Chayav adam lirot et atzmo k’ilu hu yatza mimitzrayim. Each person must see themselves as though they came out of Mitzrayim
Tonight we come together, as Jewish communities have for countless generations, to retell an ancient story. But while the story is old, we come together with a new purpose, to tell the story firmly planted in and committed to the reality that we are the mixed multitude. We tell this story today together as part of our collective fight for racial and economic justice, for collective liberation, and for the expanse of freedom.
Tonight we celebrate the freedom of the Israelite slaves. And we imagine for ourselves today: What would the world look like if everyone was free? In the narrative of the haggadah, we wonder: what is the moment of freedom? Is freedom achieved? Are liberation and freedom the same? And: at whose expense does Israelite freedom come? Is the exodus of the mixed multitude from Mitzrayim a moment of collective liberation, involving Egyptians and other non-Israelites suffering under Pharaoh’s rule? Or does collective liberation also demand the liberation of Pharaoh from his hardened heart and the fortress of power around him?
Our tradition tells us: “B’chol dor vador chayav adam lirot et atzmo k’ilu hu yatza mimitzrayim. In every generation, each person must see themself as if they had come out of Mitzrayim.” As though we ourselves are coming into liberation during this time. As we celebrate our own freedom tonight, we will think about people whose freedom has yet to be won and the ways in which we ourselves are still not free. For we know from Fannie Lou Hamer “the changes we have to have in this country are going to be for liberation of all people—because nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”1 Maybe this is the core of our tradition of returning to this story every year, of telling it as though we ourselves were there. We do it to remind ourselves: our freedom is bound up in collective liberation.
The traditional haggadah ends with “next year in Jerusalem.” Tonight, we will end ours with: Next year, in freedom. It voices our deepest aspirations: that freedom and liberation will come speedily, and in our days. And, also, it reminds us that there will likely be a “next year” of the struggle to continue on in, until we are all free.
This haggadah we’re using tonight is based on the traditional one, but is meant to be interrupted, questioned, embellished and edited. The five of us writing this haggadah are diverse in race, class, gender identity, sexual orientation, and Jewish experience, but all come from Ashkenazi traditions. We invite you to adapt the seder to include your own traditions and to meet the needs of your communities. For those of you who have never been to a seder before, it is a collective activity, a communal storytelling. This this ritual belongs to all of us.
1 Hamer, Fannie Lou. “Nobody’s Free Until Everybody’s Free,” (Speech Delivered at the Founding of the National Women’s Political Caucus, Washington, D.C., July 10, 1971). In The Speeches of Fannie Lou Hamer: To Tell It Like It Is, edited by Maegan Parker Brooks and Davis W. Houck, University Press of Mississippi, 2011. 134–39.
(The mixed multitude, or רב ערב, comes from Exodus 12:38. In the Israelites departure from Mitzrayim, the biblical text says: “moreover, a mixed multitude went up with them.” A mixed multitude of others - Egyptians and others living in Mitzrayim who, like the Israelites, needed to escape from the narrow place. We have always been a mixed multitude. Throughout this haggadah, when possible we use “Mitzrayim” instead of “Egypt.” In this time of antiArab racism against non-Jewish Arabs and against Mizrahim (Jews of Arab descent), it is not generative to focus our story of liberation on just one Arab/North African location - but rather to understand Mitzrayim as a metaphor for the narrow, stuck state of injustice and oppression. A state that continues today.)
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