Pesachim No.8: Seder Up!

An Introductory Note from Interleaved host, Netanel Zellis-Paley:

Over the past tractate we’ve gotten to hear from all different kinds of experts and thinkers, and the timings couldn’t be more perfect — as we celebrate our completion of Pesachim, we are days away from practicing so much of what we have learned, with the holiday of Pesach this coming weekend. While we are delighted to share the voices from our modern day Sages with you, in every interview there is tape that doesn’t make it to the final episode cut — but that doesn’t mean there isn’t what to learn from it. So we’ve dove back into our own audio archives to put together ideas, some we’ve shared before and some we’re excited to share for this first time here, to enhance your seder — step by step.

Listener, welcome to the seder.


קדש / ורחץ

Before we even begin — take a moment to look at you Hagaddah, appreciate its existence. Dr. Marc Michael Epstein reminds us that before the printing press and economically accessible books: "people would gather around the person who would be reading it — or the Hagaddah would be turned around and shown". How can you make your reading tonight more communal — is everyone on the same page at your seder?

This year (2021), the first night of the seder begins on a Saturday night, so we must say goodbye to Shabbat while welcoming in Pesach. The Talmud explains:

וְלָא? וְהָא תַּנְיָא: הַנִּכְנָס לְבֵיתוֹ בְּמוֹצָאֵי שַׁבָּת מְבָרֵךְ עַל הַיַּיִן וְעַל הַמָּאוֹר וְעַל הַבְּשָׂמִים, וְאַחַר כָּךְ אוֹמֵר הַבְדָּלָה עַל הַכּוֹס. וְאִם אֵין לוֹ אֶלָּא כּוֹס אֶחָד — מַנִּיחוֹ לְאַחַר הַמָּזוֹן וּמְשַׁלְשְׁלָן כּוּלָּן לְאַחֲרָיו. אֵין לוֹ שָׁאנֵי. וְהָא יוֹם טוֹב שֶׁחָל לִהְיוֹת אַחַר הַשַּׁבָּת, דְּאִית לֵיהּ, וְאָמַר רַב יַקְנֶ״ה! אָמְרִי: מִדְּלָא אָמַר זְמַן, מִכְּלָל דְּבִשְׁבִיעִי שֶׁל פֶּסַח עָסְקִינַן, דְּכׇל מַאי דַּהֲוָה לֵיהּ אָכֵיל לֵיהּ, וְלֵית לֵיהּ. וְהָא יוֹם טוֹב רִאשׁוֹן דְּאִית לֵיהּ, וְאָמַר אַבָּיֵי: יַקְזְנָ״ה, וְרָבָא אָמַר: יַקְנְהָ״ז.
And does one not perform multiple mitzvot together? But wasn’t it taught in a baraita: One who enters his home at the conclusion of Shabbat recites the blessing over the wine, and then over the light, and then over the spices, and thereafter he recites havdala over the cup of wine. And if he has only one cup of wine, he leaves it for after he eats his food, and uses it for Grace after Meals, and arranges all of the other blessings together thereafter. This baraita indicates that one may use the same cup both for Grace after Meals and havdala. The Gemara answers: We cannot prove anything from here, as a case where one does not have an additional cup is different. One who has two cups of wine is required to recite Grace after Meals over one of the cups and havdala over the other one. The Gemara continues its line of questioning: But there is the case of a Festival that occurs after Shabbat, when presumably one has enough wine. And nevertheless, Rav said that the proper order of the blessings is according to the Hebrew acronym yod, kuf, nun, heh: The blessing over the wine [yayin], kiddush, the blessing over the candle [ner], and havdala. This ruling shows that one recites kiddush and havdala over the same cup of wine. They say in answer to this question: From the fact that Rav did not say that one recites the blessing for time, Who has given us life [sheheḥiyanu], sustained us, and brought us to this time, this proves by inference that we are dealing with the seventh day of Passover, which is the only Festival day on which one does not recite the blessing for time. If so, it is possible that whatever wine this person had, he has already consumed over the course of the Festival, and he does not have enough wine left for two separate cups. The Gemara asks: But there is the case of the first Festival night that occurs after Shabbat, when one has wine, and nevertheless Abaye said that the order of the blessings in this instance follows the Hebrew acronym yod, kuf, zayin, nun, heh: The blessing over wine [yayin]; kiddush; the blessing for time [zeman]; the blessing over the candle [ner]; and havdala. And Rava said that the order of the blessings is in accordance with the acronym yod, kuf, nun, heh, zayin: Wine [yayin]; kiddush; candle [ner]; havdala; and the blessing for time [zeman]. Although Abaye and Rava dispute the correct order of the blessings, they agree that one recites multiple blessings over a single cup of wine.

Does the Haggadah you are using hold a clue to YaKNeHaZ — if not, look at these two that Dr. Epstein references: the first is a straightforward hare hunt, in the second the hare escapes the net.

Prague Hagaddah, "Hare Hunt"


Augsburg Haggadah, "The Hares Escape"

Courtesy of the Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary, BM675.P4 A3 1534


Be on the look out for commentaries done visually in your own Haggadah— be it Jewish subjugation, or any other topic.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה', אֱלהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר בָּחַר בָּנוּ מִכָּל־עָם וְרוֹמְמָנוּ מִכָּל־לָשׁוֹן וְקִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו. וַתִּתֶּן לָנוּ ה' אֱלֹהֵינוּ בְּאַהֲבָה (לשבת: שַׁבָּתוֹת לִמְנוּחָה וּ) מוֹעֲדִים לְשִׂמְחָה, חַגִּים וּזְמַנִּים לְשָׂשוֹן, (לשבת: אֶת יוֹם הַשַּׁבָּת הַזֶּה וְ) אֶת יוֹם חַג הַמַּצּוֹת הַזֶּה זְמַן חֵרוּתֵנוּ, (לשבת: בְּאַהֲבָה) מִקְרָא קֹדֶשׁ זֵכֶר לִיצִיאַת מִצְרָיִם. כִּי בָנוּ בָחַרְתָּ וְאוֹתָנוּ קִדַּשְׁתָּ מִכָּל הָעַמִּים, (לשבת: וְשַׁבָּת) וּמוֹעֲדֵי קָדְשֶׁךָ (לשבת: בְּאַהֲבָה וּבְרָצוֹן) בְּשִׂמְחָה וּבְשָׂשוֹן הִנְחַלְתָּנוּ.

Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has chosen us from all peoples and has raised us above all tongues and has sanctified us with His commandments. And You have given us, Lord our God, [Sabbaths for rest], appointed times for happiness, holidays and special times for joy, [this Sabbath day, and] this Festival of Matsot, our season of freedom [in love] a holy convocation in memory of the Exodus from Egypt. For You have chosen us and sanctified us above all peoples. In Your gracious love, You granted us Your [holy Sabbath, and] special times for happiness and joy.

Ethnobotanist Dr. Jon Greenberg investigates the link between the commandment to "remember the Exodus" and the drinking of wine. In his studies he finds the below commentary that focuses on the smell of the wine:

גרסינן בבבא בתרא בפ' המוכר את הפירות אמר רב זוטרא בר טוביא אמ' רב אין אומרים קדוש היום אלא על יין הראוי לנסך על גבי המזבח. ואסיקנא למעוטי שריחו רע ומגולה

We see in Tractate Bava Batra Chapter "The Seller of Fruit": Rav Zutra of Tuviya said Rav said: We do not say the kiddush that sanctifies the day (lit. sanctifying of the day) except on wine that would be permitted as libation offerings on the alter. Here we are dealing with to exclude bad scented and sour taste

**translation by Adina Karp

(ז) יֵֽלְכוּ֙ יֹֽנְקוֹתָ֔יו וִיהִ֥י כַזַּ֖יִת הוֹד֑וֹ וְרֵ֥יחַֽ ל֖וֹ כַּלְּבָנֽוֹן׃
(7) His boughs shall spread out far, His beauty shall be like the olive tree’s, His fragrance like that of Lebanon.

"The sense of smell is unique among our sense in that it is wired directly to the amygdala which is the center of emotion in the brain" explains Dr. Greenberg. So at this first cup of wine tonight, take a moment to breathe deeply — what does the smell of wine prompt you to remember?


כרפס / יחץ

Many of the actions we perform tonight that stick out as odd to us, are just mimics of Greco-Roman feasting manners, like those picture below:

A Wealthy Roman Feast


The act of dipping, Dr. Greenberg tell us, is one of these manners. If you were to incorporate actions into you seder to emulate prosperity today, what would they be?


מגיד / רחצה

In beginning Maggid, the telling of the story of Exodus, Rabbi Dr. Vanessa Ochs reminds us of the original commandment:

(ח) וְהִגַּדְתָּ֣ לְבִנְךָ֔ בַּיּ֥וֹם הַה֖וּא לֵאמֹ֑ר בַּעֲב֣וּר זֶ֗ה עָשָׂ֤ה יְהוָה֙ לִ֔י בְּצֵאתִ֖י מִמִּצְרָֽיִם׃
(8) And you shall explain to your son on that day, ‘It is because of what the LORD did for me when I went free from Egypt.’

Rabbi Ochs points out that their is no explanation for how to carry this out and proposes that, "the Torah suggests the possibility that we can figure out how to create holy experience". What is it that you can do tonight to create such an experience?

Dr. Epstein explains how he creates a holy experience, while referencing an important theme of the entire seder, "so that the children should ask":

לָמָּה עוֹקְרִין אֶת הַשּׁוּלְחָן? אָמְרִי דְּבֵי רַבִּי יַנַּאי: כְּדֵי שֶׁיַּכִּירוּ תִּינוֹקוֹת וְיִשְׁאֲלוּ.

The Gemara asks: Why does one remove the table? The school of Rabbi Yannai say: So that the children will notice that something is unusual and they will ask: Why is this night different from all other nights?

What questions do you want to ask tonight? What questions are you hoping you will hear tonight?

The main bulk of Maggid, in between the questions and answers, is the First Fruits Declaration:

וּבְמוֹרָא גָּדֹל. זוֹ גִּלּוּי שְׁכִינָה. כְּמָה שֶּׁנֶּאֱמַר, אוֹ הֲנִסָּה אֱלֹהִים לָבוֹא לָקַחַת לוֹ גּוֹי מִקֶּרֶב גּוֹי בְּמַסֹּת בְּאֹתֹת וּבְמוֹפְתִים וּבְמִלְחָמָה וּבְיָד חֲזָקָה וּבִזְרוֹעַ נְטוּיָה וּבְמוֹרָאִים גְּדוֹלִים כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר־עָשָׂה לָכֶם ה' אֱלֹהֵיכֶם בְּמִצְרַיִם לְעֵינֶיךָ.

"And with great awe" - this [refers to the revelation of] the Divine Presence, as it is stated (Deuteronomy 4:34), "Or did God try to take for Himself a nation from within a nation with enigmas, with signs and with wonders and with war and with a strong hand and with an outstretched forearm and with great and awesome acts, like all that the Lord, your God, did for you in Egypt in front of your eyes?"

On the above section Dr. Epstein suggests that this metaphor reminds us that "in order to see the Exodus more clearly this Passover, we need to think of these terrible experience by way of contrast with what was and what could be, and to hope and to pray, and to open ourselves up to the possibility that we will appreciate being taken out, even more, for having in a way ourselves, in a way that hasn't been present in this past generation, been in." What has being "in" taught you this year? What do you hope to "take out" with you in the future?

The next part of Maggid describes the plauges — but Dr. Rachel Scheinerman reminds us of the original focus of the exodus story:

(טז) וְאָמַרְתָּ֣ אֵלָ֗יו יְהוָ֞ה אֱלֹהֵ֤י הָעִבְרִים֙ שְׁלָחַ֤נִי אֵלֶ֙יךָ֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר שַׁלַּח֙ אֶת־עַמִּ֔י וְיַֽעַבְדֻ֖נִי בַּמִּדְבָּ֑ר וְהִנֵּ֥ה לֹא־שָׁמַ֖עְתָּ עַד־כֹּֽה׃
(16) And say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you to say, “Let My people go that they may worship Me in the wilderness.” But you have paid no heed until now.
(כו) וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהוָה֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה בֹּ֖א אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֑ה וְאָמַרְתָּ֣ אֵלָ֗יו כֹּ֚ה אָמַ֣ר יְהוָ֔ה שַׁלַּ֥ח אֶת־עַמִּ֖י וְיַֽעַבְדֻֽנִי׃
(26) the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD: Let My people go that they may worship Me.
(ד) וַיִּקְרָ֨א פַרְעֹ֜ה לְמֹשֶׁ֣ה וּֽלְאַהֲרֹ֗ן וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ הַעְתִּ֣ירוּ אֶל־יְהוָ֔ה וְיָסֵר֙ הַֽצְפַרְדְּעִ֔ים מִמֶּ֖נִּי וּמֵֽעַמִּ֑י וַאֲשַׁלְּחָה֙ אֶת־הָעָ֔ם וְיִזְבְּח֖וּ לַיהוָֽה׃
(4) Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Plead with the LORD to remove the frogs from me and my people, and I will let the people go to sacrifice to the LORD.”
(כא) וַיִּקְרָ֣א פַרְעֹ֔ה אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֖ה וּֽלְאַהֲרֹ֑ן וַיֹּ֗אמֶר לְכ֛וּ זִבְח֥וּ לֵֽאלֹהֵיכֶ֖ם בָּאָֽרֶץ׃
(21) Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Go and sacrifice to your God within the land.”
(א) וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהוָה֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה בֹּ֖א אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֑ה וְדִבַּרְתָּ֣ אֵלָ֗יו כֹּֽה־אָמַ֤ר יְהוָה֙ אֱלֹהֵ֣י הָֽעִבְרִ֔ים שַׁלַּ֥ח אֶת־עַמִּ֖י וְיַֽעַבְדֻֽנִי׃
(1) The LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews: Let My people go to worship Me.
(יג) וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהוָה֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה הַשְׁכֵּ֣ם בַּבֹּ֔קֶר וְהִתְיַצֵּ֖ב לִפְנֵ֣י פַרְעֹ֑ה וְאָמַרְתָּ֣ אֵלָ֗יו כֹּֽה־אָמַ֤ר יְהוָה֙ אֱלֹהֵ֣י הָֽעִבְרִ֔ים שַׁלַּ֥ח אֶת־עַמִּ֖י וְיַֽעַבְדֻֽנִי׃
(13) The LORD said to Moses, “Early in the morning present yourself to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews: Let My people go to worship Me.
(ג) דַּבְּר֗וּ אֶֽל־כָּל־עֲדַ֤ת יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר בֶּעָשֹׂ֖ר לַחֹ֣דֶשׁ הַזֶּ֑ה וְיִקְח֣וּ לָהֶ֗ם אִ֛ישׁ שֶׂ֥ה לְבֵית־אָבֹ֖ת שֶׂ֥ה לַבָּֽיִת׃
(3) Speak to the whole community of Israel and say that on the tenth of this month each of them shall take a lamb to a family, a lamb to a household.

"It seems," Dr. Scheinerman says, "that the sacrifice is really the point." With this new frame of reference in mind we turn to the final plauge, in which the Israelites were commanded to mark their doorposts so that the angel of death would pass over their homes. But what makes this plauge different from the others that their needs to be a physical symbol of differentiation asks Dr. Scheinerman — the answer lies within the text of the story:

(יג) וְהָיָה֩ הַדָּ֨ם לָכֶ֜ם לְאֹ֗ת עַ֤ל הַבָּתִּים֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר אַתֶּ֣ם שָׁ֔ם וְרָאִ֙יתִי֙ אֶת־הַדָּ֔ם וּפָסַחְתִּ֖י עֲלֵכֶ֑ם וְלֹֽא־יִֽהְיֶ֨ה בָכֶ֥ם נֶ֙גֶף֙ לְמַשְׁחִ֔ית בְּהַכֹּתִ֖י בְּאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם׃

(13) And the blood on the houses where you are staying shall be a sign for you: when I see the blood I will pass over you, so that no plague will destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

From this Dr. Scheinerman concludes: "In some ways that [service of G!d] is really the beginning of the exodus, more than the actual physical departure of the next morning."

לְפִיכָךְ אֲנַחְנוּ חַיָּבִים לְהוֹדוֹת, לְהַלֵּל, לְשַׁבֵּחַ, לְפָאֵר, לְרוֹמֵם, לְהַדֵּר, לְבָרֵךְ, לְעַלֵּה וּלְקַלֵּס לְמִי שֶׁעָשָׂה לַאֲבוֹתֵינוּ וְלָנוּ אֶת־כָּל־הַנִסִּים הָאֵלּוּ: הוֹצִיאָנוּ מֵעַבְדוּת לְחֵרוּת מִיָּגוֹן לְשִׂמְחָה, וּמֵאֵבֶל לְיוֹם טוֹב, וּמֵאֲפֵלָה לְאוֹר גָּדוֹל, וּמִשִּׁעְבּוּד לִגְאֻלָּה. וְנֹאמַר לְפָנָיו שִׁירָה חֲדָשָׁה: הַלְלוּיָהּ.

Therefore we are obligated to thank, praise, laud, glorify, exalt, lavish, bless, raise high, and acclaim He who made all these miracles for our ancestors and for us: He brought us out from slavery to freedom, from sorrow to joy, from mourning to [celebration of] a festival, from darkness to great light, and from servitude to redemption. And let us say a new song before Him, Halleluyah!

By the above passage in the Griffins Head Hagaddah (c. 1300), Dr. Epstein describes the illustration of pesach l'atid la'vo, the Passover of the future, with men and women sitting together, and a pascal sacrifice. As we come to the end of Maggid, we can take this time to consider — how do we imagine Pesach in the future, one year from now or maybe 1,000 years from now. What kinds of symbols of equity and service and celebration do you envision?


מוציא מצה

Dr. Susan Weingarten invokes this description of the making of matzah:

גְּמָ׳ תָּנוּ רַבָּנַן. לָשָׁה, הִיא מְקַטֶּפֶת, וַחֲבֶירְתָּהּ לָשָׁה תַּחְתֶּיהָ. מְקַטֶּפֶת, הִיא אוֹפָה, וַחֲבֶירְתָּהּ מְקַטֶּפֶת תַּחְתֶּיהָ, וְהַשְּׁלִישִׁית לָשָׁה. אוֹפָה הִיא, לָשָׁה, וַחֲבֶירְתָּהּ אוֹפָה תַּחְתֶּיהָ, וְהַשְּׁלִישִׁית מְקַטֶּפֶת, וְחוֹזְרֹת חֲלִילָה. כׇּל זְמַן שֶׁעוֹסְקוֹת בַּבָּצֵק — אֵינוֹ בָּא לִידֵי חִימּוּץ. רַבִּי עֲקִיבָא אוֹמֵר לֹא כׇּל הַנָּשִׁים וְכוּ׳. תַּנְיָא, אָמַר רַבִּי עֲקִיבָא: דַּנְתִּי לִפְנֵי רַבָּן גַּמְלִיאֵל, יְלַמְּדֵינוּ רַבֵּינוּ בְּנָשִׁים זְרִיזוֹת אוֹ בְּנָשִׁים שֶׁאֵין זְרִיזוֹת? בְּעֵצִים לַחִים אוֹ בְּעֵצִים יְבֵשִׁים? בְּתַנּוּר חַם אוֹ בְּתַנּוּר צוֹנֵן? אָמַר לִי: אֵין לְךָ אֶלָּא מַה שֶּׁשָּׁנוּ חֲכָמִים, זֶה הַכְּלָל: תָּפַח — תִּלְטוֹשׁ בְּצוֹנֵן.

GEMARA: The Sages taught in a baraita: When the woman who kneads first completes her kneading, she arranges her dough and another woman kneads in her place. When the first woman finishes arranging her dough, she bakes and another woman arranges her dough in her place, and the third woman kneads her dough. When the first woman finishes baking, she kneads the dough for her next batch, and another woman bakes in her place, and the third woman arranges her dough, and they continue in turn. As long as they are engaged in handling the dough, it will not become leavened. It was taught in the mishna that Rabbi Akiva says that not all women, not all wood, and not all ovens are the same. It was taught in a baraita that Rabbi Akiva said: I deliberated this matter before Rabban Gamliel, asking: May our master teach us if your statement, cited in the mishna, was said with regard to diligent women or women who are not diligent? Was it said with regard to an oven fueled with moist wood or dry wood? Was it said with regard to a hot oven or a cold oven? Rabban Gamliel himself said to me: You have only what the Sages taught, which is that this is the principle: If the dough begins to rise such that there is a concern that it may become leavened, she should spread cold water onto the dough to prevent it from becoming leavened.

Who made the matzah you are eating tonight? What kind of appreciation or acknowledgement have you given to the person who prepared all of these foods you are consuming and commemorating with at your seder — take the time now to say thank you.

But what makes maztah so special? Dr. Greenberg brings this commentary on the metaphorical and metaphysical: "To remove the chametz (unleaved products) [is] to remove the yetzer hara (evil inclination) from yourself." Dr. Greenberg suggests a chesbon hanefesh (accounting of the soul). There's a lot of chewing time devoted to matzah— use it to reflect.

"You can also fulfill your obligation with matzah" is a turning point in Tannaitic literature around the centrality of the pascal sacrifice that Dr. Scheinerman reminds us is significant:

(ב) בכל מושבותיכם תאכלו מצות. למה נאמר? לפי שנאמר ואכלת לפני ה' אלהיך מעשר דגנך תירושך ויצהרך. הרי שהעלה מעשר שני לירושלים, שומע אני יוצא בה ידי חובתו משום מצה – תלמוד לומר בכל מושבותיכם – יצא זה שאינו נאכל בכל מקום. ומנין שלא יצא לא בלחם הפנים ולא בשירי מנחות ולא בחלות תודה ולא ברקיקי נזיר ולא בבכורים. תלמוד לומר בכל מושבותיכם תאכלו מצות, יצאו אלו שאינן נאכלין בכל מושבותינם. משמע מוציא אני את אלו ומביא האספגנין והדובשנין והאסקריטין וחלות משרת ואשישה – תלמוד לומר לחם עוני, דברי ר' ישמעאל. (וחכמים אומרים), יוצא בם ובמעשר שני. ומה תלמוד לומר לחם עוני – שלא ילוש לא ביין ולא בשמן ולא בשאר המשקים, אבל מקטף הוא מכלן. רבי אליעזר אומר, יוצא בם ובמעשר שני. ומה תלמוד לומר לחם עוני – אלא מה לחמו של עני כל השנה אשתו לווה והוא מסיק בתנור, אף כאן היא לשה והוא מסיק. ר' יוסי אומר, הרי הוא אומר שבעת ימים תאכלו, מצות שומע אני אף מעשר שני במשמע – תלמוד לומר לחם עוני, יצא זה שאינו נאכל אלא בשמחה.

(2) "In all of your habitations shall you eat matzoth": What is the intent of this? From (Devarim 14:23) "And you shall eat before the L rd your G d the tithe of your grain and wine and oil," I might think that if one brought up his second tithe to Jerusalem (and ate it there), he has fulfilled his obligation (of eating matzoh). It is, therefore, written "in all of your habitations" — to exclude this (tithe), which is not eaten in all places (but only in Jerusalem). And whence is it derived that he does not fulfill his obligation, neither with the show-bread, nor with the left-overs of meal-offerings, nor with the thanksgiving challoth, nor with the wafers of the Nazirite, nor with first-fruits? From "in all of your habitations shall you eat matzoth" — to exclude those, which are not eaten in all of your habitations. It would follow that I exclude the aforementioned, but I include spongy dough, honey dough, pasty dough, pan-cakes, and pressed-cake. It is, therefore (to negate this) written (Devarim 16:3) "bread of affliction." These are the words of R. Yishmael. The sages say: He fulfills his obligation with them and with second-tithe. And what is the intent of "bread of affliction"? That they are not to be kneaded with wine or oil or other liquids, but he may form it (the matzoh) with all of them. R. Eliezer says: He fulfills his obligation with all of them and with second-tithe. And what is the intent of "bread of affliction"? Just as with the bread of a poor man, his wife kneads it and he heats it in the oven, so, here. R. Yossi says: From "Seven days shall you eat matzoth" I understand, even (matzoth of) second-tithe. It is, therefore, written "bread of affliction," to exclude this (second-tithe), which is eaten only in joy.

The seder has evolved to be some sort of ritual replacement, but not completely. What has changed for you since last year? What kind of ritual have you redeveloped in your life?


מרור / כורך

In referencing the Talmud's list of suggested maror plant, Dr. Greenberg emphasizes the absence of horseradish:

גְּמָ׳ חֲזֶרֶת — חַסָּא. עוּלְשִׁין — הִינְדְּבִי. תַּמְכָא, אָמַר רַבָּה בַּר בַּר חָנָה: תְּמַכְתָּא שְׁמָהּ. חַרְחֲבִינָא, אָמַר רַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן לָקִישׁ: אַצְווֹתָא דְּדִיקְלָא. וּבְמָרוֹר — מְרִירָתָא.
GEMARA: The Gemara identifies the plants mentioned by the mishna by their Aramaic names. Ḥazeret is lettuce. Olashin is called hindevi. With regard to tamkha, Rabba bar bar Ḥana said: It is called temakhta in Aramaic. As for ḥarḥavina, Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish said: This is the plant that grows around the palm tree. The mishna taught: And with maror. The Gemara explains: This is a plant called merirata.

Why is this plant substitution so important to note? Because, Dr. Greenberg explains: "The concept of maror was completely reinterpreted and misinterpreted." The Talmud states the metaphor the maror is supposed to embody:

מַאי חַסָּא — דְּחַס רַחֲמָנָא עִילָּוַון. וְאָמַר רַבִּי שְׁמוּאֵל בַּר נַחְמָנִי אָמַר רַבִּי יוֹנָתָן: לָמָּה נִמְשְׁלוּ מִצְרִיִּים כְּמָרוֹר? לוֹמַר לָךְ: מָה מָרוֹר זֶה שֶׁתְּחִילָּתוֹ רַךְ וְסוֹפוֹ קָשֶׁה — אַף מִצְרִיִּים תְּחִילָּתָן רַכָּה וְסוֹפָן קָשָׁה. אֲמַר לֵיהּ: הֲדַרִי בִּי.
The Gemara explains: What is the meaning of lettuce [ḥassa]? It refers to the fact that God has mercy [ḥas] on us. And Rabbi Samuel bar Naḥmani said that Rabbi Yoḥanan said: Why are the Egyptians likened to bitter herbs in the verse: “And they embittered their lives” (Exodus 1:14)? This comparison serves to tell you that just as these bitter herbs are soft at first and harsh in the end, so too, the Egyptians were soft at first, when they paid the Jews for their work, but were harsh in the end, as they enslaved them. This idea applies solely to ḥazeret, which has a bitter aftertaste, but not to other types of bitter herbs, which are bitter from the beginning. Rav Aḥa, son of Rava, said to Ravina: I retract my position and concede that it is preferable to use ḥazeret for bitter herbs.

The lettuce plant bitters as it stays in the ground, and "the gradual slow creeping increase in bitterness was meant to be symbolic of and a warning against the slow insidious nature of oppression and antisemitism – that's what the point of maror is. But what happened when horseradish took over... the concept became in the popular conception, we're going to compress 200 years of slavery into 30 seconds, and your face is going to turn purple and steam is going to come out of your ears and you're going to say 'Wow that was rough' — that was never the intention." If we recontextualize this metaphor of maror as Dr. Greenberg demonstrates, what kinds of lessons can we take into our own lives?

The other part of maror is the charoset. And while for some apples, nuts, cinnamon, and wine is the standard Dr. Weingarten describes the abundance of variation of charoset recipes across time and space, some of which we include below:

But did you know that charoset is never formally commanded? Rabbi Ochs calls up the Tamludic concept of puk chazi (go see) in examining how the ritual was formally established:

תַּנְיָא כְּווֹתֵיהּ דְּרַבִּי יוֹחָנָן: תַּבְלִין זֵכֶר לַתֶּבֶן, חֲרוֹסֶת זֵכֶר לַטִּיט. אָמַר רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר בְּרַבִּי צָדוֹק, כָּךְ הָיוּ אוֹמְרִים תַּגָּרֵי חָרָךְ שֶׁבִּירוּשָׁלַיִם: בּוֹאוּ וּטְלוּ לָכֶם תַּבְלִין לְמִצְוָה.
It was taught in a baraita in accordance with the opinion of Rabbi Yoḥanan: The spices used in the ḥaroset are in remembrance of the hay that our forefathers used for building in Egypt, and the ḥaroset itself is in remembrance of the mortar. Rabbi Elazar, son of Rabbi Tzadok, said: When selling ḥaroset, the small shopkeepers in Jerusalem would say as follows: Come and take spices for yourselves for the mitzva.

Rabbi Ochs elaborates: "There is no text that is quoted, there is no Sage that is quoted, it's the fact that people are doing it with gusto!" Passover is a special time for family specific ritual — what is something that you remember doing with gusto in relationship to ritual?


שולחן ערוך

This is not just a meal. As Dr. Weingarten identifies: "In Sefer Shemot, Exodus, where the Jews are about to leave Egypt. They are at this critical point between slavery and freedom and what does G!d tell them to do? [G!d] tells them to eat":

(ח) וְאָכְל֥וּ אֶת־הַבָּשָׂ֖ר בַּלַּ֣יְלָה הַזֶּ֑ה צְלִי־אֵ֣שׁ וּמַצּ֔וֹת עַל־מְרֹרִ֖ים יֹאכְלֻֽהוּ׃ (ט) אַל־תֹּאכְל֤וּ מִמֶּ֙נּוּ֙ נָ֔א וּבָשֵׁ֥ל מְבֻשָּׁ֖ל בַּמָּ֑יִם כִּ֣י אִם־צְלִי־אֵ֔שׁ רֹאשׁ֥וֹ עַל־כְּרָעָ֖יו וְעַל־קִרְבּֽוֹ׃ (י) וְלֹא־תוֹתִ֥ירוּ מִמֶּ֖נּוּ עַד־בֹּ֑קֶר וְהַנֹּתָ֥ר מִמֶּ֛נּוּ עַד־בֹּ֖קֶר בָּאֵ֥שׁ תִּשְׂרֹֽפוּ׃ (יא) וְכָכָה֮ תֹּאכְל֣וּ אֹתוֹ֒ מָתְנֵיכֶ֣ם חֲגֻרִ֔ים נַֽעֲלֵיכֶם֙ בְּרַגְלֵיכֶ֔ם וּמַקֶּלְכֶ֖ם בְּיֶדְכֶ֑ם וַאֲכַלְתֶּ֤ם אֹתוֹ֙ בְּחִפָּז֔וֹן פֶּ֥סַח ה֖וּא לַיהוָֽה׃ (יב) וְעָבַרְתִּ֣י בְאֶֽרֶץ־מִצְרַיִם֮ בַּלַּ֣יְלָה הַזֶּה֒ וְהִכֵּיתִ֤י כָל־בְּכוֹר֙ בְּאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרַ֔יִם מֵאָדָ֖ם וְעַד־בְּהֵמָ֑ה וּבְכָל־אֱלֹהֵ֥י מִצְרַ֛יִם אֶֽעֱשֶׂ֥ה שְׁפָטִ֖ים אֲנִ֥י יְהוָֽה׃ (יג) וְהָיָה֩ הַדָּ֨ם לָכֶ֜ם לְאֹ֗ת עַ֤ל הַבָּתִּים֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר אַתֶּ֣ם שָׁ֔ם וְרָאִ֙יתִי֙ אֶת־הַדָּ֔ם וּפָסַחְתִּ֖י עֲלֵכֶ֑ם וְלֹֽא־יִֽהְיֶ֨ה בָכֶ֥ם נֶ֙גֶף֙ לְמַשְׁחִ֔ית בְּהַכֹּתִ֖י בְּאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם׃ (יד) וְהָיָה֩ הַיּ֨וֹם הַזֶּ֤ה לָכֶם֙ לְזִכָּר֔וֹן וְחַגֹּתֶ֥ם אֹת֖וֹ חַ֣ג לַֽיהוָ֑ה לְדֹרֹ֣תֵיכֶ֔ם חֻקַּ֥ת עוֹלָ֖ם תְּחָגֻּֽהוּ׃ (טו) שִׁבְעַ֤ת יָמִים֙ מַצּ֣וֹת תֹּאכֵ֔לוּ אַ֚ךְ בַּיּ֣וֹם הָרִאשׁ֔וֹן תַּשְׁבִּ֥יתוּ שְּׂאֹ֖ר מִבָּתֵּיכֶ֑ם כִּ֣י ׀ כָּל־אֹכֵ֣ל חָמֵ֗ץ וְנִכְרְתָ֞ה הַנֶּ֤פֶשׁ הַהִוא֙ מִיִּשְׂרָאֵ֔ל מִיּ֥וֹם הָרִאשֹׁ֖ן עַד־י֥וֹם הַשְּׁבִעִֽי׃

(8) They shall eat the flesh that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs. (9) Do not eat any of it raw, or cooked in any way with water, but roasted—head, legs, and entrails—over the fire. (10) You shall not leave any of it over until morning; if any of it is left until morning, you shall burn it. (11) This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly: it is a passover offering to the LORD. (12) For that night I will go through the land of Egypt and strike down every first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and I will mete out punishments to all the gods of Egypt, I the LORD. (13) And the blood on the houses where you are staying shall be a sign for you: when I see the blood I will pass over you, so that no plague will destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. (14) This day shall be to you one of remembrance: you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD throughout the ages; you shall celebrate it as an institution for all time. (15) Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread; on the very first day you shall remove leaven from your houses, for whoever eats leavened bread from the first day to the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel.

The above text ends with the commandment that this meal should be a remembrance for generations. During the meal, share stories of your past seder meals — consider what has changed, and what has stayed the same.

If we were in the time of the Temple, the centerpiece of this meal would have been the pascal sacrifice. Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Zuckier highlights that the most important part of the sacrificial process, unlike with most other sacrifices, was the communal eating of the pascal lamb. Who are you eating with tonight? What does is mean to partake in a meal communally?

At this point in the seder you might be feeling a bit sleepy. You aren't alone, as Dr. Greenberg points out, the rabbis in the Talmud had the same concerns:

מַתְנִי׳ יָשְׁנוּ מִקְצָתָן — יֹאכֵלוּ. כּוּלָּן — לֹא יֹאכֵלוּ.
MISHNA: If some of the participants at the seder fell asleep, thereby interrupting their meal, they may eat from the Paschal lamb when they awake. If the entire company fell asleep, they may not eat any more. If they all fall asleep, this is considered a complete interruption, and if they were to resume their meal it would be akin to eating the offering in two different places.

Whatever the reason may be for you sleepiness, find comfort in the fact that not everything changes as time passes. Centuries may separate you and the voices recorded in the Talmud, but people are still just people.


צפון / ברך

There is an idea that Dr. Greenberg identifies, that thinks that red wine is the preferred wine to use for the four cups we drink tonight:

(יא) מצוה לחזור אחר יין אדום (אם אין הלבן משובח ממנו) (טור):

(11) It's a mitzvah to seek red wine (if the white wine is not better) [Tur].

Yet on this section, the the Turei Zahav, a 16th century Polish commentator points out that where he lived, everyone knew to use white wine, due to of a fear of being associated with blood libels. Use this third cup as a remembrance for those who came before you and the choices they had to make as you lift your cup and say:

שְׁפֹךְ חֲמָתְךָ אֶל־הַגּוֹיִם אֲשֶׁר לֹא יְדָעוּךָ וְעַל־מַמְלָכוֹת אֲשֶׁר בְּשִׁמְךָ לֹא קָרָאוּ. כִּי אָכַל אֶת־יַעֲקֹב וְאֶת־נָוֵהוּ הֵשַׁמּוּ. שְׁפָךְ־עֲלֵיהֶם זַעֲמֶךָ וַחֲרוֹן אַפְּךָ יַשִּׂיגֵם. תִּרְדֹף בְּאַף וְתַשְׁמִידֵם מִתַּחַת שְׁמֵי ה'.

Pour your wrath upon the nations that did not know You and upon the kingdoms that did not call upon Your Name! Since they have consumed Ya'akov and laid waste his habitation (Psalms 79:6-7). Pour out Your fury upon them and the fierceness of Your anger shall reach them (Psalms 69:25)! You shall pursue them with anger and eradicate them from under the skies of the Lord (Lamentations 3:66).


הלל / נרצה

Dr. Sara Ronis reminds us that on the first night of Passover after the seder is complete we do not say the prayer of shema before bed as we would any other night, and that the reasnoning behind this practice is found in the Talmud:

אָמַר רַב נַחְמָן, אָמַר קְרָא: ״לֵיל שִׁמּוּרִים״ — לַיִל הַמְשׁוּמָּר וּבָא מִן הַמַּזִּיקִין.
Rav Naḥman said that the verse said: “It was a night of watching to the Lord” (Exodus 12:42), which indicates that Passover night is a night that remains guarded from demons and harmful spirits of all kinds. Therefore, there is no cause for concern about this form of danger on this particular night.

"Now," questions Dr. Ronis "What does that mean about why we say shema the other nights of the year? If we don't say it on the night that G!d is protecting us from demons, clearly part of what is going on in the shema is a prayer of protection." Tonight, encourage yourself to be in this world of safety — tonight you are protected. Sleep with that — feel the liberation in your bed.

Dr. Scheinerman brings the closing thought to our seder: "The Israelites were enslaved for 400 years. Redemption didn't come fast, and it doesn't always. It doesn't always and I think that perphas is part of the message of the Pesach seder. And of course the end of the seder is looking towards the future redemption and Jews know that that hasn't come quickly either."

לְשָׁנָה הַבָּאָה בִּירוּשָלָיִם הַבְּנוּיָה.

Next year, let us be in the built Jerusalem!

"We added L'shana Ha'Ba'ah B'Yachad — Hopefully Next Year we can be Together. And while that is unlikely to be true for most of us this year, its also often unlikely true L'Shana Ha'Ba'ah B'Yerushalyim (Next Year in Jerusalem). But we can still look forward and hope for it. Jews are good at that. Jews are good at hope. Even in really difficult circumstances, Jews are good at hope."


Dr. Marc Michael Epstein is Professor of Religion and Visual Culture on the Mattie M. Paschall & Norman Davis Chair and Director of Jewish Studies at Vassar College. He is the author of, among other books, The Medieval Haggadah: Art, Narrative, and Religious Imagination and Skies of Parchment, Seas of Ink: Jewish Illuminated Manuscripts.

Dr. Jon Greenberg is an educational consultant and teacher of science at the Heschel School in New York. He received his bachelor’s degree with honors in biology from Brown University, his Master’s and Doctorate in agronomy from Cornell University, and also studied with Rabbi Chaim Brovender at Israel’s Yeshivat Hamivtar. Additionally, Dr. Greenberg publishes TorahFlora a blog devoted to essays on biblical ethnobotany, and a botanical hagaddah, Fruits of Freedom.

Rabbi Dr. Vanessa Ochs is a Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia where she teaches courses in Judaism, anthropology of religion, and spiritual writing. In her research, she investigates new Jewish ritual, Jewish feminism, and Jewish material culture. Rabbi Ochs is the author of many works including The Passover Haggadah: A Biography and Inventing Jewish Ritual.

Dr. Sara Ronis is an associate professor of Theology at St. Mary’s University. She specializes in understanding rabbinic literature using interdisciplinary perspectives. She received her Ph.D. from Yale University in 2015, with a dissertation titled “Do Not Go Out Alone at Night”: Law and Demonic Discourse in the Babylonian Talmud. In her upcoming book manuscript, she explores how late antique Jews thought about demons as part of larger intercultural conversations within the Sasanian empire.

Dr. Rachel Scheinerman is an associate editor at My Jewish Learning where she edits the Daily Dose of Talmud newsletter. She holds an MA in Scripture & Interpretation from Harvard Divinity School and a PhD in Rabbinic Literature from Yale University with a dissertation about The Tannaitic Passover Ritual.

Dr. Susan Weingarten is an archaeologist and historian. As a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Jewish Studies at Tel Aviv University, Dr. Weingarten began to concentrate on the history of Jewish food, more specifically on food in talmudic literature. She has published over forty papers and is author of the book Haroset: A Taste of Jewish History. At present she is an Associate Fellow of the Albright Institute for Archaeological Research in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Zuckier is a postdoctoral fellow at McGill University and lecturer at the Bernard Revel Graduate School. He recently completed his PhD from Yale where he focused on sacrifice. Previously a member of Yeshiva University’s Kollel Elyon, Rabbi Zuckier also is a founder of The Lehrhaus, and was the past Director of JLIC at Yale.


Interleaved: A Talmudic Podcast is hosted by Netanel Zellis-Paley and produced by Adina Karp. Join us as we take a bi-weekly deep dive into a topic from the Daf Yomi, the daily page of Talmud, with modern-day Sages of Torah and the world who can draw from their unique expertise to share modern and creative perspectives on the text. Subscribe on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or where ever you listen. If you like what we do — leave a review & share us with your friends! If you have an idea or an expert you want to hear about, write to us at [email protected]