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Festival Candles and Blessings
LEADER: One of the most intriguing aspects of the Seder is how it conveys ideas through physical, verbal, and musical modes. The Seder officially begins with a physical action: the lighting of candles. In ancient times, candles—or, most probably, oil lamps—were the only source of light after sunset.
Since Jewish holy days always begin after sunset, lights were necessary for any observance. The candles remain an important part of our ceremony—their wavering fire reminds us of the importance of keeping the fragile flame of freedom alive in the world.
(Leader asks that the candles be lit while reciting the blessing.)
We gather together to tell the story of our ancestor’s freedom from bondage in Egypt, for it is written: you shall celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread and observe this day from generation to generation.
As we light the festival candles, we acknowledge that as match, wick, and wax brighten our Passover table, good thoughts, good words, and good deeds brighten our days.
LEADER: We now say Kiddush—a blessing that designates a person, place, thing, or time for a higher purpose.
CELEBRANTS IN UNISON: There is no beautifier of complexion, or form, or behavior like the wish to scatter joy and not pain around us.—Ralph Waldo Emerson
LEADER: Along with celebrating our ancestor’s deliverance from bitter bondage in Egypt, the Passover holiday highlights the importance of hope. And what better time to celebrate hope than spring?
Understanding this, our sages wisely folded the Passover celebration into the ancient Israelite agricultural event Hag Ha Aviv—the Holiday of Spring. As life breaks free of winter’s icy locks, we are reminded of our capacity for renewal. In homage to this season of rebirth, we read a short passage from the Song of Songs, a love song in the Hebrew Bible:
CELEBRANTS IN UNISON:
For, lo, the winter is past
the rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of singing is come,
and the voice of the turtledove
is heard in our land;
The fig-tree puts forth
green figs, and the
budded bough, its fragrance.
LEADER: These images of fragrant blooms call our attention to another kind of bud: our children. Through them, the Jewish people—indeed, all people—break free of time’s sheath and unfurl into the future. We drink to their health and happiness and offer them this blessing: (Leader and celebrants raise first cup of wine.)
CELEBRANTS IN UNISON:
May you enjoy freedom of speech
May you enjoy freedom of worship
May you enjoy freedom from want
May you enjoy freedom from fear
—Franklin Delano Roosevelt
May you enjoy the freedom to dream
(Leader and celebrants drink first cup of wine.)