I began writing this essay in the middle of Passover 1998 or, rather, Pesach 5758, as it is properly known. I'll be using both Passover and Pesach interchangeably during this essay. This year, I noticed a few very nice things as the preparations for the holiday progressed.
Passover requires a lot of preparation. It officially begins the day after Purim, which occurs a month earlier, but many women (the preparation usually falls upon women - single men tend to go away for the holiday) start thinking about it as early as Chanukah. It does take a lot of work.
The commandment in the Torah (the first five books of the Bible or the Pentateuch) says that not only are we forbidden to eat chometz, we are also forbidden to own or benefit from chometz. Chometz is that which can be leavened, not the leavening agent itself. It's perfectly possible to find kosher for Passover (or kosher l'Pesach, abbreviated KLP) yeast, baking sodas and baking powders. The latter two are simply chemicals, after all, and the first is only chometz if it is grown on a grain medium. KLP yeast is especially important because wine is a vital part of the seder, the main Pesach ritual.
So what exactly *is* chometz? It's actually rather strictly defined - it is anything made of the five grains wheat, oats, barley, rye and spelt. These grains have the property that if they are exposed to water for more than a brief period of time (the rabbis say 18 minutes), they will rise, unless they are thoroughly cooked first. Matzah must be made from one of these grains, and it is the only grain product permitted during Passover. The flour used for KLP matzah must be watched at least from grinding and some say from harvesting so that it does not come into contact with water. It must be thoroughly cooked within 18 minutes of the time the water hits the flour.
However, it is not sufficient to rid the house of chometz. It is also necessary to purge all items used for the food of the chometz that soaks into them the rest of the year. This is called Pesach cleaning. There is a minimal and maximal way of doing this. The latter is to clean the entire house from top to bottom. The minimal is to clean the kitchen. But the kitchen *must* be cleaned.
The stove and oven must be cleaned thoroughly and then kashered. That means that it is left alone for twenty-four hours after cleaning and then "burnt." The oven is turned on as high as possible for the average length of time it is used - two hours, say. The grates (my mother-in-law calls them "spiders") are turned upside down on the burners and the flames turned high. They stay there until they glow, or until they scorch a piece of paper. Then some (such as I) cover the stove with either a metal plate or with aluminum foil. Some also line the oven. Others simply ignore the oven and do all their cooking on top of the stove. And those lucky ones who have a self-cleaning oven are all set.
There are ways to deal with electric and smooth-top stovetops, but I don't know what they are. I think the former is turned on for a couple of hours on high, and the latter is a major problem that requires rabbinical assistance.
Some people also kasher (make kosher) their utensils, either by dipping them into boiling water or running a blow torch over them, depending how the utensils are used. If for stovetop cooking or eating, they can be boiled. If for dry cooking, they get the dry heat. This only works for all metal utensils, though. I kashered my coffee urn and a ritual silver cup.
Most people use separate Passover utensils. It's always a nice feeling when we drag out the items we only use this one week out of the year. It's sort of like seeing old friends after a long separation. They may not be of the highest quality - I use a rather cheap set of pots and pans, for example, and the minimum I can get away with - but they are still nice to see. Since it's only for a week, it doesn't make sense to get the best.
Pesach pots tend to get passed down mother to daughter, usually at the point where the mother no longer feels able to make a seder. This adds an extra poignancy to the holiday. My mother-in-law, for example, uses her family's silver for Passover, having kashered the lot. In doing so, she purposefully switched the meat set for the dairy set since the latter was incomplete. In kashering for Pesach, the silver was rendered neutral so she could do that. Pretty much everything for Passover now carries memories of her childhood and her mother, upon whom be peace. Since my mother is, thank Gd, alive and well *and* has never cleaned for Passover in her life, I don't have any such pots or memories. That's okay. I'm making my own memories and pots are just things.
It's also common for people not to bother with separate sets of dishes for Passover. Either they only have one set - and that one will be meat - or they use paper and plastic for the whole holiday. It makes sense since otherwise these dishes, etc, have to be stored the entire year.
For our second Passover, we used paper and plastic for dairy (we got married just before Passover, and waited to use our wedding dishes until then.), but that made me uncomfortable. So we now have two complete services for four to store away in their original boxes. Every year, it's a challenge to remember exactly how the pieces fit together.
So, the year-round utensils are all packed away into boxes or bags and tucked into closets. Now it's time to tackle the food. A decision has to be made about the chometz items - do they get tossed or do they get sold? For inexpensive items such as noodles or flour (most of which should be gone, since a wise person starts eating them down after Purim), there isn't much of a choice. It gets tossed or donated to a synagogue chometz drive, where it is given to poor non-Jews. The expensive items are a different story - no one wants to toss their 18-year-old scotch or the very nice beer from the local brewery. These are sold to a non-Jew. This is usually done by the rabbi of the synagogue, and although the items remain in your house, they are not yours, and the real owner can come by at any point during Passover and take them. This rarely if ever happens, of course. After Pesach, the rabbi acts as your agent again and buys them back, and they are yours again. It's best to wait a couple of hours to give this transaction a chance. Items sold are hidden away.
Then there are all the other foods in the house. Most processed foods are not certified KLP, and therefore are unusable for Passover. These are not actual chometz, so they only need to be stored away (although many people will toss open boxes.) The foods in the fridge and freezer get the same treatment, with those perishables that remain hidden somehow.
Okay, now you have a basically empty fridge and perhaps cabinets (some folks keep their year-round stuff in their cabinets and just close them off, find space else where for the Pesach utensils). What do you do? Clean them, of course. And once they are clean, line them - shelf paper in the cabinets, or newspaper if you prefer, plastic fridge liners and foil oven liners.
But wait - you have to deal with your sink(s). If it's stainless steel, you're set. All you have to do is clean it and pour boiling water over it. If you use sink racks or a dishpan, you use your Pesach ones, as you do for dishracks. If it's some other material - enamel, porcelain, Corian, you can't do that. Instead, you have to line it. Some folks use aluminum foil, others use plastic or metal sink liners.
Okay, now for the countertops. Most countertops today are made of plastic. These get cleaned and covered - some use shelf paper and others use foil. In my old apartment, I used foil because it was an awkward shape and the adhesive just sank right into the worn Formica. With foil, I only had the masking tape to worry about, and I used as little as possible. In this new one, I used plastic shelf paper. I was rather amused that my mother-in-law chose the same pattern for her counters.
Stone countertops can be kashered with boiling water, as can metal ones, and wooden ones can be sanded lightly.
Some folks get a little more extreme with their cleaning, and cover their whole kitchen with foil, including the inside of their refrigerator and the top of their tables. We put a laundered tablecloth - the same one every year - on our table and put place mats over that.
And some people with room and money to spare have a complete, or at least workable, Pesach kitchen. This will be closed off the rest of the year. Among other things, it means that storage is not a problem and that it would be possible to cook food ahead of time without cleaning the kitchen early. One woman I know, before her home was completely renovated to include a Pesach corner in her kitchen, kept a Pesach stove in her basement. Come Passover, they hauled it upstairs and covered over the year-round one.
By the way, dishwashers are a major pain to kasher, if they can be kashered at all, so most folks do without for the week. This is another good reason to use paper and plastic.
With everything lined and ready, we store away as best we can all the Pesach utensils - the plates, the pots, the flatware, the spatulas, the dishdrainers, the oven mitts. You need two sets of each if you intend to cook both meat and dairy. And then it's time for the food.
You've gotten rid of, or stored away all the food in your house. You need to replace it. That means you need to go food shopping. This is easily the most expensive part of Passover, so there are many charities that provide Pesach food or the money to buy it for those who need it. It's a positive commandment to donate to such funds.
Partially, this is because you have replace all of your food at once. Partially this is because, and this is a shame, many merchants raise prices for KLP foods just before the holiday, knowing we are stuck. And stuck we are.
Some foods, if purchased before Passover, do not need more than kosher certification. This includes plain dairy products, eggs, frozen vegetables (if they are not kitniyot, which I'll define later) and kosher meats. Other foods require KLP certification - all processed foods, for example. Fresh vegetables are a question. Some buy them during the holiday, and others only use vegetables they can peel.
I'm an Ashkenazi Jew. That means my ancestors came from Eastern Europe. It also means that we have an extra layer of complexity when it comes to Pesach. We don't eat kitniyot. These are grains other than the five (corn and rice, for example), legumes (peas, peanuts and beans) and mustard. This limits our diet even more - the only permissible starches are potatoes and matzah. This is a custom rather than a law, so it is permissible to own kitniyot and even benefit from it (for example, feeding your dog lamb and rice food or l'havdil (for a separation), your baby soy formula.)
Sephardi Jews (from Western Europe, Asia and Africa) are permitted some or all of these foods, but they must also have proper certification. They include checking each grain of rice they intend to use three times for chometz in their Passover preparation. The Sephardi I know can check a ten-pound bag in an hour. The mind boggles. An Ashkenazi Jew can eat in the home of a Sephardi Jew provided that none of the food has any actual kitniyot in it.
When I do my shopping, I prepare ahead of time by making a menu for the entire week. Otherwise, it's all too easy to overbuy. I also make a list and make sure I'm not hungry. And while I'm in the supermarket I repeat this mantra over and over again - "It's only a week, it's only a week. There are only two of us. It's only a week."
Kosher supermarkets will kasher the entire place; regular ones will provide an area for Pesach foods, ranging from a few shelves to an entire "room." We finally went shopping two days before the holiday this year (usually I'm a little more organized and buy the non-perishables early.) We went to a regular supermarket in a very religious neighborhood. They did indeed provide a whole "room." There were shelves of cakes and cans and bottles there. I kept more or less to my list, getting five pounds of matzah, a couple of jams, mayo and ketchup and salad dressing and a few other necessities such as oil and matzah meal. My husband got the macaroons he lives on.
Then we went into the main supermarket for the more general or perishable items. That was a wonderful experience. We were not the only ones doing Pesach shopping that night, you see. The place was full of Jews all across the spectrum, from non-religious to far right Chasidim. We heard Yiddish, English and Hebrew, and there was probably Russian as well. And we were all doing the same thing for the same reason.
I had a tremendous sense of community and of family as we wandered around the huge store. People were asking each other questions, getting things, chatting in the aisles, wishing each other happy Passovers in whatever language - and all with total strangers in one sense. But we were family that night. I remember my husband (with a crocheted kippah (yarmulke/skullcap) that proclaimed him as Modern Orthodox, and a ponytail that proclaimed him as simply modern) going up to a Chasidic man in a long black coat and an untrimmed beard to ask to look into his Blumenkrantz. Rabbi Blumenkrantz puts out a volume every year that tells which products, food and non-food, are kosher for Passover that year. These things change, so it's important. My husband needed to know about coffee filters. The other gentleman was not only happy to lend his book, he recommended that we try the paper towels he was buying. Since he was getting huge box of them, probably for his equally huge family, we passed. BTW, all coffee filters are permissible.
I remember fetching oven liners for the man on line ahead of us - he needed them and couldn't find them whereas I knew just where to go. So, of course I went. There was no question. And we chatted with the lady in the elevator on our way down to parking garage. Sometimes we need the reminder that all Jews are one family and one community. Passover is one of those time. Even though different groups have different customs, and some don't actually do all that work, we all celebrate Passover in someway - most Jewish houses have at least one box of matzah, at least. Even my parents do.
So, we got home and stashed our food away in the pantry and the fridge and the freezer. And that part was mostly over.
Some folks get a little more extreme with their cleaning, and cover their whole kitchen with foil, including the inside of their refrigerator and the top of their tables. We put a laundered tablecloth - the same one every year - on our table and put place mats over that.
One very important thing that we have to do for Pesach is "bedikat chometz", which means the search for chometz. The house is clean. There is little or no chometz in the house, but you still have to search. So people put ten pieces of chometz around the house. They save a piece of bread or maybe breakfast cereal - this year we used sticky granola bars. These are divided into ten pieces and placed on paper or plastic or wrapped in aluminum foil. Yes, I'm fairly sure that Alcoa is rather happy this time of year.
Then the rest of the family searches for the pieces. Traditionally, this is done with a candle in a darkened room, using a spoon and a feather to brush the chometz - both the stuff left around and the items inevitably found during the search - into a bag. It's fun for the children, but even those who live alone have to do this. Waving a lighted candle around seems to be a recipe for danger, so my husband and I use a small flashlight instead, and we don't bother with either feather or spoon. This is a commandment, so a blessing is said before doing so, and complete silence is maintained until the last piece is found. Then another blessing is said to nullify all chometz that we are unaware of. That stuff no longer exists as food and must be discarded if found.
Afterwards, many families go out for a final pizza or something. I've started a tradition that we eat a Pesahdich dinner at home instead. We tend to go away for the first two days and we eat out a lot while the kitchen is being cleaned, so it's nice to have that first meal at home. We can't serve any matza or matza products during this week, so dinner is likely to be hamburgers and home fries. Technically speaking, I could make peas or corn with this, but I don't. There's nothing wrong with carrots or broccoli.
Also, going out to dinner is a big problem when there are no kosher restaurants in our neighborhood. This is easier.
The next morning, my husband *has* to go to synagogue. He should go everyday, of course, but he must this day. You see, he is his mother's first born, a bechor. All b'chorim are supposed to fast on the day before Pesach in memory of the firstborn of Egypt. But nobody wants to fast. So they came up with a solution.
When someone completes a Jewish religious or legal work, it is a cause for celebration. This is called a "siyyum." It's celebrated with wine or cookies or a big meal - depending on the situation and the work involved. This past September, for example, hundreds of thousands of Jews all over the world completed the Talmud at the same time - all had been learning a page (that's both sides) a day for the past seven and a half years. They packed stadiums everywhere. And then they began all over again. My own husband is learning on a one side of the page schedule, so in about fifteen years *he'll* be in one of those stadiums, too, Gd willing.
If someone has a siyyum in synagogue that morning, everyone there is obligated to join in the celebration. This celebration supersedes the fast, and once having broken the fast, the b'chorim can eat the rest of the day.
Jonathan has been making the siyyum for the past few years. Sometimes he's ready for it, sometimes he has to push a little, and sometimes he just holds back. We bring cookies and that's that. This year, because of his learning schedule, he was nowhere near ready to have a siyyum and he had no time to learn something else. Someone else did it, which is just fine.
After that, we went out for some final chometz - Jonathan had a blueberry muffin and I had English muffins. There is a point in the morning when it is forbidden to eat any more chometz, and we just made it. There is another point when it is forbidden to own any more chometz, about an hour later. I had a last minute errand to run, and Jonathan had to get his hair cut. It's forbidden to cut one's hair from the beginning of Pesach until thirty-three days afterwards. I don't cut my hair at all, so it's not a problem for me. I did intend to snip off the end of a braid, but I forgot.
Then we nullified all chometz in our possession (whatever hadn't been sold) and that was that. We packed to go to my in-laws, where we would spend the first two nights.
Life During Passover
Before I get into the ritual aspects of Pesach, I thought I'd talk about some of the more practical aspects of the week. Most of it will center around food and the ingenuity of the cook during this time.
We start off the week with a major handicap, since we have to get rid of our carefully built pantries and start fresh. We are also more limited in our menu and ingredient choices than we are even by normal kashrut.
However, cooks and housewives through the ages have come up with ways of making palatable and even festive meals within not only these limitations, but the additional limitations customs may bring, as well as those brought about by poverty or just that certain otherwise permissible foods aren't available.
So, you don't trust the butter and can't afford oil? Keep your house meat and use goosefat (made at Chanukah time when the geese are fat) instead. Bonus - you might as well only have one set of dishes. You want to bake a cake or two, but you can't use flour? Grind your matzah very, very fine, and make your cakes out of Passover cake meal and eggs. Your customs say you shouldn't get matzah wet for fear of uncooked flour, but you still want cakes? Make them light as air out of potato starch and eggs.
You're serving beet borsht - one of the few vegetables available in early spring. You want it hot and thick, but can't use flour to thicken it. Stir in egg. Yes, eggs and potatoes play a major role in Eastern European Pesach cooking.
It isn't a festive meal without gefilte fish (ground or chopped fish and maybe vegetables mixed with egg, possible matzah meal and flavorings poached in a fish or vegetable broth) but in that time and place (Eastern Europe, before this century) fish comes pickled in alcohol. Make falshe (fake) fish out of ground chicken!
You don't believe you can makeyour oven truly kosher for Passover? There is an entire repertoire of stove top meals, and little ovens that can be used on top of the stove for your cakes.
As for today - well, people still make cakes and rolls from scratch, but it's possible to find kosher for Passover mixes for anything, including pizza, tacos and bagels. There are even cake mixes for those who don't use matzah meal, as well as concoctions of potato starch to use as breading and to make fake "matzah balls."
It's amazing. Now, my personal mission is to make meals as close as possible to those I have the rest of the year. That's not easy for me because many of my meals are bean soups. So, I use potatoes instead.
Part of my reasoning is that I'd rather keep to my normal cooking style. The other is that I don't want to spend the money on mixes and cans if I don't have to. I'd rather get nice fresh stuff instead.
I do have one Passover tradition of my own. It began the first Pesach of my marriage and I haven't missed a year yet. It's another example of ingenuity - a pie made with a matzah crust. The filling is made of ground beef, mashed potatoes and spinach. It is lovely made ahead, and it reheats beautifully, so it's perfect for a holiday dinner.
As for the rest of the week: I've made chicken legs, and the soup will last two days, and that's all I need.
Judaism doesn't let anything go without rules to follow. Holidays are no exception. So here are the rules of Yom Tov (Hebrew for "good day", and used interchangeably with the term "holiday" in this essay).
The Sabbath has strict laws about using fire, carrying and cooking. Yom Tov has rather less, but one still cannot cook without thinking. We are specifically permitted to cook on Yom Tov - we are commanded to rest except as regards the production of food. However, there are restrictions.
On the Sabbath, one cannot start, stop or transfer flame or use electricity. On Yom Tov, electricity is still out, as is starting and stopping flame, but one can transfer one. One can carry in public, as opposed to the Sabbath, and even ritually slaughter animals for food on that day, but not do business or use money.
On that day is important - one can do whatever one needs to do in regards to cooking food without using electricity on Yom Tov for that Yom Tov. One cannot prepare on Yom Tov for any other day, even for a second day holiday (most major holidays here in Exile are two days). This means that food for the second day dinner has to be either made quickly or made ahead and reheated. An example - last Rosh HaShanah (Jewish New Year) I made a vegetarian black bean chili for the second night dinner, since it could be made fast and is, in my opinion, nice enough for a festive meal. Besides, we'd had enough meat.
This creates a problem when Yom Tov runs into the Sabbath. Luckily, there is an out for Shabbat and *only* Shabbat - one takes aside two different types of food and makes a blessing over them, setting them aside for the Sabbath. One has therefore begun the meal and can complete it on the holiday before the Sabbath. Traditionally, one sets aside a hard boiled egg and either a roll or a piece of matzah. I used an orange this time with the matzah. I've gotten very creative at times - there are three major holidays in September/October and they all always occur on the same day in any given year. This means that some years I have to do this three weeks out of four. I've done eggs, noodles, soup, a pot roast...whatever I had on hand. The only rule is that they be immediately edible and take two different blessings when eaten.
The other problem is fire. If you have an electric range, you have to keep two burners on at different temps, and your oven set at 350 or something. If you have a modern gas range without a pilot light, you have to keep a burner going or a candle lit, or light from the pilot light of your oven (these can be turned on.) I have an old-fashioned range with a pilot light, and it makes an incredible difference. I'm using one flame that simple expands and contracts. This means I can do actual cooking on Yom Tov. You see, my husband is worried (reasonably so) about leaving a burner on for all that time, so until we got this stove I used my oven for all my on-Yom Tov cooking. I don't have worry about that any more, B"H. I can shut my burners off.
There are also minor things such as Torah readings in synagogue and special services and tunes and all that, but this is the important stuff.
The seder is the object of the holiday. It's an odd thing - a service disguised as a dinner party. I regard it as a masterpiece of pedagogy because it involves all the senses in order to teach an important lesson. The lesson is meant for children, but all learn from it and there are many s'dorim that have no children present at all. In fact, a husband and wife can have one alone, or even a single individual if he or she so desires or has no other choice. I think of that as rather sad, but I know of one man who preferred it. He's married now, but still prefers to do a seder with just his family.
The table is set with fine china or elegant paperware. There are candles because every holiday and Sabbath gets candles. And by the head of the table is a seder plate. On it are ritual foods, and next to it or below it are three matzot. By each plate is a booklet called a haggadah, or each participant brings one of his or her own, and everyone has a wine goblet by his or her place.
Everyone is present, from the oldest to the youngest. Customs vary at this point, but it's common to read or sing the table of contents, the order of the seder (which is the meaning of the word any way.) Then kiddush is made. This is the blessing of the holiday or the Sabbath over a cup of wine. This is the first cup. All drink, leaning the left, and thus taste is engaged. The cups are refilled.
We then wash our hands ritually, by pouring water over each one twice or three times. Normally, we do this for bread only. Normally we say a blessing. Normally we are quiet until the blessing over the bread and we've eaten. This time, we don't say a blessing and it isn't for bread (and the air is filled with "Don't make a bracha!") and most people talk. This is odd.
We pass out the first of the ritual foods - a green vegetable. Some use parsley, some use cucumber, some use lettuce, some use boiled potato because that's what their grandparents used. The only important thing is that it be from the ground and not a tree. We dip the vegetable in salt water. Salt water is tears and bitterness. The taste reminds of the time when we were slaves. The blessing over vegetables is recited and all take a bite. This will be the last food for a while.
The middle matzah is broken and half is put away until later. Matzah is the bread of the poor because it is cooked quickly, lasts a long time and fills one up. The Children of Israel ate it in Egypt as well as after they left. We are poor and enslaved at this part of the haggadah.
The youngest child present asks the four questions. Young children practice for weeks (and sometimes get overwhelmed by shyness.) As the children get older, they get more practiced, and there are other customs. My husband and his brother used to alternate, for example. If there are no children, the youngest adult asks. My husband was youngest at both s'dorim this year. A wife might ask her husband if no one else is around and able; a person alone asks anyway. One group has all children under 12 (girls) or 13 (boys) recite them individually.
Then the haggadah is recited. Some do it in Hebrew, some in vernacular, some in a combination. Sometimes all say it at once, sometimes one person says it all, sometimes (most commonly) all take their turns reading a section around the table. It tells the story of our slavery and our freedom, and the importance of remembering all of this, and the meaning of the ritual foods. Orthodox haggadahs do not talk of Moses at all - he gets mentioned twice in passing; others make a great deal of him. The Orthodox don't want Moses to take any of Gd's glory. Throughout the recitation are songs, and all join with them. Thus hearing is part of the seder.
We recount the plagues, symbolizing each one with a spilled drop of wine. People died; we should not completely rejoice.
We drink the wine.
Then we sing two verses of Hallel, songs of praise. This is a service usually reserved for festival morning services, but we say it tonight.
Now we finally begin the meal. Almost. First we have to wash again. We're about to eat the closest equivalent to bread we're permitted - matzah. Before we eat bread at any time, we have to ritually wash our hands, say a blessing and then remain silent until we either say or hear the blessing for bread and eat. This being a holiday, the blessing is said over at least two complete pieces of matzah.
That done, we eat the moror - for we are commanded to eat the sacrifice with bitter herbs. We don't have the sacrifice, but we can have the herbs. Some use romaine lettuce or endive, some use regular lettuce. We use horseradish. It is dipped in haroset, a mixture of fruits, nuts, spices and wine which is supposed to look like mortar and is also to offset the bitterness of the moror. That done, we eat the Hillel sandwich. Rabbi Hillel used to eat the matzah, the moror and the sacrifice together. I can't help thinking that must have been delicious - lettuce, lamb and matzah. We don't have the lamb, of course, so we just make a sandwich with the matzah and the moror. This is then sad, not joyous.
Again, we have engaged the senses - touch, smell and taste are all connected here.
The meal arrives. It's a normal festive meal, except that there are no grain products other than matzah. Most Ashkenazim avoid roasted meat so that no one would suspect they are eating the sacrifice. I've recently learned that S'phardim may use roast lamb because they are fully reenacting the event.
The meal is concluded with the afikomen, which means "dessert." Early on, one piece of matzah was snapped in half. We ate one half, but the other was hidden. This is to keep the children alert. Every family has different customs. Sometimes the kids steal it and have it ransomed back; sometimes someone else hides it and the kids have to find it. Some families question the morality of all of this and don't bother. Whatever the custom is, the point is that it must be eaten to end the meal, when we are no longer hungry. It used to be a slice of lamb...
We went to my in-laws on the first Pesach after our wedding. We were the youngest present. We got a vacuum cleaner.
After the meal, we retrieve our Haggadot and refill our wine cups. First we say the blessing after the meal, with the additions for Yom Tov and for Shabbat if necessary. We then drink the third cup, and refill it. We conclude the Hallel service we interrupted with dinner .
We conclude the service with a prayer that next year we may celebrate properly in Jerusalem, and drink the fourth cup *down.* And then we say the blessing after drinking wine.
Then we sing songs - songs to glorify Gd's deeds, and songs that sound like they are for children who are probably long asleep. And it is over until the next night.
Once again, we have celebrated our freedom with ritual and prayer. We celebrate our freedom from oppression, from being the servants of others, but we are still slaves. Not to humans, and not against our wills, but by choice and to Gd. And since we cannot be slaves to both humans and Gd, we must be free in this world.
By performing these rituals as they have been done for thousands of years, we reaffirm our connection to our ancestors and our children throughout the generations.
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