Night of Beginnings


Night of Beginnings

A Passover Haggadah

Marcia Falk

232 pages
Fully illustrated in color


March 2022


$19.95 Pre-order

About the Book

Night of Beginnings is a groundbreaking new haggadah for the Passover seder from acclaimed poet, translator, and liturgist Marcia Falk, beautifully designed and illustrated with original watercolor drawings by the author.
Unlike both traditional and new haggadahs, which do not contain a full recounting of the biblical story, Night of Beginnings presents the Exodus narrative in its entirety, providing a direct connection to the ancient origins of the holiday. This retelling highlights the actions of its female characters, including Miriam; Pharaoh’s daughter, who adopts the baby Moshe; and the midwives Shifrah and Pu’ah, who save the Hebrew male infants. Falk’s revolutionary new blessings, in Hebrew and English, replace the traditional, patriarchal seder blessings, and her kavanot—meditative directions for prayer—introduce a genre new to the seder ritual. Poems, psalms, and songs are arranged to give structural coherence to the haggadah. A new commentary raises interpretive questions and invites us to bring personal reflections into the discussion.

Like the author’s widely acclaimed previous prayer books, The Book of Blessings and The Days Between, Falk’s poetic blessings for the seder envision the divine as a Greater Whole of which we are an inseparable part. The inclusive language of Falk's blessings makes room for women to find and use their voices more full-throatedly than they were able to do with the male-centered prayers inherited from the early rabbis. Men, too, will encounter here a spiritually moving and thought-provoking experience.


Author Bio

Marcia Falk is a poet, translator, liturgist, and artist known widely for her groundbreaking prayer books The Book of Blessings and The Days Between, which re-create Hebrew and English prayer from an inclusive, nonpatriarchal perspective. Falk is also the creator of a volume combining her art and poetry, Inner East: Illuminated Poems and Blessings, and other books of poetry and translation, including a now-classic translation of the Song of Songs.


“How lovely to have a haggadah that makes central the biblical narrative that hovers over—but is absent from—the traditional haggadah. Those familiar with Marcia Falk’s transformational work on Jewish blessings will be delighted by her new blessings for all parts of the seder, while those not yet acquainted with her blessings will find them a revelation. This is a beautiful haggadah.”—Judith Plaskow, author of Standing Again at Sinai and coauthor, with Carol P. Christ, of Goddess and God in the World

“In Night of Beginnings Marcia Falk continues the brilliant, groundbreaking work she began in her Book of Blessings. Her poetic voice seamlessly combines a profoundly feminist orientation with deep reading of Jewish tradition, and her sometimes daring kavanot (directions of the heart) encourage fresh conversation to renew the seder experience for contemporary participants.”—Rabbi David Teutsch, editor of Kol Haneshamah Reconstructionist prayer books


Night of Beginnings once more reveals the liturgical genius of Marcia Falk. Her blessings honor classical Jewish tradition while celebrating a modern ethos that is feminist and inclusive. This magnificent haggadah will provide a spiritually enriching seder experience of unique depth.”—Rabbi David Ellenson, chancellor emeritus, Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion

“Poet and scholar Marcia Falk builds a luminous bridge between the old and the new, firmly mooring the modern ritual to the ancient biblical narrative and inspiring us with the preeminent story of the passage from slavery to freedom, from darkness to light.”—Yair Zakovitch, emeritus professor of Bible, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and recipient of the Israel Prize

“A prophet and founding mother of feminist Judaism, Marcia Falk has played a pioneering role in modern Jewish ritual and liturgy. Immersed in profound knowledge of the traditional sources and a fresh vision of Jewish worship, her writing has inspired worshippers, writers, and religious leaders for over four decades. Her newest gift, Night of Beginnings, is a work of wisdom, art, and love.”—Rabbi Dalia Marx, professor of liturgy, Hebrew Union College, Jerusalem

“Marcia Falk has lovingly gifted us with a poetic recounting of the biblical narrative along with eloquent rituals, blessings, and meditations. Pastel-colored pages invite readers to distinguish the book’s varied elements. Rather than illustrate her haggadah with yet more interpretations of centuries-old classic iconography, Falk adorns her celebratory text with her own elegantly drafted spring flora to create a gorgeous and exceptionally important haggadah.”—Mark Podwal, artist and recipient of the Foundation for Jewish Culture Achievement Award

“Every generation must see itself as leaving Egypt, and every generation must tell the story anew. In this resonant retelling, Marcia Falk weaves ancient passages with new poetic creations. Newcomers as well as those deeply engaged with Jewish ritual will discover the overflowing of Miriam’s and Elijah’s cups in this stunning haggadah.”—Rabbi Naamah Kelman, dean, Hebrew Union College, Jerusalem

Table of Contents

Introduction xiii
Notes for the Reader
Transliterations xxi
Proper Names xxii
Translations and Adaptations xxii
Tinted Pages xxiii
פתיחת החג
Hadlakat Nerot Ḥag Hapésaḥ: Lighting the Pesach Candles 2
The Journey: Lighting the Way (Kavanah) 7
Birkat Haz’man: Blessing of Time and Renewal (Sheheḥeyánu) 8
Change: The Flow of Life (Kavanah) 11
Birkat Habat, Birkat Haben: Blessing the Children 12
תחילת הסדר
The Seder Plate 17
The Seder Table 18
Kadesh Urḥatz: Order of the Night
Kadesh: Sanctification (Kiddush)
Birkat P’ri Hagéfen, K’dushat Hayom:
Fruit of the Vine, Hallowing the Day (First Cup) 22
Fruit of the Vine (Kavanah) 27
Urḥatz: Washing
Washing the Hands 29
Karpas: Spring Greens
T’vilat Karpas Va’akhilato:
Dipping and Eating the Spring Greens 30
Spring: The Birth of the Year (Kavanah) 33
Shirey Aviv Mim’gilat Shir Hashirim:
Spring Poems from the Song of Songs 35
Yáḥatz: Breaking
Breaking the Matzah, Hiding the Afikoman 45
Brokenness and Wholeness (Kavanah) 47
לקראת המגיד
Arba Hakushyot: The Four Questions 51
The Four Children 54
Sh’faḥot Va’avadim Hayínu: Once We Were Slaves 59
Ha Laḥma Anya: This Is the Bread of Affliction 63
Open Door (Kavanah) 66
Freedom and the Lives of Others (Kavanah) 68
B’khol Dor Vador: In Every Generation 71
Telling Oneself into the Story 75
Presentation of the Text 79
Overview and Themes 80
One: Enslavement in Egypt 82
Two: Miriam and the Women 82
Three: Moshe’s Calling 85
Four: Moshe, God, and Pharaoh—Confrontations 89
Five: Exodus from Egypt 93
Six: Miriam the Prophetess 98
Maggid: The Telling, Abbreviated 100
אחרי המגיד
Kos Miryam: Miriam’s Cup 106
Dayénu: It Would Have Been Enough 108
Nonetheless 111
What Is Enough? (Kavanah) 113
Birkat P’ri Hagéfen: Fruit of the Vine (Second Cup) 114
Hallel 1, T’hilot Ḥadashot: New Poems of Praise 117
Song of Joy 118
The Feast 119
Nishmat Kol Ḥay: The Breath of All Life 120
Hal’lu, Yif’at Tevel: Hal’lu, Beauty of the World
Roḥtzah: Washing
Washing the Hands 126
Motzi’ah/Matzah: Unleavened Bread
Birkat Haléḥem, Akhilat Matzah:
Blessing before the Meal, Blessing for Eating Matzah 128
Maror: Bitter Herb
T’vilat Maror Va’akhilato: Dipping and Eating the Bitter Herb 130
Sweet and Salt, Bitter and Sweet 133
Korekh: Sandwich
Eating the “Hillel Sandwich” 134
Shulḥan Orekh: Setting the Table
The Meal Is Served 135
Tzafun: Hidden
Eating the Afikoman 137
Concealment and Revealment (Kavanah) 139
Barekh: Blessing
Birkat Hamazon: Blessing after the Meal 140
Birkat P’ri Hagéfen: Fruit of the Vine (Third Cup) 142
Kos Eliyáhu: Elijah’s Cup 146
Who Was Elijah? (Kavanah) 148
The Promise of Elijah
Hallel 2, Mizmorey T’hilim: Psalms 153
B’tzet Yisra’el: When Israel Went Forth 154
Mah-l’kha Hayam: O Sea, What Alarms You 156
Y’varekh et-Bet Yisra’el: May the House of Israel Be Blessed 158
Hal’lu et-Adonay: Praise God, All You Nations 160
Min-Hametzar Karáti Yah: In Distress, I Called Out 162
Kol Rinah Vishu’ah: The Voice of Rejoicing 162
Pitḥu-li Sha’arey-tzédek: Open the Gates of Justice 162
Od’kha Ki Anitáni: I Give Thanks 164
Birkat P’ri Hagéfen: Fruit of the Vine (Fourth Cup) 166
Nirtzah: Fulfillment of the Seder
Birkat Hagéfen Ufiryah: Blessing of Fruitfulness 168
About the Songs 175
Ḥad Gadya: One Little Kid 176
Eḥad Mi Yodé’a?: Who Knows One? 188
Adir Hu: Mighty Is God 190
Karev Yom: Bring Near the Day 192

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