

Charoset and Maror are the tastes of the past. Charoset is a sweet memory. Maror is a bitter encounter made fresh. Charoset is the sweetness of family, Maror the bitterness of Holocaust. These are our roots as individual people and as a People. Maror wants attention, and loves to get a reaction. Charoset is sweet, and also thick and heavy. Charoset is said to be the material the Hebrews used to make bricks. Sweetness between people and bricks are made of the same material. The presence of both forms a foundation.

The Hillel sandwich is the three of these together. Matzah, Maror and Charoset. Together, they are the present.

Shulchan Oreich
Source :

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!

Shulchan Oreich

It's almost time to eat! Before we chow down, let's fill that third glass of wine and give thanks for the meal we're about to consume.

On Passover, this becomes something like an extended toast to the forces that brought us together:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָּפֶן

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, borei p’ree hagafen.

Group says: We praise force of the world, that created the fruit of the vine, that sustains the world.

[Everyone: Drink the third glass of wine.]


Source :

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.


Caption: refugee and French Jewish orphans celebrate Passover together in 1947. Credit: American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee

“So who has found the afikomen?” we ask. The finders hold the napkin-covered matzah tightly in their hands and are determined to bargain. It is a part of our lesson plan—this small rebellion. Each year we teach a new generation to resist bondage, to envision someplace better, to savor freedom, and to take responsibility for the journeys of their lives. And each year with the afikomen ritual, they hold power in their hands, just long enough to say, “yes” or “no” with all eyes on them. With people waiting. “We can’t finish the seder without it.” Just long enough to learn to ask for what they want.

For two thousand years, the Jewish people have been separated from our families and from our nations, though our ancient culture survives and grows. For hundreds of years the book of Genesis has been interpreted as justifying human domination and destruction of the earth, though it tells of the beauty of creation. For decades, Jews and Muslims have been reinforcing the wall between them, though its foundation was laid by colonists and its height is built up to serve foreign military interests. Let us stop fighting each other for someone else’s profit. Let us remember our kinship and learn how each other has grown in the years since we stopped listening. May we humble ourselves before history and before one another, and make the world whole again. (from "Love and Justice in Times of War" Haggadah)

Source :

The half matzo, which was hidden earlier, now needs to be found before we can finish the Seder!


Following the Passover meal we take the afikoman and divide it between the Seder participants.


Traditionally it is forbidden to drink or eat anything (except the last two ritually required cups of wine) after eating the afikoman. The taste of matzah, the bread of freedom, should be the last food we taste on the evening of the Seder.


After the meal has ended, all (who earlier hid their eyes) search for the missing broken matza called the Afikoman.  This is the sweet-tasting dessert for the meal.  In Hebrew. AFI is (my nose) KOMAN (rises up) and what makes one's nose rise better than a dessert?   It is forbidden to eat or drink anything (except the remaining two cups of wine or grape juice) after eating the Afikoman.

When the Afikoman is found and a reward paid to the one who first spots it, the Afikoman is divided among all the guests at the Seder and eaten at the same time.

Mystically, it represents the Book of the  Covenant given at Sinai that Israel earlier broke, but which it now finds "sweet to the taste." Eaten without bitter herbs, it also is a hidden allusion to Israel being cured of its evil tongue and restored fully to its Covenant, symbolized by the Cup of Covenant which is poured immediately after the Afikomen is eaten.

Source : Rabbi Michael Hattin in

Tzafun from the Hebrew root  צפנ, means "hidden" and refers to the afikoman. This piece of the matza, ceremonially broken earlier in the seder, is consumed at the conclusion of the meal in memory of the paschal sacrifice of Temple times. Early on, the custom developed to hide this matza away in order to maintain the younger participants’ interest during the lengthy proceedings, as they would attempt to find it in order to earn a prize. 

While we no longer are able to offer the paschal sacrifice with our Temple in ruins, the practice of the afikoman reminds us of former days. In a similar vein, the ceremonial washing for the karpas ,or dipped vegetable that takes place early in the seder is also a vestige of ancient Temple laws this time relating to ritual tuma (impurity) and tahara (purity). Foods were regarded as susceptible to tuma if they had come into contact with certain liquids and this necessitated (especially for the .priests consuming teruma or “priests’ due”) a special ritual hand washing.

It seems, therefore, that the seder is not just about the Exodus from Egypt but also about the Temple at Jerusalem. As we retell the ancient story of our ancestors’ ascent from slavery we also consciously trace the long arc of that journey. It was a divinely-orchestrated trek that brought Israel from a place of acute vulnerability to one of safety and permanence in their own land. Sitting at our own seders in such uncertain times as these, we are strengthened by those ancient memories that saw us overcome helplessness in order to dream of triumph! Next year in rebuilt Jerusalem.

Rabbi Michael Hattin teaches Bible and Jewish Law.

Source : The Wandering is Over Haggadah,

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!

Source : HIAS Seder Supplement
I will redeem you... ...

Emboldened to welcome refugees into our communities, may we remember that true welcome is not completed upon a person’s safe arrival in our country but in all the ways we help people to rebuild their lives. As God provided for our needs on the long journey from slavery to the Promised Land, let us give the refugees in our communities the tools they need not just to survive but to thrive: safe homes to settle into, quality education for their children, English language tutoring, access to jobs, and all of the things we would want for ourselves and our families. Blessed are You, Adonai our God, who gives us the opportunity to be your partner in ongoing redemption.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָּפֶן

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, borei p’ree hagafen.

Blessed are You, Ruler of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine. 

Source :

The Cup of Elijah

We now refill our wine glasses one last time and 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 הַתִּשְׁבִּיאֵלִיָּֽהוּ, 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.

Source :

Singing songs that praise God | hallel | הַלֵּל

This is the time set aside for singing. Some of us might sing traditional prayers from the Book of Psalms. Others take this moment for favorites like Chad Gadya & Who Knows One, which you can find in the appendix. To celebrate the theme of freedom, we might sing songs from the civil rights movement. Or perhaps your crazy Uncle Frank has some parody lyrics about Passover to the tunes from a musical. We’re at least three glasses of wine into the night, so just roll with it.

Fourth Glass of Wine

As we come to the end of the seder, we drink one more glass of wine. With this final cup, we give thanks for the experience of celebrating Passover together, for the traditions that help inform our daily lives and guide our actions and aspirations.

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 fourth and final glass of wine! 

Source : Abraham Joshua Heschel Quote, Design by

Source : Telling the Story: A Passover Haggadah Explained

There is a word in Hebrew — Teshuvah — that means return. It is an acknowledgement that there is always a chance for forgiveness, redemption and change. Our traditions teach that Passover is open to all. Everyone is welcome at this table. There is always room. Because no one is ever turned away, there is always an opportunity for a rebirth of spirit.

As a sign of hospitality to all, we open the door to our homes and symbolically invite anyone who wants to join us to come inside.

At this point, the children open the door.

Source : The Wandering is Over Haggadah,

Nirtzah  marks the conclusion of the seder. Our bellies are full, we have had several glasses of wine, we have told stories and sung songs, and now it is time for the evening to come to a close. At the end of the seder, we honor the tradition of declaring, “Next year in Jerusalem!”

For some people, the recitation of this phrase expresses the anticipation of rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem and the return of the Messiah. For others, it is an affirmation of hope and of connectedness with  Klal Yisrael, the whole of the Jewish community. Still others yearn for peace in Israel and for all those living in the Diaspora.

Though it comes at the end of the seder, this moment also marks a beginning. We are beginning the next season with a renewed awareness of the freedoms we enjoy and the obstacles we must still confront. We are looking forward to the time that we gather together again. Having retold stories of the Jewish people, recalled historic movements of liberation, and reflected on the struggles people still face for freedom and equality, we are ready to embark on a year that we hope will bring positive change in the world and freedom to people everywhere.

In  The Leader's Guide to the Family Participation Haggadah: A Different Night, 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.”

What can  we  do to fulfill our reckless dreams? What will be our legacy for future generations?

Our seder is over, according to Jewish tradition and law. As we had the pleasure to gather for a seder this year, we hope to once again have the opportunity in the years to come. We pray that God brings health and healing to Israel and all the people of the world, especially those impacted by natural tragedy and war. As we say…

לְשָׁנָה הַבָּאָה בִּירוּשָׁלָֽיִם

L’shana haba-ah biy’rushalayim


Source : HIAS Seder Supplement
I will take you to be my people... ...

When we rise up from our Seder tables, let us commit ourselves to stamping out xenophobia and hatred in every place that it persists. Echoing God’s words when God said, “I take you to be my people,” let us say to those who seek safety in our midst, “we take you to be our people.” May we see past difference and dividing lines and remember, instead, that we were all created b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God. May we see welcoming the stranger at our doorstep not as a danger but as an opportunity – to provide safe harbor to those seeking refuge from oppression and tyranny, to enrich the fabric of our country and to live out our Jewish values in action. Blessed are You, Adonai Our God, who has created us all in Your image.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָּפֶן

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, borei p’ree hagafen.

Blessed are You, Ruler of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine. 

Every year at the end of the Seder we say "Next Year in Jerusalem!" 

But that can't mean physically. It would get overcrowded. Some of us do not have the means to get there. Some of us are too old or young or sick to travel. 

No. Not physically. Mentally. We need to open our minds and hearts to a level where we can accept who we are as people on every level. These traditions we have were around for thousands and thousands of years. Some things have adapted to fit the times. Some things have been rendered obsolete. But the message is the same. We are Jews. We survive. We are special. 

We need to hold on to that message in our everyday lives. Not next year. Now. Jerusalem is now. Why wait a year to make your life and the lives of others better? We are on this earth for a very brief period of time. We need to utilize every second being the best we can be and living to our full potential. 

We were once slaves. Some of us still are. Some of us are even killed for our beliefs. We need to band together as a community. As one. We need to stand up and say "We are Jews. We exist. We thrive." 

We do not assimilate. We do not cower in fear. We do not pretend to worship other deities. We are warriors and poets and scholars. 

We are Jews 

And we are proud 

Source : Haruki Murakami

If there is a hard, high wall and an egg that breaks against it, no matter how right the wall or how wrong the egg, I will stand on the side of the egg. Why? Because each of us is an egg, a unique soul enclosed in a fragile egg. Each of us is confronting a high wall. The high wall is the system which forces us to do the things we would not ordinarily see fit to do as individuals . . . We are all human beings, individuals, fragile eggs. We have no hope against the wall: it's too high, too dark, too cold. To fight the wall, we must join our souls together for warmth, strength. We must not let the system control us -- create who we are.


Source : Robb Gordon

I grew up in an irreligious home. We rarely belonged to a Temple (Synagogue was too traditional) and attending a service was even rarer. When we did go to temple you would never a yarmulke except on the Rabbi & Cantor (sometimes). The only tallitot were these little vest things that the clergy wore. The only Hebrew was the Sh'ma, the Torah/Haftarah readings and the Mourner's Kaddish (which is really Aramaic).

But every year, without fail, the Passover dishes and linens would come out, and we would have a full-blown Seder. The only other holiday we really observed was Hannukah, and that was only by lighting the Hannukia and singing Maoz Tzur (Rock of Ages).

All over the world Jews from the least to most observant observe rituals. Why? Perhaps it is the L'Dor V'Dor (generation to generation) thing, or as Tevye said, "Tradition". But this "kesher" - connection - is what has sustained us through thousands of years of occupation, exile, pogram, shoah, and assimilation.

Every year we return to relive the story - next year in Jerusalem!

Commentary / Readings
Source : Avodah
Passover is a time for us to reflect on our own freedom and an opportunity to connect our lives with the struggles of others. At AVODAH, we support emerging Jewish leaders as they work to address some of the most pressing issues in the fight against poverty. We study the complex (and often overlapping) systemic issues that impact people in our country, and explore how Jewish tradition calls on us to respond. This year, we’ve collected stories and insights from members of the AVODAH network to explore ten modern plagues of domestic poverty. Use this resource as a way to bring discussion to your own Seder table about the reasons so many people in America live in poverty today.

The learning we do at AVODAH asks us to question previously-held assumptions, and to challenge ourselves to explore perspectives with which we may not agree. Going into those uncomfortable spaces is often the core of meaningful learning. I encourage you to embrace those difficult moments, should they arise as you study this supplement. The seder is a time for wrestling with deep questions; let our questions be a part of your process.

With blessings for a Passover of learning, joy, and a renewed effort to build a more just world,

Cheryl Cook Executive Director, AVODAH  

Hunger By Jenny Waxberg and Erin Butler

Background: One of the most common assumptions is that if someone is hungry, that person does not have a job and is living on the streets. What most people don’t realize is that circumstances can change and anyone can experience hunger at some point. It could be the family with two incomes that unexpectedly must get by on one income. It could be the household with mounting medical bills that make it difficult to make ends meet at the end of the month. It could be the senior on a fixed income after a lifetime of hard work. Hunger is a silent but growing epidemic.

People live in food insecure homes if they do not always know where to find the next meal. Many citizens turning to soup kitchens and food pantries are employed but their wages cannot keep up with the cost of living.

Discuss: What does hunger look like to you?

A Kavanah/Intention: May we all answer the Passover call, ‘May all who are hungry come eat’ by educating ourselves about hunger in America and supporting work to alleviate hunger.

Jenny Waxberg and Erin Butler were AVODAH Fellows in 2014 and work at City Harvest in New York.

Lack of Affordable Housing

by Yonah Liberman

Background: The plague of unaffordable housing and rampant homelessness is nothing new. The problems facing the tenants I work with — leaky ceilings, no heat or hot water, patch repairs — are problems that people have faced for centuries. What’s new is the way intentional neglect has reared its ugly head. As a tenant organizer working with people living in multifamily buildings that are in foreclosure, I’ve seen firsthand how landlords get away with it. Private equity firms come together and take out enormous mortgages from banks to buy up millions of dollars worth of property. The “business model” revolves around harassing tenants into leaving their homes so landlords can raise the rents and cut maintenance costs. When people refuse to leave their homes, landlords can’t raise the rents, and they can’t pay back the bank. The bank sells the buildings to the highest bidder, unless tenants get organized and put pressure on it to sell their buildings at a lower price to a responsible investor. That’s the goal I and the tenants I work with strive for everyday.

Discuss: What does the concept of “housing as a human right” mean to you?

A Kavanah/Intention: I intend to fight for the right for all people to housing by holding my elected officials to their promises to build and preserve affordable housing. And if I am living in an urban community, I intend to deepen my understanding of my neighborhood and how I can keep it affordable for my neighbors.

Yonah Lieberman was an AVODAH corps member in 2013-2014 and worked as a tenant organizer at Urban Homesteading Assistance Board in New York.


by Emily Unger

Background: Last week at work, one of my clients called me. He sounded exhausted and unwell. He had suddenly become very sick, he told me. He thought that he needed to go to the hospital. But he was afraid because he couldn’t afford to pay a huge bill. I counseled him that the most he would have to pay for a short hospitalization was the cost of his insurance deductible, but even this amount — over $1,000 — was more than his entire monthly income. He had been putting off medical treatment for days out of fear for the cost.

I eventually persuaded my client to see a doctor, but every day, countless others are faced with a similar choice. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, most Americans who once had no health insurance will now be covered. However, many states still refuse to expand their Medicaid programs, leaving millions of the poorest Americans completely uninsured. Moreover, many barriers — unaffordably high co-pays and deductibles, lack of cultural competency among healthcare providers, inaccessibility of health care facilities to people with disabilities — remain, preventing even those with basic health insurance from receiving needed medical care.

Discuss: Share a time when you had to rely on your medical insurance and consider what would have happened had you not been covered.

A Kavanah/Intention: May our healthcare system provide the best possible healing to all those in need, and enable our providers to be the best possible healers.

Emily Unger was an AVODAH corps member in 2013-2014 and worked as an AmeriCorps Paralegal at the New York Legal Assistance Group

The Threat to Voting Rights byAmelia van Iwaarden

Background: Bend the Arc launched our Voting Rights Campaign to mobilize the Jewish community to support the passage of the Voting Rights Amendment Act (VRAA). This bipartisan bill includes modern protections against discrimination in voting in every part of the country. Last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Shelby County v. Holder scrapped the enforcement mechanisms in the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act, which provided protections against discriminatory voting laws at the state and local levels. Since the Supreme Court’s ruling, we have already seen a flurry of state and local efforts that will make it difficult for communities of color, women, first-time voters, the elderly, and those living in poverty to cast their vote. In my work, I am helping to develop leaders — both organizers in diverse religious communities, and Jewish leaders in social justice organizations — who are addressing systemic issues of racial and economic injustice of which voter suppression is a symptom.

Discuss: There are some who say that there is no need for Jews to be involved in this work, because most American Jews do not belong to the groups experiencing discrimination. Why is it important for Jews to be in this fight as Jews? What role do you think we can play as Jews in protecting voting rights for all Americans?

A Kavanah/Intention: Exodus 22:20 tells us “ You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” This Passover, as we celebrate our freedom, let us recommit to ending oppression wherever we see it.

Amelia van Iwaarden was an AVODAH Fellow in 2014, working at Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice

Debt by ErikaVan Gundy

Background: Debt is a primary force that traps individuals in a cycle of deepening poverty. A number of factors contribute to the strong effect that debt has on poverty, including required payments on interest accrued, late fees, predatory products targeted to the short-on-cash, and the inherent insecurity of one’s financial future. In the finance world, there is a distinction between “good debt” and “bad debt,” one which grows in value and the other which becomes costlier over time, respectively. However, debt (student loan, credit card, medical, or other) is almost universally a stressor for those in its grips and an extra factor in decisions such as where to live, what to eat that day, and how many jobs are needed to pay for the above and more. As a financial counselor for low-income New Yorkers, I see debt in terms of people and control. For my clients, debt is a dozen calls per day from creditors seeking repayment, piles of mail that sit unopened out of fear, and a constant tax on mental, financial, and emotional bandwidth.

Discuss: In taking on debt, there is an expectation and hope that your“future self”will be better off than your current self. Reflect on this for a moment. What does this hope mean, and how does it change the way we think about debt and debtors? How can this hope be channeled otherwise as it relates to financial or other aspects of someone’s life?

A Kavanah/Intention: I intend to speak with people from different parts of my life to better understand their experiences with debt, the situations that led them into debt, and how their subsequent decisions were impacted.

Erika Van Gundy was an AVODAH Fellow in 2014 and works for the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs Office of Financial Empowerment

Education byLaura Taishoff

Background: A significant proportion of positive life outcomes depend on the foundation of a quality education. But what does it really mean? We need students to pursue challenging coursework and succeed academically, but education is also about empowerment and building character. It is no secret that the students with the greatest needs are often in the schools with the fewest resources available to meet them. In New Orleans, a city where an overwhelming majority of schools are either private or charter, access to quality education for the city’s most at-risk population is a cocktail of school closings, staff changes, and school-based arrests. I am a high school special education teacher working with students who are past the typical age range for their schooling. They are overage for a variety of factors, but one of the most prevalent is that other schools pushed them out. Despite the fact that they have consistently been denied access to a quality education, these are the students who are pursuing a diploma when it would undoubtedly be easier not to. We should simultaneously be inspired by them and ashamed that so many of them exist.

Discuss: In your best memories of school, how did you feel? Creative? Boundless? Praised? How would it have felt to be told you were not smart or made to feel as if your school did not want you there?

A Kavanah/Intention: I commit to doing my part to create a world in which every student, no matter what neighborhood the student is from, attends a school where students are challenged academically and empowered to be the future leaders of our world.

Laura Taishoff is a special education teacher at ReNew Accelerated High School in New Orleans. Laura is an alumna of the AVODAH 2009-2010 New Orleans cohort.

The Decline of Labor Rights by Lee M. Leviter

Background: For the past several decades, median earnings have been stagnant while hours worked have steadily increased. Why have we been working harder for less and less? Because decreasing union density has led to the disempowerment of workers in all sectors of the economy. Although workers are best able to improve their working conditions when they can make collective demands of their employer, many seek to vilify and weaken collective employee action. Companies like Walmart continue to fight unionization while paying so little that many of their full-time employees qualify for food stamps. Standing together in a union, these workers could negotiate for higher wages. In New York, we have heard calls for a higher minimum wage from workers in the fast-food industry, where pay can be as little as $8 an hour. It’s nearly impossible to survive in New York City at such a wage. As an attorney, I help represent public sector teachers, nurses, and other civil servants in New York City, where the same political and economic pressures threaten public sector employment as a pathway to the middle class

Discuss: If you are an employee, what aspects of your job would you change if you could join with your co-workers and ask? If you are an employer, how would you respond if an employee – or a group of employees – asked to change a particular aspect of the job?

A Kavanah/Intention: As we celebrate freedom this Passover, let us remember that we empower ourselves to fight oppression by acting together.

Lee Leviter was an AVODAH Fellow in 2014 and works as an attorney representing several major public-sector unions.

Immigration byMerri Nicholson

Background: During my AVODAH year at CASA de Maryland, young people (commonly referred to as DREAMers) led the way in utilizing grassroots organizing to successfully pass the Maryland DREAM Act, which expanded access to higher education to students without documentation. These DREAMers also pushed for comprehensive immigration reform that would provide a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented people currently living in the United States. Many of these people are the cornerstone of economies from which we all benefit, such as construction and agriculture. They proudly pay taxes and immigrated for the same reasons our families did, to seek a better life or escape violence. Unlike when our families came to the United States, current restrictions make it impossible for most to obtain legal status. Fixing our immigration system will strengthen our communities by keeping families together and lift many out of poverty with expanded access to opportunities such as higher education and quality jobs.

Discuss: What caused your family to come to America? If it wasn’t recent, would they still have been able to immigrate in today’s political climate?

A Kavanah/Intention: May we see a Jewish community that fully embraces our immigrant roots by working for justice in solidarity with those coming to America seeking a better tomorrow.

Merri Nicholson is a research assistant at Academy Health in Washington, DC. Merri is an alum of the AVODAH 2012-2013 Washington, DC cohort.

Systemic Oppression byEmily Saltzman

Background: Oppression is largely defined as the use of authority or power in a cruel or unjust manner. Institutional oppression refers to the power of large systems or institutions that determine the cultural or professional standards for our society. Often these systems were developed from a framework, intentionally or not, that propels certain communities towards success, while keeping others from it. There is also an inextricable link between systematic oppression and poverty. For example, transgender communities of color are more likely to experience poverty due to transphobia in a labor force layered with racism in the educational system. This does not mean that individual members of this community cannot break the cycle of poverty, but it does mean that due to systematic oppression, they will have to struggle harder to reach success.

As Jews, we often think about oppression as it relates to our community’s historical struggle for religious freedom. This experience with historical oppression gives us a jumping-off point to address issues of systematic oppression with which we may not all have first-hand experience, including racism, classism, homophobia, sexism, ableism, and transphobia. Our ability to tap into our personal experiences with antisemitism in addition to our community’s struggle allows us to build solidarity with these communities and adds to our call for tikkun olam —to repair the world—because it is a world we share.

Discuss: As Jews, how can we use our experience of oppression to build solidarity with and support communities who are currently experiencing oppression? How might we inadvertently contribute to certain oppressive systems?

A Kavanah/Intention: I intend to challenge myself and my family to think more concretely about the ways systematic oppression affects our lives and what we can do individually to question the systems that we work and live in.

Emily Saltzman is a social worker focusing on comprehensive sexuality education in addition to being a Steering Committee Member of the Undoing Racism Internship Project. Emily is an alumna of the AVODAH 2008-2009 New York City cohort.

Intersecting Oppressions by Rabbi Stephanie Ruskay

Background: Hunger, healthcare, education, threats to voting rights, systemic oppression, lack of affordable housing, immigration, debt, labor restrictions. For many, these plagues intersect and overlap for people in poverty, increasing the obstacles that they must face. High health care bills can trigger hunger, inability to pay for adequate housing and long-term debt. An insufficient immigration policy can limit educational opportunities. Threats to voting rights limit the ability of individuals and communities to advocate for policies that could alleviate the challenges they face. Each individual plague has the capacity to devastate, and the combination can paralyze.

There are a variety of perspectives on how to address these plagues. We divide ourselves by political affiliation, sure that our policy and perspective is the best way forward. And yet, year after year, there are poor people to invite into our seders. Year after year, we create a set of contemporary plagues to read at our seders, because the society we’ve constructed is imperfect. We continue to dream of a redeemed and just world, and wonder how to get there.

This Passover, as always, we retell the story of our exodus from slavery to freedom. We remember the Egyptians by spilling a drop of wine for each plague that afflicted them, sacrificing some of the sweetness of the wine to honor the humanity of our enemy. This action reminds us that we were all made in God’s image. It compels us to connect even with those whom we consider our foes.

We live in a polarized society and often find ourselves believing the worst about one another. We have different ideas about how a just society looks and how it requires us each to behave. Our sages teach us that we cannot live without a chevruta, someone who challenges our “facts” and demands that we reconsider our opinions. Though we may disagree about how to get there, we must remember that our ultimate goal is to alleviate the intersecting oppressions that foster a system in which many don’t have the resources to meet their needs or a path through which they can attain them.

Discuss: Can you share a time in which someone (maybe even someone at your seder) inspired you to reconsider and expand your ideas about how to alleviate poverty? What contributed to your ability to think differently (and hopefully even act)?

Having considered this contemporary list of intersecting plagues and oppressions, how might the Jewish community contribute to creating a more just world for all people?

A Kavanah/Intention: May we always assume goodwill as we work to pursue justice and may our assumption of goodwill inspire it in others, so that together we bring about more civil discourse among pursuers of justice.

Rabbi Stephanie Ruskay is AVODAH’s Director of Alumni and Community Engagement


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Commentary / Readings
Source : Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
The world was awakened and shattered by the images of a little boy whose body lay lifeless amidst the gentle surf of a Turkish beach this past summer. Another nameless victim amongst thousands in the Syrian Refugee Crisis, the greatest refugee crisis since WWII. But this little boy, like every little boy ,had a name. His name was Aylan Kurdi (age 3), he drowned along with his older brother, Galip (age 5), and their mother, Rihan, on their own exodus to freedom’s distant shore.

Aylan and Galip’s father, Abdullah, survived the harrowing journey – though how does a parent survive the death of their children? In teaching the world about his sons, he shared that they both loved bananas, a luxury in their native war-torn Syria. Every day after work, Abdullah, like mothers and fathers everywhere, would bring home a banana for his sons to share, a sweet little treat, a sign of his enduring love for them.

Tonight we place a banana on our seder table and tell this story to remind us of Aylan, Galip and children everywhere who are caught up in this modern day exodus. May they be guarded and protected along their journey to safety, shielded by the love of their parents, watched over by God full of mercy and compassion.

Rabbi Dan Moskovitz, Temple Sholom Vancouver, British Columbia

For more information on the refugee crisis, please visit For all Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism resources, please visit

Source :
Who knows one?

At some seders, people go around the table reading a question and the answers in one breath. Thirteen is hard!

Who knows one?

I know one.

One is our God in Heaven and Earth

Who knows two?

I know two.

Two are the tablets of the covenant

One is our God in Heaven and Earth

Who knows two?

I know two.

Three are the patriarchs

Two are the tablets of the covenant

One is our God in Heaven and Earth

Who knows four?

I know four.

Four are the matriarchs

Three are the patriarchs

Two are the tablets of the covenant

One is our God in Heaven and Earth

Who knows five?

I know five.

Five are the books of the Torah

Four are the matriarchs

Three are the patriarchs

Two are the tablets of the covenant

One is our God in Heaven and Earth

Who knows six?

I know six.

Six are the orders of the Mishnah

Five are the books of the Torah

Four are the matriarchs

Three are the patriarchs

Two are the tablets of the covenant

One is our God in Heaven and Earth

Who knows seven?

I know seven.

Seven are the days of the week

Six are the orders of the Mishnah

Five are the books of the Torah

Four are the matriarchs

Three are the patriarchs

Two are the tablets of the covenant

One is our God in Heaven and Earth

Who knows eight?

I know eight.

Eight are the days for circumcision

Seven are the days of the week

Six are the orders of the Mishnah

Five are the books of the Torah

Four are the matriarchs

Three are the patriarchs

Two are the tablets of the covenant

One is our God in Heaven and Earth

Who knows nine?

I know nine.

Eight are the days for circumcision

Seven are the days of the week

Six are the orders of the Mishnah

Five are the books of the Torah

Four are the matriarchs

Three are the patriarchs

Two are the tablets of the covenant

One is our God in Heaven and Earth

Who knows ten?

I know ten.

Ten are the Words from Sinai

Nine are the months of childbirth

Eight are the days for circumcision

Seven are the days of the week

Six are the orders of the Mishnah

Five are the books of the Torah

Four are the matriarchs

Three are the patriarchs

Two are the tablets of the covenant

One is our God in Heaven and Earth

Who knows eleven?

I know eleven.

Eleven are the stars

Ten are the Words from Sinai

Nine are the months of childbirth

Eight are the days for circumcision

Seven are the days of the week

Six are the orders of the Mishnah

Five are the books of the Torah

Four are the matriarchs

Three are the patriarchs

Two are the tablets of the covenant

One is our God in Heaven and Earth

Who knows twelve?

I know twelve.

Twelve are the tribes

Eleven are the stars

Ten are the Words from Sinai

Nine are the months of childbirth

Eight are the days for circumcision

Seven are the days of the week

Six are the orders of the Mishnah

Five are the books of the Torah

Four are the matriarchs

Three are the patriarchs

Two are the tablets of the covenant

One is our God in Heaven and Earth

Who knows thirteen?

I know thirteen

Thirteen are the attributes of God

Twelve are the tribes

Eleven are the stars

Ten are the Words from Sinai

Nine are the months of childbirth

Eight are the days for circumcision

Seven are the days of the week

Six are the orders of the Mishnah

Five are the books of the Torah

Four are the matriarchs

Three are the patriarchs

Two are the tablets of the covenant

One is our God in Heaven and Earth

Source :

Chad Gadya

חַד גַּדְיָא, חַד גַּדְיָא

דְזַבִּין אַבָּא בִּתְרֵי זוּזֵי

חַד גַּדְיָא, חַד גַּדְיָא

Chad gadya, chad gadya

Dizabin abah bitrei zuzei

Chad gadya, chad gadya.

One little goat, one little goat:

Which my father brought for two zuzim.

One little goat, one little goat:

The cat came and ate the goat,

Which my father bought for two zuzim.

One little goat, one little goat:

The dog came and bit the cat

That ate the goat,

Which my father bought for two zuzim.

One little goat, one little goat:

The stick came and beat the dog

That bit the cat that ate the goat,

Which my father bought for two zuzim.

One little goat, one little goat:

The fire came and burned the stick

That beat the dog that bit the cat

That ate the goat,

Which my father bought for two zuzim.

One little goat, one little goat:

The water came and extinguished the

Fire that burned the stick

That beat the dog that bit the cat

That ate the goat,

Which my father bought for two zuzim.

One little goat, one little goat:

The ox came and drank the water

That extinguished the fire

That burned the stick that beat the dog That bit the cat that ate the goat,

Which my father bought for two zuzim.

One little goat, one little goat:

The butcher came and killed the ox,

That drank the water

That extinguished the fire

That burned the stick that beat the dog That bit the cat that ate the goat,

Which my father bought for two zuzim.

One little goat, one little goat:

The angle of death came and slew

The butcher who killed the ox,

That drank the water

That extinguished the fire

That burned the stick that beat the dog That bit the cat that ate the goat,

Which my father bought for two zuzim.

One little goat, one little goat:

The Holy One, Blessed Be He came and

Smote the angle of death who slew

The butcher who killed the ox,

That drank the water

That extinguished the fire

That burned the stick that beat the dog That bit the cat that ate the goat,

Which my father bought for two zuzim.