Introduction to the First Adoption Seder (Revised)
....I have retold the story of Moses in the literary form of the haggadah. A haggadah is the traditional booklet for the celebration of Passover that recounts Moses' leading the Exodus out of Egypt. Also contained in a haggadah are psalms, prayers, songs and rituals. They all act like synapses that make the main story that much more deeply felt....
Glossary and Objects
Hadlakat ha-Nerot/Lighting the festival candles
Kos Kiddush/
First cup of wine
Blessing for something done a first time
Ritual washing of hands
Karpas/Spring Greens
The four questions ~ an adopted variation
The four kinds of children ~ an adopted variation
Maggid/The story of the Exodus from Egypt
The Ten Plagues
Dayenu (a song of gratitude)
Hallel/Psalms of praise
Kos G'ula/The second cup of wine
Shulchan orech/
The shared supper
Rachatzah/Ritual washing of hands
Motzi Matzah/
Breaking and blessing the matzah
Maror and Charoset/
The bitter and the sweet
A traditional dish
Rabbi Gamaliel's proclamation ~ and an adoptee's variation
Tsafun/Searching, finding, ransoming and sharing the afikomen
Bareich/Grace after meals
Kos B'racha/
The third cup of wine
Kos Eliayahu/The cup of Elijah, and his story
Kos Hartsa-a/
The fourth cup of wine
Nirtzah/Acceptance with silence/A pause for meditation
Eliayahu Hanavi/
Elijah the Prophet (A song sung at farewells)
A different kind of hero on a different kind of quest To celebrate the process of Search and Reunion by an adult adoptee (or immigrant or convert or spiritual seeker), I blended the biblical story of Moses with commentaries on it from the Talmud and my own insights as an adoptee. At first recollection, the story of Moses may sound like an adoptive parent's worst nightmare, but....

The Story of Moses: An Adoption Haggadah
by Michele Kriegman, Copyright 1996

Introduction to the First Adoption Seder (Revised)

        Before we start, I want to tell you a little about the order of the seder, which, by the way, in Hebrew means "order." With its questions and four rounds of wine, the seder is based on the Greek symposium.
        With the first of our four cups of wine or juice, we "set" our table, making this space and time holy. We'll do that with blessings that we'll read together in English after the leader recites them first in Hebrew.
        Before the second cup of wine we pose four questions, the nature of which have varied over time and place for two millennia. I answer them, from an adoptee's perspective, with a new telling of the old story of the Exodus. What I've done is added stories, (or in Hebrew, midrashim) to the original story in the Bible. Some of the midrashim come from the Talmud, some come from the historian Josephus, and some are based on the feelings that are companions to an adoption, a search for kin or a reunion with birth family. These latter "adoption" midrashim I preface always with the word "perhaps."
        I have retold the story of Moses in the literary form of the haggadah. A haggadah is the traditional booklet for the celebration of Passover that recounts Moses' leading the Exodus out of Egypt. Also contained in a haggadah are psalms, prayers, songs and rituals. They all act like synapses that make the main story that much more deeply felt.

         I want to make a quick aside here: midrashim have a very long tradition in Judaism, as a way to elaborate on puns in a text, to give names to the unnamed or to explain inconsistencies. To give you an example, it's said in the Bible that Moses preferred to speak to Pharaoh and the Hebrews through an intermediary from his birth family, his brother Aaron. The rabbis came up with a midrash that explained Moses' reticence by saying that Moses was a stutterer. So later, when we go around the table taking turns reading from this text, if you'd rather not read aloud or if you stutter over a line, you should remember that you are following in the tradition of Moses.

        Then while we digest Moses' story, we ingest it literally by eating the symbolic foods on our table. Over the third cup of wine we will share the symbols of our own stories of adoption, search, and reunion.
        The biblical Moses was born a Hebrew, raised as an Egyptian, and married into the tribe of Midianites. Thus he can serve as an archetype for anyone who is trying to synthesize the two (or more) selves of a variegated background. Different readers of the story of Moses will bring different meanings to the words "Egyptian" and "Hebrew."
        For people who rediscover spirituality as Moses did, "Egyptian" may symbolize their secular side while "Hebrew" symbolizes their religious side.
For people who emigrate as Moses did, "Egyptian" may represent the people of their land of origin and "Hebrew" may represent the people of their Promised Land.
        For people who have an extended family of many faiths, "Egyptian," "Midianite," and "Hebrew" may each mean family to them. (And in this version of the Exodus story, not all the non-Jews are bad guys.)
But for people who were adopted like Moses and like me, "Egyptian" means adoptive home and "Hebrew" means birth heritage.

        For those of us who have found something to celebrate at the end of our Search, we say part of a prayer called Bareich before the fourth cup of wine. But for those who have not yet found an end to their Search, or who have found a truth to mourn at journey's end, we can only offer our company and acknowledge that pain. And we can hold out a hope for the coming of the Prophet Elijah who is said by Judaism, Christianity and Islam to be the harbinger of a perfect, messianic age.
        I hope this evening leads us higher than ourselves. I know that it could do the opposite by reducing the telling of one of the greatest epics of the Bible, the emancipation of an entire people, to a literary allusion, a mere psychological metaphor. The rabbis had a related concern: that if the telling were not carefully wrought, it would lead to the deification of Moses himself and detract from the message of monotheism. You can see how they resolved this problem when you read traditional haggadot; the name of Moses appears not even once, but the names of the Higher Power appear many times.
        I have knowingly accepted both these risks, especially in the interpretations of the Ten Plagues and in the addition to the haggadah of the Three Types of Leavetaking, in order to make the telling more intuitively true for an individualistic audience. Only by relating the grand event of the Exodus to the adoption, emigration and teshuvah of an individual named Moses and to the individual who is our self, do I think we can hear it more personally.
        I believe that our Searches, our teachings and our attempts to humanize adoption law can, in fact, lead us higher than ourselves. They are what we call, in Hebrew, tikkun olam. Tikkun olam means a repair of the broken parts of the world that brings us all a little closer to a messianic age. May this be an evening of tikkun olam for you.

~Michele Kriegman, April 1995

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