Meditations for the Passover Seder
These meditations on earth, growth, and redemption can be used as beginning intentions for each of the traditional sections of the Passover seder. Passover this year begins on the evening of March 2.
We look to the east
and the east wind begins to part the sea.
We look to the west
and the well of life opens its mouth to sing.
We look to the north
and the pillar of cloud waters the growing seeds.
We look to the south
and the pillar of fire warms the earth.
All around us are promises of redemption.
The Infinite whispers:
I will take you out. I will deliver you.
I will redeem you. I will take you to be my people.
On this night, all of us receive these promises anew.
Kadesh/Blessing the First Cup:
Cup that is the womb, cup that is the cave,
Cup that is the sea, cup that is the grave,
Cup that is the earth, cup that is the light,
Cup that is the seed, fill us on this night.
We lift this cup to the Source of Life.
Like Moses in the Nile
We float on the great waters.
Like Pharaoh’s daughter,
We bathe in the river of life.
Like Miriam in the reeds,
We wait for a sign.
Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy.
From the salt water of our eyes comes the green of growth.
From the salt of the ocean comes all life on earth.
We promise to preserve this green life
as it has preserved us.
We promise not to treat the earth as a slave
but as a friend.
We too were slaves
And we know the dangers of unceasing work.
Let us allow the earth her rest
And let us value all that is green
As a treasure we must preserve
Not as a servant we can use and throw away.
Yachatz/Breaking the Middle Matzah:
The grain is the circle of life.
From seed to stalk to scythe
And then to seed again.
We break the bread.
One half is the past. One half is the future.
The past, we taste now in the company of our friends and loved ones.
The future, we save for later, knowing it links to the past.
Our ancestors are present at this meal,
And our descendants: the two matzot
Above and below us.
We are the middle loaf. We hold what was,
What is, and what will be.
We are not slaves. We can choose our path.
There is a crack between past and future,
A space for possibilities,
And that is what we now create,
By telling our story.
Maggid/Telling the Story:
This is the poor bread, the bread of affliction,
The bread of questions and answers.
Over this bread we tell the story of freedom,
The story of the seed pushing up toward the sun,
The story of fear that becomes oppression,
The story of suffering that becomes hope,
The story of how we came to be alive
And part of this story.
In every generation
We remember the small agonies of the broken
And the small rebellions of those who had courage.
We become the four children:
The one who learns, the one who acts,
The one who sings, the one who waits.
All of these things help freedom to come.
In every generation,
We remember our inner lamb,
The innocence that was slaughtered,
The bitter herb of grief,
And the simple bread, the beginning of something new.
This is the cup of voices, the harmony of song,
The tapestry of sound coming together.
This is the cup that is a drum,
Calling us to be one, to bring goodness,
Understanding, and righteousness,
Through our joined hands.
Let us lift this cup to one another.
As the priests in the Temple washed
In a bowl made of bronze mirrors,
We wash one another’s hands so that we can see
One another as holy.
Each one of us is the Temple.
Each one of us is pure in this moment.
This bread has been on the backs of many;
Israelite women driven out of Egypt,
and Jewish families returning from Babylon,
kabbalist bakers in Spain and Jerusalem,
German housewives braiding dough in walled cities,
sculptors of clay ovens in Ethiopia,
refugees in Shanghai and Buenos Aires,
bagel-makers on the streets of Brooklyn,
matzas shaped in Chasidic neighborhoods,
harvesters in Nebraska and Russia and India,
truck drivers in New Jersey, London, Paris, and San Francisco,
and everywhere bread is made
on the back of Mother Earth.
We raise this bread in gratitude.
Bitterness to sting the eyes
And awaken the heart:
To make us feel our own truth,
The pain of others,
The need of the world.
Koreich/Sandwiching Charoset and Bitter Herbs:
We sandwich bitter and sweet together—
This is the life we cherish in spite of its troubles.
This is the holy orchard with all its sweet fruits and prickles.
May we go from slavery to freedom,
from emptiness to fullness and blessing.
Shulchan Oreich/Eating the Meal:
With thanks to all who brought their skills to make this meal,
Those who cooked, cleaned, and prepared this space,
And those who brought offerings to share with us—
We give thanks to the One who Nourishes all life.
Tzafun/Finding the Afikoman:
Hidden in the world is the One
Like a honeybee in a flower,
Like a heart in a body,
Like a kernel in the earth.
Through the ritual of
We now seek all that is secreted away,
All that is invisible, and all that is lost.
Bareich/Blessing After the Meal:
We raise up all the divine sparks within this food
By using its energy for good.
When we do right in the world, when we seek freedom,
We honor even the food we eat.
May fullness, abundance, good heath, love,
Good neighbors, honorable work,
Strength and vulnerability, wisdom and curiosity,
Listening and learning, serenity and joy,
Deep meaning, laughter, and many new stories
Come to us through this food.
Kos haShlishi/Third Cup
This is the cup of praise and thanksgiving.
Into it we cast all we have received in the past year
and from it we sip from all the harvests to come.
We lift this cup to the blossoms of the season,
and wish them, and us, a fruitful year.
Some of us sing with the voices of Moses and Miriam,
The ones who witnessed their oppressors falling away
And the wilderness coming to meet them like a lover.
Some of us sing with the voices of David and the poets
Who felt within themselves the joy of the blades of grass.
Some of us sing with the voice of Elijah who wanders and watches
all of us travelers and seekers, to bring us toward peace.
And some of us sing with the voice of Yocheved, who found her child
when she thought he had been lost, and had no words at all.
Kos Revi'i/Fourth Cup/Opening the Door for Elijah
Open the door, open the door to the stranger
who comes in a cloak of poverty and loss
smelling of the forests of God.
Open the door, open the door to the enemy
who wants for the first time to look into your face.
Open the door, open the door to the friend
who risks everything to let you in.
Open the door, open the door to the prophet
with wild hair who is waiting to tell you everything.
We lift this cup to all the guests from the world of the spirit who join us here at this moment. May they be our guides in the coming year.
Next year in Jerusalem!
Next year at the navel of creation:
A well, a canyon, a volcano.
Next year at the center of our own lives.
Next year in this solar system, this galaxy,
This spinning universe.
Next year in a world of justice and kindness.
Next year in every world, those we can see and those we can’t.
Next year in this body. Next year in this house
and in the larger house of being.
Next year in Jerusalem.
Rabbi Jill Hammer is the director of Tel Shemesh. She is the author of the Jewish Book of Days: A Companion for All Seasons and of Sisters at Sinai: New Tales of Biblical Women.
more nisan wisdom