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Why Is This Second Seder Different From the Night Before?

This Passover article is mainly directed to the (education) of future generations by amplifying and expanding the sense of excitement which hopefully was generated on the first night of Pesach, linking to the second night, all in the service of expanding learning about the Exodus from Egypt.

In fact, it is actually a Torah command. See Parshat Bo 13:8 relating to “telling thy son” about “what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.”

In this spirit, I propose that the time is overdue to enact some minor add-ons which will pay dividends to our future generations in expanding the story of the Exodus (as per Exodus 13:8, above). Importantly, these additions would be at no sacrifice to celebrating the same essential and wonderful Seder rituals we have cherished for centuries (since medieval times), while amplifying themes of redemption, deliverance and personal growth inherent in the story of the Exodus from Egypt. (It is also interesting to note the extent the Seder (order) overlaps with the Exodus narrative in the Torah).

Night One: Dipping the sprig of parsley into salt water. This hearkens back to the image of the tears shed by our ancestors toiling under the harsh yoke of slave labor (Exodus 2:23).

Night Two: The salt water reminds us of the Red Sea, or Yam Suf, a very salty waterway that blocked the path of the Jews hurrying out of Egypt, with 600 Egyptian chariots pursuing them. As the Torah tells us, Israel’s redemption was made complete when God miraculously caused the salt waters to split, allowing the people of Israel to cross on dry land, and escape the Egyptian army, which perished in the same now onrushing waters.

Second suggested supplement occurs when the Seder proceeds to the ritual of “enjoying” the maror, the bitter herbs, so tart that the ingestion of these herbs has been known to bring about tears and an immediate and extreme need for water! Once again, we find there is an alignment with the order of the Exodus narrative and a fascinating alternative.

Night One: The bitter herbs are a reminder of the bitter years of slavery and oppression suffered by the children of Israel.

Night Two: The maror is a reminder when, just three days after crossing the Red Sea, while undoubtedly feeling hot and extremely thirsty, the people encountered the waters of Marah, but “they were unable to drink the waters of Marah because they were bitter” (Exodus 15:23). This was a very serious matter. The Israeli people were in a near state of mutiny against Moshe. However, God’s salvation to his people was manifested once again. God instructed Moshe to throw a certain tree into the waters, which miraculously sweetened the waters (Exodus 15:25), and they moved on.

One final suggestion for the second Seder night, and in the spirit of fulfilling the mitzvah to teach the Exodus narrative to future generations, perhaps the charoset can represent the manna (or mun) as described in Beshalach 16:31). God provided this all-purpose food six days a week to the Jewish people at a time when their morale was low and complaining was high (nothing good to eat). Like charoset, mun is described in the Torah as sweet and tasty, “like coriander seed, white and tasting like wafers made with honey” (Exodus 16:31).

The rationale for exploring supplemental symbolic narratives is, hopefully, to inspire more in-depth learning and expanded appreciation of Torah: what a golden opportunity, while the families are gathered together, for the fulfillment of the affirmative mitzvah of chinuch for Jewish boys and girls, the future of our nation, gathered together at the Seders. And, on a lighter note, perhaps even to combat any feelings of ennui (“Didn’t we just say this same thing last night?”).

It is worth repeating, as stated best in Parshat Bo at 12:26, teach the children “when they shall say unto you, ‘what do you mean by this service?’”

Wishing all B’nai Israel in the Holy Land and everywhere else a meaningful and fulfilling Pesach.


Sam Mallin, Esq lives in Chatham, New Jersey.

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