The Passover Pine Cone - Putting Prisons on the Seder Plate
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The Passover Pine Cone - Putting Prisons on the Seder Plate
LEADER: We “pass over” pine cones every day. Inside each of these pine cones is among the most precious of all nuts – the pine nut. Most of us pass more pine nuts in a single day than one could count in a year. Yet, they remain hidden, unseen. Moreover, they’re nearly impossible to extract with our own hands. The pine cone “imprisons” its seeds, and only hard work on the part of nature compels it to open up. The cones of Fire Pines, for instance, are glued shut by resin, and only a raging fire can force the cone to release its seeds. Thus these seeds, the glorious pine nuts all around us, remain “out of sight, out of mind.”
We pass over prisons every day as well, and so rarely do we ever see what is inside. Inside U.S. prisons are approximately 25% of all prisoners in the world, despite that our country amounts to a mere 5% of the global population (United States Census Bureau and International Center for Prison Studies). People of Color constitute approximately 67% of the incarcerated even though they make up less than 37% of the U.S. population. Black men are imprisoned at more than 6 times the rate of White men (sentencingproject.org). Through inhumane, excessive punitive laws, unfettered institutional racism, and widespread ignorance and apathy, our system of laws and justice has lost its way: we have “recidivated” back into Egypt.
Leader holds up the Pine Cone from Seder Plate and continues.
LEADER: Therefore, this year we add a pine cone to our Seder Plate, as a reminder of mass incarceration and the work it will take to repair this injustice.
ALL: This Passover, we refuse to pass over the pine cone because we know that hidden inside is something precious.
LEADER: This Passover, we refuse to pass over our prisons because we know that inside is God’s most precious fruit of all: the human soul.
ALL: This Passover, we recognize that God passed over Israelite homes on the eve of their liberation for a reason: So that we, the community of Israel, will forever serve the continuous movement from darkness to light, cruelty to compassion, slavery to redemption.
Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melekh HaOlam Matir Asurim.
Blessed are You, Eternal Our God, who frees the captive. Amen.
Are you putting a pine cone on your Seder plate this year? Share it with us on social media with the hashtag #PassoverPineCone.
I write this year’s Prologue as Israel is going to the polls to decide whether to replace its present right-wing prime minister with the Zionist Union, a center-left political alliance. Whatever the outcome, chances are that Israel’s recent history of fractured politics and short-lived coalitions will probably continue. But why am I writing about Israel? you might ask. Aren’t there enough issues here at home for...
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Free people ask questions. We begin our Seder with questions. Although the custom is that the youngest at the table asks, tradition instructs that all must ask:
Ma Neeshtana ha-laila ha-zeh meekol ha-laylot? Sheh-bichol ha-laylot anoo ochleem chametz oo-matzah. Halailah hazeh chametz oomatz. Sheh-bi'chol ha-laylot anoo ochleem sheh-ar yerakot. Ha-lailah hazeh maror.
I will take you to be my people... ...
When we rise up from our Seder tables, let us commit ourselves to stamping out xenophobia and hatred in every place that it persists. Echoing God’s words when God said, “I take you to be my people,” let us say to those who seek safety in our midst, “we take you to be our people.” May we see past difference and dividing lines and remember, instead, that we were all...
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Charoset is our symbol of mortar, recalling the brutal work conditions experienced by the Israelite slaves in Egypt. This year, we introduce a Charoset recipe that includes pine nuts.
Makes approximately 5-6 cups Charoset:
4 medium sized granny smith apples, cored, peeled, and 1/4 inch diced
1 cup dates (about 15-20)
3/4 cup pine nuts
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 cup sweet red wine
To be read following the chanting of the Four Questions.
1. The Torah demands, “Justice, justice shall you pursue!” (Deut 16:20). What are the obstacles to fulfilling this commandment in the context of criminal justice?
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