Friday, March 31, 2023

Passover Prep 2023 | New Questions, New Resources

It's Seder prep time, which means I've been re-reading the Haggdah. While I don't have a whole lot new answers, I've been lucky enough to find some new questions.

1. The Ha Lach Ma is a already a curious way to start the seder. For example: why call for people to join you at a meal once the meal has already begun? But this year I've got a new question: we are inviting all "who are hungry" to not just 'eat', but to eat "the bread of affiliation." What kind of offer is that?

2. The story of the Five Rabbis emphasizes that even the very wise should study Passover in detail. That's sensible. But if that's the purpose, why not use the story of the Rabbis recorded in Tosefta Pesachim 10:12 to show this? Why seemingly invent a similar story with a different cast of characters to show the same thing?

3. We've often wondered why the wise son can get away with using the phrase 'to you,' but when the wicked son uses similar phrasing he's scolded. This year I realized another puzzling nuance: the wicked son and one who can't ask at all get the same answer: Exodus 13:8. Why is that?

4. After enumerating the well known 10 plagues, we dive into a discussion of how many plagues occurred 'at the sea.' Surprisingly, we get a clear answer to this question in Perkei Avot 5:4: "Ten plagues did the Holy one, blessed be He, bring upon the Egyptians in Egypt and ten at the sea." Why did the Haggadah choose to leave out this simple explanation?

Here are some additional Passover resources I've been loving:

  • Both a modern interpretation from and the 17th century commentator, Naftali Seva Ratzon note that the passage V'he Shemadah starts literally with: "And She" and have innovative commentaries based on this.
  • This is an impressive breakdown of the plague count using different biblical sources. Spoiler alert: no one source says there was 10 plagues.
  • I love this unexpected perspective on the 'Pour out thy wrath' section of the Seder. More than ever I see these verses a barometer for how accepted we feel as a people. When 'Pour out thy wrath' feels awkward, it means we're doing well; when it resonates we know just how insecure our times our.
  • In Megillat Esther, the d├ęcor at Achasverosh's feast includes the phrase: 'cotton [wall] hangings'. The Hebrew for this phrase uses the word 'Karpas.' And boom, just like that, you can now link Passover and Purim.
  • Here's a copy of the Haggadah with the relevant Talmud sources included inline. I love how this gives additional context to the Haggadah, showing purpose to many of the seemingly random things we do during the Seder.
  • This "Feminist Supplement to the Haggadah" may have a seemingly provocative name, but the content is both well thoughtful and powerfully written. Check it out, I think it would be a beautiful addition to any Seder.
  • Hallel, which we recite at the end of the Seder, is made up of psalms 113 to 118. This fact is obscured by the way the text is paginated. By splitting up the paragraphs just so, we can emphasize different parts of the text and give a unique feel to the experience of reciting these six psalms. How and when was this pagination developed? I've Googled but couldn't find an explanation. I asked Chat GPT and it immediately gave a plausible answer. When I try to confirm the facts Chat GPT provided by additional Google Searches I still come up empty. Thus I find myself with yet another new question this year: Should I trust Chat GPT?

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