The Very Hungry Sederpillar
Chaplain Daniel Coleman
Illustrated by Michelle Zar
Inspired by Eric Carle
In the light of the full moon, the very hungry Sederpillar sat down with her family
It began innocently enough, with a cup of wine, just like most other Jewish
celebrations. Grandpa introduced Kiddush by saying that it was the first of 4
cups they would be having that night. As a sign of freedom, we are to recline
while drinking each cup and eating matza at the seder.
“But why 4 cups?” wondered Sederpillar.
Dad responded that “according to tradition, each cup of wine corresponds to one
of the 4 matriarchs, while the 3 matzahs correspond to one of the patriarchs.”
“But why wine?” Sederpillar asked. “Why not 4 strawberries or 4 oranges?”
Mom explained that wine is used because on a night that celebrates our
freedom, we relish and relive our freedom to make choices. “It would be easy to
follow the example of Noah or Lot (Abraham’s nephew) who drowned their
sorrows in alcohol after witnessing devastation all around them, but when we
retell the story of our Exodus from Egypt and the suffering of 2 nations, we take
wine, a potentially negative force, and choose to use it to celebrate and elevate
our spirits.” Sederpillar wasn’t thirsty anymore, but she was still hungry.
Sederpillars have many hands (legs
really) to wash, so Urchatz seemed to
take a long time.
Finally, like the Priests who washed in
preparation for the Temple Service,
everyone finished washing in
preparation for Karpas. Sederpillar ate
the tasty parsley dipped in saltwater.
But she was still hungry.
Dad broke the middle matzah, and
Grandma explained that Yachatz reminds us of the splitting of the red sea.
Mom said “matzah symbolizes
both the bread of affliction
and the bread of freedom
so we break the
matzah into two
highlighting the dual
symbols. It's also a
symbol of how broken
we were in Egypt, and
that our search for
“That's why,” noted Dad, “we hide away a broken piece till Tzafun, meaning
hidden. Through the process of the seder, we acknowledge that God often
appears hidden from us and is hard to find - especially during difficult moments in
the narrative – the haggadah - of our lives.
It’s only much later, once we’ve had a chance to taste and celebrate our freedom
from internal or external constraints that God’s ways appear less hidden. Then
we can really thank and praise God as we do during the final stages of the seder:
Barech, Hallel, and Nirtzah.” After all this, Sederpillar was feeling no less
Sederpillar watched eagerly as the second cup of wine, honoring the matriarch
Rebecca, was poured.
As they began Maggid, Grandpa announced that they weren't going to be
drinking this cup for some time while they discussed some of the events that
shaped Jewish history, and, like the Talmudic Sages, questioned how to best
apply the lessons and symbols to their contemporary lives. Sederpillar was
hoping her hunger wouldn’t prevent her from successfully reciting the mah
She needn’t have worried. Proud of how well she read, Grandpa gave Sederpillar
some grapes and a lollipop to enjoy while the family proceeded with the rest of
Maggid, concluding with the 2nd
cup of wine. But she was still hungry.
It was almost time to eat. Before washing once again for Rachtzah, in
anticipation of Motzi & Matzah Grandma invited everyone to spend a few
minutes in silent reflection as they ate their matzah. She encouraged the
gathering to mindfully review the journey they had just discussed and celebrated
from slavery to freedom, and the burdens in their own lives that they'd like to feel
Sederpillar knew that the word Mitzvah derives from tzav meaning 'connection;'
Mitzvahs are opportunities to connect with our Creator, ourselves, and each
other. As she ate her matzah, Sederpillar recalled another teaching highlighting
the similarity between the words Matzah and Mitzvah, implying that our
observance of this special mitzvah to eat matzah on Pesach should make us
hungry to perform many more Mitzvahs.
Even after eating from both the top and middle matzahs, Sederpillar was still
Luckily, the meal was rapidly approaching. Sederpillar's Maror consisted of
romaine lettuce - a true delight, especially when dipped in her Grandma's
charoset. Were it not for Mom's insistence that they each come to the seder with
a shortlist of some of the bitter things that had happened to them in the last year,
Sederpillar might have found it hard to connect to the theme of bitterness.
Sederpillar enjoyed the next stage of the seder, Korech, comprising another nice
green leaf of lettuce sandwiched between more matzah. “Ultimately,” reflected
Dad, “bitterness and freedom are wrapped up in each other: those that feel
enslaved yearn to be free, and those fortunate enough to feel free must be
prepared to emerge from their cocoon and take up the cause of those that are
embittered and enslaved.” Sederpillar wasn’t hungry anymore, but she was tired,
and yearning for her cocoon.
After curling up on the sofa, Grandpa covered her with a blanket. She watched
her family begin the festive meal, Shulchan Orech, with the customary eggs and
started to feel queasy. As a strict vegan, even the thought of eating eggs gave
Sederpillar a stomach ache.
Grandma explained that eggs are a symbol of life and rebirth – the place where
our story begins. The egg provides another prompt to thank God for the gift of
life, and for transforming us from the confines of Egypt into a beautiful nation.
“Maybe that’s why it’s called the Egg-sodus,” joked dad.
Sederpillar had so much to digest; contemplating the responsibilities and
privilege of freedom, she finally fell asleep.
Glossary: The Haggadah’s 15 Steps
At the start of the Seder (meaning “order”) the 15 steps are often sung to a special melody. (This corresponds to 15 steps in the
Temple upon which hundreds of Levites would stand to accompany the Temple service with their music.)
1 Kadesh (Kiddush over 1st
Mitzrayim, the Hebrew word for Egypt, derives from Metzar, meaning narrow or constraint. Wine can help decrease our
inhibitions so that we can better imagine how to make an Exodus from the ideas and things that enslave us and prevent us
from being free.
2 Urchatz (Ritual hand washing)
3 Karpas (Eat a green vegetable)
Symbolic of Spring and new life we dip in salt water - reminiscent of the tears shed by Jews in Egypt and throughout
4 Yachatz (Dividing the middle matza)
One piece, representing the “bread of affliction,” is eaten later for the Mitzva of Matza (step #8) while the larger piece is
(sometimes hidden, and) eaten at the end of the meal (Afikoman,”Desert”).
5 Maggid (Storytelling)
Tell the Exodus story with a focus on examining what enslaves us today. By inviting the youngest to recite the Mah
Nishtanah, we remind all participants that questioning is an ancient Jewish practice, central to developing our knowledge
6 Rachtzah (Ritual hand washing before matza)
7 Motzi (Blessing before bread/matza)
Say Hamotzi while holding the 3 matzas (minus the piece broken from the middle one for Afikoman).
8 Matza (Special blessing for seder night)
Eat part of the top and middle matzas.
9 Maror (Bitter herbs)
Lettuce leaves or stalks are eaten after dipping into Charoset (a mix of nuts, apples, cinnamon, and sweet wine). Some
10 Korech (Sandwich)
Eat the bitter herb together with (the lower) matza.
11 Shulchan Orech (Meal!)
Many have the minhag (custom) to begin the festive meal with an egg dipped in salt water.
12 Tzafun (Eat the Afikoman - “desert”)
The afikoman symbolizes the Pesach Sacrifice eaten at the end of the meal during the Temple era.
13 Barech (Grace after meals)
The 3rd cup of wine is drunk after saying grace over it. The cup of Elijah, the Prophet of redemption, is filled. (A Chassidic
custom involves each participant contributing from the remainder of their 3rd
cup to fill Elijah’s. This symbolizes the need
for each of us to make our own personal contribution to redemption.)
14 Hallel (Songs of Praise)
We recite the latter part of Hallel (having begun it in step #5). This selection of Psalms is used as special praise for God
and imagines the joy of a redeemed/ free world.
15 Nirtzah (Acceptance)
We conclude with a prayer that we conduct the next Seder in Jerusalem, followed by celebratory songs.
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