The holiday month of April, or the Jewish month of Nisan is coming to a close. Lives are returning to normal and summer is quickly approaching. The next Jewish Holiday is the Holiday of Shavuout which is 50 days after Passover.
My month of April has been busy between thinking about both Passover and Easter. I was privileged to participate to some capacity in both events and look forward to sharing some of my experiences. On Tuesday, the second night of Passover, I was privileged to attend a Seder at a Jewish nursing home in Manhattan. A dear friend of mine volunteers there and invited me to attend with her; I had an enjoyable evening observing, learning, and participating.
While there are many varying traditions and practices in different families and situations there is a definite prescribed order and method for the Seder which should be generally followed. While the Seder I attended was not completely traditional, it followed all of the basic rules.
The traditional order of a Passover Seder follows what is called the Haggadah. The ceremony is begun with the lighting of the candles, followed by Kaddesh, or Blessing. Throughout the evening there are four cups of wine which must be drunk in a specific order. These four cups include the cup of Sanctification, the cup of Rejoicing, the cup of Redemption or Grace, and the fourth cup of Thanksgiving. Interspersed throughout the drinking of these cups are many different activities, prayers, songs, and stories.
Every part of the Seder has a special significance in the commemoration of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. One of the central parts near the beginning of the ceremony are the Four Questions. Traditionally the youngest child in attendance should ask the questions.
Ma Neeshtanah—Four Questions.
Ma Neeshtanah hahl-lai-lah hah-zay, meek-kohl hahl-lay-lot
Why is this night different from all other nights?
- On all other nights, we eat either leavened bread or matzah; why on this night do we eat only matzah?
- On all other nights, we eat all kinds of vegetables; why on this night must we eat bitter herbs?
- On all other nights, we do not dip (our herbs) even once; why on this night do we dip twice (into salt water and into sweet fruit)?
- On all other nights, everyone sits up or reclines while eating; why on this night do we all recline?
The Passover Seder is an incredibly special time for families to come together and celebrate. Here is a video which exemplifies this in an interesting way. The words to the song are the four questions.
I personally had an interesting evening at the Seder I attended and was able to meet several intruiging people including a former university physics professor and a 89 year-old French woman who had travelled three hours by herself just to attend the Seder!
Here are a few pictures from the evening.
And to finish out the holiday I will leave you with another traditional and fun Passover song “Dayenu.” This song is basically saying that even if God hadn’t delivered them out of Egypt or done any of the miraculous things surounding the Exodus, it still would have “been enough.” This is a fun version you can learn for next year! 🙂