On Removing Ten Drops of Wine
(To be said before the Ten Plagues)
I am always a bit amazed and awed by my own anxiety level before Passover.
Because I am aware of what the Seder will demand, I must will myself to take the evening of story and song seriously. The luxuries and comforts of my home, and the freedoms that are mine, beckon far more realistically than the bitter maror. We have been raised in a culture that seeks pleasure and personal satisfaction. Pesach is asking me to rebel, if only briefly, from that world. But I take to heart the command of the Haggadah: “In every generation, each of us must reexperience personally the Exodus from Egypt.”
So here we are again, the sun is setting, the candles are being lit, the table has all the proper ritual items, and I do not know if I and those with whom I am sharing this encounter have the strength to taste the grip of slavery and feel the thrill of liberation. Do we rely on past memories found in the Haggadah of the rabbis in Israel or the medieval liturgist during the Crusades? Do we universalize the moment with stories of soviet Jewish freedom fighters or the failures in Tiananmen Square?
The Seder is not simply an obligation I must fill, but an extraordinary opportunity to be moved by a memory and re-energized to believe that the work I do may help complete the liberation initiated over three millennia ago. I want my voice to be more than the faint echo of generations past. In a world filled with commonness, I am elevated to kedusha – a place of unique sacredness – through my presence at this re-enactment. Here is an event that left no trace except through the memory of my people. And because of their will to nurture and nourish this story of a journey from slavery to freedom, and our commitment to accept the gift of memory, the world is many steps closer to freedom and I, a warrior of human liberation.
Dr. David ElcottOur Greatest Fears
(To be said before the Ten Plaques)
The plagues God visited on the Egyptians in Egypt seem to be a parade of people’s greatest fears, a mythological show of the power of the living versus primal fear. Starting from the blood of birth and of death, through primal human fears of small creatures (lice) and large ones (wild beasts), fear of financial ruin (locusts), fear of the dark (losing direction and meaning), we face the greatest fear: the fear of our children’s lives – loss of the future. Tonight, a night to commemorate the past, we seek the mercy of God’s protection, look out from our places at a world full of fears and dangers – and pray for another quiet year.
Shai Zarchi, Israeli educator