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Matzah, unleavened bread, reminds us both the bread of poverty that the ancient Israelites ate in Egypt and the bread of freedom that they ate in their rushed escape to freedom. Three matzot sit on a plate at the center of the table. At this point of the seder, we break the middle matzah in two, wrap one portion in a napkin, and set it aside, hidden from sight.
This division reminds us of the forced separation of communities and families, parents from children, spouses and siblings from each other. The visible half becomes our bread of affliction, representing the suffering of those who do not know where their loved ones are. The hidden half, called the afikoman, represents the horrors hidden from our sight. At the end of the seder, we look for the afikoman, and similarly commit to seeking redemption. Until families and communities become one whole again, our seder cannot truly end.
I am 38 years old, married and a father of two children. I was born in Niala, South Darfur. My father was murdered during an attack on our village in 2003. We had to run away and seek refuge in the “Kalma” refugee camp. My mother, wife and children still live there until today. I miss them very much and I don’t know what their situation is. I came to Israel to seek protection but I was imprisoned. I have been in prison for almost two years. I don’t want to be in prison any more. –Testimony of A.A.M.S., 1/18/14 1
We pour a second cup, the cup of storytelling, and over it we begin to tell tales of Exodus old and new.
The Passover Seder is one of the most recognized and widely practiced of Jewish rituals, yet had our ancestors visited one of these modern-day celebrations, they would be baffled. Not only does our modern Seder wildly diverge from the Passover of old: during antiquity itself the holiday underwent radical changes.
As the centralized Israelite state took shape about 3,000 years ago, the religion of the people...
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...
by Stanley Kunitz
Summer is late, my heart.
Words plucked out of the air
some forty years ago
when I was wild with love
and torn almost in two
scatter like leaves this night
of whistling wind and rain.
It is my heart that's late,
it is my song that's flown.
Outdoors all afternoon
under a gunmetal sky
The MaNishtana traditionally asks us, “What is unique or different about tonight?” and, “Why do we eat Matzah, why do we dip and eat Bitter Herbs not just once, but twiceand why do we recline?” These elements are symbolic themes that mirror the reflection our ancestor’s liberation from slavery, the hardships they experienced and theoppression that infringed on their freedoms. Tonight at our GLBT Passover Seder...
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...
The olive branch is a universal symbol of peace, associated with the dove in the story of Noah's Ark and the Flood.
Olive trees mature slowly, so only when there was an extended time of peace, with agriculture left undisturbed, could the olive tree produce its fruit. In 2008, Jewish Voice for Peace promoted putting an olive on the seder plate as part of its Trees of Reconciliation project, which sought to donate...
Once upon a time, during a famine our ancestor Jacob and his family fled to Egypt where food was plentiful. His son Joseph had risen to high position in Pharaoh’s court, and our people were well-respected and well-regarded, secure in the power structure of the time.
Generations passed and our people remained in Egypt. In time, a new Pharaoh ascended to the throne. He found our difference threatening, and...
“Gentrification: “It’s not about race...” by Lindsay Foster Thomas, posted on the York and Fig blog on January 6, 2015.
There’s no doubt about it. I am a gentrifier. So, why don’t I feel like one? Maybe no one really does, but if I may be honest, I think it’s because I’m African-American. Does that mean I get some kind of free pass to gentrify without it weighing on my conscience? Not even a...
"For me, the recent meaning of Passover in my life has been a reclaiming of the seder ceremony away from the patriarchal tradition. My children may remember the seders of their early childhood, conducted by their grandfather entirely in Hebrew, incomprehensible to most in attendance, unvarying from year to year, except for how long it took until the children were sent away from the table for giggling. Before that, there...
O ur hands are the primary tools to interact with our environment. They generally obey our emotions: Love, fear, compassion, the urge to win, to be appreciated, to express ourselves, to dominate. Our emotions, in turn, reflect our mental state.
But, too often, each faculty of our psyche sits in its cell, exiled from one another. The mind sees one way, the heart feels another and our...
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...