Candle for Passover

Nirtzah, Part III: Chad Gadya

Hello dear readers,

I’ve been writing about my favorite part of the seder; that relaxed, low-key part of the seder where we’re three cups of wine in and we’re staring down the fourth, where the reading is long, but the finishing songs are show-stoppers. That’s right, we’re talking about hallel and nirtzah, also known as the seder’s late-late show. In this post, I will be writing about the closing number of the seder: Chad Gadya.

I love singing Chad Gadya at the end of the seder. While for Echad Mi Yodea I’m much more protective of my favorite tune, with Chad Gadya I’ll sing any tune as long as it’s catchy. Also, as long as there’s something unique for every animal or character in the song – it could be an animal noise (a bleat, a meow and a woof), or a funny mask or costume (there was a frightening mask for the angel of death one year!), or a poster or a funny voice or anything! Another difference from Echad Mi Yodea is that while that song can be done by singing each verse in one breath (not my minhag but I’ve tried it a few times, it can be fun and I get it), Chad Gadya needs space to let the whole song play out. Don’t rush this one! Let’s make sure to give the water, and the butcher, and the goat, and all the rest their due.

I love singing this song (or maybe performing is a better word), but I’m always struck by how delightfully weird this song is. Echad Mi Yodeah feels much more straightforward, a simple and repetitive song about numbers and matching them to important numbers in Judaism (five books of the Torah, eight days to brit mila, etc). But Chad Gadya, while having a simple story, is much more indirect, mysterious and allegorical. Why do we end the seder with a story about a stick that has its own willpower to hit a dog? It’s clear that the song is representing some higher concept, perhaps historical or spiritual or mystical, but what? It feels like every year I hear a new and interesting interpretation of what the song means, and every year I learn something new about the song, how it relates to the seder and how it relates to the Jewish people.

Oh, and of course I love the last, unofficial song of the pesach seder: Lshanah Haba B’Yerushalayim. Next year in Jerusalem! Next year may we be in a kosher Passover hotel in Israel, doing our one (singular!) seder and living in the homeland of the Jewish people!

More soon,


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