I wish everyone a joyous Seder tonight wherever you are. I hope you are able to recline with four cups of wine and plenty of matza and turkey or brisket or chicken. Even the poorest should feel like kings and queens on Passover.
At the Leman house, I will lead with Eli Gindi’s Family Haggadah: A Seder for All Generations and add back in a few more traditional elements from The Family Haggadah by Artscroll. In addition to the ten of us (we have 8 kids) we will have six guests for the evening. Tomorrow night the congregation will gather for a Seder all together in one place.
Meanwhile, as a Passover gift, I share with you a few inspirational readings taken from The Schocken Passover Haggadah. May these be blessing to you on this Passover 5769:
It is related of R. Akiva that he never said, “It is time to quit the house of study,” except on the eve of Passover and on the eve of Yom Kippur. On the eve of Passover for the sake of the children, so that they would not fall asleep during the Seder. On the eve of Yom Kippur so the disciples could feed their children. (cited in The Book of Legends 235:157)
On the first night of Passover, one should introduce some change at the table, so that the children who notice it will ask, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” And he in turn will reply, “This is what happened.” In what manner, for example, should he introduce a change? He may distribute parched grain or nuts to the children; remove the table from its usual place; snatch the unleavened bread from hand to hand, and so on. If he has no children, the wife should ask the questions; if he has no wife, they should ask each other: “Why is this night different?” — even if they are all scholars. If one is alone, he should ask himself, “Why is this night different?” (Maimonides, Mishneh Torah 7:1-3).
A story is told of Rabbi Hayyim Brisker (nineteenth century Talmudist). He was approached by a person who asked him whether he could fulfill the mitzvah of the Four Cups of the Seder with milk instead of wine. Rabbi Hayyim answered no and gave the man twenty rubles and sent him on his way. Rabbi Hayyim’s wife queried him: “What kind of psak [religious decision] was that? Everyone knows that if you have no choice, you can fulfill the mitzvah with milk!” Rabbi Hayyim responded, “I knew this person asked about milk because he could not afford wine or meat for the Seder, therefore the question was not one of halakha [Jewish law] but of money.” (as told by Zalman Schachter-Shalomi).
Whenever Rabbi Levi Yitzhak came to that passage in the Passover Haggadah which deals with the four sons, and in it read about the fourth son, about him who “knows not how to ask,” he said: “‘The one who knows not how to ask,’ that is myself, Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev. I do not know how to ask you, Lord of the World, and even if I did know, I could not bear to do it. How could I bear to venture to ask you why everything happens as it does, why we are driven from one exile into another, why our foes are allowed to torment us so. But in the Haggadah, the father of the one who knows not how to ask is told: ‘It is for you to disclose it to him.’ And the Haggadah refers to the scriptures in which it is written: ‘And you shall tell your son.’ And, Lord of the World, am I not your son? I do not beg you to reveal to me the secret of your ways — I could not bear it! But show me one thing; show it to me more clearly and more deeply: show me what this, which is happening at this very moment, means to me, what it demands of me, what you, Lord of the World, are telling me by way of it. Ah, it is not why I suffer that I wish to know, but only whether I suffer for your sake. (Martin Buber, Tales of the Hasidim).