ABOUT THE SEDER
From the Passover Liturgy
This and such did YOU allow me to see.
My ear heard, You let me understand.
I did not know what happened to my soul, Because YOU came and turned my fear into happiness.
Because YOU spoke a word in YOUR goodness:
Come back, return!
[key to the illustrations]
Left and right "Reading from the Haggadah"1 and "Baking the Matzo" from the Haggadah Amsterdam 1695 • Lower Left: In a modern Matzo factory • Right: Painting by Oppenheim • Below, and the Figures in the Title: Israelites in Egypt, according to Egyptian depiction • Middle: Star of David to store Matzo in the synagogue, 1770.
Passover is a unique festival and the Seder evenings, especially, make the strongest impression on all Jewish children. Something radiant and extraordinary remains in the memory, and then once again we must wait the whole year for the renewal of this illuminating impression. But what a feeling such an evening offers with the bright pictures, the great thoughts, exceptional tastes, from words and melodies, from instructions, considerations, and the great historical context! The room is lit as brightly as possible and the lights shine everywhere. The table is set festively, and under the silk embroidered cloth the Seder plate waits like a thrilling mystery. The father puts on a white robe that has the air of the last garment of all Jews, of the dress of the past and of the great Yom Kippur judgment, he puts the white silk cap on and ties the narrow white linen belt, because bound and prepared for the journey our ancestors in Egypt ate the Passover meal before they went out into the desert and into freedom. Awed and amazed, the children peer at the table.
A Haggadah lies at every place setting, with a glass behind it. For four glasses of wine must be drunk on the Seder evening by everyone, man and woman, rich and poor, young and old. And we sit reclining to the left—the father, especially, carries out the Seder by sitting reclining to the left, like a free man, since that was once a marker of free men in the Near East, and on Passover, Israel would be free.
And the mysterious Seder plate: three matzos lie on top of it, special ones that are thicker than normal and each in its own case and by rank and name distinguished Cohens, priests, elders, Levis, Levites, middle-ranking men, and the ordinary, regular Israelites. And over above, on the tablecloth, there are also other natural symbols of the celebration: a vegetable, a bitter herb to show the bitterness of the Egyptian slavery; a sweet charoset, which will taste so good to the children after the festivities and which also signifies the clay that our ancestors once used to perform hard labor to build bricks, houses, and pyramids; the roasted shankbone as a symbol of the Passover lamb and the boiled egg to signify the always round, rolling changeability of human affairs, to serve as a warning against overconfidence, and to serve as a sign of Jewish fertility, and, finally, to serve as a sign of mourning for the destroyed temple in Jerusalem.
And the wine—because with the Kiddush sanctification the Seder evening begins, as only a Jewish festival does. And how truly festive we will soon feel when we all raise the Seder plate along with the father and call out together at the same time the exclamation heard all over the world: "This is the bread of affliction, which our fathers in Egypt ate!" And we then immediately offer the grandest and most heartfelt invitation: "Whoever is hungry, come and eat! Whoever is deprived, come and take part in the Passover! This year here—next year in the land of Israel!"
WE READ FROM THE HAGGADAH
[key to the illustrations]
Left: Title page from a Haggadah from the year 1521 • Right: illuminated panel from a Haggadah from the year 1521 and "Kiddush" from the Haggadah of Mantua (1560) • Above: Seder plate from 1776 with the inscription: "The more one tells of the exodus from Egypt, the more laudable." • Superimposed [on the seder plate]: the four typical figures from the Haggadah: "the Immature one, the Simpleton, the Wicked one and the Wise one." • Bottom center: The Wise man from Bne Berak, depiction in the Haggadah • Bottom left and right: Figures from the Haggadah from Mantua 1560.