May the festival lights we now kindle,
Inspire us to use our powers
To heal and not to harm,
To help and not to hinder,
To bless and not to curse,
To serve You, O God of freedom.
Baruch atah Adonai, eloheynu melech haolam, shecheyanu, v'keymanu, v'higeeyanu, lazman hazeh.
Blessed are You, oh Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, who has kept us alive and well so that we can celebrate this special time.
In the light in which we see each other, all of us are different. It is our task to kindle the sacred fire within the human spirit that illuminates every life with love.
Between the Fires:
A Prayer for lighting Candles by Rabbi Arthur Waskow
We are the generation that stands
Between the fires:
Behind us the flame and smoke
that rose from Auschwitz and from Hiroshima;
From the burning forests of the Amazon,
From the hottest years of human history
that bring upon us
Melted ice fields, Flooded cities, Scorching droughts.
Before us the nightmare of a Flood of Fire,
The heat and smoke that could consume all Earth.
"Here! The day is coming
That will flame like a furnace, “
Says the Infinite YHWH / Yahhhh,
The Breath of Life --
when all the arrogant, all evil-doers,
root and branch,
will like straw be burnt to ashes.
Yet for those of you who revere My Name,
Yes! My Name, Yahhhh, the Interbreath of Life!
For them a sun of justice will arise
with healing in its wings / rays. . . .
“Here! Before the coming
of the great and awesome day
of YHWH/ the Breath of Life,
I will send you the Prophet Elijah
to turn the hearts of parents to their children
and the hearts of children to their parents,
lest I come and smite the earth with utter destruction."
(Malachi 3: 20-21, 23-24.)
Here! we ourselves are coming
Before that great and terrible day
of smiting Earth —
For we ourselves shall turn the hearts
Of parents to their children
And the hearts of children to their parents
So that this day of smiting
Does not fall upon us.
." (Malachi 3: 20-21, 23-24.)
It is our task to make from fire not an all-consuming blaze
But the light in which we see each other fully.
All of us different, All of us bearing
We kindle these candle-fires to see more clearly
That the earth and all who live as part of it
Are not for burning.
We light these fires to see more clearly
The rainbow in the many-colored faces of all life
Blessed is the One within the many.
Blessed are the many who make One.
Pour the first cup of wine and recite the blessing below as a group:
V’hotzeiti etchem. .. I will free you...
As we remember our own liberation from bondage in Egypt, we express gratitude for the ability to work as God’s partners in continued and continual redemption for today’s refugees and asylum seekers. As our wine cups overflow in this moment of joy, we hold out hope for the day when every person in search of refuge in every corner of the earth can recall a story of freedom, reflect on a journey to security from violence and persecution, and no longer yearn for a safe place to call home. Blessed are You, Adonai our God, who frees those who are oppressed.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָּפֶן
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, borei p’ree hagafen.
We praise God, Ruler of Everything, who creates the fruit of the vine.
Drink the first cup of wine.
Just about everybody experiences the sense of being foreign sometime in their lives. Most of the adults at this table have immigrated from a foreign country. But even if you have lived in the same city your entire life, as an adult you no longer live in the same neighborhood you lived in when you were growing up. Your home is defined not only by place but also by time. People have changed; circumstances have changed. As a foreigner in that sense, you try to find a shared past with people. You may get excited to find that somebody you encounter grew up in the same city that you did, whereas, if you lived in the city where you grew up, you would probably not even stop to talk to that same person.
As a Jew, you have a built in sense of shared identity with other Jews. How does the fact that you are Jewish affect your self-identity in situations where you are a stranger? How important is being Jewish to you? What would the world be missing if there were no Jews any more? Tonight let's consider these questions and discuss our answers.
Water is life.
For those who travel on foot through the borderlands, water is an essential component of the journey. No More Deaths hikes water into active migration corridors because we believe that everyone deserves access to water. It is a privilege to be able to use water for a ritual like urchatz, and as we purify our hands, we think of those who thirst in the desert.
We wash our hands now, with no blessing, to help us prepare for the rituals of the Seder to come.
Take the water, pour it over your hands three times, alternating between hands with each pour.
Pause and give thanks for ready access to clean, safe water, and share amongst your group what symbolism you see in spilling water tonight.
Written by Justine Orlovsky-Schnitzler
“Remember you are water. Of course you leave salt trails. Of course you are crying. Flow. P.S. If there happens to be a multitude of griefs upon you, individual and collective, or fast and slow, or small and large, add equal parts of these considerations: that the broken heart can cover more territory. that perhaps love can only be as large as grief demands. that grief is the growing up of the heart that bursts boundaries like an old skin or a finished life. that grief is gratitude. that water seeks scale, that even your tears seek the recognition of community. that the heart is a front line and the fight is to feel in a world of distraction. that death might be the only freedom. that your grief is a worthwhile use of your time. that your body will feel only as much as it is able to. that the ones you grieve may be grieving you. that the sacred comes from the limitations. that you are excellent at loving.”
Leader: Centuries ago, only those who were free enjoyed the luxury of dipping their food to begin a meal. In celebration of our people’s freedom, tonight, we, too, start our meal by dipping green vegetables. However, we also remember that our freedom came after tremendous struggle. And, so, we dip our vegetables into salt water to recall the ominous waters that threatened to drown our Israelite ancestors as they fled persecution in Egypt, as well as the tears they shed on that harrowing journey to freedom.
We recognize that, today, there are more than 68 million people still making these treacherous journeys away from persecution and violence in their homelands. As we dip the karpas into salt water tonight, we bring to mind those who have risked and sometimes lost their lives in pursuit of safety and liberty.
Group: We dip for the Rohingya father who walked for six days to avoid military capture in his native Myanmar before he came to the Naf River and swam to Bangladesh.
We dip for the Syrian mother rescued from the dark waters of the Mediterranean Sea in the early hours of morning, still holding the lifeless body of her infant child after their small boat capsized.2
We dip for the Somali and Ethiopian refugees deliberately drowned when the smuggler who promised them freedom forced them into the Arabian Sea.
Leader: We dip for these brave souls and for the thousands of other refugees and asylum seekers who have risked their lives in unsafe and unforgiving waters across the globe this past year.
It is a green vegetable that we dip tonight – a reminder of spring, hope, and the possibility of redemption even in the face of unimaginable difficulty. As we mourn those who have lost their lives in search of freedom, we remain hopeful that those who still wander will find refuge.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, borei p’ree ha-adama.
We praise God, Ruler of Everything, who creates the fruit of the earth.
In the spring of the year, the season of rebirth and renewal, on the festival of Pesach, we read from the Song of Songs. The poetry of nature and of love evokes, as well, the love between God and the people Israel, and their Covenant-betrothal.
Arise my beloved, my fair one,
And come away;
For lo, the winter is past.
Flowers appear on the earth,
The time of singing is here.
The song of the dove
Is heard in our land.
Let us go down to the vineyards
To see if the vines have budded.
There will I give you my love.
Group take less than a kezayit (the volume of one olive) of the karpas (parsley), dip it into salt-water, and recite the following blessing:
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha’olam, borei p’ri ha’adamah.
Blessed are You, Lord, our God, Ruler of the universe, who creates the fruit of the earth.
THE MATZAH OF HOPE and PEACE
Avadim Hayinu: Not only were we slaves to the Pharaoh of Egypt, we have also been enslaved and persecuted by other Pharaohs. Among these Pharaohs of every age were the Kings of Babylonia, the Emperors of Greece and Rome, the Churchmen and Nobles of Medieval Spain, Hitler and his Nazi followers, the Pharaohs of Moscow, and the dictators, potentates and terrorists of the contemporary Arab world. The Babylonian exile was followed by a return to Zion; the Hellenistic domination by the Maccabean victory; the destruction of the Second Temple by Rome with the flourishing of rabbinic Judaism in both the Land of Israel and Babylonia; the expulsion from Spain by tolerance, first in Turkey and Holland and then, ultimately, by the birth of an American Jewish community. Hitler, the Pharaoh of Auschwitz, whose acts of genocide surpassed the sins of all the other enemies in history: Even he we survived. Thirty years ago the doors in the iron curtain of the Soviet Union were breached and nearly two million Jews were given the opportunity to live freely as Jews.
Yet redemption is not complete. Israeli and Palestinian leaders have yet to find a way to answer the yearning for peace with security that we all seek. Millions of Arabs flee their homes and hundreds of thousands die in the Syrian civil war. Genocide in Darfur continues in the silence of “yesterday’s news”. Anti-Semitism from both the Political Left and Right is on the rise in both Europe and America. Yet perhaps the greatest threat to the Jewish community today is the sin of “Sinat Chinam”, the hatred between Jews of differing religious streams and political perspectives. It is a cancer threatening the body and soul of the Jewish people in the 21stcentury.
The Matzah we eat tonight is both the bread of affliction and the symbol of redemption. For 30 years we added a fourth Matzah to the Seder Plate, calling it the Matzah for Soviet Jewry. We set it aside and did not eat it. Tonight, we must still set aside this Matzah, for redemption is not complete. May this Matzah be a reminder to us of our responsibility to support the efforts of all Jews, who desire to make Aliyah; and of the responsibility of Israeli and American Jewish institutions to be open to both religious and political diversity. This matzah is a reminder to support the rights of Jews everywhere to live free from the fear of anti-Semitism, whether it comes from the right, from the left, or from within.
On this Passover night let us also vow to stand in solidarity with Israel, even when we do not agree with its government policies, and to strengthen Israeli democracy. Let us vow to work for better understanding between and cooperation among Jews of differing religious streams and political opinions. Avadim Hayinu—Tonight we remember that we have been slaves. Ata B’nai Horin—Now, we are the children of freedom. May the year ahead bring freedom and security with peace and prosperity for all of us.
For us (Ken and Gisela), the story of Pesach is a story of constant struggle at many levels: At the most basic level, struggle between security and certainty of remaining a slave in Egypt
and uncertainty and potential freedom of following the path of faith. It is also a struggle between faith and doubt. Am I willing to leave everything I’ve known for the total unknown? Abandoning a known way of life for something unknown? Many Jews in Egypt remained, and only a minority followed Moshe into the desert. Connected to this tension between faith and doubt is a third struggle between a material dimension of existence and a spiritual one. And finally, Pesach is a struggle between the individual and the collective. The story of the Exodus is a story that connects Jews in a very particular way to each other because it is a story of trust, of commitment, and of a shared experience of persecution and liberation. These are struggles that Jews encounter every day in the modern world, struggles we first encountered as a people during the Exodus. Reading the Haggadah not only reminds us that these struggles are not new, but it also offers us a script to overcome these challenges and to grow spiritually, socially and intellectually as an individual, as a community, and as a people.
Ken and Gisela Loiselle
(Leader breaks matzah and holds up the smaller broken piece. The larger piece is set aside as the Afikomen.)
LEADER: This broken matzah reminds us that our world is broken. We recall those who are poor, whose uncertainty about their future compels them to put aside the “broken half” for later use. We are shaken out of our complacency as we recall God’s words: “Remember that you were slaves in the land of Egypt.”
Through service to others, we meet the immediate needs of those who are struggling. But direct service can only alleviate some of the pain of hunger.
Charity alone is not the answer. We cannot food bank our way to an end to hunger. The charitable sector provides important but insufficient resources to meet the substantial needs of those experiencing food insecurity in this country. Only the government has the capacity to address and solve a problem with the magnitude of hunger.
We must advocate for effective and enduring public policies to ensure that our nation’s families need not worry about providing themselves and their children with the sustenance they need. Raising our voices on behalf of the most vulnerable among us helps protect and strengthen nutrition programs that provide vital assistance to struggling families and individuals.
Pour the second glass of wine for everyone.
The Haggadah doesn’t tell the story of Passover in a linear fashion. We don’t hear of Moses being found by the daughter of Pharaoh – actually, we don’t hear much of Moses at all. Instead, we get an impressionistic collection of songs, images, and stories of both the Exodus from Egypt and from Passover celebrations through the centuries. Some say that minimizing the role of Moses keeps us focused on the miracles God performed for us. Others insist that we keep the focus on the role that every member of the community has in bringing about positive change.
The formal telling of the story of Passover is framed as a discussion with lots of questions and answers. The tradition that the youngest person asks the questions reflects the centrality of involving everyone in the seder. The rabbis who created the set format for the seder gave us the Four Questions to help break the ice in case no one had their own questions. Asking questions is a core tradition in Jewish life. If everyone at your seder is around the same age, perhaps the person with the least seder experience can ask them – or everyone can sing them all together.
מַה נִּשְׁתַּנָּה הַלַּֽיְלָה הַזֶּה מִכָּל הַלֵּילות
Ma nishtana halaila hazeh mikol haleilot?
Why is this night different from all other nights?
שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָֽנוּ אוֹכלין חָמֵץ וּמַצָּה הַלַּֽיְלָה הַזֶּה כֻּלּוֹ מצה
Shebichol haleilot anu ochlin chameitz u-matzah. Halaila hazeh kulo matzah.
On all other nights we eat both leavened bread and matzah.
Tonight we only eat matzah.
שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָֽנוּ אוֹכְלִין שְׁאָר יְרָקוֹת הַלַּֽיְלָה הַזֶּה מָרוֹר
Shebichol haleilot anu ochlin shi’ar yirakot haleila hazeh maror.
On all other nights we eat all kinds of vegetables,
but tonight we eat bitter herbs.
שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אֵין אָֽנוּ מַטְבִּילִין אֲפִילוּ פַּֽעַם אחָת הַלַּֽיְלָה הַזֶּה שְׁתֵּי פְעמים
Shebichol haleilot ain anu matbilin afilu pa-am echat. Halaila hazeh shtei fi-amim.
On all other nights we aren’t expected to dip our vegetables one time.
Tonight we do it twice.
שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָֽנוּ אוֹכְלִין בֵּין יוֹשְׁבִין וּבֵין מְסֻבִּין. :הַלַּֽיְלָה הַזֶּה כֻּלָּֽנוּ מְסֻבין
Shebichol haleilot anu ochlin bein yoshvin uvein m’subin. Halaila hazeh kulanu m’subin.
On all other nights we eat either sitting normally or reclining.
Tonight we recline.
1. Why do I always have the feeling that everybody’d doing something better than me on Saturday afternoons?
2. Why would anyone eat canned fruit?
3. Why is it that the doors on the stalls do not come all the way down to the floor?
4. What was a man with a cape doing with my father? What was my father doing with a man in a cape? Why a cape?
The Four Questions we ask at our Hunger Seder challenge us to consider what is different about this night. Only when we ask the right questions can we understand the causes of hunger and take action to end this unnecessary plight.
1. Why during this seder do we focus on hunger?
Hunger remains a painful physical reality for far too many of our friends, neighbors, and family members. Hunger is an oppressive force that holds individuals back from realizing their full potential in life and limits our society from making greater progress. The Passover seder celebrates liberation from bondage and the joy of freedom. But in communities across our country, millions of Americans struggle to put enough nutritious food on the table and are bound by the hardships of their circumstances. As long as Americans continue to struggle with food insecurity, we will continue to dedicate this Hunger Seder to the goal of ending hunger and its causes.
2. Why isn’t it better for local charities to feed people, instead of the government?
Charitable organizations — including MAZON’s nationwide partners on the front lines — are not set up to feed every hungry person in their communities. Food pantries and soup kitchens were created to provide support during temporary or emergency situations, not to solve systemic problems. Many are open only a few days a week and for a few hours of each day. They are largely volunteer run, often out of basements or closets at their local houses of worship, and they primarily distribute food that has been donated from within their communities. They simply could never have the capacity to feed the number of people who need help. Government nutrition programs, on the other hand, have the ability to help millions of people get the food they need to lead healthy lives.
3. What are the costs of hunger for our country?
Being hungry can be all-consuming and distracting, which in turn decreases productivity in working adults and negatively impacts the ability for unemployed individuals to find work. Seniors are particularly vulnerable when it comes to food insecurity and face serious health risks from nutritional deficiencies. Without sufficient food and proper nutrition, children are at a much greater risk for developmental problems, chronic health conditions, and poor academic performance, and face reduced prospects for economic and professional achievement later in life. The many personal costs of hunger are magnified at the national level. Bread for the World Institute estimated in its 2016 Hunger Report that hunger and food insecurity increased health expenditures in the United States by $160 billion in the previous year alone, largely due to preventable diet-related chronic diseases. In both the short and long term, having a substantial population of people struggling with hunger impedes our country’s economic prosperity for everyone.
4. How could so many individuals and families still suffer from hunger when we live in a society of tremendous wealth?
The best adjective to accurately describe the amount of food available in the United States is abundant. Yet food insecurity affects more than 1 out of every 8 men, women, and children in America. Hunger persists in this country not because of a lack of food, but because of a lack of political will. Now is the time to act and ensure that all people have access to affordable, nutritious food.
Each year at the Seder, we ask the traditional Four Questions. And each year, MAZON asks a Fifth Question to raise awareness about a particular hunger-related issue and spark important conversations around the seder table. This year, we turn our attention to our seniors, who are aging into poverty and hunger at a rapid rate. Why is it that when we talk about aging in America, we never talk about hunger?
Why is this time of life different from all other times of life?
Hunger among Americans 60 and older is a growing crisis. One in seven seniors lives in poverty, and 4.9 million seniors struggle with hunger. SNAP is a lifeline for seniors, but many older Americans are not receiving this vital assistance. Three out of five seniors who are eligible for SNAP do not participate, meaning millions of seniors are missing out due to shame, stigma, and difficulty accessing services.
Why is it so hard to be older in America? Why are so many seniors aging into poverty? On this night, we honor our elders, our ancestors, and those who came before us. On all other nights, how is it that we allow seniors to go hungry?
How can we fail to respond when our elders are suffering? Tonight, we ask how we can change the reality for the 4.9 million seniors who are struggling with hunger
LEADER: Our tradition demands that we ask questions, challenge the status quo, and work to create a more fair and equitable society. We were slaves, but now we are free. And with our freedom comes the responsibility to work for justice and freedom for all.
Avadim hayinu Ata b’nai chorin.
We were slaves – now we are free.
For centuries Jewish identity was synonymous with the Jewish religion. This began to change starting in the mid-17th century as movements for political rights and equality moved across Europe. Jews had more opportunities to interact with other cultures and communities, and as a result, ideas about religion and identity changed. As Jonathan Sarna writes, what made modern democratic society unique is voluntaryism, “the principle that individuals are free to choose their religious beliefs and associations without political, ecclesiastical or communal coercion.”
Without the community telling Jews how to express their Judaism and with exposure to secular culture new forms of Jewish identity came about. These included a strictly cultural Jewish identity that removed religion from the equation and instead focused on the liberal and fine arts.
Today, many Jews around the world identify with Judaism solely through cultural means. Jewish educators and community leaders have found ways to communicate values, set agendas, and organize constituencies through cultural mechanisms, thus infusing the cultural Jewish community with a strong self-identity separate from the traditional Jewish theology.
Investing in Judaism’s rich cultural heritage doesn’t always mean a total divorce from religion. Many Jews are customizing their investment in Judaism, coming up with communities and organizations for everything from Jewish vegans, to Jewish pacifists, to Jewish parents with autistic children.
Even the appearance of Jews has changed, as multiracial families become a larger segment of the Jewish community, integrating Korean, Chinese, Ethiopian and many other backgrounds into the Jewish mix.
Life context has become a major factor in how people choose their communities and affiliations. Some single people may join communities in order to find partners. Young parents may decide they want to send their children to Jewish schools, and seniors may join synagogues or Jewish community centers in order to attend classes and activities with other retirees.
Israel and Zionism have added another spoke to the wheel of Jewish identity, with many Jews associating mainly or partially with Israel. Visiting Israel can elicit strong feelings of loyalty and obligation to the land of the Bible. Many Jews around the world see Israel as the ultimate guarantor of the Jewish people’s survival, and are driven by a deep commitment to the idea of Israel.
How do you define your Jewish identity? What do you accept of the traditional Jewish identity? What do you reject? How do you see yourself in terms of the five sons? How about your children? Your grandchildren? What is the value of diversity in Jewish practices and what is lost? What will Judaism look like in 3 or 4 generations? Will Judaism exist in 3 or 4 generations? Why, or why not?
The Four Queer/Trans Jews Adapted from “the Four Daughters” by Tamara Cohen, Rabbi Sue Levi Elwell and Ronnie Horn. Adapted and used with loving gratitude.
The queer/trans Jew is in search of a meaningful, holy past through our texts, traditions, and people. Ma heh omereh? What do they say?
“Why didn’t the Torah count, or acknowledge women and trans people among the ‘600,000 men on foot, aside from children,’ who came out of Egypt? And why did Moses say at Sinai, ‘Go not near a woman,’ addressing only men, as if preparation for Revelation was not meant for us, as well?”
Because we know that Jewish memory is essential to our identity, we teach them that history is made up by those who tell the tale. If the original Torah did not name and count us as women, trans people and those whose gender we do not know the words for now, it is up to us to fill the empty spaces left in our holy texts. We have the power to tell our own story, take our own census and create our own values. Jewish history is meant for us as well.
And the queer/trans Jew who wants to erase our differences and assimilate? Ma heh omereh? What do they say?
“Why do we keep pushing these questions into every text? Why make us so noticable? So visible? Why are these issues so important to you? Don’t you want to blend in?”
They say: “To you,” instead of “not to me”. They forget the struggles of our ancestors, both Jewish and non-Jewish. Perhaps we’ve been here at some point or another too, what did we need to find the beauty in our divergence? Invite them to our seder tables. Let them see the pleasure and joy at living outside of cis-heteronormativity, the wonder of appreciating queer and trans bodies for all of our diversity and divergence. The blessings of our resistance.
And the queer/trans Jew who does not know that we have a place at the table? Ma heh omereh? What do they say?
“What is this?”
Because they don’t yet know that their question is, in itself, a part of the seder tradition, show them that the Haggadah is a conversation about liberation, and their insights and questions belong here, in our texts and seder plates. Their wonder and curiosity, their frustration and confusion, in equal parts belong right here, nestled between maror and charoset.
And the queer/trans Jew who asks no questions? Who is scared to exist? Isolated from themselves and others?
We must say to them, “Your questions, when they come and in whatever form, will liberate you from Egypt. This is how it is and how it has always been with your queer and Jewish ancestors. For every moment we choose to survive, to look towards unanswered truths, we move a half-step closer to liberation. Even with no questions, you have a seat at our table, you deserve to know the fullness of your ancestors, of Shifra and Puah, of Joseph, of Ruth and Naomi and Judith, of Marsha, Sylvia, Leslie, and so many more who lived both named and unnamed in their truth and power. Come to the seder table with us, you will always have a seat.”
*The hebrew used in this text is in the style of Lior Gross and Eyal Rivlin of the Nonbinary Hebrew Project*
Below is a contemporary adaptation of the traditional Four Children from the Passover Haggadah. Read these words together and then discuss the question that follows:
The one who ignores . . .
She turns off the news and closes the newspaper, speechless as she considers the magnitude of the problem. “68 million displaced people?” she wonders, “It couldn’t possibly be that many.”
The one who deflects . . .
They want to attend the rally for refugees and sign that petition, but they lost track of time with so many other pressing issues demanding their attention. “Someone else will take this one,” they console themselves, “I’ve got other priorities.”
The one who abandons . . .
He knows that Jewish values command him to welcome the stranger, but he cannot reconcile that with his worries about the economy and his fear of terrorism. “It’s not the same as when my grandparents came to this country,” he says.
The ones who understand . . .
They see that the Jewish refugee story never really ends; our role in the story shifts. Together, they take actions big and small. While they know they cannot complete the work, they do not desist from trying to make a difference. “We used to help refugees because they were Jewish,” they say, “But now we help refugees because we are Jewish.”
Discuss as a group:
When we talk about the global refugee crisis, many of us may struggle to reconcile one or more of these voices within ourselves or we hear them in family members and friends. How do you respond to your own struggle when you think about taking action in support of refugees and asylum seekers? How do you respond to the concerns of others?
DOROTHY, PINE RIDGE RESERVATION, SOUTH DAKOTA
“I live in a trailer on our ancestral land in Wounded Knee. Many people here struggle like I do. Because I have the grandkids, I get welfare and food stamps. Otherwise, I couldn’t feed my family. Buying food comes first. Then, I pay for electricity. Food is so expensive on the reservation, and our food stamps only last about two weeks. When it runs out, I go out and sell beadwork really cheap just so I can continue to feed my family. But there aren’t many tourists in winter, so we eat lots of crackers—we call them Indian potato chips—because they are filling and then we won’t be hungry.”
“I never imagined this would be my life. My only income is $1200 a month from disability. I live in low-income senior housing and get Medicare, but after my bills, I can’t cover everything else I need. I try to save for the doctor by using blankets instead of the heat, but I still don’t save enough to treat my diabetes and a heart condition. After my medical, I’m only left with about $160, plus $17 in food stamps, to spend a month on food. I’m supposed to be on a special diabetes diet, but I just can’t afford it. What really hurts me is when my daughter calls and asks for $25-$30 and I say ‘baby if I had it, I’d give it to you.’”
BARBARA, NEW YORK
“Most of us in the gay community never thought we’d end up poor. Many of us don’t have the support system as we age that straight people do. So, when we get old, we either live poor or we commit suicide. When my wife Pat got cancer, and later dementia, we used up our savings. Now I’m alone – living on $800 from Social Security and widow’s benefits. But who can live on $800 a month? The food pantry, and free senior dinners, is how I get enough to eat. I’ve tried to go back to work – even though I’m 70 years old and almost blind – but every place I’ve tried has refused to hire me. They said I’m a liability.”
“I’m a WWII Army vet. I was married fifty-five years to my wife Ruby. We just had each other. I tried to save enough for retirement, but the $467 a month from Social Security is real handy. Don’t draw no army pension or nothing. I’m 97 now. As long as I’m able, I don’t want to go to a nursing home like Ruby. It cost me thousands. But it’s getting harder for me to do things like cook or drive - now my nephew takes me to the store. If I didn’t get the meals from the community center, I’d be eating out of a can. Wouldn’t have a hot supper. And I still need someone to bring me food on Fridays to hold me over for the weekend.”
To read more personal stories about hunger, visit: thisishunger.org/stories
So, first of all, the four children appear in the Jerusalem Talmud, where Rabbi Hyyia, a student of Rabbi Judah the Prince, is quoted as bringing this parable. Hyyia’s text varies quite a bit from the text we know today: for one, the simple child is not "simple" but stupid. But it is Rabbis at the time of the collection of the Mishnah and Talmud who are creating this rubric. And so we proceed:
The "Wise" Child asks about the rules and commandments that govern the Seder, and receives a full explanation of the details. This child looks to the future with the rules in mind, seeking structures and understanding that life necessitates systems. Looking toward the future, this child is savvy: what can I do within the structures I'm given, they might ask. In what ways do we search our surroundings for external rules that help us to structure our lives? How does this help, and how does this hurt? Do you look for structures, for open spaces? Sometimes one or the other?
The "Wicked" Child asks their interlocutor what Passover means to them. This is a separation that incurs wrath, and the statement that this child would not have been among those saved, because of a lack of collective self-identity. But, are they looking for a more personal explanation of how to connect individually with what's going on, and how to proceed? Taking in information from others' experiences in order to shape their own? This child might have done some self-education to ask a more targetted question, which might not have produced the same kind of wrath; perhaps we can ask each other "what does it mean to you to experience the Seder as though you were personally liberated from Egypt?" This child looks to the future, perhaps, with good boundaries and a different understanding of self - and what do we gain by othering this person who is a child in our midst? Do we really get to be arbiters of who would have been saved and who would not?
The "Simple" Child looks to the future, totally baffled. What does this all mean? What the heck is going on? This child has an open demeanor - there's not a lot of ego here, and it's clear from what's being asked, which isn't actually that different from the "wicked" child (the only difference is the absence of "to you"), but it's met with a much more tolerant kind of inclusion. By implying that we're all in this together, this child is given help understanding what's going on, approaching their communities with humility. Still, like the "wicked" child, their question doesn't show the deeper knowledge that would indicate self-education. This child is looking to the bigger picture, unlike the "wise" child who's looking for the micro-level of life.
The Child "Who Does Not Know How to Ask" is present but silent - looking to the future with a kind of carelessness, perhaps, or alternately with paralysis. The thing about silence is that you can't always tell which is which. The rabbis use "this is because of what god did for me" here - it's the same othering and dividing language as we saw with the "wicked" child, who doesn't get to be included in our collective. Not super merciful? What would have happened if the Rabbis had asked this child a question? How do we embrace our ignorance with humility when we don't know how to ask? That's a lesson from the "simple" child, perhaps. Have there been times when we've assumed ignorance from someone's silence?
The Four Children seems to suggest that there are four types of people and four ways to approach Jewish study. But that template also serves for robust discussions and interpretations: How do we define any of these categories? Is there wisdom in silence or in intellectual challenge? Is simplicity and lack of intellectual curiosity a form of wickedness?
As I was about to tackle the four main characters on NBC's life-after-death sitcom “The Good Place” in a Four Children context, I came across a graphic that had taken the first step. It designates moral philosophy professor Chidi as wise, self-proclaimed “Arizona trashbag” Eleanor as wicked, socialite Tahani as simple, and dim Darwin Award winner Jason Mendoza as the one who doesn’t know how to ask.
In really thinking about these characters, I realized that Eleanor is wise enough to figure out season one’s spoiler twist and lead the group onto a better path. And Chidi’s inability to make decisions could mark him as a wild card: Is a life without decisions simple? Does his inability to form constructive questions keep him in purgatory? Tahani doesn’t know how to ask a question that’s not about herself or relate to people who aren’t obscenely wealthy. And Jason — who constantly asks questions — is the one who sees life simply and happily. The boundaries are blurred.
For me, “The Good Place” image that best represents this idea is from season three’s “Janet(s)” episode, in which actress D’Arcy Carden, who normally plays an omniscient, not-a-girl/not-a-robot, Siri-Alexa-esque character, plays all four of the main characters. (Why is complicated, but the result is brilliant--see image above.) Applied to the Four Children context, the four Janets represent a complex and nuanced inner life: four essences, four approaches to life. This image shows that the outside may seem the same, but internal character can’t always be discerned by looking at a person or hearing someone say a single sentence like “What does this mean to you?” Janets — and people —are much more complicated than that.
(excerpted from "Pop culture can enrich the seder but the Maisel haggadah is a gimmick," by Esther D. Kustanowitz, in J.: The Jewish News of Northern California, April 2019)
NARRATOR 1 (10 LINES)
NARRATOR 2 (13 LINES)
PHARAOH (15 LINES)
SLAVE (2 LINES)
HERALD (1 LINE)
MOSES (8 LINES)
GOD (7 LINES)
PHARAOH’S SON (2 LINES)
AARON (12 LINES)
SHEEP (2 LINES)
YOCHEVED (1 LINE)
PRINCESS (4 LINES)
PRINCESS’S ATTENDANT (4 LINES)
MIRIAM (4 LINES)
NARRATOR 1: The story of Moses and the Exodus from Egypt has been told thousands of times. It’s a reminder to the Jewish people that once we were slaves in Egypt, but now we are free. And so, this year, as in years before, generation upon generation, we tell the story of Passover. Now, I invite you to relax and listen to this tale. We begin in Pharaoh’s Palace.
PHARAOH: Yes, I’ll have more grapes. This morning I took a tour of all of my new pyramids and I’m totally exhausted.
SLAVE: Yes, your highness. I must tell you that as a slave, we are really doing a fine job at building those pyramids. Carrying bricks is just the discipline that my fourteen sons need.
PHARAOH: Fourteen? Did you say fourteen sons?
SLAVE: Indeed I did, your most fabulousness.
PHARAOH: Leave my quarters. I’ve gotta think. This could be bad...really bad. I mean, I love having these Hebrew slaves, but there are just SO many of them! They are not Egyptians, and as shocking as it might be, I don’t think they even like me. What if there’s a war and they join my enemies and fight against me? I am going to try to find a way to decrease this Jewish-Hebrew slave population.
HERALD: Hear ye, hear ye. It is hereby decreed by Pharaoh, ruler of the land of Egypt, that any son born to a Jew is to be drowned in the Sea of Reeds.
NARRATOR 2: Our story continues at the banks of the Nile River, where we meet Yocheved, a Jewish woman with a newborn son.
YOCHEVED: (distraught) Oh no! Did you hear about Pharaoh’s awful decree? I knew he was mean, but now he’s killing our babies?! I need to hide my beautiful baby boy.
NARRATOR 2: So Yocheved wove a basket of reeds, which is another word for long bamboo-like sticks, put her son into it and hid it in the tall grass by the river. She then sent her young daughter Miriam to hide nearby and keep watch. The Pharaoh’s daughter, who was a princess, eventually came down to the water to bathe and heard cries coming from the river.
PRINCESS: What is this?
PRINCESS’S ATTENDANT: It appears to be a baby, your highness.
PRINCESS: A baby?
PRINCESS’S ATTENDANT: Why, yes, your highness.
NARRATOR 2: She pulled the baby out of the water.
PRINCESS: Oh, it must be one of those Jewish babies that my dad, the Pharaoh, wants to kill. But look at this little guy. He seems so beautiful and innocent. I know, I’ll take him home and raise him as my son. He will love me and respect me as his mother.
PRINCESS’S ATTENDANT: As you wish.
MIRIAM: (as she comes out of her hiding place) Excuse me, your majesty, but would you like me to call a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby, so that your attendant can continue to tend to you instead of being distracted by the baby?
PRINCESS: Good idea. I hadn’t thought of that. All right, your Hebrew woman may nurse my child, and when he is old enough to walk, she shall bring him to the palace for me to raise. I am going to name him “Moses,” which means “drawn from the water.”
PRINCESS’S ATTENDANT: Whatever you say, your majesty.
NARRATOR 1: And so Yocheved’s son, Moses, grew up as the Pharaoh’s adopted grandson, with all the riches and prestige that such a position entailed. But when he was young, Yocheved told Moses that he was Jewish, so he always had great compassion for the Hebrew slaves. One day, he came upon an Egyptian guard beating an old Jewish slave. Moses got so angry that he killed the guard. Of course, by doing so he was breaking the law. He feared the consequences, so he ran away ran away from the palace into the desert, and became a shepherd. That where we pick up the story now.
NARRATOR 2: One fine morning, one of Moses’s sheep strayed a bit from the path.
SHEEP: I said, “Baaaa!”
NARRATOR 2: Moses followed the sheep and came across a burning bush. It was the craziest thing. This green bush was on fire, but instead of burning up and getting all crinkled and then black, it stayed green. This was, of course, a miracle. It was God, getting Moses’s attention so that he could talk to him. It worked.
GOD: Moses! Moses!
MOSES: Here I am.
GOD: I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. I have seen the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry. I have come to deliver them out of the hands of the Egyptians, and to bring them out of that place unto a good land, flowing with milk and honey. Now, Moses, I need you to go back to Pharaoh and tell him to let the Jews go free and then you will need to lead the Jews out of Egypt.
NARRATOR 1: It’s important to know that Moses stuttered whenever he spoke, so he was always nervous to speak in public.
MOSES: B-b-but why should… I mean, why, why should I be the one t-t-to lead m-m-my people?
GOD: Fear not – I will be with you.
MOSES: Whah-what shhhould I t-t-t-ell the p-p-people?
GOD: Just tell the Children of Israel, also known as the Jews, also now known as the slaves, that they need to listen to you, because you speak for me. Tell them to leave their homes and everything they have always known and follow you to the wilderness.
MOSES: That is c-c-c-c-crazy. They’ll n-never l-listen and besides, I am s-s-s-s-s-low of s-s-s-p-p-peech and s-s-s-s-low of t-t-tongue.
GOD: You’re right, it will not be easy. I forgot to mention Pharaoh is not going to simply agree to let his slaves go free. He will take some convincing, and it will not be pretty.
MOSES: Puh-puh-puh-please send s-s-s-someone else…
GOD: Your brother Aaron speaks well, right? He will have to help. I will only speak to you, but you can tell Aaron what I said, and he can be the one who speaks to Pharaoh and the people.
NARRATOR 2: And so Moses and Aaron went to the people of Israel and convinced them that God had spoken to Moses. Then they went to see Pharaoh at the palace.
AARON: Pharaoh, we are here to demand, in the name of our all-powerful and all-knowing God, that you release the Hebrew people from bondage.
PHARAOH: LOL. That is really amusing, guys. So, Moses, back after all of these years to bring shame on your own house and your own grandfather?
AARON: You cared for my brother for many years. At one time, he loved you as a grandfather. But he is the son of a Hebrew slave. If you love him, you will let his people go.
PHARAOH’S YOUNG SON: Moses! I missed you! (Looks at Aaron.) Hey, who are you?
AARON: I am Aaron, Moses’s brother.
PHARAOH’S YOUNG SON: I thought I was his brother!
AARON: Pharaoh, if you do not release the Hebrews, Egypt will be smitten with a greater plague than it has ever before seen.
PHARAOH: There is no way I am going to do that! I don’t know this God you are talking about, and I will not let your people go. Now get out of my palace!
NARRATOR 1: To punish Pharaoh for his refusal to let the Jews go, God turned the water of the Nile to blood. It was horrible. Everyone needs fresh water to live, and instead of water, the entire river ran red with blood. Pharaoh was furious, and he called Moses and Aaron back to the palace.
PHARAOH: OK, this is horrible! The Nile River has turned to blood, and it’s your fault! Everyone is freaking out. Maybe your God is powerful after all. If I let your people go, will he turn the river back to water?
AARON: Yes, of course. We don’t want to harm your people, we just want to leave and be free.
PHARAOH: Fine, then go.
NARRATOR 2: So Aaron and Moses left the palace and told the Jewish people to start getting ready for their journey. But then…
PHARAOH: Get Moses and Aaron back here!
AARON: Yes, Pharaoh? We were just leaving.
PHARAOH: Not so fast. I realized that when you go I will have no one to build my pyramids. So I have hardened my heart and changed my mind. You need to stay.
MOSES: B-b-b-ut Pharaoh, m-m-m-ore terrible things will happen to the Egyptian people if you do not let us go!
PHARAOH: I will take my chances. Now get out of my palace, and tell the Jews to get back to work!
NARRATOR 2: Soon, Egypt was overrun with another of God’s plagues… frogs. Wherever you looked, there were frogs all over the land. As you can imagine, it was awful. So Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron back to the palace and told them he would now allow the Jews to leave Egypt. But when they were ready to leave, Pharaoh changed his mind again. This happened every time!
NARRATOR 1: The next plague God sent was lice....people and animals all got lice. Then flies everywhere. Then cattle disease...so all the cows got sick and died, then boils… terrible blisters on everyone… then hail fell from the sky – big pieces of hail, as big as ping-pong balls. Then locusts, which ate the plants, including all of the crops.
NARRATOR 2: So between the cattle disease, which ruined the meat, and the hail and locusts which wrecked the crops, Egypt was in bad shape. People were hungry. Then came the plague of darkness. The sun never rose, and people were frightened and cold. The plagues were spreading fear and sickness across Egypt.
NARRATOR 1: But the crazy thing was, after each plague, Pharaoh would call Moses and Aaron to the palace and tell them that if their God made the plague stop, the Jews could leave Egypt. So God would end the plague, and then Pharaoh would harden his heart and change his mind, keeping the Jews in bondage. It was a mess!
PHARAOH: Who is this God of yours? How is it that each of these plagues only affects the Egyptians and not the Hebrews!? Get out!
AARON: Pharaoh, our God is all-powerful! We don’t know what we can do to make you see thatyou must give in. We’re warning you now that God has told Moses what the next plague will be. He’s going to kill the firstborn of every Egyptian household, including your youngest son. Pharaoh, don’t let this happen! Let my people go!
PHARAOH: I do not know your God, and I will not let your people go. Get out of my house! GET OUT!
NARRATOR 2: God then came to Moses and instructed him to have all the Jewish people slay a lamb and smear some of its blood on the doorposts of their houses and gates. Then, when the Angel of Death flew over Egypt, he took the lives of all of the firstborn, except for those in the homes marked with blood. Pharaoh’s own son died. It was devastating. The people of Egypt were mourning. Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh yet again.
AARON: Pharaoh, the grandfather my brother once loved, we are truly sorry for your loss.
PHARAOH: Go away! Go away and leave me to my grief!
AARON: But Pharaoh, now that you have seen how powerful God is, will you let my people go?
PHARAOH: Be gone already! You and your people! You have ruined my empire.
NARRATOR 1: So Aaron and Moses left Pharaoh and went to the Jews.
AARON: Listen to me everyone! Remember this day, when you were able to leave Egypt, we were slaves and now we are going to be free and God will guide us out of here to the Promised Land.
MOSES: We m-m-m-must go fast! We must m-m-m-make food, but… but… we must go before… before… Pharaoh changes his mind again.
AARON: He won’t change his mind. Not this time.
MIRIAM: Moses, if we leave right now, the bread won’t have time to rise.
MOSES: F-f-f-forget the bread, let’s go!
NARRATOR 2: Most of the Jews went with Moses and Aaron. But some felt the whole idea of leaving their homes and going some unknown land was crazy, so they stayed in Egypt. But meanwhile…
PHARAOH: I have just let my slaves all go. This is not good for the people of Egypt. All that my forefathers have worked for will vanish if I lose the Hebrew slaves. Who will build the cities? The entire economy of Egypt will collapse. It will be the end of an empire. I WANT THEM BACK!
NARRATOR 1: So once again, Pharaoh had hardened his heart. He got his army together and went after the Jews. Because they were walking and had a lot of kids with them who were slow walkers, the Jews had only gotten a few miles away from Egypt and they were really close to the Red Sea.
MIRIAM: Look! The Egyptians are coming! They will kill us all! They will work us to death! Moses, do something!
AARON: Don’t be afraid. God has handled things for us before, and I don’t think he would have made all those plagues just to have us die at the edge of the Red Sea now.
NARRATOR 2: Then God spoke to Moses.
GOD: Moses! Lift thy rod and stretch out thy hand over the sea, and divide it; and the children of Israel shall go across the sea safely.
NARRATOR 1: It was amazing. When Moses raised his rod, the water of the sea parted, and the children of Israel walked across on the ground at the bottom of the sea. They were totally fine. But when Pharaoh’s armies followed to catch them, the waters closed in and Pharaoh’s armies were drowned.
MIRIAM: That was a miracle! We made it across the Red Sea! I don’t know what God has in store for us next, but at last, we are free!
NARRATOR 2: And Miriam took a timbrel – which is another word for a tambourine – in her hand; and all of the women went out after her with their timbrels and danced and sang. This kicked off a trek of forty years through the desert.
NARRATOR 1: It was also when God starting sending manna, food from the sky that tasted like anything you wanted it to and sustained the Jews until they reached the Holy Land of Israel. But all of that is for another story. In the meantime, Happy Passover!
I knew from the very beginning that my baby brother was going to be special. We had to hide him from the crazy Egyptian soldiers who were seeking out and killing all the newborn Israelite babies due to Pharaoh’s command. Whenever they came to our house and we hid him, somehow, he knew to stay quiet. One time he farted really loud but the guard didn’t hear (or smell!) it. It was kind of a miracle now that I think about it. And also a plague... We actually didn’t even give him a name because we were so scared that he might be killed and didn’t want to become too attached.
When baby bro Moses (I like to call him “Chalupa Batman”) got so big that we couldn’t hide him anymore (it’s not like our slave accommodations were so spacious… they were more like an individual WeWork office), my mom suggested that the only way to save him was to send him down the Nile in a basket, hoping that he might find a better future downriver.
I followed Chalupa down along the banks of the river, and watched as Pharaoh’s daughter, Daenerys Targarean, pulled him out of the water and decided to keep him! She was a Mother of Hebrews, and the one who named him Moses – an Egyptian name meaning “I drew him from the water.” I’m not quite sure how I got through her personal security guard, Paul Blart, but I ran up to her and let her know that if she needed a nursemaid for the baby, that I could help find her one. And just like that, my mom became her own son’s nursemaid!
When he inevitably was weaned (Mom would’ve kept nursing til his Bar Mitzvah if she could’ve) we went back to slave life, with no real interaction with him for decades, until one day my big brother Aaron disappeared, and then we heard murmurings around town about an Egyptian man who had come out as being a Hebrew. And he was advocating for us. And bringing miracles. And that Aaron was his press secretary ... er … spokesperson. And wouldn’t you know it, but that out and proud Hebrew man was my baby brother.
Along the way he seemed to have picked up a speech impediment – hence the need for Aaron’s support – as well as a few magic tricks and a personal unbreakable relationship with a God who self-described as “I am that I am” – sounds like a kind of sweet potato if you ask me ... I Yam that I Yam … We are starving after all. Is it time for the festive meal yet?
It turned out Pharaoh was crazy stubborn! Despite some crazy plagues he just wouldn’t agree to either just let us go, or to shift to a sharing economy – he called it Democratic socialism … the fiery hail didn’t quite make him “feel the Bern.” But, in the ultimate twist of irony, his own firstborn was killed along with the firstborn children of man and beast in all of Egypt – except for ours. Schadenfreude – taking pleasure in the pain of another. A great word I learned from Avenue Kuf! Have you seen Avenue Kuf? I learned what the internet is for.
That last night in Egypt we painted our doorposts with blood, quickly shared a roasted lamb with our neighbors (how we had lamb to eat despite being slaves I’m not quite sure…), and ate bitter herbs (we had dried and packed all the delicious ones!). Because we weren’t sure if there were bathrooms in the desert where we were going, we made sure to make our bread in such a way that we’d be sure to not need to use the bathroom for at least a week – hopefully we make it to the Promised Land by then.
If you ask me, the Egyptians would’ve gotten off way easier had they had a female leader. The palace would have been more of a safe space. Pantsuits would have been introduced way earlier into historical garment records.
I should mention: while Mom was nursing Moses for Pharaoh’s daughter I got tight with two of her royal helpers from the local dance academy. They inspired me to take moments to just dance – it’ll be okay – and so one of my most noteworthy moments was leading all of our women – like a million of us! – in dancing after we passed through the Red Sea. We couldn’t do the electric slide due to being so close to water, and everyone knows that Hebrews are incapable of square dancing – no one is willing to follow instructions – so circles it was!
In the end, I’m actually described as a prophetess in the Bible – pretty sweet. I have a mystical well that follows me (and the Israelites) as we wander in the desert – you know you’re jelly. Many families put a cup on the Seder table filled with water in my honor due to my story’s close association with it. While I end up dying before both Moses and Aaron, which admittedly is a bummer, at least I had the chance to have it all, rolling in the deep.
As we rejoice at our deliverance from slavery, we acknowledge that our freedom was hard-earned. We regret that our freedom came at the cost of the Egyptians’ suffering, for we are all human beings made in the image of God. We pour out a drop of wine for each of the plagues as we recite them.
Dip a finger or a spoon into your wine glass for a drop for each plague.
These are the ten plagues which God brought down on the Egyptians:
Blood | dam | דָּם
Frogs | tzfardeiya | צְפַרְדֵּֽעַ
Lice | kinim | כִּנִּים
Beasts | arov | עָרוֹב
Cattle disease | dever | דֶּֽבֶר
Boils | sh’chin | שְׁחִין
Hail | barad | בָּרָד
Locusts | arbeh | אַרְבֶּה
Darkness | choshech | חֹֽשֶׁךְ
Death of the Firstborn | makat b’chorot | מַכַּת בְּכוֹרוֹת
The Egyptians needed ten plagues because after each one they were able to come up with excuses and explanations rather than change their behavior. Could we be making the same mistakes? Make up your own list. What are the plagues in your life? What are the plagues in our world today? What behaviors do we need to change to fix them?
Take turns reading the 10 quotes below, followed by a 2 minute moment of silence. Each quote is taken from a news article from the alst year.
“I can barely buy a piece of stale bread, that’s why my children are dying before my eyes.” [Yemen]
“The Rakhine burned their houses down,” she said, referring to civilians from the Buddhist ethnic group that gives Rakhine State its name. “My friend is gone forever.” [Myanmar]
"I don't have my son with me. He's not coming back, period. He's gone. He's dead. So what are our options in here," [Parkland, FLorida]
“He approached me and told me in so many words, ‘I want you to have sex with this guy for money,’ I was very uncomfortable and I kept saying no, I didn’t want to do it. He kept telling me, ‘If you love me, you’ll do this. It’s just one thing. Just try it.’” [Texas]
“[The government] comes to your house, they ask you a series of questions, and you start to think, if I answer ‘no,’ they can cut me from health care. It just leaves you overwhelmed.” [Venezuela]
“What matters is he was a father of two, he had his family, he was an unarmed black man that was going to his grandparent’s house, and got assassinated, Nothing else matters at that point." [Sacremento California]
“We avoided the road because we heard horrible stories that women and girls are grabbed while passing through and are raped, but the same happened to us,. There is no escape — we are all raped.” [South Sudan]
“Thousands of people who have had their lives dramatically altered by sexual violence have reached out to share their own experiences with me and have thanked me for coming forward…At the same time, my greatest fears have been realized—and the reality has been far worse than what I expected. My family and I have been the target of constant harassment and death threats.” [Washington DC]
“It’s crazy seeing the world advance by the minute while seeing a place you call home decline by the second.” [Gaza]
“Mommy, I love you and adore you and miss you so much. Please, Mom, communicate. Please, Mom. I hope that you’re OK and remember, you are the best thing in my life.” [Detention Center, Arizona]
Remembering the ten plagues that God brought upon the Egyptians when Pharaoh refused to free the Israelites, we have the opportunity now to recognize that the world is not yet free of adversity and struggle. This is especially true for refugees and asylum seekers. After you pour out a drop of wine for each of the ten plagues that Egypt suffered, we invite you to then pour out drops of wine for ten modern plagues facing refugee communities worldwide and in the United States. After you have finished reciting the plagues, choose a few of the expanded descriptions to read aloud.
Most refugees initially flee home because of violence that may include sexual and gender-based violence, abduction, or torture. The violence grows as the conflicts escalate. Unfortunately, many refugees become victims of violence once again in their countries of first asylum. A 2013 study found that close to 80% of refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) living in Kampala, Uganda had experienced sexual and gender-based violence either in the DRC or in Uganda.
Forced to flee their home due to violence and persecution, refugees may make the dangerous journey to safety on foot, by boat, in the back of crowded vans, or riding on the top of train cars. Over the last several years, the United States has seen record numbers of unaccompanied minors fleeing violence in Central America. Many of these children have survived unimaginably arduous journeys, surviving abduction, abuse, and rape. Erminia was just 15 years old when she came to the United States from El Salvador in 2013. After her shoes fell apart while she walked through the Texas desert, she spent three days and two nights walking in only her socks. “There were so many thorns,” she recalls, “and I had to walk without shoes. The entire desert.”15
LACK OF ACCESS TO EDUCATION
The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees affirms that the right to education applies to refugees. However, research shows that refugee children face far greater language barriers and experience more discrimination in school settings than the rest of the population.16 Muna, age 17 in 2016, a Syrian refugee living in Jordan, who dropped out of school, said, “We can’t get educated at the cost of our self-respect.”17
Just as a 1939 poll from the American Institute of Public Opinion found that more than 60% of Americans opposed bringing Jewish refugees to the United States in the wake of World War II, today we still see heightened xenophobia against refugees. This fear can manifest through workplace discrimination, bias attacks against Muslim refugees, anti-refugee legislation such as the American SAFE Act of 2015 (H.R. 4038) which passed the House but was thankfully defeated in the Senate, and the various Executive Orders issued in 2017 and 2018 to limit refugees’ ability to come to the United States.
This is the fictional story of a song that everyone seems to know, whether or not they want to. To describe this song to you in a sentence would have been enough. But this song isn't known for its subtlety or its brevity. It's known for its repetition, its words that don't quite fit into the tune, it's barely-there-musical-tune reminiscent of the Pac-Man theme, and, of course, its repetition. So here's the previously untold story behind the music.
One Passover, before all of you were alive, a group of rabbis gathered in Bnei Brak. Rabbis were always gathering in Bnei Brak. In fact, you couldn't stop rabbis from gathering in Bnei Brak - it was like their version of Vegas, except whatever happened in Bnei Brak - instead of staying in Bnei Brak - ended up well-documented in the Haggadah.
But this is not the story of things that ended up well-documented in the Haggadah. And it's also not the story of how contemporary Bnei Brak became the home not just to one of Israel's most ultra-Orthodox communities but also the Coca-Cola factory. (That's got to be its own story, because, seriously?) It's the story of a plucky rabbi with a song in his heart who - like so many rabbis and non-rabbis before and after him - ignored his wife's plea to stay and help with Passover and instead went road tripping on a path of personal destiny.
Rabbi Dai Kvar was not the most popular rabbi in the village, but he had a way with those around him, always pointing out the obvious in a way that, though sometimes irksome, sometimes actually put things in perspective. It was this slavish adherence to the chain of events that led up to other events that would turn out to be his most annoying - and most enduring - quality.
One morning, Rabbi Dai Kvar awakened with a start. "If God had taken us out of Egypt, that would have been enough!"
"What ARE you talking about, Dai Kvar?" his wife asked, annoyed for what was decidedly not the first time during their marriage.
"I've got an idea, no, it's THE idea. This is the one, Bina, I'm telling you! I've got to take this to the Bnei Brak boys immediately!" And with that, Dai Kvar jumped out of bed, threw a few of his portable Talmud volumes into a bag with some toothpaste, dental floss and two rocks, one to use for deodorant and the other one to use to light a fire.
"Be careful not to mix those two up," Bina shouted at her husband as he ran out the door. "He always leaves right before Passover," she said, shaking her head.
Later, Dai Kvar found himself in the synagogue in Bnei Brak, its major feature was an ark to end all arks - attached to a one-hundred-percent-electricity-free system of pulleys, the ark most resembled a giant slot machine. If you were to pull the lever on the left, it would spit out a Torah rolled up to that week's Torah portion.
The head of the Talmudic Council, Rabbi Dave, spoke first. "I now officially call all the Daves of the Talmudic council to order."
"I thought that was my job," said Second Rabbi Dave.
"Nope, that's me," Rabbi Dave the Third chimed in.
"Dave 3 is right, it's his job," said Just Another Rabbi Dave, which was also his JDate handle. "Here. Take this gavel. I got it from my JD program at Pumpeditha University."
"You went to PumpU?" Rabbi Dave could barely believe his ears. "I went to U of Sura! They're both in the Big Two of State Schools...."
"Small world," said all of the Daves in unison.
"First order of business," said Rabbi Dave (the one who was the head of the Talmudic Council, that is). "Rabbi Dai Kvar brings us a proposal for a new song."
Once he was in front of his boys from Brak, Dai Kvar was more excited than he'd ever been. "Gentlemen, I have a new song that traces our steps from the desert and toward a land that forged our peoplehood. My new song idea is so money that it doesn't even know how money it is."
"That's great, Dai Kvar, but how money is it, exactly? Is it more than two zuzim? Because I've got that number in my brain for some reason," said Reb Dave Gadya.
"Do you have a tune?" asked Just Another Rabbi Dave. "Who knows one?"
"It's got to be epic," said Rabbi Dave 3. "It should be grandiose, melodic and hauntingly beautiful as it helps us recall our years of oppression and subsequent redemption!"
"No," said Second Rabbi Dave. "It should be a still small voice, like God's in the wilderness."
"It should be intricate and unwieldy, but irresistible, maybe featuring lots of animals," said Reb Dave Gadya.
"Always the animals with you, Reb Gadya," Dai Kvar noted.
Reb Gadya shrugged and smiled. "I never had pets," he said. "But I always wanted one. Even just a worm to play with."
"A worm! That's it!" Dai Kvar exclaimed. The Daves stared at him, puzzled. "My friends," Dai Kvar explained, "we all know the story of the shamir, the giant worm that had the power to cut through stone, iron and diamond and which King Solomon is said to have used in the building of the First Temple in Jerusalem? Is there such a thing as a shamir that can live inside the skull, cutting through the noise and annoying someone but not actually harming them in any way?"
"Wait just a minute...are you talking about an ear worm?" one of the Daves asked. Dai Kvar thought about it. That was exactly what he was talking about, and he nodded vigorously.
"With the agreement of the Council, I'd like to create an ear shamir. I have just the chord progression," said one of the Rabbi Daves, but by this point, even Dai Kvar wasn't sure which one.
"Thank you for stepping forward, Rabbi Dave. So how many verses will be enough for this ear worm?" Rabbi Dave (the head of the Council one) asked.
"Well, musically, only one verse is necessary," said Rabbi Dai Kvar. "But one verse is super-boring and only children will get a kick out of learning and performing a long song, so let's compromise and say...14 different lines. And that we'll sing 'da-dai-yenu' after every line to make sure the song lasts as long as possible."
And the Daves took a vote, and it was a unanimous decision, except for Reb Gadya, who suffered from a hanging Chad and subsequently had to move to Florida to vote in the 2000 US Presidential Election.
And so it came to pass.
And that's why when you sing Dayenu, it's not just a song acknowledging the significant milestones that the Jewish people reached on their journey out of Egypt and to the Holy Land, but a summary of how that song makes you feel.
That is why it always feels like one verse would have been enough.
We have passed through more than one Egypt.
Hatred and prejudice have set
A heavy yoke around our necks,
But through the darkness of misery and oppression
A ray of your grace has continually shone above us
And has at last brought a morning of redemption
In which our human dignity is recognized
And we live free and undisturbed
Under the protection of mild and just laws.
Oh, may you, O God, continue to be with us.
As in the days when you burst the chains
In which we sighed, and with an awful hand
Broke the yoke of bondage and tyranny,
So may you deliver and redeem our souls
That they may rise above all attacks
From within or without.
As you hurled the many idols and gods of Egypt
From their altars, so may your boundless mercy
Release us from the idols that attract us today,
And let every cell and organ of our bodies be filled
With your incomparable, exalted and glorious being.
May we be thoroughly infused by faithfulness and love,
By unconditional, unwaivering confidence
And boundless attachment to you.
You are the shield and savior of every human being
As well as of whole nations.
You comfort them
In the midst of trouble and suffering.
By Rabbi Sara Brandes
Rabbi Sara Brandes specializes in experiential education for children and adolescents. A certified yoga instructor, Brandes was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary where she was awarded the Bernard and Sydell Citron Scholastic prize, recognizing her as the most outstanding student in her graduating class.
Passover is the holiday of redemption, and the Passover seder is meant to fill us with hope.
Although we begin by recalling the bitterness we endured as slaves in Egypt, by the seder’s end we are ready to welcome to our tables the prophet Elijah, Eliyahu HaNavi, harbinger of the messiah, hopeful that a redeemed world is just around the bend.
We open our doors and sing, “Elijah the prophet…may you come to us speedily in our days, with the messiah, the son of David.”
While the Jewish people’s notions of the messiah have certainly evolved over the years, for most of us, these words remain unchanged.*
At Moving Traditions we know the power of Jewish ritual and we also understand the power of the song’s gendered message.
Sons and Daughters Redeem Us
Very different expectations are set for boys than for girls when only boys hear that our communal hopes rest with them – after all, it is David’s son and not his daughter that we are expecting to redeem us.
That is why Moving Traditions encourages the teens in our Rosh Hodesh: It’s a Girl Thing! and Shevet Achim: The Brotherhood programs to add a Miriam’s cup to their seder table alongside that of Elijah.
While Elijah’s cup is filled with wine, Miriam’s cup is filled with water, symbolizing the prophet Miriam’s connection to rivers, seas, and wellsprings.
Miriam was a leader and a risk-taker, boldly approaching Pharaoh’s daughter to save her baby brother, leading Jewish women in song during the Exodus, and questioning the authority of her brother, Moses.
As such, Miriam is a powerful role model for teen girls today, who hear “Be good” far more often than they hear “Learn from your mistakes” and “Don’t be afraid to fail.”
This month during Rosh Hodesh: It’s a Girl Thing! gatherings, girls will read and discuss the beautiful poem below, I Shall Sing to the Lord a New Song by Rabbi Ruth Sohn, which celebrates Miriam’s courage.
Two Cups This Year
The Elijah’s cup that traditionally adorns our seder tables is a symbol of hope that the world now broken will one day be redeemed, and that agents of change, modern day messiahs, can and will walk among us.
This is the potential we see in all of our teens.
This year, place a Miriam’s cup by the side of the Elijah cup, affirming that our hopes rest equally with all of our children, regardless of gender.
We know that our teens are building a world that is more open and more just than ever before. They are singing new songs with new voices, and we celebrate each of them.
I Shall Sing to the Lord a New Song
By Ruth H. Sohn
I, Miriam, stand at the sea and turn
to face the desert stretching endless and still.
My eyes are dazzled
The sky brilliant blue
Sunburnt sands unyielding white.
My hands turn to dove wings.
for the sky
and I want to sing
the song rising inside me.
My mouth open
Where are the words?
Where the melody?
In a moment of panic
My eyes go blind.
Can I take a step
Without knowing a
Will I falter
Will I fall
Will the ground sink away from under me?
The song still unformed— How can I sing?
To take the first step—
To sing a new song—
Is to close one’s eyes
into unknown waters,
For a moment knowing nothing risking all— But then to discover
The waters are friendly
The ground is firm.
And the song—
the song rises again.
Out of my mouth
come words lifting the wind. And I hear
for the first
that has been in my heart silent
even to me.
Miriam Ha-Neviah(Miriam the Prophet)*
When your family sings “Elihu HaNavi” at the seder, try adding these words about Miriam, sung to the same melody, written by Rabbi Leila Gal Berner.
Oz v’zimra b’yadah
Miriam tirkod itanu l’hagdil zimrat olam
Miriam tirkod itanu l’taken et ha-olam
Bimherah v’yameynu hi tevi-eynu
el mey ha-yeshua, el mey ha-yeshua.
Miriam, the prophet, strength and song are in her hands,
Miriam will dance with us to strengthen the world’s song,
Miriam will dance with us to heal the world.
Soon, and in our time, she will bring us
To the waters of redemption.
Lift the second cup of wine and read together:
V’hitzalti etchem... I will deliver you...
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָּפֶן
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, borei p’ree hagafen.
We praise God, Ruler of Everything, who creates the fruit of the vine.
Just as we remember all of the times throughout history when the nations of the world shut their doors on Jews fleeing violence and persecution in their homelands, so, too, do we remember with gratitude the bravery of those who took us in during our times of need – the Ottoman Sultan who welcomed Spanish Jews escaping the Inquisition, Algerian Muslims who protected Jews during pogroms initiated by the French Pied-Noir, and the righteous gentiles hiding Jews in their homes during World War II. Today, we aspire to stand on the right side of history as we ask our own government to take a leadership role in protecting the world’s most vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers. May we find the bravery to open up our nation and our hearts to those who are in need. Blessed are You, Adonai our God, who delivers those in search of safety.
Drink the second cup of wine.
POUR ONE OUT
Reflect and discuss: Who isn’t here that you’re thinking about?
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָפֶן
Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech Ha’olam Borei Pri HaGafen.
We acknowledge the Unity of All,
and express gratitude for the fruit of the vine.
Drink Cup #2.
Each guest may ritually wash their hands by pouring water over each hand three times, alternating between them. Then, recite the blessing below together.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָֽׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו, וְצִוָּנוּ עַל נְטִילַת יָדָֽיִם
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha’olam,
asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al nitilat yadayim.
Blessed are You, Our God, Ruler of the Universe, who has sanctified us with commandments
and has commanded us on the washing of hands.
As we pour water over our hands in anticipation for the meal to come, we are mindful of
the many roles that water can play in our lives. At this moment, we use it to cleanse and prepare. But, for many around the world, water is the difference between life and death, between freedom and continued oppression. For the millions of asylum seekers worldwide who undertake treacherous journeys out of persecution, the oceans and seas are precarious pathways to liberty, often taking their lives in their depths. For the millions of refugees living in camps across the globe, access to clean water determines whether they will survive to rebuild their lives. We pray that all those in search of refuge find the transformative waters they need, encountering life renewed and anew.
Seder Plate Artist Statement
In the following image I drew a Seder plate which represnts the Holliday’s that we celebrate and why it is important to commemorate them. On the top I drew hands from different races holding together which represents unity. The story of exodus is what united the Jewish people and brought them together as a nation.
The left drawing represents the gift of Shabbat that god gave to us which makes us unique and different from the other nations.
The right drawing represents kindness to strangers because we were once many times in the same position when other people were kind to us .
The bottom drawing represents honesty because that is also what turned the Jewish people into a nation in the dessert.
APOLOGIES TO DR. ATKINS
Bread is a symbol of the partnership between humankind and the natural world – it doesn’t just magically appear from the ground – it takes human partnership (and it’s delicious).
Poet Pablo Neruda had some delicious things to say about bread. See poem below.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם הַמּוֹצִיא לֶחֶם מִן הָאָרֶץ
Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech Ha’olam Hamotzi Lechem Min Ha’aretz.
We acknowledge the Unity of All and express gratitude for bread from the earth.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ עַל אֲכִילַת מַצָּה
Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech Ha’olam Asher Kideshanu B’mitzvotav V’tzivanu Al Achilat Matzah.
We acknowledge the Unity of All and express gratitude for the opportunity to connect by eating matzah.
Eat matzah. Discussion Question: What’s your favorite kind of cracker and why?
A Selection from "Ode to Bread"
Dense or light,
flattened or round,
you are, bread,
and how profound!
You line up
on the baker’s
like silverware or plates
or pieces of paper
there’s the joining of seed
and you’re growing, growing
all at once
hips, mouths, breasts,
mounds of earth,
or people’s lives.
The temperature rises, you’re overwhelmed
by fullness, the roar
your golden color is fixed.
And when your little wombs
a brown scar
laid its burn the length
of your two halves’
a miracle often admired,
the will to live itself.
As we remember the biblical Exodus, let’s also remember the plight of today’s refugees. There are currently 68.5 million people forcibly displaced worldwide, 85 percent of them living in developing countries.
During Passover, the symbolic items on the traditional seder plate help us to tell the story of the Exodus, with its plagues, hardship, flight and tears. At some seders, people add additional symbols to the plate to spark discussion and make their Passover conversation more relevant to today.
This year Jewish World Watch is offering new ideas for a “Second Seder Plate,” including a new set of symbols to remind us of today’s exoduses and how they impact contemporary refugees. Once again, we hope to encourage reflection: As we recall what the Hebrews endured in Egypt, we can take some time to consider the plight of the modern-day displaced who have suffered from genocide and mass atrocities.
These symbols are drawn from everyday objects around the house and are meant to inspire you to find your own. This pamphlet is perforated so you can easily create flash cards that can be matched with your items on your seder plate. Or you can create your own version of a “Second Seder Plate” that will allow you to tell your own stories.
The goal is to deepen our empathy for today’s most vulnerable people.
We hope your seder will be filled with new ideas and learning. Please encourage everyone at your table to take action to offer help in some form, from raising your voices to advocate for refugees worldwide to supporting projects that enable and sustain the vulnerable. Thank you for joining us as we partner together to prevent future Exoduses.
Chag Sameach and Happy Passover from the Board and Staff of Jewish World Watch.
Why is a radish on our Second Seder Plate?
Radishes are just one of the vegetables that Darfuri refugees now grow in the desert of eastern Chad, where they have been living in temporary camps since fleeing genocide in Sudan as long as 16 years ago. The explosion of refugees worldwide has forced aid organizations to cut rations, and the Darfuris are among those suffering from malnutrition as a result. With your support, Jewish World Watch and our partners teach refugees in the camps highly water-efficient perma-gardening to grow lush crops that can survive the harsh Chadian climate. This gardening technique provides food for entire families and communities.
FACT: Chad is home to some 400,000 refugees, of which 310,000 are from the Darfur region in Sudan.
DISCUSS: What are five ways food insecurity can impact a person’s daily life?
Learn more about Jewish World Watch’s project to teach efficient gardening techniques to the Darfuris at jww.org/perma-gardening
Why are crayons on our Second Seder Plate?
Children love to draw; it’s one of the first activities in early education. However, crayons — let alone education — can be a luxury to many children. Often, children in refugee camps have no schools to attend, likewise in the impoverished regions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, tuition and fees can put schooling out of reach. Poor youth are forced to labor to support their families, such as by working in dangerous mines extracting valuable minerals that are then sold to support the militias. Without an education, these children can be susceptible to the lure of militias and other dangerous occupations as they grow up. With your help, JWW is paying for tuition and fees to provide an education to hundreds of children in need.
FACT: In the DRC, 3.5 million children, 26.7% of the country’s primary-age children, do not attend school.
DISCUSS: How might drawings by a child from the DRC differ from pictures drawn by a child in the United States?
Learn about Jewish World Watch’s education programs in the DRC at jww.org/DRC-education
Why are heirlooms on our Second Seder Plate?
During the Holocaust, many survivors held on to family photos and jewelry; some hid valuables in hopes of returning one day to retrieve what they owned. When a refugee flees, there’s very little time to gather belongings and keepsakes. If the refugee is on foot, which is often the case, then only the bare minimum can be carried. Valuables, such as necklaces and watches, are common mementos because they are often small and can easily be hidden. These pieces can be bartered for food and other necessities. The jewelry on this Second Seder Plate represents heirlooms passed on by family members through generations, preserving a connection to their past.
FACT: Refugees often have very little time to save valued family keepsakes.
DISCUSS: What would you bring if you had to flee your home without warning?
Learn more about Jewish World Watch’s current advocacy on behalf of refugees and other conflict affected people at jww.org/actions
Why is a water gun on our Second Seder Plate?
To many of us, even a toy water gun suggests violence. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, some young children are forced to pick up and use real guns, not toys. Boys and girls as young as 10 years old are being abducted and conscripted into militias, where they serve as soldiers and slaves, often fighting alongside adults. Through your support, Jewish World Watch is working with experts in the DRC to extract these children from horrible circumstances, and, once they’re safe, to provide them with both physical and psychological transitional support so they can return to their families and communities.
FACT: Currently, an estimated 300,000 children are actively serving as soldiers around the world.
DISCUSS: What would you give to a former child soldier to help him or her heal?
Learn more about Jewish World Watch’s advocacy efforts on behalf of young children at jww.org/actions
Why are burnt matches on our Second Seder Plate?
There are many ways to destroy lives; fire is a potent one. The Myanmar military burned whole villages as part of a reign of terror to expel the Rohingya, a mostly Muslim ethnic group that has for generations experienced government-sanctioned discrimination in Myanmar. Tens of thousands have died in the Rohingya genocide, and some 900,000 have fled to neighboring Bangladesh, where many now live in fragile shelters. Fire was effectively used to destroy much of the evidence of the systemic murder in Myanmar, and as new vegetation fills in, the renewed land has allowed the Myanmar government to deny the genocide ever occurred. With your support, Jewish World Watch is helping to provide Rohingya families in refugee camps in Bangladesh with safer and more secure housing, as well as medical aid.
FACT: Today, more than 900,000 Rohingya live in refugee camps in Bangladesh.
DISCUSS: How do you prove a village once existed when all evidence has been burned and covered by new vegetation?
Learn about Jewish World Watch’s efforts to provide housing for the Rohingya at jww.org/rohingya-housing
Why is an Rx bottle on our Second Seder Plate?
We take medicine for granted, but what happens to people in a war zone? For the brave doctors who have remained in war-torn Syria, it is almost impossible to get medical supplies. With your support, Jewish World Watch has partnered with a humanitarian aid program to bring large shipments of medical supplies to heal the wounded and sick inside Syria.
FACT: More than just medicine, war zone doctors need everything from surgical gloves to syringes, and all of it must be delivered at great risk.
DISCUSS: What would it be like to be a doctor without supplies on the frontline of a war?
Learn more about Jewish World Watch’s medical supply shipments to Syria at jww.org/syria
Jewish World Watch is an expression of Judaism in action, bringing help and healing to survivors of mass atrocities around the globe and seeking to inspire people of all faiths and cultures to join the ongoing fight against genocide. JWW currently is working with survivors of conflict in Myanmar (Burma), Syria, Sudan, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
To download additional copies of this guide, please visit https://jww.org/SecondSederPlate
Rabbi Benjamin Adler teaches us about Maror:
What is a Bitter Herb? When most of us think of bitter herbs, that maror, we think of khreyn (Yiddish for horseradish). But when you think about it, horseradish is not really bitter. It is pungent or spicy. According to the Talmud, the correct vegetable to use is lettuce, probably a variety of Romaine lettuce. Indeed, this is what many Sephardi Jews use for maror. Of course, Romaine lettuce is not really bitter either. According to Dr. Joshua Kulp, “our pleasant tasting lettuce is the result of two thousand years of cultivation to improve its taste. In the time of the Mishnah, it was probably far more bitter.”
Maror (romain lettuce stalk) is dipped in Charoset, shaken off and eaten at the end of the blessing
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ עַל אֲכִילַת מָרוֹר.
Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu melech ha-olam, asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu al achilat maror.
Praised are you, Adonai, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who has taught us the way of holiness through commandments, commanding us to eat the bitter herb.
Have Yourself a Piece of Bitter Maror
By Gary Teblum
(sung to the tune of "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”)
Have yourself a piece of bitter maror
On each seder night
Then we’ll feel
The toils and our people's plight.
Have yourself a piece of bitter maror
Hillel sandwich way,
Our troubles weren’t so far away.
Here we are as in a olden days,
Such sad slavin' days of yore.
Family, friends who are dear to us
gather near to us once more.
Through the years we all will be together
Just as we are now
Eating matzah, teaching all the children how.
And have yourself a piece of bitter maror now.
Eating a sandwich of matzah and bitter herb | koreich | כּוֹרֵךְ
When the Temple stood in Jerusalem, the biggest ritual of them all was eating the lamb offered as the pesach or Passover sacrifice. The great sage Hillel would put the meat in a sandwich made of matzah, along with some of the bitter herbs. While we do not make sacrifices any more – and, in fact, some Jews have a custom of purposely avoiding lamb during the seder so that it is not mistaken as a sacrifice – we honor this custom by eating a sandwich of the remaining matzah and bitter herbs. Some people will also include charoset in the sandwich to remind us that God’s kindness helped relieve the bitterness of slavery.
Games: Repeats from previous years but let's stay sharp!
Would you Rather?
- Eat only maror the rest of your life OR drink only saltwater?
- Be covered from head to toe in boils OR covered from head to toe in lice?
- Recline whenever you eat OR dip everything you eat?
- Die from extreme Marror Heart Burn or from Matzah Choking?
- Hit the Dog OR Bite the Cat?
- Still be in Eygpt OR still be in school 100 hours a week?
- Drink 4 cups of maror juice OR 10 drops of blood?
- Eat kosher for Passover all year round OR eat exclusively bread on Pesach?
- Eat only matzah brei all year OR eat only cholent?
- Have freed the Jews but brought them to Uganda OR Enslaved the Jews but enslaved them in Israel?
- Live always in darkness but be rich OR live always in light but be poor?
- Have a 1 hour seder with gourmet food at end OR a 9 hour seder with just OK food?
- Have the 4 sons as your children OR have an only child that is wise?
How many of these can you answer in a minute…!!!
- Why do we eat Matzah on Passover? To remind us of the dough that didn’t have time to rise as our forefathers were rushed out of Egypt.
- Name the Four Sons? The wise, the wicked, the simple, and the one who doesn’t know how to ask.
- How many cups of wine do we drink at the Seder? Four.
- What things connected with Seder night are associated with the number four? Four sons, four cups of wine, four questions.
- Why four cups of wine? To celebrate our freedom.
- What is the fourth plague? Whild beasts/ ערוב
- Why do we dip in the Charoset? The Charoset represents the cement that the Jews used to cement the bricks together in their slavery. Today we dip as a sign of freedom.
- What does the shank bone remind us of? The Passover lamb which our forefathers sacrificed to God when they came out of Egypt.
- Can you say all ten plagues in order? Blood, frogs, lice, wild beasts, pestilence, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, plague of the firstborn.
- Can you say the ten plagues backwards? Plague of the firsborn, darkness, locusts, hail, boils, pestilence, wild beasts, lice, frogs, blood.
- Who am I? I am the last thing you eat before you bensch, say the blessing after the meal. There are often lots of fights over who hides me and who finds me. Who am I? The Afikoman.
- Who am I? I am one of the key figures in the story of the going out of Egypt. I lost my whole army and half my country in my stubbornness. Who am I? Pharoah.
- Who am I? I am one of the plagues. I made the Egyptians itch like crazy all over. Who am I? Lice.
- Who am I? My name does not appear once in the Haggadah, but I went several times to Pharoah with my brother to try and persuade him to let the Jewish people go. Who am I? Moses.
- Who do we fill a cup for on the Seder table and hope he comes and joins our Seder? Elijah.
Question: Why do Jews from Gibraltar sprinkle a little bit of brick dust into their charoset? Answer: To remind them of the bricks that the Israelite slaves were forced to make.
Question: What do Hungarian Jews place on the Seder table to represent the precious gifts given to the Israelites as they departed Egypt? Answer: Gold and Jewelry
Question: When they read the piece of the Haggadah that begins “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt” (In Hebrew “Avadim Hayinu”), Jews from this country take a pillowcase filled with heavy objects and carry it on their backs around the table. Answer: Syria
Question: Which symbol from the seder plate do the Kavkazi Jews of the Caucasus hide for the children to find instead of the matza? Answer: An Egg
Question: Why do many Middle Eastern Jewish families whip each other with scallions at the Seder table? Answer: To mimic the whips of slave drivers in Egypt.
Question: Because Moses floated in the river what item do many Jews of Tunisia decorate with a colored cloth in this, and place on the Seder table? Answer: A basket
Question: At Passover, the Abayudaya Jews of what country celebrate the anniversary of the overthrow of the brutal dictator Idi Amin, who outlawed the practice of Judaism? Answer: Uganda
Question: At the beginning of the Seder, what do Jews from Morocco pass above their heads three times while reciting "In haste we came out of Egypt”? Answer: A Seder Plate
Question: Tunisian Jews place a fish bowl with live fish swimming in it on the Passover table. Which part of the Exodus story does this commemorate? Answer: The crossing of the Red Sea
Question: What do Iraqi Jews tie to the back of a small child while telling them to guard it until end of the Seder? Answer: The Afikomen
Question: In which country is the Seder “interrupted” by a knock on the door by a member of the family dressed up as a nomad. The leader of the Seder asks: “Where are you coming from?” (Egypt) Where are you going?” (Jerusalem). Answer: Iraq
According to research done by Be’chol Lashon, 20% of American Jews identify as African American, Latinx, Asian, mixed race, Sephardi and Mizrahi. This year, join us as we celebrate Passover rituals from diverse Jewish communities and traditions.
Download the PDF place cards here: https://werepair.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Passover_Place_Cards.pdf
GREEK FOR DESSERT
Enjoy something sweet. Then, after you’ve eaten all you can eat, eat a small piece of the Afikoman (remember when we created it earlier?) – it’s traditionally the last thing we eat at a Seder.
Find a quarter at your place setting. Put it in the provided tzedakah box, with proceeds to be donated to the charity of the host’s choice. Repeat as often as possible, for this cause and other worthy ones, once back at home.
If you wish to say the full birkat ha’mazon, you may select the text of your choosing from any bencher or prayer book.
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha’olam, ha’zan et ha’olam kulo b’tuvo b’chen b’chesed u’v’rachamim, Hu notein lechem l’chol basar ki l’olam chasdo.
Blessed are You, Our God, Ruler of the Universe, who nourishes the entire universe with your goodness; in kindness, mercy, and compassion, You provide food to all living beings, for your love is everlasting.
Participant: We give thanks for the ability to retell our story through the symbolic foods we have eaten this evening. Indeed, we are not the only people for whom food is liberation. Together, we read the words of Nathaly Rosas Martinez, who grew up between Mexico and the United States, as we remember that the stories of the foods we eat remind us of who we are in this world, even when we have left home in search of safety and freedom.
I am from a place where
The food is an art and every bite
Is a spicy piece of our culture
Where the smells call you to enjoy
And the flavors take you to your memories.
Our food is not only food
It’s a way to communicate our feelings
It’s a way to talk with our family
It’s our history, our identity.
Our kitchen table may be in another country
And the people who ate with us
Are no longer here,
But we will return to gather.*
Pour the third cup of wine.
* Excerpts from Nathaly Rosas Martinez, “Where Food is an Art,” in Merna Ann Hecht, ed., Our Table of Memories: Food & Poetry of Spirit, Homeland, & Tradition (Seattle, WA: Chatwin Books, 2015), 49-50.
Mitzrayim, the Hebrew word for Egypt, is also interpreted to mean “narrow places.” At Passover, we celebrate being released from the restrictions that limit us and make our lives smaller. We are not fully free as long as we are kept down by attitudes and conditions that are unjust.
Many Jews assume that “real Jews” look a certain way and have one path to Judaism — being born Jewish. When confronted with Jews who don’t fit these stereotypes, even well-meaning Jews may treat them as less Jewish. Jews of color and/or those who have converted to Judaism find that other Jews can act insensitively out of ignorance.
In the biblical book that bears her name, Ruth is a Moabite who marries an Israelite living in Moab. After her husband’s death, Ruth insists on accompanying her Israelite mother-in-law, Naomi, when she returns to Israel. There she cares for Naomi and ends up marrying one of her relatives. Because of Ruth’s declaration to Naomi: “Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16), she is considered the prototypical convert to Judaism. Ruth becomes the great-grandmother of King David, from whom our tradition says the Messiah will descend.
The following ritual—Ruth’s Cup—may be added after Elijah’s Cup or anywhere in the seder. It honors not only those who have converted to Judaism, but the overall diversity of the Jewish people:
At Passover we fill a cup with wine for Elijah and open the door to welcome him to our seder. Elijah symbolizes our hope for the Messianic age, when the world will be perfected, and all people will live in harmony and peace.
We also fill a cup of wine for Ruth, the first Jew by choice and great-grandmother of King David. We open the door to signify our welcome of Ruth and all who follow in her footsteps—those who become part of our people, part of our diversity.
All rise, face the open door, and read together:
We declare that we do not have to wait for the Messianic age to make sure that every Jew feels fully comfortable and integrated into our people, no matter what their skin, hair or eye color is; no matter what their name sounds like; no matter how they became Jewish—through birth or through conversion, as a child or as an adult.
Close the door and be seated.
May your Passover be liberating and enlightening!
Optional discussion question – Share a time when you felt like an outsider but were actively welcomed into a new community or space. How did that happen? How did it make you feel?
Lift the third cup of wine and read together.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָּפֶן
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, borei p’ree hagafen.
Blessed are You, Ruler of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.
Emboldened to welcome refugees into our communities, may we remember that true welcome is not completed upon a person’s safe arrival in our country but in all the ways we help people to rebuild their lives. As God provided for our needs on the long journey from slavery to the Promised Land, let us give the refugees in our communities the tools they need not just to survive but to thrive: safe homes to settle into, quality education for their children, English language tutoring, access to jobs, and all of the things we would want for ourselves and our families. Blessed are You, Adonai our God, who gives us the opportunity to be your partner in ongoing redemption.
Drink the third cup of wine.
Discuss as a group: What do you think makes some people stay and continue to experience unimaginable trauma and others flee in search of refuge and asylum? Can you understand both ways of thinking?
Leader: As we conclude our Seder this evening, we draw our attention to the final item on our Seder plate. The zeroah (shank bone), which literally means “arm,” reminds us of the “outstretched arm” with which God brought the Israelite people out of slavery in Egypt.26
Jewish tradition teaches us that we are God’s partners in the continual act of creating a more just world in which all human beings are treated with dignity and compassion. As we recall the strength that God extended to the Jewish people in the season of our escape from oppression, we extend our arms to embrace those in our world still experiencing persecution because of who they are.
May tonight’s Seder inspire each of us to take action on behalf of today’s refugees and asylum seekers, as we join and strengthen the Jewish response to the global refugee crisis at this critical moment in history.
Discuss as a group: Just as we open the door for Elijah , what or to whom do you want to open the door to in your own life this year? What fears do you have about doing so?
Fourth Cup of Wine
Lift the fourth cup of wine and read together.
V’lakachti etchem... I will redeem you...
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָּפֶן
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, borei p’ree hagafen.
Blessed are You, Ruler of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.
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 created b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God. May we see welcoming the stranger at our doorstep not as a danger but an opportunity – to enrich the fabric of our country, to deepen our experience of the world around us, and to live out our Jewish values in action. Blessed are You, Adonai Our God, who has created us all in Your image.
Drink the fourth cup of wine.
At Passover, we receive a personal directive to create an inclusive and welcoming community. Even when we intend to be welcoming, many in our community still feel like strangers. The things that divide us — race, ethnicity, gender, class, religion, among others — also have the power to unite us. During the Seder, we are each meant to remember that we ourselves were once strangers in a strange land. If the Jewish community is to be a home for all, we must make room at the table and share our stories. We hope this supplement will inspire thought, conversation and action; each and every one of us can be the welcome that another needs.
This short supplement can be inserted after the Maggid or beginning of the Passover Story: "This is the bread of affliction that our fathers ate in the land of Egypt. Whoever is hungry, let him come and eat; whoever is in need, let him come and conduct the Seder of Passover. This year [we are] here; next year in the land of Israel. This year [we are] slaves; next year [we will be] free people."
Leader: At the start of the Seder, Jews around the world welcome all those who want to join us at our tables, in our homes, and in our community.
Leader: We welcome Jews of all ethnic backgrounds to join us at our table;
All: There are many ways to express and celebrate Jewish traditions.
Leader: We welcome Jews of all races to join us at our table;
All: We learn and grow from many points of view.
Leader: We welcome those who have chosen Judaism to join us at our table;
All: New enthusiasm and energy revitalizes the Jewish people.
Leader: We welcome all those exploring or connected to Judaism to join us at our table;
All: A variety of experiences and understandings strengthen the Jewish people.
Leader: We welcome those of other faiths or traditions to join us at our table;
All: We know that sharing our stories will help build a future of freedom.
All: We welcome all who have ever felt like strangers to our table. Tonight we go forth together for we are all strangers in Egypt.
Optional discussion question - Share a time when you felt like an outsider but were actively welcomed into a new community or space. How did that happen? How did it make you feel?
Nirtzah marks the conclusion of the seder. Our bellies are full, we have had several glasses of wine, we have told stories and now it is time for the evening to come to a close. At the end of the seder, we honor the tradition of declaring, “Next year in Jerusalem!”
Though it comes at the end of the seder, this moment also marks a beginning. We are beginning the next season with a renewed awareness of the freedoms we enjoy and the obstacles we must still confront. We are looking forward to the time that we gather together again. We are ready for a future filled with meaning, new adventures and love!
What can we do to fulfill our reckless dreams? What will be our legacy for future generations?
Our seder is over, according to Jewish tradition. As we had the pleasure to gather for a seder this year, we hope to once again have the opportunity in the years to come. As we say…
לְשָׁנָה הַבָּאָה בִּירוּשָׁלָֽיִם
L’shana haba-ah biy’rushalayim
NEXT YEAR IN JERUSALEM!
Octavia Butler quote:
"All that you touch you change. All that you change, changes you. The only lasting truth is change. God is change."
This Passover, we ask that you do your best to end the “enslavement” of others through language. We are well aware of the grave nature of physical slavery, and we are not making light of this serious issue by raising the concern of verbal oppression. But it’s clear through our work that using negative language makes some people feel like they are being relegated to a lower or outer edge of society.
Now is the time to stop defining those who are different from us by using negative words and stereotypes -- whether different means Jewish or another religious background, heterosexual or homosexual, American or any other ethnic group, disabled, male or female, single or married, old or young.
Inclusive language is the first step toward creating a truly inclusive -- and fully free from oppression -- Jewish community.
#friendseder™ is coming to a close. After four glasses of vino (and some horseradish-infused vodka!) we’re betting you’re ready to sing out! Fortunately, we’re prepared for that.
Also, it might be fun to do this next year again – maybe even in Jerusalem.
“One Day” by Matisyahu
“500 Miles” by The Proclaimers
“Redemption Song” by Bob Marley
“Who Knows One”
“We Shall Overcome” by Charles Albert Tindley
“Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen
“Go Down Moses”
“Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu” by Mosh Ben Ari
“If I Had A Hammer” by Peter, Paul, & Mary
“Miriam’s Song” by Debbie Friedman