“Seder” Is the Hebrew Word for “Order.” But the Passover Seder Is Anything but Orderly

March 25 2021

One of the handful of Hebrew words known to virtually every American Jew is seder, literally “order,” referring to the liturgical meal that constitutes the main rite of Passover. But although the seder has a strictly scripted series of steps, its retelling of the story of the Exodus verges on chaotic. Yosef Lindell writes:

We seem to begin this narrative [at a natural point, with the words], “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt and the Lord our God took us out with a strong hand and an outstretched arm.” Yet the Haggadah quickly gets sidetracked, speaking of rabbis who stayed up all night telling the story, expounding on the commandment to say the sh’ma morning and night, discussing four different types of children, trying to determine the appropriate day for holding the seder, and backtracking to the patriarchs and their idol-worshipping ancestors. When we then raise our glasses in joyful praise of the One who saves us time and again, it is long after sundown, and we still haven’t begun explaining how God redeemed the Children of Israel from Egypt.

To Lindell, the Haggadah’s haphazardness is not the result of editorial incompetence, or the accumulation of additions and insertions over the centuries, but of a deliberate effort to create a text that demands to be studied rather than recited.

Thus, spirited discussion becomes central to the seder. Around the seder table, we must study the Haggadah together. Its words are the beginning, not the end, of the conversation. The maggid, [the narrative portion of the Haggadah], is lively: full of questions [and] answers. . . . We interrupt, talk over one another, discuss the meaning of passages, or perhaps even demonstrate the plagues with plastic frogs. The Haggadah says that “whoever tells more about the Exodus is praiseworthy,” and the sages of Bnei Brak, [as the Haggadah itself recounts], led by example: going strong all night until their students reminded them to recite the morning sh’ma.

[T]he seder is many . . . things: a conversation between parents and children, a spirited discussion as colorful and sometimes as inscrutable as the Talmud, a family affair around the table with food. The seder is not exactly orderly, but it is all the richer for it.

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Read more at Lehrhaus

More about: Haggadah, Judaism, Passover, Seder

Don’t Let Iran Go Nuclear

Sept. 29 2022

In an interview on Sunday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stated that the Biden administration remains committed to nuclear negotiations with the Islamic Republic, even as it pursues its brutal crackdown on the protests that have swept the country. Robert Satloff argues not only that it is foolish to pursue the renewal of the 2015 nuclear deal, but also that the White House’s current approach is failing on its own terms:

[The] nuclear threat is much worse today than it was when President Biden took office. Oddly, Washington hasn’t really done much about it. On the diplomatic front, the administration has sweetened its offer to entice Iran into a new nuclear deal. While it quite rightly held firm on Iran’s demand to remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from an official list of “foreign terrorist organizations,” Washington has given ground on many other items.

On the nuclear side of the agreement, the United States has purportedly agreed to allow Iran to keep, in storage, thousands of advanced centrifuges it has made contrary to the terms of the original deal. . . . And on economic matters, the new deal purportedly gives Iran immediate access to a certain amount of blocked assets, before it even exports most of its massive stockpile of enriched uranium for safekeeping in a third country. . . . Even with these added incentives, Iran is still holding out on an agreement. Indeed, according to the most recent reports, Tehran has actually hardened its position.

Regardless of the exact reason why, the menacing reality is that Iran’s nuclear program is galloping ahead—and the United States is doing very little about it. . . . The result has been a stunning passivity in U.S. policy toward the Iran nuclear issue.

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Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy