What is a Haggadah?
A Haggadah is the book we read from at the Passover Seder. The word Haggadah means ‘telling’. On Passover we tell the story of the Exodus of the Jewish people from the land of Egypt.
Passover is the English translation of the word Pesach, literally to pass over- in reference to the tenth plague God cursed the Egyptians with, but that was passed over the Jewish people.
What is a Seder?
A Seder is the ritual meal that we consume at Passover. The word Seder means ‘order’, and the order of our Seder includes the consumption of several symbolic foods that represent the journey of the people of Israel. The purpose of the symbols is so that we can experience the bitterness and the sweetness of the Exodus because we, as Jews, are supposed regard ourselves as we were personally freed from the land of Egypt.
We begin our Seder with the candlelighting.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ לְהַדלִיק נֵר שֶׁל יוֹם טוֹב.
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheynu Melech Ha’Olam Asher Kidishanu B’Mitzvotav V’Tzivanu L’Hadlik Ner Shel Yom Tov.
Blessed are You, Lord, our God, Ruler of the universe, Who sanctifies us with commandments, and commands us to light the candles on this holiday.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לַזְּמַן הַזֶה.
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheynu Melech Ha’Olam Sheche’hiyanu V’Keymanu V’Higiyanu Lazman Ha’Zeh.
Blessed are You, Lord, our God, Ruler of the universe, Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season.
(1) Kiddush, sanctifying the holiday (2) Maggid, the storytelling (3) Birkat HaMazon, completing the Pesach meal; and (4) Hallel, completing the festival Psalms.
The Talmud connects the Four Cups to God's Four Promises to Israel: "Tell the children of Israel: I am Adonai! I will take them out... I will rescue them… I will redeem them… and I will marry them taking them as my people and I will be their God" (Exodus 6:6-7, Jerusalem Talmud Pesachim 10:1).
However, two 16th C. mystic rabbis identify the Four Cups with the Four Matriarchs of Israel. The Maharal of Prague (famous for the legend of Golem) and Rav Isaiah Horowitz of Tsfat explain:
(1) The Cup of Kiddush stands for Sarah who was the mother of a community of converts, believers by choice.
(2) The Cup of Maggid is for Rebecca who knew how to mother both Esav and Jacob, two opposed natures.
(3) The Cup of the Blessing after Eating represents Rachel whose son Joseph provided the whole family of Jacob with bread in a time of great famine.
(4) The Cup of Hallel (Praise) is for Leah who came to realize that the pursuit of the impossible, Jacob's love, must give way to appreciation of what one has. When her fourth child was born, Judah, she praised God: " This time I will thank God " (Genesis 29:35).
This is the part of the seder where we all go wash our hands BUT we do not say a blessing.
We all take some parsley or other green vegetable and dip it in salt water.
The green vegetable represents rebirth, renewal and growth; the salt water represents the tears of enslavement.
Before eating it, we all say the following prayer:
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה.
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha’olam, borei p’ri ha’adamah.
Blessed are You, Lord, our God, Ruler of the universe, who creates the fruit of the earth.
The leader breaks the middle Matzo, leaving one half on the Seder-dish, and hiding the other half as the Aphikomon to be eaten at the end of the meal.
A Tunisian custom is to say “This is how God split the Red Sea” and then break the middle matzah.
Israelis of Yeminite origin wrap the afikomen in a napkin and places it over his shoulder throughout the chanting of the Hagaddah, symbolizing both the liberation from Egypt, and more recently, the rescue of the Jews of Yemen in Operation Magic Carpet in 1948.
The More You Know...
Uncover the top Matzah and lift the plate for all to see. The recital of the Passover Story begins with the following words:
This is the bread of affliction that our fathers ate in the land of Egypt. All who are hungry – let them come and eat. All who are needy – let them come and celebrate the Passover with us. Now we are here, but next year may we be in the land of Israel*. Now we are slaves, but next year may we be free men and women.
The plate is put down, the Matzoh is covered and the second cup of wine is filled. The youngest person asks the four questions.
* or Hawaii
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.
Why is it only
on Passover night
we never know how
to do anything right?
We don't eat our meals
in the regular ways,
the ways that we eat them
on all other days.
`Cause on all other nights
we might possibly eat
all kinds of wonderful
good bready treats.
Like big purple pizzas
that taste like a pickle,
crumbly snack crackers
and pink pumpernickel.
and tiger on rye,
falafels in pita
that might be fresh-fried.
Dripping with marshmallow
and tangerine sauce
spread upside and down-side
and then-side across!
Toasted whole-wheat bread
with liver and ducks,
and crumpets and dumplings,
and bagels and lox.
Doughnuts with one hole
and doughnuts with four,
cake with six layers
of frosting and s'mores.
on all other nights
we eat all kinds of bread,
but tonight of all nights
we munch matzah instead.
And on all other nights
we consume and devour
vegetables, green things,
roots, herbs...even flowers.
Lettuce that's leafy
and candy-striped spinach,
fresh crunchy celery
(Have more when you're finished!).
Daisies and roses
and inside-out grass
and artichoke hearts
that are simply first class!
Cabbage that's purple
that's red and that's green
the most tasty cabbage
that you've ever seen.
Sixty asparagus tips
served in glasses
with anchovy sauce
and some sticky molasses.
But on Passover night
you would never consider
eating an herb
that wasn't all bitter.
And on all other nights
you would probably flip
if anyone asked you
how often you dip.
On some days I only dip
one Bup-Bup egg
in a teaspoon of vinegar
mixed with nutmeg.
But on others we take
more than ten thousand tails
of the Yakkity-birds
that are hunted in Wales,
and dip them in vats
full of Fifflefat juice.
Then we feed them to Harold,
our six-legged moose.
Or we don't dip at all!
Sometimes that just feels nice.
So why on this night
do we have to dip twice?
And on all other nights
we can sit as we please,
on our heads, on our backs,
our elbows or our knees.
We can hang by our toes
from the top of a camel
or a sloth or a slurth
(any big hairy mammal!).
Our nose in the air
or our nose on the floor
with one ear out the window
and one by the door.
over the greasy k'nishes
or dancing a jig
without breaking the dishes.
on all other nights
you sit nicely when dining--
So why on this night
must we all be reclining?
Uncover the Matzah and begin the reply.
We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt and the Lord our God brought us forth from there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. If the Holy One, blessed be He, had not brought out our forebearers from Egypt, then we and our children, and our children's children would still be enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt. Therefore, even were we all wise – and some of us are! – all men and women of understanding, and even if we were all old and well learned in the Torah, it it would still be our duty to tell the story of the departure from Egypt. And the more one tells of the departure from Egypt, the more is one to be praised.
Blessed is the Lord, Who gave the Torah to His people Israel. Blessed is He. The Torah speaks about four sons: one who is wise and one who is contrary; one who is simple and one who does not even know how to ask a question.
Alternate Around the Table
The wise son asks: "What is the meaning of the rules, laws and customs which the Eternal our God has commanded us? "You shall explain to him all the laws of Passover, to the very last detail about the Afikoman (especially the tax ramifications)."
The contrary son asks: "What is the meaning of this service to you?" Saying to you he excludes himself, and because he excludes himself from the group, he denies a basic principle of our faith. You may therefore tell him sternly: "This is done because of what the Eternal did for me when I came forth from Egypt." For me and not for him.
The simple son asks: "What is this about?" To him you shall say:"With a strong hand the Eternal brought us out of Egypt, from the house of bondage." And then hope there are no bones in his soup.
As for the son who does not even know how to ask a question, you must begin for him, as it is written,"You shall tell your child on that day, 'This is done because of that which the Eternal did for me when I came forth out of Egypt.'"
Alternate Around the Table
Long ago our forebearers were worshippers of idols, but now God has drawn us to His service, as it is written, "And Joshua said to all the people, 'Thus said the Eternal God of Israel: In days of old your forefathers lived beyond the river; that is Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, and they worshipped other gods. Then I took Abraham, your father, from beyond the river and I led him through the wholeland of Canaan. And I increased his family by giving him a son, Isaac. And I gave to Isaac two sons, Jacob and Esau. To Esau I gave Mount Seir as a possession, while Jacob and his sons went down to Egypt.'"
Blessed be He, Who keeps His promise to Israel, blessed be He. For God foretold the end of the bondage to Abraham at the Covenant of Sacrifices. For God said to Abraham: "Know you that your children will be strangers in a land not their own.They will be enslaved there and will be oppressed four hundred years. But I will exercise judgement against the nation they serve. Afterward they will go forth with great wealth."
Cover the Matzah, raise the cup of wine, and say together:
This promise made to our forebearers holds true also for us. For more than one enemy has risen up to destroy us; in every generation there are those who rise against us and seek our destruction. But the Holy One, blessed be He, saves us from their hands.
Put down the cup, uncover the Matzah, and continue
( Alternate Around the Table except Leader in Bold)
Come and learn what Laban the Aramean tried to do to our father Jacob. While Pharaoh decreed only against the males, Laban desired to uproot all. For so it is written: “An Aramean sought to destroy my father; and he went down to Egypt and dwelled there, a handful, few in number. There he became a nation, great, mighty and numerous.”
“He went down to Egypt” – compelled by God’s decree.
“He dwelled there.” This means that Jacob our father did not go down to Egypt to settle there but only to stay for a short while; for so it is said, “And they said to Pharaoh, we have come to dwell in the land because there is no pasture for the flocks of your servants, since the famine is very bad in the land of Canaan; and now let your servants dwell in the land of Goshen.”
“Few in number” – as it is said: “Your forefathers went down into Egypt with seventy persons. Now the Eternal your God has made you as numerous as the stars in heaven.”
“And there he became a nation” – from this we learn that Israel became a distinct nation in Egypt.
“Great, mighty” – as it is said: “And the children of Israel were fruitful and increased and multiplied and became very strong and numerous, so that the land was full of them.”
“And numerous” – as it is said: “I have increased you as the growth of the field and you have become numerous and grown big and reached to excellence in beauty. You are fully grown, yet you remained naked and bare.”
“And the Egyptians did evil unto us and they made us suffer. They set upon us hard labor.”
“And the Egyptians did evil unto us” – as it is said in the Bible: “Come, let us deal craftily with them, lest they increase yet more, and if maybe that when war occurs they will be added to our enemies and fight against us and go up out of the land.”
“And they made us suffer” – as the Bible relates: “So the Egyptians set taskmasters over them in order to oppress them with their burdens; and they built Pithom and Raamses as store-cities for Pharaoh.”
“And they set upon us hard labor: – as the Bible states: “And the Egyptians enslaved the children of Israel with cruelty."
And we cried unto the Eternal, the God of our fathers, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our burden, and our oppression."
“And we cried unto the Eternal, the God of our fathers” – as the Bible recounts: “And it came to pass in the course of many days that the King of Egypt died, and the children of Israel groaned because of their servitude and cried out, and their outcry from their servitude came up to God.”
“And the Eternal heard our voice” – as the Bible tells:“And God heard their moaning, and remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob.”
“And saw our affliction” – this phrase suggests the enforced separation of husband and wife under Pharaoh’s persecution, as it is written:“And God saw the children of Israel and God understood their plight.”
“Our burden” – this recalls the drowningof the male children, as it is said: “Every son that is born you shall cast into the Nile, but every daughter you may keep alive.”
“And our oppression” – this refers to the persecusion, as the Bible says: “And I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians are oppressing them.”
“And the Eternal brought us forth from Egypt, with a strong hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great terror, and with signs and wonders.”
“And the Eternal brought us forth form Egypt” – not by a ministering angel, not by a fiery angel, not by a messenger, but by Himself, in His glory, did the Holy One, blessed be He, do so, as the Bible records: “And I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and I will smite all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man to beast, and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments. I am the Lord.”
“With a strong hand” – this refers to the cattle plague, as it is said in the Bible: “Behold, the hand of the Eternal will strike your livestock in the field – the horses, the donkeys, the camels, the oxen and the sheep – with a very grievous plague.”
“And with an outstretched arm” – this refers to the sword, as the Bible states: “His sword drawn in his hand, outstretched over Jerusalem.”
“And with great terror” – this refers to the Revelation of God to Israel, as it is said: “Has any god ever tried to go and remove one nation from the midst of another nation, with trials, with signs and with wonders, and with battle, and with a strong hand and outstretched arm, and with great terrors, as the Eternal your God did for you in Egyp tbefore your eyes?”
“And with signs” – this refersto the rod of Moses, as it said: “And thou, Moses, shalt take in thy hand this rod where with thou shalt perform the signs.”
“And wonders” – this refers to the plague of blood, as it is written in Scripture: “I will show wonders in the heavens and on earth."
Another interpretation of this verse is as follows: “With a strong hand” – means two plagues; “and with an outstretched arm” – two; “and with great terror” – two; “and with signs” –two; “and wonders” – two.
This refers to the ten plagues which the Lord, blessed be He, brought upon the Egyptions in Egypt, and they are as follows:
As we rejoice at our deliverance from slavery, we acknowledge that our freedom was hard-earned. We regret that our freedom came at the cost of the Egyptians’ suffering, for we are all human beings. We pour out a drop of wine for each of the plagues as we recite them.
Dip a finger or a spoon into your wine glass for a drop for each plague.
These are the ten plagues which God brought down on the Egyptians:
דָּם Blood | dam |
צְפַרְדֵּֽעַ Frogs | tzfardeiya |
כִּנִּים Lice | kinim |
עָרוֹב Beasts | arov |
דֶּֽבֶר Cattle disease | dever |
שְׁחִין Boils | sh’chin |
בָּרָד Hail | barad |
אַרְבֶּה Locusts | arbeh |
חֹֽשֶׁךְ Darkness | choshech |
מַכַּת בְּכוֹרוֹת Death of the Firstborn | makat b’chorot |
The Egyptians needed ten plagues because after each one they were able to come up with excuses and explanations rather than change their behavior. Could we be making the same mistakes? What are the plagues in your life? What are the plagues in our world today? What behaviors do we need to change to fix them?
Rabban Gamliel used to say: Whoever does not explain the following three symbols at the Seder on Passover has not fulfilled his duty:
PESAH, THE PASSOVER OFFERING
MATZAH, THE MATZAH
MAROR, THE BITTER HERBS
Point to the shank bone:
The Passover offering which our fathers ate in Temple days, what was the reason for it? It was because the Holy One, blessed be He, passed over the houses of our forefathers in Egypt, as it is written in the Bible: “And you shall say it is the Passover offering for the Eternal Who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians and spared our houses. And the people bowed their heads and worshipped.”
Point to the Matzah :
This Matzah which we eat, what is the reason for it? It is because there was not time for the dough of our ancestors in Egypt to become leavened, before the Ruler of all, the Holy One, blessed be He, revealed Himself to them and redeemed them, as it is told in the Bible: “And they baked the dough which they had brought out from Egypt into cakes of unleavened bread, for it had not leavened, because they were thrust out of Egypt and they could not tarry, nor had they prepared for themselves any provisions.”
Point to the bitter herbs:
These bitter herbs which we eat – what is their meaning? They are eaten to recall that the Egyptians embittered the lives of our forebearers in Egypt, as it is written: “And they embittered their lives with hard labor: with mortar and bricks, with every kind of work in the fields; all the work which they made them do was cruel.” In every generation one must look upon oneself as having personally come out from Egypt, as the Bible says: “And thou shalt tell thy son on that day, saying, it is because of that which the Eternal did to me when I went forth from Egypt.” For it was not our ancestors alone whom the Holy One, blessed be He, redeemed; He redeemed us too, with them as it is said: “He brought us out from there that He might lead us to and give us the land which He pledged to our forefathers.”
Raise the cup of wine and say together:
Therefore, it is our duty to thank and to praise in song and prayer, to glorify and extol Him Who performed all these wonders for our forebearers and for us. He brought us out from slavery to freedom, from anguish to joy, from sorrow to joy, from darkness to great light. Let us therefore sing before Him a new song. Halleluyah. Praise the Lord.
Put down the cup and continue
Pass Miriam's cup around the table(s).
A Midrash teaches us that a miraculous well accompanied the Jews throughout their journey in the desert, providing them with water. This well was given by God to Miriam, the prophetess, to honor her bravery and devotion to the Jewish people. Both Miriam and her well were spiritual oases in the desert, sources of sustenance and healing. Her words of comfort gave the Jews the faith and confidence to overcome the hardships of the Exodus.
We fill Miriam's cup with water to honor her role in ensuring the survival of the Jewish people. Like Miriam, Jewish women from generation to generation have been essential for the continuity of our people.
Let us each fill the cup of Miriam with water from our own glasses, so that our daughters may continue to draw from the strength and wisdom of our heritage.
When Miriam's cup is filled, raise the goblet and say together:
We place Miriam's cup on our Seder table to honor the important role of Jewish women in our tradition and history, whose stories have been too sparingly told.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר
קִדְשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ עַל נְטִילַת יָדַיִם.
Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha-olam
asher kidishanu b'mitz'votav v'tzivanu
al n'tilat yadayim.
Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the Universe Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us concerning washing of hands.
בָרוךְ אַתָה יי אֱלֹהֵינו מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם בוֹרֵא פְרִי הַגָפֶן.
Fill the fourth cup of wine and open the door for Elijah the Prophet.
Pour out Thy wrath upon the nations that know Thee not, and upon
the kingdoms that call not upon Thy name; for they have consumed
Jacob and laid waste his habitation. Pour out Thy rage upon them
and let Thy fury overtake them. Pursue them in anger and destroy
them from under the heavens of the Lord.
Close the door. All are seated.