This vegetable represents springtime and new growth. It is dipped in salt water, which is a reminder of the tears shed in slavery.
We cry with the mothers of Darfur who have buried their husbands and children. Our Passover tradition obligates us to tell the story of our suffering to imbue within our people a deep sensitivity to injustice and the suffering of others. In 2008,
we American Jews enjoy unparalleled freedom and opportunity. As we dip the karpas in salt water, we remember the tears shed in Egypt...and in Darfur.
In today's often sanitized and material culture, how do we tech empathy, outrage, sensitivity and compassion?
We begin the Seder by lifting the Matzah and naming it Lechem Oni, which means the “Bread of Affliction.” We remember what it means to live without dignity; to be afflicted, enslaved, and powerless. That memory sows our empathy for those who are powerless today. We ask, “Who else shares in this story?” And the Haggadah answers, “All those who are hungry come and eat … we are now slaves and next year may we be free.” All humanity can share in the “Bread of Affliction” because we all share the need and the drive to work towards freedom.
They are Us
Hamida’s three children were killed when her village in Darfur was attacked by the Janjaweed. Mbela will never have children after being brutally raped by Congolese rebels. Jill lost her job at the law firm and isn’t sure how she will be able to keep her home and feed her children. When our dignity is lost, when we are wronged, we feel powerless – afflicted. When we’re safe, but those we love struggle, we are afflicted. When humanity is suffering, we are all afflicted.
Tell a story of your own affliction. To what have you felt enslaved? How did you find freedom?
The story of the Exodus begins in slavery and ends in redemption. As they left Egypt, the Israelites chose to bake the unleavened matzah instead of waiting for the bread to rise. The story teaches us that God requires our partnership in the process of redemption; to be a partner with God is to be an agent of change. This too is a symbol of the Matzah. The Matzah is Lechem Ge’ulah – the Bread of Redemption – which reminds us of those opening moments of our nation’s freedom, when we acted as partners with God.
Although she lost her children, Hamida escaped with her remaining family to the Iridimi refugee camp in Chad. Through the JWW Water Reclamation Project, Hamida is using recycled water from her family’s shower stall to grow a small vegetable garden that supplements her family’s meager food rations and can be sold in the marketplace. The opportunity to provide for her family has given Hamida a measure of dignity and empowerment that she had lost.
Describe a time when you faced a major challenge and were able to find the tools or resources to overcome it.
Why do we spend an evening or two every year studying the story of the Passover? It is no academic exercise. The rabbis state, “The study of Torah is great because it leads to action.” (Bavli Sanhedrin 50b). We explore our past to guide us to action in the future. It is the Story of the Exodus that inspired Abraham Joshua Heschel to join Martin Luther King Jr. to march in Selma where he “felt his legs were praying.” The Matzah serves not only as a reminder of the past, but as a Lechem Pe;ilut, a “Bread of Action” that reminds us to work towards redemption in our own day.
Linda was trained as a JWW speaker and has now spoken to dozens of community groups about JWW and the Darfur genocide. Peter organized visits with elected officials to urge action to end the genocide. Zoe sold her painted river rocks to raise money to help the women survivors. These are all Jewish World Watch activists who, along with thousands of other in our community, are working collectively to end genocide in Darfur and worldwide.
Describe a time you have volunteered your time for an important cause.
What will you do to help Jewish World Watch end genocide? Make sure to use the Afikomen to take action NOW and go to www.jewishworldwatch.org for more ways to help.
We hear the resonant voice of Miriam calling us to nurture the injured women of Congo. We feel the timeless power of Elijah's appeal imploring us to free the Darfuris from bondage. Let the well of Miriam nourish and sustain all who thirst for liberation. Fill the cup of Elijah with your pledge to pursue justice. Hear her voice. Hear his voice. Raise YOUR voice.
The six powerful symbols of the Seder plate embody the Passover story of suffering, liberation and renewal. These symbols resonate in the context of the genocide in Darfur, now in its sixth year. Since 2003, hundreds of thousands of Darfurians have been killed by the Sudanese government and their proxy, the Janjaweed militia. This Passover, in memory of those who have perished, and in honor of those still fighting to survive, we return to the desert.
We remember our time of captivity in Egypt, the horrors of the Shoah and the victims of Darfur. We hope and pray for their liberation from bondage and for a renewal of freedom. And, we ask all gathered around this table tonight to join us in the struggle towards that goal.