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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!
Traditionally, The Four Sons (or Children) include a wise son, a wicked (or rebellious) son, a simple son and one who does not even know enough to ask. Each of the first three ask questions about the Seder, essentially "Explain all this to me - what are my responsibilities?" "What has all this nonsense you are babbling about got to do with me?" and "What IS all this anyway?" while the fourth is silent - requiring the...
I wasn't one of the six million who died in the Shoah,
I wasn't even among the survivors.
And I wasn't one of the six hundred thousand who went out of Egypt.
I came to the Promised Land by sea.
No, I was not in that number, though I still have the fire and the smoke
within me, pillars of fire and pillars of smoke that guide me
by night and by day. I still have inside me the...
Not Just Handwashing
Ask for two volunteers: one to carry a pitcher of water and to pourwater over each guest’s hands, and one to carry a basin and a towel.
Use ice water to remember people who do not have warm water.
Have everyone take off their bracelets and rings, even wedding bands for the handwashing (or for the whole seder, to be returned when the afikomen is found) to...
From singing Dayenu we learn to celebrate each landmark on our people's journey. Yet we must never confuse these way stations with the goal. Because it is not yet Dayenu. There is still so much to do in our work of tikkun olam, repairing the world.
When governments end the escalating production of devastating weapons, secure in the knowledge that they will not be necessary, Dayenu.
When all women and men...
The Pesach story begins in a broken world, amidst slavery and oppression. The sound of the breaking of the matza sends us into that fractured existence, only to become whole again when we find the broken half, the afikoman, at the end of the Seder.
This brokenness is not just a physical or political situation: It reminds us of all those hard, damaged places within ourselves. All those narrow places from which we...
Back to basics, get rid of what is bloated and inflated
“Letting go means just what it says. It’s an invitation to cease clinging to anything- whether it be an idea, a thing, an event, a particular time, or view, or desire. It is a conscious decision to release with full acceptance into the stream of present moments as they are unfolding. To let go means to give up coercing, resisting or struggling, in...
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 ascribed...
As we remember this struggle, we honor the midwives who were the first Jews to resist the Pharaoh. our legends tell us that Pharaoh, behaving in a way common to oppressors, tried to get Jews to collaborate in murdering their own people. He summoned the two chief midwives, Shifra and Pu'ah, and commanded them to kill newborn Jewish males at birth. He threatened the midwives with death by fire if they failed to follow his...
[Begin taking turns reading. Each person is invited to read a grouped set of lines - or to pass.]
It is said, there is nothing new under the sun, yet nothing remains the same. Against the backdrop of eternity the earth displays an ever-changing countenance. The sun rises and the sun sets, yet each day and each season is fresh and new.
Slowly, one season emerges from another.
The harshness of...
by Emma Lazarus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
The beginning of the seder seems strange. We start with kiddush as we normally would when we begin any festive meal. Then we wash, but without a blessing, and break bread without eating it.
What’s going on here?
It seems that the beginning of the seder is kind of a false start. We act as if we are going to begin the meal but then we realize that we can’t – we can’t really...
By Rabbi Steve Gutow, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs Published on The Huffington Post on January 5, 2010
The New Year has begun and resolutions abound: lose weight, treat our family and friends better, eat more greens. As individuals, we resolve to do all kinds of things. But it is those commit- ments we resolve to do as a society which are both more difficult and...
The Paschal Lamb reminds us that the Holy One, praised be God, passed over the houses of our ancestors in Egypt.
The Matzah is to remind us that before the dough our ancestors prepared for bread had time to rise, God revealed the might, power and presence of God unto them and redeemed them.
The Bitter Herbs are to remind us that the Egyptians embittered the lives of our ancestors in...
EVERY JEWISH FAMILY produces a unique version of the Passover seder—the big ritual meal of traditional foods, served after and amid liturgy, storytelling, and song. We’re all surprised at each other’s customs: You eat lamb? You don’t sing “Chad Gad Ya”? And yet, virtually every seder does share a few common elements. Matzoh crumbs all over the floor. Wine stains on the tablecloth. A seder plate containing...
We are free, but we remember when we were slaves. We are whole, but we bring to mind those who are broken. The middle matzah is broken, but it is the larger part which is hidden. Because the future will be greater than the past, and tomorrow’s Passover nobler than yesterday’s exodus. The prospects for the dreamed future are overwhelming to the point of making us mute. So it is in silence, without blessing, that we...
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.