A young person asks; Why is this Seder different from all other Seders? In all other seders we tell the story of the liberation of human beings from oppression, from a Tight and Narrow Place. In this Seder we tell of the oppression of the earth itself and all its living beings.
An elder asks: Why is that we ask our children to ask these questions?
Someone says: : The answer to both these questions comes from the same teaching. For long ago the Prophet whose name was Malachi, "My Messenger" -- God's Messenger –-- taught: "Before the coming of the great and awesome day when YHWH, Yahh/ the Breath of Life, comes as a hurricane of danger, God will send us Elijah the Prophet, to turn the hearts of parents to children and the hearts of children to parents, lest the earth be utterly destroyed."
So tonight we seek to hear not only with our ears but with our hearts. We seek to hear our children ask us, and we seek to ask them, how to save the earth from the danger of destruction. And we set aside this final cup of grape juice so that when we drink it we become Elijah, turning our hearts to each other.
[Pour a special cup for Elijah, to set in the center of the table.]
Someone says: These are not the only questions we could ask.. Any question is a way in. And every question is an act of freedom. So let us ask new questions, our own questions, even if we do not yet know the answers.
[Members of the community in their separate table-groups ask questions arising from their own life-experience about freedom, food and hunger, environmental degradation and healing, work and jobs, homelessness, war, etc. The more concrete the better.]
[A reader responds:] All this we do because we were slaves to Pharaoh in the Tight and Narrow Space, and YHWH / Yahh our God, the Breath of Life Who is the Wind of Change, brought us forth from there with a mighty hand and an arm outstretched to sow us as seed into the world.
[Why Bitterness? —: Turning workers into slaves. Someone reads:]
So the Tight Place made the Godwrestlers subservient with crushing-labor; they embittered their lives with hard servitude in clay and in bricks and with all kinds of servitude in the field all their serfdom in which they made them subservient with crushing-labor. (Exodus 1: 13-14.)
"Look," one Nicaraguan free trade zone worker says, "Some people might say, 'What are you all complaining about? Wouldn't you rather work in a factory even if the conditions are bad and you don't get paid much, than to have no job at all?' No. At least for me, as a woman, I work. I support my family and I like working. But that doesn't mean that gives other people the right to come and we always have to say, yes, yes, yes, for everything, and we'll have to be beaten and hit, just like a dog when it gets hit and it just moves its tail and it comes back. No, were not going to do that. That's like slaves. That's past time. We came to the point where we said, Its enough. And that's why we formed the union." --- Source: National Public Radio, August 18, 2000.
[Why Leavened or unleavened? — simple or puffed-up. Someone reads:)
Traditionally, in preparation for Passover, we carefully rid our household of "chametz," leavened bread and similar foods. Chametz can also symbolize "puffed-up" pride, greed and jealousy. On Passover, we each eat the simple bread to cleanse our minds and lives of "puffed-upness," to spring-clean ourselves as well as our surroundings. When we use coal and oil to warm ourselves, and let hot air blow out our doors and windows, that is "eating chametz," puffing ourselves up. When we drive an auto belching CO2 where we could bike or walk or share a train, that is "eating chametz," puffing ourselves up. When we burn fossil fuels because it is convenient and ignore that it is lethal, that is being addicted to chametz, even though it is killing human beings and large parts of our planet.
[Why tense or relaxed?]
[Someone speaks of how it feels to physically relax -- the connection of the loosened body to a sense of freedom.]
[Why dip twice? — first Into salt tears of Estrangement, then into the sweetness of Inclusion: ]
Said Pharaoh to his people: "Look, these foreigners, these strangers, these Godwrestlers, become more and mightier than we! Come now, let us use our wits against them, lest they become still more numerous, and then, if war occur, they be added to our enemies and make war upon us!" (Exodus 1: 9-10).
I have been working with a Colombian asylum detainee. The day she finally got out of INS jail, where she had been for nine months, she looked back at the windows of the jail to wave goodbye to the women she was leaving behind. They knew and she knew that the windows were too high for the inmates to see out of but they knew she would be able to see the windows from the street. So the women inside stood up on chairs and pressed their palms to the windows. We stood there in this miserable warehouse district of Queens looking at all these hands held high. — Anne Pilsbury, attorney
In the Bible's story of the Exodus, what are the plagues that resulted from Pharaoh’s oppression? And what are the plagues that result from the Pharaoh’s oppression today?
The plagues ruin the land and shatter its people. But they are not magical punishments upon the land or people rained down by a Super-Pharaoh in the sky. They are consequences of the Pharaoh's oppressive rule. They teach us: When rulers ignore human needs and destroy human lives, the earth itself writhes and rebels in agony.
The damage falls not on the powerful alone, but on us all. And so we pour from our glasses the juice of celebration, to affirm our grief at the sufferings of Mother Egypt.
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