Years ago we did a Torah-Tuesday class on this, exploring the meaning and messages in the traditional songs of the Passover Seder. Many of those songs, especially Chad-Gadya and Who Knows One?, while not part of the Chabad Haggadah liturgy, are beloved end-of-Seder singing traditions to families and communities celebrating Passover all over the world.
But what do these post-Seder songs have to do with Passover? Most of them have nothing to do with Passover and say little or nothing about the holiday? How did they become traditional at the end of the Seder? What’s the connection?
Here’s a theory. All of these songs are pattern songs. They follow certain rhythms or chains, or are based on number sequences or follow alphabetical initials. But what does that have to do with Passover? Why is this especially relevant at the Seder?
That’s the thing. “Passover Seder” is an oxymoron. Pass-over means out of order, beyond order. And the Hebrew word Seder means order. So in a sense, the Passover Seder means “The Order of Out of Order” or the step-by-step of the quantum leap, or something like that. It feels contradictory but Judaism (especially Chassidic thought) thrives on balances and synthesized paradoxes such as these.
Yes, Passover is about a huge leap, but as Armstrong said on the moon: “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. Passover Seder mixes the giant leaps and small steps. Either alone won’t do it. While Passover celebrates Exodus with earth-shattering and sea-splitting miracles, its also the one holiday a year that we literally sing the TOC – Table of Contents, “Kadesh, Urchatz, Karpas, Yachatz” at the start of the Haggadah. When else do you ever sing a table of contents? Never! But Passover Seder reminds us that with all the leaps and miracles, it is a step-by-step process of personal redemption.
This might be where those Passover songs like Chad Gadya and Who Knows One and Adir-Hu come in. They remind us the importance of patterns and sequences and step-by-step, line-by-line, stanza by stanza. Don’t get too carried away with the four cups and reclining to forget that redemption is at once both wild and out of the box as well as one step at a time.