Together, over the years, we’ve explored many of the themes and important moments that weave in and around our Seders. I thought it might be nice to summarize a few of these thoughts as we are about to enter the holiday this year.
The Haggadah includes a debate on whether you believe justice or mercy should prevail once we are safe. Were ten plagues enough? Maybe hundreds of plagues would reflect a more just Divine response. Were ten plagues too many? Maybe mercy should have prevailed, and we should only refer to these plagues by their initials. Do you believe that once there is no threat from an enemy, the fighting should end, or is safety only possible when an enemy is utterly erased?
Matzah is called ‘the bread of affliction’ and we usually believe it only represents our suffering. Yet, the Torah clearly shows us that the last plague, death of the ‘first born’ is actually death of the one holding the birthright. As this plague cycles through Egypt, over and over, the birthright will move to the next living child – the result is the inevitable death of every Egyptian. The Torah describes the screams coming from all their homes. The only way to stop the plague is to leave, and so God tells us to be ready to grab the matzah before it is done, because the level of human suffering is so high. The ‘bread of affliction’ includes more than only us.
The Haggadah is our only text that is never formally closed – we are told that anyone who expands in the telling of these events is only to be praised. We understand that praise to be for those who expand with meaningfulness, and not for those who only expand to the length of the Seder.
The Seder is meant as a pivotal Jewish moment for the younger generation to watch their older family members. We are teaching them the importance of our history; how we tell it; how we infuse it with meaning. The Seder begins as we understand that the constraints of Egypt exist in all our lives today. It ends as we proclaim a hopeful moment of “Next year in Jerusalem!”, and sing our favourite songs together. The flow of the night moves us from slavery to redemption.
In other words, every year we teach our children that we know how to journey from despair to hope. God showed us how, our Sages shaped the Seder around it, and we recommit to it every year. Moving from despair to hope is our journey of redemption, and Judaism tells us we are redeemed everyday.
Wishing everyone a meaningful Pesach, with a prayer for daily redemption and unity for all the Jewish people, here and in Israel!
Chag Kasher v’Sameach,