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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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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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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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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Elijah at the Seder Table

Elijah at the Seder Table

Apr 7, 2001 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Tzav | Shabbat Hagadol

The Shabbat just prior to Passover is known as the Great Sabbath, Shabbat ha-Gadol.

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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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Judaism’s Two New Years

Judaism’s Two New Years

Mar 23, 2002 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Pesah | Shabbat Hagadol

In the Middle Ages, when rabbis were largely specialists in and adjudicators of Jewish law, they preached in the synagogue but twice a year, on Shabbat Hagadol prior to Passover and on Shabbat Shuvah prior to Yom Kippur. The ritual intricacies of each festival called for some public instruction. The custom highlighted the affinity between these two seasons which each in its own way initiated the start of a new year.

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