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A Prayer for Human Rights
Rabbi Brant Rosen
Ruach Kol Chai - Spirit of All that Lives: Help us.
Help us to uphold the values that are so central to whom we are: human beings created B'tzelem Elohim- in the image of God. Help us to recognize that the inherent dignity of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world. The inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family are the foundations of freedom, justice and peace in the world. May we find the strength to protect and plead the cause of the stranger among us, to ensure just treatment for all who dwell in our land.
Guide us toward one law. One justice. One human standard of behavior toward all. Move us away from the equivocation that honors the divine image in some but not in others. Let us forever affirm that the justice we purport to hold dear is nothing but a sham if it does not uphold the value of K'vod Habriot - basic human dignity for all who dwell in our midst.
Forgive us for the inhumane manner in which we too often treat the other. We know, or should, that when it comes to crimes against humanity, some of us may be guilty, but all of us are responsible. Grant us kapparah - atonement for the misdeeds of exclusion we invariably commit against the most vulnerable members of society: the unwanted, the unhoused, the uninsured, the undocumented.
Strengthen us to find the wherewithal to shine your light into the dark places of our world. Give us ability to uncover those who are hidden from view, locked away, forgotten. Let us never forget that nothing is hidden and no one lost from before you. Embolden us in the knowledge that neshamot - human souls are neither disposable nor replaceable; that we can never, try as we might, lock away the humanity of another.
Remind us of our duty to create a just society right here, right now, in our day. Give us the vision of purpose to guard against the complacency of the comfortable - and the resolve in knowing that we cannot put off the cause of justice and freedom for another day. Remind us that the time is now. Now is the moment to create your kingdom here on earth.
Ken Yehi Ratzon. May it be your will. And may it be ours. And let us say, Amen.
Throughout our history, violence and persecution have driven the Jewish people to wander in search of a safe place to call home. We are a refugee people. At the Passover Seder, we gather to retell the story of our original wandering and the freedom we found. But we do not just retell the story. We are commanded to imagine ourselves as though we, personally, went forth from Egypt – to imagine the experience of being victimized because of who we are, of being enslaved, and of being freed.
As we step into this historical experience, we cannot help but draw to mind the 65 million displaced people and refugees around the world today fleeing violence and persecution, searching for protection. Like our ancestors, today’s refugees experience displacement, uncertainty, lack of resources, and the complete disruption of their lives.
Over the past year, we have read almost daily about humanitarian crises, watched xenophobic hate crimes increase, and been overwhelmed by the sheer number of people being persecuted. In the United States, in particular, we have experienced a devastating closing of doors to refugees. We now have the opportunity this evening to move beyond the headlines and the statistics to focus on the individual experiences behind the numbers and policies. These are the experiences of refugees around the world who, like the ancient Israelites, are finding liberation amidst brokenness and rebuilding their lives. Tonight, as we embrace the experience of our ancestors, we also lift up the experiences of the world’s refugees who still wander in search of safety and freedom.
October 1, 1941, Dr. Seuss Political Cartoons, PM Magazine. Special Collection & Archives, UC San Diego Library
The Shehecheyanu is a prayer that Jews have been saying for over 2000 years to mark special occasions. Tonight, all of us here together is special occasion. Whether Jewish or not, we have come here under a shared belief that everyone is entitled to be free. We all believe that everyone is entitled to certain inalienable rights. We all believe that we must treat our brothers and sisters with common decency. That is special and meaningful.
To mark this special and meaningful occasion, we all join together in the words of the Shehecheyanu:
בָרוּךְ אַתָה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם שֶהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְמָנוּ
וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לַזְמַן הַזֶה
Baruch atah, Adonai, eloheinu melech ha’olam,
shehecheyanu v’kiy’manu v’higiyanu lazman hazeh.
Blessed are you, Adonai, sovereign of all worlds, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this moment.
The Four Freedoms were goals articulated by United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt on January 6, 1941. In an address known as the Four Freedoms speech, he proposed four fundamental freedoms that people "everywhere in the world" ought to enjoy: Freedom of Speech- The right to say and stand up for what you believe in. Freedom of Worship- "Freedom of everyone to be able to worship god in their own way."Freedom of Want- Being able to have basic necessities such as clothing, food, and shelter.Freedom from Fear- Neighbors get along with each other and people were not constantly in fear for their well-being.
Questions to ponder: Do you see any problems in each freedom? Do you feel we live in a world where we are experiencing each freedom? What would your personal four freedom be?
The following alternative kiddush was written by Marcia Falk, a prominent Jewish feminist liturgist. Her blessings avoid the problem of God’s gender because they do not reference God as a person-like being. In addition, they locate the power of blessing with the people ("Let us bless" rather than with God’s inherent blessedness ("Blessed are you")
N’vareykh et Eyn Hahayim matzmihat p’ri hagefen.
Let us bless the Source of Life that ripens the fruit on the vine.
“The seder is a protest against despair. The universe might appear deaf to our fears and hopes, but we are not--so we gather, and share them, and pass them down. We have been waiting for this moment for thousands of years--more than one hundred generations of Jews have been here as we are--and we will continue to wait for it. And we will not wait idly.”
What a blessing to live in a world in which fruit on the vine can turn into wine.
What a blessing to come from a culture that tells stories and celebrates the seasons.
What a blessing to exist in a universe that, after billions of years, has arrived at this moment, here and now, with us gathered around this table.
In washing our hands, we also think of those who don't get to share in the basic human right of abundant, clean water
of people deprived of water by the weather in Somalia, in India, in Texas
and those deprived of water by human action in places like Flint, Michigan
as well as those whose homes have been ravaged by wind and water in Colombia, in California, and here in New Jersey.
We wash our hands and accept our responsibilities to those threatened by the presence and absence of water
and pray that those with the human power to change things do not wash their hands of what the world needs them to correct.
Salt is unique in that it is bitter on its own, yet sweetens and brings out the taste of that which it is added to. For this reason, salt is the staple of suffering.
There are two perspectives of suffering – Purposeless Suffering and Purposeful Suffering.
Purposeless Suffering is suffering without reason, value, or an end-goal, and is therefore completely bitter. It is based on a keyhole view of life: “What is right in front of my eyes is all there is and there is no grander scheme.”
We squint in order to focus on something in the distance.
The Kabbalists explain that for this reason, the reaction of a person in pain is to close his eyes, since physical eyes don't see the spiritual purpose. Just as a person squints, which is a partial closing of one's eyes in order to focus on something in the physical distance, one may close his eyes completely in order to focus on something in the "spiritual distance.”
Purposeful Suffering is sweetened by understanding the greater context – that all is from God and for the best.
At the Seder, we dip the Karpas into saltwater in order to embody the concept of Purposeful Suffering – that we view any suffering in life as a surgery for our ultimate betterment rather than meaningless torture. (Additionally, we dip Karpas into salt water to represent the tears cried by the Jewish people while enslaved under Egyptian rule.)
We see these two sides of salt expressed by the Dead Sea. Due to its high salt concentration, the Dead Sea contains no life within it, yet has an incredible capacity to heal. On its own, the Dead Sea is "bitter," but when a person dips into the Dead Sea, he is "sweetened."
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 fruits of the earth.
We also dip Karpas to help us remember the sweetness of life. How the universe works in cycles and the spring will always come back around providing us with new life.
By Ronnie M. Horn
Long before the struggle upward begins, there is tremor in the seed. Self-protection cracks, Roots reach down and grab hold. The seed swells, and tender shoots push up toward light. This is karpas: spring awakening growth. A force so tough it can break stone.
And why do we dip karpas into salt water?
To remember the sweat and tears of our ancestors in bondage.
To taste the bitter tears of our earth, unable to fully renew itself this spring because of our waste, neglect and greed.
To feel the sting of society's refusal to celebrate the blossoming of women's bodies and the full range of our capacity for love.
And why should salt water be touched by karpas?
To remind us that tears stop. Spring comes. And with it the potential for change.
Take the middle matzah of the three on your Seder plate. Break it into two pieces. Wrap the larger piece, the Afikoman, in a napkin to be hidden later. As you hold up the remaining smaller piece, read these words together:
We now hold up this broken matzah, which so clearly can never be repaired. We eat the smaller part while the larger half remains out of sight and out of reach for now. We begin by eating this bread of affliction and, then, only after we have relived the journey through slavery and the exodus from Egypt, do we eat the Afikoman, the bread of our liberation. We see that liberation can come from imperfection and fragmentation. Every day, refugees across the globe experience the consequences of having their lives ruptured, and, yet, they find ways to pick up the pieces and forge a new, if imperfect, path forward.
In the Seder three matzot are placed on a plate. During this step the middle matzah is broken and a piece taken and hidden for later. Why is the matzah broken now when it is not needed for later in the ceremony? Because a key to freedom is to anticipate the future and make it real. The challenge of adulthood is to train ourselves to look at the long-term consequences. Slavery is a life where only the immediate is important, there is no looking forward, there is no choice. On Passover, we realize that freedom takes commitment, planning and responsibility. What are your goals? What are you committed to?
￼Matzah is called “lechem oni”—the bread of our affliction. In breaking the matzah in half, we remind ourselves that as long as anyone in the world is afflicted, none of us can be whole. The division of the matzah also reminds us of the forced division of communities and families due to disappearances, detentions and deportations of immigrants.
Uncover the matzah and raise it for all to see.
Now we will hide one half of this piece of matzah. At our freedom justice Seder this evening, the hidden piece of matzah, the Afikomen, represents the horror hidden from our view—those who do not have access to nutritious food, those who are unable to attain or maintain housing, the treatment of those detained and prevented from speaking with their families, friends or lawyers.
The disappeared are doubly blocked from our sight, physically separated in jails and detention centers, but also wrapped in a blanket of fear of further disappearances and legal attacks, fears intended to silence their communities.
Until these divided parts are made one again, our Seder cannot truly be ended. Until these families and communities are reunited, we have not yet achieved our freedom.
Here in New York City, “Broken Windows” policing disproportionately targets poor communities of color for low-level offenses. Being arrested or “summonsed” for even minor violations such as riding a bicycle on the sidewalk can have extreme consequences such as loss of scholarships and financial aid, being evicted from public housing, or being fired for missing a day of work. There are other types of abusive policing in NYC such as the broad-based, and unconstitutional surveillance of Muslims. In Ferguson, the U.S. Department of Justice investigation of the local police force discovered what residents already knew — sweeping Civil Rights violations and pervasive racial bias among police. Equally corrosive and abusive police cultures and policies exist in departments across the nation.
In New York City
Between January 2004 and June 2012 the police stopped, questioned or frisked 4.4 million people. 94% of these stops uncovered no crime at all. (NY Times; NYCLU)
· Black & Latino New Yorkers made up almost 9 out of 10 stops. (NYCLU)
· In 2011, stops of young black men (ages 14–24) outnumbered the entire population of young black men in New York City. (NYCLU)
· The police patrol our public schools, where Black & Latino children make up 95% of those arrested. (NYCLU)
In Ferguson, MO, the U.S. Department of Justice found that:
· African Americans experience disparate impact in nearly every aspect of Ferguson’s law enforcement system.
· Despite making up 67% of the population, African Americans accounted for 85% of traffic stops, 90% of citations, and 93% of arrests from 2012 to 2014.
· African Americans have force used against them at disproportionately high rates, accounting for 88% of all cases from 2010 to August 2014 in which an FPD officer reported using force.
Nationally, police violence and the over-incarceration of people of color resembles a “New Jim Crow.”
· Blacks are only 12 percent of the population and 13 percent of drug users, but they constituted almost a third of those arrested in 2010. (CRF)
· An African American male born in 2001 had a 32% chance of going to jail in his lifetime, while a Latino male has a 17% chance, and a white male only 6%. (U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics)
· In the first 6 months of 2012 a Black person was killed by the police or other authorities every 36 hours. (MXGM)
· 46% had no weapon at all at the time. (MXGM)
How can we say that Black & Brown lives matter when we treat them so carelessly? Imprison, kill and humiliate them with such reckless abandon? As Jews we know what it feels like to be treated like this. This Passover, what will you commit to so that no one else has to experience this kind of discrimination?
What's missing in your Passover narrative? Fill in the blanks. Order your copy here: https://store.customandcraft.org/products/in-every-generation-poster
Rachel Naomi Remen, physician and author, shared this story as she heard it from her grandfather, an Orthodox rabbi.
In the beginning there was only the holy darkness, the Ein Sof (No End), the source of life. And then, in the course of history, at a moment in time, this world, the world of a thousand thousand things, emerged from the heart of the holy darkness as a great ray of light. And then, perhaps because this is a Jewish story, there was an accident, and the vessels containing the light of the world, the wholeness of the world, broke. And the wholeness of the world, the light of the world was scattered into a thousand thousand fragments of light, and they fell into all events and all people, where they remain deeply hidden until this very day.
Now, according to my grandfather, the whole human race is a response to this accident. We are here because we are born with the capacity to find the hidden light in all events and all people, to lift it up and make it visible once again and thereby to restore the innate wholeness of the world. It’s a very important story for our times. And this task is called tikkun olam in Hebrew. It’s the restoration of the world.
And this is, of course, a collective task. It involves all people who have ever been born, all people presently alive, all people yet to be born. We are all healers of the world. And that story opens a sense of possibility. It’s not about healing the world by making a huge difference. It’s about healing the world that touches you.
What is a feminist?
We’ve heard the word before. Feminist. But the meaning of the word seems…controversial. Is a feminist someone who hates men? To be a feminist, do you have to burn your bra and not shave your armpits? Is Lena Dunham really a feminist?
Simply put, being a feminist means you believe in the social, political and economic equality of women. So why is it such a dirty word? What makes this such a “hot topic”?
Ask around the table: What does it mean to you to be a feminist? Do you identify as a feminist? Why or why not?
Why is it essential that feminism be intersectional?
The term “intersectional,” coined by scholar and activist Kimberlé Crenshaw, is the idea that multiple identities intersect to create a whole; in order to fully understand someone’s identity, we must think of each separate identity as linked to all the others. As an example, a white Jewish woman is all three parts of her identity; she cannot simply separate her race, religion and gender when these identities intersect and interplay with one another constantly.
So why is this important in relation to feminism? Because if our concept of equality doesn’t include the liberation of women of color, queer women, disabled women, then what are we fighting for? If we don’t name these identities explicitly in our struggle, we leave out the essential experience and strength they bring.
Do you think your feminism is intersectional? Do you think it’s important that feminism be intersectional? Have you thought about intersectional feminism before?
How can we better include trans women in our fight for gender equality?
Speaking of intersectionality, as trans issues have come into the media spotlight over the past few years, it’s essential we think about how we can improve our inclusion of trans women in feminism. When we consider the wage gap, are we talking about anyone besides white cisgender (i.e. non-transgender) women? When we fight for health care, are we accounting for the needs of trans women within that system? When we talk about reproductive justice, do we conflate being a woman with having a uterus? Do our women’s events have space for trans women to feel comfortable using the restroom? Jewish women’s spaces often center on bat mitzvah or Rosh Chodesh; can we expand these rituals and events to meaningfully include trans women?
How do you think we can better include trans women in our fight for gender justice? And beyond the fight for women’s rights, how is your Jewish community inclusive of the trans community?
What are some concrete ways we can fight for gender equality?
It’s easy to be theoretical when we talk about the struggle for justice. While it’s great to use our brains and hearts sometimes, we must use our hands as well. Not every act of rebellion needs to be a huge march or protest. Not everyone can call or march, not everyone can strike or boycott, not everyone is safe enough to speak up; however, everyone can take some action.
Go around the table and share one way you will fight against the patriarchy this year. Make a public commitment to those at your seder table and tell everyone about how you can make a difference.
With gratitude and love to Gracie Bulleit, Annie Kee, Andrea Krakovsky, Jordyn Rozensky and Joanna Ware for their input and help.
"As Jews, we remember and we cannot let injustice happen again in this country. This is our moment to bend the moral arc and to move racial justice work forward through advocacy, activism, and engagement." -- Tiffany Harris
"Our relative safety in American has allowed many of us to consider the fight for racial justice as struggle we can opt in and out of. But then are we fully honoring our traditional teaching of 'If I am only for myself, what am I?' Now is the moment for us to stand against injustice not only for ourselves, but for the most vulnerable among us." -- Chava Shervington
"Because those in the grips of Pharoah's institutional oppression have been given a platform to see their greatness and be seen as great. Because the Passover seder tells us to remember and protect them, as it says: 'The night of (worthy) protection for all future generations... (Exodus, 12:42)'" -- Isaiah Rothstein
"Maybe it isn't different and you're just treating it that way. Or maybe it is. But you're insisting that it doesn't need to be treated differently." -- MaNishtana
Download the PDF Pyramid Cut Out for your seder table at http://rpr.world/passover-pyramid
At Passover, we are confronted with the stories of our ancestors’ pursuit of liberation from oppression. Facing this mirror of history, how do we answer their challenge? How do we answer our children when they ask us how to pursue justice in our time?
What does the Activist Child ask?
“The Torah tells me, ‘Justice, justice shall you pursue,’ but how can I pursue justice?”
Empower him always to seek pathways to advocate for the vulnerable. As Proverbs teaches, “Speak up for the mute, for the rights of the unfortunate. Speak up, judge righteously, champion the poor and the needy.”
What does the Skeptical Child ask?
“How can I solve problems of such enormity?”
Encourage her by explaining that she need not solve the problems, she must only do what she is capable of doing. As we read in Pirke Avot, “It is not your responsibility to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.”
What does the Indifferent Child say?
“It’s not my responsibility.”
Persuade him that responsibility cannot be shirked. As Abraham Joshua Heschel writes, “The opposite of good is not evil, the opposite of good is indifference. In a free society where terrible wrongs exist, some are guilty, but all are responsible.”
And the Uninformed Child who does not know how to ask…
Prompt her to see herself as an inheritor of our people’s legacy. As it says in Deuteronomy, “You must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
At this season of liberation, join us in working for the liberation of all people. Let us respond to our children’s questions with action and justice.
Tonight, let’s speak about four people striving to engage in racial justice. They are a complicated constellation of identity and experience; they are not simply good or bad, guileless or silent. They are Jews of Color and white Jews. They are Mizrahi, Sephardi, and Ashkenazi; they are youth, middle-aged, and elders. They are a variety of people who are at different stages of their racial justice journey. Some of them have been on this journey for their entire lives, and for some, today is the first day. Some of them are a part of us, and others are quite unfamiliar.
What do they say? They ask questions about engaging with racial justice as people with a vested interest in Jewishness and Jewish community. How do we answer? We call them in with compassion, learning from those who came before us.
WHAT DOES A QUESTIONER SAY?
“I support equality, but the tactics and strategies used by current racial justice movements make me uncomfortable.”
Time and time again during the journey through the desert, the Israelites had to trust Moses and God’s vision of a more just future that the Israelites could not see themselves. As they wandered through the desert, eager to reach the Promised Land, they remained anxious about each step on their shared journey. They argued that there must be an easier way, a better leader, and a better God. They grumbled to Moses and Aaron in Exodus 16:3, “If only we had died by the hand of God in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the cooking pot, when we ate our fill of bread! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to starve this whole community to death.” Despite their deep misgivings, they continued onward.
As we learn in our Passover retelling, the journey toward liberation and equity can be difficult to map out. In the midst of our work, there are times when we struggle to truly identify our own promised land. We see this challenge in various movements, whether for civil rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, workers’ rights, and others. In our retelling of these struggles for justice, we often erase conflicts of leadership, strategy debates, or even the strong contemporaneous opposition to their successes. Only when we study these movements in depth do we appreciate that all pushes for progress and liberation endure similar struggles, indecision, and pushback.
WHAT DOES A NEWCOMER SAY?
“How do I reach out and engage with marginalized communities in an authentic and sustained way?”
We tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt year after year; it is a story not only about slavery and freedom, but also a story of transition. At its core, the Passover story is about the process of moving from oppression to liberation. It informs us that liberation is not easy or fast, but a process of engagement and relationship building.
As the Israelites wandered in the desert, they developed systems of accountability and leadership. Every person contributed what they could given their skills, passions, and capacity to create the mishkan, the Israelites’ spiritual sanctuary in the desert. As it says in Exodus 35:29, “[T]he Israelites, all the men and women whose hearts moved them to bring anything for the work that the LORD, through Moses, had commanded to be done, brought it as a freewill offering to the LORD.”
Those of us engaging or looking to engage in racial justice work can learn from that example. We need to show up, and keep showing up. We can spend time going to community meetings, trainings, marches, protests, and other actions while practicing active listening and self-education. Only by each person exploring their own privileges and oppressions, whatever they may be, can we show up fully and thoughtfully in this racial justice work.
WHAT DOES A JEW OF COLOR SAY?
“What if I have other interests? Am I obligated to make racial justice my only priority?”
The work of racial justice is not only for People of Color; it is something everyone must be engaged in. Most Jews of Color are happy to be engaged in racial justice, whether professionally, personally, or a mix of both. However, we nd too often the burden of the work falls on our shoulders. The work of racial justice cannot only fall to Jews of Color.
Instead, all Jews who are engaged in tikkun olam, repairing the world, should be engaged in the work of racial justice. Following the leadership of Jews of Color, white Jews must recognize their own personal interest in fighting to dismantle racist systems. When white Jews commit to racial justice work, it better allows Jews of Color to take time for self-care by stepping away from the work or focusing on a different issue. As Rabbi Tarfon writes in Pirke Avot 2:21, “It is not your responsibility to finish the work of perfecting the world, but you are not free to desist from it either.”
WHAT DOES AN AVOIDER SAY?
“I am so scared of being called a racist, I don’t want to engage in any conversations about race.”
Engaging in conversations about difficult and personal subjects takes time and practice. When Joseph first began having prophetic dreams as a young man, he insensitively told his brothers that despite his youth, they would eventually bow down to him. In Genesis 37:8, Joseph’s brothers respond by asking, ‘“Do you mean to rule over us?” And they hated him even more for his talk about his dreams.’ However, as he matured, his dreams became his method of survival. As Joseph learned how to share his dreams with people in power, he was able to reunite with his family and create a period of incredible prosperity in Egypt.
We will make mistakes when engaging in racial justice. It is part of the process. Engaging in racial justice conversations can be painful and uncomfortable; it is also absolutely essential. We must raise up the dignity and complexity in others that we see in ourselves and our loved ones. Empathy for people of different backgrounds, cultures, religions, and races moves us to have these difficult conversations. Compassion for ourselves allows us to keep engaging through any guilt or discomfort.
Download the Full PDF Here: http://rpr.world/the-four-people
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.
At the time the Haggadah was created, it was safe for the rabbis to assume that most Jewish adults had the knowledge available to teach their children about the Exodus. At that time, perhaps, all adults did know about the Exodus from Egypt and the Jews' struggle against Pharaoh. However, in subsequent generations, not all adults are familiar with the story told in the Haggadah, with the people of Israel, with their history. It isn't only the children that need to be taught, but their parents as well. To complicate matters, each Jew is coming from a different orientation with regard to his or her Judaism.
In today's world, Jews may identify themselves in a variety of ways. One may be ritually, culturally, or intellectually orientedor unconnected. And yet, however modified one's Judaism may be, there is still some level of concern about the Jewish people that causes Jews to at least ask the questions about the Exodus from Egypt. If they weren't interested, they wouldn't ask. We must answer them, and enable them to teach their children.
The ritual Jew asks: "What are the laws that God commanded us? " This Jew defines herself by the rituals, the laws and guidelines of Pesach. We call on her to seek the meaning that underlies all of these acts, so that they have relevance for all of us today.
The unconnected Jew asks: "What does this ritual mean to you?" This Jew feels alienated from the Jewish community and finds it difficult to identify with the rituals, perhaps because of his upbringing or experiences. Yet we recognize that he is still interested, if only because he asks these questions, and we call on him to see these rituals as a way of affirming the universal beliefs that gave rise to them.
The cultural Jew asks: "What is this all about?" She shows little concern with the ritual or psychological ramifications of the Exodus, even while embracing this reenactment of our ancestors; flight from Egypt. We call on her to recognize that it was a deep sense of faith that enabled these rituals to transcend the generations. It was belief in a vision of future freedom that caused us to celebrate our first Exodus and hear the echo of the prophets' call: "Let all people go!"
The intellectual Jew refrains from asking direct questions because he doesn't lean in any direction, preferring instead to let the text speak for itself. We call on him to understand that true freedom can only be obtained when we question authority and challenge power, even if that power be God Himself. It is our responsibility to question not only the text but the status quo too, and share this message of freedom with all people everywhere.
Expressing our anger, releasing our anger, knowing and claiming our anger is an important step in the process of liberation, but hatred and violence can never overcome hatred and violence. Only love and compassion can transform our world.
My Ashamed Self – I’m so ashamed of what people are doing that I have no way of dealing with it!
We acknowledge our feelings of guilt, shame and disappointment in order to not be paralyzed by these strong emotions. We transmute these forces, using the fire of injustice to fuel us in working for change. We also remember and celebrate the amazing, ordinary people around the world who are working to dismantle oppression together everyday.
My Fearful Self – Why should I care about other people when they don’t care about me? If I share what I have, there won’t be enough and I will end up suffering.
We must challenge the sense of scarcity that we have learned from capitalism and our histories of oppression. If we change the way food, housing, education, and resources are distributed, we could all have enough.
Martin Luther King said: It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality.
My Compassionate Self – How can I struggle for justice with an open heart? How can we live in a way that builds the world we want to live in, without losing hope?
This is the question that we answer with our lives. Compassion is the foundation upon which we can build loving communities, dedicated to the lifelong journey toward liberation. We are all blind and constricted in certain areas, and we are all wise and liberated in others. Compassion allows us to forgive ourselves and each other for our imperfections, and to release the judgments that keep us from fully experiencing love.
Each of us contains the angry one, the ashamed one, the frightened one, the compassionate one. When we can acknowledge all four of them, we are able to stay on the long and winding path toward personal liberation.
At Passover each year, we read the story of our ancestors’ pursuit of liberation from oppression. When confronting this history, how do we answer our children when they ask us how to pursue justice in our time?
WHAT DOES THE ACTIVIST CHILD ASK?
“The Torah tells me, ‘Justice, justice you shall pursue,’ but how can I pursue justice?” Empower this child always to seek pathways to advocate for the vulnerable. Help those with no voice speak up for themselves. Speak up for the rights of the those who do not have your privilege. Speak up, judge righteously, champion the poor and those in need.
WHAT DOES THE SKEPTICAL CHILD ASK?
“How can I solve problems of such enormity?” Encourage this child by explaining that they need not solve the problems, they must only do what they are capable of doing. As we read in Pirke Avot, “It is not your responsibility to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.”
WHAT DOES THE INDIFFERENT CHILD SAY?
“It’s not my responsibility.”Persuade this child that responsibility cannot be shirked. As Abraham Joshua Heschel writes, “The opposite of good is not evil, the opposite of good is indifference. In a free society where terrible wrongs exist, some are guilty, but all are responsible.”
AND THE UNINFORMED CHILD WHO DOES NOT KNOW HOW TO ASK...
Prompt this child to see themselves as an inheritor of our people’s legacy. As it says in Deuteronomy, “You must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”At this season of liberation, join us in working for the liberation of all people. Let us respond to our children’s questions with action and justice.
This is what every Seder is about. Celebration of freedom, expressing reverence, appreciation, and confronting who we were and who we have become.
WHY SHOULD I CARE ABOUT THIS AS A JEW? The Jewish people has been a refugee people since biblical times. In the United States, we know the devastating consequences of turning away refugees. Less than a century ago, refugees fleeing the Holocaust were marked as security threats to the U.S., denied entry, and sent back to Europe to be brutally murdered. Furthermore, the value of welcoming, protecting, and loving the stranger appears in the Torah 36 times according to the Talmud – more than any other value.
ARE REFUGEES A SECURITY THREAT? Refugees complete extensive security and medical screenings more rigorous than those for any other entrant to America – involving 5 U.S. government agencies – before they step foot on American soil. No person admitted through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program has ever been implicated in a major fatal terrorist attack in the United States.
WHY DOES THE UNITED STATES NEED TO WELCOME REFUGEES? CAN’T OTHER COUNTRIES DO IT? When the U.S. welcomes refugees, the rest of the nations of the world follow suit. Other countries are also doing their part. Millions of refugees first flee to and make a life in the countries closest to them. For example, Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey have all taken in millions of Syrian refugees.
AREN’T REFUGEES A DRAIN ON OUR ECONOMY? WHO IS GOING TO PAY FOR HELPING THEM? Refugees pay taxes, get jobs, and start businesses; they contribute much more to our economy than they take from it. According to one study, in Cleveland, local refugee services agencies spent about $4.8 million in 2012 to help refugees get established, but the boon to the economy generated by those refugees weighed in at about $48 million, roughly 10 times the initial resettlement costs.
BUT AREN’T MANY OF THESE REFUGEES ANTI-SEMITIC? Many refugees arriving in the United States have never met Jews before. The welcome they receive from Jewish organizations, individuals, and congregations combats anti-Semitism that may exist, breaks down their assumptions, and helps them more quickly become part of the diverse fabric of this country. Additionally, all refugees resettled in the U.S. receive mandatory cultural orientation helping them embrace their new multi-faith, multi-ethnic nation. Finally, we should not be a people who withhold refuge based on religion.
Use this guide to talk to anyone in your life who is not yet part of the Jewish movement in support of refugees. Consider reaching out to someone who has expressed concern about welcoming refugees to the United States or even someone who has made disparaging remarks.
We can be advocates for refugees not only through our political activism but also in our closest relationships. Take a few minutes to listen to another person’s perspective, provide basic facts about the global refugee crisis, address hate speech, and talk about the issue in a Jewish context. We hope that these conversations will prompt some people to take action or simply begin to view refugees differently.
In addition to generating respect, listening fully will help the person you are speaking with remain more open. You’ll also come to understand why they feel the way they do and can follow up accordingly and find the places where they seem most open to change.
Challenge yourself to see things from the perspective of the person with whom you’re speaking. If they express fear, help them build empathy with refugees by telling the stories of contemporary refugees and the fears they face as they flee violence and persecution. You can find stories of today’s refugees on HIAS’ blog at www.hias.org/blog.
Draw On Your History & Values
Welcoming the stranger is both an American and Jewish value. The United States was founded to provide freedom and safety to the persecuted. Helping refugees sets an example for the nations of the world to follow. Welcoming the stranger is also a core Jewish value. Turn the page for more information about Jewish values and history to use in conversation.
Bring the Facts
A lot of anti-refugee sentiment is based on lack of, or false, information. You can help correct misunderstandings about refugees with the information on the next page.
Generations passed and our people remained in Egypt. In time, a new Pharaoh ascended to the throne. He found our difference threatening, and ordered our people enslaved. In fear of rebellion, Pharaoh decreed that all Hebrew baby boys be killed. Two midwives named Shifrah and Puah defied his orders. Through their courage, a boy survived; midrash tells us he was radiant with light. Fearing for his safety, his family placed him in a basket and he floated down the Nile. He was found, and adopted, by Pharaoh’s daughter, who named him Moses because she drew him forth from the water. Thanks to Moses' sister Miriam, Pharaoh's daughter hired their mother, Yocheved, as his wet-nurse. Thus he survived to adulthood, and was raised as Prince of Egypt.
Although a child of privilege, as he grew he became aware of the slaves who worked in the brickyards of his father. When he saw an overseer mistreat a slave, Moses struck the overseer and killed him. Fearing retribution, he set out across the Sinai alone. God spoke to him from a burning bush, which though it flamed was not consumed. The Voice called him to lead the Hebrew people to freedom. Moses argued with God, pleading inadequacy, but God disagreed. Sometimes our responsibilities choose us.
Moses returned to Egypt and went to Pharaoh to argue the injustice of slavery. He gave Pharaoh a mandate which resounds through history: Let my people go. Pharaoh refused, and Moses warned him that Mighty God would strike the Egyptian people. These threats were not idle; ten terrible plagues were unleashed upon the Egyptians. Only when his nation lay in ruins did Pharaoh agree to our liberation.
Fearful that Pharaoh would change his mind, our people fled, not waiting for their bread dough to rise. Our people did not leave Egypt alone; a “mixed multitude” went with them. From this we learn that liberation is not for us alone, but for all the nations of the earth. Even Pharaoh’s daughter came with us.
Pharaoh’s army followed us to the Sea of Reeds. We plunged into the waters. Only when we had gone as far as we could did the waters part for us. We mourn, even now, that Pharaoh’s army drowned: our liberation is bittersweet because people died in our pursuit. To this day we relive our liberation, that we may not become complacent, that we may always rejoice in our freedom.
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, With conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. "Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Dayenu means "it would have been enough." And not in a kvetchy/sarcastic way! Dayenu is a sincere expression of gratitude, of the Jewish people's cup overfloweth.
There are many any verses in the Hebrew proclaiming how it would have been enough just to be brought out from slavery in Egpyt, to get the Torah, to be gifted Shabbat, etc...
In this version, you may sing some, all or none of the traditional verses, but then open it up so Dayenu can become a participatory song where everyone offers their own "dayenu" for the year. As in: It would have been enough if________, but also ______! Dayenu! Day-day-enu...etc...
For example:It would have been enough if I graduated high school this year, but I also got accepted to my top choice for college! Dayenu! (And everyone sings the chorus!)
This an be done at the Dayenu moment in the Seder or introduced earlier and then whenever someone is moved throughout the Seder to share their Dayenu moment, they can. Depends on the enthusiasm of the crowd.
God, have You forgotten me?
I have forgotten how to breathe.
The air here is tight around me
Each day presses in and tomorrow feels impossibly far away
I long to feel Your wide, wide love
To feel hard earth beneath my cracked feet, shade on my bent back, cool mist on my sun-scorched skin
I long to hear sweet words
For respite from the sting that forces me into this pit and keeps me here
Day after day God, though my voice is barely a broken whisper,
I am calling out In remembering You
Please remember me
Remember my family
And our ancestors
Bring us home to You
Turn us back toward Your embrace
And fold us in
We have been lost so long
And now, we are ready
Find us Remember us
At night we sing a secret song of breath and cooling shadows
By day we squint our eyes and hope that when we open them
You will be here, a hand on our brow
A breath of wind at our backs
We sing to You
Please Hear our song
Please Come and bring us home.
Humanity manifests itself in brotherhood most frequently in “dark times.” This kind of humanity actually becomes inevitable when the times become so extremely dark for certain groups of people that it is no longer up to them, their insight or choice, to withdraw from the world. Humanity in the form of fraternity invariably appears historically among persecuted peoples and enslaved groups. ... This kind of humanity is the great privilege of pariah peoples; it is the advantage that the pariahs of this world always and in all circumstances can have over others. ...
It is as if under the pressure of persecution the persecuted have moved so closely together that the interspace ... has simply disappeared. This produces a warmth of human relationships which may strike those who have had some experience with such groups as an almost physical phenomenon. ...
In its full development it can breed a kindliness and sheer goodness of which human beings are otherwise scarcely capable. Frequently it is also the source of a vitality, a joy in the simple fact of being alive, rather suggesting that life comes fully into its own only among those who are, in worldly terms, the insulted and injured
The first Passover happened long ago in the far-away country of Egypt. A mean and powerful king, called Pharaoh, ruled Egypt. Worried that the Jewish people would one day fight against him, Pharaoh decided that these people must become his slaves. As slaves, the Jewish people worked very hard. Every day, from morning until night, they hammered, dug, and carried heavy bricks. They built palaces and cities and worked without rest. The Jewish people hated being slaves. They cried and asked God for help. God chose a man named Moses to lead the Jewish people.
Moses went to Pharaoh and said, “God is not happy with the way you treat the Jewish people. He wants you to let the Jewish people leave Egypt and go into the desert, where they will be free.” But Pharaoh stamped his foot and shouted, “No, I will never let the Jewish people go!” Moses warned, “If you do not listen to God, many terrible things, called plagues, will come to your land.” But Pharaoh would not listen, and so the plagues arrived. First, the water turned to blood. Next, frogs and, later, wild animals ran in and out of homes. Balls of hail fell from the sky and bugs, called locusts, ate all of the Egyptians’ food.
Each time a new plague began, Pharaoh would cry, “Moses, I’ll let the Jewish people go. Just stop this horrible plague!” Yet no sooner would God take away the plague than Pharaoh would shout: “No, I’ve changed my mind. The Jews must stay!” So God sent more plagues. Finally, as the tenth plague arrived, Pharaoh ordered the Jews to leave Egypt.
Fearful that Pharaoh might again change his mind, the Jewish people packed quickly. They had no time to prepare food and no time to allow their dough to rise into puffy bread. They had only enough time to make a flat, cracker-like bread called matzah. They hastily tied the matzah to their backs and ran from their homes.
The people had not travelled far before Pharaoh commanded his army to chase after them and bring them back to Egypt. The Jews dashed forward, but stopped when they reached a large sea. The sea was too big to swim across. Frightened that Pharaoh’s men would soon reach them, the people prayed to God, and a miracle occurred. The sea opened up. Two walls of water stood in front of them and a dry, sandy path stretched between the walls. The Jews ran across. Just as they reached the other side, the walls of water fell and the path disappeared. The sea now separated the Jews from the land of Egypt. They were free!
Each year at Passover, we eat special foods, sing songs, tell stories, and participate in a seder – a special meal designed to help us remember this miraculous journey from slavery to freedom.
"Standing on the parted shores of history
we still believe what we were taught
before we ever stood at Sinai's foot
that wherever we go, it is eternally Egypt
that there is a better place, a promised land;
that the winding way to that promise
passes through the wilderness.
That there is no way to get from here to there
except by joining hands, marching
Let us all refill our cups.
[Take turns reading. Each person is invited to read a grouped set of lines - or to pass.]
Tonight we drink four cups of the fruit of the vine.
There are many explanations for this custom.
They may be seen as symbols of various things:
the four corners of the earth, for freedom must live everywhere;
the four seasons of the year, for freedom's cycle must last through all the seasons;
or the four matriarchs: Sarah, Rebecca, Leah, and Rachel.
A full cup of wine symbolizes complete happiness.
The triumph of Passover is diminished by the sacrifice of many human lives
when ten plagues were visited upon the people of Egypt.
In the story, the plagues that befell the Egyptians resulted from the decisions of tyrants,
but the greatest suffering occurred among those who had no choice but to follow.
It is fitting that we mourn their loss of life, and express our sorrow over their suffering.
For as Jews and as Humanists we cannot take joy in the suffering of others.
Therefore, let us diminish the wine in our cups
as we recall the ten plagues that befell the Egyptian people.
As we recite the name of each plague, in English and then in Hebrew,
please dip a finger in your wine and then touch your plate to remove the drop.
Blood - Dam (Dahm)
Frogs - Ts'phardea (Ts'phar-DEH-ah)
Gnats - Kinim (Kih-NEEM)
Flies - Arov (Ah-ROV)
Cattle Disease - Dever (DEH-vehr)
Boils - Sh'hin (Sh'-KHEEN)
Hail - Barad (Bah-RAHD)
Locusts - `Arbeh (Ar-BEH)
Darkness - Hoshekh (KHO-shekh)
Death of the Firstborn - Makkat B'khorot (Ma-katB'kho-ROT)
[Take turns reading. Each person is invited to read a grouped set of lines - or to pass.]
In the same spirit, our celebration today also is shadowed
by our awareness of continuing sorrow and oppression in all parts of the world.
Ancient plagues are mirrored in modern tragedies.
In our own time, as in ancient Egypt, ordinary people suffer and die
as a result of the actions of the tyrants who rule over them.
While we may rejoice in the defeat of tyrants in our own time,
we must also express our sorrow at the suffering of the many innocent people
who had little or no choice but to follow.
As the pain of others diminishes our joys,
let us once more diminish the ceremonial drink of our festival
as we together recite the names of these modern plagues:
Pollution of the Earth Indifference to Suffering
Let us sing a song expressing our hope for a better world.
Take turns reading aloud before Dayeinu:
Dayeinu . It would have been enough. But would it have been enough? If God had only parted the sea but not allowed us to cross to safety, would it have been enough? If we had crossed to freedom and been sustained wandering through the wilderness but not received the wisdom of Torah to help guide us, would it have been enough?
What is enough?
As we sing the traditional “ Dayeinu ” at the Passover Seder, we express appreciation even for incomplete blessings. We are reminded that, in the face of uncertainty, we can cultivate gratitude for life’s small miracles and we can find abundance amidst brokenness. Just as the story of our own people’s wandering teaches us these lessons time and time again, so, too, do the stories of today’s refugees. The meager possessions they bring with them as they flee reflect the reality of rebuilding a life from so very little.
For Um, the blessing of being alive in Jordan after escaping violence in Homs in the company of her husband with only the clothes on her back – Dayeinu : it would have been enough.
For Dowla, the wooden pole balanced on her shoulders, which she used to carry each of her six children when they were too tired to walk during the 10-day trip from Gabanit to South Sudan – Dayeinu : it would have been enough.
For Farhad, the photograph of his mother that he managed to hide under his clothes when smugglers told him to throw everything away as he escaped Afghanistan – Dayeinu : it would have been enough.
For Sajida, the necklace her best friend gave her to remember her childhood in Syria – Dayeinu : it would have been enough.
For Muhammed, scrolling through the list of numbers on his cell phone, his only connection to the people he has known his whole life – Dayeinu : it would have been enough.
For Magboola, the cooking pot that was small enough to carry but big enough to cook sorghum to feed herself and her three daughters on their journey to freedom – Dayeinu : it would have been enough.
Even as we give thanks for these small miracles and incomplete blessings in the world as it is, we know that this is not enough. We dream of the world as it could be. We long for a world in which safe passage and meager possessions blossom into lives rebuilt with enough food on the table, adequate housing, and sustainable jobs. We fight for the right of all people fleeing violence and persecution to be warmly welcomed into the lands in which they seek safety, their strength honored and their vulnerability protected. When these dreams become a reality, Dayeinu : it will have been enough.
Suddenly a man named Nachshon started walking into the water. The water was up to his knees…no splitting. The water rose up to his waste…no splitting. The water was up to his chest…still no splitting. Not until the water was under Nachshon’s nose did the sea split and all the Israelites walked across singing Micah Mocha and praising G-d.
A lot of people interpret that the miracles of this story were the result of G-d being a show off and trying to demonstrate his powers. I take it another way, I say that G-d just needed people to believe in him and then he came through. The message of this story is that we need to take action before God helps us. We need to take the first step into the “sea” because G-d won’t help us until we try to help ourselves, our world, and our community.
However, some commentators suggest that maybe Nachshon was pushed into the sea and didn’t necessarily intend on becoming a leader. He was just some random guy who was at the right place at the right time. In this scenario, Nachshon becomes a hero for something he wasn’t even intending on doing. I personally like the idea of Nachshon being a leader and coming out of the crowd, standing along the banks, and deciding to step into the water without anyone else having anything to do with it.
In real life, we have a little of both. We are often put into the position of the Nachshon who was pushed, and into the shoes of the Nachshon that walked. We often try to be the brave Nachshon that walks into the water, but we are really the Nachshon that was pushed. Regardless of what you believe, we can all realize that most often we are somewhere in the middle of being pushed and walking intentionally.
you only run for the border when you see the whole city running as well.
no one would leave home unless home chased you, fire under feet, hot blood in your belly.
it's not something you ever thought about doing, and so when you did - you carried the anthem under your breath, waiting until the airport toilet to tear up the passport and swallow, each mouthful of paper making it clear that you would not be going back. you have to understand, no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.
who would choose to spend days and nights in the stomach of a truck unless the miles travelled meant something more than journey.
and if you survive and you are greeted on the other side with go home blacks, refugees dirty immigrants, asylum seekers sucking our country dry of milk, dark, with their hands out smell strange, savage - look what they've done to their own countries, what will they do to ours?
for now, forget about pride your survival is more important. i want to go home, but home is the mouth of a shark home is the barrel of the gun and no one would leave home unless home chased you to the shore unless home tells you to leave what you could not behind, even if it was human. no one leaves home until home is a damp voice in your ear saying leave, run now, i don't know what i've become.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָּפֶן
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, borei p’ree hagafen.
We thank a higher power, shaper and maker, who creates the fruit of the vine.
Drink the second glass of wine!
Who can say we’ve actually left? “Wherever you live, it is probably Egypt,” Michael Walzer wrote.
Do you live in a place where some people work two and three jobs to feed their children, and others don’t even have a single, poorly paid job? Do you live in a community in which the rich are fabulously rich, and the poor humiliated and desperate? Do you live among people who worship the golden calves of obsessive acquisitiveness, among people whose children are blessed by material abundance and cursed by spiritual impoverishment? Do you live in a place in which some people are more equal than others?
In America, the unemployment rate for African-Americans is nearly twice as high as it is for whites. Black people are five times as likely to be incarcerated as whites. Infant mortality in the black community is twice as high as it is among whites. America is a golden land, absolutely, and for Jews, it has been an ark of refuge. But is has not yet fulfilled its promise.
The same is true for that other Promised Land. Jewish citizens of Israel have median household incomes almost double that of Arab citizens and an infant mortality rate less than half that of Arabs. Israel represents the greatest miracle in Jewish life in two thousand years--and its achievements are stupendous (and not merely in comparison to its dysfunctional neighbors)--and yet its promise is also unfulfilled.
The seder marks the flight from the humiliation of slavery to the grandeur of freedom, but not everyone has come on this journey. It is impossible to love the stranger as much as we love our own king, but aren’t we still commanded to bring everyone out of Egypt?
The Egg on the Seder Plate
Read this Haggadah supplement during Maggid after Rabban Gamliel's explanation of Pesach, matzah, and maror. We discuss many items on the seder plate – but the egg is often overlooked. Why is there an egg on the Seder plate? How is the egg connected to Passover, and what does the egg on your table symbolize about our relationship to animals today?
1. Why is there an egg on the Seder plate?
The egg on the Seder plate, along with the zeroa or shankbone, echoes an instruction in the Mishnah to include at least “two cooked foods” in our seder. The Talmud, commenting on this phrase, says the two foods represent two sacrifices, the korban pesah (Pesach sacrifice) and the korban hagigah (festival sacrifice), that were originally brought in the Temple on Passover, and it mentions both the bone and the egg among other examples.
Since the twelfth century or so, though, the egg has been a regular part of the seder plate. Why? What does the the tradition’s choice of an egg as one of those symbolic foods mean?
Like the matzah, which represents both suffering and freedom in one food, the egg has taken on more than one symbolic meaning.
On the one hand, along with the parsley or green vegetable of karpas, eggs are a symbol of new growth, suitable for this “Festival of Spring.” Passover, the holiday of redemption, is a time of rebirth and renewal, and emphasizing its connection to spring reinforces that meaning.
On the other hand, eggs are a food associated in Jewish tradition with mourning. They are often eaten by mourners at the first meal following a funeral of a loved one, and at the final meal before the fast of Tisha B’Av, eggs are served dipped in ashes. The seder plate egg reminds us of the way we observed Passover in Temple times; at the same time, it reminds us that the Temple has been destroyed, and the spiritual, ritual, and communal opportunities it offered to us are lost with it.
Questions for discussion:
Does one of these explanations most resonate with you? Which, and why?
The egg is both a symbol of mourning and of festivals. Where else is duality present in the Haggadah?
What other explanations do you know for an egg on a seder plate?
2. What does the egg mean today?
Just as the egg can symbolize both mourning and renewal, the eggs we choose to put on our table today can reflect either care for living creatures or one of the plagues of our time: factory farming.
Where did the egg on your seder plate come from? If you bought it at a supermarket, it likely came from chickens living in a factory farm. More than 90% of laying hens in the U.S. are packed into cages where each bird has less area than a sheet of printer paper to live her whole life. Barely able to move, they suffer injuries, disease, and extreme distress. Many others endure similar distress in large, overcrowded barns.
Jewish tradition mandates compassion for all creatures, and the mitzvah of tzaar baalei chayim specifically forbids causing animals unnecessary suffering. Mistreating hens clearly contradicts this value.
As people have started learning more about where most eggs come from, many have been disturbed by the status quo and are demanding better. Five states have passed legislation forbidding cruel battery cages on farms. In November 2016, Massachusetts passed a ban on even selling eggs from hens in these confinement systems, and more states are sure to follow. The industry is on the verge of change, and consumer pressure right now can tip the scales.
Questions for discussion:
Where do your eggs come from?
Why do you think Judaism mandates compassion for all creatures?
3. What can I do?
Buy Higher Welfare Eggs: As an individual, aim to purchase higher welfare eggs.
To support systems where hens can walk, spread their wings, lay eggs in nesting spaces, dust bathe, and perform other natural behaviors, we must support farms that value higher welfare. There’s more we can do for hens, but buying higher welfare eggs is where we start!
Visit BuyingPoultry.com to find brands that are certified by a third-party animal welfare certification program. Preferably, choose products with labels from “Certified Humane,” “Certified Humane + Pasture Raised,” or “Animal Welfare Approved.”
Labels like “cage-free,” “free range,” or USDA Certified Organic might imply a higher level of humane treatment, but these claims alone do not guarantee higher welfare. Instead, look for the third-party certifiers listed above; visit their websites to see their exact welfare standards.
Create a food policy at your Jewish organization: Jewish organizations – like your synagogue, day school, camp, or JCC – serve large amounts of food and can make a tangible impact by changing the eggs they buy and reducing the number of eggs served at each meal. Commit your Jewish organization or household to sourcing higher welfare eggs this year with a simple commitment on Hazon’s website.
Choose an alternative to the egg: Try an eggplant, wooden egg, or avocado on your seder plate. Use this as a chance to start a conversation at your Seder about animal welfare. You can also reduce your egg consumption by buying increasingly available egg alternatives that are also certified kosher, like VeganEgg from Follow Your Heart.
I speak to you as an American Jew.
As Americans we share the profound concern of millions of people about the shame and disgrace of inequality and injustice which make a mockery of the great American idea.
As Jews we bring to this great demonstration, in which thousands of us proudly participate, a two-fold experience -- one of the spirit and one of our history.
In the realm of the spirit, our fathers taught us thousands of years ago that when God created man, he created him as everybody's neighbor. Neighbor is not a geographic term. It is a moral concept. It means our collective responsibility for the preservation of man's dignity and integrity.
From our Jewish historic experience of three and a half thousand years we say:
Our ancient history began with slavery and the yearning for freedom. During the Middle Ages my people lived for a thousand years in the ghettos of Europe . Our modern history begins with a proclamation of emancipation.
It is for these reasons that it is not merely sympathy and compassion for the black people ofAmerica that motivates us. It is above all and beyond all such sympathies and emotions a sense of complete identification and solidarity born of our own painful historic experience.
When I was the rabbi of the Jewish community in Berlin under the Hitler regime, I learned many things. The most important thing that I learned under those tragic circumstances was that bigotry and hatred are not '.the most urgent problem. The most urgent, the most disgraceful, the most shameful and the most tragic problem is silence.
A great people which had created a great civilization had become a nation of silent onlookers. They remained silent in the face of hate, in the face of brutality and in the face of mass murder.
America must not become a nation of onlookers. America must not remain silent. Not merely black America , but all of America . It must speak up and act,. from the President down to the humblest of us, and not for the sake of the Negro, not for the sake of the black community but for the sake of the image, the idea and the aspiration of America itself.
Our children, yours and mine in every school across the land, each morning pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States and to the republic for which it stands. They, the children, speak fervently and innocently of this land as the land of "liberty and justice for all."
The time, I believe, has come to work together - for it is not enough to hope together, and it is not enough to pray together, to work together that this children's oath, pronounced every morning from Maine to California, from North to South, may become. a glorious, unshakeable reality in a morally renewed and united America.
This is the way to experience bitterness: take a big chunk of raw horseradish, let the burning turn your face all red.
This is the way to experience bitterness: dig back to a time of raw wounds, remember how it felt before the healing began, years or months or days ago.
This is the way to experience bitterness: hold the hand of a friend in pain, listen to her story, remember Naomi who renamed herself Mara, bitterness, because she "went away full but God brought [her] back empty" (Ruth 1:21).
This is the way to experience bitterness: recall the pain and exclusion that is part of the legacy of Jewish women. Listen to the words of Bertha Pappenheim, founder of the German Jewish feminist movement, who said, "No continuing education can repair how the souls of Jewish women - and thus Judaism in its entirety - have been sinned against..."
Or the words of Henrietta Szold, founder of Hadassah, who wrote, "But do not speak to me of the progressiveness of Judaism! Why isn't there one prayer in all the books to fit my modern case - not one to raise up the spirit of the so-called emancipated woman?"
How big a piece of maror must we eat to re-experience this bitterness?
And what if I've known enough pain this year already? And what if exclusion is not just a memory for me?
And what if I eat the whole root and my tongue catches on fire and my ears burn? Then will I know slavery?
ברוּךְ אַתָּה יְיַָ 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.
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the universe, who made us holy through obligations, commanding us to eat bitter herbs.
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?
ברוּךְ אַתָּה יְיַָ 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.
The Hillel Sandwich | korech | כּוֹרֵךְ
זֵכֶר לְמִקְדָּשׁ כְּהִלֵּל. כֵּן עָשָׂה הִלֵּל בִּזְמַן שבֵּית הַמִּקְדָּשׁ הָיָה קַיָים: הָיָה כּוֹרֵךְ מַצָּה וּמָרוֹר וְאוֹכֵל בְּיַחַד, לְקַיֵים מַה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: עַל מַצּוֹת וּמְרֹרִים יֹאכְלֻהוּ
Zeicher l'mikdash k'hileil. Kein asah hileil bizman shebeit hamikdash hayah kayam. Hayah koreich pesach, matzah, u-maror v'ocheil b'yachad. L'kayeim mah shene-emar. “Al matzot um'rorim yochlu-hu.”
Eating matzah, maror and haroset this way reminds us of how, in the days of the Temple, Hillel would do so, making a sandwich of the Pashal lamb, matzah and maror, in order to observe the law “You shall eat it (the Pesach sacrifice) on matzah and maror.”
1. What do you consider your “promised land,” or heaven on earth?
2. In Hebrew, the word for Egypt is “Mitzraim,” which literally means “narrow place.” What is one way that you wish for our society to be more open?
3. Moses is considered one of the greatest leaders in our history — he is described as being smart, courageous, selfless and kind. Which of today’s leaders inspires you in a similar way?
4. Miriam was a prophetess and the sister of Moses who, after crossing the Red Sea, led the women in song and dance with tambourines. She is described as being courageous, confident, insightful and nurturing. Which musician or artist today inspires you in a similar way?
5. More recent and ongoing struggles for freedom include civil rights, GLBTQ equality, and women’s rights. Who is someone involved in this work that you admire?
6. Is there someone — or multiple people — in your family’s history who made their own journey to freedom?
7. Freedom is a central theme of Passover. When in your life have you felt most free?
8. If you could write an 11th commandment, what would it be?
9. What’s the longest journey you have ever taken?
10. How many non-food uses for matzah can you think of? Discuss!
11. Let’s say you are an Israelite packing for 40 years in the desert. What three modern items would you want to bring?
12. The Haggadah says that in every generation of Jewish history enemies have tried to eliminate us. What are the biggest threats you see to Judaism today?
13. The Passover seder format encourages us to ask as many questions as we can. What questions has Judaism encouraged you to ask?
14. Israel is central to the Passover seder. Do you think modern Israel is central to Jewish life? Why or why not?
15. The manna in the desert had a taste that matched the desire of each individual who ate it. For you, what would that taste be? Why?
16. Let’s say you had to swim across the Red Sea, and it could be made of anything except water. What would you want it to be?
17. If the prophet Elijah walked through the door and sat down at your table, what’s the first thing you would ask him?
18. Afikoman means “dessert” in Greek. If you could only eat one dessert for the rest of your life, what would it be?
19. What is something you wish to cleanse yourself of this year? A bad habit? An obsession or addiction?
20. The word “seder” means “order.” How do you maintain order in your life?
Download the PDF here: https://www.jewishboston.com/20-table-topics-for-your-passover-seder/
In this spirit, consider symbolically setting aside a table setting or opening the door to the 60 million refugees and displaced people around the world still waiting to be free — for all those who deserve to be welcomed in not as strangers but as fellow human beings.
With the third cup of wine we remember God’s promise to redeem the Israelites with an outstretched arm. With this cup we turn our thoughts to those not being offered a helping hand. Scant resources are allocated within the criminal justice system to provide alternatives to incarceration and prepare incarcerated individuals for successfully reentering society.
The criminal justice system has become the primary strategy by which we address many of the challenges facing members of low income and minority communities, including drug addiction, mental illness, behavioral issues at schools, and limited access to employment. However, we have designed the criminal justice system as a maze that is easy to enter and difficult to leave.
Many of these individuals enter the criminal justice system after committing a non-violent drug offense, and then are put on a path that goes straight to prison and does not address the issues that cause people to cycle in and out of the corrections system.
Two-fifths of drug offenders are rearrested for the same charge. This speaks to the physiological nature of drug addiction and the need to address it as a medical condition requiring treatment, rather than a crime requiring incarceration. We need to redesign our criminal justice system so that non-violent drug offenders are diverted to alternative treatment programs that address drug addiction, mental illness, and job access.
Across the entire prison population, the vast majority of people will return to society, but will leave prison severely ill prepared to do so. Reflecting a lack of in-prison treatment services and the level of societal exclusion, studies have shown that incarceration actually increases the risk of reoffending. xxvi In part due to the limited availability of funding, 60% of Maryland prisoners do not participate in treatment and educational programming each year. Our criminal justice system warehouses people in prison, punishes them, and then returns them to our society worse off than when they left.
Baruch ata adonai, eloheinu melech ha’olam, borei pri hagafen.
ברוך אתה י-י אלוקינו מלך העולם בורא פרי הגפן
(Drink the third cup. Refill immediately.)
We are going to conclude our dinner tonight with a celebratory toast - a l’chaim.
Rather than filling our own cup tonight, though, and focusing on us as individuals, let’s fill someone else’s cup and recognize that, as a family and group of friends, we have the resources to help each other and those in our community if we are willing to share our resources and collaborate – whether those resources are time, money, skills, or any of the other gifts we bring to one another.
Many of us around the table may already share our resources in different ways - volunteering in our communities, providing pro bono services, donating to charities, or by advocating or lobbying officials. For others we may still be exploring the ways we’re hoping to share our resources and are looking for outlets to do so.
We are now going to fill our 4th cup of wine and I want to invite you to fill someone else’s cup instead of your own. As you fill someone else’s cup, let’s share with each other our answer to the following:
How can I help in changing the world?
“Gratitude is the moral memory of mankind. If every grateful action were suddenly eliminated, society would crumble.” – Georg Simmel
Gratitude and happiness are intertwined and for good reason. It is no coincidence that positive psychology practitioners and happiness experts state that in order to increase your contentment in life you need to boost your level of gratitude.
One of the leading researchers in gratitude is Dr. Robert Emmons. He has brought gratitude into the forefront by demonstrating how simple acts of gratitude can have a gigantic impact on well-being and happiness. Emmons argues that gratitude is more than feeling good.
“It goes beyond the pleasant feeling because it implores people to share their joyful experiences with others. So in this sense gratitude is not about receiving, but it entails a large component of giving as well” (2007).
Emmons and other positive psychology practitioners such as Martin Seligman believe the positive effects of gratitude can’t be overstated.
“Gratitude can make your life happier and more satisfying. When we feel gratitude, we benefit from the pleasant memory of a positive event in our life. Also, when we express our gratitude to others, we strengthen our relationship with them” (Seligman, 2012).
You can never be too grateful. When you take for granted the people and things you have in your life, instead of being grateful for them, you are missing out on an opportunity to live a healthier and happier life.
You are also ignoring the strength of social connection that gratitude creates. Not only will practicing gratitude benefit you psychologically and socially, but physically you will feel better as well.
Like anything else in life the benefits of gratitude can be cultivated through concentrated practice. There are a multitude of exercises at your disposal that will sustain your desire to manifest more gratitude into your life. And therefore, more well-being and contentment.
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
"Still I Rise” ― Maya Angelou
We pledge to rise up in Revolutionary Love.
We declare our love for all who are in harm’s way, including refugees, immigrants, Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, LGBTQIA people, Black people, Latinx, the indigenous, the disabled, and the poor. We stand with millions of people around the globe rising up to end violence against women and girls (cis, transgender and gender non-conforming) who are often the most vulnerable within marginalized communities. We vow to see one another as brothers and sisters and fight for a world where every person can flourish.
We declare love even for our opponents. We vow to oppose all executive orders and policies that threaten the rights and dignity of any person. We call upon our elected officials to join us, and we are prepared to engage in moral resistance throughout this administration. We will fight not with violence or vitriol, but by challenging the cultures and institutions that promote hate. In so doing, we will challenge our opponents through the ethic of love.
We declare love for ourselves. We will practice the dignity and care in our homes that we want for all of us. We will protect our capacity for joy. We will nurture our bodies and spirits; we will rise and dance. We will honor our mothers and ancestors whose bodies, breath, and blood call us to a life of courage. In their name, we choose to see this darkness not as the darkness of the tomb - but of the womb. We will breathe and push through the pain of this era to birth a new future.
Your task is not to seek love
But merely to seek and ﬁnd all the barriers
That you have built against it.
The same can be said of freedom; we build barriers against it, barriers born of fear-fear of death, fear of not having enough, fear of not being enough, fear of being happy. An antidote to these fears is gratefulness; when we cultivate our awareness of life as a gift freely given, instead of our enslavement to greed we learn the liberating power of gratitude; we recognize our thankfulness for who we are rather than being trapped by the compulsion to be perfect; rather than the fear of and the ﬁxation on tomorrow, we feel the joy of the moment; we discover the capacity to shed the chains of paralyzing guilt and embrace instead the redeeming possibilities of gratefulness as the impetus for doing the good and the compassionate in life.
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, and confusion into clarity. It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.
A music video about the Torah’s most famous siblings: Aaron, Miriam and Moses, and the many adventures and rivalries they share throughout the Torah.
This piece was created in four weeks by 6 families, brought together by Kevah. Since each of the families had varied backgrounds in studying Torah and were diverse in age, the group decided to take a creative approach to learning text together. The eleven kids aged 5 to 15 along with their parents – a speechwriter, studio painter, landscape architect, art photographer, museum curator, singer, programmer, professor, and several entrepreneurs – decided that they wanted to make an animated musical film about sibling relationships in the Torah.
BimBam developed several workshops for the families to learn text, write a script, paint characters, draw backgrounds, storyboard animations, and practice singing together. To cap the experience, the families lent their voices to the song at Fantasy Studios, a legendary professional recording studio.
Download the lyrics here: https://www.bimbam.com/studioberkeley/