Why is this night different from all other nights?

passover meal

Why is this night different from all other nights?

The eight-day Passover holiday concludes today at nightfall.

The story we tell at Passover isn’t a fairy tale that happened “once upon a time.” It is a true story. Each year at Passover we retell the story of our ancestors and go on a journey in our hearts from slavery to freedom, from sadness to joy, from darkness to light.

On this holiday God commands us to light candles. May each of us help kindle the flames of hope and freedom in our lives and the lives of others. As we light the candles we thank God who has given us life, kept us in life, and enabled us to reach this season of joy.

Blessed are You, Eternal God, Creator of the universe, who makes our lives holy with Your commandments, and commands us to kindle these holiday lights.

seder table with maror

We say a prayer of thanks before we drink the first cup of wine.

Blessed are You, Eternal God, Creator of the universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.

We eat greens dipped in salt water to remind us of all the tears cried by our people when we were slaves in Egypt. Tasting the salt water also reminds us of all the people who are still enslaved today.

Blessed are You, Eternal God, Creator of the universe, who gives us the fruit from the earth.

According to ancient custom, we wash our hands, but no blessing is recited. Washing our hands is a way of showing that we hope to purify our hearts, and not just our hands. It is also a way of feeling clean and ready to take part in the Seder.

Passover is a time to question, a time to wonder.

During the Seder we ask the Four Questions – questions we answer as we retell the story of Passover. According to tradition, the youngest child asks the four ancient questions.

Why is this night different from all other nights?
Mah nishtanah halayla hazeh mikol halaylot?

On all other nights we eat leavened bread or matzah; tonight we eat only matzah. Why?

On all other nights we eat any kind of vegetable; tonight we must eat bitter herbs. Why?

On all other nights we do not dip herbs even once; tonight we dip twice. Why?

On all other nights we sit straight up or recline on pillows; tonight we must lean on pillows. Why?

passover dinner

A cup of wine is placed in the center of our table waiting for an honored guest, Elijah the Prophet.

Long ago, Elijah protected the Jews from an evil king. He healed the sick and helped the weak. When his days on earth were over, legend says Elijah rode up into the sky on a chariot of fire. Legend also tells us that this mysterious man returns to earth to help the helpless, to answer the unanswerable, and to remind us that some day, when the Messiah comes, all people will be free.

All over the world, in every Jewish home, children open the door on Passover to invite Elijah to enter. Perhaps tonight he will honor us and enter our home.

Our hope makes a bridge between heaven and earth.

It is said that in each generation Elijah the Prophet returns disguised as a poor oppressed stranger. He knows by the way people treat him whether the world is ready for the Messiah.

Let anyone who is hungry come and eat. Let anyone who is a stranger, anyone homeless or poor, share with us the hope of Passover. For we know how it feels to be a stranger in a strange land.

chicken soup at passover

“Next year in Jerusalem”

We tell the story of our Exodus from Egypt to you, our children, and they will tell it to their children, and it will be told again and again. Shalom, Peace. We pray for peace, for us, for everyone. Next year in Jerusalem, next year may everyone be free.

Saying “Next year in Jerusalem” is another way of saying we hope by next year to live in a world that offers safety and peace, freedom and plenty, to all people, all over the world.

(Portions of this post were written with the help of the wonderful haggadah we use at our seder, The Family Haggadah by Ellen Schecter).

6 thoughts on “Why is this night different from all other nights?”

  1. When I look at this I can’t help but think how fortunate your nephews are to grow up with such beautiful traditions, they will treasure all these memories throughout their entire lives and no doubt pass them on to their families.

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