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  • Dov Greenwood

Maggid: A Contemporary, Non-Gendered Translation

This is the bread of the oppressed, which our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. All who are hungry, come and eat! All who are needy, join the feast! For now, here; next year, in the land of Israel. For now, we are slaves; next year, we will be free.


Why is this night different from all other nights?

On all other nights, we eat bread and matzah—but tonight, only matzah!

On all other nights, we eat all kinds of vegetables—but tonight, only maror!

On all other nights, we don't even dip our food once—but tonight, we do it twice!

On all other nights, we can eat while sitting or reclining—but tonight, we are all reclining!


We were slaves to Pharaoh in the land of Egypt, until God took us out of there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm—and if the Blessed Holy One had not taken our ancestors out of Egypt, then we and our children and our children's children would still be enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt. So even if we all were wise, discerning, sagely, and knew the whole Torah, we would still be commanded to tell the tale of the exodus from Egypt. And those who takes time in telling the tale of the exodus from Egypt—how praiseworthy they are!


A story tells that Rabbi Eliezer, Rabbi Joshua, Rabbi Elazar ben-Azariah, Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Tarfon were feasting for Passover in the town of Bnei Brak and telling the tale of the exodus from Egypt the whole night. Finally, their students came to them and said: "Our teachers—the time to recite the morning shema has come!"

Rabbi Elazar ben-Azariah said: "I am nearly seventy years old, but I did not convince anyone that the exodus from Egypt should be mentioned every night until Simon ben-Zoma explained it. The Torah says, 'so you may remember the day you left Egypt for the entirety of the days of your life'—if it had said only 'the days of your life,' this would have meant only the days; it says ‘the entirety of the days of your life' to include the nights." And the sages say: "'the days of your life' would have meant only in this world; 'the entirety of the days of your life' includes the days of the messianic era."

Blessed be The Omnipresent, blessed be! Blessed be the one who gave the Torah to the chosen people, Israel—blessed be!


The Torah spoke with regard to four kinds of children: the gifted, the troublesome, the simple, and the ones who do not know what questions to ask.

What do the gifted ones say? “What are the testimonials and precepts and laws that Hashem our God commanded you to obey?”

Therefore, you should tell them accordingly the laws of Passover, up to: “one must not follow up the Passover meal with pleasures.”

What do the troublesome ones say? “Why does this service matter to you?”

‘To you’—and not to them!

And because they removed themselves from the community, they have denied religion’s core principle.

Therefore, you should dull their bite and say to them: “For the sake of this God did so much for me when I left Egypt.”

‘For me’—and not for them!

Had they been there, they would not have been redeemed.

What do the simple ones say? “Why is this being done?”

And you should say to them: “With a strong hand Hashem led us out of Egypt, from the house of bondage.”

And the ones who do not know what to ask?

You should begin the conversation for them, as it says: “You shall tell your child on that day as follows: ‘For the sake of this God did so much for me when I left Egypt.’” ——

One could have thought that the commandment to tell the tale should start on the first of the month; thus, it says, “on that day.” If it must be “on that day,” one could have thought it should be told while it is still day; thus, it says, “for the sake of this”—I cannot refer to ‘this’ except when it is laid before me: the matzah and the maror.


Once, our ancestors served idols, but now we have been taken into service by The Omnipresent, as it says: “Joshua said to the whole nation, ‘thus said Hashem, god of Israel: “beyond the river your ancestors dwelled, long ago—Terah, father of Abraham and Nahor—and they served other gods. But I took your forefather Abraham from beyond the river and led him through the whole land of Canaan, and I multiplied his offspring and gave him Isaac, and to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. I gave Esau the hill country of Seir for him to possess, while Jacob and his children descended to Egypt.”’”


Blessed be the Keeper of the promise to Israel, blessed be! For the Blessed Holy One calculated the end, to do what was said to Abraham our forefather at the Covenant Between the Pieces: “God said to Abraham, ‘know well that your offspring will be strangers in land that is not their own, and the inhabitants shall enslave them and oppress them for four hundred years. And also know that the people they serve, I will judge; and afterwards they will leave with great wealth.”


And still it stands, from them until us—

For not just one rose up to destroy us,

But in all generations

They rise to destroy us,

And the Blessed Holy One saves us from them.


Go forth and learn what Laban the Aramean sought to do to Jacob, our forefather. Pharaoh made his decree only upon the males, but Laban sought to eradicate them all, as it says: “My ancestor was almost destroyed by an Aramean and descended to Egypt to sojourn there with a small company, and there became a great people, large and numerous.”

‘and descended to Egypt’ — forced to do so by the word of God.

‘to sojourn there’ — this teaches that our ancestor Jacob did not descend to settle in Egypt but to live there temporarily, as it says: “they said to Pharaoh, ‘we have come to sojourn in the land because there is no pasture for your servants’ flock, as the famine is severe in the land of Canaan. So now, please, let your servants stay in the land of Goshen.’”

‘with a small company’ — as it says: “With just seventy souls your ancestors descended to Egypt, and now Hashem your God has made you as numerous as the stars in the sky.”

‘and there became a people’ — this teaches that the Israelites remained identifiable there.

‘great … large’ — as it says: “the children of Israel reproduced, teeming, increasing and growing very large, until the land was filled with them.”

‘and numerous’ — as it says:

I let you spread

Like the plants of the field

Until you’d grown

Into a woman of your own:

Your breasts stood firm,

Your hair shot out,

And still, you were naked and bare.

And I passed by you

And there I saw you

Wallowing in your own blood.

And I said to you,

Live by your blood!

And I said to you,

Live by your blood!


“The Egyptians made us out to be evil and oppressed us, and they placed upon us heavy labor.”

‘The Egyptians made us out to be evil’ — as it says: “Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, otherwise they shall increase, and if war befalls us, they too shall become our enemy and fight against us and leave the land.”

‘and oppressed us’ — as it says, “So they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with their work, and they built storage cities for Pharaoh: Pithom and Rameses.”

‘and placed upon us difficult labor — as it says, “Egypt worked the Israelites harshly.”


“We cried out to Hashem, the god of our ancestors, and God heard our voice and saw our impotence, our troubles and our oppression.”

‘And we cried out to Hashem, the god of our ancestors’ — as it says, “It came to pass in those unending days that the king of Egypt died, and the children of Israel groaned beneath the labor and cried out. And their plea for help rose to God, out from the labor.”

‘and God heard our voice’ —as it says, “God heard their screams, and God remembered the covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

‘and saw our impotence’ — this refers to abstaining from sexual relations, as it says: “God saw the children of Israel, and God knew.”

‘and our troubles’ — this refers to the children, as it says: “every boy that is born you shall throw into the Nile, but every girl shall live.”

‘and our oppression’ — this means ‘persecution,’ as it says: “I have also seen the way that the Egyptians are persecuting them.”


“Hashem freed us from Egypt with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, with awe-inspiring power and with signs and wonders.”

‘Hashem freed us’ — not by an angel, and not by a seraph, and not by an agent, but rather the Blessed Holy One alone, gloriously, as it says: “I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night and strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, human and animal. I will mete out judgement against the gods of Egypt. I am Hashem.”

‘I shall pass through the land of Egypt on that night’ — I, and not an angel.

‘and strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt’ — I, and not a seraph.

‘I will mete out judgement against the gods of Egypt’ — I, and not an agent.

‘I am Hashem’ — I am God, and no other.

‘with a strong hand’ — this refers to the plague of pestilence, as it says: “Listen!—Hashem’s hand will set upon your livestock in the fields—upon the horses, the donkeys, the camels, the cattle, and the sheep—a heavy pestilence.”

‘and an outstretched arm’ — this refers to the sword, as it says: “And its sword was drawn in its hand, directed against Jerusalem.”

‘and with awe-inspiring power’ — this refers to the revelation of the Divine Presence, as it says: “For has any god tried to come and take a nation from among the nations with miracles, with signs and wonders, with battle, a strong hand, and an outstretched arm, and with awe-inspiring power, like all that Hashem your god did before your eyes in Egypt?”

‘and with signs’ — this refers to the staff, as it says: “And take this staff in your hand, which you will use to perform the signs.”

‘and with wonders’ — this refers to the plague of blood, as it says: “I will perform wonders in the sky and land: blood, fire, and pillars of smoke.”


Alternatively, the verse may be interpreted as follows: ‘a strong hand’ — this corresponds to two plagues; ‘an outstretched arm’ — two plagues; ‘awe-inspiring power’ — two plagues; ‘signs’ — two plagues; ‘wonders’ — two plagues. Together they correspond to the ten plagues that the Blessed Holy One brought upon the Egyptians in Egypt: blood, frogs, lice, swarms, pestilence, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, and the death of the first-borns.

Rabbi Judah would assign them acronyms: detsakh (BFL), ‘adash (SPB), b’ahav (HLDF).

Rabbi Yose the Galilean says: “How do you know that the Egyptians were struck by ten plagues in Egypt, but by fifty plagues at the Red Sea? During the plagues in Egypt, ‘the magicians said to Pharaoh, “this is the finger of God!”’ At the splitting of the sea, ‘Israel saw God’s great hand striking the Egyptians, and the nation feared God, and believed in God and God’s servant, Moses.’ With a single finger, they were struck by ten plagues; therefore, since in Egypt they were struck by ten plagues, at the sea they were struck by fifty.”

Rabbi Eliezer says: “How can it be derived that each plague in Egypt, which the Blessed Holy One brought upon the Egyptians, consisted of four plagues? Because a psalm says of the plagues: ‘God sent against them burning anger—wrath, indignation and distress, a pack of evil-doing angels.’ ‘Wrath’ is one, ‘indignation’ is two, ‘distress’ is three, ‘a band of evil-doing angels’ makes four. Therefore, in Egypt they were struck by forty plagues, while at sea they were struck by two hundred.”

Rabbi Akiva says: “How can it be derived that each plague in Egypt, which the Blessed Holy One brought upon the Egyptians, consisted of five plagues? Because the psalm says of the plagues: ‘God sent against them burning anger, wrath, indignation and distress, a pack of evil-doing angels.’ ‘Burning anger’ is one, ‘Wrath’ is two, ‘indignation’ is three, ‘distress’ is four, ‘a band of evil-doing angels’ makes five. Therefore, in Egypt they were struck by fifty plagues, while at sea they were struck by two hundred and fifty.”


Oh, how much good has God done for us! —

If God had freed us from Egypt

But not punished them, too—

That would have been enough!

If God had indeed punished them

But not punished their gods—

That would have been enough!

If God had punished their gods, too,

But not killed their first-borns,

That would have been enough!

If God killed their first-born children

But did not give us their money—

That would have been enough!

If God gave us all their money

But had not split the sea—

That would have been enough!

If God had split the sea for us

But not led us through it—

That would have been enough!

If God had led us through on land

But not drowned our foes—

That would have been enough!

If God had drowned them in the sea

But not helped us in the desert—

That would have been enough!

If God helped us for forty years

But did not feed us man

That would have been enough!

If God had given us the man

But not the Sabbath day —

That would have been enough!

If God had brought us the Sabbath

But not to Mount Sinai —

That would have been enough!

If God had brought us to Sinai

But not given the Law—

That would have been enough!

If God had bestowed the Torah

But not the land as well—

That would have been enough!

If God gave the land of Israel

But not built the Temple—

That would have been enough!

Then how much more so are we obligated to do good for the Omnipresent! For God freed us from Egypt, punished the Egyptians, punished their gods, killed their first-borns, gave us their money, split the sea for us, brought us through it on dry land, drowned our foes inside it, provided for our needs in the desert for forty years, fed us the manna, gave us the Sabbath, brought us to Mount Sinai, gave us the Torah, brought us into the land of Israel, and built us the Temple to atone for our sins.


The great Rabbi Gamliel used to say: “All those who do not say the following three things on Passover have not fulfilled their obligations: Pesach, Matzah, and Maror.”

Pesach: the Passover lamb that our ancestors ate in the Temple era. Why did they eat it? Because the Blessed Holy One passed over our ancestors’ houses in Egypt, as it says: “‘You should say, “it is a Passover offering to God, who passed over the Israelites’ houses in Egypt in striking down the Egyptians, saving ours.”’ Then the people prostrated themselves.”

Matzah: that which we eat. Why do we eat it? Because our ancestors’ dough did not finish fermenting before the Sovereign over all sovereigns, the Holy Blessed One, appeared before them and redeemed them—as it says: “They baked the dough that they brought from Egypt into unleavened bread because it did not ferment, for they had been driven out of Egypt and could not delay; they did not even make themselves any provisions.”

Maror: the bitter herb, which we eat. Why do we eat it? Because the Egyptians made our ancestors’ lives bitter in Egypt—as it says: “They made their lives bitter with harsh labor, with mortar and brick and with field labor—with all kinds of tasks, they worked them ruthlessly.”


In every generation, we are obligated to see ourselves as though we left Egypt, as it says: “you should say to your child on that day, ‘For the sake of this God did so much for me when I left Egypt.’” God did not only redeem our ancestors but us as well, with them, as it says: “God freed us from there to bring us here, to give us the land promised to our ancestors.”


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