Topics From the Seder Night
Each week of this three-part series we will start with a different topic from the Passover Seder and journey through various sources and ideas related to the topic, concluding with a deeper understanding of that part of the seder. Topics will include karpas, the four cups, and Chad Gadya. Join us and then impress your fellow seder-goers with your knowledge.
Topics From the Seder Night: Lesson 1
KARPAS: TOPICS FROM THE SEDER NIGHT: This shiur begins with Karpas and a discussion of what that may actually be. It continues with the number of people who actually left Egypt and the significance of the number 60. Then the discussion moves to the 10 Commandments, and the language and text in which they were written. We will then move to Ezra and the Men of the Great Assembly, before moving back a few years to Mordechai and Esther and Achashverosh’s party.
Topics From the Seder Night: Lesson 2
CUPS OF WINE: TOPICS FROM THE SEDER NIGHT: One must drink four (or five) cups of wine on Seder night. We will begin with the danger involved in drinking four cups, and what to do to avoid mazikin. We will discuss superstition in Judaism and whether or not Jews are subject to Mazal. Do astrologers know the future according to Judaism? Why do we always wish people “Mazal Tov” if we don’t beleive in mazal. What can happen if someone has bad mazal? And why is there a special blessing recited in a shiva house for Rabban Gamliel?
Topics From the Seder Night: Lesson 3
CHAD GADYA: TOPICS FROM THE SEDER NIGHT: We will beging this shiur where the seder ends, with the song of the one kid (goat), Chad Gadya. We will look at (one of) the Vilna Gaon’s commentaries on this song, and see how it relates to Yaakov and Esav. Then we will jump to the two goats of Yom Kippur, one for G-d and one for Azazel. Yom Kippur was the only day when the Cohen Gadol (High Priest) would enter the Holy of Holies, but before he did so he had to change his clothes. The other priests would hold a curtain around him for modesty, as he changed. The halakha of curtains for modesty appears in Shulhan Arukh (and is relevant for issues such as mezuzot in the bedroom). Interestingly, the concept of curtains, or mechitza, does not appear in the Shulhan Arukh in relation to a Synagogue or prayer. The concept of a mechitza in a Shul is derived from the Rambam, but in Hilkhot Sukkot. This is based on a balcony which was built in the Temple during Sukkot, to separate the men and women. The source for this is a description of a funeral, where men and women were separated. But whose funeral does the prophet refer to? For that we will return to the very end of Chad Gadya.
Rabbi David Sedley lives in Jerusalem with his wife and six children. He was born and raised in New Zealand before making Aliya in 1992. He left Israel temporarily (for eight years) to serve as a communal Rabbi in Scotland and England and returned to Israel in 2004. He has translated Rabbeinu Yonah's commentary on Pirkei Avos and is the co-author of Sefiros: Spiritual Refinement Through Counting the Omer (both Judaica Press). Over the years Rabbi Sedley has worked as a journalist, a translator, a video director and in online reputation management. He also writes a weekly Torah blog on the Times of Israel.