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Introduction

:קָרֵב יוֹם אֲשֶׁר הוּא לֹא יוֹם וְלֹא לַיְלָה

Bring [us] close [to] the day which is not day and not night.

As the sun sinks and the colors of the day turn, we offer a blessing for the twilight, for
twilight is neither day nor night, but in-between.

We are all twilight people. We can never be fully labeled or defined. We are many identities
and loves, many genders and none.

We are in between roles, at the intersection of histories, or between place and place.

We are neither day nor night. We are both, neither, and all.

May the in-between of this evening suspend our certainties, soften our judgments,
and widen our vision.

May this in-between light illuminate our way to a path transcends all categories and
definitions.

We cannot always define; we can always say a blessing. Blessed are You, Blessed are those, who dwell on, and celebrate Twilight!

- (Based on) Rabbi Reuben Zellman, TransTorah.org

Blessings for Candle Lighting can be found on page -1

Introduction
Source : בוחרים מחדש הגדה
Our Personal Egypt - Formerly Orthodox

What is Egypt? Everyone has their own Egypt, their own narrow place. An Egypt in which we are enslaved to the thirst for freedom. And at times, we are so lost, till we can no longer visualize that thirst for freedom. 

Tonight, we are commemorating the Exodus from our own personal Egypt:

We have shedded our personal idols we were taught to worship;

We no longer sell our bodies, souls, and lives, to a God that humans created for themselves, and our past imposed on us. 

Our essence now, our goal, is the fulfillment of a godliness, a divine inspiration that we constitute for ourselves and others, through the good and the light that we spread around us.

We have shedeed our enslavement to the opinions of others on us;

We no longer sell our bodies, souls, and lives, to what other people, friends and family from the past or the present, might say about us.

We are at peace with our decisions, and at peace with our path.

The path that we chose for ourselves from amongst the many paths we have explored and tried for ourselves!  

Introduction
Source : By Abby Stein

The Exodus: A Personal Coming Out, In Every Generation

“In our tradition leaving Egypt wasn’t an historical event alone. In our tradition, it was a personal and existential leaving as well.

"בְּכָל דּוֹר וָדוֹר חַיָּב אָדָם לִרְאוֹת אֶת עַצְמוֹ\עַצְמָהּ כְאִלּוּ הוּא יָצָא\ה מִמִּצְרַיִם
(In every generation a person must regard themselves as though they personally had gone out of Egypt)

Whenever we leave a narrow place, a place of constriction, painful servitude, a place where we are not authentically who we are, that leap taking, that transitioning, is an exodus. A freedom walk.

Rabbi David Ingber, Romemu

The tradition teaches us, that not only is coming out something that is acceptable in our tradition, but it is something to admire, to strive for, and to some extend, we have an obligation in every generation to take that leap, and Come Out!

הִגָּלֶה נָא וּפְרוֹס חֲבִיבִי עָלַי אֶת סֻכַּת שְׁלוֹמֶךָ

Please, be revealed and spread the covering, beloved, Upon me, the shelter of your tranquility.

Yedid Nefesh - ידיד נפש

As we start the evening, let's keep this in mind. Let us understand that resistance in out tradition isn't merely acceptable, but an obligation. It is something that we have learned through thousands of years, and resistance is what gave us the power to overcome relentless oppression.

Let's continue on page 5 

Kadesh
Kadesh
Humanistic/Ecological Kiddush

Blessed are you the Great Earth, 

And blessed are you the person who labored, 

That came together to give us the fruit of the vine.

Occasions to rejoice, Holidays and Festivals to delight in,

Let us dedicate this Festival of Matzot, 

The season of our liberation - a sanctified gathering, remembering

The Exodus from Egypt.

Urchatz
Washing - Not for A Blessing, But for Health

“We wash our hands, and we do NOT make the Hand-Washing Blessing!”

Traditionally, this handwashing is purely ritualistic and customary, to the extent that we are taught not to make the blessing we would make when we are commended to wash (such as before bread). This year however, as we are fighting the worst pandemic of the century, handwashing takes on a whole new meaning. One that isn’t for religious or ritualistic reasons, but simply to survive. 

We can set our intentions:

Karpas
Source : The Wandering is Over Haggadah, JewishBoston.com

Passover, like many of our holidays, combines the celebration of an event from our Jewish memory with a recognition of the cycles of nature. As we remember the liberation from Egypt, we also recognize the stirrings of spring and rebirth happening in the world around us. The symbols on our table bring together elements of both kinds of celebration.

We now take a vegetable, representing our joy at the dawning of spring after our long, cold winter. Most families use a green vegetable, such as parsley or celery, but some families from Eastern Europe have a tradition of using a boiled potato since greens were hard to come by at Passover time. Whatever symbol of spring and sustenance we’re using, we now dip it into salt water, a symbol of the tears our ancestors shed as slaves. Before we eat it, we recite a short blessing:

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 look forward to spring and the reawakening of flowers and greenery. They haven’t been lost, just buried beneath the snow, getting ready for reappearance just when we most needed them.

-

We all have aspects of ourselves that sometimes get buried under the stresses of our busy lives. What has this winter taught us? What elements of our own lives do we hope to revive this spring?

Maggid - Beginning
Source : Arundhati Roy Quote, Design by Haggadot.com
Arundhati Roy on the "Voiceless"

-- Four Questions
Source : http://jewishcurrents.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Haggadah-Supplement-final.pdf

The answers to the first three questions are drawn from Michelle Alexander’s groundbreaking book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (2010). Excerpts are cited with “NJC” and the page number.

Question #1

Why does America have the highest incarceration rate of any developed nation in the world?

Many factors have increased the incarceration rate, including the War on Drugs, the imposition of mandatory minimum sentencing, and privatization of prisons, which creates financial incentives for keeping people in prison.

“The impact of the drug war has been astounding. In less than thirty years, the U.S. penal population exploded from around 300,000 to more than 2 million, with drug convictions accounting for the majority of the increase. The United States now by far has the highest incarceration rate in the world.” (NJC, p. 6)

Incarceration is a tool of social control.

“[D]rug crime was declining, not rising, when a drug war was declared in 1972. From a historical perspective, however, the lack of correlation between crime and punishment is nothing new. Sociologists have frequently observed that governments use punishment primarily as a tool of social control, and thus the extent or severity of punishment is often unrelated to actual crime patterns.” (NJC, p. 7)

Question #2

Who is being locked up in the United States?

There is a strong racial dimension to the pattern of incarceration.

“No other country in the world imprisons so many of its racial or ethnic minorities. The United States imprisons a larger percentage of its black population than South Africa did at the height of apartheid. In Washington, D.C., our nation’s capitol, it is estimated that three out of four young black men (and nearly all those in the poorest neighborhoods) can expect to serve time in prison. Similar rates of incarceration can be found in black communities across America.

“These stark racial disparities cannot be explained by rates of drug crime. Studies show that people of all colors use and sell illegal drugs at remarkably similar rates . . . This is not what one would guess, however, when entering our nation’s prisons and jails, which are overflowing with black and brown drug offenders.” (NJC, p. 6)

The Egyptians dealt harshly with us and oppressed us; they imposed heavy labor upon us. (Deuteronomy 26:6, Haggadah)

Two Personal Stories

Michelle Alexander describes two experiences of harsh treatment in the criminal justice system:

“Imagine you are Emma Faye Stewart, a thirty-year-old, single African-American mother of two who was arrested as part of a drug sweep in Hearne, Texas. All but one of those people arrested were African- American. You are innocent. After a week in jail, you have no one to care for your two small children and are eager to get home. Your court-appointed attorney urges you to plead guilty to a drug distribution charge, saying the prosecutor has offered probation. You refuse, steadfastly proclaiming your innocence. Finally, after almost a month in jail, you decide to plead guilty so you can return home to your children. Unwilling to risk a trial and years of imprisonment, you are sentenced to ten years probation and ordered to pay $1,000 in fines, as well as court and probation costs. You are also now branded a drug felon. You are no longer eligible for food stamps; you may be discriminated against in employment; you cannot vote for at least twelve years; and you are about to be evicted from public housing. Once homeless, your children will be taken away from you and put in foster care.

“A judge eventually dismisses all cases against the defendants who did not plead guilty. At trial, the judge finds that the entire sweep was based on the testimony of a single informant who lied to the prosecution. You, however, are still a drug felon, homeless, and desperate to regain custody of your children.

“Now place yourself in the shoes of Clifford Runoalds, another African-American victim of the Hearne drug bust. You returned home to Bryan, Texas, to attend the funeral of your eighteen-month-old daughter. Before the funeral services begin, the police show up and handcuff you. You beg the officers to let you take one last look at your daughter before she is buried. The police refuse. You are told by prosecutors that you are needed to testify against one of the defendants in a recent drug bust. You deny witnessing any drug transaction; you don’t know what they are talking about. Because of your refusal to cooperate, you are indicted on felony charges. After a month of being held in jail, the charges against you are dropped. You are technically free, but as a result of your arrest and period of incarceration, you lose your job, your apartment, your furniture, and your car. Not to mention the chance to say good-bye to your baby girl.” (NJC, pp. 97-98)

Question #3

Why are so many African Americans, as well as other people of color, being treated like criminals?

Mass incarceration is a tool to reinforce a racial caste system in the United States.

“Slavery defined what it meant to be black (a slave), and Jim Crow defined what it meant to be black (a second-class citizen). Today mass incarceration defines the meaning of blackness in America: black people, especially black men, are criminals. That is what it means to be black.

“The temptation is to insist that black men ‘choose’ to be criminals; the system does not make them criminals, at least not in the way that slavery made blacks slaves or Jim Crow made them second-class citizens. The myth of choice here is seductive, but it should be resisted. African Americans are not significantly more likely to use or sell prohibited drugs than whites, but they are made criminals at drastically higher rates for precisely the same conduct. In fact, studies suggest that white professionals may be the most likely of any group to have engaged in illegal drug activity in their lifetime, yet they are the least likely to be made criminals. . . . Black people have been made criminals by the War on Drugs to a degree that dwarfs its effect on other racial and ethnic groups, especially whites. And the process of making them criminals has produced racial stigma. (NJC, pp. 196-197)

Question #4
Why do we, as Jews and friends of Jews, ask these questions on this seder night?

We cried out to the Eternal One, the God of our ancestors, who heard our plea and saw our plight, our misery, and our oppression. (Deuteronomy 26:7, Haggadah)

There are Jews of color who have personal stories to tell about experiencing racism; there are Jews of all colors who have personal stories to tell about incarceration and the criminal justice system. But the issue affects us all, whether or not we have personal stories to tell. As the people of the Exodus, we are called to witness the suffering of our neighbors, to open ours eyes and to cry out in the name of justice.

Then the Eternal One freed us from Egypt by a mighty hand, by an outstretched arm and awesome power, and signs and portents. (Deuteronomy 26:8, Haggadah)

Dismantling the system of mass incarceration and creating a system of justice and dignity for all Americans calls for wisdom, perseverance, hard work, and faith. We must raise our voices and build alliances. We pray for the ability to see clearly, to act with compassion, and to forgive ourselves for the ways we have unknowingly been agents of oppression. We pray for courage, guidance, and strength as we celebrate Passover, our festival of freedom.

We read together the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr, from his letter from a Birmingham, Alabama jail on April 16, 1963:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

-- Ten Plagues
1) 64% felt unsafe at school due to sexual orientation

2) 44% felt unsafe at school due to gender identification

3) 42% of LGBT youth have experienced cyber bullying

4) 42% of LBGT youth say the community in which they live in is not accepting of LGBT people

5) Only 77% of LGBT youth say they know things will get better

6) 60% LGBT students report feeling unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation

7) LGBT youth are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide as their straight peers

8) LGBT students are twice as likely to say that they were not planning on completing high school or going on to college

9) LGBT youth who reported higher levels of family rejection during adolescence are three times more likely to use illegal drugs

10) Half of gay males experience a negative parental reaction when they come out and in 26% of those cases the youth was thrown out of the home

-- Ten Plagues
Source : JWA / Jewish Boston - The Wandering Is Over Haggadah; Including Women's Voices

The traditional Haggadah lists ten plagues that afflicted the Egyptians. We live in a very different world, but Passover is a good time to remember that, even after our liberation from slavery in Egypt, there are still many challenges for us to meet. Here are ten “modern plagues”:

Inequity - Access to affordable housing, quality healthcare, nutritious food, good schools, and higher education is far from equal. The disparity between rich and poor is growing, and opportunities for upward mobility are limited.

Entitlement - Too many people consider themselves entitled to material comfort, economic security, and other privileges of middle-class life without hard work.

Fear - Fear of “the other” produces and reinforces xenophobia, anti-immigrant sentiment, antisemitism, homophobia, and transphobia.

Greed - Profits are a higher priority than the safety of workers or the health of the environment. The top one percent of the American population controls 42% of the country’s financial wealth, while corporations send jobs off-shore and American workers’ right to organize and bargain collectively is threatened.

Distraction - In this age of constant connectedness, we are easily distracted by an unending barrage of information, much of it meaningless, with no way to discern what is important.

Distortion of reality - The media constructs and society accepts unrealistic expectations, leading to eating disorders and an unhealthy obsession with appearance for both men and women.

Unawareness - It is easy to be unaware of the consequences our consumer choices have for the environment and for workers at home and abroad. Do we know where or how our clothes are made? Where or how our food is produced? The working conditions? The impact on the environment?

Discrimination - While we celebrate our liberation from bondage in Egypt, too many people still suffer from discrimination. For example, blacks in the United States are imprisoned at more than five times the rate of whites, and Hispanics are locked up at nearly double the white rate. Women earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man. At 61 cents to the dollar, the disparity is even more shocking in Jewish communal organization.

Silence - Every year, 4.8 million cases of domestic violence against American women are reported. We do not talk about things that are disturbing, such as rape, sex trafficking, child abuse, domestic violence, and elder abuse, even though they happen every day in our own communities.

Feeling overwhelmed and disempowered - When faced with these modern “plagues,” how often do we doubt or question our own ability to make a difference? How often do we feel paralyzed because we do not know what to do to bring about change?

-- Cup #2 & Dayenu
If we were to end a single genocide, but not stop the wars that kill people as we sit here.

it would not be sufficient

If we were to end those bloody wars, but not disarm the nations

it would not be sufficient

If we were to disarm the nations, but not prevent some people from starving while others wallowed in luxury

it would not be sufficient

If we were to make sure that no person starved, but we were not to free the daring poets from their jails,

it would not be sufficient 

If we were to free the poets from their jails, but not train people's minds so that they could understand the poets,

it would not be sufficient

If were were to educate all the people to understand the poets, but not teach the people to share in the community of human kind. 

If would not be sufficient! 

Maror
Source : Earth Justice Seder

The bitter herbs serve to remind us of how the Egyptians embittered the lives of the Israelites in servitude. When we eat the bitter herbs, we share in that bitterness of oppression. We must remember that slavery still exists all across the globe. When you go to the grocery store, where does your food come from? Who picked the sugar cane for your cookie, or the coffee bean for your morning coffee? We are reminded that people still face the bitterness of oppression, in many forms. 

Together, we recite: 

ָבּרוּךְ ַאָתה יי ֱאלֹ ֵהינוּ ֶמֶלךְ ָהעוָֹלם, ֲא ֶשר ִקְד ָשנוּ ְבּ ִמ ְצווָֹתיו, ְו ִצָוּנוּ ַעל ֲאִכיַלת ָמרוֹר

Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al achilat maror. 

Blessed are You, Eternal our God, Sovereign of the universe, who has sanctified us with
Your commandments and ordained that we should eat bitter herbs. 

{ GREENING TIP }  Start a garden in your community and use the produce for synagogue gatherings or donate it to your local food pantry or soup kitchen. 

For more information on the environmental justice, please visit rac.org/enviro .  For all Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism resources, please visit rac.org/Passover .

Shulchan Oreich
Source : Original

According to Ashkenazic Jewish custom, we eat a lot of Gefilte fish on Passover. The question arose as to why Gefilte fish is so closely associated with Passover, and why it seems to appear on so many Seder tables. 

Here is one answer: 

God prepared every aspect of the Israelite Exodus from Egypt in exquisite and loving detail. It was expected to be completed without a glitch. But God failed to foresee that Pharaoh would pursue the Israelites so soon after their departure intending to re-enslave them or kill them. God knew that the Egyptian embalming and mourning period lasts for 110 days, more than enough time for the Israelites to get back to Eretz Yisrael, (Genesis 40:3) but God didn't count on Pharaoh's hardheartedness, preferring chasing down the Israelites to properly mourning his own firstborn son. 

So here's what happened.  

The Israelites found themselves trapped between the Sea of Reeds (sometimes mistakenly called the Red Sea) and the pursuing Egyptian chariots.  They cried to Moses, Moses cried to God and God said: "Why are you crying to me? I mean, is it My fault Pharaoh is such a  yutz ? Tell the Israelites to get going!" 

"Get going??? To where?", asked Moses, incredulously. "They're trapped with their backs to the Sea and the Pharaoh's chariots are bearing down on them. Just where do You suggest they go?" 

Hmmm, mused God, this is a situation I didn't anticipate. Wait, let me think...  

A ha !  

[A ha : You see, God never creates the wound before the healing. In a quirky moment during the evolutionary process, God created an odd kind of sea creature. It was awkward looking and lumpy, with no fins, no scales, (although a Takkanat Tannaim - unknown until the discovery by Solomon Shechter, of blessed memory, of a medieval manuscript in the Cairo Geniza - declared it "kosher" anyway). Its actual kashrut was not confirmed until the middle of the 20th Century C.E., when Rabbi Isaac Klein of Buffalo, also of blessed memory, consulted a fish scientist who confirmed that at one stage of its life, before it, er... "matured," it did, in fact, have BOTH fins AND scales, although not necessarily at the same time, prompting Rabbi Klein to affirm that it was, in fact, kosher WITHOUT the need for the original Takkanat Tannaim, and therefore, certainly permissible to eat, even on Passover, as long as it was not mixed, cooked or served with any Chametz. But I digress, so where were we? Oh, yes...no eyes, no tail...and very, very pale.  Yuch!  So God stuck this evolutionary error in an out of the way place where it could live out its life-cycle in peace, undisturbed, undisturbing and unobserved. God put the wild Gefilte fish species in only one body of water on Earth -- somewhat off the beaten path -- in the Sea of Reeds (sometimes mistakenly called the Red Sea) -- where the species lived and multiplied in obscurity for ages. Suddenly, God, who has a really long memory, remembered the wild Gefilte fish and the unique capability they developed, namely, the ability to suck in and hold 40 times (400 times, according to Rabbi Akiva) their weight in water.]

Now, God nodded knowingly and summoned the wild Gefilte to fulfill ( ahem ) their intended destiny by playing a crucial role in saving the people of Israel from the pursuing Egyptians.

And God spoke to the wild Gefilte, numbering in the tens of thousands, saying, "OK, fellas, at the count of three, SUCK IN!" (Some versions read: " Oseh, fella, ... " and so on) "One, two, THREE!" All at once, tens of thousands of wild Gefilte fish made a whooshing, sucking sound, as they simultaneously sucked in so much water that the middle of the Sea of Reeds (sometimes mistakenly called the Red Sea) dried up and a path opened up for the Israelites, enabling them to cross to the other side. But when the Egyptian chariots tried to follow them across the dry sea bed, the wild Gefilte fish, unable to HOLD 40 times their weight in water (400 times, according to Rabbi Akiva) any longer, let go, and the ensuing tsunami swept the Egyptian chariots away.  

Israel was saved, and with tambourines and song, they praised God for God's foresight in creating the now heroic and celebrated, ugly but ultimately useful, wild Gefilte fish.  

So, from that day to this, in gratitude for the part they played in rescuing Israel at the Sea (remember, the Sea of Reeds, NOT the Red Sea) and saving them from the pursuing Egyptians, the wild Gefilte fish were domesticated, bred (OMG! No  bread  on Passover!) (OK then,  matzah-mealed ) and granted a place of honor on the Seder table and menu (at least in Ashkenazic practice; Sephardim don't believe in  bubba meisehs ).  

Now, how's THAT for a fish story?

Bareich
Source : JQ International GLBT Haggadah

We sing “Miriam’s Song,” by Debbie Friedman in honor of Miriam and the Israelite women at the crossing at the Sea.

Chorus: And the women dancing with their timbrels
Followed Miriam as she sang her song.
Sing a song to the One whom we’ve exalted.
Miriam and the women danced and danced the whole night long.

And Miriam was a weaver of unique variety.
The tapestry she wove was one, which sang our history. With every thread and every strand she crafted her delight. A woman touched with spirit, she dances toward the light.

[Chorus]

As Miriam stood upon the shores and gazed across the sea,
The wonder of this miracle she soon came to believe.
Whoever thought the sea would part with an outstretched hand, And we would pass to freedom, and march to the Promised Land.

[Chorus]

And Miriam the Prophet took her Timbrel in her hand, And all the women followed her just as she had planned. And Miriam raised her voice with song.
She sang with praise and might,

We’ve just lived through a miracle; we’re going to dance tonight.

The message of Passover carries a sense of humbleness to the self, placing one’s frame of mind in a more balanced proportion relative to one’s immediate surroundings and to the universe as a whole. Self-centeredness can magnify one’s view of the world to the point where one can only see oneself more than one can see one’s environment and those in it. The Feast (and Feat) of Freedom, called Passover, is a shining example of a meaningful story showing God’s intent to convey a psychological balance between the Israelite’s self-concerns and the concerns of their enemies, the Egyptians.

Similarly today we recognize both our society’s evolution in embracing the GLBT community and the challenges still to come. We strike a balance between celebrating our victories and recognizing the pain and hardships that we have endured. We thank our allies for their unending support and God for providing us with the strength to seek a just world.

Nirtzah
Source : The Wandering is Over Haggadah, JewishBoston.com

Nirtzah  marks the conclusion of the seder. Our bellies are full, we have had several glasses of wine, we have told stories and sung songs, and now it is time for the evening to come to a close. At the end of the seder, we honor the tradition of declaring, “Next year in Jerusalem!”

For some people, the recitation of this phrase expresses the anticipation of rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem and the return of the Messiah. For others, it is an affirmation of hope and of connectedness with  Klal Yisrael, the whole of the Jewish community. Still others yearn for peace in Israel and for all those living in the Diaspora.

Though it comes at the end of the seder, this moment also marks a beginning. We are beginning the next season with a renewed awareness of the freedoms we enjoy and the obstacles we must still confront. We are looking forward to the time that we gather together again. Having retold stories of the Jewish people, recalled historic movements of liberation, and reflected on the struggles people still face for freedom and equality, we are ready to embark on a year that we hope will bring positive change in the world and freedom to people everywhere.

In  The Leader's Guide to the Family Participation Haggadah: A Different Night, Rabbi David Hartman writes: “Passover is the night for reckless dreams; for visions about what a human being can be, what society can be, what people can be, what history may become.”

What can  we  do to fulfill our reckless dreams? What will be our legacy for future generations?

Our seder is over, according to Jewish tradition and law. As we had the pleasure to gather for a seder this year, we hope to once again have the opportunity in the years to come. We pray that God brings health and healing to Israel and all the people of the world, especially those impacted by natural tragedy and war. As we say…

לְשָׁנָה הַבָּאָה בִּירוּשָׁלָֽיִם

L’shana haba-ah biy’rushalayim

NEXT YEAR IN JERUSALEM!