Filling Our Cups- Getting Inspired for Seder Night

Julie Hauser March 29, 2023

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Pesach, and the Seder night in particular, is impact time, says Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss. It is an opportunity to etch hugely important foundational Jewish concepts into our family members’ memory banks. We give over lessons that our children will pass to their grandchildren. The significance and singularity of this time of year cannot be overstated.

What a hefty responsibility! How do we go about fulfilling our best intentions on this night?

The Vilna Gaon once famously asked the Dubno Maggid a relevant question. How does one influence others? The answer was to fetch a large goblet and surround it with several smaller cups. When you fill the big cup with as much liquid as it can hold, it will inevitably overflow and trickle into the small cups, too.

The following are ideas (with three Q and A’s) which help to fill up my own cup. I hope you will find them inspirational, too.

Rabbi Zechariah Wallerstein, zt”l, said that Pesach is a time to understand that bitterness and sweetness are all one. The whole Seder is about the comingling of bitter/sweet, kingship/slavery, tears/rejoicing. It’s all one life; it’s a circle. Everything comes together and makes seder (order). Seder is life. And the essence of a Jew is emunah.

Question One:

At a recent shiur, I heard the following logical question: If the Israelites were so glad to leave Egypt, why did they want to turn back when they reached the sea?

The teacher, Drora, answered, human beings are emotional beings, and fear is a paralyzing emotion that eclipses all logic. Upon a new start, upon arriving in a new place, or a new challenge, fear arrives! When in fact, that is just when we need to activate our emunah to power past the fear and continue in the correct direction.

The reenactment of the Exodus at the Seder gives us an emunah boost. (It’s a good thing, because those emotions pop up quite often!)

Question Two:

We have a positive commandment to recall the Exodus from Egypt every day.

Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss points out Yetziat Mitzrayim happened thousands of years ago – to our great great great great great grandparents – and we still have the mitzvah to think about it every 12 hours of our lives (when saying Shema in the morning and night)! There are hardly any mitzvot we do twice a day, every day of the year.

Why do we recall leaving Egypt so often?

The Spinka Rebbe describes the Exodus as a message of hope that we all need to review every twelve hours (plus, every year at the Seders). The message highlights the incredible fact that we could sink to rock bottom, the lowest level of impurity, as we were in Egypt, and just 50 days later, be deserving of receiving the Torah. We have that strength within us.

With this in mind, when we eat maror at the Seders, it’s not just to recall the bitter time of slavery. We eat the maror and remember, we are “vaccinated” against temptation; we have the strength within us to withstand it. Even though we may be pulled at from all directions to sidetrack us, we will overcome, because we are “vaccinated.”

Question Three:

Why do we invite the poor to come and eat (“Ha lachma anya”) if we are already seated at the table, our meal already prepared? Isn’t it a bit late now?

One way to look at this is, we all have parts of us that feel broken and impoverished. We are all poor, we are only half, we all await completion.

Again, we awaken our emunah. Rebbetzin Tehila Jaeger explains, when the middle matzo is broken and put away for later, one thing it represents is that there is another part of existence – Olam Habah (the Next World).

It is also about ourselves. We can lift our eyes and say, “Hashem, yachatz, I am half; I am a broken matzo, a broken shard. Please, complete me.” Like the Israelites in Egypt could only look towards Hashem to be saved, we are saying, “Hashem, we are so incomplete, we look towards you and await completion,” with that same level of emunah.

Rabbi Wallerstein used the mashal (allegory) of a woman in labor to encourage those who struggling with: we are in the “labor pains” that precede Mashiach, according to the gedolim. Many feel “I can’t anymore”—while weathering all kinds of personal and communal challenges and tragedies r’l.  We feel we can’t anymore. “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t,” a woman in labor says. Yet the doctor encourages: once more!  Once more, and when it seems there is no strength left, and with a big cry, the birth occurs. In that pain is sweetness, and in every galut is the yeshua.

Rabbi Wallerstein suggests that when we reach the passage “v’nitzak el Hashem” in the recitation of Maggid (in the Arami Oved Avi section, the passage sourced from Devarim 26:7), it is an auspicious time in the Seder when we can take a minute and physically cry out. Scream if you want! (Warn those who are sensitive to noise so they can step out.) Open up to Hashem with all your desires, pains, and hope for yourself and others; beg Hashem to release us and bring geulah. Some people keep a list ready for those to pray for, loudly crying out the names in heartfelt request.

We all experience personal exiles and redemptions every year, and the Seder is the time to share those, too, to strengthen our gratitude to Hashem, beg for more, and encourage emunah in ourselves and those around us.

May all of our cups overflow onto one another’s, creating lasting impact on every size cup, and happily greet the true geulah speedily in our days!

Learn more about the author at https://juliehauser.my.canva.site/

Julie is an occupational therapist, photographer, and author of several books including her newest, titled Making It Mine. You may recognize her as the author of Pesach While You Sleep, or one of her other titles available here. Julie lives with her husband and children (who wonder which occupation is her ‘real job’) in Detroit, Michigan

View the book trailer for her latest book full of inspiration and practical interviews that bring it all home: https://tinyurl.com/makingItmine