I am not going to riff on the 4 Questions. We all know why this night (and the next and the next, etc.) is different from all other nights. Nor the 4 Sons/Children (wise/wicked/simple/doesn’t even know to ask a question). Nor the 4 cups of wine (especially mitigative this year). Nor the omnipresence of the number 4. I just lack the energy. My husband and I are finishing preparations for Pesach; there is a light at the end of the tunnel which is not an oncoming train.
I am reading an interesting review article by Dr. Joshua Kulp, “THE ORIGINS OF THE SEDER AND HAGGADAH” (Currents in Biblical Research 4.1 (2005) 109-134). News flash: The seder and Haggadah as we know them are products of the post-Second Temple period, i.e., post 70 C.E., thus post Jesus. “Hence, cautious scholars no longer seek to ﬁnd direct parallels between the last supper as described in the Gospels and the rabbinic seder. Rather, scholarly attention has focused on varying attempts of Jewish parties, notably rabbis and Christians, to provide religious meaning and sanctity to the Passover celebration after the death of Jesus and the destruction of the Temple.”
If you are reading this, I assume you know the story of Passover (in Hebrew, Pesach): how Moses led an elaborately orchestrated Exodus of the Hebrew slaves from Egypt, the 10 plagues the ensued with the refusals of Pharaoh to let the slaves go, the first Passover meal with lamb and blood-marked doorposts, the hasty departure with unleavened bread, the splitting of the Red (really, Reed) Sea and the drowning of the Egyptian army in it. The Torah readings for the 8-day holiday (for Conservative and Orthodox, Reform and those in Israel celebrate for 7) are tabulated below. Note that the readings lead from the first Pesach up to images of the messianic age.
|Day||Torah: 1st scroll||Torah: Maftir||Haftarah|
|April 9, 1st day||Exodus 12:21-51 The first Passover, the Exodus, and laws for future Passovers (duh).||Num. 28:16-25 The Passover sacrifice. (also duh)||Joshua 5:2-6:1, 6:27 (maybe also 3:5-7) Circumcision of the males born in the wilderness.|
|April 10, 2nd day||Leviticus 22:26-23:44 The holidays (“set times”).||Num. 28:16-25 Same as 2nd day||II Kings 23:1-9, 21-25 (or 23:1-25) King Josiah’s religious revival.|
|April 11, Shabbat Chol HaMoed||Exodus 33:12-34:26 Moses sees the back of God then carves 2 more tablets. Renewal of covenant. Brief texts re: Sabbath, holidays, boiling a kid in its mother’s milk.||Num. 28:19 25 The Passover sacrifice. Same as first two days, minus verses 16-18.||Ezekiel 37:1-14 (or 36:37 – 37:14) Valley of the dry bones vision. Resurrection imagery.|
|April 15, 7th day||Exodus 13:17-15:26 The splitting of the Re(e)d Sea, the Song at the Sea.||Num. 28:19-25 The Passover sacrifice. Same as first two days, minus verses 16-18.||II Samuel 22:1-51 David’s song of thanks for rescue from Saul et al. Also the Haftarah for Ha’azinu in the fall. Contains Psalm 18.|
|April 16, 8th day Pesach||Deuteronomy 15:19-16:17 Tithes. Consecration of first born. No eating blood. Holidays: Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot.||Num. 28:19-25 Same as 7thday||Isaiah 10:32 – 12:6 Messianic vision, which we’ve been leading up to since Shabbat Shekalim. Imagery of animals lying down together and led by a small child.|
And if you really want to know the Torah readings for Chol HaMoed days 2, 3, and 4, I refer you to https://www.hebcal.com/holidays/pesach#reading-shabbat-chol-ha-moed .
Two items of note not in the table: On the intermediate Sabbath during Passover (or 8th day if that’s on the Sabbath), it is customary to chant Shir HaShirim, the Song of Songs, also known as the Song of Solomon. My favorite verses (2:11-12):
‘For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing is come,
and the voice of the turtle* is heard in our land.’
*Jacobean English for ‘turtledove’
The melody is lovely, and it’s one of the few items my traditional synagogue allows women to chant at services. Of course, we’re not having services this year, not even ZOOM since we don’t use the computer on Shabbat or Yom Tov (holiday). I may just chant it myself at home. That’s what I’ll miss from Pesach services, the music. There’s a special melody (nusach) for chanting part of the service, we chant Hillel (Psalms 113-118, slightly abridged after the first 2 days), and there’s the Song at the Sea on the 7th day, followed by a long haftarah that is largely Psalm 18 (which is melodically and is difficult to stay awake to, even if you’re chanting it).
The other item is the counting of the omer. From last year: “(O)n the 2nd night, we (begin) to count the Omer, which we will do daily for a total of 49 days, until the holiday of Shavuot. This counting, known in Hebrew as Sefirot HaOmer, is done in commemoration of the Temple offerings of an “omer” of grain as commanded in Leviticus 23:15–16, which (is) in the 2nd day Torah reading. To help you keep track, there are online Omer counters such as The Homer Calendar (which my husband uses – the site also has a lot on “all things Jewish and Simpsons”) as well as apps like Ultimate Omer 2 – The Sefira app you can count on.” (Apple) and Omer Counter for Android.
Wishing you all a zissun Pesach (sweet Passover) and an early Shabbat shalom,
The Rabbi and the Frog
A Rabbi walks into a bar. He has a long, long grey beard, he’s wearing tzitzis, the whole package. And he has a frog on his shoulder.
The bartender asks, “Where did you get that?!”
The frog answers, “Brooklyn, there are lots of them there.”
Seder Light Bulb Jokes (selected)
*How many Jewish mothers does it take to change a lightbulb?
I packed the lightbulbs in the basement with the chometz. You are not messing up my basement.
*How many wise sons does it take to change a lightbulb?
One to learn all the laws and statues of electricity, the other to remind us it’s yom tov (holiday), you can’t change it, stupid!
*How many wicked sons does it take to change a lightbulb?
None – It’s your lightbulb Dad, you deal with it!
*How many sons who don’t know how to ask does it take to change a lightbulb?
Wait, was there a question here?
*How many Israelites does it take to change a lightbulb?
One, with the help of a mighty hand and an outstretched arm
*How many Rabbis in B’nei B’rak does it take to change a lightbulb?
Is it out? or is it just time to recite the morning Shema?
*How many people at your seder does it take to change a lightbulb?
I don’t know, they keep “passing over” the job
*How many Elijah the Prophet’s does it take to change a lightbulb?
One, but after a cup of wine at every seder, he may be pretty drunk
What’s your favorite Passover film?
Why did the matzah quit his job?
Because he didn’t get a raise
What army base is off limits on Passover?
What do you call someone who derives pleasure from the bread of affliction?
What was the name of the Secret Spy for the Jews in Egypt?
Bondage, James Bondage
How many Pharaohs does it take to screw in a light bulb?
One, but he won’t let it go.
Pillsbury Doughboy Burned in Tragic Passover Cleaning Accident (excerpt)
Mar 24, 2007 | by Richard Rabkin
Loveable American icon toasted, then laid to rest.
JEWLARIOUS SATIRE (THAT’S RIGHT, IT’S NOT REAL. IT’S JUST SATIRE!):
Friends and family are in shock today as the once loved Pillsbury mascot is being laid to rest after a tragic Passover cleaning mishap.
In preparation for the festival, Jews around the world clean their homes and destroy what they call “chametz” or leavened grains. They ceremoniously burn bread or dough to commemorate this obligation. Unfortunately, the Pillsbury Doughboy was mistakenly burned by Pillsbury’s own cleaning crew who were preparing company facilities for Pillsbury’s new line of Kosher for Passover “Pop’n Fresh Matzah.”
Susan Mason, a spokesperson for the Pillsbury Company, expressed sadness for the loss of what she called “an American icon” and said that her thoughts were with the Doughboy family at this difficult time. ….
Stunning Soprano Defeat! Choir Shutdown Ends (Note: Some of my best friends are sopranos…IGP)
Danville, IL – After 27 days, the longest choir shutdown in history has ended! Stunned sopranos bowed to the inevitable, dropping all demands of massages and manicures and practically begging to be readmitted to the choir in the wake of a breathtaking performance during the church service this morning.
Proving once and for all that the most delightful sound in God’s Creation is the male falsetto, lead tenor Charles Keller drove even the most hardened Lutherans to tears as he sang the soprano solo part of “I Know That My Redeemer Liveth.”
As the sound of Charles’ heavenly falsetto filled the church, women sobbed with unabashed emotion while clutching at their husbands, who struggled to maintain their stoic Lutheran demeanor as long repressed tears of healing streamed silently down their cheeks.
It was a moment of glorious triumph for lead tenor Charles Keller, who had long maintained that the key to ending the shutdown was to unleash the raw emotional power of the male falsetto.
“Delores was all about flying in sopranos from Chicago,” said Charles. “But who needs them, anyway? Personally, I married an alto. Way less drama!”
Following the service, the shocked sopranos were seen begging director Delores Patterson to be allowed back into the choir.
“I said I’d let them back in,” said a victorious Delores, “when they pay for me to get a massage.”