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15 deep thoughts for a profound Passover seder

Every section of the celebration is a learning opportunity: Heschel, Kushner, Ozick, Sagan et al help light the way

“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” These words of Will Rogers emphasize the importance of forward motion. Passover’s Seder specializes in building momentum. Fifteen sections of the Haggadah align with the fifteen progressive milestones of Dayenu. Irrepressible striving is the way of our people. 

Ridding our homes of Hametz this week can remind us of our Torah portion’s efforts to vacate them of spiritual pollutants (Lev. 14:33-53). Consider some contemporary reflections along the fifteen-steps in preparation for your pilgrimage.

Sacred (Kadesh) “‘And God saw that it was good’ This is the challenge: to reconcile our experience with God’s view.” Abraham Joshua Heschel

Cleanse (u’rchatz) “None of us is as bad as the worst thing we’ve ever done.” Bryan Stephenson

Spring (Karpas) “To live is to be slowly born.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Split (yachatz) “Nobody has ever been insulted into agreement.” Arthur Brooks

Tell (Magid) “A child is an orphan when it has no parents; a nation is an orphan when it has no children.” Hasidic

Bathe (Rochtza)“How do you know when a sin is pardoned? When you stop committing it.” Reb Bunem

Bless (Motzi) “We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time.” Brene Brown

Pesah Bread (Matzah) “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” Maya Angelou

Bitter (Maror)“Grief is a demanding companion.” Sheryl Sandberg

Blend (Korech)“We so often reject the very people and things that carry the secrets of belonging.” Timothy Shriver

Bounty (Shulchan Orech)“We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.” Cynthia Ozick

Surprise (Tzafun)“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.” Rabindranath Tagore

Gratitude (Barech)“I began to experience the most powerful advantage of money: the ability to think of things besides money.” Tara Westover

Praise (Hallel) “If you wish to make an apple pie truly from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” Carl Sagan

Be pleased (Nirtza) “If you don’t like how the story ends, turn it into the middle of the story.” Harold Kushner

The fifteen Seder sections draw their inspiration from the fifteen steps up to Jerusalem’s Temple. Martin Luther King once said, Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” May momentum’s moments impel us forward into a season of growth.

About the Author
Rabbi William Hamilton has served as rabbi (mara d'atra) of Kehillath Israel in Brookline, MA since 1995.
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