Pesach Sermon by Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater
Please Donate to Haggadot.com
We rely on support from users just like you! Please donate
today to keep maintaining this free resource!
Customandcraft.org is a fiscally sponsored project of Jewish Jumpstart (EIN: 26-2173175) which is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt California public benefit corporation. Your gift is tax deductible to the
extent allowed by law.
Thank you for your donation.
Landscape / Booklet
Print Update coming in 2017
Share this Clip with your friends, family,
community and social networks with just one click.
Copy and paste the URL of this Clip to share or view.
Open in new window
Share This Clip on Social Networks
Pesach Sermon by Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater
It is very sad that we have an expert on modern-day slavery in our world, but E. Benjamin Skinner is that person. He has been writing and studying slavery since 2001 and I begin with a chilling excerpt from a March 23, 2008 op-ed that he wrote in the LA Times:
Let me be clear: By "slaves" I mean, very simply, those who are forced to work, un- der threat of violence, for no pay beyond subsistence. That is the nice, neat, horrible defi- nition I have used since I began studying the subject in 2001. In the United States today, we tend to use the word "slave" loosely. Merriam-Webster offers as its first definition of the word, "drudgery; toil."
But that's not what slavery is, as Rambho Kumar can attest. Kumar was born into wilting poverty in a village in Bihar, the poorest state in India, the country with more slaves than any other, according to U.N. estimates. In 2001, desperate to keep him and his five brothers from starving, his mother accepted 700 rupees ($15) as an advance from a local trafficker, who prom- ised more money once 9-year-old Rambho started working many miles away in India's carpet belt.
After he received Rambho from the trafficker, the loom owner treated his new acquisition like any other low-value industrial tool. He never allowed Rambho and the other slaves to leave the loom, forcing them to work for 19 hours a day, starting at 4 in the morning. The work itself tore into Rambho's small hands, and when he whimpered in pain, the owner's brother stuck his finger in boiling oil to cauterize the wound -- and then told him to get back to work. When other boys attempted escape or made a mistake in the intricate de- signs of the rugs, which were destined for Western markets, the owner beat them sav- agely.
On July 12, 2005, local police, in coordination with activists supported by Free the Slaves, an organization based in Washington, liberated Rambho and nine other emaci- ated boys.
I've met and talked with slaves and former slaves like Rambho in a dozen countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Romania, India, Sudan and Haiti. The International Labor Organization of the United Nations estimates that in Asia alone, there are about 10 million slaves.
While Passover is mostly associated with the wonderful foods and flow of the Seder, fam ily and friends coming together, finding the Afikomen and not eating chametz, the deepest and most profound issue at the heart of this holiday is slavery, past and present. Over and over again, more than any other matter in the Torah, we are reminded that we were once slaves in the land of Egypt and so we must take care not to treat others as slaves, or allow slavery to exist in our world, for we know what it was like to be those slaves. And yet, for all of the amazing free- doms and liberties that we have gained, especially here in the United States, we will sit down to our sederim this year with the knowledge that over 27 million human beings today, 2010, are slaves. I would imagine that the majority of us would find this horrifying and unbelievable, so the question for our sederim this year is: are we are aware and what can we do about it?
The Mishnah in Pesachim 10:5 gives us one of the more challenging tasks of the seder, dare I say of the whole Pesach experience: “In every generation, we are obligated to see our- selves as if we personally went out from Egypt.” We read this in the haggadah, but do we embody it? I know that I often ask people to think about the things in our lives that we are “enslaved to,” such as time, technology, bad habits, fear, etc. For us moderns, this is as close as many of us can come to feeling like a slave. And while this is an important exercise to engage in, perhaps we can take it further this year and spend more time talking about the fact that we live with slaves in our midst. In fact, low-end Justice Department estimates speculate that there are at least 60,000 people in America living as hidden slaves. Commenting on the above mishnah, Maimonides teaches us, “Remember you were a slave means, 'it is as though you personally were a slave and went to freedom and were redeemed.'” While we might not be actual slaves ourselves, we live in a world that accepts slavery, if not outright then tacitly, and Rabbi Heschel implores us to remember, “In a free society, some are guilty but all are responsible.” We should all be talking about this issue of modern day slavery at our sedarim this year.
How could this have happened? How could we arrive at the 21st century and have more slaves today than ever before in history? Just sixty years after the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights, article 4 proclaimed, “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms,” we wake up to find ourselves not living in a world of our dreams and hopes, but rather we find ourselves in a world of our greatest nightmare and fears. Passover is a time to shake ourselves free from the doldrums of habit, passive acceptance of evils and ills that we choose to pretend don‟t exist, and wake up not only to the rights of being a free people, but to the responsibilities of being free people. Our right to be free cannot manifest itself by enslaving others, but that is sadly what has happened in our world. When we talk about these issues, push ourselves to face the ugliness that exists, we bet-ter ourselves and have the chance to better our world. Action begins with awareness.
To that end, I would like to close by returning to the expert, E. Benjamin Skinner, and a more recent article he wrote for Time magazine, highlighting the sex-slave trade that exists in South Africa. In a January 18, 2010 piece, Skinner writes, “While most [slaves] are held in debt bondage in the poorest regions of South Asia, some are trafficked in the midst of thriving development. Such is the case here in Africa's wealthiest country [South Africa], the host of this year's World Cup. While South Africa invests billions to prepare its infrastructure for the half-million visi- tors expected to attend, tens of thousands of children have become ensnared in sexual slavery, and those who profit from their abuse are also preparing for the tournament. During a three-week investigation into human-trafficking syndicates operating near two stadiums, I found a lucrative trade in child sex. The children, sold for as little as $45, can earn more than $600 per night for their captors. "I‟m really looking forward to doing more business during the World Cup," said a trafficker. We were speaking at his base overlooking Port Elizabeth's new Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. Already, he had done brisk business among the stadium's construction workers.”
As the world has done before, we are going to send millions of people, billions of dollars and invite the world to watch an international sporting event right in the heart of a city and country that is enslaving its children, participating in one of the uglier sides of our global underbelly. “In every generation, we are obligated to see ourselves as if we went forth from Mitzrayim.” This year, we owe it to the more than 27 million human beings, including millions of children, to truly acknowledge that slavery exists, take responsibility and then take action. I would urge you to have cards at your seder with the name of President Obama's Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking, Luis CdeBaca, and ask them to contact him and express deep concern about the World Cup being held in a country where slavery is so prevalent. (http:// www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/biog/124083.htm) Let us not avert our eyes for the sake of entertainment and business; let us see the world with the eyes of God this Passover and speak out against in- justice and slavery.
The Haggadah is the ultimate storybook of our people and within it we tell our own stories. We tell the stories of our families, the hopes and fears, dreams and realities; all are welcome at the seder. We stay up late into the night because our stories are so rich, so meaningful, so important to tell. We tell our children the stories so they know where they came from, how they made it to this moment in life, a story that begins with us being freed from Egypt and going forth into a relationship with God and humanity. We all like stories with happy endings, yet that is not always the reality in our world.
This Passover, please tell the story of Rambho Kumar, who I began with, because nobody will know about him if we don‟t tell his story. E. Benjamin Skinner cannot be the only one telling these stories. As Jews, we found freedom from slavery and were commanded to work to free others. There is much work to be done. May this Passover inspire us to work harder, speak louder and act bolder. Chag Sameach!
For more texts and resources on slavery in Jewish thought, visit www.truah.org
Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater is the senior rabbi of Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center in Pasadena, CA. Read more of his writings at www.pjtc.net.
Pour the Second cup: resistance to oppression [Read:] In every generation, a Pharaoh rises up to enslave us. In every generation, every human being must seek to free the community anew. [All join in singing:] When Israel was in Egypt's land, Let my people go; Oppressed so hard they could not stand, Let my people go! (Chorus:) Go down, Moses, 'Way down in Egypt's land; Tell ol' Pharaoh, Let my people go! Thus...
The Wicked Child
I read the haggadah backwards this year
The sea opens,
the ancient Israelites slide back to Egypt
like Michael Jackson doing the moonwalk
Freedom to slavery
That’s the real story
One minute you’re dancing hallelujah,
shaking your hips to the j-j-jangle of the prophetesses’ tambourines,
the next you’re knee deep in brown...
Jews from Spain, Italy, Sicily, Morocco, Tunisia, and Sardinia would bring the Seder plate to the table with ceremony. Sometimes, they would cover it with a nice scarf and sing as it arrived to the table. They would pass it from person to person around the table, and place it on each head for a moment. This demonstrates that we were once slaves in Egypt and carried heavy burdens on our heads. In...
Los 4 hijos son un "simbolo" de pesaj. Esta el Sabio, El Malvado, El Simple y El que no sabe preguntar.
El sabio pregunta: cuales son todas las mitzvhot de pesaj? el mayor responde con todo detalle cada una de ellas
El malvado pregunta: que es esto que hacen ustedes? el padre responde: ustedes!? como que ustedes? si vos tambien sos judio, si no fuese por D'os que nos saco de egipto, no estuvieramos...
Jill Levore's book Ghettoside argues that black boys are being murdered by their peers and their murders are being ignored by the police. In following the stories of a few victims in LA she finds the good cops among the indifferent and explores how a distrust in the police and a disbelief that the police would work for the community leaves disaster in its wake.
A discussion can take place regarding with which of the four children each guest identifies most, followed by a consideration of which populations are currently "unable to ask," who might be considered "simple," and more. Examples for a new set of four children may include:
One who sees the pain of others and works to relieve suffering.
One who cares only about him/herself.
One who cares only about...
Water is refreshing, cleansing, and clear, so it’s easy to understand why so many cultures and religions use water for symbolic purification. We will wash our hands twice during our seder: now, with no blessing, to get us ready for the rituals to come; and then again later, we’ll wash again with a blessing, preparing us for the meal, which Judaism thinks of as a ritual in itself. (The Jewish obsession with food is...
Let us all refill our cups.
Leader picks up cup for all to see.
This is the cup of hope.
The seder tradition involves pouring a cup for the Hebrew prophet Elijah. For millennia, Jews opened the door for him, inviting him join their seders, hoping that he would bring with him a messiah to save the world.
Yet the tasks of saving the world - once...
Super-kosher Manischewitz, Exodus and Moses
(to the tune of "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious")
Super-kosher Manischewitz, Exodus and Moses
The story of the Passover our Seder meal discloses
Reminds us that the life of slaves was not a bed of roses
Super-kosher Manischewitz, Exodus and Moses
Um diddle diddle diddle um diddle ai
Um diddle diddle diddle um...
More Clips from Truah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
Hamotzi thanks God for bringing bread from the earth. This bread results from a partnership between God and humanity: God provides the raw materials and people harvest, grind, and bake. So too must we remember that combating human trafficking requires partnerships: among survivors, allies, lawyers, social workers, law enforcement, diplomats, people of faith…the circles of involvement are...
Our hands were touched by this water earlier during tonight's seder, but this time is different. This is a deeper step than that. This act of washing our hands is accompanied by a blessing, for in this moment we feel our People's story more viscerally, having just retold it during Maggid. Now, having re-experienced the majesty of the Jewish journey from degradation to dignity, we raise our hands in holiness, remembering...
The beauty of Urchatz was revealed to me during a women's seder. Each participant washed the hands of another with care and kavanah (intentionality)—and without words. The sisterhood created in the sacred silence elevates communal consciousness. How will we utilize this state of purity? V'ahavtah l're'echa kamochah - to love the other as ourself.
How will this ancient wisdom propel us...