THE PASSOVER SEDER
leader: We are gathered together tonight to celebrate Passover, or Pesach, the festival of the liberation of the Jewish people. "Seder" means "telling", and on this seder night all Jewish families gather with friends and relatives to celebrate and strengthen their ties - to each other and to all Jews - by retelling this ancient story of our ancestors' delivery from bondage in Egypt.
participant: This is a time to ponder history, and to find its relevance in our lives today.
participant: It is a time to renew our courage in order to fight for freedoms today, and to transform our world into one of peace.
leader: Passover refers to the night when the Angel of Death passed over the Jewish houses in Egypt, while inflicting sorrow and tragedy on Egyptian homes. This occurred approximately 1200 B.C.E. (before the Christian era), when 600,000 Jews were slaves in Egypt.
participant: Following this, the Jews were liberated from slavery, and the Exodus began.
participant: Passover was celebrated for the first time on the first anniversary of the Exodus from Egypt, when the Jews were still in the wilderness and had not yet reached the promised land.
participant: In later times, the sacrifices of Passover (Paschal sacrifices) were of lamb or goat, and were made by each family in Jerusalem at the Temple to commemorate the Exodus. It was a time of pilgrimage, and the city was alive with celebration, feast, and song.
participant: Today the sacrifice is symbolic only, but the rejoicing continues, and it lasts for eight days.
participant: Passover falls on the first full moon of Spring, the 14th of the month of Nisan. It is the first holiday of the Jewish agricultural calendar, and is also known as Khag ah Aviv, the Festival of Spring. We celebrate Earth's renewal, and remind ourselves of our interdependence with all that lives.
participant: Slavery did not end in Egypt. Many people have been slaves since then, and each of us is a slave to some degree even today. We are also slaves when we are silent while atrocities happen around us. We are slaves when we are unable to be ourselves due to the pressures of an unjust society.
participant: Thus, leaving Egypt has also come to mean that each of us must break the shackles of narrow-mindedness which bind us to ignorance and hatred.
participant: We share the story of Passover each year so that we might remember how important freedom is on our path to happiness in our lives.
leader: Feel free to ask questions throughout the Seder. A special welcome to those of other cultures who share our joy with us tonight. May our togetherness give us the courage to continue the struggle for freedom. And now we begin...
(ON SABBATH ONLY:)
leader: Tonight is a special night, in that we also celebrate Shabbat, the Sabbath, the day of rest and prayer. To welcome the Sabbath, we will now light candles as we recite:
leader: We are about to begin the recitation of the ancient story of Israel's redemption from bondage in Egypt. The purpose of this seder is to afford us the opportunity to recall the dramatic and miraculous events which led to the exodus from an ancient land of slavery. The Bible, centuries ago, instructed us to meet, as we do tonight, when it declared "And thou shalt tell thy children in that day saying 'It is because of that which the Almighty did for me when I came forth out of Egypt' ". By this, the Bible means that young and old should gather on Passover, in order that we might relate to the children, and to all, this thrilling chapter in the history of the Jewish people.
leader: Every Jewish Holiday is ushered in with light. The flames of the candles are said to signify the light of life, of hope, and of joy. Let us now commence with this Passover Seder with the lighting of candles.
assembled(as candles are lit) : Blessed art Thou who has sanctified us by your commandments, and commanded us to kindle the lights of Passover.
leader: We will now begin our journey together through the Seder. The Seder is made up of a number of parts, or steps. These are:
participant: Kiddush, the blessing over the wine.
participant: Urchatz, the simple washing of the hands without a blessing.
participant: Karpas, the dipping and eating the green vegetable.
participant: Yachatz, the breaking of the middle matzo, to be hidden and eaten at the end of the Seder.
participant: Maggid, the telling of the story of Passover.
participant: Dayenu and Hallelujah, the singing of praise and thanksgiving.
participant: Hamotzi, the blessing and eating of the matzo.
participant: Korekh, eating the matzo and bitter herbs together.
participant: Rachatz, the washing of the hands with a blessing, before the meal.
participant: Shulchan Orech, the eating of the festival meal.
participant: Tzofun, the eating of the dessert.
participant: Boraych, the grace after the meal.
participant: Nirtzah, the conclusion and the welcoming of Elijah.
THE SEDER PLATE
leader: We have before us the Seder Plate. On it have been placed the main symbols of this service.
participant: First, we have three MATZOS, commemorating the bread which our ancestors were compelled to eat during their hasty departure from Egypt.
participant: We use three matzos to represent the three religious groupings of the Jewish people: Kohen, Levi, and Yisroayl.
leader: Tonight we also have a fourth matzo on our Seder Plate to show our unity for all the oppressed peoples of the world today.
participant: The matzos are placed together on the plate to indicate the unity of the Jewish people. In unity, we find our strength ,and power to survive.
participant: The second symbol is the ROASTED SHANKBONE, which reminds us of the Paschal Lamb, a special animal sacrifice which our ancestors offered on the altar of the great Temple in Jerusalem, on the Passover holiday.
participant: The third symbol is the ROASTED EGG, which reminds us of a second offering brought to the Temple on Passover. It was known as the "festival offering", for it was brought on each of the three Festivals - Pesach, Shavuos, and Succos.
participant: The fourth symbol is the MOROR, the bitter herbs. This reminds us of the bitterness of slavery, which our ancestors were compelled to endure.
participant: The fifth symbol is the CHAROSES, made to resemble mortar, used to remind us of the mortar with which our ancestors made bricks for the building of Egyptian cities.
participant: The final symbol is the KARPAS, a green vegetable, used to remind us that Pesach coincides with the arrival of Spring and the gathering of the Spring harvest. In ancient times, Passover was also an agricultural festival and an occasion on which our ancestors gave thanks for the earth's rich bounties.
participant: Four times in the course of this service we shall partake of wine, symbol of joy and thanksgiving. The four cups represent the four-fold promise which the Almighty made to the Israelites in Egypt, promising they would be freed from servitude with these words: "I will bring you forth;" "I will deliver you;" "I will redeem you;" "I will take you."
leader: These are the symbols of Passover - echoes of the past and reminders for the present. As we partake of them, may we remember the events which they recall, and may we embody their spirit in our present-day endeavors.
(fill wine cups)
leader: We shall now sanctify the holiday with the recitation of the Kiddush:
(On Sabbath, add words in parentheses)
assembled: Blessed art Thou, Creator of the Universe, who has chosen us for service from among the nations, exalting us through the commandments. We have been given (Sabbaths for rest,) holidays for joy, and festivals for gladness. Blessed art Thou, who has kept us in life, who has preserved us, and who has enabled us to reach this season.
(raise wine cups)
assembled:Blessed art Thou, who createst the fruit of the vine.
(all drink wine)
leader: The second ceremony of the seder is known as Urchatz, the "Washing of the Hands." This is a symbolic act of purification, which precedes our participation in this religious service.
(A bowl and towel are passed around the table for each person to wash their hands. )
(green vegetable is distributed, small amounts of salt water are poured into bowls)
leader: The third ceremony is the eating of the karpas. In partaking of this fruit of the earth, we give thanks for the earth's bounties.
participant: This is a wonderful time of year. The sun is high in the sky and the air is fresh. The winter is past and flowers are appearing everywhere.
leader: We eat this green vegetable to remind us to be appreciative of that which the earth gives to us, year after year.
participant: We also recall that our ancestors were tillers of the soil, and were ever grateful for the earth's produce.
participant: We will eat the vegetable dipped in salt water.
participant: When tasting the salt water, we are asked to remember the tears which our ancestors shed while suffering the tortures of slavery.
leader: May our gratitude for the blessings which we enjoy help to soften the pain of sorrow, and convert tears to joy and appreciation.
assembled(while dipping vegetable into salt water): Blessed art Thou, who brings forth fruit from the earth.
(The vegetable is eaten)
leader: I now perform the ceremony of "Yachatz." I shall break the middle matzo in two, removing one half and setting it aside. This will become the "Afikomen," the dessert, to be eaten at the conclusion of our meal.
(The children hide the Afikomen, and request gifts for its return later.)
leader: Behold the matzo, the bread of affliction, the humble and simple bread which our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. Let anyone who is hungry join us at this seder, and partake of what we have to share.
participant: This matzo is the poor people's bread. Made only of flour and water, hurriedly kneaded, flattened, and shoved into the oven for a brief baking, it contains no luxury ingredients.
participant: Hard, flat, bland, it does not delight the palate. Its sole function is to fill the belly.
leader: Yet with this bread our ancestors were fed as they traveled from Egypt. We eat it and remember those days and give thanks for these.
participant: With gratitude for the blessings which we have been given, we invite those less fortunate to share with us at this meal, and also at other times.
participant: May all people still deprived of total freedom, wherever they are, enjoy liberty at this time next year.
(wine cups are refilled)
THE FOUR QUESTIONS
(to be asked by the children)
leader: We shall now answer the four basic questions concerning Passover, which you have asked:
assembled: Once we were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and after long years of servitude we were brought forth from that land, with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.
participant: Had we not been rescued from the hand of the despot, surely we and our children would still be enslaved, deprived of liberty and human dignity.
participant: We therefore gather, year after year, to retell this ancient story. For, in reality, it is not ancient, but eternal in its message and its spirit.
participant: The four questions asked by the children represent the key to the meaning of Passover.
participant: The first question concerns the use of Matzo. We eat these unleavened cakes to remember that our ancestors, in their haste to leave Egypt, could not wait for their bread to rise, and so removed it from the ovens while still flat.
participant: The second question concerns the use of Moror, the bitter herbs. We partake of the bitter herbs, on this night that we might taste of some bitterness, to remind us of how bitter is the life of one caught in the grip of slavery. We also are reminded of the bitterness of souls who can enslave others.
participant: The third question concerns dipping foods. We dip twice in the course of this service, greens in salt water and Moror in Charoses; once to replace tears with gratefulness, and once to sweeten bitterness and suffering. Performing these simple rituals help to remind us of the history which we relive this night.
participant: The fourth question asks why on this night we eat in a reclining position. In ancient days, only free citizens reclined at mealtimes. On this night of Passover we demonstrate our sense of freedom by reclining during our meal.
THE FOUR CHILDREN
leader: It is especially important in Jewish tradition for children to question and discuss, that they may learn and grow wise in our traditions. The Torah speaks of four children - one wise, one wicked, one simple, and one who knows not how to ask.
participant: The wise child asks "What is the meaning of rules, laws, and customs which we follow concerning Passover?"
participant: This child is to be praised for knowing to ask and question and learn, so that the traditions may be passed on from generation to generation.
participant: The wicked child says "What does this service mean to YOU, and why must I go through this trouble every year?"
participant: This child becomes an outsider by using the word "you," showing that Passover is nothing to be personally concerned with, and that Jewish duties are meant only for others. By going through this "trouble," we are assured of not forgetting the lessons we learn from the story.
participant: The simple child says "What is all this?"
participant: To this child you shall respond: We celebrate the marvelous things which were done for us when we were redeemed from slavery in Egypt. It is therefore incumbent upon us to remember and to observe.
participant: The young child, not yet able to inquire, is to be told the story of Passover. We must continue to tell the history of our people so the children can remember and learn from the past.
leader: It is incumbent upon us to emulate the wise child by remembering our duties to our people and our faith. We must share in the obligation to teach others about the Jewish way of life. To remove ourselves from these endeavors, looking to others to carry the burdens, is to fail in our responsibility.
participant: Another lesson of these children is that there are diverse people in our lives. Each person's uniqueness is a Gift, and is to be respected.
participant: As one should not exclude oneself from the community, so too should the community not exclude any of its members. Each person adds to the exquisite texture of Life.
MAGGID: THE TELLING OF THE TALE
participant: Scripture tells us that in the land of Canaan, Isaac and Rebekah had a son Jacob, who became a shepherd. Jacob married Leah, and they had a son Joseph. When Joseph grew up, he became a minister to Pharaoh in Egypt, and was greatly respected there.
participant: At the time of a famine, Jacob and Leah sent their remaining children to Egypt to purchase food. Joseph asked his whole family to join him in Egypt. Joseph gave his family possession of a quantity of land, according to the wishes of Pharaoh.
participant: There were but seventy people who arrived in Egypt, but in time their numbers increased. Soon they grew also in strength and became a mighty people.
participant: Soon Joseph died, as did his kin of that generation. Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph's family.
participant: And he said to his people: "Behold, the people of the children of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. Let us deal wisely with them, for in case there is a war they could join our enemies and fight against us."
participant: Therefore, the Egyptians enslaved the Hebrews, and ruled over them. Pharaoh set taskmasters over them, forcing them to make bricks and built great cities, including the cities of Pithom and Ramses.
participant: To keep their numbers down, Pharaoh ordered the sons of all Hebrews to be killed.
participant: In fear for their lives, brave midwives for the Hebrews lied to the Egyptians so that the children might survive. They said "The Hebrew women are lively, and give birth before we arrive. We don't even see the babies."
participant: One Hebrew woman, Yokheved, already had a daughter Miriam when she gave birth to her son, Moses. Miriam, knowing the danger her new brother was in, saved his life by sending him down the river in a basket, in the hopes that he would be found and saved.
participant: Indeed he was found. Bithuah, Pharaoh’s daughter, found the boy, and raised him as her own. Raised an Egyptian, young Moses saw the oppression of the Hebrews and wondered at it.
participant: When he was found out to be a Hebrew himself, he was cast into the work pits with them, to toil at their sides.
participant: The Hebrews worked for years under the cruel Pharaoh. At last, though, the task became too great to bear.
participant: They cried out, and their voices were heard.
participant: Moses was divinely called, and was charged to appear before Pharaoh and to demand the people be released. Pharaoh was obstinate, and would not yield.
participant: It was then that Moses foretold the punishment which would be brought down upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians: Plagues would be visited upon the land of Egypt, in which many would perish.
participant: Pharaoh defied Moses and the power which he represented, and placed his trust in his own powers. In the face of all pleas, he refused to free the Jewish people.
participant: In consequence, the plagues descended upon Egypt. Many perished, and the suffering was great. Pharaoh, nonetheless, was obstinate; he would not yield.
participant: However, when the tenth plague, the death of all first-born Egyptians, was visited upon them, a great cry went up throughout Egypt. Pharaoh finally ordered Moses to take his people out of the land.
assembled: And we were brought forth out of Egypt, with great visions, signs, and wonders. Rejoicing was heard throughout the land, for at last our people were free.
THE TEN PLAGUES
leader: When anyone treats another unjustly, they bring pain and suffering upon themselves.
participant: These plagues came upon the Egyptians because of their evil, yet we do not rejoice over their downfall and defeat. Judaism teaches us that all people are children together, even our enemies who seek to destroy us.
assembled: When, for the sake of our welfare, others meet with suffering and death, we mourn their loss and express sorrow over their destruction.
leader: A full cup is a sign of complete happiness. As we cannot be completely happy because others were made to suffer, we will now decrease the wine in our cups to show how our lives are diminished by the recollection of this catastrophe. We cast a drop from our wine cups for each plague the Egyptians had to endure. We express remorse that they had to suffer such punishment:
(Each person dips a finger into the cup of wine, and removes a drop of wine, once for each plague, reciting:)
assembled: Blood. Frogs. Gnats. Flies. Murrain. Boils. Hail. Locusts. Darkness. Slaying of the first-born.
DAYENU(It would have satisfied us)
leader: How many and wonderful are the favors which have been conferred upon us!
participant: Had we been brought out of Egypt and not fed in the desert, it would have satisfied us.
participant: Had we been fed with manna, and not given the Sabbath, it would have satisfied us.
participant: Had we been given the Sabbath and not brought to Mount Sinai, it would have satisfied us.
participant: Had we been brought to Mount Sinai and not given the Torah, it would have satisfied us.
participant: Had we been given the Torah and not led into Israel, it would have satisfied us.
assembled: How grateful we are for the many and wonderful favors which have been bestowed upon us! We were brought out of Egypt, led through the divided Red Sea, fed with manna, given the Sabbath, brought to Mount Sinai, given the Torah, and led into the Land of Israel.
(cups are refilled)
leader: In every generation, each person is bound to act as one who had personally gone forth from Egypt. It is therefore our duty to utter thanks and praise to the Almighty, who performed these wonders for our ancestors, and thus for us. We were led from slavery to freedom, from sorrow to happiness, from mourning to rejoicing, from darkness to light. Tonight we sing songs of praise in gratitude for these manifold blessings.
assembled: Blessed art Thou, Creator of the Universe, who redeemed us and our ancestors from Egypt and brought us to this night. Bring us ever forward in peace to other solemn days and festivals.
(all raise wine cups)
assembled: Blessed art Thou, who createst the fruit of the vine.
(drink the wine)
(matzo from the first and third matzo on the seder plate is broken and distributed [Take enough for 3 bites.])
leader: We will now share in the matzo.
assembled: Blessed art Thou, who bringest forth bread from the earth. Blessed art Thou, who has commanded us to eat unleavened bread.
(eat the matzo)
(bitter herbs from the seder plate are distributed and placed on a piece of matzo. take enough for 2 servings. Put each serving on your remaining pieces of matzo)
leader: We will now partake of the moror, the bitter herbs, to once again remind us of the harshness of the lives of our ancestors.
assembled: Blessed art Thou, who has commanded us to eat bitter herbs.
(eat herbs and matzo)
(choroses is distributed, and placed on matzo with a serving of moror)
leader: We now combine the moror with the choroses. The choroses represents the mortar which our ancestors had to use to build cities for the Egyptians. By combining this sweet food with the bitter herb, we are reminded how bitter is slavery, and how it can be sweetened by redemption.
(eat the matzo, moror, and charoses)
leader: As we prepare to partake of the meal, we shall wash our hands, this time reciting the prescribed blessing:
(leader can symbolically wash hands for the entire group, if desired.)
assembled(while washing hands): Blessed art Thou, who hast commanded us concerning the washing of the hands.
DINNER IS SERVED
...AFTER DINNER --
(After dinner, the Afikomen must be retrieved. This can either be done by the adults searching for it, or, as is usually done, the children retrieve it, and it must be redeemed by the Leader.)
(The Afikomen is distributed.)
leader: "Afikomen" means dessert. In ancient times the Paschal Lamb was the last food to be eaten. In its place, we now partake of this piece of Afikomen, with which our meal is complete.
(eat the Afikomen)
BORAYCH - GRACE AFTER MEALS
(fill wine cups)
assembled: Let us rejoice in the Earth, of whose bounty we have partaken, from this time forth and forever more.
leader: Grant us grace, mercy, life, and peace on this Feast of the Unleavened Bread.
leader: Remember us this day in kindness.
leader: Visit us this day with blessing.
leader: Preserve us this day for life.
leader: Grant us this day filled with the spirit of the Festival.
assembled: May we all be given strength, and blessed with peace. Amen.
(raise wine cups)
assembled: Blessed art Thou, creator of the fruit of the vine.
(drink the wine)
THE PROPHET ELIJAH
(An additional cup is on the table, filled with wine.)
leader: Throughout our people's history, Elijah the Prophet has been pictured in legends as the bearer of good tidings.
participant: Jewish legend recalls the mystical appearance of Elijah in times of trouble, to promise relief and redemption, to lift downcast spirits, and to plant hope in the hearts of all.
participant: Jewish tradition states that Elijah's greatest mission shall come when the Messiah will appear on earth, to usher in the long-promised era of permanent peace and tranquillity.
(Door is opened to allow Elijah to enter.)
assembled: On this seder night, when we pray for freedom, we invoke the memory of the beloved Elijah. May his spirit enter our home at this hour, bringing a message of hope for the future, faith in the goodness of all people and the assurance that freedom will come to all.
(Door is closed.)
(fill wine cups)
leader: We now partake of the fourth cup of wine. We conclude our Seder with wine in the hope that we can carry this feeling of joy and togetherness away with us, so that we can enjoy it in our everyday lives.
(raise wine cups)
assembled: Blessed art Thou, who createst the fruit of the vine. We give thanks for all the bountiful produce of the Earth.
(drink the wine)
leader: The prescribed order of the Passover Service is now complete.
assembled: As we have been privileged to observe this Seder tonight, may all of us be privileged to celebrate it together again next year.
leader: May we remember the story of Passover and practice its lessons in the coming year.
assembled: May we continue to share in these feelings of joy and friendship.
leader: May the spirit of this festival remain with us throughout the coming year.
assembled: May Zion be blessed with peace, and may all people live in harmony and contentment. AMEN