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Source : Rachel Barenblat

In the northern hemisphere, Passover coincides with the beginning of spring: a time for renewal, rethinking, rebirth. We  throw  open  the  windows  of  our  houses,  we  sweep away  winter's  grit  and  dust.  The  story  of  Passover  is  a  story  of  liberation  and  new beginnings:  what  better  time  to rethink  our  own  liberation  than  now,  as  new  green appears?

May this Passover spring give us the insight and courage to create ourselves anew.

Source : Foundation for Family Education, Inc.

By Tamar Fox, April 1, 2008

Less-than-inspired by the traditional Passover seder? Burnt out on the same old Four Questions? Searching for soup sans chicken, or a song to replace "Who Knows One"? Why not shake things up with an alternative or themed seder? Here are five ideas to get you started. Try one, or mix them up.

ECO-SEDER * Buy all organic foods, from local venders, when possible. * When you’re dealing with fresh veggies and kosher meat or fish you don’t have to worry about things being kosher for Passover, so you won’t spend insane amounts of money buying margarine made in Monsey or whatever. * The Jew and the Carrot has a great list of Kosher Organic wines for your four cups. * Plan on talking about freedom from oil dependency, and about the benefits of living a greener life. Remember, we were heading towards a land of milk and honey, not of formula and corn syrup. * You can list ten plagues of waste, four sons who react differently to global warming, and four questions about how we can change our individual and collective behavior in the future. * Birkenstocks optional.

FREEDOM SEDER * There are still literally millions of slaves in the world. On a holiday when we celebrate our freedom as Jews, it makes sense to spend some time exploring the issue of contemporary slavery. * Head to Not For Sale to get educated on the issue, learn about abolition activism, and donate money to free slaves. * Stories of redemption told side by side, whether they involve crossing the Red Sea of using the Underground railroad, are always thought provoking, and you can brainstorm ways to get the larger community more involved in abolition advocacy and programming.

INTERFAITH SEDER * If you can gather a mix of faiths at one table and talk about how each person views their personal slaveries and redemption (because remember, it’s as if you personally came out of Egypt), you’re bound to have an interesting evening. * If you want some help guiding your seder, try the one at Interfaith Family. * Ask each guest to bring a kosher for Passover interpretation of a classic dish from their community, and host a discussion about the ways that communities pigeonhole each other, and how interfaith dialogue can redeem us from self-imposed slavery. * Open the door for a Unitarian, instead of Elijah. Be sure to have grape juice on hand for those who can’t drink wine, and ask everyone to teach a song at the end.

WOMEN’S SEDER * There are a number of feminist haggadahs and women’s seders available. * If you want to start your own, invite your girlfriends for a night of female bonding over good wine and Miriam’s cup. * Retell all the parts of the haggadah focusing on the female characters—the midwives, Shifra and Puah, Pharaoh’s daughter, and Miriam. * Put some Debbie Friedman on the stereo - if you use electrivity/audio on Festival * Ask your guests to each bring a short story, essay, or poem to share by or about a * Make sure to have plenty of oranges on hand for the seder plate.

VEGGIE/VEGAN SEDER * There’s nothing free or fair about the lives of animals raised for food. Passover is an opportunity to reflect on our own freedom, as well as the lack of freedom other living creatures face. * Pick up some copies of Haggadah for the Liberated Lamb, which focuses on vegetarianism and animal rights. * The Jewish Vegetarian Year Cookbook includes a menu for a seder table. Better yet, the Vegetarian Pesach Cookbook features recipes specific to the holiday. * Talk about what you can sacrifice in your own lives to replace and honor the symbolic, * Replace the egg on the traditional seder plate with a flower to represent life and Spring. * Replace the shank bone on the traditional seder plate with a beet, as allowed in the Talmud. * Use this quote from Einstein as a jumping off point for discussion: "A human being is a part of the whole, called by us the 'Universe', a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest - a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security."

Source : Bob Family Haggadah

Emphasizing the Symbols of Passover

[Lift up the Seder plate and point out each item. Explain the purpose behind each item:]

Maror (bitter herbs)
Bitter Herbs (usually horseradish) symbolize the bitterness of Egyptian slavery. Maror is used in the Seder because of the commandment to eat the paschal lamb "with unleavened bread and bitter herbs."

Karpas (vegetable)
Vegetable (usually parsley) is dipped into salt water during the Seder. The salt water represents the tears shed during Egyptian slavery. The dipping of a vegetable as an appetizer is said to date back to biblical times.

Charoset (apple, nut, spice and wine mixture)
Apple, nuts, and spices ground together and mixed with wine are symbolic of the mortar used by Hebrew slaves to build Egyptian structures. The Charoset is sweet because sweetness is symbolic of God's kindness, which was able to make even slavery more bearable. According to legend, the use of apples in charoset stems from Pharaoh's decree that all male Hebrew children were to be killed at birth. Mothers would go out to the orchards to give birth, and thus save their babies (at least temporarily) from the Egyptian soldiers.

Zeroa (shankbone)
The Shankbone is symbolic of the Paschal lamb offered as the Passover sacrifice in biblical times. In some communities, it is common to use a chicken neck in place of the shankbone. Vegetarian households often use beets for the shankbone on the seder plate. The red beets symbolize the blood of the Paschal lamb, which was used to mark the lintel and doorposts of the houses during the first Passover (Exodus 12:22).

Beitzah (egg)
The Roasted Egg is symbolic of the festival sacrifice made in biblical times. On Passover, an additional sacrifice (the Paschal lamb) was offered as well. The egg is also a traditional symbol of mourning, and has been interpreted by some as a symbolic mourning for the loss of the Temple. Since the destruction of the Temple in the year 70 C.E., neither the festival sacrifice nor the special Passover sacrifice could be offered. It is also a symbol of spring - the season in which Passover is always celebrated. It should be baked or roasted if possible.


Tapuz (orange)

Many families and congregations have begun adding an orange to the Seder plate as a way of acknowledging the role of women in Jewish life. The origin of this custom has been described in a variety of ways; however, the authoritative explanation comes from Susannah Heschel:


In the early 1980s, the Hillel Foundation invited me to speak on a panel at Oberlin College. While on campus, I came across a Haggada that had been written by some Oberlin students to express feminist concerns. One ritual they devised was placing 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").


At the next Passover, I placed an orange on our family's Seder plate. During the first part of the Seder, I asked everyone to take a segment of the orange, make the blessing over fruit, and eat it as a gesture of solidarity with Jewish lesbians and gay men, and others who are marginalized within the Jewish community (I mentioned widows in particular).


When lecturing, I often mentioned my custom as one of many new feminist rituals that had been developed in the last twenty years. Somehow, though, my intention of affirming lesbians and gay men was transformed. Now the story circulates that a MAN stood up after a lecture I delivered and said to me, in anger, that a woman belongs on the bimah as much as an orange on the Seder plate.

by sue
Source : Unknown

To begin the Seder, we make Kiddush and sanctify the day. The word "kiddush" means special and unique. The first step to personal freedom is to recognize that you are special. You have a distinct combination of talents, skills and experiences that qualifies you to make a unique contribution to the world.

In Egypt, the Jews were forced to build the store-cities of Pitom and Ramses. Why was this tortuous labor? Because these cities rested on swampland, and every time the Jews built one level, it sunk into the ground. Slavery is a life with no accomplishment, no achievement, and no meaning.

Source : JQ International GLBT Haggadah

The Candle lighting celebration begins by honoring light

We light the candles and say…

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם
אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ לְהַדלִיק נֵר שֶׁל יוֹם טוֹב

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheynu Melech Ha’Olam
Asher Kidishanu B’Mitzvotav V’Tzivanu L’Hadlik Ner Shel Yom Tov.

Blessed are You, Lord, our God, Ruler of the universe,
Who sanctifies us with commandments, and commands us to light the candles on this holiday.


בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לַזְּמַן הַזֶה

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheynu Melech Ha’Olam
Sheche’hiyanu V’Keymanu V’Higiyanu Lazman Ha’Zeh.

Blessed are You, Lord, our God, Ruler of the universe,
Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season.

Traditionally Passover celebrates…

The Jewish people’s freedom from Egyptian bondage that took place approximately 3,500 years ago, as told in the first 15 chapters of the Book of Exodus. Before the Jewish people were known as Jewish or Jews – names that were derived from the Kingdom of Judah where they lived from 922 BCE until 587 BCE – they were known as either Israelites or Hebrews. “Hebrews,” “Israelites,” or the “Children of Israel” were names that collectively described the descendants of the Hebrew patriarch Jacob (also known as Israel). The Hebrews and Israelites eventually established and lived in both the Kingdom of Judah and the Kingdom of Israel.

The events of Passover written about in the Book of Exodus occurred at a time before the Jewish people were known as Jewish or Jews, and so we refer to the Jewish people as either Hebrews or Israelites in the Passover story that follows. Interestingly, the Hebrew word for Egypt is Mitzrayim, and means either “constriction” or “narrow straits.” This is in reference to the Israelites being in a state of constriction while toiling as slaves in the land of Goshen, an area of ancient Egypt. As slaves, the Israelites were building cities such as Pithom and Ra’amses which were used as supply centers for the Pharaohs of Egypt.

Source : Original
•Reader:  In Exodus, there are a lot of laws that pertain differently to natives, or “ezrah” and sojourners, or “ger.”  The word “ezrah” is literally a kind of plant, probably a grapevine.  Metaphorically, it means something like “nurtured by the soil.”  The fact that native Israelites are referred to as “grapevines” says a lot about the importance of grapes and wine in our culture. •Questioner: Why are we obligated to drink four cups of wine?

•Reader: There are many reasons proposed. Here are the ones from the Hagaddah and from three different Jewish sages

•Reader:  The Hagaddah says:  With each cup, we recall the four different promises of freedom that God gave our people:  “I will free you from the burdens of the Egyptians,” “I will deliver you from their bondage,” “I will redeem you with an outstretched arm,” and “I will take you to be my people.” •Reader:  The Vilna Gaon says: They relate to the four worlds: this world, the messianic age, the world at the time of the revival of the dead, and the world to come. •Reader: The Maharal says: They refer to the four matriarchs, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah •Reader: The Abarbanel says: They refer to the four redemptions of the Jewish people: the choosing of Abraham, the Exodus from Egypt, survival during the Diaspora, and the final redemption to come. •Questioner:  What other reasons are there? (discussion)   Red or White?  

•Reader:  Traditionally, Ashkenazi Jews drank white wine at the Seder, while Sephardic Jews drank red wine. 

•Reader:  During the Middle Ages,  Jews in Christian countries were accused of drinking human blood at the Seder (the “blood libel”).  To avoid even the appearance of this, Ashkenazi Jews switched to white wine.   Kiddush  

•Reader:  You have called us for service from among the peoples, and have hallowed our lives with commandments. In love you have given us festivals for rejoicing, seasons of celebration, this Festival of Matzah, the time of our freedom, a commemoration of the Exodus from Egypt. Praised are you, Adonai, who gave us this joyful heritage.

•Everyone: Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Meleh ha-olam borei p’ri ha-gafen •Reader: We praise You, O God, Sovereign of Existence, Who creates the fruit of the vine.    
Source :

We wash our hands, without saying the blessing. Each person washes the hand of the person next to her (pouring it over a bowl). Imagine that you are washing away all cynicism and despair, and allow yourself to be filled with the hope that the world could be really transformed in accord with our highest vision.

Source : Rachel Barenblat

At this point in the  seder, it is traditional to eat a green vegetable dipped in  salt water.  The green vegetable  represents rebirth, renewal and growth; the salt water represents the tears of enslavement.

Baruch atah, Adonai, eloheinu ruach ha’olam, borei p’ri ha’adamah.

Blessed are you, Adonai, Breath of Life, creator of the fruit of the earth.

Source : Rachel Barenblat

This is the bread of affliction which our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt.  Let all who are hungry come and eat; let all who are needy come and celebrate the Passover with us.  Now we are here; next year may we be in the Land of Israel. Now we are slaves; next year may we be free.

We break the matzah as we broke the chains of slavery, and as we break chains which bind us today. We will no more be fooled by movements which free only some of us, in which our so - called “freedom” rests upon the  enslavement or embitterment of others.

Traditionally, seders require three matzot. Why three?   Three are our patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Three  are the segments of the people Israel, Kohen, Levi and Yisrael.  The three matzot could even represent thesis, antithesis and synthesis: the two opposites in any polarized situation, and the solution which bridges them.

Maggid - Beginning
Source : Religious Action Center

Amidst the retelling of the exodus from Egypt, additional stories can be shared surrounding the oppression or redemption of other peoples, such as:

  • Ethiopian Jews's rescue during the 1980's;
  • Emigration of Soviet Jewry during the 1970's and 1980's;
  • Current groups still found in slavery, such as those in Sudan.

Black-Jewish seders often focus on the Maggid portion of the Haggadah to tell the common story of slavery and freedom. A Common Road to Freedom: A Passover Haggadah, prepared by the Religious Action Center in 1996, provides materials to discuss these themes.

The Maggid is also an excellent opportunity to study current immigration and refugee concerns. Consult a website such as, the Religious Action Center's (RAC) focus page on Immigration and Refugees, or for current statistics and areas of concern. Prepare one-page summary of current refugee hotspots for use during the Seder. During the Seder, focus on the theme of flight to freedom as a parallel experience of the Jews leaving Egypt, and today's refugees leaving their homelands. Prepare sample letters regarding a current immigration concern, with reference to the special motivation that Passover provides, to congressional leaders for all guests to sign throughout the night, and then mail them the following day. (A sample summary and letter can be found in Appendix I.)

-- Four Questions
Source : JQ International GLBT Haggadah

The MaNishtana traditionally asks us, “What is unique or different about tonight?” and, “Why do we eat Matzah, why do we dip and eat Bitter Herbs not just once, but twice and why do we recline?” These elements are symbolic themes that mirror the reflection our ancestor’s liberation from slavery, the hardships they experienced and the oppression that infringed on their freedoms. Tonight at our GLBT Passover Seder we incorporate a fifth question and answer. “What is unique or different about tonight’s seder, why tonight do we have Pride?” Pride is a very symbolic word in the GLBT community. We use this word often and tonight we have the opportunity to demonstrate how proud we are of our sexual orientation and gender identity.

מַה נִּשְּׁתַּנָה הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה מִכָּל הַלֵּילוֹת!

שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ אוֹכְלִין חָמֵץ וּמַצָּה, הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה כּוּלוֹ מַצָּה?
שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ אוֹכְלִין שְׁאָר יְרָקוֹת, הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה מָרוֹר?
שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אֵין אֶנוּ מַטְבִּילִין אֲפִילוּ פַּעַם אֶחָת, הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה שְׁתֵּי פְעָמִים?
שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ אוֹכְלִין בֵּין יוֹשְׁבִין וּבֵין מְסֻבִּין, הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה כֻּלָנו מְסֻבִּין?

שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת סֵדֶר אָנוּ עוֹשִים סֵדֶר מָסָרְתִּי, הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה כֻּלָנוּ גַאִים?


Mah nish-ta-na ha-lai-lah ha-zeh mi-kol ha-lei-lot!

Sheh-beh-chol ha-lei-lot a-nu och-lin ha-metz u-matzah.

Ha-lai-lah ha-zeh, ku-lo matzah?

Sheh-beh-chol ha-lei-lot a-nu och-lin sh’ar y’ra-kot.

Ha-lai-lah ha-zeh, maror?

Sheh-beh-chol ha-lei-lot ein a-nu mat-bi-lin a-fi-lu pa-am e-hat.

Ha-lai-lah ha-zeh, sh-tei fi-ah-mim?

Sheh-beh-chol ha-lei-lot a-nu och-lin bayn yosh-vin ou-vein mis-u-bin.

Ha-lai-lah ha-zeh, ku-la-nu mis-u-bin?

Sheh-beh-chol ha-lei-lot sed-er a-nu o-seem sed-er ma-sar-ti.

Ha-lai-lah ha-zeh, ku-la-nu ga-im?


Why is this night different from all other nights!

On all other nights we eat either leavened bread or matzah.

Why, on this night, do we eat only matzah?


On all other nights we eat all kinds of herbs.

Why, on this night, do we eat only bitter herbs?


On all other nights we do not dip herbs.

Why, on this night, do we dip them twice?


On all other nights we eat sitting or reclining on pillows.

Why, on this night, do we eat only reclining upon pillows?


On all other Seder nights we do a traditional Seder.

Why, on this night, do we have Pride?  


The Five Answers

Speaker 1: We were slaves in Egypt. Our ancestor in flight from Egypt did not have time to let the dough rise. With not a moment to spare they snatched up the dough they had prepared and fled. But the hot sun beat as they carried the dough along with them and baked it into the flat unleavened bread we call matzah.

Speaker 2: The first time we dip our greens to taste the brine of enslavement. We also dip to remind ourselves of all life and growth, of earth and sea, which gives us sustenance and comes to life again in the springtime.

Speaker 3: The second time we dip the maror into the charoset. The charoset reminds us of the mortar that our ancestors mixed as slaves in Egypt. But our charoset is made of fruit and nuts, to show us that our ancestors were able to withstand the bitterness of slavery because it was sweetened by the hope of freedom.

Speaker 4: Slaves were not allowed to rest, not even while they ate. Since our ancestors were freed from slavery, we recline to remind ourselves that we, like our ancestors, can overcome bondage in our own time. We also recline to remind ourselves that rest and rejuvenation are vital to continuing our struggles. We should take pleasure in reclining, even as we share our difficult history.

Speaker 5: We are proud to be gay, straight, lesbian, bi, transgendered, queer and everything else under the rainbow. And all of us together here, add meaning to an age old Jewish tradition and for that we have pride. As a community we have come far, and while we are not done with our struggle, we should reflect proudly on our accomplishments as we celebrate here tonight at our GLBT Passover Seder.


-- Four Questions
Source : Unknown

 The Four Questions

The telling of the story of Passover is framed as a discussion with lots of questions and answers. It’s tradition that the youngest person in the family asks the questions. The rabbis who created the set format for the seder gave us the Four Questions to help break the ice in case no one had their own questions. Asking questions is a core tradition in Jewish life. If everyone at yourseder is around the same age, perhaps the person with the least seder experience can ask them – or everyone can sing them all together.

 מַה נִּשְׁתַּנָּה הַלַּֽיְלָה הַזֶּה מִכָּל הַלֵּילות?  

Mah nish-ta-nah ha-lai-lah ha-zeh mi-kol ha-lei-lot?

Why is this night different from all other nights?


:שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָֽנוּ אוֹכלין חָמֵץ וּמַצָּה  הַלַּֽיְלָה הַזֶּה כֻּלּוֹ מצה  

She-b'chol ha-lei-lot a-nu och-lin cha-meitz u-ma-tzah? Ha-lai-lah ha-zeh, ku-lo ma-tzah?

Why on all other nights we eat both leavened bread and matzah, and
tonight we only eat matzah?



שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָֽנוּ אוֹכְלִין שְׁאָר יְרָקוֹת הַלַּֽיְלָה הַזֶּה מָרוֹר:

She-b'chol ha-lei-lot a-nu och-lin sh'ar y'ra -kot. Ha-lai-lah ha-zeh ma-ror?

On all other nights we eat all kinds of vegetables, but tonight why do we only eat bitter herbs?



. שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אֵין אָֽנוּ מַטְבִּילִין אֲפִילוּ פַּֽעַם אחָת 
 הַלַּֽיְלָה הַזֶּה שְׁתֵּי פְעמים:

She-b'chol ha-lei-lot ein anu mat-bi-lin a-fi-lu pa-am, e-hat. Ha-lai-lah ha-zeh, sh'tei f'a-mim?

On all other nights we aren’t expected to dip our vegetables at all. 
Why, tonight, do we do it twice?


שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָֽנוּ אוֹכְלִין בֵּין יוֹשְׁבִין וּבֵין מְסֻבִּין.
 :הַלַּֽיְלָה הַזֶּה כֻּלָּֽנוּ מְסֻבין:

She-b'chol ha-lei-lot a-nu och-lin bein yosh-vin o'vein m-subin. Ha-lai-lah na-zeh ku-la-nu m-su-bin?

On all other nights we eat either sitting normally or reclining. Why do we sit reclining tonight?


Answer 1: We were slaves in Egypt. Our ancestor in flight from Egypt did not have time to let the dough rise. With not a moment to spare they snatched up the dough they had prepared and fled. But the hot sun beat as they carried the dough along with them and baked it into the flat unleavened bread we call matzah.

Answer 2: The first time we dip our greens to taste the brine of enslavement. We also dip to remind ourselves of all life and growth, of earth and sea, which gives us sustenance and comes to life again in the springtime.

Answer 3: The second time we dip the maror into the charoset. The charoset reminds us of the mortar that our ancestors mixed as slaves in Egypt. But our charoset is made of fruit and nuts, to show us that our ancestors were able to withstand the bitterness of slavery because it was sweetened by the hope of freedom.

Answer 4: Slaves were not allowed to rest, not even while they ate. Since our ancestors were freed from slavery, we recline to remind ourselves that we, like our ancestors, can overcome bondage in our own time. We also recline to remind ourselves that rest and rejuvenation are vital to continuing our struggles. We should take pleasure in reclining, even as we share our difficult history.



-- Four Children
Source : Chaverim Shel Shalom, JF& CS, Boston

The Torah has four children in mind: one, wise, a second, rebellious, a third, simple, and a fourth, a child who does not yet know how to ask.

The Wise Child Asks: Why do I have to go through life with a psychiatric disability? How can I learn to acknowledge that having a psychiatric condition is a part of who I am, that I'm going to accept this part of myself and be in the world as much as I can?

Why did it take me so long to get here? I'm grateful that medication is helping me, but I've still got a long way to go. Now that I'm feeling so much better, I do a lot of mitzvot.

Why don't we treat psychiatric conditions like we do physical ones? Why don't we allocate more of our resources to housing and treating those whose psyches and bodies require shelter?

The Rebellious Child Asks: Why do I have a psychiatric condition? Why are You, God, doing this to me? Is this a test? Maybe I'm being punished for being nasty to my parents and other people. I used to hate everybody and I wanted other people to have problems, too.

Why are you, my caregivers, doing these things to me? You say you're trying to help me, but I don't believe you.

Why should I keep going? I give up. I quit. Forget it, I'm out of here. It's not worth the struggle. It's too hard.

(Some call this child "The Unenlightened Child", one who is clueless about the experience of being labeled with a "mental illness".)

The "Unenlightened Child" Asks: What are they to me? Keep them off the streets and out of my way.

The Simple Child Asks: What is wrong with me?

The Child Who Does Not Know How to Ask: I need others to speak for me. Sometimes when a psychiatrist prescribes medications, I may not know enough to ask about side effects. Sometimes I'm so blown away by what the doctor is saying, I can't say a word. For this child, you shall tell of our stories, our triumphs, our struggles and our despair, saying, "This is what God has done for us and this is what we do for God."

-- Exodus Story
Source : Jewish Meditation Center of Brooklyn •

1. After the ten plagues, Pharoah finally lets our people go, and the Israelites leave in a big hurry. They pack their bags, gather their children and livestock, toss the unleavened bread on their backs, and begin their journey. It is Pharaoh’s change of heart, after refusing so many times to let them go, that allows the Israelites to arrive at this moment of freedom.

2. After being freed, the Israelites find themselves between the roaring sea before them and the Egyptian army behind them. They panic and say to Moses, “There weren’t enough graves in Egypt, so you brought us to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, taking us out of Egypt? It would have been better to stay as slaves than to die here.” We can learn a lot about resistance to transition from the complaints of the Israelites.

3. Sometimes in the midst of doubt and fear, it can feel impossible to take that first step forward. A rabbinic Midrash tells the story of Nachshon ben Aminadav, who walked into the sea until the water was above his neck; only after he took this great risk did the waters part for all the Israelites. Passover is our annual invitation to take that first step.

Ask everyone to imagine the moment where they can’t stay in the same place. Go around the table and ask each person to say one word to answer this question: What would you need to act, to move forward, away from constriction and narrowness, toward freedom? [examples: “faith,” “community,” “imagination,” “lightness”, etc]

Go around the table and each person can answer this second question: What is one situation or pattern you’ve resisted changing even when you know it’s not in service to living the life you want to lead?” [examples: “going to sleep super late,” “my unfulfilling job,” “that relationship (you know the one),” etc.]

4. There’s commentary that the post-Exodus forty years of wandering in the desert was the necessary length of time to allow the generation of Israelites raised with a slave mentality to be replaced by a new generation of free people. This means that only those born into freedom were able to enter the Promised Land. We can translate this to our own lives to mean that we have to transition out of fixed mindsets and make space for new ways and paths and directions.

Remembering our own capacity to enslave and be enslaved, as well as our ability to find freedom in our lives, is one of the most meaningful practices of Passover. May we all be blessed with a Passover of liberation. May our practice be a source of strength as we find paths to freedom, and may our open-heartedness benefit all beings.

-- Ten Plagues
Source : Pesach: A Season of Justice

As we recite the plagues, we pour out ten drops of wine, lessening our joy, to remember the plagues set upon Egypt. In today’s world, there are many societal cruelties and injustices that can cause us to diminish our joy. Many Haggadot contain listings of modern day plagues, such as AIDS, breast cancer, child poverty, domestic violence, environmental destruction, homelessness, homophobia, hunger, illiteracy, and racism. Families can discuss their “top ten” societal ills and discuss ways we can work to prevent them. Consider the following reading from A Common Road to Freedom, A

Passover Haggadah for a Seder conducted with both Jews and African Americans: Each drop of wine is our hope and prayer that people will cast out the plagues that today threaten everyone, everywhere they are found, beginning in our own hearts:

The making of war,

The teaching of hate and violence,

Despoliation of the earth,

Perversion of justice and government,

Fomenting of vice and crime,

Neglect of human needs,

Oppression of nations and peoples,

Corruption of culture,

Subjugation of science, learning, and human discourse,

The erosion of freedoms.

-- Cup #2 & Dayenu
Source : JWA / Jewish Boston - The Wandering Is Over Haggadah; Including Women's Voices

The Passover Symbols

We have now told the story of Passover… but wait! We’re not quite done. There are still some symbols on our seder plate we haven’t talked about yet. Rabban Gamliel would say that whoever didn’t explain the shank bone, matzah, and marror (or bitter herbs) hasn’t done Passover justice.

The shank bone represents the Pesach, the special lamb sacrifice made in the days of the Temple for the Passover holiday. It is called the pesach, from the Hebrew word meaning “to pass over,” because God passed over the houses of our ancestors in Egypt when visiting plagues upon our oppressors.

The matzah reminds us that when our ancestors were finally free to leave Egypt, there was no time to pack or prepare. Our ancestors grabbed whatever dough was made and set out on their journey, letting their dough bake into matzah as they fled.

The bitter herbs provide a visceral reminder of the bitterness of slavery, the life of hard labor our ancestors experienced in Egypt.

The Orange

Even after one has encountered the collection of seemingly unconnected foods on the seder plate year after year, it’s fun to ask what it’s all about. Since each item is supposed to spur discussion, it makes sense that adding something new has been one way to introduce contemporary issues to a seder.

So how was it that the orange found its place on the seder plate as a Passover symbol of feminism and women’s rights?

The most familiar version of the story features Susannah Heschel, daughter of Abraham Joshua Heschel and scholar in her own right, giving a speech about the ordination of women clergy. From the audience, a man declared, “A woman belongs on the bima like an orange belongs on the seder plate!” However, Heschel herself tells a different story.

During a visit to Oberlin College in the early 1980s, she read a feminist Haggadah that called for placing a piece of bread on the seder plate as a symbol of the need to include gays and lesbians in Jewish life. Heschel liked the idea of putting something new on the seder plate to represent suppressed voices, but she was uncomfortable with using chametz, which she felt would invalidate the very ritual it was meant to enhance. She chose instead to add an orange and to interpret it as a symbol of all marginalized populations.

Miriam’s Cup

A decade later, the ritual of Miriam’s Cup emerged as another way to honor women during the seder. Miriam’s Cup builds upon the message of the orange, transforming the seder into an empowering and inclusive experience.

Although Miriam, a prophet and the sister of Moses, is never mentioned in the traditional Haggadah text, she is one of the central figures in the Exodus story.

According to Jewish feminist writer Tamara Cohen, the practice of filling a goblet with water to symbolize Miriam’s inclusion in the seder originated at a Rosh Chodesh group in Boston in 1989. The idea resonated with many people and quickly spread.

Miriam has long been associated with water. The rabbis attribute to Miriam the well that traveled with the Israelites throughout their wandering in the desert. In the Book of Numbers, the well dries up immediately following Miriam’s death. Of course, water played a role in Miriam’s life from the first time we meet her, watching over the infant Moses on the Nile, through her triumphant crossing of the Red Sea.

There is no agreed-upon ritual for incorporating Miriam’s Cup into the seder, but there are three moments in the seder that work particularly well with Miriam’s story.

1) As Moses’s sister, Miriam protected him as an infant and made sure he was safely received by Pharaoh’s daughter. Some seders highlight this moment by invoking her name at the start of the Maggid section when we begin telling the Passover story.

2) Other seders, such as this one, incorporate Miriam’s cup when we sing songs of praise during the Maggid and later during the Hallel as a reminder that Miriam led the Israelites in song and dance during the Exodus.

3) Still others place Miriam’s Cup alongside the cup we put out for Elijah.

Just as there is no set time in the seder to use Miriam’s Cup, there is no set ritual or liturgy either. Some fill the cup with water at the start of the seder; others fill the cup during the seder. Some sing Debbie Friedman’s “Miriam’s Song”; others sing “Miriam Ha-Neviah.” As with all seder symbols, Miriam’s Cup is most effective when it inspires discussion.

What does Miriam mean to you? How do all of her roles, as sister, protector, prophet, leader, singer, and dancer, contribute to our understanding of the Exodus story? Who are the Miriams of today?

Source : <a href="">Rabbi Geela Rayzel Raphael, Five Interfaith Passover Readings You Can Add to Your Haggadah</a>
Maror (bitter herbs, such as horseradish)--the symbol of bitterness and slavery of the Israelites in Egypt. Today, in a Jewish community that is free, this bitterness takes on another layer of meaning. We acknowledge that there are many among us who are embittered by their feelings of resentment, discomfort, and fear. We know that there is just cause for some of these feelings of fear, for Jews were "other" for so many centuries and mistreated just because they were different.

This laden history has often contributed to some of our families' inability to accept the idea of intermarriage. We acknowledge that Jewish people have struggled and been enslaved in the past and we stretch to transform this defeated posture. We also know that sometimes our own enslavement or emotional bondage prevents us from being open to hearing each other in our marriage. Loyalties to families of origin need to be honored, unless they prevent us from creating true intimacy. Bitter places are stuck places, and we commit ourselves tonight to moving beyond our own positions to find new points of intersection and connection.

Tonight we dip our bitterness in the sweetness of charoset. Charoset, the sweet mixture of fruits and nuts, symbolizes the mortar of the bricks of the Israelites. It is also the mortar of commitment and interdependence that enabled the Jewish community to survive through those centuries of oppression. It is the building blocks of hope and tradition, which are sweet. We take our maror of fear, and by dipping it into the sweetness we create a new model that honors the fear and suffering yet holds out hope for the future.

By blending our maror and charoset, we acknowledge the blending of faiths and traditions that sit around this table here tonight. We know it is not always sweet and it is not always bitter, but that life is a mixture of both. Just as our taste buds are designed for sweet, salty, sour and bitter, so we taste the range of textures of our relationships. By our dipping tonight we bring together the bitter and the sweet for something new to emerge.

Source : SEDER FOR THE EARTH: Facing the Plagues & Pharaohs of Our Generation, Shalom Center

At the end of the meal the children are invited to hunt for the Afikoman (the piece of matzah that was hidden earlier) and it is redeemed from the children who have found it, since it is necessary to have this taste of matzah as the last taste at the end of the meal. One way of redeeming it is to ask the children to name an organization that is working for social justice, freedom, peace, or healing of the earth, and the adults agree to contribute to that group in accordance with their own means.] [The Afikoman is distributed among the Seder company, and every one eats a bite of it.]

Source : SEDER FOR THE EARTH: Facing the Plagues & Pharaohs of Our Generation, Shalom Center

{At each table, someone pours juice from the Cup of Elijah, sitting untasted in the center of the table, into each person's glass. All say together:] I take responsibility to become the Prophet Elijah, "turning the hearts of the parents to the children and the hearts of the children to the parents, lest the earth be utterly destroyed."

Barukh atah YHWH elohenu ruakh ha-olam boray p'ri eytz. Blessed are You, YHWH our God, Who creates the fruit of the vine. {All drink the fourth cup, the cup of personal and communal commitment to action.]

"God has allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over, and I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the Promised Land.

— Dr. Martin Luther King, April 3,1968, the night before his death.

[All sing:]

Circle 'round for freedom, Circle 'round for peace; For all of us imprisoned, Circle for release. Circle for the planet, Circle for each soul; For the children of our children, Keep the circle whole. --- Linda Hirschhorn / Rob Glover

Source : SEDER FOR THE EARTH: Facing the Plagues & Pharaohs of Our Generation, Shalom Center

[Sing this translation of psalm 149 to the tune of "Michael Row the Boat Ashore."] Praise Yah in the heavens, halleluyah. Praise God in the heights, halleluyah. Praise God, all you angels, halleluyah. Praise Yah, all you hosts, halleluyah. Praise God, sun and moon, halleluyah. Praise Yah, you stars of light, halleluyah. Praise God, you high heavens, halleluyah. All that flows in all the world, halleluyah.

Let them all praise God's Name, halleluyah. For God spoke and they appeared, halleluyah. With God they take their stand, halleluyah. God's rhythm none can break, halleluyah. Praise Yah from the earth, halleluyah. You sea-monsters and all deeps, halleluyah. Fire, hail, snow, and steam, halleluyah. Stormy wind to do God's word, halleluyah. Mountains high and small hills, halleluyah. Trees of fruit and cedars too, halleluyah. Wild beasts and quiet flocks, halleluyah. Creeping things and winged birds, halleluyah. Leaders and officials, halleluyah. Societies and peoples, halleluyah. Young men and women, too, halleluyah. Let us praise the holy Name, halleluyah. For God's Name includes us all, halleluyah. God's radiance shines out, halleluyah. And God lifts the people's hearts, halleluyah. For all who wrestle God, halleluyah. For all who bring God close, halleluyah.

Source : Religious Action Center

This section of the Haggadah focuses on our hopes for the peace and redemption of messianic times, while also reminding us of what we can do l'taken et ha-olam, to repair the world in our own time. This reading reminds us that there are still injustices based on gender, and that we must continue to fight for equality in the Jewish community, in the workplace, economically and in society between men and women:

from Lisa S. Green, North Shore Congregation Israel of Glencoe, IL
When opening the door for Elijah, recite the following:

Elijah, we are told,
Will precede the Messiah.
He will be a sign to us.
And so we welcome Elijah
At the end of Shabbat,
A taste of the ideal, the messianic.
We pray, we sing.
At the Seder we even open the door.

At a bris we welcome a baby boy into the covenant. There we place a chair for Elijah, reminding us that each child born bears the potential...could make the difference...could be the Messiah.

But some would say that the Messiah will truly come when we welcome our daughters into the covenant with Elijah's chair present, bringing them into our people, recognizing their potential to make a difference.

We open the door. We welcome Elijah, girls and boys, women and men.

Together, we realize potential.