What We Do

This is it, folks. This is why it’s called a "Haggadah" ("telling"). Now we get to the meat and potatoes of the Seder your soul is longing for. (As for the meat and the potatoes your stomach is longing for, you can probably smell them simmering in the kitchen. Hold on, we’ll get there.)

Fill the second cup of wine, following which the children ask the four questions.

Of course, they can always ask more.

No children? Let an adult ask. There’s just you? You be the child, and G‑d will be the father. While you’re at it, ask Him a few other difficult questions for us all.

Continue with the telling of the story, as written in your Haggadah.

Hey, you’re not limited to the Haggadah’s version! That was written so that everybody would have something to say. But now is your chance to get creative. Tell every story you know about the exodus. Examine every word of the Haggadah and get into the deeper meaning. Keep it real, make it profound.

Here's a basic summary of what we'll be talking about:

The Haggadah is two narratives bundled together, each of which (like any good story) has a distressing beginning and a happy ending. The central narrative is the story of the Exodus: how at first "We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt" and then "G‑d took us out with a Mighty Hand." The larger story is how "In the beginning, our ancestors were idol-worshippers" and then "G‑d brought us to Him, to His service."

We'll trace the origins of the Jewish people starting with Abraham's rejection of his family's idolatry. We'll recount how the enslavement in Egypt — but also the redemption and the "great wealth" that will be taken from there — was foretold to Abraham at the "Covenant Between the Pieces." We'll confirm that G‑d's promise to Abraham has stood us by, not only in delivering us from Egypt but throughout Jewish history as "in every generation, they pounce upon us to destroy us, but G‑d saves us from their hands." We'll describe the terrible suffering of the Children of Israel in Egypt and the plagues brought upon the Egyptians. We'll sing of the fifteen great gifts G‑d bestowed upon us, from the Exodus to the Splitting of the Sea to the Manna to the Giving of Torah to granting us the Holy Land and the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

We'll explain the significance of the Passover offering (in gratitude to G‑d for passing over our homes when He smote the Egyptian firstborn), the matzah ("because our fathers' dough did not have time to become leavened before G‑d revealed Himself to them and redeemed them") and the maror (the bitter herbs, which recall the bitterness of our exile and enslavement). We'll conclude with the first part of the Hallel (Psalms of praise) recited over the second cup of wine.

Basic Rules of telling the story:

· Get the children involved.

· Tell it in first person, in the now. Don’t say, “Long ago, the ancient Hebrews…” Say, “When we were slaves in Egypt, the perverse socio-bureaucratic system thoroughly crushed every individual’s sense of self-worth!” Everything that happened there parallels something in each of our lives. We are truly living it now. We are simply examining our own lives in the dress of ancient Egypt.

· It’s all about miracles. Moses and his signs and wonders. The Ten Plagues. The splitting of the sea. All those miracles happened so that we would look at the events of our daily life and recognize that these too are miracles. Tell it like it is: We are a people born of miracles. We endured by miracles. The very fact that we are here now telling this same story to our children in an unbroken chain of 3,316 years is an abrogation of natural law.

We drink the second cup at the end of this step.

What It Means

The Exodus was not simply an event that happened to us. It is an event that we became. It is who we are. It is the life of each one of us, occurring again and again, in our wrestling match with the world, in our struggle with our own selves. We embody freedom in a constant mode of escape. Perhaps that is why Jews have always been the rebels of society, the ones who think out of the box. The experience of leaving Egypt left such an indelible mark on our souls, we never stopped doing it. A Jew who has stopped exiting Egypt has ceased to allow his soul to breathe.

To tell the story is to bring that essential self into the open, to come face to face with who we really are and resuscitate it back to life.