They say my name means bitter water, or in other translations bitter sea. And why wouldn’t it? My first memories were watching my brother Moses’ basket floating away, pushed by our mother who saved him the only way she could — by giving him away. We were in hiding then; hiding from the laws of the land and the men who obeyed them. Bitter is the pain of subjugation and the laws we enforce upon our fellow human beings.

He sailed away along the currents of the Nile as I watched his fate crystallize. 

I never stood by when I could stand up. I got our Mother a position at the palace so she could nurse Moses and continue to be his source of life. While he lived as a Prince of Egypt, I lived in the shadows.

But in fact, it was I who cultivated the soil out of which Moses came to exist: 

Before Moses was born, the Pharaoh decreed to throw all Jewish males into the Nile. My father believed if sons had to be killed, it was futile to have more children, and he divorced my Mother. 

“But Father!” I exclaimed, “This makes you worse than Pharaoh. Pharaoh decreed the death of men; you decree the death of men and women. In Pharaoh’s world, there exists the possibility that new life will survive. In your world, life is destroyed before it even has the chance to be created.”

The understanding that women also have the right to exist in a world even where there are no men had completely escaped my father’s consciousness. Rather than cower to our oppressors, we chose to go forth with the creation of life.

Within the bitterness, the pain, there was a sliver of hope that we could continue to procreate, and shreds of life would survive. From our bitterness and our strife we marched on, imbued with hope, and my brother Moses was born.

Our story of adversity continued, as we begged to be freed from the chains of slavery, and the 10 plagues ensued. When even the plagues did not free us, God parted the Red Sea. And so we danced. I took my tambourine and led the women to sing and dance through this path towards freedom. The sliver of hope had actualized into a sea of promise.

Going back to my name — bitter water. While water is often bitter, it can also be sweet. Much of our story is shaped around water and like water, our story ebbs and flows, sometimes clear and other times muddy. Water is a source of life, as well as a source of change and transition. The currents of the Nile brought my brother to safety. When we crossed the Sea, it was the absence of water, the passage of dry land, that transitioned us to safety. The walls of the Red Sea defined and etched the path to the Promised Land.

And so when you drink the bitter water, let my spirit join with yours. Know that you make mistakes, and let them lead you forward. Turn to those around you and raise each other up. Drink your bitter water, and may it make you a fighter and leader, yes, but also
a singer and dancer. 

haggadah Section: -- Exodus Story
Source: LUNAR Haggadah 2023