Thanks for joining in the TikTok Seder! 14 videos, one for each step of the journey. Each video provides an opportunity for reflection or kavannah (intention) or question. You can do a full Seder or just watch the videos and reflect. Or something in-between!
A few prelims:
The Seder is what you want to make it! There are a number of components, and
- Here is what goes on a Seder plate
- And here is a larger checklist
- Want to keep it simple? Grab some some matzo, grape beverage, something bitter, something sweet, something green, salt water, and whatever food you like!
Each video is a short reflection on each step of the Seder. You can use them on their own, or next to another Haggadah. Here is a download of the Haggadah I like to use: https://www.reconstructingjudaism.org/haggadah or this awesome site that has lots of clips to build a haggadah or just explore: https://www.haggadot.com/
The blessings can be found in the Haggadah, and there are also links below for the steps with blessings.
Pour yourself a glass of your favorite grape beverage for Kadesh——the first step of the Seder.
Why do we offer this sanctification blessing as we begin? The act of reciting Kiddush, the blessing of sanctification over grapes , is common for Shabbat and holy days and important life events.
Because more than anything, Kadesh is about pausing and ACKNOWLEDGING. At the Passover seder, we are about to embark on a long and perilous journey, one that starts with a story of enslavement, and ends with a story of liberation. For a journey like that, we need to get ready and compose ourselves to be fully present for what we are about to do.
How often when we are overwhelmed do we just plow ahead with what we are doing without taking stock, without assessing, without planning? How often do we just go from one thing to another without a break? Kadesh reminds us to stop to mark the transitions—important for moving into Passover, and really, with anything we do.
Once we offer these words of acknowledgment, we are ready to take the next step.
Kadesh blessing [drink the grape beverage]
We now wash our hands for the first time, later we wash our hands as a ritual preparation for the meal, So why do we wash our hands now?
It too is a way to prepare for the journey. As the idiom goes, when we wash our hands of something, we relinquish responsibility, we are leaving something behind.
The step of Urhatz is about LETTING GO. We wash off the past, the hurt, the obstacles in order to make room for change. We know too now that conscientious hand washing prevents the transmission of illness. We wash to remove that which hinders us.
Water is an ancient symbol of transformation. As our spiritual ancestors passed through the Red Sea to freedom, through water is the way from one place to another.
What are you letting go, in order to move forward?
[rinse your hands in water as a ceremonial washing]
Passover is a springtime holiday, and during this time the world is waking up. The flowers, the buds, the lengthening of days—we are in a time of renewal. To honor this time, we eat parley, or another green. (also a good time to eat a salad or crudité before the meal)
As we celebrate spring, we remember that nature moves in a cycle. While we mark the rebirth of spring, we also know of the death of fall. This should not provide us with despair, however, but with hope. Change is built into the fabric of life, things as they are are not necessarily how they will always be.
Karpas is about AWAKENING to what is possible. Once we let go, we craft a vision of what is next.
And when we eat the parsley, we first dip in salt water, representing tears. All change involves loss. Sadness and happiness are two sides of the same coin.
Karpas blessing [dip the parsley in salt water and eat]
While we eat matza all throughout Passover, it customary to have three pieces of matzo at the Seder.
And for Yachatz, we take the middle matzo and break it in two. We hide the larger piece to discover later—the afikomen—and return the other piece to its place. (We will eat it later)
When we break the matzo we take the next step in preparation: ACCEPTING THE BROKENNESS. Passover is about brokenness—it is recognizing that a situation is broken and untenable and cries out for repair. Like the story in the Torah—this can be the story of a people oppressed in need of rescue. Or it can be a deeply personal story of the brokenness within that needs care and tending.
As we break this middle matzo, take a moment and name your brokenness, either aloud or in your heart. And it is probably more than one brokenness that you want to name. And by naming our oppression, by confessing its reality, we have taken the first step to overcoming it.
[break a piece of matzo in two, and put aside the larger piece]
We begin the traditional magid with 4 questions—observations of the rituals of the Seder that demand explanation. The answer to those questions is the story of Passover, told in reference to the parable of the four children—different people have different temperaments and learning styles, and so it is important to tell the story so that all understand. (And remember, these four children represent not only different typoes of people, but different aspects of ourselves.)
So we tell the story. And when we do, we need to remember two things:
- We are telling a story not of the past, but of the present and future.
- You must see yourself in the story.
What is the story of oppression that you are telling in this moment. And what is the vision of liberation?
And when we are done TELLING OUR STORIES, we have another glass of grape beverage. Only this time, we take out 10 drops to represent the biblical 10 plagues to remember that liberation often comes through pain and violence, and we exercise empathy by diminishing slightly our joy.
[tell the story of the Exodus in any way you wish, and especially make connections to contemporary times.]
Passover is a unique holiday in that it’s primary observance is not at a synagogue, but at home. So take in your space, the place you are finding yourself, and note what makes it holy for you. who are you with, what objects are nearby—what makes your place holy.
When the Israelites crossed the Red Sea to freedom, they sang a song and declared “This is my God whom I glorify.” It’s the word “This” that is perhaps the most important in this moment, for it indicates RECOGNITION and IDENTIFICATION. They noticed a miracle was happening.
The story of Passover is universal, but the particulars may have a different resonance for each of us. As we wash our hands to prepare to eat, we let the story sink in. What do you identify with? Where are the miracles in your life?
And as we are washing with intention to eat, we say a blessing.
Handwashing blessing [rinse hands in water again, and recite the blessing]
It’s time to eat the matzo, so we take a part to. For such a simple food with only two ingredients—flour and water—it carries a depth of meaning.
In the Torah we are told that the reason we eat matzo is that the Isrealites left Egypt in such a hurry they didn’t have time for their bread to rise, and were thus left with a simple flat bread rather than a beautiful loaf. In this way, the matzo embodies freedom and change.
At the same time, we call matzo lechem oni, or the bread of poverty or bread of affliction, noting that a food that is so simple and cheap is associated with those with lesser means, and its bland taste does not make it one of the finer foods.
So the simple matzo is a food of BOTH/AND. It is a food of high and low, wealth and poverty, decadence and necessity. And it reminds us that as we tell the story of Exodus, we are constantly living at the intersection of both oppression and liberation.
Motzi blessing [eat some matzo]
Next to matzo, perhaps the most familiar food of Passover is the maror, the bitter herbs. And we eat a food that is bitter in order to remind us of the bitterness of the Egyptian slavery, and by extension, all oppression.
While any bitter vegetable will do, many have the custom of using horseradish root. And raw horseradish root is strong, inducing a physical reaction.
The Passover seder is a unique ritual not only because it takes place outside of a synagogue and as part of meal, but because that meal includes foods that are meant to represent aspects of the story. And to eat a bitter food to remind us of bitterness is to remind us that oppression and liberation are not just intellectual, but physical and emotional. It is embodied. It involves our WHOLE SELF.
Can you bring your whole self to this moment? What do you need to do in order to do that.
Maror blessing [eat some bitter herbs]
This is an interesting stage as we, in remembrance of an ancient temple practice, make a sandwich of matzo, maror—the bitter herbs—and haroset. The first two we have tasted already, haroset is new. Haroset is a sweet mixture of nuts, fruit and wine that is meant to symbolize the mortar that held together the bricks used by the Israelite slaves.
Again we have the combinations of sentiments—a sweet tasting food representing hardship and forced labor. And we eat the sweet with the bitter together. For this is life itself, we take the bitter and the sweet at the same time. Life is filled with both highs and lows, and sometimes
Haroset is such an interesting food because despite its simplicity, there are a number of different ways to make it. Jews from different parts of the world will make it differently, a sign of Jewish DIVERSITY. And that reminds us of another aspect of the story, that when the Israelites were freed they were joined by Egyptians who also wanted to leave that oppressive society behind. Every liberation struggle, therefore, needs ALLIES.
[eat some bitter herbs and haroset with matzo, no additional blessing]
The festive meal is not in addition to the Seder, it is part of the Seder—one of the 14 steps is to have a celebratory meal. And it is a celebration. So enjoy some good food—your favorites or traditional eats.
One of the other acts about the Seder is that we are meant to recline during the seder and the meal. We can do this in many ways, leaning on a pillow on our chair, or even spreading out on the couch or floor to enjoy our meal. This is a symbol of freedom—we enact the way our ancient ancestors imagined free people eat, as opposed to slaves, who do not have control over their bodies.
And in addition to being another reminder of freedom, taking time for our meal and eating it in a relaxing fashion is a reminder to REST. Struggles for liberation are taxing on us in many ways, and part of them must be a form of self-care. It is the only way we will have the emotional and physical strength to continue the journey.
[have some food]
When we broke the middle matzo at the beginning of the Seder, we hid the larger half to serve as the afikoman—the “dessert,” the final part of the meal. We hide it as a game, we can’t finish our meal and the Seder without it so we hide it for others to find and they we can “ransom” it.
But there is deeper understanding here in that what was once was hidden, can be revealed. What once was incomplete can be completed. but only if we take the time, do the work, and search for it.
When we find the broken part of the matzo, we can reunite it with the other half. Thus what was once whole, then broken, is whole once again. We are reminded of our sacred power of REPAIR. That we have the power to make the broken, whole, to right the wrongs.
[bring out the put aside piece of matzo and eat]
Now that the meal is completed, we offer a prayer of thanks. It is always customary to offer a prayer of thanks after eating—the birkat hamzazon—and the Passover meal is not any different. Thus it is an ordinary practice—since it is done all the time—and a unique practice, for now it is being done for a special holiday meal.
When we say the blessing after the meal on Passover we are expressing GRATITUDE. But while all other times we may be expressing gratitude for the meal itself, on Passover we are expressing gratitude for both the meal itself and what the meal represents. We are grateful for the ability to have made the journey of the exodus.
Gratitude is such an important spiritual practice. Just as before the journey we needed to pause, so too after the journey do we need to pause. We need to look back on where we have been, the work it took to get to where we are, and even if the journey is not complete, we need to identify what we are grateful for and offer up words of thanks.
And share another cup of wine.
Blessing after the meal [offer words of gratitude for your meal]
Hallel means praise, and one way we express praise is to sing. Having come this far in our journey, we have perhaps a feeling of relief and happiness, and singing is a wonderful way to express that.
One song from the Seder is Dayenu.
Dayenu means, “it would have been enough for us.”—meaning that we recount each stage of the Exodus, and after each stage of the redemption, we say dayenu. If just this happened, wow, that would have been enough.
The irony is, of course, that it would not have been enough. We should not be satisfied with a partial redemption, we need to keep pushing until the work is done. Dayenu however reminds us to CELEBRATE every step, every victory along the way while at the same time taking the next step.
At end of the seder we have an opportunity to look back over the journey we have taken, and all the steps along the way. We drink the last of our four cups of wine as let out one collective sigh at having made the trip and engaged with the story on so many levels.
One guest that we always invite to the Seder is the prophet Elijah. In Jewish tradition Elijah is meant to announce the messianic age—an era of true peace and justice. We open the door and offer Elijah his own cup of wine, inviting him to join us and promise that better times are ahead.
As we end the seder, we open the door not just for Elijah but for what he represents—HOPE. But hope is not passive, or wishful thinking. Hope is having a vision for the future that we have the power to create. The next chapter is ours to write. If we want an era of true peace and justice, we need to walk through that door.
[reflect on: what are the next steps?]
Thanks for continuing the conversation!