Selections from the Haggadah L'Yom Zekhuyot Shel Adam: A Human Rights Haggadah

Haggadah Section: Commentary / Readings

By Sheila Peltz Weinberg and Margaret Holub

From the Authors: At the June 2006 board meeting of Rabbis for Human Rights-North America, we both expressed an interest in creating liturgical forms that could be used in the Jewish world and beyond to help people think about human rights issues in general and the specific issue of torture....The idea of a Seder popped into our minds simultaneously. It is such a magnificent educational and ritual form. Why not use the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the central study text? The early rabbis realized that education must work on the senses and the heart as well as the intellect. We could also incorporate some of the sensual ritual moments developed by the rabbis to instill a deeper awareness of human freedom through retelling the story of the exodus from Egypt


After the reading and eating of Karpas, one person reads aloud:

We are about to pass around a glass of salt water. Each of us will be asked to drink deeply from that glass. The salt water is a symbol of the tears, the wounds, and the cruelty in our world today. Our tendency might be to shrink back from this taste of suffering. We might fear that we will be overcome by the grief. It might be tempting and safer to take a tiny sip and then turn away. We therefore call upon a source of receptivity and compassion that is much greater than our limited selves. We imagine this power as able to hold more than the greatest ocean. We know that we are connected to this power. We know it is much vaster and more spacious than our isolated and alone selves. We know this power will allow us to completely taste this bitter drink as we strive to witness and address abuse and cruelty of all kinds. We aspire to a courageous heart. We drink deeply.

Barukh Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melekh Ha-Olam (Nevarekh et M’kor Hayyeinu) Shehakol nihyeh bidvaro.

Blessed is the Source of Life, by whose word all things are created.

(Drink glass of saltwater.)

MAGGID—UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS On December 10, 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The first ten of its 30 articles are reproduced here. For the full text, go to

At the Seder, you might: – Read the entire Declaration aloud, taking turns around the table. – Ask everyone to read silently and pick one article that especially resonates to read aloud.

Article 1: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2: Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Article 3: Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 4: No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

Article 5: No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 6: Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7: All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 8: Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Article 9: No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 10: Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

MAROR Our ancestors gave us the bitter herb as a symbol of Mitzrayim/Egypt: enslavement, constriction, bitterness. Tonight we eat maror not only to remember but to taste bitterness, not only in the past but in the present, not only in our families and community but wherever the human body is assaulted, wounded, and deprived of dignity.

May the Source of Life protect and sustain all who are tortured or imprisoned without recourse, all who are fleeing oppression or who suffer on account of their gender, tribe, faith, or color or the way they express their truth. May their misery end speedily, and may they be redeemed.

Barukh Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melekh Ha-Olam (Nevarekh et M’kor Hayyeinu) Asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al akhilat maror.

Blessed is the Source of Life who has given us the sacred mandate to taste the bitter herb. (Maror is eaten.)

Foundation for Family Education, Inc.

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