As I anticipate in leading the Seder at my home next week, I also reflect upon the Seders I attended as a child, and some of the memories that remain with me. I recall the people who were present. I recall where each person was seated. And I still remember the places where the Afikoman would be hidden each year.
And I recall a ritual of our Seder that you probably also recall. It comes prior to the meal when we recount the Ten Plagues that were brought upon Egypt. We would take our pinky finger, and with the recitation of each plague, we would dip our finger into the wine glass and spill a drop of wine.
And the reason for this custom? An old rabbinic teaching tells us that as the Israelites had come through the parted sea that the water returned to its natural state and swallowed up the pursuing Egyptian army. According to the story, the angels in heaven celebrated and rejoiced at this moment, causing God to reprimand them: “They too are my children, and as they perish, you dare not celebrate!”
These spilled drops of wine are symbols of sensitivity and feeling. They remind us that our cup of joy is not full when others suffer. Our cup is not full so long as our world knows plagues of hunger, poverty, homelessness, cruelty, war, bloodshed, bigotry, etc.
Those drops of wine that we will again spill from our cups: they speak an important message to us. Open yourself up to the needs of other people. Reach out to them, and be more generous with your own blessings! Do your part to fix some of the brokenness of our world.
May this coming Passover inspire us to again embrace the noble ideals that are our precious heritage. “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I?