Evergreen Lessons from the Haggadah

Evergreen Lessons from the Haggadah

Apr 8, 2022 By Shuly Rubin Schwartz | Commentary | Pesah | Shabbat Hagadol

The Passover seder—the most celebrated Jewish ritual—serves as a symbolic reenactment of the journey of the Israelites from slavery to freedom. The Haggadah commands us to experience it annually as a way of developing historical empathy for all who are oppressed, enslaved, displaced, and hoping for liberation; we have ritualized the recounting of our people’s enslavement and deliverance in part to cultivate a sense of moral responsibility toward those suffering in our own day.

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A Holiday of Contradictory Emotions

A Holiday of Contradictory Emotions

Mar 26, 2021 By Shuly Rubin Schwartz | Commentary | Pesah | Shabbat Hagadol

Preparing to celebrate our second Pesah under the grip of a global pandemic, our hearts are filled with both sadness and hope. No one has been untouched by COVID-19. We’re grieving a loved one, friend, or neighbor whose life was cut short. We’re experiencing its social and economic toll—overtaxed first responders, teachers, and food providers; overwhelming social isolation; devastating financial insecurity—all exacerbated by underlying inequities. Thankfully, millions have received the vaccine, though many have yet to receive it, and new variants temper our expectations.

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Passover in the Time of Coronavirus

Passover in the Time of Coronavirus

Apr 3, 2020 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Pesah | Shabbat Hagadol

What a difference a year makes—or a week, or a day. Last year at this time, reflecting on a period of rising anti-Semitism in America and Europe, I wrote that “discussion at your seder table will be different from all Passovers past.” This year, many of those discussions will happen virtually, and attendance at physical seder tables will likely be limited to close family or friends. Many people may be sitting at the seder table alone. The plague is upon us, striking every part of the world without regard to national border or religion. The holiday will not be the same, because we are not the same.

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Passover after Pittsburgh

Passover after Pittsburgh

Apr 12, 2019 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Pesah | Shabbat Hagadol

“Why is this night different from all other nights?”

Whether you are a twenty-something, a Millennial, a Boomer, or a member of the Greatest Generation; whether you are attending your first Passover seder this year or the latest in a long line of sedarim, chances are good that the discussion at your seder table will be different from all Passovers past. The Jewish community of North America has markedly changed since last Passover, shaken to its core by the synagogue shootings in Pittsburgh and a significant spike in anti-Semitic incidents in the United States as well as in Europe that seem part of a larger outburst of racism and prejudice. 

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Four New Questions from the Four Children

Four New Questions from the Four Children

Mar 23, 2018 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Shabbat Hagadol

Here’s a challenge for the rising generations seated around the seder table this year: make sure your Four Questions address the ways in which things truly are different in 2018 from how they have been at Passovers in the past.

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Retelling the Story

Retelling the Story

Apr 7, 2017 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Pesah | Shabbat Hagadol

Here’s a fifth question to ask at the seder this year, in addition to the usual four—a question likely to provoke discussion about the meaning of Passover that is especially timely in April 2017.

Why on all other nights (and days too) do we recall the Exodus from Egypt, but on this night, which is dedicated to the telling of that story, the Haggadah says little about what actually happened at the Exodus, and how it happened?

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Two New Tunes for the Seder

Two New Tunes for the Seder

Apr 7, 2017 By Nancy Abramson | Commentary | Pesah | Shabbat Hagadol

I have fond memories of my grandfather at the head of the table, chanting the Haggadah straight through in Hebrew. My grandmother, mother, and aunts would be busy in the kitchen while all of us kids were fidgeting, waiting for our cue to sing Mah Nishtanah, the Four Questions. The night of the first seder was always magical for me, and still is, as I try to infuse the tradition with contemporary ideas and some new melodies.

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Beyond the Exodus from Egypt

Beyond the Exodus from Egypt

Apr 15, 2016 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Pesah | Shabbat Hagadol

Most of us, at one time or another, have asked the question about the Passover seder that the Haggadah attributes to the “wicked son”: What is the point of all this? At such moments of skepticism, we probably understand why an annual family gathering is worthwhile, we perhaps remember fondly the seders of our youth, and we may even confess to being moved by the rituals reenacted at the seder table year after year: reciting the four questions, dripping wine from cup to plate at the recital of the ten plagues, singing Had Gadya. But really, we ask: Why is the event of Israelite slaves leaving Egypt over 3,000 years ago (if it ever happened in the first place) so important that an entire holiday is devoted to it (not to mention countless daily prayers)?

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Shabbat Hagadol

Shabbat Hagadol

Dec 16, 2015

4 Then the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem shall be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of yore and in the years of old.

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The Four Parents

The Four Parents

Mar 27, 2015 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Pesah | Shabbat Hagadol

Let’s think for a moment, inspired by one of the seder’s most famous passages, about the four kinds of parents who are found around the seder table: wise, wicked, innocent, and not knowing how to ask.

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Restoration

Restoration

Mar 27, 2015 By Craig Scheff | Commentary | Tzav | Shabbat Hagadol

“What is certain is that you love bringing things back to life. It is a wonderful feeling to identify the undermining factors, eradicate them, and restore something to its true glory.”

Strengthsfinder 2.0 is a popular assessment tool for identifying and applying an individual’s strengths. The book is based on the premise that we should spend more time in our professional lives building upon our strengths than trying to overcome our weaknesses. The quote above refers to the person who possesses the “restorative” talent, the ability to resuscitate and rekindle the vitality of relationships.

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For Millennials and Their Families

For Millennials and Their Families

Apr 10, 2014 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Pesah | Shabbat Hagadol

I gathered six students from JTS’s undergraduate Albert A. List College of Jewish Studies in my office last week to talk about the ways in which family dynamics add meaning—and tension—to family Passover seders. I wanted to find out how these dynamics play out at the seders of my students, and share their insights with you here—millennials and college students, teens and tweens—in the hope that our discussion about the holiday will enrich yours.

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The Family Story

The Family Story

Mar 20, 2013 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Pesah | Shabbat Hagadol

I asked what part of the seder you most enjoy; whether any aspect of it bothers you; which piece of the Exodus story, if any, means a lot to you personally; and how, or if, you relate to the seder as a religious ceremony. Here’s what I learned from what you told me.

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Stoking the Perpetual Fire of Freedom

Stoking the Perpetual Fire of Freedom

Mar 20, 2013 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Tzav | Shabbat Hagadol

As we approach the festival of Passover, the domestic excitement and drama increase. This anticipation is seamlessly reflected in Parashat Tzav.

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For Our Students

For Our Students

Mar 31, 2012 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Shabbat Hagadol

I got valuable help this year in writing my annual Shabbat Hagadol message to teens and 20-somethings from six teens and 20-somethings who are studying at The Jewish Theological Seminary’s Albert A. List College of Jewish Studies.

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A New Question for Passover

A New Question for Passover

Apr 16, 2011 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Pesah | Shabbat Hagadol

The means to ultimate redemption—and a sure sign that redemption has arrived—is peace between the generations. We can’t hope for redemption of the world, the prophet says, if the hearts of fathers and sons (the literal translation of the prophetic verse) are not “returned upon” each other.

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Let All Who Are Hungry Come and Eat

Let All Who Are Hungry Come and Eat

Apr 16, 2011 By Andrew Shugerman | Commentary | Text Study | Aharei Mot | Shabbat Hagadol

One of my favorite customs for Shabbat Hagadol is to read the Maggid section of the Passover Haggadah in advance of the first seder.

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A Pesah Message for My Students

A Pesah Message for My Students

Mar 27, 2010 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Tzav | Pesah | Shabbat Hagadol

This week’s Torah portion reports instructions given by God to Moses concerning Aaron and his priestly descendants. The rest of us, as it were, are invited to eavesdrop.

 

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Redemption: Israel’s Partnership with God

Redemption: Israel’s Partnership with God

Mar 31, 2007 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Shabbat Hagadol

The first teaching attributed to Hillel in Tractate Avot is the following: “Be one of Aaron’s disciples, one who loves peace and pursues it, one who loves one’s fellow human beings and brings them near to the Torah.”

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Pesah: The Chesed Holiday

Pesah: The Chesed Holiday

Apr 8, 2006 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Shabbat Hagadol

Next week marks the beginning of Passover; with this annual celebration, Jews gather to celebrate the birth of the Israelite nation.

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