Did You Know?

The word “seder” means “order” and refers to the arranged sequence of customs and rituals at the Passover feast. Seders are actually modeled after Greco-Roman symposiums (sym- together, posium- drinking wine). Symposiums were venues for aristocratic men to gather and philosophize as they ate lavish meals served by slaves. The rabbis adapted the symposium into seders where all are invited to join in the abundant food and lively discussion, and no one is to be excluded or exploited. It is a medieval custom to spill wine at the seder, symbolizing the suffering of the Egyptians during the Exodus. As we celebrate our freedom, we still remember the pain felt by others, even those who oppressed us. There is an ancient tradition to prominently place a cup of wine for Elijah the prophet on the seder table, representing the future redemption. A recent feminist tradition is to also place a cup of water for Miriam the prophetess on the table, representing the healing and hope needed in the present.


To symbolize balance of present and future, place both cups on your table. Have everyone pour a small amount of water into Miriam’s Cup, while sharing something they are grateful for in the present moment. Next, everyone may add a few drops of wine to Elijah’s Cup while expressing a wish for the future, silently or aloud, one by one collectively filling the cup.


FREEDOM is a well-known theme of Passover, but when thinking about freedom we rarely consider our freedom to challenge and to question. The entire seder is designed as a forum for open questioning and dialogue about ideas large and small.
We are invited to question assumptions, to seek deeper meaning, and to insist on imagining a world beyond what we see before us. It is also a time to question our inner world. TO DO: After asking “How is this night different from all other nights?” ask “How am I different tonight?” What is different in your life tonight from this time last year? What are the differences you want to see in you and your world by this time next year?

COVER IMAGE: Before pastrami on rye or lox on bagels, there was another Jewish sandwich: lamb and bitter herbs in matzah (Today we use charoset in place of lamb). Hillel, the first-century sage, created the world’s first sandwich, which is aptly named the “Hillel sandwich.”

“In every generation one is obligated to see oneself as one who personally went out of Egypt.” From this line in the Haggadah we learn of our obligation to identify with those who are oppressed, and to act on their behalf, recognizing that until all are free, none are free. Like those in the world today who live in suffering, we have suffered while others stood silently. On Passover we reflect on our own Jewish history and reach out to those who are oppressed. For more information about Passover, go to MyJewishLearning.com www.myjewishlearning.com/holidays/ Passover.htm
Become a change-agent! Passover can be an opportunity to make a personal commitment to heal the world. Whether through political advocacy, community service, fundraising, grassroots organizing, or another approach, find a path which allows you to advance the lives of people who suffer. Go online, read books, and hear speakers on an issue you want to explore, and then learn how you can take steps to help.


Charoset is a mixture of chopped nuts and fruit, wine, and spices eaten at the seder, representing the brick mortar used by Israelite slaves in Egypt. The Jews of Gibraltar actually had the custom to mix a few particles from real bricks into their charoset!

Some Persian and Afghani Jews have the custom at the seder of lightly whipping each other with leeks and green onion stalks, simulating the beatings suffered in Egypt.

Jews from the coastal areas of Morocco customarily go to the seashore the morning of the first day after Passover and dip their bare feet into the water to symbolize the Israelites crossing the Red Sea during the Exodus.