This orange, what is its meaning? The orange is not part of everyone's Seder plate, nor is it part of the traditional Seder plate. But Judaism is an ever-evolving religion, and many families now add an orange to the Seder plate as a way of acknowledging the role of Jews who feel marginalized within their community. Professor Susannah Heschel first spread the use of an orange on the Seder plate within the past few decades. She would ask each attendee to take a segment of the orange and would then make the blessing over the fruit. After the blessing, all would eat their segment as a gesture of solidarity with all Jews around this orange-shaped world. The orange seeds, being the part of the fruit that is not sweet, represent homophobia, bigotry, racism, and general intolerance. Once the segment is eaten, all spit out the orange seeds onto their plates, to show that they reject such bigotry and accept all Jews and all Peoples into their lives. (Alternatively, if using seedless oranges, the rind could be left behind, symbolizing that we leave behind that part of the orange which, like such intolerance, is not pleasant.)
On Passover, we especially remember how long ago, we were discriminated against and enslaved. But even in more recent times, we have suffered from anti-Semitism. Many think anti-Semitism ended with the Nazi Holocaust or the Soviet pogroms. But in reality, anti-Semitism continues to this day, from the Middle East where Jews are killed or imprisoned for their faith by extremist regimes and terror organizations, to the streets of the United States where Judaism is targeted in hate crimes more than any other religion. Hate crimes against any faith or group are a horrible tragedy that must be beaten back, but hate crimes against Jews are largely underreported and ignored.
In the Torah, we are called to love each other as we love ourselves, and to not hold a grudge against each other. How much more important is it that we treat all Jews, and all people, in the ways the Torah commands, when we are constantly facing hatred from outside sources? We all deserve to feel love. And the way that we ensure that those around us feel loved, is to treat them as the Torah commands. And so, we say the blessing and then eat the sweet oranges and leave the bitterness of intolerance behind.
Blessed are you, Lord our God, Sovereign of the World, Creator of the Fruit of the Tree.
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