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Passover is a holiday of community and remembrance. As we reflect on the Jewish Exodus, we hold space for those fleeing persecution, violence, and unstable living conditions today. We acknowledge the ground beneath our feet as occupied Native territory, and mourn the construction of walls built to separate families from one another. This meal is held in memory of not only the Jewish people who were freed from enslavement, but all those who have been marginalized and made to feel unsafe in their place of origin. We understand that oppression is not a relic of the past, and hope that this gathering will invigorate our sense of social obligation as Jews and people of conscience to make the world more welcoming to the stranger.
Written by Justine Orlovsky-Schnitzler
:קָרֵב יוֹם אֲשֶׁר הוּא לֹא יוֹם וְלֹא לַיְלָה
Bring [us] close [to] the day which is not day and not night.
As the sun sinks and the colors of the day turn, we offer a blessing for the twilight, for
twilight is neither day nor night, but in-between.
We are all twilight people. We can never be fully labeled or defined. We are many identities
and loves, many genders and none.
We are in between roles, at the intersection of histories, or between place and place.
We are neither day nor night. We are both, neither, and all.
May the in-between of this evening suspend our certainties, soften our judgments,
and widen our vision.
May this in-between light illuminate our way to a path transcends all categories and
We cannot always define; we can always say a blessing. Blessed are You, Blessed are those, who dwell on, and celebrate Twilight!
- (Based on) Rabbi Reuben Zellman, TransTorah.org
There is a Sefardic (Iraqi or Afghani) custom of turning to the person beside you, asking these three
questions, and offering the three brief answers. Try this, and see what opens in you.
Who are you? (I am Yisrael.)
Where are you coming from? (I am coming from Mitzrayim.)
Where are you going? (I am going to Yerushalayim.)
from the Velveteen Rabbi
Point out the Seder Plate and Pour Elijah's Cup.
הִנְנִי מוּכָן וּמְזוּמָּן לְקַיֵּם מִצְוַת חג המצות לְשֵׁם יִחוּד קוּדְשָׁא בְּרִיךְ הוּא וּשְׁכִינְתֵּיהּ.
Hin'ni muchan u-m'zuman l'kayem mitzvat chag hamatzah l'shem yichud kudsha brich hu u-schinteh.
May my commemoration of the festival of matzvah create healing, effecting a unification between the Holy Blessed One and Shekhinah, God far beyond & God deep within.
Adapted by Koach Frazier from a translation by Rabbi Rachel Barenblat
Urchatz, the ritual washing of the hands, is traditionally performed to purify those who partake in the seder. We, as women / queer / gender non-conforming / trans people, have been told for far too long that we are impure, dirty, and inherently sinful. All who join us at our Seder tonight are perfect, pure, and created in the image of the Source. In past years I would encourage you to reconsider performing the practice of Urchatz (ritual washing of your hands) as a radical declaration of your humanity. But this year please whip out that hand sanitizer and wash those hands! Next year may we be as gritty as we want!
Inspired by the Sh’ar Zahav Pride Haggadah
“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.”
― Adrienne Maree Brown, Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds
Break the middle matzah on the matzah plate.
We break the matzah and hide one part (the Aﬁkomen). We recognize that liberation is made by imperfect people, broken, fragmented — so don’t wait until you are totally pure, holy, spiritually centered, and psychologically healthy to get involved in tikkun (the healing and repair of the world). It will be imperfect people, wounded healers, who do the healing as we simultaneously work on ourselves.
As a transgender Jew—a Jew whose gender doesn’t readily fit into the binary categories of male and female—I have always known that the binary distinctions on which we base identity can hurt as well as help, exclude as well as embrace, lead to oppression as well as liberation... Passover is not only a festival that celebrates and enforces binary distinctions—but it is also a festival that confronts us with our inability to make messy human reality conform to those distinctions.
As maddening and uncomfortable as they can be, for me, the laws of Passover ensure that at least once a year, every observant Jew struggles with a condition of existence that transgender Jews live with and suffer from all the time: the fact that the binary distinctions on which Jews traditionally depend to define ourselves are unworkable simplifications of lives that are too complicated to fit within them.
Most Jews do not identify as transgender, but like Joseph, the Egyptian Jew / Jewish Egyptian whose assimilation into Egyptian culture first brought our ancestors to Egypt, in one way or another, all of us are always more than either/or, this or that. This Passover, I hope you will join me in celebrating that.
From Passover: Festival of Binaries by Dr. Joy Ladin
Around our tables sit four daughters.
The Wise daughter understands that not everything is as it appears.
She is the one who speaks up, confident that her opinion counts. She is the one who can take the tradition and ritual that is placed before her, turn it over and over, and find personal meaning in it. She is the one who can find the secrets in the empty spaces between the letters of the Torah.
She is the one who claims a place for herself even if the men do not make room for her.
Some call her wise and accepting. We call her creative and assertive. We welcome creativity and assertiveness to sit with us at our tables and inspire us to act.
The Wicked daughter is the one who dares to challenge the simplistic answers she has been given.
She is the one who asks too many questions. She is the one not content to remain in her prescribed place. She is the one who breaks the mold. She is the one who challenges the status quo.
Some call her wicked and rebellious. We call her daring and courageous. We welcome rebellion to sit with us at our tables and make us uneasy.
The Simple daughter is the one who accepts what she is given without asking for more.
She is the one who trusts easily and believes what she is told. She is the one who prefers waiting and watching over seeking and acting. She is the one who believes that the redemption from Egypt was the final act of freedom. She is the one who follows in the footsteps of others.
Some call her simple and naive. We call her the one whose eyes are yet to be opened. We welcome the contented one to sit with us at our tables and appreciate what will is still to come.
Daughter Who Does Not Know How to Ask
Last is the daughter who does not know how to ask.
She is one who obeys and does not question. She is the one who has accepted men's definitions of the world. She is the one who has not found her own voice. She is the one who is content to be invisible.
Some call her subservient and oppressed. We call her our sister. We welcome the silent one to sit with us at our tables and experience a community that welcomes the voices of women.
(Used with permission of the Temple Emunah Women's Seder Haggadah Design Committee)
The wise child asks, "Why are we gathered for a queer Seder this night?"
To them we say: "The whole Jewish people left Egypt together, all of them, queer, trans, straight, cis. But our queer and trans' voices have been absent from our history, and we would find them again. As it is written: 'Then Miriam the prophetess / took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women went out after her in dance.' We know that our history and peoples have gone unheard. Who were these women, these femmes, these transwomen, these nonbinary revolutionaries marching forward with tambourines and writhing hips and no regrets? They are our history. This night let us celebrate together, both their liberation and our own."
The irreverent child asks, "Why do you gather here only LGBTQ tonight?"
To them we say, "This is not about exclusion. This is about carving out our own safe space- a dangerous concept for those whose privilege encourages them to demand access to our lives. Tonight is a time to focus on our histories, experience, and magic, which where we can help empower each other, and strengthen our connection to Judaism”
The assimilated child asks, "Why do we need to celebrate our Judaism in an LGBTQ context?"
To them we say, "Because we deny our history if we forget we are queer & trans. Because we insult our foremothers if we forget we are Jews. Because we rob our children and youth if we ignore who we are in favor of mainstream assimilation"
To the cis/straight child who is unable to ask because they are not here, we say,
"I don't speak because I have the power to speak; I speak because I don't have the power to remain silent" – Rabbi A.Y. Kook
Cara Levine-Brenner, with inspiration from Dancing with Miriam Haggadah: A Jewish Women's Celebration of Passover
This is what every Seder is about. Celebration of freedom, expressing reverence, appreciation, and confronting who we were and who we have become.
Exodus in 7 Hot Takes
By Cara Levine
- Once upon a time, the Jewish people went into exile in the land of Egypt. During a famine, our ancestors Jacob and his family fled to Egypt where food was plentiful. His son Joseph had risen to a high position in Pharaoh’s court, and they were well-respected and well-regarded, secure in the power structure of the time.
- Generations passed and, in time, a new Pharaoh ascended to the throne. He found the Jewish people’s differences threatening and ordered them enslaved. In fear of rebellion, Pharaoh ordered that all Hebrew AMAB (assigned male at birth) babies must be murdered at birth. Two Egyptian midwives (known to be lovers) named Shifrah and Puah defied his orders, claiming that “the Hebrew women are so hardy, they give birth before we arrived!” Through their courage, Moses survived. Fearing for his safety, his mother & sister Miriam placed him in a basket, and he floated down the Nile. Thanks to Miriam’s intervention he was found, and adopted, by Pharaoh’s daughter, who named him Moshe because min ha-mayim m’shitihu, from the water she drew him forth. She hired his mother Yocheved as his wet-nurse, who shared his Jewish identity with him. He survived to adulthood and was raised as the privileged Prince of Egypt.
- When Moses was young he brought a piece of burning coal into his mouth and gained disability. Moses grew up aware of the slaves who worked in this father’s brickyards. When he saw an overseer abuse a slave, he killed him. Fearing retribution, he set out across the Sinai desert alone. The Voice of God spoke to him from a burning bush, which flamed but was not consumed. The Voice called him to lead the Hebrew people to freedom. Moses argued with God, pleading inadequacy, but God disagreed.
- Moses returned to Egypt and went to Pharaoh to argue that slavery is an injustice. He gave Pharaoh the mandate of mandates: LET MY PEOPLE GO and he said it with a LISP. Pharaoh refused, and Moses warned him that God would strike down the enslavers. Ten terrible plagues were unleashed upon the Egyptians & only when his nation lay in ruins did Pharaoh agree to the liberation of the Jewish people.
- Fearful that Pharaoh would change his mind, the people fled, not waiting for their bread dough to rise (matzo!) The Jewish people did not leave Egypt alone; people from all levels of privilege and ethnicity went with them. Liberation is not for Jews alone, but for all the nations of the earth. Even Pharaoh’s daughter came with us, and traded her old title (bat-Pharaoh, daughter of Pharaoh) for the name Batya, “daughter of God.”
- Pharaoh changed his mind and had his army follow the free people to the Sea of Reeds. The waters parted and they passed, and the great queer femme prophetess Miriam led them in “the song of the sea” which she improvised on the spot. The seas closed after the free people crossed and Pharaoh’s army drowned.
- To this day we relive our liberation, that we may not become complacent, that we may always rejoice when we are free, and fight when all/anyone/any peoples, are oppressed.
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.
Dipping the bitter herb in sweet charoset | maror |מָרוֹר
In creating a holiday about the joy of freedom, we turn the story of our bitter history into a sweet celebration. We recognize this by dipping our bitter herbs into the sweet charoset. We don’t totally eradicate the taste of the bitter with the taste of the sweet… but doesn’t the sweet mean more when it’s layered over the bitterness?
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָֽׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּֽנוּ עַל אֲכִילַת מרוֹר
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al achilat maror.
We praise God, Ruler of Everything, who made us holy through obligations, commanding us to eat bitter herbs.
HaCarah – The conscious recognition of those not completely seen
Tapuz – The Orange
Why do we have an orange on the Seder Plate?
Speaker 1: In our own day as in the ancient days of our tradition, an event becomes a story, a story is woven with new legends, and the legends lead the path into new teachings. So it is with the orange on the Seder plate.
Speaker 2: To begin with in the early 1980’s, while speaking at Oberlin College Hillel, Susannah Heschel was introduced to an early feminist Haggadah that suggested adding a crust of bread on the Seder plate, as a sign of solidarity with Jewish lesbians (there's as much room for a lesbian in Judaism as there is for a crust of bread on the Seder plate). Heschel felt that to put bread on the Seder plate would be to accept that Jewish lesbians and gay men violate Judaism like chametz violates Passover. So, at her next Seder, she chose an orange as a symbol of inclusion of gays and lesbians and others who are marginalized within the Jewish community.
Speaker 3: Heschel offered the orange as a symbol of the fruitfulness for all Jews and LGBTQ Jews' contributions as active members in Jewish life. In addition, each orange segment had a few seeds that had to be spit out – a gesture of spitting out, repudiating the homophobia of Judaism.
Speaker 4: We place an orange on our Seder plate to symbolize the affirmation of LGBTQ people, and to ensure we continue to cherish that growth of Judaism. Tonight all LGBTQ Jews take their full and rightful place in shaping the future of our people and traditions by placing the orange on its own Seder plate. Our two Seder plates represent the duality of symbolism as we sit here at our queer Seder; the Jewish traditions that we embrace since ancient days and our transformation as LGBTQ Jews into equal contributors to the growth of our people’s traditions.
Speaker 5: So why an orange? Because the orange carries within itself the seeds of its own rebirth. So have gay men and lesbians, bisexual people, transgender people, women, Jews by choice within Judaism given birth to their own inclusion.
Speaker 6: Also because an orange provides both food and drink – it alone could sustain life for quite some time. So have queer Jews and others on the outskirts of the tradition had, at times, to sustain themselves until others understood and chose to welcome and include instead of turning away.
Speaker 7: This year we’ll do more than let the orange sit upon the Seder plate as a silent symbol, unconsumed. Tonight we will say the blessing and taste the sweetness of our orange and use it to add flavor to our Charoset to remind us that we are all a part of the mortar that binds our people. Take note how the flavor of our Charoset changes when we are able to taste the sweetness of integration.
Peel orange and break into sliced segments to distribute
We make a conscious decision to recognize those who have not fully been seen by everyone in our society. We take a piece of orange and recite:
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַעֵץ
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheynu Melech Ha’Olam, bo’ray p’ree ha’etz
Blessed are You, Source, Ruler of the universe, who creates the fruit of the tree.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheynu Melech Ha’Olam, bo’ray p’ree ha’adamah.
Blessed are You, Almighty, Ruler of the universe, who creates the fruit of the earth.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם שֶׁהַכֹּל נִהְיָה בִּדבָרוֹ
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheynu Melech Ha’Olam, she-ha-kol ni-h’yeh bid-va-ro.
Blessed are You, God, Ruler of the universe, by whose word everything comes to be.
Adapted from JQ International GLBT Haggadah
From "A ‘Where’s Waldo’ Alternative to Your Afikomen Hunt This Passover" by Cara Goldfarb
Ruth’s Cup: A New Passover Ritual Honoring Jewish Diversity
by Rabbi Heidi Hoover
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?
Let us all refill our cups.
Leader picks up cup for all to see.
This is the cup of hope.
The seder tradition involves pouring a cup for the Hebrew prophet Elijah. For millennia, Jews opened the door for him, inviting him join their seders, hoping that he would bring with him a messiah to save the world.
Yet the tasks of saving the world - once ascribed to prophets, messiahs and gods - must be taken up by us mere mortals, by common people with shared goals. Working together for progressive change,we can bring about the improvement of the world, tiqqun ha-olam - for justice and for peace, we can and we must.
Let us now symbolically open the door of our seder to invite in all people of good will and all those in needto work together with us for a better world.Let us raise our fourth cup as we dedicate ourselves to tiqqun olam, the improvement of the world.
"L' Tiqqun Olam!"
All drink the fourth cup.
Reader 1: The story has always been told of a miraculous well of living water which has accompanied the Jewish people since the world was spoken into being. The well comes and goes, as it is needed, and as we remember, forget, and remember again how to call it to us. In the time of the exodus from Mitzrayim, the well came to Miriam, in honor of her courage and action, and stayed with the Jews as they wandered the desert. Upon Miriam’s death, the well again disappeared.
Reader 2: With this ritual of Miriam’s cup, we honor all Jewish women, transgender, genderqueer, intersex people whose histories have been erased. We commit ourselves to transforming all of our cultures into loving welcoming spaces for people of all genders and sexes.
Reader 3: Tonight we remember Miriam and ask: Who on own journey has been a way-station for us? Who has encouraged our thirst for knowledge? Who sings with joy at our accomplishments?
Reader 4: Let us each go around and name an act of courage or resistance you have seen from another, and pour water into the communal cup until it overflows.
by Miriam Grossman
May it be your will Our God and God of our ancestors that you lead us in peace and direct our steps
(our marching, Rebellious, organized, queer dance-partying, prayerful steps)
In peace and guide us in peace and support us in just peace (and in the tearing down of walls, and in the rising up of peoples)
And cause us to reach our destination in life and joy and peace
(all of us together, no one left behind)
Save us from every enemy and ambush, from robbers and wild beasts
(And from tear gas and flash-bags, and sound cannons and night sticks and rubber bullets, from furious hands that reach towards unarmed bodes)
May You confer blessing upon the work of our hands
(and our movements and our histories: uplifted, remembered, redeemed). Grant us grace, kindness, and mercy in Your eyes and in the eyes of all who witness us
(Let human bodies be seen as human bodies.)
And bestow upon us abundant kindness
(remind us there is no scarcity of vision, power, strength)
And hearken to the voice of our prayer, for You hear the prayers of all.
Blessed are You G-d, who hearkens to prayer
(and peace seeking and rabble rousing)
Blessed are we who journey in action and prayer
Download the Jews For Racial and Economic Justice 2017 Supplement Here: http://jfrej.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/haggadah2017_WEB4.pdf
A song by Girls in Trouble about Miriam, but later in her life, from the book of Numbers Chapter 12, when she's exiled from the group for a while.