There is an ancient tradition to start "shulchan orech," the much anticipated seder meal, with an egg* (a symbol of life/fertility) dipped in salt water (a symbol of stagnation/death). This reminds us of the circle of life, and that endings often mark beginnings. The seder egg thematically connects to the egg served at the seudat havra’ah – meal of recuperation (i.e. the meal served to mourners following burial) and also the seudah hamafseket – the meal prior to the start of Tisha B’Av that features an egg dipped in ashes.
Moments of personal and communal celebration are often tinged with intense sorrow due to the desire to share the moment with a loved one that died or is unable to be present. Our tradition creates opportunities and symbols to aid us in acknowledging our loss. On seder night the egg is our symbol, giving us permission to grieve on a night of celebration.
Some might find one (or both) of the following readings a helpful starting point for their own prayer or meditation prior to the start of their seder meal. You may wish to invite others present to answer "amen" after your recitation or to add their own prayer, metaphor, hope, pun, or reflection.
While holding, viewing, or dipping the egg:
Having experienced the personal/communal loss of __________ (pause to allow others to consider a loss) I/we/they have been swimming in a sea of grief, sometimes feeling as if I/we/they were drowning. We are about to dip an egg into ocean-like saltwater, and ask You to fulfill the words of the prophets “May Adonai Elohim wipe away tears from every face.” As we grieve, give us courage to emerge from our protective shells to embrace the love and support from others, while reminding us of Your protection and Your loving presence during moments when we feel distant and vulnerable.
Holy One, tonight we gather to celebrate a new season of hope and renewal, just as You gave a new lease of hope to our ancestors that had suffered bitterly in Egypt – a place of narrowness and constraint, a place where our individuality and creative expression were stifled. Help us as individuals and a community to incubate creativity and nurture new ideas. Help us to give birth to new life and energy that flourishes physically, emotionally and spiritually. At times in our history You openly stretched out Your hand, and at others You held back. Grant us the wisdom to know when, how and if, to intervene in the lives of our children, parents and friends – and when to seek support for ourselves. Provide us with a glimpse of our Promised Land and the comfort of seeing tears of celebration on the horizon, fulfilling the assurance (Psalm 126:5) that “Those who sow with tears, shall reap with joy.”
*Eggs play an implicit component in healing rituals e.g. certain communities organize gatherings of 40 people for challah-baking, others encourage spouses to pledge to increase the frequency of marital relations, and still others ask God to join and move heaven and earth to revive asick person.