We had two excellent seders this year, one hosted by Brother and Sister-in-Law and the other hosted by us. As usual, I did a little research ahead of time to try to come prepared with a few new insights. Here are some web resources I found especially useful:
- Pour Out Your Wrath - an interesting take on the Pour Out They Wrath paragraph snuck in at the end of the seder.
- Lifeline Bo - here's something I never realized: the same question the wicked son mentions in the Haggadah gets a completely different in the Torah. With some thought, I realized that this was probably pretty reasonable: what makes the wicked son in the Haggadah get such a sharp answer is probably the tone with which it is asked, not the content of the question itself.
- The centrality of questioning - one of the questions I searched for was this: why don't the 4 Questions have (obvious) answers? The best answer I reasoned out was this: I've actually been reading the 4 questions wrong my whole life. There's only one question being asked ("How is this night different from all other nights?") and in response, there are 4 answers (statements) given. The text of the Haggadah, as printed in the Art Scroll Passover Machzor, shows the "questions" exactly like this. Punctuation, it'll get you ever time.
- Kol dichfin yasei uyachal - Why is the announcement "all who are hungry let them come and eat" printed in Aramaic, while the rest of the Haggadah is in Hebrew? I don't have a good answer yet. Heck, that whole paragraph seems out of place to me, and perhaps is something I'll look further into next year.
- Passover Seder: Reasons based on Talmudic Liturgy or Custom of dipping finger in wine? - an informal discussion about why folks use their fingers to take drops of wine out for the 10 plagues. We're definitely a dip your finger in your wine family.
- THE FINGER - Parshat Va’eira - some commentary about the Finger of G-d mentioned in the calculations for the number of plagues the Egyptians had at the Red Sea. This one is truly interesting. First off, while I've read the paragraphs describing the math used to derive the number of plagues countless times, I've never noticed that it's in that single paragraph Moses' name is mentioned. Why there? Now there's a stumper. And the article goes on to talk about nuances about the finger of G-d. Definitely worth a read.
- Plagues, 10/50/200/250 - More discussion about Moses getting a mention in the paragraph with plague calculations. Seriously, how did I go my whole life and not notice this?
- Seder Insights with Rabbi David Walk - This 45 minute Podcast turned out to be filled with interesting gems about the seder. Two of my favorites: Rabbi Walk deftly explains how the 'story' section can be split into two parts: first a discussion of when, how and to whom the story should be told, and then the story itself is recited. In this light, the discussion about Rabbi's staying up all night and the debate about what day to hold the seder actually makes some sense. Another item I liked of his: he explains why 4 cups of wine makes sense. The first and third are for Kiddish and Birkat hamazon, is a no-brainer. The second cup is for the story, because it's used as a prop during the story. And the 4th cup is for Hallel, because Hallel itself is where the notion of lifting up a cup of wine to say Kiddish comes from (See version 13 here). Simple and elegant. Oh, and he also taught me that the 1st of Nissan gets mentioned in the Haggadah not because it's a random date, but because it corresponds to the first Mitzvah the people received. That's right, before they even exited Egypt they were given a Mitzvah. Definitely worth a listen before your next seder.
Finally, in an effort to not make our seder's too serious, I picked up a fresh set of Legos and challenged participants to create something Passover related. Here's what my Sister-in-Law came up with:
And David and I worked out these guys together:
And this one was all David:
Oh, and Shira cooked up a storm. She made Chicken soup, Hot Dog Surprise, Quinoa Stuffed Mushrooms, a kugel of some sort and peach halves with sweet potatoes. So tasty! And don't even get me started on her deserts - she somehow turned Matzah into a toffee like substance which is so good, it can't be Kosher for Passover (but is). Seriously, how'd she do that?