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We pause in our celebration to remember the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, the Holocaust, and the ways that those in the present who choose to testify to the possibility of transformation become the focus of everyone’s anger and displaced frustrations, and eventually their murderous rage. Being a spiritual or moral vanguard is risky. No wonder it’s easier to assimilate into the celebration of money and cynicism about the contemporary world.
Tonight we remember our six million sisters and brothers who perished at the hands of the Nazis and at the hands of hundreds of thousands of anti-Semites — many of them Germans, Poles, Croatians, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians, Romanians, Hungarians, Austrians — who assisted those Nazis throughout Europe. We remember also the Jewish martyrs throughout the generations — oppressed, beaten, raped, and murdered by European Christians. And we remember tonight with pride the Battle of the Warsaw Ghetto, and the tens of thousands of Jews who resisted, fought back, joined Partisan units, or engaged in acts of armed violence against the oppressors.
It is not fashionable to speak about these atrocities, particularly because some reactionary Jews use these memories to legitimate human rights violations against Palestinians — as though they were still fighting the Nazis, as though shooting Palestinians angered by expulsion from or Israeli occupation of their homeland could somehow compensate for our own failure to have taken up arms soon enough against the Nazi oppressors. Others use the violence done to us as an excuse to be insensitive to the violence done to others — as though our pain was the only pain — or to legitimate a general “goyim-bashing” attitude based on a total distrust of non-Jews. But though the memories of past oppression are sometimes misused to support insensitivity to others, it is still right for us to talk about our pain, what was done to us, how unspeakable, how outrageous.
Permitting ourselves to articulate our anger — rather than trying to bury it, forget it, or minimize it — is the only way that we can get beyond it. So, tonight it is appropriate to speak about our history, about the Holocaust, and about the ways that the American government and peoples around the world failed to respond to our cries and our suffering. What was done to us was wrong, disgusting, an assault on the sanctity of human life and on God.
It is with righteous indignation that Jews have traditionally called out “Shefokh Chamatkha ha’goyim aher lo yeda’ukha” — pour out your wrath, God, on those people who have acted toward us in a way that fails to recognize Your holy spirit within us as it is within all human beings. Tonight we reaffirm our commitment to the messianic vision of a world of peace and justice, in which inequalities have been abolished and our human capacities for love and solidarity and creativity and freedom are allowed to flourish, in which all people will recognize and affirm in each other the spirit of God. In that day, living in harmony with nature and with each other, all peoples will participate in acknowledging God’s presence on earth. We remain committed to the struggles in our own time that will contribute to making that messianic vision possible someday.
Al nah tomar heeney darkee ha’achrona
Et or ha yom heesteru shmey ha’ananah
Zeh yom nichsafnu lo od ya’al veyavo
Umitz adeynu ode yareem ANACHNU POE
Do not say that we have reached the end of hope
Though clouds of darkness makes it hard for us to cope
The time of peace, justice and loving is still near,
Our people lives! We proudly shout that WE ARE HERE.
WELCOMING THE POSSIBILITY OF THE MESSIANIC AGE
We open the door for Elijah — the prophet who heralds the coming of the Messiah and a world in which all peoples will coexist peacefully — acknowledging the Image of God in one another. To deny the possibility of fundamental transformation, to be stuck in the pain of past oppression, or to build our religion around memories of the Holocaust and other forms of suffering is to give the ultimate victory to those who oppressed us. To testify to God’s presence in the world is to insist on shifting our focus from pain to hope, and to dedicate our energies to transforming this world and ourselves. We still believe in a world based on love, generosity, and openheartedness. We continue to affirm the Unity of All Being.
Eliyahu ha navee Eliyahu HaTishbee Eliyahu
Eliyahu Eliyahu HaGeeladee
Beem heyrah beyameynu, Yavoe eyleynu eem
mashi’ach ben David
Miriyam Ha nivi’ah Oz vezimrah beyadah
Miriyam Miriyam le taken ha’olam
Beem heyrah beyameynu Tavoe eileynu eem
Now let us build together a communal vision of what messianic redemption would look like.
Close your eyes and let some picture of messianic redemption appear in your minds. Then, open your eyes and share with others your picture of the world we want to build together.
Imagine there’s all kindness, it’s easy if you try
No Hell below us, above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today…
Imagine there’s no countries, it isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for, and no oppression too.
Imagine all the people, living life in peace
You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.
I hope someday you’ll join us…and the world will be as one.
Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger, a sisterhood of man.
Imagine all the people, sharing all the world
You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.
I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.
Imagine love is flowing, no scarcity of care
Holiness surrounds us, the sacred everywhere
Imagine awe and wonder, replacing greed and fear.
You may say we’re all dreamers, but we’re not the only ones
Tikkun and Spirit soaring, and the world will live as one!
Blessing over the fourth cup of wine.
Sing songs of liberation!
One element of the story of the exodus that the Roberts' version elides is God's hardening of Pharaoh's heart. Moses Maimonides (ca 1135 - 1204 CE) recognized this element of the story as a significant paradox since it seemed to suggest that God forced Pharaoh to make the wicked decisions that brought about the punishment of the plagues. As Maimonides recognizes, if this were so, then the notion that the plagues were a...
At Passover each year, we read the story of our ancestors’ pursuit of liberation from oppression. When confronting this history, how do we answer our children when they ask us how to pursue justice in our time?
WHAT DOES THE ACTIVIST CHILD ASK?
“The Torah tells me, ‘Justice, justice you shall pursue,’ but how can I pursue justice?”Empower him always to seek pathways to advocate for the...
THESE WORDS ARE DEDICATED TO THOSE WHO DIED
Because they had no love and felt alone in the world
Because they were afraid to be alone and tried to stick it out
Because they could not ask
Because they were shunned
Because they were sick and their bodies could not resist the disease
Because they played it safe
Because they had no connection
Because they had...
On this night we retrace our steps from then to now, reclaiming years of desert wandering.
On this night we ask questions, ancient and new, speaking of servitude and liberation, service and joy.
On this night we welcome each soul, sharing stories of courage, strength, and faith.
On this night we open doors long closed, lifting our voices in songs of praise.
On this night we renew ancient...
Why is there no orange on our Seder plate?
In the early 1980s, while speaking at Oberlin College Hillel, Susannah Heschel was introduced to an early feminist Haggadah that suggested adding a crust of bread on the Seder plate, as a sign of solidarity with Jewish lesbians (there's as much room for a lesbian in Judaism as there is for a crust of bread on the seder plate). Heschel felt that to...
This song was written to be part of Fiddler on the Roof, but was cut from the show before it made its Broadway debut for being too slow, and comic at a moment in the show when the people of Anatevka are experiencing tragedy. It imagines a world in which the Messiah is coming, but lost, and worried about us.
Words and music by Sheldon Harnick
When Messiah comes he will say to us,
“I apologize that I...
I will deliver you...
Just as we remember all of the times throughout history when the nations of the world shut their doors on Jews fleeing violence and persecution in their homelands, so, too, do we remember with gratitude the bravery of those who took us in during our times of need — the Ottoman Sultan who welcomed Spanish Jews escaping the Inquisition, Algerian Muslims who protected Jews during...
A Meditation on the Four Children
by Rabbi Brant Rosen
As Jews, how do we respond when we hear the tragic news regularly coming out of Israel/Palestine? How do we respond to reports of checkpoints and walls, of home demolitions and evictions, of blockades and military incursions?
It might well be said that there are four very different children deep inside each of us, each reacting in his or her own...
"Let All Who Are Hungry"
We are wired to give.
One of the worst feelings in the world is not being needed by others.
I once asked a group of high school kids: "When was the last time you felt really good about yourselves?" Each responded by sharing an act of kindness and selfless giving.
But a slave has nothing to offer. Drained of...
Use this piece in tandem with the telling of the Exodus story. Think about the connection between the Jewish story of Exodus from Egypt to more contemporary examples of persecution and forced migration. How did the formation of the territory now known as the United States depend upon the forced migration of people already residing on the land?
The Hebrews’ Exodus from Egypt is a climactic...
The question of why we eat maror would at first glance appear to be an obvious one. When I probe a little deeper, however, two questions emerge for me. First, why would I want to evoke pain and suffering on a night when I want to feel celebratory? My second question goes to the ritual itself. How is eating lettuce or horseradish supposed to help me experience or relate to the bitterness of slavery? No matter how much...
More Clips from Rabbi Michael Lerner
Break the middle matzah on the matzah plate.
We break the matzah and hide one part (the Aﬁkomen). We recognize that liberation is made by imperfect people, broken, fragmented — so don’t be waiting until you are totally pure, holy, spiritually centered, and psychologically healthy to get involved in tikkun (the healing and repair of the world). It will be imperfect people, wounded...
We wash our hands, without saying the blessing. Each person washes the hand of the person next to her (pouring it over a bowl). Imagine that you are washing away all cynicism and despair, and allow yourself to be ﬁlled with the hope that the world could be really transformed in accord with our highest vision.