Seder Gems 5770 - Second Night
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Below is a brief synopsis of Seder Gems - Second Night - 15 pages of pithy and timely ideas that will inspire and motivate your guests.
- An anecdote about a beleaguered Winston Churchill will give us a humorous insight into the Seder, which will lead to a discussion of how the Exodus is the great decisive story of the Torah. Its historic lessons shaped the ethical, spiritual and social consciousness of the Jewish people. The Seder experience is powerful because it embodies many of these great ideas. We will look at five particularly profound ones.
- An elderly professor passes away and arrives at the gates of heaven reserved for academics in the World to Come. There the professor sees two signs over the entrance to paradise. What will these signs tell us about how to successfully impart Jewish identity to our children? We will see how the Talmud says that Passover is to be celebrated and why its story must be told on the Seder night, when “Pesach, matzah and bitter herbs are in front of us.”
- The Rebbe of Ropschitz was asked: “Why is it that every year so many new editions of the Haggadah are printed?” He answered: “It is because last year's 'wicked son' has become this year's 'wise son'.” What did he mean? And how does the wicked son of Passover relate to the wicked son of Sukkot? Why do we accept one but not the other? We will see how the answer to this question tells us our task at the Seder is to make all of our brothers and sisters know and feel that we are all one family, we all belong.
- After Abraham's circumcision, G-d visited him. Why then did an angel have to come afterword and cure Abraham? Why had G-d not cured him first? The humorous answer to this question will give us insight into an important lesson about how the Jews were redeemed from Egypt, as well as how to be a true friend.
- The Torah states “The Egyptians were cruel to us,” but there’s another way to interpret the Hebrew—“The Egyptians befriended us.” Which is it? Or is it both? A story of a frog in hot water answers the question and teaches us how we all can fall victim to an “inner Pharaoh” that keeps us enslaved to our bad habits, just as the Egyptians enslaved our ancestors. We see that Passover is a time of hope, a time to jump out of the pot and actualize our G-d-given potential.
- The heartfelt cry of a Jew can initiate the redemption. If we pray sincerely, if we sing the tune, G-d will answer our prayers. We’ll look at the Haggadah’s message of hope through a humorous anecdote about what Mark Twain once said to his wife.
- Dayeinu: To be a Jew is to give thanks, to be thankful to G-d for the preciousness of each act of redemption and care – for splitting the sea, for leading us across it, for giving us life each day. A powerful contemporary Dayeinu story tells us about how Schindler's List was inscribed and how one of the 1,100 Jews saved by Oskar Schindler sang Dayeinu for fifty year.
- I once gave a class about Passover entitled: "From Slavery to Freedom." A professional musician who attended the class told me afterward: “Rabbi, the message was good.” So I said:”But…?” There’s usually a “but” when a Jew gives a compliment. “But,” she said, “The title was wrong. It should not have been ‘From Slavery to Freedom’ but ‘Through Slavery to Freedom.’ It is only by subjecting oneself to discipline and order, as we musicians do, that we gain the ability to create beautiful music.” She was absolutely right. What sculptors do with marble, writers with words, athletes with their physical strength, painters with pigment and musicians with notes, Judaism does with deeds. We will see how the Seder, which means “order,” is a reminder of this need for consistency and strength in our own lives.
- An elderly Chabad Rabbi who lived in Israel spent much of his time visiting prisoners. Once after Passover the Jewish prisoners told him that although their Seder had been good, something important was missing. They could not open the door for Elijah’s entrance, and this was depressing to them. The Rabbi responded beautifully by revealing the secret of how to open locked doors of the heart. During the Seder we reach a significant moment when we ask G-d, the true Redeemer, to help us open the door of our hearts. And may that door be the portal that allows an overabundance of goodness and blessings to flow in.
- On Passover night, after we speak of Jewish redemption over the first three cups of wine, we recite the great universal song of Nishmat kol Chai, which speaks of the redemption of all of mankind. This prayer expresses that a Jew is not satisfied with his own redemption unless every human being will be redeemed with him. Among the birds deemed non-kosher in the Bible is a bird called the Chasidah. Remarking on the strange name, Rashi writes that the name Chasidah comes from Chesed, "kindness," because this particular bird acts kindly toward its family. If the Chasidah is so kind, why is it un-kosher? The answer will give us a profound insight into how to live our lives.