An Egalitarian Hagada
This Hagada is dedicated to the memory of my two cousins, Lazar and Isaac Malar, my aunt, Gittel Freedman Malar and uncle Shmuel Malar, who perished at the hands of the Nazis, in Dubno (the Ukraine), October, 1942.
THE SEDER PLATE
THE SHANK BONE represents the Pesach offering made in the days of the Temple. Vegetarians can substitute a picture or leave the space blank. Another possible substitute is something to represent the grain offering that was required on every day of Passover (see Numbers 28:19-26). The grain offering was traditionally unleavened flour (i.e., matza meal) plus oil (Leviticus 2:1-11). A little matza-meal cake is therefore a possibility here.
THE CHAZERET is an other bitter herb, usually ground horseradish.
THE KARPAS can be any green vegetable (celery, lettuce or boiled potatoes) and represents Spring, the renewal of life.
THE EGG (boiled or roasted) is said to represent Israel. Just as an egg becomes increasingly hard the more it is cooked, so Jews are said to toughen their resolve to survive during hard times.
THE MAROR (bitter herbs)—usually a piece of unground horseradish —represents the bitterness of slavery in Egypt.
THE CHAROSET, a mixture of chopped nuts, apples and wine, represents the mortar the Jewish slaves used to make bricks for the Egyptians.
On the Seder table near the Seder Plate is a bowl of salt water, a dish of hard-boiled eggs which some people eat along with the KARPAS, and a plate with three covered matzot to be used at various stages of the ceremony.
There should be enough wine (grape juice for the younger set) for four glasses. One brim-full glass of wine is placed in the center of the table for Elijah the Prophet.
Before lighting the candles and ushering in the holiday, we recite this poem written by Hannah Senesch.* She was one of a small group of women and men from Eretz Israel who parachuted behind German lines during the War in the hope of rescuing Jews from the Nazi murder-machine. She was captured, and wrote the poem in prison in Budapest before her execution on November 7th, 1944:
Blessed is the match consumed
in igniting flames.
Blessed is the flame that flared
in the secret places of the heart.
Blessed are the hearts with strength
to throb their last beat in dignity.
Blessed is the match consumed
in igniting flames.
Baruch ata adonai, eh-lo-hay-noo meh-lech ha-olam, asher kid-sha-noo be-mitzvo-tav, ve-tzee-va-noo le-had-leek nayr shel chag ha-Pesach.
Blessed are You, our God, Giver of Light, who sanctified us with the commandment to light the holiday candles.
Martin Buber wrote: “At Pesach, every celebrating generation becomes united with the first generation and with all those that have followed. As in that first Pesach night the families united into the living people, so in the Pesach night the generations of the people unite together year after year.” We, now, around this table, unite with all the generations of our people as we begin our celebration.
KADAYSH: BLESSING THE WINE
Say the Kee-doosh (prayer on wine or grape-juice):
Baruch ata adonai eh-lo-hay-noo meh-lech ha-olam, bo-ray pree hagafen.
Blessed are You, God, Creator of the Universe, who brings forth from the earth the fruit of the vine. Blessed are you, God, Creator of the Universe, who sanctified our people by giving us commandments to fulfill, and who makes us joyful by giving us holidays for celebration. Tonight we celebrate the Festival of Pesach to remember a holy event in our history: our liberation from slavery in Egypt.
Baruch ata adonai eh-lo-hay-noo meh-lech ha-olam, sheh-he-cheh-ya-noo ve-kee-ye-ma-noo ve-hee-gee-a-noo la-z’man ha-zeh
Blessed are You, God, Creator of the Universe, who has kept us alive and who has sustained us so that we may reach this day.
YACHATZ: BREAKING OF THE MIDDLE MATZA
Break the middle one of the three matzot on the Seder table. Leave one half there. Wrap the other half in a cloth or napkin and hide it. This piece of matza is now called the “afeekomon” (from the Greek word for dessert). It has to be found (usually by a child) and eaten by all present right after dinner, before the Seder can continue.
MAGEED: TELL THE STORY OF OUR LIBERATION FROM SLAVERY
Uncover the matzot, lift the ceremonial Seder plate and say aloud:
Haw lach-ma an-ya dee-a-cha-loo av-ha-ta-na be-ar’a de-mitz-ra-yeem. Kawl dich-feen yay-tay ve-yay-chool. Kawl ditz-reech yay-tay ve-yif-sach. Ha-sha-ta hacha; le-sha-na ha-ba’a be-ar’a de-Yis-ra-el. Ha-sha-ta av-day; le-sha-na ha-ba’a be-nay/be-not cho-reen.
This is the poor people’s bread our ancestors ate in the Land of Egypt.
Let all who hunger come and eat it with us. Let all who hunger for spiritual sustenance, come and share this celebration and let us rediscover and renew our heritage together.
This year we are oppressed. We live in a world in which powerful forces carry out evil deeds—against our people, against the poor and the crippled and the old of all nations, against women, against animals, and against our planet, our Mother Earth. We live in a world in which too many stand silently by in the face of evil—out of complicity, out of greed, and out of fear.
Next year may we be free. Next year, may we be living in the Reign of Peace, in a new era of love and reverence for all humanity and all the creatures of the Green Hills of Earth.
THE FOUR QUESTIONS
The youngest person at the table now recites or sings the Four Questions.
Ma nish-ta-na ha-lai-la ha-zeh mee-kawl ha-lay-lote?
Sheh-be-chawl ha-lay-lote anoo och-leen cha-maytz oo-matza ; ha-lai-la ha-zeh koo-lo matza. Sheh-be-chawl ha-lay-lote anoo och-leen she-ahr yera-kote; ha-lai-la ha-zeh, maror.
She be-chawl ha-lay-lote ayn anoo mat-bee-leen a-fee-loo pa-am achat; ha-lai-la ha-zeh, shtay pe-a-meem.
Sheh be-chawl ha-lay-lote anoo och-leen bayn yosh-veen oo-vayn me-soo-been; ha-lai-la ha-zeh, koo-la-noo me-soo-been
Why is this night different from all other nights? Why is it that on all other nights we eat both bread and matza, but on this night only matza?
Why is it that on all other nights we eat all kinds of vegetables, but on this night we must eat bitter herbs?
Why is it that on all other nights we might not dip one food into another even once, but on this night we dip different foods twice?
Why is it that on all other nights we may sit or recline while eating, but on this night we all eat in a reclining position?
One of the adults (any woman over 12 or man over 13) replies:
This night is different from all other nights of the year because tonight we celebrate the liberation of our people from the Egyptian House of Bondage, a historic event that marks our emergence as a free nation.
AVADEEM HA-YEE-NOO: WE WERE ONCE SLAVES
Ava-deem ha-yee-noo le-far’o be-mitzra-yeem. Va-yo-tzee-ay-noo adonai mee-sham be-yad chazaka oo-ve-zro-a ne-too-ya. Ve-eeloo lo ho-tzee hakadosh baruch hoo et avotay-noo mee-mitzra-yeem, haray anoo oo-mishpachtay-noo ve-chavay-ray-noo, meshoo-ba-deem ha-yee-noo le-far’o be-mitzra-eem.
We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. The Torah tells us God took us out of there “with a strong hand and an outstretched arm,” in other words, by uprising and revolt. If we had not been freed from Egyptian bondage, then we and our children and grandchildren, our parents and grandparents, our sisters and brothers, our relatives and friends, and all who sit around this table tonight, would still be slaves unto Pharaoh in Egypt. So even were all of us wise, all of us learned, all of us deeply committed to our heritage, we would still be obligated to tell again and again the story of our liberation so it will never be forgotten.
THE STORY OF OUR LIBERATION FROM EGYPT*
This narrative, the core of the Seder, can be read going around the table, with each person reading one or several paragraphs.
Originally, Jacob and Leah and their entire household went to Egypt because of the famine raging in Canaan, the Land of Israel. Egypt was hospitable. Joseph, the son of Rachel and Jacob, had recently risen to the position of top economic official, and initiated a program to prevent wholesale starvation in lean years. The Jews became important in the economy of Egypt and believed they had enough power and influence to be forever secure.
The Jews came to feel at home in Egypt. Years, even centuries after the famine in Canaan had ended and it was possible to go home again, they lingered on and on because life in Egypt was easy and comfortable. They adopted alien values and forgot what it meant to live in their homeland in accordance with their own values and heritage, as a free people. And then, when their mental slavery was complete, they were easily reduced to physical slavery.
As rulers changed upon Egypt’s throne, the new Pharaoh found the Jews’ economic role to be marginal and insignificant. He preferred to ignore the contributions Joseph and his family had made to Egyptian society. He needed slave labor for his Empire, and found it both expedient and easy to enslave the Jews. The Jews did not raise their voices or their hands in protest.
The Pharaoh developed the theory that Jews were an alien minority likely to take over the country or constitute a “fifth-column” in the event of enemy attack. He initiated a policy of genocide: drowning all new-born Jewish males and registering all new-born females to be raised as prostitutes. But the Jews did not raise their voices or their hands in protest.
It was only after the death of the Pharaoh who had enslaved them that the Jews began to realize the nature of their oppression. Until that point, they had believed that their enslavement was caused only by a bad king and that they would be free once he died. But when the Pharaoh died and their enslavement continued, they began to understand that it was embedded in the system. It was then that they cried out their oppression for the first time.
But still they did not raise their hands in protest.
Moshe, who was destined to lead the struggle of his people for liberation, was born to Yocheved and Amram during the days of the genocide policy. His life was saved by three women: His mother hid him in a basket among the bulrushes of the river Nile, the Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him as her son, and his sister Miriam arranged to have Yocheved be his wet-nurse at the palace. Moses grew up in court, an assimilated Jew.
But he was impelled to seek his roots. He went out to observe the Jewish slaves and felt himself to be a Jew. One day, he saw an Egyptian overseer beat a Jew. His response was immediate: he killed the overseer. The next day, a Jewish slave threatened to inform on him. Moshe escaped from Egypt and became a political exile in neighboring Midyan. He married Zipporah and devoted himself to raising a family, seeking to forget his people’s suffering in Egypt.
But Moshe’s destiny followed him to the desert. One day, while rescuing a lost lamb, he had a vision of a burning but unconsumed bush. This was a sign that although the Jewish people might be consumed in flames, it would continue to live and resist, like the thorns in the bush. He understood it was time to return to his people.
Moshe came back to Egypt and enlisted the help of his brother Aaron and his sister Miriam. At first he impressed the Jewish leadership. The elders delegated him to ask Pharaoh to let the people go on a three-day religious festival in the desert. Pharaoh refused. These slaves went on strike. Pharaoh denounced Moshe and Aaron as outside agitators, and ordered the overseers to deny the slaves straw to make bricks with. Pharaoh thus acted as a classic oppressor, tightening rather than loosening the bonds of oppression at the first sign of insurgency.
The Jewish leadership, upon being told by Pharaoh that this was due to the actions of Moshe and Aaron, turned against them. Thus they acted in the classic pattern of oppressed people, who often turn against each other instead of uniting against the oppressor.
Nothing Moshe or Aaron did or said made any lasting impact on Pharaoh. He was unmoved by pleas for justice and mercy, and unfazed by threats of dire consequences. Pharaoh watched his world come crashing down around him. Frogs and locusts swarmed over the land, the stench of blood rose from the rivers, and boils and lice covered the skin of his subjects. But Pharaoh was still unwilling to give up his power over the slaves.
Moshe understood that, in dealing with an oppressor, it was not enough to present reasonable demands or even to create massive civil disturbances. The oppressor had to be brought to his knees. So it was only when Pharaoh’s first-born son died in the Tenth Plague that he told the Jews to leave. Our ancestors were prepared for this contingency. They collected back wages in goods from the Egyptians for 400 years of unpaid labor. Then they mobilized according to plan and marched out.
Pharaoh, however, had a change of heart as soon as conditions returned to normal. He quickly gathered his chariots and cavalry to recapture the Jewish slaves, who were now by the shores of the Red Sea.
The Jews turned around and saw the army of the Egyptians, who had been their masters until a short time ago. Even though they were 600,000 strong and the Egyptians numbered only 600, they were frightened. In their panic, they turned on Moshe for bringing this danger upon them.
The waters did not divide until one Jew, Nachshon, walked into the sea. In doing this, he acted as a free human being who was ready to take the ultimate risk for freedom. Thus he became a free human being. Only after Nachshon and those who followed him made their first break with slavery did the waters divide and allow the Jews to cross over in safety.
Miriam, who had organized the women to take charge of all the details of the departure from Egypt, led them in song and dance, to celebrate the escape from slavery.
Freedom from a master is not the end of a liberation struggle, but only the beginning. During the years of bondage, the Jews had seen themselves as the Egyptians had seen them—as victims, weak, ineffective, powerless. So although they had wrenched their bodies free of bondage, their spirits were still enslaved. They were unsure of their identity, incapable of trusting themselves or each other, fearful of risks and responsibilities. Their energy was thus largely unavailable to them.
They did not even trust their own chosen leaders. Many times they regretted bitterly having given up the security of slavery for the insecurity and dangers of freedom. Many times they were consumed with nostalgia for the “good old days” of slavery.
They did not go back to slavery in Egypt. But neither could they go forward to self-determination in the Promised Land. The entire generation of slaves (with only two exceptions) wandered in the desert for forty years, unable to find the path to self-liberation.
But the next generation, born to the precarious life in the desert, free of pernicious values of Egyptian society and of the painful memories and fears of slavery, were independent in both body and soul. They made the leap into freedom and went up to the Promised Land.
The experience of slavery, told to them by their parents and grandparents, left a profound mark on their consciousness. It gave them a deep understanding of the preciousness of freedom, and a passionate commitment to justice that they incorporated in the Torah, Jewish law. They vowed to remember that the Jews were once slaves in Egypt and to retell the story of our liberation once a year—even as we tell it again, tonight, around this table.
Ava-deem ha-yee-noo, ha-yee-noo. Ata chof-shee-eem ve-chof-shee-ote.
Or sing in English (same tune):
We were slaves to Pharaoh, in Egypt’s land. God brought us to freedom with a strong hand. Going from bondage to liberation In struggle becoming, becoming a nation. Resolving now, as we did then: Never, never to be slaves again.
Pour the first cup of wine, lift it and say:
We drink this first of four cups of wine at this Seder to mark our first struggle for freedom.
Put down the cup and continue:
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, and to report the birth of Jewish females so they could be taken away and raised as prostitutes. 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. Our sages affirmed this when they said: “The Jews were liberated from Egypt because of the righteousness of the women” (Talmud, Sota lib).
Say the blessing on the wine, then drink the first cup:
Baruch ata adonai, eh-lo-hay-noo meh-lech ha-olam bo-ray pree ha-ga-fen.
Blessed are You, our God, Creator of the Universe who brings forth from the earth the fruit of the vine.
IN EACH AND EVERY GENERATION
In each and every generation, Jews should experience the Exodus as if we ourselves had just been liberated from Egypt along with the Jews of that time. For it is written: “And you shall tell your child on that day, ‘This is what God did to liberate me from Egypt.'” For God did not only liberate our ancestors, but us, their descendants, as well.
THE FOUR CHILDREN
The Torah spoke of “telling your child” the story of our Exodus. According to tradition, there are four types of children, of young Jews: the wise individual, the evil one, the superficial type and the youth who does not know what questions to ask. The four types of contemporary Jewish youth are:
• the young Jew who is searching for his or her Jewish roots, learning from study and experience what our heritage and its significance are;
• the alienated young Jew who is negative about Jewish life and its concerns and finds them painful and upsetting;
• the superficial Jewish youth who goes through the motions of synagogue attendance and philanthropy but whose understanding and identification stop there;
• and the Jewish child who is so remote from anything Jewish that she or he would not even know what to ask first upon encountering it.
The searching young Jew asks: “What can I learn from the experiences of the Jews during the Exodus from Egypt that is relevant to our struggles for self-liberation today?” It is our obligation to provide this Jewish youth with the rich treasures of our heritage so she can deepen her Jewish knowledge and consciousness and understanding, and strengthen her commitment to the pursuit of justice.
The alienated young Jew asks: “What can this chauvinistic tribal rite possibly have to say to me?” Notice that he said, “to me” and not “to us,” thus deliberately removing himself from the ranks of our people and distancing himself from our struggle. Although he has turned his back on us, we should not turn our back on him. We should confront him directly and say: “What benefits are you deriving from separating yourself from your people in our joyful celebration? Don’t you know you will still be identified as a Jew in times of suffering?”
Everything should be done to try to make this young Jew realize he is part of the Jewish people and how much he has to lose by deserting us. Meanwhile, we might sadly observe that had he been in Egypt, he would have similarly failed to participate in our liberation, and would have remained a slave with a slave mentality, even as he is today.
The superficially identified young Jew who has no conflict over his Jewishness because it is so marginal to his life might ask: “What is all this about anyway? Why is being a committed Jew so important?” And we should seize this opportunity to explain that what passes for Jewishness in the West is often so diluted and trivialized that it is no wonder he relegates Jewishness to the remote recesses of his consciousness. We should explain that this derives from the ravages of the assimilationism, and that he can begin to struggle against it tonight, at our Seder.
Finally, there is the Jewish youth who has never dropped out of the community because she was never in it, who is so remote from Jewish life and concerns that she does not even know what to ask about being Jewish. It is up to us to reach out to this young Jew with open arms and involve her in joyful experiences like this Seder so that she will begin to feel that she too, is part of our people.
Take a piece of the karpas, the green vegetable (celery, lettuce or a boiled potato) dip it in the salt water and say:
We dip the karpas, this leafy green vegetable which symbolizes growth, the renewal of life that comes with liberation, into a bowl of salt water, which represents the tears we shed under oppression and slavery. Why do we immerse karpas, the symbol of liberation, into salt water, the symbol of our suffering? We do this to affirm that to liberate ourselves, we first have to immerse ourselves in the depths of our suffering, bring out into the open our suppressed pain and forgotten anguish—and identify it as oppression. Only after we have become fully conscious of our oppression as oppression can we begin to grow into liberation.
Say the blessing and eat the karpas:
Baruch ata adonai eh-lo-hay-noo meh-lech ha-olam, boray pree ha-adamah.
Blessed are You, our God, Creator of the Universe, who brings forth the fruit of the earth.
Some people now eat hard-boiled eggs dipped in the salt water. Those who do, say:
The sage, Hatam Sofer asked: Why do we eat hard-boiled eggs at the Seder? Because the egg, which becomes increasingly hard the more it is cooked, is symbolic of the character of the Jewish people: oppression toughens our resolve to live and flourish.
GO AND LEARN
Go and learn how the enemies of the Jews tried so many times and in so many places to destroy us. We survived because of our spiritual resistance. We clung to our heritage, our tradition, our values, no matter what dangers we faced.
Pour the second cup of wine and say or sing:
Ve-hee sheh-amda la-vo-tay-noo ve-la-noo: Sheh-lo eh-chad bil-vad amad a-lay-noo le-cha-lo-tay-noo. Eh-la, sheh-be-chawl dor va-dor, om-deem a-lay-noo le-cha-lo-tay-noo. Ve-ha-kadosh baruch hoo ma-tzee-lay-noo mee-ya-dam.
It was the unshakable solidarity of the Jewish people, our unity with each other and our culture, that kept us alive during two thousand years of persecution. For how many times have we been faced with annihilation? How many times has despair threatened to overwhelm us? But this unbreakable bond stood between us and destruction.
THE FIVE SCHOLARS
We continued to be Jews even when Judaism was outlawed. The traditional hagada relates how five scholars—Akiva, Yehoshu’a, Elazar ben Azarya, Eliezer and Tarfon—were holding a seder in the town of Bnay Brak at a time when the yoke of Rome was heavy and such celebrations were forbidden. They became so involved in telling the story of the Exodus that they did not realize the night had passed and dawn had broken. Finally, their students came to them and said, “Our teachers, it is time for morning prayers.” According to the oral tradition, it was not only the struggle against the Pharaoh of Egypt that the rabbis were discussing so fervently, but the coming struggle against the Empire of Rome.
The Romans crushed the three rebellions against the Empire, scattering the Jewish people to the four corners of the earth. In every country, we were a minority, living on sufferance, existing at the whim of the rulers. The Chronicles of the Jewish community of Mayence (Mainz), in 12th century Germany, recorded that during the savage attack of the Crusaders “the pious women hurled stones at the enemies through the windows. Infuriated, the enemies threw the stones back until the women’s faces and bodies were bleeding from many wounds.”
In the days of the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisition, we continued the dangerous practice of Judaism underground. Yiddish poet Avrom Reisen wrote this poem* about the Marranos, the secret Jews of 15th century Iberia:
Tell me, Marrano, my brother, where have you prepared your seder?
—In a room in a deep cellar, there my seder is ready.
Tell me, Marrano, my [sister], where will you get white matzot?
—In the cellar, under God’s protection, [I] kneaded the dough.
Tell me, Marrano, how will you manage to get a hagada?
—In the cellar, in a deep crevice, I hid a hagada long ago.
Tell me, Marrano, if your voice is heard, what will you do then?
—When the enemy captures me, I will die singing.
Raise the second cup of wine and say:
We drink this second of four cups of wine to honor our forebears who remained Jews during two thousand long years of Exile. How easy it would have been to convert, to simply disappear as a people! But the will to live as Jews was stronger even than the harsh oppression.
When the Nazis took power in Germany, they decreed that all Jews must wear the yellow star, as they had in the ghettos of medieval Europe. On April first, 1933, the Jewish Review of Berlin, a Zionist newspaper, editorialized about what the Jewish response to this evil decree should be: “The Jewish answer must be clear. It must be that briefest of sentences spoken by Moshe to the Egyptian: ‘Ivri Anochi: I am a Jew.'”
Say the blessing on the wine and drink the second cup:
Baruch ata adonai eh-lo-hay-noo meh-lech ha- olam bo-ray pree ha-ga-fen.
Blessed are You, God, Creator of the Universe, who brings forth from the earth the fruit of the vine.
On this night we remember our sisters and brothers who were brutally tortured, murdered and burned by the Nazis and their collaborators among the peoples of Europe. We vow never to forget or forgive.
We remember the criminal apathy of the allied Western nations who sabotaged attempts to rescue Jews and closed their eyes and doors to our people. We vow never to forget or forgive. We will not forget or forgive the crime of Great Britain, which closed the door of Eretz Israel to Jews trying to escape the ovens. We will not forget or forgive the crime of the United States, which refused to bomb the crematoria of Auschwitz or the rail tracks leading to the death camps because, they said, “it would detract from the war effort.”
Now someone, usually a child, opens the door for Elee-ya-hoo HaNavee, Elijah the Prophet, and all present say:
Shfoch cha-mat-cha el ha-go-yeem asher lo ye-da-oo-cha, ve-al mamla-chote asher be-shim-cha lo kara-oo. Kee achal et Ya-a-kove ve-et na-vay-hoo hay-sha-moo. Shfoch a-lay-hem za-am-cha, ve-charone a-peh-cha ya-see-gaym. Teer-dofe be-af, ve-tash-mee-daym mee-ta-chat sh’may adonai.
Let the wrath of God be hurled against all those persecute, torture, rape, mutilate and abuse us; against those who engineer and organize genocide; against those who collaborate with the arch-criminals; against those who profit from our
death; and against those who close their eyes to murder, torture and injustice.
Let the wrath of God smash their power and their weapons, their murderous schemes and the fear and trembling they cause. Let the wrath of God be our wrath, our rage, our fury, so long held back, long denied, long suppressed. And when the oppression is destroyed, let the flowers of freedom blossom forth and cover the earth.
Close the door and sing:
Elee-ya-hoo Ha-Navee. Elee-ya-hoo Ha-Tish-bee. Elee-ya-hoo, Elee-ya-hoo, Elee-ya-hoo Ha-Gil-a-dee. Bim-hay-ra be-ya-may-noo, ya-vo ay-lay-noo. Eem ma-shee-ach ben Da-veed, Eem ma-shee-ach ben Da-veed. Elee-ya Ha-Na-vee, Elee-ya-hoo Ha-Tish-bee. Elee-ya-hoo, Elee-ya-hoo, Elee-ya-hoo Ha-Gil-a-dee.
May the Prophet Elijah, fore-runner of the Messianic Era, come to us quickly in our own life-time.
On this night we remember with pride the resistance of the Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe. Starving, weakened by disease, tormented by the slaughter of their mothers and fathers, their children, their siblings, terrorized by the brutality, they somehow found the strength to resist their oppressors. Some resisted by organizing food and shelter, prayer services, schools and cultural and political activities to maintain Jewish spirits as well as Jewish bodies. Others fought in the ghettos, concentration camps and partisan units, against impossible odds.
The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, one of the many ghetto revolts, began on the first night of Pesach, April 19th, 1943. With pitifully few arms, the several hundred fighters took on the armoured tanks and flame-throwers of the enemy. Each inch of ground, each house was contested fiercely and bitterly. The battle continued until the Germans had burned the entire ghetto to the ground 43 days later. The Warsaw Ghetto fought the Germans longer than any European country. Even after the ghetto was burned to the ground, isolated groups of resistance fighters emerged from bunkers to avenge the murder of our people. Not until September, 1943—five months after the start of the Uprising—was the area of the Warsaw Ghetto finally silent.
From the Resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto and in other ghettos and concentration camps, emerged the Partisaner Lied—the Partisans’ Song.
Recite or sing:
Zawg nit kayn-mawl ahz doo gaytzt dem letz- ten vegg
Him-len vai-eh-neh far-shtelin bloy-eh teg Koo-min veht nawch oon-zer oys-ge-benk-teh shaw
S’vet a poyk-tawn oon-zer trawt meer zai-nen daw.
Or sing in English:
Don’t ever say you walk the last mile of the way
The dusty clouds conceal the blue skies of the day
The hour we long for and we fight for now draws near
When we’ll stand up and declare: “Look, we are here!”
This is a song our people wrote in blood and fire
It’s not the song of birds that freely soar yet higher
For from behind the falling walls our people sang
And while singing held their rifles in their hand.
Hirsh Glick, a partisan, wrote this poem to honor Vitke Kempner, a woman who was his comrade in the Vilna Ghetto Uprising. Both were killed in the resistance.
THE NIGHT IS STILL
The night is still and bright with stars
There is a burning frost
Do you remember how I taught you
To hold a gun in your hand?
A young woman in a jacket and a beret
A grenade gripped tightly in her hand
A young woman, her face smooth as velvet
Blows up the enemy convoy.
She aims, fires and shoots true!
With her small gun
She has destroyed
A car full of armed men.
It is daybreak and she steals out of the
A garland of snow in her hair
Proud of the small victory she has won
For our new and free generation!
Pour the third cup of wine. Lift the cup and say:
We drink this third of four cups of wine to honor the memory of the Jewish resistance. The courage in the face of unspeakable brutality and anguish inspires us.
Say the blessing on the wine and drink the third cup:
Baruch ata adonai eh-lo-hay-noo meh-lech ha- olam bo-ray pree ha-ga-fen.
Blessed are You, God, Creator of the Universe, who brings forth from the earth the fruit of the vine.
Albert Memmi wrote: “Oppressed people must never expect others to hand them their liberation. …They must take their destiny in their own hands. Our lives must no longer depend on any treaty, often signed with other ends in mind, by anyone with anyone else We should not have had to ask ourselves piteously and in vain, why the Pope was silent or why the Americans abandoned us Liberty is not a gift. Bestowed, conceded, protected by someone else, it is denied and it vanishes. Our liberation must depend on our own fight for it….”
THE TEN PLAGUES
This was the lesson our ancestors in Egypt learned as they struggled with Pharaoh to free themselves from bondage. The Torah relates that Ten Plagues (literally, Ten Strikes) were unleashed against the Egyptians as part of this struggle.
As we read the names of the Plagues aloud, we dip a finger into the wine and shake off a drop of wine into a plate for each plague mentioned. Our sages said the reason for this was to remind us that our cup of happiness cannot he full to overflowing if our freedom means the tragedy of others, even our sworn enemies.
A-ROVE Swarms of flies
MA-KAT BE-CHO-ROTE Striking the first born
THE THREE SYMBOLS
Rabban Gamliel, who lived in the time of Roman tyranny, said: “Whoever has not called attention at the Seder to the three symbols of Pesach has not fulfilled the obligations of this celebration. And these are the symbols: the Pesach offering, matza and maror (bitter herbs).”
Point to the shank bone on the seder plate and say:
Why do we have a shank bone at our Seder? To remember the sacrifice made by our ancestors on the eve of their departure from Egypt. They marked their door posts with the blood of the sacrifice to call attention to their revolt. It was a symbol of the refusal to hide from the risks and consequences of the struggle to become free.
Vegetarians may point to the place on the plate where a space may be left for the shank-bone or a picture of it or a grain-offering substituted, and say, along with anyone else who wishes to join in:
Just as the sacrifice of animals was forbidden after the days of the Temple, so, too, we look forward to the day, when the killing of animals will be forbidden, and when the suffering and enslavement of animals will be ended even as human suffering will be no more.
Point to the matza and say:
Why do we eat matza?
Because in the days preceding our Exodus from Egypt, our foremothers were organizing all the details of our departure and did not have time to wait around for the dough to rise into bread. So they improvised flat cakes without yeast—matzot—that could be baked and consumed in haste, for all the Jews were eager to leave Egypt quickly. The matza represents a rush to freedom.
MOTZEE, MATZAH: BLESSING THE GRAIN
The blessing on all forms of bread is immediately followed by the blessing on the special kind of bread we eat on Pesach, the matza. Say both blessings, then break pieces off the top matza and the half of the middle matza and pass around to everyone to eat. Each piece must, by tradition, be no smaller than an olive.
Baruch ata ado-nai eh-lo-hay-noo men-lech ha-olam, ha-mo-tzee leh-chem min ha-aretz. Baruch ata adonai eh-lo-hay-noo meh-lech ha-olam, asher kid-sha-noo be-mitzvo-tav, ve-tzee-va-noo ahl achee-lat matza.
Blessed are You, our God, Creator of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.
Blessed are You, our God, Creator of the Universe, who sanctified us with the Torah and commanded us to eat matza.
The Torah and our Prophets constantly remind us to “pursue justice because you were slaves in Egypt.” We are taught to remember our experience of oppression, and fight injustice wherever we are.
Our grandmothers and grandfathers carried out this teaching when they pioneered in organizing unions in Europe and America to end the oppression of wage-slaves. During the Massachusetts mill strikes of 1912, James Oppenheimer wrote the song “Bread and Roses,” which became a hymn of the strikers and later, the women’s movement:
As we come marching, marching, in the beauty of the day
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts gray
Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses
For the people hear us singing: Bread and Roses, Bread and Roses!
As we come marching, marching, we bring the Greater Days
For the rising of the women means the rising of the Race
No more the drudge and idler, ten that toil where one reposes
But a sharing of life’s glories—Bread and Roses, Bread and Roses!
MAROR: BITTER HERBS
Point to the maror and say:
What is the meaning of eating maror? The maror represents the bitterness of our bondage. Just as we are commanded to bring to mind the bitterness of our bondage, so, too, are we obligated to be conscious that bondage and persecution are the bitter fate of countless people on our planet today, and to support the liberation of all on Earth.
Dip the maror in the charoset and say;
Why do we dip maror in charoset? The charoset represents the clay for the bricks we made in Egypt, another symbol of our slavery. Others say, the charoset, made with apples, symbolizes the apple trees of Egypt. In the shade of those apple trees, our foremothers gave birth to the next generation, knowing full well the risks involved. As we dip the maror, symbol of our bitterness, into the charoset, symbol of taking risks for freedom, we remind each other that in taking these risks to break our bondage, we grow in strength and purpose. Our growing freedom of spirit, even before we have smashed the shackles of slavery, overcomes the bitterness of our suffering and sweetens the long period of struggle for liberation—just as the taste of charoset sweetens and overcomes the taste of the maror.
Break the bottom matza, put maror and charoset between two pieces of matza, then say this blessing on the maror and the selection immediately following:
Baruch ata adonai eh-lo-hay-noo meh-lech ha-olam, asher kid-sha-noo be-mitzvo-tav ve-tzee-va-noo al achee-lat maror.
Blessed are You, our God, Creator of the Universe, who sanctified us with the Torah and commanded us to eat maror.
KORAYCH: HILLEL’S “SANDWICH”
Zay-cher leMikdash KeHillel: This is in memory of Hillel’s custom in the days of the Temple. The scholar I Iillcl would place maror between pieces of matza and eat them together in order to fulfill the commandment regarding the Pesach offering, that “You shall eat it on matzot and maror.”
Now eat the HUM sandwich.
Our sages asked: why did we taste the matza—which represents freedom—before the maror which represents slavery? After all, the historical events happened in precisely the opposite sequence! The reason they gave is, only after we have had a taste of freedom do we begin to understand the bitterness of our slavery. As Rabbi Hanoch of Alexander said: “The real slavery of the Jews in Egypt was that they learned to endure it.”
DA-YAY-NOO: IT WOULD HAVE SUFFICED
The traditional “Da-yay-noo” tells of all the steps in the liberation of the Jews from Egypt, culminating in going up to Eretz Israel.
Say or sing:
Ee-loo ho-tzee a-noo mee-mitz-ra-yeem—DA-YAY-NOO.
Ee-loo natan la-noo et ha-Torah—DA-YAY-NOO.
Ee-loo natan la-noo et ha-Shabbat—DA-YAY-NOO.
Ee-loo hich-nee-sa-noo le-Eretz Yisra-el—DA-YAY-NOO
Or sing in English (same tune):
If God brought us out of Egypt, brought us out of Pharaoh’s bondage, that alone would have sufficed us, DA-YAY-NOO.
If God gave us all the Torah, gave us the Five Books of Moses, that alone would have sufficed us, DA-YAY-NOO.
If God gave us all the Sabbath, to rest up from six days’ labor, that alone would have sufficed us, DA-YAY-NOO.
If God brought us into Israel, to a land of milk and honey, that alone would have sufficed us, DA-YAY-NOO.
Had God brought us out of Egypt, given us the Torah and also Shabbat—DA-YAY-NOO—we would have had enough to be thankful for. But God did not think that was enough to complete our liberation. For not only did God bring us out of Egypt, give us the Torah and also Shabbat—but also brought us to Eretz Israel, thus completing the process of liberation that began with our Exodus from Egypt.
Martin Buber wrote: “Moses…wished to heal the people of the simultaneously lax and obstinate character it had assumed in Egypt. He wished to heal it by active union with the soil inhabited by our ancestors….
“Dispersion is bearable; it can even be purposeful if there is somewhere an ingathering, a growing home center, a piece of earth where one is in the midst of an ingathering and not in dispersion, and whence the spirit of an ingathering may work its way into all the places of the dispersion. When there is this, there is also a striving common life, the life of a community which dares to live today because it may hope to live tomorrow. But when this growing center…is lacking, dispersion becomes dismemberment…. The question of our Jewish destiny is indissolubly bound with the possibility of ingathering and that is bound up with Eretz Israel.”
Pour a fourth cup of wine, lift it and say:
We drink the fourth and last cup of wine at this Seder to honor the Jews of our own time who struggled and fought to establish the Jewish State of Israel, the first flower of our Redemption as a people. We honor the pioneers who drained the swamps, irrigated the desert and struggled to create new forms of collective and egalitarian living. We honor the Jews who rescued and smuggled in thousands of so-called illegal immigrants during the rule of Britain and who later ingathered Jews from over 70 countries. We honor the Jews who fought against British rule. We honor the Israelis who have fought to safeguard the Jewish State, and those who struggle to bring peace to the land. We drink this cup of wine to salute their courage, their vision, their dreams of a just society.
Put down the cup.
The dream of upbuilding the land with one’s own hands and the devotion to this dream were expressed in 1911 by Rachel Blaustein, in a poem:
All this never was
I never awakened at dawn
To work in the fields with the
Sweat of my brow…
Could it be
In those long and burning
days of harvest
Perched atop a wagon
piled with sheaves of grain
I did not raise my voice
Could it be that
I never purified myself
In the quiet blue eternity
of the Kinneret?
O Kinneret, my Kinneret!
Do you really exist
Or is it all a dream?
Say the blessing on the wine and drink the fourth cup:
Baruch ata adonai eh-lo-hay-noo meh-lech ha- olam bo-ray pree ha-ga-fen.
Blessed are You, God, Creator of the Universe, who brings forth from the earth the fruit of the vine.
The poet Rachel’s dream of rebuilding Eretz Israel goes back two thousand years. In every century, Jews have longed to return to Eretz Israel, to redeem the land, and to be redeemed.
In our own time Jews in the Soviet Union have renewed their connection to Eretz Israel and many struggle for the right to go there. In the early 19101%, a visitor smuggled out some of the songs of the underground Jewish movement. We read one of these songs that Soviet Jews may be singing tonight at their seders:
Often in my dreams a wondrous land appears A land with skies of blue and a red, Red Sea. And under these skies of blue and by the red Red Sea
Is the land of my yearnings.
Oh, moon, yes, you moon beyond fences and boundaries
Why must I live with such yearnings?
Bitter are my sorrows, my longing
Sears my joys.
There’s one riddle I cannot solve—
Why must a cat lead
A dog’s life?
What should I do if I’m a
Gray cat And
I’m weary of living like a dog?
The medieval Spanish poet Yehuda HaLevi, expressed his longing for Jerusalem in these words:
My heart is in the East and I
at the rim of the West
How can I taste what I eat
much less savor it
How can I fulfill my vows and oaths
while Zion is in Edom’s bounds
and I in Arab bonds?
How easy it would be to leave
all the comforts of Spain
To see the precious dust
of the destroyed Sanctuary.
The Jews deported into Babylonian captivity, recorded for all time this pledge, which we now repeat.
Eem esh-ka-chaych Yeroo-sha-la-yeem, tish-kach ye-mee~nee. Tid-bak le-sho-nee le-chee-kee, eem lo ez-ke-ray-chee. Eem lo a-a-leh et Yeroo-sha-la-yeem al rosh simcha-tee.
If I forget thee, Jerusalem,
May my right hand wither into uselessness
May my tongue adhere to my palate and be silenced
If I do not remember thee
If I do not elevate Jerusalem
As the cornerstone of my happiness.
Say or sing:
Le-shana ha-ba’a be-yeroo-sha-la-yeem!
NEXT YEAR IN JERUSALEM AT PEACE!
SHULCHAN ORAYCH-Eat, eat!
Bring on the traditional Pesach dishes. Eat, drink and rejoice in our Festival of Liberation!
TZAFOON: REDEMPTION OF THE AFIKOMON
The afeekomon, which the person conducting the Seder hid and which was most likely liberated by a member of the younger generation, has to be returned and eaten by all present, in order for the meal to be properly concluded. Whoever produces the afeekomon can ask for a reasonable promise of reward for its return (we stress the word “reasonable!”).
After negotiations are over and the afeekomon produced, the person(s) conducting the Seder break(s) it into small enough pieces so that everyone has some to eat (traditionally, the size of a small olive).
We ate the afikomon to remind us that although some Jews may have broken away from our community, they can be found and rejoin us, and that what has been separated from us is not really lost, as long as our children search for it.*
Sheer Ha-ma’alot (A Song of Exultation) is followed by the Grace After Meals.
A song of exultation:
When God returns the exiles of Zion
it will be like a dream.
Laughter will fill our mouths
and joy command our tongues….
When God returns the exiles
they will be like waters rushing into the
parched wadis of the Negev.
Those who sow in tears will reap in joy.
The sower who trudges, weeping,
will joyfully harvest sheaves of grain.
BA-RAYCH: GRACE AFTER MEALS
One person says: Cha-vay-rai ne-va-raych.
Friends, let us say Grace.
All reply: Ye-hee shaym adonai me-vo-rach may-a-ta ve-ad olam.
Let God’s name be blessed for eternity.
One person says: Ye-hee shaym adonai me-vo-rach may-a-ta ve-ad olam.
Bir-shoot ha-cha-vay-reem ve-ha-cha-vayrote ne-va-raych ehlohay-noo sheh-a-chal-noo mee-sheh-lo.
May God’s name be blessed for all eternity. With the permission of all those present here, let us bless God for having eat of the fruits of Creation.
All reply: Baruch eh-lo-hay-noo sheh-a-chal-noo mee-sheh-lo oov-too-vo cha-yee-noo. Baruch hoo oo-va-ruch she-mo.
Blessed be God for giving us to eat the fruits of Creation. Blessed be God and God’s Name.
All sing together or recite:
Baruch ata adonai, eh-lo-hay-noo meh-lech ha-olam, ha-zan et ha-olam koolo be-too-vo, be-chayn, be-cheh-sed, uvra-cha-meem. Hoo no-tayn leh-chem le-chawl ba-sar, kee le-olam chas-do. Oovtoo-vo haga-dole, ta-meed lo chasar la-noo, ve-al yech-sar la-noo, mazone le-olam va-ed. Ba-avoor she-mo hagadole, kee hoo zan oom-far-nayss la-kole. Oo-may-teev la-kole, oo-may-cheen mazone, le-chawl bree-o-tav asher ba-ra. Baruch ata adonai, hazan et ha-kole.
HA-LAYL: SING PRAISE TO GOD
The next 4 poems/songs of praise constitute the concluding part of the Seder:
When Israel came out of Egypt
The sea retreated and the River Jordan fled.
The mountains danced like sheep, the hills
skipped like lambs.
Sea, why do you retreat, river why do you flee?
Mountains, why do you dance?
Because of the Presence of the God of Israel.
The God who turns stone into water,
rock into well-spring.
Adeer hoo, adeer hoo. Yivneh bay-to be-karove. Bim-hay-ra, bim-hay-ra, be-ya-maynoo be-ka-rove. Ayl Be-nay, ayl be-nay, be-nay bayt-cha be-ka-rove. Bachur hoo, gadol hoo, dagool hoo. Yivneh…. Hadoor hoo, vateek hoo, za-kai hoo, chaseed hoo. Yivneh Tahor hoo, yacheed hoo, ka-beer hoo, la-mood hoo. Yivneh…. Melech hoo, no-ra hoo, sageev hoo. Yivneh Eezooz hoo, podeh hoo, tzadeek hoo. Yivneh Kadosh hoo, rachoom hoo, shadai hoo, takeef hoo. Yiveh….
WHO KNOWS ONE…?
Who knows one? I know One. One is God the Creator, of earth and the heavens.
Who knows two? I know two. Two the Sinai tablets. One is God the Creator, of earth and the Heavens.
Who knows three? I know three. Three our nation’s forefathers. Two…
Who knows four? I know four. Four our nation’s foremothers. Three…
Who knows Five? I know five. Five Books of the Torah. Four…
Who knows Six? I know six. Six the Mishna’s Tractates. Five…
Who knows Seven? I know seven. Seven days a week. Six…
Who knows Eight? I know eight. Eight days to a bris. Seven…
Who knows Nine? I know nine. Nine months to a birth. Eight…
Who knows Ten? I know of ten. Ten are the Commandments. Nine…
Who knows Eleven? I know eleven. Eleven Joseph’s dream-stars. Ten…
Who knows Twelve? I know twelve. Twelve the tribes of Israel. Eleven…
Who knows Thirteen? I know thirteen. Thirteen in Rambam’s Credo. Twelve…
CHAD GAD-YA: ONE GOATLING
Chad gad-ya, chad-gad-ya. De-za-bina-ba bit-ray zoo-zay. Chad gad-ya, chad-gad-ya.
Or sing in English to the “Chad Gad-ya” tune:
Chad Gad-ya, just one one kid.
That Daddy bought me with two zoo-zeem.
Chad gad-ya, chad gad-ya.
Then came the cat who gobbled up the kidling
that daddy bought me with two zoo-zeem….
Then came the dog who bit the hungry feline
who ate the little kid, that daddy bought me
with two zoo-zeem….
Then came the stick that struck the biting dog
who bit the hungry cat, who ate the little
Then came the fire that burned the striking
stick that hit the biting dog, who bit the
Then came the water that doused the burning
fire that burned the hitting stick, that beat the
Then came the cattle who drank the dousing
water that put out the burning fire, that
burned the hitting stick….
Then came the shochet who killed the
thirsty cattle who drank the quenching water, that
doused the burning fire….
The Angel of Death came and killed off the
shochet who slaughtered the thirsty cow, who
drank the quenching water….
The Holy One then slew the Angel of Death
who killed off the shochet, who slaughtered
the thirsty cow….
Chad gad-ya, Chad gad-ya.