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Beyt Tikkun reflections on Passover themes
Even if you were not able to attend the Beyt Tikkun Passover seder, you might find helpful these reflections written by Rabbi Lerner in the form of a Supplement to the Passover Haggadah, but actually presenting a rather new theological view of the world.
We understand God in part as the Transformative Power of the Universe—the force that makes possible the transformation from “that whichis” to “that which ought to be,” the force that makes it possible to transcend the tendency of human beings to pass on to others the hurt and pain that has been done to us, the force that permeates every ounce of Being and unites in one transcendent and imminent reality. In short, we understand God in part as the ultimate Unity of All with All of whom we are always a part, even if we are not always conscious of the part of God we are, or the part of God that everyone and everything is.
It is often hard for those of us who were taught to think of God as a separate being to not rebel in our souls every time we hear the word “God” or even “Goddess.” Yet for many of us, God no longer is associated with an all-powerful all-knowing and very judgmental being in heaven to whom we utter praises in order to get some good favors or support. Instead, we’ve moved to a non-dualistic vision in which we are in God and God is in us, in the way that a thought might be said to be “in” our minds—and the way that we are all part of an elaborate web of global consciousness that impacts us at every moment, and yet our thoughts are part of what contributes to creating that global consciousness. Others have told the story of waves near a beach and how they run back and forth, rolling and crashing, coming together, pulling back, regrouping in rushing toward the beach endlessly. Each wave is awre of its uniqueness, according to this story: its height, strength and speed. One day, a small seeker wave sees a large old wave coming fotward shore from far away. The small wave rushes out to greet the old wave and asks, “You have traveled far and seen much. Maybe you can tell me, is there such a thing as an Ocean?” The old wave smiles and replies, “I have heard of the Ocean, but I myself have never actually seen it.” So, non-duality is about sensing the ocean of Oneness, which we are often forgetting. Our consciousness often focuses on our specialness, and our bodiews demand attention, focusing our thought on that which makes us separate. But the Jewish mystics teach of that which is Atzilut (No Limits/Boundaries) or Eyn Sof (the Infinite).
It is precisely when we become the fullest conscious embodiments of who we actually are (namely, a cell in the totality of All Being and a manifestation of this God) that we feel empowered to become part of the liberation story of the universe, of which the Passover celebration is at once a commemoration and a renewal. So we encourage you to always ask at every moment of the Seder, “What part of our society’s much-needed transformation can I participate in?”—both in terms of personal and psychological transformation and in terms of social, political, and spiritual transformation. And our Jewish particularism is a universalism—an affirmation of the equal value of everyone on our planet and a commitment to building a world which really treats all the world’s peoples as equally entitled to share the planet’s wealth and resources and equally responsible for caring for it and repairing the damage that has been done to it.
Lighting the Candles
To start the Seder, light the candles for Passover. Recite:
Baruch ata Ado-nie (YHVH), Eloheynu Melech Ha’olam, asher kidshanu be mitzvotav vet zee vanu le’hadleek ner shel yom tov.
Next, bless the children. Recite:
We lift up our hands toward the heads of the children assembled here, and envision all children on the planet as well, as we send this blessing to all of them:Ye-varech-echa YHVH ve’yish’me’recha. Ya’er YHVH panav eylecha vee’chuneka. Yisah YHVH panav ey’lecha ve’yasem lecha Shalom.
(May God bless and keep you. May God shine Her face on you and be gracious to you. May God lift up Her face to you and all the world, and grant you and people peace and happiness.)
In the midst of the struggle for freedom, we must never forget the many blessings we already have in our lives. Not only do we live at the top of the food chain, as evidenced by the delicious food we have here tonight, and not only do we live in one of the most affluent countries of the world, but we also live at a moment when we have the benefit of the experience and wisdom of a thousand generations that went before us and left us a legacy from which we can draw. That legacy teaches us about the central importance of treating every human being as created in the image of God and hence of ultimate importance. Building on that insight, our tradition goes on to emphasize the importance of building a world of social justice, of peace, of environmental sanity, of love and kindness, of forgiveness, and of generosity—not only for ourselves, but for everyone else on the planet as well. At times the task seems overwhelming, but as Rabbi Tarfon taught some two thousand years ago, “it is not incumbent upon us to finish the task, but neither are we free to desist from the best possible effort to make it happen.”
And yes, this is a blessing. To inherit the wisdom of our prophets and sages, and to live at a moment when we can also feel secure enough in our own heritage to be able to open to the wisdom of all the religious and spiritual traditions of the human race, and all the secular liberatory traditions including the teachings of Marx and Freud, Marcuse and Sartre, the feminist movement and the GLBTQ movement, and teachers like Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, Sister Joan Chittister, Cornel West, Rev. Brian McLaren, and Father John Dear. What a glorious moment when the wisdom of all peoples and the information provided to us by science and the humanities all combine to provide us with a glorious feast of wisdom from which we can draw whenever we have time to do so.
And while this is also a moment of enormous environmental challenge, we are also blessed to be able to draw upon the scientific and technological knowledge which can, in the hands of those who approach our current reality with a spirit of generosity and caring equally for all of the world’s people, be a powerful resource to heal and repair our planet. We pray that speedily in our own day that this accumulated knowledge will help us eliminate Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, strokes, heart attacks, and many other debilitating conditions, and we believe that this can and will happen—may it be quickly in our own lifetimes! We have seen many miraculous developments when science and technology are harnessed not solely or primarily to corporate profit but to solving the needs of all humanity.
So yes, this is a moment to acknowledge our many blessings, and also to thank the many people who have given their life energies as teachers and rabbis and priests and ministers and spiritual leaders and writers and poets and painters and musicians and artists of every sort, as nurses and doctors and researchers, to social change activists and people working as community organizers or as agents of the public sector, to those who teach meditation or yoga or who have developed alternative approaches to health and health care, to all who use their intelligence and their creativity to serve their fellow human beings and to advance the liberation of all humanity from physical, psychological and/or spiritual suffering! To all of these we offer our gratitude, even as we offer our gratitude to the spiritual force of the universe that Jews have traditionally called Yud Hey Vav Hey or Adone’I which has been translated into English as “God.”So take a moment now to shut your eyes, and let come into your consciousness something in your life for which you are truly grateful, and then share that with others at this celebration.
Many Jews have trouble recognizing all our blessings because we still are bearing the legacy of centuries of oppression that culminated in the Holocaust. The result: too often the high ethical values of the Jewish tradition can get subordinated to fearful psychology. This psychology leads even some of the most wealthy and politically powerful Jews in the world to feel insecure and see the world through the framework of the need to control rather than through the religious frame of hope, love, and generosity that has been a cornerstone of Jewish consciousness for centuries.
Without putting down those who are still traumatized and fearful, our task is to rebuild and reaffirm a Judaism committed to building a global transformation toward a world of love, generosity, peace, social justice, environmental sustainability, and genuine caring for each other and for the planet. It is toward this goal that we assemble at our Passover table as we rejoice in our freedom and affirm our commitment to spreading that freedom to all humanity.
We are the descendents of a people that have told a story of liberation from slavery and placed that story at the very center of our religion, most of our holidays, and the Torah read each Shabbat. We took upon ourselves the task of telling the people of the world that nothing is fixed, that the world can be fundamentally transformed, and that together we can build an economic, political, social, and cultural reality based on love and generosity, peace and nonviolence, social and economic justice, and caring for each other and the world. That is our inherited calling as the Jewish people.
We Jews remember ourselves as having been slaves who then managed to revolt against the existing order and free ourselves from that slavery. That process of liberation required us to overthrow the internalized messages of the oppressive order: “Be realistic—you don’t have the power to overthrow the existing system,” “You are not worthy or deserving enough to be free,” “If you dedicate your time to transformation, you’ll be setting yourself up for even worse oppression by the powerful,” “You can’t really trust other oppressed people—they are unlikely to really be there for you when things get tough, so protect yourself and your family by not getting too involved,” and “Nothing ever really changes, so accept what ‘is’ and make the best of it.” These are some of the crippling messages that passivize people in every generation, yet in every generation there is a different voice, the voice of the Force of Healing and Transformation, Yud Hey Vav Hey, Adonie, Yah, the God of the universe that makes possible the transformation from that which is to that which ought to be—a voice that continually asserts itself in the consciousness of human beings. This is what we are talking about when we talk of God. Had there been no liberation, there would never have been a Jewish people, a Moses, an Isaiah, a Jesus, a Mohammed, a Freud, a Marx, a Betty Friedan, or many of the liberatory movements to which they gave rise. Jesus’s “Last Supper” was a Passover Seder and was celebrated as such by many of the Early Christians until the Catholic Church’s Council of Nicaea in 323 ce decided to forcibly separate Christianity from its roots in the Jewish tradition.
Yet as much as we must celebrate the victories of the past, we are also sadly aware of the oppressive realities of the present. So Passover and Easter must not become hollow celebrations of past victories that ignore the present depraved social reality that allows 2.5 billion people to struggle to stay alive on less than $2 a day, 1.5 billion of whom live in the horrible condition of living on only $1 a day or less. In our own country, tens of millions of people are struggling. Millions are without homes, many more are without jobs, still more have jobs that do not pay a living wage, and many have jobs that are only part-time or that do not give them an opportunity to use their full intelligence and skills The Occupy movement has highlighted the plight of the downtrodden and the immoral social and economic policies that have resulted in their condition, benefiting the rich at the expense of the 99 percent.
Today it’s important to understand that the “downtrodden”—those who are hurt by the materialism and selfishness built into the very ethos of global capitalism—arenot only the homeless, the jobless, the under-eremployed, those working more than one job in order to help support their families, those whose mortgages have inflated to levels that they cannot pay, those who can’t afford to attend college or university as states are forced to raise the fees of public education, or those who are likely to lose their jobs in the next few years.
The downtrodden is a concept that should be expanded to include many who are materially well off or at least not suffering financially but who find themselves lonely and without enough people who share our spiritual values in a world of spiritual deprivation and despair. Many of us find ourselves surrounded by others who seem narcissistic, selfish and materialistic or by people who see us only in terms of how we can advance their interests or perceived needs. No—it’s not just strangers. People today increasingly report that even their friends, spouse, or children seem to see them through the frame of the question, “What have you done for me lately?” or “What can you give me to satisfymyneeds?” No wonder people feel unrecognized, disrespected, and very lonely, even when they are in a family or a loving relationship. These are also the downtrodden, a part of the 99 percent, victims of the very same system that puts others out of work, makes them jobless, or homeless, or hungry, or desperate, or scared that they will soon be among the economic casualties of this system—a system that teaches us to close our eyes to their suffering. The spiritual distortions of the contemporary capitalist society are transmitted daily through each of us to the extent that we ourselves and others around us look at each other and the world through the framework of our own narrow self-interest and fail to see the holy, the beauty, the uniqueness, and the commonality of all human beings. These distortions become part of our daily reality so that we ourselves pass on to others the distorted consciousness that keeps us enslaved and powerless.
Yet the message of Passover and Easter is that we are not stuck; that liberation and transformation are possible; and that we should celebrate the partial victories of the past in order to gain both perspective and hopefulness about the future. No, not the hope that some politician is going to save us, but the hope that we ourselves can become mobilized to engage intikkun olam(the healing, repair, and transformation of our world). Just as the Israelites who were emancipated from slavery in Egypt (celebrated on Passover) became mobilized through retelling the story to their children, and just as the early Christians who encountered Jesus’s liberation message for the poor started rejecting the injustice around them, we can begin to live as witnesses to the possibility of a different world.
We do not come to this task with the arrogance implicit in suggesting that we already have lived a life that fully embodies these values. In fact, the trauma of hatred against us that our message engendered in ruling elites which hate anyone who teaches that the society could be freed from class oppression has led many of us to run away from our highest spiritual vision and try to be “a nation like all other nations.” In the process, some of us have ended up working with and benefitting from the institutions of exploitation and oppression. This occurred in the Middle Ages, when Jews were offered very limited options and some ended up as tax and rent collectors and the most visible face of the feudal lords whom we served. And it is also true in the modern capitalist period, in which some of our brethren have become the moguls of Wall Street, investment bankers, corporate lawyers, media tycoons, and political operatives serving the status quo of Western imperialism.
Yet there has also been a core of our people who have managed not to allow fear to dominate our consciousness, and who in various ways have tried our best to remain true to the liberatory vision of Judaism. We are proud that even at a time when some Jews preach that our narrow self-interest should lead us to support a preemptive war against Iran and a solidarity with the 1 percent, the overwhelming majority of Jewish people continue to vote for liberal candidates for public office who, when they are at their best, provide a bulwark against the most reactionary forces in our world. These voting patterns have made Jews the most reliable electoral ally for people of color in Western societies, despite the loudmouths whose racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia continue to get disproportionate media attention.
As we lift our cup of wine to say the prayers for sanctification of this joyous holiday, we recommit ourselves to the struggle for a world in which our society’s rationality, efficiency, and productivity are judged by how much our economic, political, corporate, educational, legal, and medical systems tend to increase the amount of love, caring, kindness, generosity, and awe and wonder at the grandeur and mystery of the universe. We recommit ourselves to judging the rationality or efficiency of societal policies and institutions on how much they either undermine or sustain the way of life generated by capitalist culture in which we see other human beings as means to our own ends rather than as manifestations of the holy who deserve to be treated with loving respect and openhearted kindness.
As we drink the first cup of wine or grape juice, we bring to mind all that we as the human race have accomplished against existing systems of oppression, and we joyously affirm our intention to continue the struggle until all our people are truly free.
Recite (p. 24) the following and drink the first glass:
Baruch ata YHVH, Eloheynu Melech Ha’olam Borey pree ha gafen.
Brucha Yah Shechinah, Ru’ach chey ha’olamim, asher bachar banu eem kol am, ve’romemanu eek kol lashion, ve’keedeshanu be’mitzvoteha. Va’teeteyn lanu YHVH eloheynu be’ahavah et yom chag hamatzot ha’zeh, z’man chey’ru-teynu, meekrah koe’desh, zeycher leh’tziyat Mitz’rah’yeem. Kee vanu vacharta, ve’oetnau keedashta eem kol ha’ameem, u’moe’adey kod’sheca beh’simcha u’vratzon heen’chatuna. Baruch ata YHVH, meh’kadesh Yisra’eyl ve’ha’zmanim.
Brucha at Yay Shechinah, Eloheynu, ra’ach chey ha’olamim,sheh’hechee’yanu, veh’keeyeh’hanu veh’hee’g’ee’yanu lazman haz’eh.
As we pur a little water on each other’s hands, we imagine washing away all cynicism and despair. We seek to wash away also the lies or half-truths we’ve told ourselves or others. We cleanse ourselves from unhealthy attachments. We allow ourselves to be filled with the hope that the world can be transformed in accord with our highest vision of the good. We wash away our own sense of powerlessness—because powerlessness corrupts.
The irony of systems of oppression is that they usually depend upon the participation of the oppressed in their own oppression. Rather than challenging the system, people accept their place within it, understanding that they may lose their jobs or worse should they become known to the powerful as “disloyal” or “dissidents.” In capitalist society, it is not just external coercion but also the internalization of worldviews of the powerful that make the oppressed willing participants in the system. As we do theUr’chatzon Passover, we symbolically wash our hands of this participation in our own oppression.
The mythology of upward mobility and meritocracy (“You can make it if you really try and if you deserve to make it”) leads people to blame themselves for not having achieved more economic security—a self-blame that often leads to emotional depression, alcoholism, or drug addiction, and also to quiet acquiescence to the existing class divisions. The realization that only a small minority of people will ever rise significantly above the class position into which they were born rarely permeates mass consciousness, because each person has been led to believe that she or he is the one who is going to make it.
The belief that democracy levels the playing field between the powerful and the powerless also pervades our society. We celebrate the victories of democracy for good reason—what democracy does exist is the product of long struggles of ordinary working people against oligarchy. But in the twenty-first-century world, democracy is severely limited by the power of corporations and the rich to shape public opinion through their ownership of the media and their ability to pour huge sums of money into the coffers of “viable” candidates (namely, those who support their interests). Without the economic means to buy the television time or employ the large campaign staffs necessary to make a third or fourth party effective, dissenters often end up channeling their energies through the two major political parties, which have repeatedly demonstrated their loyalty to the powerful—thereby dissenters unintentionally re-empower the very forces that oppress them. We commit ourselves to not do that.
(handwashing without a blessing) And each of us can say a few words (at most, a short sentence) about what we are willing to let go of in our lives that has made us feel less than we wanted to be—what is it that we want to wash away. And after each person speaks, let the rest of us say, “May it be the universe’s will that it be washed away.”
We eat a vegetable and sing of spring and hope, rejoicing in the bountiful blessings of the earth as it renews itself. We are all too aware that environmental damage is increasing rapidly. The free market, in a relentless fury to amass profits, has generated tens of thousands of corporate ventures and products that, as a whole and with some notable exceptions, have combined to do incalculable damage to the life-support system of the planet. While some have falsely come to believe that individual acts of earth-caring can change the big picture, the reality is that the life support system of the planet can only be saved through a transformation of our entire economic system. We need to create an economic system that no longer relies on endless growth or promotes the notion that well-being comes from accumulating and owning things and experiences, and that each of us should be maximizing our own well-being without regard to the global consequences of our personal actions. Ecological sanity cannot be achieved without global economic justice.
The greens on the table also remind us of our commitment to protect the planet from ecological destruction. Instead of focusing narrowly on what we may “realistically” accomplish in today’s world, we must refocus the conversation on what the planet needs in order to survive and flourish. We must get out of the narrow place in our thinking and look at the world not as a resource, but as a focus for awe, wonder, and amazement. We must reject the societal story that identifies success and progress with endless growth and accumulation of things. Instead we should focus on acknowledging that we already have enough; we need to stop exploiting our resources and instead care for the earth.
We are in the midst of a huge spiritual and environmental crisis. Our society has lost its way. Yet most of us are embarrassed even to talk about this seriously, so certain are we that we could never do anything to transform this reality. We’re also fearful that we will be met with cynicism and derision for even allowing ourselves to think about challenging the kind of technocratic and alienating rationality that parades itself as “progress” in the current world.
We approach the earth not only as our sustainer, vital to our personal survival, but also as a scared place worthy of our respect and awe.
After dipping a fresh vegetable in the saltwater of our tears (tears for the earth and for the past suffering of our people) and saying the blessing, it now becomes appropriate to eat anything vegetarian, including vegetarian chopped liver, baba ghanoush, hummus, vegetable soups, and rice dishes (following the Sephardic custom). The idea of starving ourselves until the first half of the Seder is completed is a distortion that has no legitimate foundation in Jewish law. Let us eat fully of the vegetarian dishes so we can be fully present to the Seder’s messages.
We break the middle matzah in half, acknowledging our own brokenness and recognizing that imperfect people can usher in liberation. There’s no sense waiting until we are totally pure and psychologically and spiritually healthy to get involved in tikkun (the healing and repair of the world). It will be imperfect people—wounded healers—who heal and transform the world, even as we simultaneously commit to doing ongoing psychological and spiritual work on ourselves. Whenever we fail to do this inner work, our distortions paralyze our social transformative movements.
The broken Matzah may also be seen as symbolizing the need for the Jewish people to give up the fantasy of running and controlling all of Palestine, when in fact what we need is a two-state solution or one state with equal rights for all.
We cannot celebrate this Passover without acknowledging the biggest distortion in Jewish life today—the often blind worship of the State of Israel in an era when Israel has become for the Palestinian people the current embodiment of Pharaoh-like [TM1]oppression. We do not accept any account that one-sidedly blames the Jewish people or the Palestinian people for the development of this struggle, and we urge those who embrace such accounts to readEmbracing Israel/Palestine: A Strategy for Middle East Peace (tikkun.org/eip). But we do recognize that at this moment it is Israel that has the vastly greater power and hence the greater responsibility to make dramatic concessions.
Such a concession could entail Israel’s decision to no longer stand in the way of the Palestinian people’s creation of an economically and politically viable Palestinian state in almost all of the West Bank and Gaza. Or it could entail offering Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza a “one person, one vote” democracy within Israel[TM2], allowing Jewish settlers to stay in the West Bank while gradually allowing Palestinians who wish to live in peace with Israel to return from their Diaspora to a Palestinian state that is adequately funded to provide them with a standard of living equivalent to the median living standard in Israel. Or it could entail Israel’s decision to allow the Palestinians who fled to gradually return to their homeland inside the borders of pre-1967 Israel (perhaps 20,000 to 30,000 returnees a year, but only in a context in which Israel eliminates all discrimination on the basis of nationality or religion, separates synagogue from state, and gives full and equal rights to everyone living within its borders). If Palestinians return at a gradual rate such as this, their return will not trigger such feelings of fear among Israelis who are still reeling from the Holocaust and feel the need for the protection of a state of their own. We do not minimize the injustice done to the Palestinian people in the process of creating the State of Israel, but neither do we believe that any people has a fundamental right to any part of the earth—with 7 billion people on the planet and rapidly expanding, we need a new worldview that rejects the notion of nations owning or having a right to some particular part of the earth, and instead want to affirm that the earth is the collective inheritnce of the human race and that we, all people, have an obligation to share what we have in the most generous and open-hearted way possible. So, the Holy Land does not belong to the Jews, and it doesn’t belong to the Palestinians either, or to anyone else on the planet any more than North America. belongs to its current inhabitants or China belongs to the Chinese or Tibet belongs to the Tibetans or Italy belongs to the Italians. The Torah teaches explicitly—the whole earth is God’s and we are trying to find ways to live with that consciousness and expand it to our sisters and brothers in the US, Israel, China, Japan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Italy, Russia and everywhere else as well.
Page 36 Hah lachma anya (sing) We then lift the matzah and proclaim: “This is the bread of affliction. Let all who are hungry come and eat.” But when saying that traditional line—“let all who are hungry come and eat”—we must also recognize the stark contrast between the generosity of the Jewish people expressed in this invitation and the actual reality in which we live.
In the past years, the U.S. Congress has passed tax legislation that will return hundreds of billions of dollars to the well-to-do, and yet our country has no money to deal with the needs of the poor, the homeless, and the hungry. We should be taking those hundreds of billions of dollars and using them to rebuild the economic infrastructures of the impoverished all around the world, providing decent housing and food for those who are in need. We at Tikkun’s interfaith action arm, the Network of Spiritual Progressives (NSP), have developed a very concrete way to do this—the Global Marshall Plan—and we invite you to download and read the full version of it at spiritualprogressives.org/GMP.
We live in a world in which we try to build barriers to protect ourselves against the poor and the homeless, a world which demeans them and blames them for the poverty they face. Debates about “the deficit” switch the traditional Jewish focus on how to care for the poor and those who are economically unstable to how to protect what the rest of us have now. Imagine how far this is from the spirit of Torah; in our sacred text, it was impossible for people to argue that they had to reduce what they were giving to the poor of today in order to ensure that they would have more to give in the future. Our Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, and secular humanist obligation is to take care of the poor right now, rather than explain to them that they may have to get less from us because of our calculations about the future or because of our theory that if we give more to the rich now, the wealth will trickle down to the rest. Oy, the contortions the apologists for inequalities go through to justify selfishness—and oy, how easily many of us fall for that line though the expected “trickle down” has rarely been enough to lessen the distance between rich and poor!
So when we say, “Ha lachmah anya—this is the bread of affliction; let all who are hungry come and eat,” we remind ourselves that this spirit of generosity is meant to be a contrast to the messages of class society, which continually try to tell us “there is not enough” and that we therefore can’t afford to share what we have with others. We are the richest society in the history of the human race, and we may be the stingiest as well—a society filled with people who think that we don’t have enough.
Sharing what we have with everyone in need is meant quite literally, and we at Tikkun have developed a Global Marshall Plan which is a central plank of our Network of Spiritual Progressives at www.spiritualprogressives.org. This is the spirit of generosity which is the authentic Jewish spirit, so we must reject all those who tell us that “there is not enough” or that “we cannot afford” to end global and domestic poverty, hunger, homelessness, inadequate education, and inadequate health care. There is enough, we are enough, and we can afford to share.
We tell the story of our liberation struggle with embellishments! First we let the children ask the four traditional questions.
Mah Nistanah ha-lie’lah ha’zeh mee kol haleylot? Sheh’bechol haley’lot anu oach’leen chameyt u’matzah, ha’lie’lah ha’zeh, ha’lie’lah ha’zeh kuloe matza
Why is this night different from all other nights? On all other nights we get to eat leavened or unleavened food, but tonight only matzah!!
Sheh’bechol halyelot anu oach’leen she’ar yerakot, ha’lie’lah ha zeh ha’lie’lah ha’zeh kuloe marroar
On all other nights we eat all kinds of veggies, but this night we especially eat bitter herbs!
On all other nights we don’t dip our food in salt water even once, but this night we dip twice!
Sheh bechol haleylot anu oachleen beyn yoashveen u’veyn mesubeen, ha lie laz ha’zeh, ha’lie l ha’zeh koo’lanu mesu’been
On all other nights, we can sit straight at the table, but tonight we are all supposed to be leaning back or down and relaxed
Answer (that the adults sing to those who are asking): we were slaves in Egypt, in Egypt, now we are free, compared to that we are rejoicing in our liberation from bondage, even while understanding that global capitalism has put us in a different situation in which we, living in the advanced industrial societies, are enslaved to our possessions, our manipulated consciousness, our tragic situation in which in order to buy food or clothing of househld goods, we unconsciously or unintentionally strengthen the global system of oppression And we eachmay have our own private bondages—habits, additctions, patterns of behavior that undermine what and who we really want to be in the world. These are the contemporary forms of Mitzrayeem, the narrow place, the Egypt of our inner selves, and so each of us may be using this Seder in part to strengthen that part of us that yearns for freedom from these patterns and addictions. So for a few minutes we will be quiet and allow ourselves to remember what it is that enslaves us today and what steps we want to take to achieve greater freedom.
And yet, even with this limited liberation, we are joyous of the steps that have been taken already by each of us, in our personal lives, in the struggles against racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Islam, anti-Arab, anti-immigrant, but also steps that we’ve taken through therapy or 12 steps programs or the Hoffman Process or in our personal teshuva work around High Holidays—and for all those steps , we want to thank the Transformative Power of the universe, working through us, who has manifested through us in our own steps toward inner and societal liberation. So we sing together: we were slaves to Pharoah in Mitrazyim, but now we are freer. Page 44
Stand and hold hands and dance around the table even if doing so is a bit awkward. Avadeem hayeenu, hayeenu, Atah beh’ney choa’reen , beh’ney choa’reen
Then we ask these four additional questions for the adults (and discuss our answers in small groups before going on):
1. Do you believe in the possibility of human liberation or have you given up on that Jewish vision?
2. Do you believe that people care only about themselves, or is it possible to create a society that rewards and nourishes our capacities to care for each other?
3. Do you believe that safety and security in this world come only from building stronger armies and stronger anti-terrorist systems, or do you think that safety for us, for Israel, and for anyone can be achieved through building a world of love, generosity, and social and economic justice?
4. Have you seen something change that at first seemed impossible to change? What lessons have you drawn from those experiences?
5. OR, here are 4 other possible questions (from the Santa Cruz Haggadah):
6. Why is it that with all the work we have done on ourselves, there are still ways in which we feel unfree, ways in which we constrain ourselves.
Why is it that with all our self-knowledge, there is still so much misunderstanding between parent and child, husband and wife, lover and beloved, friend and friend?
Why is it that with all that we know about conflict resolution there are still wars between nations, there are still children going to war, there are still innocent people dying?
Why is it that with all that we know about our inter-relationsip with our planet, we still allow ourselves and others to dishonor our mother Earth through of a million detrimental actions?
What are some other questions YOU have?
Continue this discussion over dinner. Now we turn to telling the story of the Exodus, and include the recitation of the plagues as we dip drops of wine or grape juice from our cups in remembrance of the suffering of our brethren the Egyptians. And we say: