Please read this and bring these ideas and readings to whatever celebration you attend during Passover!!!
Next Year in Jerusalem? Passover for those whose moral compass has not gone dead We offer a series of articles here that may help you negotiate through the Passover holiday and the ethical morass facing those who wish to celebrate the holiday of our freedom from slavery without going dead to the reality of the Jewish people's role in the suffering of the Palestinian people, today, right now, as we celebrate this year's Passover!!!!!!!!!
by Rabbi Brian Walt
Posted by rabbibrian on March 28, 2010
One of my favorite childhood memories of the Passover seder is joyously singing, “L’shana Haba’ah Birushalayim Habnuyah/ Next Year in the rebuilt city of Jerusalem” at the end of the seder. I remember singing L’shana Haba’ah at the end of our family seders and at the end of the huge “model” seder at Herzlia, the Jewish day school that I attended as a child in South Africa. Next Year in the rebuilt city of Jerusalem! Tomorrow night my family will celebrate Pesach seder in the city of Jerusalem, a beautiful city that I love, and currently, a painfully divided city.
For me, there are two realities to preparing for this year’s seder in Jerusalem. The first reality is the uniqueness of preparing for Passover in Israel where the holiday is part of the national culture. Celebrating Jewish holidays in the diaspora is so different from here in Israel where Jewish holidays and culture are the norm. The supermarkets are packed, there are “Pesach specials”, there is a festive holiday air, the coffee shops are packed and everyone is talking about the holiday. All my neighbors are preparing for Pesach.
Today I went with my neighbors to one of the street corners near us where someone had set up a huge vat of boiling water where one could bring one’s pots, cutlery and other utensils to make them kosher for Pesach. We spent much of our day shopping and getting what we need for our seder. Later, our whole family went to get haircuts, as there is a Jewish tradition not to cut one’s hair for several weeks starting on Pesach. The barber told us that he started work this morning at 8 a.m. and his last appointment is at 10 p.m. tonight.
And, there is another reality. Next year in the rebuilt city of Jerusalem! Building in Jerusalem is in the news. In response to the recent controversy about building in Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem, defiantly declared, “We will continue to build houses in East and West Jerusalem!” What he meant is “we (Jews)” will build houses for Jews in East and West Jerusalem. The Municipality of Jerusalem doesn’t build houses for Palestinians. As regards Palestinians, it demolishes houses and assists in the eviction of Palestinians from their houses and replacing them with Jews.
After many years of shamefully turning a blind eye to this immoral system of discrimination, the American administration has finally demanded that it end. In a moving piece in this morning’s Ha’Aretz Gideon Levy writes,
If Israel had a real peace camp, if the silent majority had broken its sickly silence, if more Israelis approached the situation as a collective rather than individuals yearning for the next holiday or car, if more Israelis refused to accept blindly the deceptions of Israeli diplomacy and propaganda, Rabin Square would have been filled with demonstrators yesterday. Among the banners and flags, one sign would have stood out in this hour of risks and fateful decisions: “Thank you, friend.” Thank you, Barack Obama, friend of Israel.
Among Obama’s modest demands – a construction freeze in Jerusalem and extending the freeze in the settlements, two basic conditions for “negotiations without preconditions” and for anyone who really wants a two-state solution – there’s a demand that the Israelis themselves should have made long ago.
Obama is asking Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and through him every Israeli, to finally speak the truth. He’s asking Netanyahu and the rest of us: What on earth do you actually want? Enough with the misleading answers; the moment of truth is here. Enough with the tricks – a neighborhood here, a settlement expansion there. Just tell us: Where are you heading? Do you want to go on receiving unprecedented aid from the United States, do you want to become part of the Middle East, do you want to achieve peace?
I couldn’t agree more. The question now is whether Obama will continue to insist on the modest demands he has made of the Israelis. Will the AIPAC letter signed by over 300 congressional representatives pressure him to mute his reasonable demand? I hope not.
So, tomorrow night, when we come to Next Year in Jerusalem, let’s give thanks to Obama and encourage the American Administration to insist in the strongest terms possible to his reasonable demands.
For Jerusalem to be a holy city it must be one where all its inhabitants are treated with dignity and equality. It is not the ancient graves and sites that will make this city holy. Obama has the power to change the destructive and suicidal path of Israeli policy in Jerusalem. He deserves our full support as long as he continues to insist that the Israeli government agree to his modest demands.
This year Jerusalem is divided and in a city torn in conflict, hatred and violence. Next year in Jerusalem, a city of peace, a city of human dignity and equality, a city that honors all the children of God.
This year we are slaves, next year may we all be free!
For those of you who would like to read more about this issue I recommend Lara Friedman and Danny Seidman’s article and Letty Cottin Pogrebin’s post about her tour of East Jerusalem. Both excellent articles provide solid factual information to counter “the deceptions of Israeli diplomacy and propoganda.”
Jerusalem, settlements, and the "everybody knows" fallacy
Posted By Lara Friedman and Daniel Seidemann Friday, March 19, 2010 - 11:43 AM Share
Throughout the past week the world has heard Israeli government officials and their allies in the US --particularly among the pro-settler crowd -- defending construction in East Jerusalem settlements on the grounds that "everybody knows" these areas will always be part of Israel.
The "everybody knows" argument is familiar. Those in the peace camp often say that everybody knows what an Israeli-Palestinian permanent status agreement looks like. Their point being: all that is needed is the political will of courageous leaders to work out the final, hardest details and sign the treaty.
But today the "everybody knows" meme has been cynically appropriated by Netanyahu and his supporters. "Everybody knows these areas in East Jerusalem will always be Israel," they say, "so when the Palestinians (and the Americans) make a fuss about new construction plans, it is just for political purposes, not because there is any real issue."
Those peddling this rubbish are guilty of transparent manipulation. Those buying it are guilty of having short memories and an excess of credulity.
In 1993, when the peace process was taking off, the settlement of Ramat Shlomo -- which last week caused such a headache for Vice President Biden -- didn't exist. The site was an empty hill in East Jerusalem (not "no man's land," as some have asserted), home only to dirt, trees and grazing goats. It was empty because Israel expropriated the land in 1973 from the Palestinian village of Shuafat and made it off-limits to development. Only later, with the onset of the peace process era, was the land zoned for construction and a brand-new settlement called Rehkes Shuafat (later renamed Ramat Shlomo) built.
If in 1993 you had asked what areas "everybody knows" would stay part of Israel under any future agreement, the area that is today Ramat Shlomo -- territorially distinct from any other settlement and contiguous with the Palestinian neighborhood of Shuafat -- would not have been mentioned.
The same can be said for the massive settlement of Har Homa, for which Israel issued new tenders in the past few days (sometime after the Ramat Shlomo-Biden fiasco). Here, again, the argument is that "everybody knows" this area will forever be part of Israel. But here again, we are talking about an area that at the outset of the peace process was empty land -- devoid of Israelis, belonging mainly to Palestinians, and contiguous entirely with Palestinian areas -- that anybody drawing a logical border would have placed on the Palestinian side.
American pundits and members of Congress may be unfamiliar with or may have forgotten these inconvenient facts, but the Palestinians -- who have watched Israel eat away at East Jerusalem at an increasing pace -- have not.
Some will argue that these are the facts on the ground today, and the fact is that Israel will never part with the big East Jerusalem settlements. So regardless of sins of the past, why make a fuss about new construction in them?
The answer lies in a closer look at what Netanyahu means when he talks about what "everybody knows."
Because if he meant that everybody understands what will be Israeli and what will be Palestinian in Jerusalem, this would potentially be great news: it could mean an agreement is possible, at least on Jerusalem, tomorrow. And if that were what he meant, then just as he suggests that Israel can build without restrictions in the areas that "everybody knows" will stay Israeli, he would have no problem with Palestinians building without restrictions in the areas that everyone knows will be Palestinian.
But there's the catch: for Netanyahu, there is no place in Jerusalem that "everybody knows" will be Palestinian.
What Netanyahu really means is that East Jerusalem land falls into two categories: areas that "everybody knows" Israel will keep and where it can therefore act with impunity, and areas that Israel hopes it can keep, by dint of changing so many facts on the ground before a peace agreement is reached that they move into the first category.
It is an approach that can be summed up as: "what's mine is mine, and what you think is yours will hopefully be mine, too." It discloses with stark clarity the underlying principle of Netanyahu's Jerusalem policies: the status of Jerusalem and its borders will be determined by Israeli deeds rather than by negotiations. More bluntly, who needs agreement with Palestinians or recognition of the international community when "everybody knows"?
And it is an approach that we see today on the ground, where Israel is doing its best -- through construction, demolitions, changes in the public domain -- to transform areas of East Jerusalem that have always been overwhelmingly Palestinian into areas that everybody will soon recognize as Israeli, now and forever. This is happening in the area surrounding the Old City, in the heart of Palestinian neighborhoods like Ras al Amud and Jebel Mukabber, and it is now starting to target areas like Shuafat and Beit Hanina.
The notion that a peace process can survive such an Israeli approach in Jerusalem is not rational. The notion that Israel can be taken seriously as a peace partner while acting this way is farcical. And the notion that the United States can be a credible steward of peace efforts while tolerating such behavior is laughable.
Lara Friedman is director of policy and government relations for Americans for Peace Now. Daniel Seidemann is the founder of the Israeli NGO Terrestrial Jerusalem.
Happy Passover from Gaza
By Sam Bahour
In 2010, Jews in Israel and around the world will celebrate Passover beginning on the even of March 29th. Passover is the seven-day holiday (8 in the Diaspora) of the Feast of Unleavened Bread commemorating the ancient Hebrews' escape from enslavement in Egypt. (In Israel, March 30th is also Land Day: the day when Palestinians commemorate and protest the confiscation of their lands by the Israeli government; but that’s another story.)
As I’m learning, the Passover holiday begins with the Seder, a traditional ceremonial meal. Its centerpiece is a special Seder plate containing six symbolic foods. Each has its own significance in the retelling of the story of the Hebrews’ exodus from Egypt. The stack of three matzos, or unleavened bread, a kind of cracker made of plain white flour and water, has its own separate plate on the Seder table.
For each of the six traditional items on the Seder plate (as per Wikipedia and the Chabad website) —listed here by its Hebrew name—I note its traditional symbolic role and offer an additional, alternative interpretation. I hope my alternative can help Jews around the world, and especially in Israel, connect with a broader perspective on the meaning of Passover right here, right now, in the land that became the eventual endpoint of that ancient exodus.
Maror and Chazeret — Bitter herbs, symbolizing the bitterness and harshness of the slavery which the Jews endured in Egypt. Slavery: severe curtailment of one’s freedom. Today, one and a half million Palestinians in Gaza are tasting the bitterness of unfreedom, hermetically sealed in their encircled enclave with no end in sight. Sixty percent are under the age of 16. The Jewish citizens of Israel have hardened their hearts to this reality and they have expected the rest of the world’s Jews to do likewise. For how long will you wait for Palestinians to vanish?
Charoset — A coarse mixture of chopped nuts, apples or dates, and wine, meant to symbolize the mortar used by the Jewish slaves to build the storehouses of Egypt. Today, Israel permits no mortar, or cement, or any other building materials, to enter Gaza. Let them sleep in tents! This, after last winter’s assault on Gaza, internationally documented war crimes (and possibly crimes against humanity), causing over 1,400 deaths in 22 days between December 2008 and January 2009– leaving scores homeless in the rubble. Is this the freedom Moses envisioned? The freedom to attack civilians with the tanks, planes and warships of the “Jewish” State? Doesn’t sound very Jewish to me. Not at all.
Karpas — A vegetable other than bitter herbs, dipped into salt water (which represents tears) to recall the pain felt by the Jewish slaves in Egypt. Tears! Pain! In your name, my Jewish friends, Israel continues its inhuman siege on Gaza. The folks there shed tears as salty as anyone’s; their pain is beyond description. Two of every three of today’s Gaza residents originally lost their homes in what is now Israel when the state was established. Six decades later, they find themselves living a nightmare, a kind of living death: their economy in ruins, their neighborhoods in ruins, their educational and health systems in ruins, even their sanitation systems in ruins. Israel refuses to allow reconstruction. What comes after stripping Gazans from their last remaining sense of sanity?
Z'roa — A roasted lamb shankbone (or a chicken wing, or chicken neck) symbolizes the paschal sacrifice offered originally on the eve of the exodus and later in the Temple in Jerusalem. Sacrifice! Do you insist on sacrificing the possibility of a sustainable future for modern Israel in the name of its founding myth – since discredited – that Palestine was “a land without people, for a people without a land”? A million of today’s Gazans are from the families that Israel expelled. Gazans have remained steadfast under conditions even the early Hebrews might have found intolerable in Egypt. Gazans, together with all Palestinians, are the people that Jews in Israel are destined to live with, today, tomorrow, and forever. The only uncertainty is how much more hate will be generated by military occupation and armed assault before a process of shared rehabilitation can begin.
Beitzah — A hard-boiled egg, symbolizing the main festival sacrifice that was offered in the Temple in Jerusalem and roasted and eaten as part of the meal on Seder night. The egg is a symbol of mourning. Eggs are the first thing served to mourners after a Jewish funeral. The egg on the Seder plate evokes the mourning over the destruction of the Temple and the subsequent inability to offer sacrifices there in honor of the Pesach holiday. Mourning! As Jews, you know a lot about mourning; consider the sixty-two years of mourning, consider every day of every one of those years, among the people--real people, with real names and real children—in Gaza and in squalid refugee camps all around Israel who can see their homeland with the naked eye, but are denied their basic human right of returning home. Sixty-two Passovers and counting. All I ask of you on this year’s holy day, as you contemplate the egg on the Seder plate, is to remember them, no more.
My Jewish sisters and brothers, you can continue to look away as Israel claims to speak and to act in your name. It kills and maims in your name. It dispossesses and occupies in your name. It talks peace and wages war in your name. If you turn a deaf ear to their mourning again this year, if you harden your heart again this year, if your voice is not raised this year in protest – then you are acquiescing in the ongoing ethnic cleansing of another people, in your name. If you cannot see Palestinians as fully human now, you will hear them trying to give voice to their humanity in your nightmares, year after year, until you can see and until you can hear.
It is written in the Talmud: We do not see things as they are. We see them as we are. I urge you, while you commemorate the Hebrews’ ancient slavery and deliverance, to see yourselves finally as equals in this world: equal with your neighbors, neither their masters nor their slaves. I urge you to see yourself and your children in the image of every Palestinian mother, father and child in Gaza. Let this year be the year of your shared redemption!
Free Gaza now! End the occupation now! Happy Passover from Gaza!
Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American living under Israeli occupation. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and blogs at www.epalestine.com.
Here are some teachings that may be useful to you whether or not you actually attend a Seder or do the spiritual practice of Passover.
1. RabbiLerner's Supplement to the Haggadah. Please read it!
2. Letty Cottin Pogrebin's somewhat humorour but also quite serious The Ten Plagues According to Jewish Women. Letty was a founding editor of Ms. Magazine and a founding member of Tikkun's Editorial Advisory Board.
3. Prophetic Passover words from a new Tikkun blogger . You can read it on Tikkun Daily
4. Letty Cottin again--on the Judah-ization of East Jerusalem--NOT what we have in mind when we sing Next Year in Jerusalem!
5. My Jewish Renewal rabbinic colleague Miles Krassen on How To Get to Passover--an approach based on Kabbalah
And many blessings for a spiritually deep Passover, Easter, spring celebration or any other way you are celebrating the holiness of the period ahead.
If you prefer to read this on line or download it, please go to http://www.tikkun.org/passover2010
FOR YOUR SEDER, here is a Haggadah supplement-nota replacement. If you don't normally
do a Seder, you can use this supplement as the basis
for an interfaith gathering in your home on March
29, the first night of Passover, or on any of the other
nights of Passover until it ends on April 6.
AS WE SIT AT THE SEDER TABLE we need to discuss how
ancient liberation for the Jews can inspire liberation today for
Seventy-eight percent of American Jews voted for
Barack Obama in 2008, and a majority of non-Jewish
Americans joined them. The message was clear: end the war
in Iraq and let our troops come home, end the war on the
poor and the environment, and stop favoring the rich and
No wonder, then, that as we sit around the Passover table
in 2010 there is a widespread sense of disappointment at the
way President Obama moved far away from the hope for
"change that we can believe in." Some will celebrate the recent health care
legislation finally passed by the Congress, while others will point to the ways that
that version may in the long run undermine rather than strengthen support for progressive causes
because it forces 30 million people to get a health care plan that they don't want to have or face fines
for not doing so--but it does NOT contain any cost-controls so the insurance companies, hospitals, and docotrs
can keep on raising their fees, and ordinary people will feel squeezed by the government to be paying tens of billions into
the bank accounts of the health care profiteers.But, we at Tikkun argue back, don't minimize the value of having stopped
the momentum of the racists and reactionaries who were trying to sink the bill entirely--because now there may be a
change to improve the bill in years to come, but more importantly we can build on the positive energy evoked by the
passage of the bill to challenge the hateful energies that some people on the Right have made central to their
politics, opening up scary possibilties of a mass fascist movement in our country.
Some will say that Obama
was never who he said he was, that he was always just a
clever manipulator of our hopes while actually being a
centrist corporate-oriented politician, and that is why as
soon as he was elected he chose advisers such as Geithner
and Summers and chose to retain Bush's secretary of de-
fense, rather than balancing his cabinet with people like Paul
Krugman or Robert Reich and representatives of the
women's, GLBT, environmental, human rights, immigrant
rights, peace, and other progressive movements that made
his nomination possible in the first place.
Others will suggest
that he had no options, that he couldn't do more than he did
(and some will then say that he should have told the truth
about what was happening and that he should have stopped
trying to appeal to the people on his right while failing to ap-
peal to his own base). Still others will say that the whole idea
of a U.S. president being able to stand up to the complex of
corporate interests, military-industrial powers, insurance
and health care companies, pharmaceutical firms, fossil fuel
promoters, environmental polluters, and their banks and in-
vestment companies was ludicrous from the start. Some will
argue that to counter such forces Obama would have need-
ed to mobilize his own constituency, from the first moments
of his presidency, into an independent movement present in
the streets and in the balloting-a movement able to go door
to door to advocate for a new kind of social and economic
order and willing to push him away from the temptation of
betraying his highest vision through backroom deals.
Well, this IS the kind of discussion that is needed on
Passover this year-because Passover is not meant to be
merely a celebration of the Jewish victory for
liberation in our past, but is rather meant to
stimulate us to extend that liberation to the whole
world. Such liberation would bring an end to the
destruction of the environment. It would bring an
end to the cheapening of cultural life by the domi-
nance of an ethos of "looking out for number one."
It would bring an end to rampant materialism and our
society's belief in salvation through mechanical objects
and technological fixes.
It is not a new president that we need but a new kind of
movement. We need a movement that has a spiritual di-
mension and affirms and builds on what the 2008 election
revealed: the deep yearning of Americans (and really all
people on the planet) for a world in which love, kindness,
generosity, ethical and ecological sanity, awe and wonder at
the grandeur of the universe, and commitment to a higher
meaning for our lives are valued over the pursuit of money,
power, sexual conquest, and fame, which have been extolled
as central values by corporate media and enshrined in the
workings of the global capitalist system. At the Seder table,
we invite you to ask how you can help get this kind of spiritual
consciousness introduced into the discourse of secular
liberal and progressive social change movements, NGOs,
and liberal political parties. We invite you to make this
discussion a central part of your Passover Seder this year.
LIBERATION TODAY IN ISRAEL/PALESTINE
Unfortunately, we in the Jewish world have another
major challenge. We have to face the set of distortions that
have accompanied a blind and idolatrous worship of the
State of Israel-distortions that are apparent whenever Jews
close their eyes to the suffering of our brothers and sisters,
the Palestinians. Go into most synagogues or Jewish institu-
tions in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom,
Australia, or France, and you' ll find that you can denounce
God, question the Torah, or refuse to follow various Jewish
ritual practices, and you are likely to be met with a "ho-hum"
response. But dare to question Israel and its policies, and
you' ll find yourself being denounced as a traitor, a self-
hating Jew, an anti-Semite, or "an accomplice of Hitler." The
blind worship of Israel has become the only contemporary
religion of the Jewish people, a people still so traumatized by
our long history of oppression and so angry at God for not
intervening during the Holocaust that we've come to believe
in the religion of our enemies, the religion that says that we
can only trust in our power, our army, and our ability to wipe
out our enemies.
To be sure, that celebration of violence and hurt
against our enemies was al ways there i n the
Jewish tradition and is present in the famous song
that Moses's sister Miriam is said to have com-
posed while watching Pharaoh's army drown in
the Sea of Reeds. But that chauvinist triumphal-
ism was the compensation for our powerlessness,
an empowering fantasy that made it possible for us
to believe that no matter what those who hated and
oppressed us were doing to us, no matter how bitter their
treatment of us, we would survive because there was a Force
of Healing and Transformation in the universe: God. We be-
lieved that God would ultimately be there for us as God had
been there for us in Egypt, when we had been utterly de-
graded as slaves. To see God as redeeming us when we could
see no rational path to self-protection had a positive value.
But today these very same thoughts have a very different
meaning when it is we who are powerful, and when our
Jewish community aligns itself with the State of Israel, even
as Israel uses its power in heartless and cruel ways against
another people over whom it rules. Israel's approach is struc-
turally cruel because on the one hand it denies Palestinians
the right to vote in Israel, but on the other hand it denies
Palestinians the freedom to create their own state and run
their own affairs free of the military presence of Israelis.
Our Torah understood the potential of this problem,
which is why its most frequently repeated command (mitz-
vah) is a variant of this: "When you come into your land, DO
NOT OPPRESS THE STRANGER. Remember that you
were strangers in the land of Egypt." Indeed, it commands us
positively: thou shalt love the stranger.
We cannot turn this Seder into a meaningless ritual by
ignoring the ways in which we, the Jewish people, have been
acting as Pharaoh to another people.
Yet we also have to approach these issues with a high degree
of compassion, both for Israelis and for Palestinians.
Both peoples have co-created the current mess. Both are suf-
fering from a post-traumatic stress disorder so acute that
they cannot recognize the humanity of the other, nor can
they see their way to the peace and justice both legitimately
seek. And both have been victims of a horrendous history of
oppression. So while we as Jews have a responsibility to
challenge our own people's distorted vision, we have to mix
that challenge with a high level of love and caring for our
own people, and recognize that our people needs healing
and not just chastisement. We have to acknowledge that
some Israeli intransigence is rooted in genuine fear that has
been reinforced by terrorist attacks and by Hamas' bombing
of Israeli cities, just as some Palestinian intransigence is
rooted in the daily violence imposed on Palestinians by the
Israeli Occupation, as well as by the targeted assassinations,
the killing of hundreds of civilians, and the jailing of tens of
thousands of Palestinians, who are often imprisoned
without formal charges. Because our people has
vastly more military power than the Palestinians,
we must mix our compassion with a firm commit-
ment to end the Occupation with its inevitable con-
sequences of human rights violations and its
hatred-generating behavior, which in turn has al-
ready ensured that there will be generations of
Palestinians who will feel justified in acts of terror
and hatred against our people. Both peoples need healing,
and that can only happen when there is both a genuine
peace accord that brings justice to the Palestinian people
and also a fundamental change in the dominant paradigm
of thought so that our people become the embodiment of
Torah values of love, generosity, repentance, and forgiveness.
We must escape the "blame game" of who did what to whom
and focus on how we can embody more loving and compas-
sion for both sides of this struggle.
HOW WE FIND SECURITY
What is really needed is a revolutionary transformation
in our way of thinking and in our economic, political, and so-
cial arrangements. America will find security when it is
perceived by the world as caring not merely for its own
well-being, particularly that of its most wealthy citizens
and global corporations, but genuinely for the well-being
of all of the people on the planet. Instead of relying on
domination, we know both from our holy texts and from our
real -worl d experi ence that i t i s generosi ty, ki ndness,
compassion, and caring for others that will be the key to our
success and survival.
Telling the ancient story reminds us that the same Power
in the Universe (YHVH or, in English, "God") that made the
Exodus possible can, at this very moment, make it possible
for the world to be transformed and liberated from all forms
of oppression. No matter how overwhelming the global
order of materialism and selfishness might seem at this mo-
ment, the power of God's goodness can again be enlivened in
all of us, and we can act together to transform the world, just
as the ancient Israelites did in their struggle with Pharaoh.
Inviting God's goodness to be enlivened within us takes
inner work, as well as political organization.
First and foremost, we need to overcome ego, quiet our minds, affirm
pleasure for our bodies, rejoice in our opportunity to serve
God and humanity, and recognize that beyond the self, be-
yond family and country, we are part of the ongoing unfold-
ing and evolution of the consciousness of the universe as it
moves toward higher and higher levels of self-knowledge,
partly through us. So we pause now to close our eyes, to
envision the universe and our place in it, and to affirm the
meaning of our human mission as partners with God in the
healing and transformation of all that is.
We are gathered here tonight to affirm our con-
tinuity with the generations of Jews who have kept
alive the vision of freedom in the Passover story. For
thousands of years, Jews have affirmed this vision by
participating in the Passover Seder. We not only re-
member the Exodus but actually relive it, bringing
its transformative power into our own lives.
The Hebrew word for Egypt, mitzrayim, means "narrow
straits." Traditionally, mitzrayim has been understood to
mean a spiritual state, the "narrow place" of confusion, frag-
mentation, and spiritual disconnection. Liberation requires
us to embrace that which we have been taught to scorn with-
in ourselves and others, including the split-off parts from our
own consciousness that we find intolerable and that we pro-
ject onto some evil Other. The Seder can also be a time to re-
flect on those parts of ourselves.
Israel left Egypt with "a mixed multitude"; the Jewish
people began as a multicultural mélange of people attracted
to a vision of social transformation. What makes us Jews is
not some biological fact but our willingness to proclaim the
message of those ancient slaves: (say together) The world
can be changed, we can be healed.
Blessing over the first cup of wine.
The saltwater on our table traditionally represents the
tears of the Israelite slaves. The green vegetables we dip in
the water suggest the possibility of growth and renewal even
in the midst of grief.
The greens on the table also remind us of our commit-
ment to protect the planet from ecological destruction. In-
stead of focusing narrowly on what we may "realistically"
accomplish in today's world, we must refocus the conversa-
tion on what the planet needs in order to sur vive and
flourish. We must get out of the narrow place in our think-
ing and look at the world not as a resource, but as a focus for
awe, wonder, and amazement. We must reject the societal
stor y that identifies success and progress with endless
growth and accumulation of things. Instead we will focus on
acknowledging that we already have enough; we need to
stop exploiting our resources and instead care for the earth.
Dip the greens in saltwater and say blessing.
FOUR QUESTIONS: THE ADULT VERSION
Discuss as a group or in pairs at the Seder table:
1. Egypt, "mitzrayim" in Hebrew, comes from the word
"tzar": the "narrow place," the constricted place. In what way
are you personally still constricted? Are you able to see
yourself as part of the unity of all being, a manifestation of
God's love on earth? Are you able to overcome the
ego issues that separate us from each other? Can
you see the big picture, or do you get so caught in
the narrow places and limited struggles of your
own life that it's hard to see the big picture? What
concrete steps could you take to change that?
2. Do y ou be l i e v e t hat we c an e v e nt ual l y
eradicate wars, poverty, and starvation? Or do you
believe that no one really cares about anyone but themselves,
and that we will always be stuck in some version of the
current mess? Or do you think that such a belief is, itself,
part of what keeps us in this mess? If so, how would you sug-
gest we spread a more hopeful message and deal with the
cynicism and self-doubt that always accompanies us when
we start talking about changing the world?
3. What experiences have you had that give you hope?
Tell about some struggle to change something-a struggle
that you personally were involved in-that worked. What
did you learn from that?
4. When the Israelites approached the Sea of Reeds, the
waters did not split. It took a few brave souls to jump into the
water. Even then, the waters rose up to their very noses, and
only then, when these brave souls showed that they really
believed in the Force of Healing and Transformation
(YHVH), did the waters split and the Israelites walk through
them. Would you be willing to jump into those waters
today-for example by becoming an advocate for nonvio-
lence or for the strategy of generosity? Would you go to speak
about this to your elected representatives? To your neigh-
bors? To your coworkers? To your family?
MAGID (TELL THE STORY):
Tell the story of the Exodus, and identify the Pharaohs in
your life today.
Blessing over the second cup of wine.
We are descended from slaves who staged the first suc-
cessful slave rebellion in recorded history. Ever since, our
people has kept alive the story of liberation, and the con-
sciousness that cruelty and oppression are not inevitable
"facts of life," but conditions that can be changed.
THREE SYMBOLS OF PASSOVER
PESACH (the Bone or Beet): Our Seder pl ate i n-
cludes a symbol of the ancient Passover sacrifice, which
was brought each year to the Temple in Jerusalem. The
Hebrew word for sacrifice is korban, which comes from
the root meaning "near." What could bring you closer to
your highest spiritual self ?
MATZAH: The Torah tells us that the Israelites had to
take the uncooked dough with them, "for they had
prepared no provisions for the way." Symbolically,
the matzah reminds us that when the opportu-
nity for liberation comes, we must seize it, even if
we do not feel fully prepared-indeed, if we wait
until we feel prepared, we may never act at all. If
you had to jump into such a struggle tomorrow
morning, what would you have to leave behind?
The matzah al so stands i n contrast to
chametz (Hebrew for the expansive yeast that makes bread
rise), which symbolizes false pride, absorption in our indi-
vidual egos, and grandiosity.
MAROR (the Bitter Herbs): The suffering of the Jews
in Egypt has been matched by thousands of years in which
we were oppressed as a people. Our insistence on telling
the stor y of liberation and proclaiming that the world
could be and should be fundamentally different has an-
gered ruling elites. These elites often tried to channel
against the Jews the anger that ordinary people were feel-
ing about the oppression in their own lives. But Jews are
not the only ones to have suffered oppression and violence.
We think of the genocide against native peoples all around
the world, including in the United States. We think of the
enslavement of Africans, and the oppression of Armenians,
homosexuals, women, and many others. Yet, tonight it is
appropriate for us to focus also on the suffering of the Jewish
people and to affirm our solidarity with victims of anti-
Semitism through the ages. Anti-Semitism still persists in
our own time in the use of double standards in the judg-
ment of Jews, in acts of violence against Jews, and in refus-
ing to acknowledge the history of Jewish suffering as equal
to the suff eri ng of other vi c ti ms of oppressi ve soci al
regimes in Christian, Islamic, and some secular societies,
as well. Meanwhile, we Jews need to acknowledge the
ways that this suffering has at times distorted our con-
sciousness and made it hard to fully grasp the pain others
feel. We must evolve a Global Judaism that compassionately
embraces the Jewish people and all other peoples.
The Haggadah says, "Let all who are hungry come and
eat." Traditionally, this is understood to mean not only
literally feeding the hungry, but also offering spiritual sus-
tenance to those in need. Both must go hand in hand. We
live in a society of unprecedented wealth, yet we turn our
backs on the hungry. Even the supposedly liberal and pro-
gressive political leaders are unwilling to champion any