Passover seder in a post-10/7 world


Normally we ask, “how is this night different from all over nights?” This year, we have to ask, “how is this Passover different from all over Passovers?” In this episode, Noam and Mijal reflect on what makes Passover different this year and share suggestions and insights for how to approach our seder.

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Noam: Hey everyone, welcome to Wondering Jews with Mijal and Noam.

Mijal: I’m Mijal.

Noam:  And I’m Noam and this podcast is our way of trying to understand the Jewish world. We don’t have it all figured out at all, and we’re going to try to figure some things out together. That’s what we do.

Reading from the Haggadah at the Passover seder. (Photo: Jorge Novominsky via Flickr)

Mijal: Our absolute favorite part is hearing from you. And huge news, now we have two ways to make that happen. You can keep emailing us at and we love that. But even more exciting, finally, finally, we have a phone number where you can call and leave us voicemails. Our number is 833-WONJEWS. That’s 833-W-O-N-JEWS. A few things when you call, just please remember to say your name, your number, and your email address, and share your thoughts, questions, anything. If possible, and this is a big ask, keep it under 30 seconds.

Noam: Yes, definitely psyched about this. That number, I wanna say it again, because if any of you remember the movie, That Thing You Do, where they spelled the name of their band, The Wonders, not the Oneders, Wonders, W-O-N. So it’s 833 W-O-N-J-E-W-S, if anyone was wondering how to spell Jews, I just did that for you, you’ll thank me later. 833, ONEJEWS. And now, Mijal, a question from a listener, Zachary. I like this question, Zachary, this is a good question. Okay, here it is. What is your favorite Passover food?

Mijal: Yeah, so Noam, I can see why you like this question. Honestly, it’s like my mom’s charoset. How do you say charoset in English? I don’t even know how to say that.

Noam: I think it’s charoset.

Mijal: My mom makes it with apples, a lot of dates, with wine, with other stuff. I haven’t actually made it, I just eat it. And it’s delicious, it’s really good. It’s supposed to remind us of like the bricks and the suffering, but I actually really look forward to eating it every single year.

Noam: It’s so good. So I want to give a shout out. I have four favorite foods.

Mijal: Four, no, you can’t do that.

Noam: I’m doing it. Number one is actually my dad’s charoset. Number, my dad makes charoset. He’s very proud of it. And it’s excellent. Number two is my mom always makes these coffee cakes. You know, from like Manischewitz or whatever. They’re incredible. My son, Eyal, looks forward to them all year round. He actually asks to have them. Number three, matza pizza. And the last one, number four, and this is the Ashkenazi side of me, I guess I’m Ashkenazi. So, okay.

Mijal: You are Ashkenazi, I don’t think you have an Ashkenazi side.

Noam: So you’ll double down on that after you hear what I have to say. Matzah, cream cheese, and lox. It’s just, it’s fire. It’s fire, straight fire. It is. You are grimacing as I say that.

Mijal: Okay. Yeah. I am grimacing. Yeah. It doesn’t sound as good, but you know, I was thinking actually about Pesach food, Passover food. I think so much of it to me has to do with like nostalgia. Like, what did the taste remind me of? And where does it take me back to? It’s not about like the best food I ever ate in my life. It’s about that, you know, growing up with it every single year.

Noam: It would be strange if the best food you ever had in your life, with due respect to your mother, is her charoset.  100%, and that’s I think what the, I mean, we’re getting ahead of ourselves here, but that’s the whole purpose of the symbolism of the food in general, right? WThe whole purpose of when you bring out the Passover that we say the Pesach, the Matzah, the Maror, which is a whole part of the Seder, and we’ll get into that, is, it’s a whole, that’s the whole idea, it’s the, it’s the creation of meaning around food. So, it makes sense.

Mijal: It’s not, yeah, I would say not just around food. We’re going to talk about the Seder today, right? So the Seder, every single thing about the Seder, about Pesach, every single sense that we use, taste, everything that’s supposed to evoke a memory for us.

Noam: So what is the Seder? Let’s do it. This is what we’re talking about today. What is the Seder? And I’m gonna ask a thousand questions as we do this. What’s the Seder? What is this whole thing that we do every year?

Mijal: Sure, so I mean, Seder, like literally it means order. But what is it? Let’s just go backwards before we talk about the Seder. When we look at the Jewish people, when we had a temple, the way Passover was celebrated was very different than the way we celebrated. It was all actually around like the temple service and around a certain like sacrifice, Korban Pesach, a pascal, Passover offering, in the temple. All of the rituals, really the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, everything was around the temple. That’s one thing just to, like, name fresh off the bat, even before we talk about a seder.

Noam: By the way, you know what we should do?

Mijal: What should we do?

Noam: We should totally talk about what was awesome about the Passover experience 2,500 years ago when there was a temple and what’s awesome about it now and compare notes, like which one was better and why.

Mijal: Who are we comparing with?

Noam: Yeah, well, okay, so far, it’s one-nothing modern Passover Seder.

Mijal: Why? Why one-nothing modern?

Noam: Because now we have the whole Seder experience of all the different steps. They didn’t have that whole thing going on during the temple times, did they?

Mijal: No, but they had something. I mean, okay, no, you had hundreds of thousands, I imagine, I don’t know the actual numbers, of Jews from around Israel and even around the world, right? Literally walking towards Jerusalem. They would prepare for this for like months. It was an amazing collective experience. Everybody would go around the temple. Every family would have a Pesach offering. They would get together. They wouldn’t have the same steps that we have, but they would say the story. I, I imagine it would have been magnificent actually. I think they might, I mean, I don’t know. I think it would have been really awesome.

Noam: Okay, fine, so one to one, but I don’t think they had the ma nishtana. So maybe, so you know what I’m saying?

Mijal: I don’t think they had the ma nishtana. No, no, but I think what you’re reminding us is like ma nishtana, the Seder, everything that we do, you know, in Israel, it’s like the first night we do the first two nights, we have two seders in the diaspora. But all of this is actually post temple, like post-exilic. The temple was destroyed. There was no more, you know, korban pesach, like a Passover offering. The DNA of how this holiday was observed was completely taken away.

So in many ways, even before we explain what the Seder actually is and the steps that we’re reading, it’s a reconstruction. It’s a reconstruction of like the most important night for Jewish identity and Jewish collectivity in a way that reminds us that everything we’ve inherited has been transformed and remade, and in itself is a symbol of our continuity.

Noam: So isn’t that in and of itself quite remarkable that the story of Passover, the ability to continue its observance is something that had to take a totally new shape. And it’s not obvious that it always would continue.

Mijal: Yeah, no, I think it’s amazing. I was literally a couple of weeks ago, Noam, I was teaching about sacrifices in the temple and it can be really hard to do that with like, you know, modern sensibilities. We have no idea what it means to give a sacrifice in the temple. And I actually said the fact that we’re so alienated and so far away from it, but we still read it and we still, and we have prayers that substitute this. It’s actually a symbol of continuity. So the fact that the Seder continues and it’s like at the heart of Jewish life and we continue doing it every single year, even after every way that it was celebrated was taken away is magnificent. It’s amazing. And it’s actually at the heart of what Passover is supposed to do for us.

Noam: Okay, so let’s go through the numbers. I wanna throw these numbers out to you and ask what this means to you.

Mijal: But what is the seder? Should we just first say what the seder is before I then do?

Noam: Cause I’m… Yeah, fine, tell me what the seder is. Tell me what the seder is.

Mijal: Okay, so the seder is order and it’s basically, It’s a, it’s 14 steps. My kids have been chanting it every single night this last two weeks. So it’s very cute. But the Seder is basically 14 steps in which families are supposed to get together and we are supposed to follow the steps. Some of them are rituals. Some of them are telling of a narrative. Some of them are eating certain foods and all of it is supposed to remind us that we left Egypt, that we are the stewards of this Jewish memory and that we are passing it on to the future generation. So that’s pretty much what the Seder is. It’s a very long dinner that has really, really special aspects to it.

Noam: It has a lot of special aspects to it, and I want to go through some of them. The numbers to me are astounding. One, I’ll just read to you a few numbers that I find astounding. One is that while less than 20% of non-Orthodox American Jews attend Shabbat services, less than one in five, more than 80%, four out of five, observe Passover, usually with some form of a Seder. OK, so there’s something about the Passover Seder experience that is something that’s pervasive and ubiquitous throughout the Jewish world. Give me your top five reasons.

Mijal: Top five for why the Seder is so popular amongst Jews who otherwise don’t observe other things in America? Okay, all right, so let’s think together. One, the story is really good. It’s an amazing story. It’s a story of good versus evil. It’s a story that is very universal, that everybody can relate to, a small group of slaves who somehow, you know, leave their evil masters. There’s like a certain aspect to this story that’s just incredibly attractive and incredibly appealing. That’s number one.

Noam: I’m literally circling words that you say that I wrote as you say it. I understand. Okay.

Mijal: Well, I can’t even see what you wrote, so you might be making it all up, but let me… Okay, that’s reason number one. This story is amazing and universal, okay?

Noam: But our next, the next level of our relationship is gonna be trust building. We’re gonna do a trust building exercise. That’s what we’re gonna do, Mijal. All right, continue.

Mijal: Okay, that might take a long time, Noam, but we’ll get there. Okay. Second, second reason is I think it’s incredibly child-friendly.

Noam: Oh, that’s good.

Mijal: Pesach is so good for children. I mean, it’s about the taste and the music and like there’s animals and plagues and like kids love Pesach. We dress up, you know, it’s like so much fun. Okay, so it’s kid-friendly. So it’s universal, it’s kid-friendly. Number three, it’s once a year. Gotta say this, okay? Even, I mean, I know like Yom Kippur, the high holidays are also once a year, but the fact that it’s once a year makes this extra good for people to keep, as opposed to Shabbat observance, which is every week. A little bit easier. Yes, no?

Noam: I mouthed to you, not that it’s helpful in the medium of a podcast, that I literally wrote once a year. Continue. Okay, go, go.

Mijal: Ah, okay. All right. Okay. Um, number four, it’s similar to kids. It’s very tactile. MSo I think there’s like different, like there’s different, maybe the word is not tactile. It takes different intelligences and different senses and there’s something for everybody. So if you’re somebody who like loves philosophy and loves history, you’re going to have some stuff there. If you’re somebody who just really loves to eat, you’re going to have some stuff there. If you’re someone who loves to sing, you’re going to have some stuff there. If you love like, moving around leaning to one side to the other like there’s going to be a window for you to connect to this amazing, amazing moment.

Number five, this is I think I think people gravitate towards the center of Passover because it’s really at the heart Of of what it means to be it’s the story of us. It’s the story of how we can say the word we It’s a story of how we can talk about ourselves as belonging to the tapestry of the jewish people and I think that you can be a Jew who has no idea about the holiday of Shavuot, let’s say, when you receive the covenant, or the holiday of Sukkot, when we have the huts in the wilderness. But if you don’t have Pesach, you don’t have the story of us, the story of we. So Pesach, Passover, that’s what makes it, I think, just so incredibly important, even if you don’t observe so much. So that’s my top five. What are yours?

Noam: Those are good top fives. I have a lot of similarities. I’m going to go five, five to one. I think we have overlap. You’re much more eloquent than I am, but I’m going to give you my five top five. Number, number five, educational. AI think the very fact that it is educational is, um, and it’s like a brilliant approach to education. The approach to education is all about the questions that are being asked. Passover is about rewarding the question over the answer. That’s number one. Number two, it’s the universality of the message. You said that, right? Freedom, liberation. This is an idea that regardless of people’s backgrounds, people want to celebrate Passover because it’s this micro story about something that is macro, which is the desire for all human beings, all peoples to be liberated. Number three, you said it, identity, Exodus is our story. And this is the story of the collective Jewish identity. Number two, I don’t have to say this more than you already said it, I wrote once a year, but it doesn’t account for the fact that, that doesn’t account for the fact that Passover is celebrated, I think, more than Yom Kippur, which is quite remarkable. But I’m getting, my fifth answer is this. This is counterintuitive. Effort. I think because the Passover Seder ritual is so darn hard to actually put together, people therefore appreciate it and engage in it. When something is so easy to do, people don’t appreciate that thing. But when you’re willing to put in the effort, there’s a line in the Mishnah that says, Lefum Tzaara Agra, that according to your effort will be the reward. It’s gonna be proportionate. And that’s the case with this experience. I think by virtue of the fact that people are asked to put in so much effort, that is why they’re willing to invest in it and then reap the reward. Those are my top five.

Mijal: Yeah, well, you just make me think of something else now, because just, asking why Passover more than Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, I think Yom Kippur can feel like a very individual and even solitary experience. You pray from a prayer book alone, you know, in some ways, you’re sitting down by yourself. Pesach is a family holiday. So many people tell me, yeah, I go to like my aunt, my this, whatever, like I have these things that I inherited. DIt’s much more about the traditions that you’ve inherited than just going to, let’s say like Shul and praying, even if it’s not in the same way that you’re, you know, does this make sense or no?

Noam: Yeah, I don’t know where I heard this. So if someone said this to me and I’m copying your idea, my apologies. It’s one of the few rituals that you don’t do in the synagogue. It’s a ritual that you do at home and therefore it’s very personalized. You’re not having the Rabbi, as it were, officiate it. Your family is doing it.

Mijal: Well, I would say even more, I would say even more, it’s about parents and elders and grandparents and aunts and uncles. There’s something really powerful here that the storytellers, like you’re saying, are not the paid educators, with all due respect, you know, we’re both paid educators. Right, the storytellers are not just like external people. The storytellers are people who are like passing it on inside their home, inside their families to other people and sharing that story, which I think is really…Really beautiful. Okay, Noam, what’s your favorite part? Let me ask you, what’s your favorite part of the seder and what’s the hardest part for you?

Noam: What’s my favorite part of the Seder? Listen, you know the answers to this question, Mijal. This can’t be something you’re actually wondering. Well, it’s not…

Mijal: I don’t know. Don’t say the sandwich with korech. That will just be too predictable now. Please, I’m sorry. You gotta, like, come on.

Noam: Okay, but I do want to say something about the thing I can’t talk about. The korech, the sandwich part, the korech part, korech, where the Hillel sandwich, because that-

Mijal: What’s the thing you can’t talk about? I don’t even know. Okay. Wait, wait, can you just start to explain what it is? What is this correct step?

Noam: no idea. It’s this sandwich– that you put some of the Pesach. I’ll tell you what Hillel used to do. It’s something called Zeher l’Mikdash. IThat he used to, it’s a commemoration of something that used to be. And what Hillel did is he took, there’s a commandment that says you should have maror, which is the bitter, and matzah together. You eat it. And what he used to do, Hillel, who was an incredible sage from a couple thousand years ago, and what Hillel said, is that what he used to do is he used to take the matzah, he would take the maror, the bitter, and he would take the pesach, and he would make one sandwich out of it.

Mijal: What’s the Pesach? It’s like a barbecue basically. Meat, yeah. Yeah.

Noam: Yeah, it’s lamb, right? So what he did is he created the world’s first shawarma. That’s what he did. He took, he took, he took matzo, which wasn’t, it wasn’t the type of matzo that you’re imagining. It was in the form of a wrap and the Yemenites still.

Mijal: We actually use that matzah in my, yeah, in my stuff that we use.

Noam: You do?

Mijal: But first we should say what matzah is basically it’s like flour and water that don’t like they, I’m going to mess this up because I don’t bake, but they, they are mixed together and you, within 18 minutes you bake them. Right. Am I saying it perfectly or not perfectly about matzah? Okay. Good.

Noam: And it can’t be more than 18 minutes. IThe sec, the sec, this, if it’s more than 18 minutes, it goes from chametz, which is a huge no-no over Passover, to, sorry, if it’s more than 18 minutes, it goes from Matzah to chametz. The second it crosses the 18 minute barrier.

Mijal: Right, so it’s the same ingredients pretty much as bread. It has to do with how much time it’s being leavened or unleavened. Now the thing with matzah is that you can have matzah that’s like made in a factory. You can have handmade one. Most Jews, I think, have like hard matzah. It’s almost like a cracker. What you were just describing is, and we have this in our center.

Noam: Yeah. 99%. Let’s give it 99%. When people see matzah, that’s what they see. You have soft matzah.

Mijal: Sure. We have soft matza. Yeah. We have for the Seder, we do soft matzah. It’s almost like a laffa kind of like feeling. No, I’m not kidding you. Why so surprising?

Noam: Are you kidding me? Have you ever seen… No, no, because I think this is my expression of jealousy. Is how I… Could you…

Mijal: Oh, okay, I can send you a note. I’m sure that I can find where you live, some soft matzah.

Noam: Really? Okay. Please.

Mijal: Should we put it in the show notes? Where to buy a soft matza this year? Just kidding. I don’t actually know where everybody can buy it.

Noam: Yeah, I’ve never, but so that’s what Hillel used to do. What Hillel used to do is he used to take the soft matzah and he, which didn’t bake for more than 18 minutes, then he would take the paschal lamb and he would take the, not even rye, right, exactly. And then he would take the paschal lamb and he’d take the maror. So to me, that’s the same thing as a shawarma, which has a laffa, lamb, and kharif, and spiciness.

Mijal: (21:54.118)

No, didn’t rise for more than 18 minutes. Didn’t, didn’t, yeah.

Noam: Like that’s the same thing. That’s what he did.

Mijal: Right. Okay. Do you have… I’m so glad it’s your favorite part of the seder. And… Okay.

Noam: It’s not my favorite part. My favorite part is twofold. It’s Magid, which is the part of storytelling and the question and answer. And then the other part is, you guessed it, but Shulchan Orech, which is the eating, which is the meal together. So it’s the festive meal and it’s the storytelling.

And what’s fascinating about the history, I believe, and someone can fact check this on me, I believe that they used to actually, years ago, do the eating first and then do Magid and then do the storytelling. But like everything around the Passover Seder experience, it’s all about the children. It’s all about the children. And so they switched the order to make sure that the children would be able to ask the questions, engage, and then eat because if you ate and then tried to engage, then everyone would be too exhausted and the children wouldn’t be able to pay attention. So I love both of those.

Mijal: Yeah. So what’s hard for you about this seder?

Noam: What’s hard for me about the Seder is what’s hard about education in general, which is there’s a whole group of people together and each of them is a distinct individual and each of them has in the world of education, we would call it differentiated instruction. Everyone is a distinct individual and so the best educators figure out ways to differentiate the instruction for the different people in their educational settings, right?

Some people like things a little bit more challenging. Some people like things a little bit less challenging. Some people like specific options. Some people like text. Some people like visual. Some people like auditory, et cetera. With the Passover experience, the goal is to make it an educational experience for anyone and everyone there. That’s a really hard thing to do. But I gotta give a shout out to my dad and my mom. I think that they are the best facilitators of the Seder experience than anyone else out there.

Mijal: Okay, so what do they do? What do they do that makes it so amazing?

Noam: Prep, prep, prep. Listen, there’s a line, ein Kedusha B’li hachana, there’s no sanctity without preparation, and it’s what I try to live by in my life, and I think it’s what they do. They give everyone, according to their skill set and their interests, areas that they’re gonna be focusing on. They make sure that we all know the seriousness and the intentionality behind the seder beforehand. And then they give and then they give the children experiential opportunities throughout. They play games, they make games in advance. They do competitions that are low stakes. And it’s awesome. And they’re amazing at it. And I’ve never seen people that do it quite like my parents.

Mijal: That’s awesome. One thing my parents do, which I really like is, now we don’t all live at home, we don’t all spend Pesach together anymore, but they still continue to divide the haggadah and to give each of their kids different parts. And even if we’re not together, we are each supposed to write like an explanation and send it so the whole family has it, which I really, really like. And yeah, a lot of emphasis on the kids. I don’t know what your kids do.

My kids, they dress up, we play out the story, we do the plagues, like we do the whole thing.

Noam: Wow, that sounds pretty good.

Mijal: It’s actually a Sephardic custom. I don’t know if you have this, if you guys have this. We, as kids, we would like, you know, raid my parents’ linen cabinet and basically like dress up as though we left Egypt and carry.

Noam: Oh yes! Yes!

Mijal: Yeah, and basically we take pillowcases really, and we put stuff inside and then, oh, can I tell you one of my favorite customs actually from Pesach?

Noam: Yes, please, please tell me.

Mijal: Okay, so this is something I grew up with this being said, like in Spanish and Hebrew, in my husband’s family, and now my kids, they say it in Arabic. But there’s this dialogue, like at the beginning of the Seder, in which basically the person leading the Seder turns to each one, and there’s a question that’s basically asked. Like my, I’m holding right now here, like a Syrian siddur for Passover, and it will include it in the Haggadah section. But the question basically being asked is, where do you come from? And the people have to answer from Egypt. And where are you going to? The people have to answer to Jerusalem, to Yerushalayim. And what do you hold with you? And the answer is given is matzah and maror. Maror are the bitter herbs. And it’s really beautiful.

It’s slightly, the language is slightly different, like in Syrian communities, in Egyptian communities. Again, I grew up saying it like in Hebrew and you can also have it like in Spanish. There’s like a lot of different ways of saying this, but it’s a really beautiful way that even before you tell the story, even before you do all the rituals, you are literally showing yourself and identifying yourself as someone who left Egypt. You’re positioning yourself in that way, which I find really, really powerful.

Noam: That is very powerful. And I think that’s the idea from the Maimonides, right?

Mijal: Which one?

Noam: There’s an obligation, the obligation I’ll say in Hebrew than English is, chayav adam lir ote datzmoki ilu hu yatsa mitzrayim. Okay, okay, but translate. That’s what I was gonna say. So version number one is that,

Mijal: Ooh, let me stop you there. Let me stop you there. There’s two versions of that. Oh, okay. Go, go for the two versions. Yes.

Noam: that man as humans are obligated to see oneself as though he left Egypt. And Maimonides has that man is obligated to show oneself as though he is leaving now. That’s the obligation. Right?

Mijal: That’s in the Ashkenazi haggadot. Yes. Yes, 100%. 100%, yeah, I always love showing the difference there. And I think it’s really powerful. Part of what I love about this, Naaman, part of what I love about the Seder is that it doesn’t assume we are just this cerebral people who can imbibe messages by just saying, oh, you belong to this people or you have this story. We have to, this Pesach in a way, Passover, the Seder, to me is a symbol of why Jewish practice is so important. Because Jewish practice shapes us. Like holding that and standing there and saying it and tasting the bitterness and having that sandwich, like it is supposed to shape us in a powerful way because we are literally engaging in praxis, right? That is identity shaping. And that I think is teaching us something not only about Passover, but about like, in general, if you want your kids, right? To, to, to be certain people, it’s not enough for you to tell them. You’re going to need to create certain practices and habits of them to have to play out so that it becomes part of who they are.

Noam: Yeah, yeah, I think that that’s spot on. The only way to pass a tradition, an idea, a religion on, whatever it is, is to engage the people in it so they actively, proactively, behaviorally do something. And if you’re not behaviorally doing something, then it’s just going to be passive. And inheritance without activity is incredibly difficult to do.

Mijal: Yeah. I will say something Noam. I’m like, one thing that I find hard, I don’t know if you have it. I always, I used to get a lot of like, Passover anxiety, not with the cleaning actually, but, but just anxiety over like, are we, are we going to live up to the expectations of what the Sether is supposed to be, right? It’s almost like this fear, like in terms of parenting or education, if you’re teaching somebody every day, it’s one thing, if you have like one shot to tell this big story, then the stakes feel really high. And I know for me, that feels hard. So I know for me, that’s like a real thing to figure out how to prepare and how to engage and how to educate, but how to not get overwhelmed by thinking this is the one night where I have to figure it all out.

Noam: So, Mijal, what is your top recommendation to people who are running the seders or people who are participating in seders?

Mijal: Yeah, well, I think we said it before and I agreed with that: preparation. Like really go through the center and try to give different parts to different people and make them responsible for it. And also like look at the, the section at the Magid section, where you’re telling the story. Some parts you really have to say like, logically, according to Jewish law, some parts we can abridge a little bit so we can play with it. So it’s kind of like what you’re saying, like, don’t just inherit it, bring more things to it. I’ll give you one example. My husband’s parents are literally refugees from Egypt. So they had to flee Egypt.

Noam: I gotta hear more about this story. Different, okay. Okay.

Mijal: A different, different day we can, but, but part of what I’ve been doing is actually having my kids interview their grandparents before Passover to have like a modern telling of the Exodus from Egypt and then actually like bringing that into the Seder itself. And trying to figure out with them, how do we shape the Seder around this? So the more preparation that we can have and the more that we can make it our own, like really, like, and this is, I’ll just say something, I think for a lot of people, when it comes to Jewish practice, people feel like they are, what’s the right word here? Like they consume Jewish material. I think there’s like a shift between being a consumer and between being like a producer that can be hard if you’ve never done it before. And I think Pesach at its best is when people feel like they are producing the story. Like they are part of not just telling a story of somebody else, but you tell the story in such a way that you can say it’s mine, it’s ours. And I’ve told it in a way that is uniquely mine and not somebody else’s. So I think that’s really important. And by the way, throughout history, we’ve had different versions of the Passover story.

Well, no, but you know what? No, let me ask you a different question. Maybe not top five, but this year, you know, we sing mah nishtana. How is this night different than other nights? And I think I’ll tell you another thing that I’m nervous about. Um, you know, I’m just being frank here. Um, but tThis Pesach after October 7th, I think there’s some like real questions about how to celebrate and to mark Pesach this year.  Um, and in some ways I know for me, part of what’s

Well, there’s two things that I find especially hard. One is that there is a difference between making memory and telling stories once something is over. And I don’t think that? Like Israel’s still at war, we still have hostages missing, like we’re still in it. So there’s something really hard about talking about, about incorporating October 7th when we are in it into our Pesach story. And the other thing I struggle with is as a mother of young kids, how much like to bring in a certain amount of contemporary darkness to my Sether where in general I try to insulate them a little bit from it. So that’s just two of the things I’m thinking about. I don’t know what you’ve been thinking about how to approach Sether this year, what you’ve read, what are you doing differently or what are you thinking about doing differently?

Noam: So I don’t know what I’m doing differently yet, but I think that this Passover has to look different. There’s a line that we say every Passover, and I said this earlier, but ma nishana ha’la’ila hazeh mikol ha’ale’ilot, what’s different about this night from all other nights? The question this year is ma nishana ha’pesach hazeh mikol ha’pasachim, what’s the difference between this Passover from every other Passover? And I think that the answer, is that in general, I think you have to do what we said earlier, which is to dress up, to show oneself as though they’re leaving Egypt and to try to feel that and to try to, and we do that behavior in order to evoke that empathy. That’s the whole purpose of it. But this year, it’s just different because there are 134 people who are still hostages and it’s not that hard to see and to feel and to make sure that is part of your Passover experience. And this year we, we all feel that.

Mijal: What are you doing? Do you know already if you’re doing something differently this time?

Noam: There are a lot of things that I’m thinking about differently.  So I don’t know specifically what we’re doing, but I was imagining having one seat that’s empty at the table or putting yellow ribbons around the chairs. TOr to, to that’s been the, the symbol  for the, to think about the hostages. ABut, and then the last thing that I, that I want to do is I want there’s a, I don’t know if you have this in the Sephardic seder, but there is at towards the end of the say there towards the end of the Passover experience at night, we say this very, uh, um, aggressive line that I think a lot of people don’t know about. It’s called shifoch chamatcha al hagoyim.

Mijal: Can you translate?

Noam: Okay, so that part of the seder is the type of thing that typically, I think, it’s not the part that Jewish people love telling the world. Yeah, it means pour out your anger on the non-Jewish world who don’t know you and don’t know the kingdoms that you call upon and the kingdoms that call upon your name. Since they have consumed Jacob and laid waste to his habitation. SSo there are, well, so here’s how I’ve always understood it, right? You have this line that was inserted into the seder. Remember, the Haggadah was created over centuries. And this was added after the 12th century, where there were the Crusades that took place, that was a lot of vitriol, violence, incredible murder that was committed by the Christian world against the Jewish world. And this was added into the Passover experience to kind of be like, listen, this idea of fighting for our independence and fighting for, against, they didn’t have the term anti-Semitism at the time.

But this has always existed. So there were times in my life where I felt uncomfortable with this part of the seder experience. And there are different ways that people have addressed this. People have either chosen to omit it from their seder, which is technically okay. People have chosen to reverse it. Instead of saying, pour out your wrath, they’ve changed it to shefoch ahavatecha, pour out your love. There are people who have tried to simply describe this as a reality that existed and it’s not a prayer, but it’s a description of what takes place. But for me, it’s very clear that this prayer feels different this year. And the way it feels different this year is to say to God, to have no mercy on people who are trying to end the Jewish people. And that’s what it is.

Mijal: Yeah, I mean, I’m with you Noam. I think I’m just, I would feel comfortable with saying this every year personally, because it’s not just like, hey, let’s have a vengeful God. It’s like, God, be vengeful against people who are trying to destroy the vulnerable. Always. And I have personally no qualms this year or any other year in saying this.

Noam: Right. Well, and if we’re going to be philosophical about it, there are two ideas that are juxtaposed against each other in how we think about the Passover experience. On the one hand, there’s the pour out your wrath against the people who try to destroy you. AAnd that was composed in the 12th century, and then on the other hand, we have this Talmudic passage that says that the Egyptians are drowning in the in the Sea of Reeds and you’re gonna sing songs to me? And you hear this compassion that God has for the very people that tried to destroy the Jewish people.

Mijal: Yeah, and that’s why we have a custom to, as the plagues are being read, I don’t know if you guys do this, we pour out some wine as a way of, do you guys do this? Ashkenazim? Yeah. So as a way of symbolizing like our pain for, I would say all the innocent Egyptians that were included in the plagues. I don’t know, we should do another episode of this. I don’t, I’ll just say I don’t have so many qualms about speaking of vengeance and especially when we limit that vengeance to divinem, the divine realm. Like I actually think it’s great to be a people that say, Hey God, please be vengeful. We are not going to be vengeful. But you please, you know, you please do it for us. I don’t, I don’t myself have so many qualms around that. And I think it lives very comfortably with other expressions of compassion. But one second, going back to October 7th. 

Let me just say one more thing about October 7th. So you mentioned leaving a chair for hostages, bringing yellow ribbon. I’m just going to also recommend, uh, to bring in Israeli voices at the Passover center. So I know for me, um, uh, colleagues and friends of mine, Noam and Mishael Zion, they have this really famous Haggadah they wrote their father and son, and they made a new one specifically for this year. Um, I wasn’t able to buy one. They’re selling it in Israel, but the Shalom Hartman Institute, we can put on the show notes have translated some of their supplements.

Noam: Okay, let’s go ahead and do it.

Mijal: in English and I’ve made it available. So I know for me, I’m printing those out to read during the actual Pesach Seder. Because I actually think to center the Israeli experience to me feels really important to bring that into our Pesach Seder, especially this year with what’s happening.

Noam: That’s a great peoplehood idea. We’ll put that in the show notes. I love that idea. So that’s a great idea. Michal, Michal.

Mijal: Yeah. I just feel like things went like a little bit heavy, you know, vengeance, sadness. Yeah. It’s hard, you know, the, the center it’s, it’s fun and it’s light and it’s also heavy and sober. It’s, it’s, it’s everything, you know, it’s our story of us. Yeah.

Noam: You’re right, exactly, exactly. That’s Judaism. That’s the story of us. All right, Michal, well, I’m gonna see you next week and we are going to talk about part two of the Passover experience. And let’s talk about the story itself. Let’s do that. Okay. All right, let’s do it. All right.

Mijal: Oh, I love the story. I love it. Okay. Good. I’ll talk to you soon. Thanks.

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