Passover is a 7 day festival recalling the exodus of the Israelites from bondage in Egypt that is celebrated in Jewish homes around the world from the 15th to the 21st of the Jewish lunar month of Nisan - which is the month right after the 13th month of Adar II, that occurs on the 3rd, 6th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th, and 19th years of a 19 year cycle of 28-day months in the Jewish lunar calendar. The inclusion of an additional month every 3rd or 2nd year in the lunar calendar causes Passover to fall close to Easter time each year which is late March or early April in the Solar Calendar. In the traditional rabbinic calendar there are four New Years, the commencement of Passover, the 15th of the Hebrew month of Nisan, being the new year of liberation.
Some Post-Zionists who negate Jewish identity maintain that there is a consensus amongst biblical historians and archaeologists that the Exodus did not happen, but no such consensus actually exists. An anti-Zionist analysis generally does not negate Jewish identity, and many archaeologists, Bible scholars and historians continue to conclude from the evidence that the Exodus did occur, among them the editor of Biblical Archaeology Review, Hershel Shanks.
The following research on this topic is written by Lawrence H. Schiffman, who is Professor in Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University, where he serves as Chair of the Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies. He is an internationally known scholar of the Dead Sea Scrolls and co-edited the Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls. (Oxford, 2000). <http://www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/hebrew>
The Exodus is dated by most of those who accept its veracity to about 1250 BCE. We know that for the previous few centuries, the period during which the Israelites are reported to have come down to Canaan from Egypt and to have become influential, there was indeed a rise in Semitic influence in Egypt, led by a group of western Semites known as the Hyksos, who were closely related to the Hebrews. At some point, ca. 1580 BCE, the native Egyptians rebelled against these foreigners, and this development can be taken to be reflected in the Bible's description of the Pharaoh "who did not know Joseph." As a result of this change, the Semites, including the Israelites, found themselves in the difficult position the Bible records, one which must have lasted for centuries. From this point of view, the story of the slavery and Exodus is perfectly plausible within the framework of Egyptian and Near Eastern history. Further, we have letters which describe the life of work gangs from Pharaonic Egypt and these seem to paint a picture very close to that of the biblical report. (See <http://www.dovidgottlieb.com/comments/Exodus.htm>)
The Bible describes the period immediately after the Exodus as one of extended wandering in the desert. This wandering was said to result from the fear of the Israelites that a direct route to Canaan, along the Mediterranean coast toward what is now the Gaza Strip, would be dangerous because of the Egyptian armies stationed there. This circumstance has been confirmed as historical by the discovery of the remains of extensive Egyptian influence, habitation and fortification in the Gaza region in this period, especially at Deir al-Balakh. Again, the biblical record is confirmed.
Further support for the historicity of the Exodus comes from a stele of the Egyptian ruler Merneptah (1224-1214 BCE). In reviewing his victories against the peoples of Canaan, he claimed, "Israel is laid waste; his seed is not." Here the text designated the people of Israel, not the land, as can be shown from the Egyptian linguistic usage. Many scholars believe that this text refers to the people of Israel before they entered Canaan—that is, in the period of desert wandering. More likely, it is a reference to Israel after they have entered Canaan, but before they established themselves as a sedentary population in the hill country in today's West Bank (Judea and Samaria). Since this view accords with the dating of the Exodus we suggested above, it seems that in this text, the only Egyptian document to mention Israel, we have a direct reference to the Israelites in the period of the Exodus and the conquest of Canaan. (See <http://www.dovidgottlieb.com/comments/Exodus.htm>)
Assuming the biblical account to be unreliable, some scholars have substituted a Marxist theory of class revolution to explain the formation of ancient Israel. According to this approach, the masses revolted against their Canaanite overlords and, after taking control, forged for themselves the new collective identity and mythology of the Israelites. Other scholars have suggested a process of differentiation in which some Canaanites began to see themselves as a separate people, and created an identity and a sacred history from whole cloth, thus inventing the Exodus and conquest narratives. But who would invent a history of slavery and disgrace?
Further, this theory must explain away the historical and archaeological evidence. Numerous cities from this period show a cultural change at precisely the point when the Israelites are said by the Bible to have appeared. Indeed, the newcomers, since they came from the desert, show a lower level of material culture than the Canaanites whom they displaced. This situation fits well the notion of Israelite conquest and infiltration. Second, the Israelites, throughout their history in the land, were concentrated in those areas easiest to defend against the superior arms of the Canaanites, a fact that supports the notion that they were invaders. Third, the doubters have claimed that few cities from this period show evidence of armed destruction. But careful consideration of the biblical narrative, with due attention to the account in Judges and the evidence that the Canaanites were never entirely displaced, eliminates this inconsistency fully. Indeed, the archaeological record supports a reconstruction of the historical events of the conquest when both Joshua and Judges are studied together. Finally, these scholars often claim that the Bible is the only source supporting the Exodus. But they forget that several different accounts of the Exodus exist in the Bible, in books written at different periods, thus providing corroborative evidence for the basic scheme of events.
We may not possess, at least at present, conclusive proof that the Israelites left Egypt en masse as the Bible describes. What we do have, though, are several indications of the Exodus' historicity, and ample evidence that the biblical account is entirely plausible. It is a simple matter to claim that lack of clear, decisive external confirmation of the biblical account is itself a disproof, but no rational person believes that what has not been proven is false. What can be stated with certainty is that there is no consensus that the Exodus is a myth.
Why yet another Haggadah?
The book read at a passover seder is called Haggadah, from the verb 'le'hagid' meaning 'to relate a story'. The first Haggadah could not have been written earlier than the time of Rabbi Yehudah bar Elaay (circa 170 CE) who is the last sage to be quoted therein. Songs added sometime by the end of the fifteenth century gained such acceptance that they became a standard to print at the back of most Haggadahs. There are a variety of Haggadahs available and some versions are so contradicting with others that they cannot be read at the same seder table. A Haggadah teaching human liberation and universal rights cannot read at the same table as one teaching oppression under Jewish supremacy in an exclusively Jewish state!
The process of cultural transformation is itself a Jewish tradition. More than 3,500 versions of the Haggadah have been published since the 13th century contributing to a tradition that uses questioning, discussing, arguing, learning and singing to shake tradition and agitate entrenched community leaders to get them to work for liberation instead of oppressive control, while one reflects on spiritual beliefs and enjoys a communal meal.
The story of Passover raises opposing views within Jewish congregations between those who see the story as being about the foundation of Jewish nationalism and those who see the story of the Israelites’ liberation from slavery and from oppression in Egypt as being a morality tale opposing oppression and ethnic cleansing, including that of the non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine by Zionist Pharaonic forces. Where the story of Israelite liberation from slavery is considered as a story of struggle for justice and freedom, then the Haggadah can be used as a tool for justice-seeking communities to examine and dialogue around the role of Jews and Gentiles working together in support of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against occupation forces to end the separation of Palestinians from their land.
Here is a politically progressive, anti-racist, non-tribal, non-sexist, pro-liberation Haggadah for an inclusive Passover 'Seder' (Order of Ceremony) that aims to include those marginalized because of class, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, etc from joining a communal ceremony for the telling (haggadah) of the tale of liberation from slavery and oppression. It combines the Haggadah at http://www.jewdas.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/afterexodus.pdf with the Haggadah at http://www.scribd.com/doc/14072054/Love-Justice-in-times-of-war-Haggadah
The story of Passover brings out themes of social justice, especially empathy with suffering, not rejoicing at the pain of ones present enemies, and learning from the affliction of the Israelites as slaves in Egypt, so that we may be conscious of our own potential power to oppress. It is astounding that these themes of empathy with the oppressed are related by nationalist Jews to justify Zionist oppression and ethnic cleansing. The Passover Seder is a celebration of freedom, liberation, and is a call to remember that slavery and oppression are a continuing feature of human history. Every year one should say: “May all live next year in a world of justice and peace. Keyn Yehi Ratzon!” (Hebrew 'Keyn Yehi Ratzon!' means “May it be God's will!”, so it is equivalent to Arabic 'Insh’Allah!' - God willing!)
The Divine ratzon finds its essential expression in the commandments (i.e. instructions for good deeds) of the Torah of Social Justice received by the people of Israel at Mount Sinai.
Blessed is the Source of all creation (unified, beyond Masculine or Feminine), that spiritualizes us with the commandment (good deed), inviting us to pursue justice. (Blessing for Social Justice from http://www.scribd.com/doc/14072054/Love-Justice-in-times-of-war-Haggadah)
(Feminine Hebrew version) B'rucha Yah Shechinah, eloheinu Malkat ha-olam, asher kid’shatnu b’mitzvotayha vitzivatnu lirdof tzedek.
(Masculine Hebrew version) Baruch atah Adonai, eloheinu Melekh ha-olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tsivanu lirdof tzedek.
Chameytz and Matzah
In preparing for Passover the Jewish tradition is to spring-clean the pantry removing all products of leavened grain (chameytz) and donating them to the hungry. As this task (called bedikah) is accomplished, a symbolic measure of the collected items is destroyed by burning (biur), and a blessing is recited:
Blessed is the Source of all creation (unified, beyond Masculine or Feminine), that spiritualizes us with the commandment (good deed), inviting us to burn chameytz (leavened grain products).
(Masculine Hebrew version) Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melekh ha-olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tsivanu al biur chameytz.
(Feminine Hebrew version) B'rucha Yah Shechinah, Eloheinu Malkat ha-olam, asher kid’shatnu b’mitzvotayha vitzivatnu al biur chametz.
Jewish lesbians, gays and trans-genders in America have discussed putting a crusts or toasted slices of toasted leavened bread on their Seder plate, instead of completely burning the symbolic measure of chameytz, to symbolize their feelings of being outsiders in the Jewish community and adding it to the Seder plate has became part of several gay, lesbian and trans-gender Haggadot. There are other groups of Jews (Jews of color, patrilineals and anti-Zionists, for example), and non-Jews as well, who seek a place at the Passover table and don’t always feel welcome and so this ritual of toasted leavened bread as the ninth item on the Seder plate is for them to feel included. While 'matzah' (unleavened bread eaten during passover) is made of the same grain as 'chameytz' (products of leavened grain) the difference is what we have made from it. As with wheat, so also with our lives. We have the two different breads on the plate to ponder the difference we can make in dealing with things differently. The blessing for toasting leavened bread for the inclusive Seder plate is:
Blessed is the Source of all creation (unified, beyond Masculine or Feminine), that spiritualizes us with the commandment (good deed), inviting us to toast slices of bread.
(Feminine Hebrew version) B'rucha Yah Shechinah, Eloheinu Malkat ha-olam, asher kid’shatnu b’mitzvotayha vitzivatnu leqalot paroset lechem.
(Masculine Hebrew version) Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melekh ha-olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tsivanu leqalot paroset lechem.
The entire story of the Haggadah is symbolized by objects on the Seder plate; everything on the plate symbolizes an aspect of the Exodus:
1. The 'Bitter Herbs' ('Maror' and 'Chazeret') are symbolic of the bitterness of oppression and the struggle to survive hard times. The 'Maror' is a bitter herb symbolizing the bitterness of enslavement, and the 'Chazeret' is a bitter herb for the unleavened bread sandwich we eat later, as a reminder that the escaped slaves ate matzah and bitter herbs together in the desert. We call to our minds every Palestinian humiliated at a checkpoint, imprisoned without charge, tortured or forced into exile away from their home and family. As we remember the bitterness of oppression we remember the bitterness of privilege. We commit ourselves to shaking off the system that pits us against one another. We remember Israeli victims of Palestinian violence and acknowledge the anger and anguish of their families. May their memories be honored this year and not exploited by those in power to deprive Palestinians of their rights. The mystics put the 'Chazeret' at the closest side of the plate as a reminder of the divine emanation called 'Yesod' (Foundation), on its left they place the 'Green Vegetable from the Earth' (Karpas) and on its right they place Charoset.
2. The 'Green Vegetable from the Earth' (Karpas) is symbolic of spring's bounty, of hope and renewal, calling into mind all of the destroyed olive trees and all the waste of produce and human toil caused by the cruelty of occupation, and every stretch of farmland lost to the Separation Wall, what Israel calls the “Security Barrier,” which effectively annexes West Bank land to Israel. This year, may all people benefit from the earth's fertility. The mystics put the 'Green Vegetable from the Earth' (Karpas) at the left of the 'Bitter Herbs' as a reminder of the divine emanation called 'Hod' (Majesty).
3. Charoset is a mixture of apples, almonds, cinnamon and raisins, or dates, is reminiscent of the mortar the Israelites used to labor unfairly. We call to our minds every Palestinian, who because of economic necessity was forced to work building the Apartheid Wall or illegal settlements. We remember those deprived of work and the opportunity to feed their families because of the cruelty of occupation. The mystics put the 'Charoset' at the right of the 'Bitter Herbs' as a reminder of the divine emanation called 'Netzach' (Endurance).
4. The 'Boiled Egg' (Beitzah) is at once a symbol of the cycle of mourning and rebirth, of life and death. We mourn the destruction wrought by the Nakba (the Palestinian Disaster, the expulsion of 1948), and the occupation and look forward to a new Palestine of freedom and peace. The mystics put the 'Beitzah' at the left of the 'Karpas' as a reminder of the divine emanation called 'Gevurah' (Justice).
5. The 'Roasted Lamb Shank or Roasted Beet', the Pascal Lamb or the Pascal Yam (Zeroa), symbolizes the first sacrifice offered at the first Temples at Passover (at Mt Zion for Jews and at Mt Grizim for Samaritans), in which every member of the community participates and eats their fill. Remembering the Palestinian precept that no matter how brutal the occupation becomes, no one will die of starvation, we celebrate in the spirit of everyone having a place at the table. The mystics put the 'Zeroa' at the right of the 'Charoset' as a reminder of the divine emanation called 'Chesed' (Love).
6. The mystics put the 'Maror' at the opposite side of the plate from the 'Chazeret', thus the reminder of the divine emanation called 'Yesod' (Foundation) is close to the person at one end of the table while the divine emanation called 'Tiferet' (Beauty) is close to the person at the other end of the table. 'Foundation' or 'Steadfastness' confronts the bitterness of oppression and 'Beauty' is the dream of surviving hard times. To the left of 'Beauty' is 'Love' and to its right is 'Justice'. Clockwise around the plate we have 'Maror' at 12 o'clock, 'Zeroa' at 2 o'clock, 'Charoset' at 4 o'clock, 'Chazeret' at 6 o'clock, 'Karpas' at 8 o'clock, and 'Beitzah' at 10 o'clock.
There are new symbols, the oranges and the olives to be placed in the centre of the pro-liberation Seder plate:
7. The Orange (tappuz) is symbolic of those who because of class, ethnicity, gender, sexuality or political, moral and religious beliefs are excluded from the community, and at our table they are invited into full participation in the ritual life of the community.
8. The 'Olive' is a challenge to Jews around the world to become allies of the Palestinians who are suffering under Zionist oppression and a call to contribute fully to a Middle East in which all inhabitants are free to define the national character of the place in which they live, and to other situations where one group of inhabitants has cast out another. For slavery and oppression to be over people must be able to earn a living for one's family's welfare. In Palestine olive groves have traditionally provided this economic security, but Israel has been uprooting olive trees in order to deny Palestinian families an economic lifeline. Without the taste of olives, there will be no taste of freedom.
Rebecca Vilkomerson, the executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace wrote the following:
The 'Olive' is a challenge to Jews to become allies of the Palestinians who are suffering under Zionist oppression and a call to contribute fully to a Middle East in which all inhabitants are free to define the national character of the place in which they live, and to other situations where one group of inhabitants has cast out another. For slavery and oppression to be over people must be able to earn a living for one's family's welfare. In Palestine olive groves have traditionally provided this economic security, but Israel has been uprooting olive trees in order to deny Palestinian families an economic lifeline. Without the taste of olives, there will be no taste of freedom. Olives on Seder Plate are a Statement of support for Palestinians and all oppressed peoples.
The story of the Exodus emphases the importance of fighting for liberation and self-determination, on community organizing and resistance against oppression. The genius of the Seder is how at its core it is always the same, but it is also flexible enough to integrate new traditions and local variations. Bringing contemporary social and economic justice issues to the Seder is very much in keeping with one of the key messages of the Haggadah: In every generation, each person must view himself or herself as if personally liberated from Egypt. That is, we must remember what it is to be oppressed, to face injustice and to yearn to be free. But it goes a step further. If we personally remember that we were liberated from Egypt, doesn’t that empathy obligate us to work to make sure that every person enjoys that same freedom?
The olive tree is a universal and ancient symbol of hope and peace. And sadly, the destruction of Palestinian olive trees by Israeli settlers and the Israeli army is just one example of the way that Israeli policies systematically deny Palestinians of even their most basic rights. An olive on my Seder plate reminds me to ask myself: “Will these olives inspire those at this seder to be bearers of peace and hope for Palestinians — and for all who are oppressed?”
9. The ninth symbol is recommended by Rebecca Alpert, a Reconstructionist rabbi and associate professor of religion at Temple University in Philadelphia USA who relates: In 1979 a rebbetzin from the local chapter of Chabad in Berkeley gave a talk at the local Hillel about women in Halacha. When someone asked about lesbians, she (correctly) described sex between women as a minor transgression in Jewish law and likened it to eating leavened bread during the week of Passover. The Jewish lesbians who heard her took the analogy to heart, and discussed putting a crust of toasted leavened bread on their Seder plate to symbolize their feelings of being outsiders in the Jewish community. This became part of several gay, lesbian and trans-gender Haggadot and of Haggadot used by other groups of Jews of color, patrilineals and anti-Zionists, and non-Jews who seek a place at the Passover table and don’t always feel welcome, and so this ritual of toasted leavened bread as the ninth item on the Seder plate is for them to feel included.
The 15 Steps of the seder are laid out by the sages in fifteen gradual steps, represented by the 15 sections of the seder, as a road from slavery and oppression to liberation.
1. Kaddesh/Kiddush – blessing over wine
2. Ur'chatz – washing hands before serving the vegetable
3. Karpas – eating a piece of vegetable
4. Yachatz – breaking the middle matzah (unleavened bread)
5. Maggid – telling of the Exodus from Egypt
6. Rach'tzah – washing hands before the matzah
7. Motzi – the blessing over matzah as food
8. Matzah – the blessing over matzah as a special mitzvah (good deed)
9. Marror – eating the bitter herbs
10. Korech – eating a sandwich of matzah and bitter herbs
11. Shulchan Oruch/Aruch (the laden table) – eating the festive meal
12. Tzafun – eating the afikomen (dessert of broken halves of matzah)
13. Barech – grace after meals
14. Hallel – psalms of praise
15. Nirtzah - conclusion
Blessed is the Source of all creation (unified, beyond Masculine or Feminine), that brings forth fruit from the trees. (Then eat olives and/or oranges.)
(Pointing to the olives and oranges) All say the Blessing over Fruit from Trees:
(Feminine Hebrew version) B'rucha Yah Shechinah, Eloheinu Malkat ha-olam, borayt p'ri ha-eitz.
(Masculine Hebrew version) Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melekh ha-olam, boreh p'ri ha-eitz.
She-hekhyanu ("Who has - given us life") is a common B'racha (prayer) recited by Jews when thankful for new and unusual experiences. It comes from the Talmud (Berachot 54a, Pesakhim 7b, Sukkah 46a) thus it has been recited for nearly 2000 years. As this is the Bracha recited when attempting something new or for the first time, may we each tell new stories this year and take new steps in our commitment to justice.
Blessed is the Source of all creation (unified, beyond Masculine or Feminine), for keeping us alive and sustaining us and bringing us to this time/season.
(Masculine Hebrew version) Baruch Ata Adonai Eloheynu Melekh Ha-Olam, shehekhyanu, ve-kimanu, ve-higianu la-zman ha-zeh.
(Feminine Hebrew version) B'rucha Yah Shechinah, Eloheinu Malkat ha-olam, shehechiyatnu, ve-kimanu, ve-higianu la-zman ha-zeh.
(All sing or recite: How sweet it is to sit together with our brothers; How sweet it is to sit together with our sisters.) Hinei ma tov u-ma naim, Shevet achim gam yachad; Hinei ma tov u-ma naim, Shevet achot gam yachad. (Hinei ma tov, Hinei ma tov, la-la-lai-la-la, la-la-lai-la-lai-la, Hinei ma tov, Hinei ma tov, la-la-laila-la, la-lalai-la-laila, ; Hinei ma tov u-ma naim, Shevet achot gam yachad; Hinei ma tov u-ma naim, Shevet achim gam ... yachad!).
One of the key (and intoxicating) elements of the traditional Passover Seder are the mandatory four cups of wine. Spaced evenly throughout the Seder they punctuate major blocks of this elaborate ritual: beginning it (with Kadesh), retelling the Passover narrative (with Maggid), concluding the blessing after the meal (with Barech), and concluding praising God (with Hallel).
Although there are various explanations for the particular number of cups, most often cited is the correlation between the four cups and the “Four Expressions of Redemption” attributed to God in Exodus 6:6-7. There God pledges to redeem the Ancient Israelites from Egypt with the words
“...I will bring you out... I will free you ...I will redeem you ... I will take you ...” (“... v’hoseiti... v’hesalti... v’gaalti... v’lakachti...”) Thus, each cup captures one ingredient of the full redemption. The Seder celebrates and relives a redemption in which the people were passive. In the four verbs used to describe the redemption God is the active subject and the people are passive objects. In fact, traditional rabbinic texts describe, at length, how the Ancient Israelites were undeserving of the redemption because, from the Rabbis' perspective, they had forgotten about God.
At this Passover Seder, however, we will not be celebrating a passive redemption, but learning from the lessons of Passover and committing ourselves to acting in the interests of justice and peace in the coming year. We will not merely be objects of redemption, but active participants in pursuing justice. Walking through our Seder we will declare our own four commitments to working for peace and justice for the Palestinian people. Through this Seder we will each reflect upon what needs to be done, what we can do, and what we must do in the coming year to advocate for peace through justice for Palestine and Israel. As we come to approach each of the four cups we invite you to meditate in silence upon your own words of commitment.
In the traditional rabbinic calendar there are four New Years. Passover (The 15th of the Hebrew month of Nissan) being the new year of liberation. As is customary, with the other secular and religious new years let us make resolutions for this coming year and find the strength and clarity to keep them.
Kadesh (the sanctification of time through a blessing on wine or grape juice) is a standard part of almost every traditional Jewish ritual. At the Seder this first cup corresponds to the expression of redemption:
“v’hoseiti” (“I will bring you out”). Please consider the remarkable times in which we live and meditate upon your first declaration of commitment. Then rise and raise our glasses, full of wine and express your commitments (“I commit to coming out for ...”). And the group will say after them: L’Chaim! (To life!)
(Feminine Hebrew version) B'rucha Yah Shechinah, Eloheinu Malkat ha-olam, borayt p'ri ha-gafen.
(Masculine Hebrew version) Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melekh ha-olam, boreh p'ri ha-gafen.
Blessed is the Source of all creation (unified, beyond Masculine or Feminine), that brings forth fruit from the vines. (Then drink the first cup.)
Ur'chatz – washing hands before serving the vegetable (One at a time leave the table to go wash the hands. Otherwise two can go around the table with basins of water and small towels for each guest to dip their hands in the water and then wipe them.)
Karpas – Dipping and eating the green vegetable
Reader 1: There is a tremor in the seed as Self-protection cracks, roots reach down and grab hold. The seed swells, and tender shoots push up towards light. This is 'karpas': spring awakening growth. A force so tough it can break stone.
Reader 2: Why do we dip 'karpas' in salt water?
Reader 1: At the beginning of the season of rebirth nand growth, we recall our tears when we were in bondage.
Reader 2: And why should salt water be dipped by 'karpas'?
Reader 1: To remind us that tears stop. Even after a painful struggle, spring comes.
(Take some greens and dip them in salt water, lemon juice or vinegar and say:)
(Masculine Hebrew version) Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melekh ha-olam, boreh p'ri ha-adamah.
(Feminine Hebrew version) B'rucha Yah Shechinah, Eloheinu Malkat ha-olam, borayt p'ri ha-adamah.
Yachatz – breaking the middle matzah (unleavened bread)
Take three pieces of matzot/matzos (unleavened crisp-bread) and break the middle one in two pieces. Place the smaller of the two pieces (called 'lechem oni', “the bread of affliction”) between the two whole matzot/matzos under a large cloth or napkin on the table. Place the larger of the two pieces (called the 'afikomen') in a large cloth and set it aside to be hidden somewhere by someone chosen by the others for that task. Uncover the matzot on the table so all can see it.
Reader 1: Some do not get the chance to make leavened bread, having to leave in a hurry.
Reader 2: Too rushed to be kneeded by caring hands, matzah is broken by a light touch.
Reader 1: Tonight let us be reminded both of our brittleness and of our bravery.
Reader 2: Reaching for wholeness, let us piece together the parts of ourselves we have found, and honor that which remains hidden. If our own suffering does not serve to unite us with the suffering of others, then our pain will have been for naught. Let all who are hungry or needy join us in our Seder.
Maggid – Retelling the story of the Exodus from Egypt and the fist Passover celebration in the desert. This begins with the youngest person present who is old enough to ask a question being encouraged to ask the "Four Questions", noting four differences between this night and other nights: Why is this night different from all other nights? (This part is the “Why is it so?)
Ma nishtana ha-laylah ha-zeh mi-kol ha-leylot? (mi-kol ha-leylot?)
(Then 4 questions follow:)
(Why is it that) on all other nights during the year we eat either leavened bread (chameytz) or unleavened bread (matzah), but on this night we eat only matzah? She-b'-khol ha-leylot anu okh’lin chameyts u-matsah, (chameyts u-matsah), ve-ha-laylah ha-ze (ha-laylah ha-ze) kullo matsa.(ha-laylah ha-ze, ha-laylah ha-ze, kullo matsah).
Why is it that on all other nights we eat all kinds of vegetables, but on this night we eat bitter herbs? She-b'-khol ha-leylot anu okh’lin sh’ar yerakot, (sh’ar yerakot), ve-ha-laylah ha-ze (ha-laylah ha-ze okh’lin) maror. (ha-laylah ha-ze, ha-laylah ha-ze okh’lin maror)
Why is it that on all other nights we do not dip [our food] even once, but on this night we dip them twice? She-b'-khol ha-leylot eyn anu matbilin afilu pa‘am echat, (afilu pa‘am echat); ve-ha-laylah ha-ze (ha-laylah ha-ze) sh'tei fe‘amim. (ha-laylah hazze, ha-laylah hazze, sh'tei fe‘amim.)
Why is it that on all other nights we dine either sitting upright or reclining, but on this night we all recline? She-b'-khol ha-leylot anu okh’lin beyn-yosh’vin u-veyn-m'subin, (beyn-yosh’vin u-veyn-m'subin); ve-ha-laylah ha-ze, (ha-laylah ha-ze), kulanu m'subin. (ha-laylah ha-ze, ha-laylah ha-ze, kulanu m'subin).
The others explain:
We eat only matzah because our ancestors could not wait for their breads to rise when they were fleeing slavery in Egypt, and so they were flat when they came out of the oven.
We eat only Maror, a bitter herb, to remind us of the bitterness of slavery that our ancestors endured while in Egypt.
The first dip, green vegetables in salt water, symbolizes the replacing of our tears with gratefulness, and the second dip, Maror in Charoses, symbolizes the sweetening of our burden of bitterness and suffering.
(All recite or sing:) On all other nights we eat either sitting erect (like slaves) or reclining in relaxation (as free people), but on this night we all eat relaxed.
She-b'khol ha-laylot anu okhlin beyn yosh'bin u-veyn mesubin, beyn yosh'bin u-veyn mesubin. Ha-laylah ha-zeh, Ha-laylah ha-zeh, kulanu mesubin; Ha-laylah ha-zeh, Ha-laylah ha-zeh, kulanu mesubin.
What Jewish boy has not squirmed in his seat when his father asks “What does the wicked son say?” In the passover parable of the four sons (one wise, one wicked, one simple and one who does not know how to ask a question), the wicked son says: "What does this drudgery mean to you?" Since he appears to exclude himself from the community, the alpha-male of the household is to say to the wicked son, in most versions of the Haggadah: "It is for the sake of this that the Lord did for me when I left Egypt. For me and not for him. If he was there he would not have been redeemed." The Szyk Haggadah, illustrated 1933-1939 even depicts the “wicked” son with a Hitler mustache! Esau painfully asked, when his father told him that his brother Jacob has stolen the blessing, “Have you but one blessing? Bless me too, my father” (Genesis 26:38). Our father/mother in heaven is not limited with only one blessing but blesses all children: Jacob and Esau, Isaac and Ishmael, Jews, Christians and Muslims, Israelis and Palestinians. When Rabbi Akiva argued that “Love your neighbor as yourself” is the most important principle of Jewish faith, Rabbi Ben Azzai countered that the belief all human beings are created 'b'tselem Elohim' (in the image of God) is even more important. Both values, love for all human beings and the inherent dignity of all human beings, lie at the core of all true faith. Buddhism enlarges this sentiment at the heart of all religions to compassion for all sentient beings, not just humans!
A Meditation on the Four Children for Passover 5773 (2013)
by Rabbi Brant Rosen (Jewish Voice for Peace • www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org)
As Jews, how do we respond when we hear the tragic news regularly coming out of
Israel/Palestine? How do we respond to reports of checkpoints and walls, of home demolitions and evictions, of blockades and military incursions?
It might well be said that there are four very different children deep inside each of us, each reacting in his or her own characteristic way:
The Fearful Child is marked by the trauma of the Shoah and believes that to be a Jew
means to be forever vulnerable. While he may be willing to accept that we live in an age
of relative Jewish privilege and power, in his heart he feels that all of these freedoms could easily be taken away in the blink of an eye. To the Fearful Child, Israel represents Jewish empowerment – the only place in the world that can ensure the collective safety of the Jewish people.
The Bitter Child channels her Jewish fears into demonization of the other. This child
chooses to view anti-Semitism as the most eternal and pernicious of all forms of hatred
and considers all those “outside the tribe” to be real or potential enemies. She believes that Palestinians fundamentally despise Jews and will never tolerate their presence in the land – and that brute force is the only language they will ever understand.
The Silent Child is overwhelmed with the myriad of claims, histories, narratives and
analyses that emerge from Israel/Palestine. While he dreams of a day in which
both peoples will live in peace, he is unable to sift through all that he hears and determine how he might help bring that day about. At his most despairing moments, he doesn’t believe a just peace between these two peoples will ever be possible. And so he directs his Jewish conscience toward other causes and concerns – paralyzed by the “complexities” of this particular conflict.
The Courageous Child is willing to admit the painful truth that this historically persecuted people has now become a persecutor. This child understands and empathizes with the emotions of the other children all too well – in truth, she still experiences them from time to time. In the end, however, the Courageous Child refuses to live a life defined by and immobilized by fear, bitterness or complacency. She understands it is her sacred duty to stand in solidarity with all who are oppressed, particularly when she herself is implicated in that oppression.
At one time or another we have heard within ourselves the voices of any or all of these children. How will we respond to them?
Four verses in Deuteronomy (26:5-8) are then expounded, with an elaborate, traditional commentary. ("26:5. And thou shalt speak and say before the Lord thy God: 'A wandering Aramean was my parent, and they went down into Egypt, and sojourned there, few in number; and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous. 6. And the Egyptians dealt ill with us, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard bondage. 7. And we cried unto the Lord, the God of our parents, and the Lord heard our voice, and saw our affliction, and our toil, and our oppression. 8 And the Lord brought us forth out of Egypt with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, and with great terribleness, and with signs, and with wonders.")
The Haggadah explores the meaning of those verses, and embellishes the story. This telling describes the slavery of the Israelite people and their miraculous salvation by God. This culminates in an enumeration of the Ten Plagues. Rabbi Margaret Holub of Jewish Voice for Peace has suggested we ponder what we could learn from the ten plagues about imposing deprivation or suffering on others for the sake of liberation of all, and how to relate that to Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) as a strategy by suggesting more enlightened variations from blood, frogs, lice, wild animals, pestilence, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, and the killing of the first-born, that might change the mind of the oppressor without abusing the oppressors human rights:
Make variations to the following that might humanize the oppressor:
Dam (blood)—All the water was changed to blood
Tzefardeyah (frogs)—An infestation of frogs sprang up in Egypt
Arov (wild animals)—An infestation of wild animals (some say flies) sprang up in Egypt
Dever (pestilence)—A plague killed off the Egyptian livestock
Sh'chin (boils)—An epidemic of boils afflicted the Egyptians
Barad (hail)—Hail rained from the sky
Arbeh (locusts)—Locusts swarmed over Egypt
Choshech (darkness)—Egypt was covered in darkness
Makkat Bechorot (killing of the first-born)—All the first-born sons of the Egyptians were slain by God
With the recital of the Ten Plagues, each participant removes a drop of wine from his or her cup using a fingertip. Although this night is one of salvation, the Sages explain that one cannot be completely joyous when some of God's creatures had to suffer.
At this part in the Seder, songs of praise are sung, including the song Dayenu, which proclaims that had God performed any single one of the many deeds performed for the Jewish people, it would have been enough to obligate us to give thanks. After this is a declaration (mandated by Rabban Gamliel) of the reasons of the commandments of the Paschal lamb, Matzah, and Maror, with scriptural sources. Then follows a short prayer, and the recital of the first two psalms of Hallel (which will be concluded after the meal). A long blessing is recited, and the second cup of wine is drunk.
The ritual hand-washing is repeated, this time with all customs including a blessing.
Two blessings are recited. First one recites the standard blessing before eating bread, which includes the words "who brings forth" (motzi in Hebrew). Then one recites the blessing regarding the commandment to eat Matzah. An olive-size piece (some say two) is then eaten while reclining.
The blessing for the eating of the maror (bitter herbs) is recited and then it is dipped into the charoset and eaten.
Korech: Tasting the Bitter with the Sweet: We make a sandwich with both bitter maror and sweet charoset. There are two liberation interpretations of this practice:
A) Rashi (medieval French Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki) interpreted charoset to represent the mud of the bricks the Israelites used to build with as slaves. Charoset in Palestine today represents the cement that is building the separation wall. With the charoset we taste the bitterness the separation wall is causing and will cause until it is torn down.
B) The practice of combining the bitter and sweet suggests that part of the challenge of activism is to taste freedom even in the midst of oppression, and to be ever conscious of the oppression of others even when we feel that we are free.
Here the story of the Exodus from Egypt is told and each should relate what they know, about the enslavement of the Israelites, and the plagues, and the parting of the red sea. We dip our fingers in the wine (or grape juice), and transfer a portion of the sweetness to the plate, in memory of all those throughout history who have had to suffer, so that people in the future won’t have to.
Shulkan Oruch/Aruch – the Meal: The work of rewriting handed-down narratives is taxing. As we engage in our task of re-telling the exodus from Egypt, Shulkhan Oruch reminds us not to forget to eat. Even when engaged in moral activism it is important not to forget our own sustenance, physical and spiritual. We should also remember that the seder is a celebration of freedom – both the freedom we have gained and the freedom we will gain for Palestine and for all its people.
Tzafun: Finding and Eating the Afikomen. The afikomen is a piece of matzoh/matzah (unleavened bread) which is broken in half in the early stages of the Passover Seder, one half set aside under a cloth on the table and another half hidden somewhere in the house by the householder (in a place that the children will be able to find it), to be brought together and eaten as a dessert after the meal. The word afikoman comes either from the Greek noun Epikomen/Epikomion meaning "that which comes after" or "dessert") or from the Greek verb afikomenos meaning the coming one or he has come, that is, the long hoped-for Messiah, the 'Anointed' or 'Christ' in Greek, and by Jewish tradition the return of Elijah the prophet who will someday institute an idealized healed world.
Each celebrant takes turn in reading part of the following while holding up the afikoman:
It is the matzoh we’ve broken apart, hidden, and will now bring back together to eat as a whole. One commentary about this ritual says that the bringing together of the afikoman represents the reuniting of the twelve tribes of Israel. Tonight, let us challenge ourselves about perceptions of such a unified whole. Let us look to newspapers, TV news, web logs, where The Zionist and the Jewish View on Israel/Palestine is continually presented as one and the same. How often have we heard the conflation of ’good for Israel’ and ’good for the Jews,’ and how often do these go unquestioned?
Tonight, let us look at pieces both apart and together and commit to working toward wholes and also to working to preserve and cultivate the space for dissent, for difference, for nuance in our communities.
Tonight, let us remember that representations of ‘the Jews’ often don’t include Sephardic Jews, Mizrachi Jews, poor Jews, immigrant Jews, queer Jews, Jews of color, secular Jews and most Jews who aren’t Ashkenazic, Western-born, and middle-class. Let us resist describing our communities as unbroken and uncomplicated wholes.
Tonight we acknowledge the way that bringing up our struggles and questions about our relationship to Israel/Palestine can cause cracks and crumblings in our closest relationships, with family and loved ones.
Tonight, let us commit to not being afraid of saying the things that result in cracking. Let us hope to heal the breaks without erasing them, and to bring together a stronger whole. Let us ask questions of our families: about home, about resistance, about solidarity, about Israel, about occupation, about Palestine, about responsibility. Let us understand that a conversation with cracks in it can be the most liberating kind, the most strengthening and the most loving, even if it’s scary.
(Before eating the afikoman): The act of pulling out something that’s been hidden, of bringing it to light, of feeling its texture,unmediated; The way we take the issues and questions that are the most difficult, break them off, and file them away, hide them; Tonight let us take note of one thing, one question we’ve hidden. Let us find it, hold it to the light, examine it, feel its texture. Let us promise to eat some of it before putting it away again. By saying it aloud, by writing it down, by raising a question, by not letting our internal struggles stay hidden but by honoring them as moments from which to learn and to act. (Eat the afikomen)
Elijah and Miriam: Vision and Sustenance: Point to cups of wine or grape juice welcoming Elijah and Miriam and face the door saying:
“This is the moment in many haggadahs when Elijah and Miriam the prophets are welcomed and invited in to drink from these cups and to bring their strengths and gifts to our seder.
We invite Elijah in and we invite vision, visioning toward a liberated and liberating future; a community we can all feel a dynamic part of; and a just and free Palestine.
We invite Miriam in and we invite sustenance: the basic way that water sustains and regenerates us, so do new perspectives and voices that take risks.”
(Look around the room and notice who else is here with you. Think about a conversation you’ve had or will have with someone here during tonight’s seder that will be a risk, that sustains and regenerates and looks toward a just future. Then sing or recite songs for the prophets Elijah and Miriam:)
Song for Elijah
ELIJAH THE PROPHET
Eliyahu hagil'adi -
Bim'hera yavoh eleinu,
im mashiach ben David. (x2)
Elijah the prophet
Elijah the returning,
Elijah the giladi -
May he soon come to us,
with the messiah son of David. (x2)
Song for Miriam (We Are The Magicians, By Tamara Cohen)
We are the magicians
it is more than staff into snake we seek.
We dream a sentence into life.
We are skilled in the kitchen
of language and longing
baking leftover letters
for our hungry.
Miriam you are our finest
dusty scraps from history's cutting floor
silk like grandmother's lips
and new truths ablaze
and the murmur of girls
studying Talmud and dance.
Miriam we kiss your fringes
gulp down the water
we bless with your name.
Miriam, on this night we are free
Five thousand years of desert
and now everywhere wells.
Barekh: Blessing after the Meal (Prayer recited in Aramaic after a meal, in Sephardic and Ashkenazic variations)
B'riych rachamana / B'riych rachamono (Blessing of mercy)
Malka d’alma / Malka d'olmo (King of the universe)
Marei d’hai pita (Source of life )
You are the Source of life for all that is and your blessing flows through me
Third Cup (While the meal is finished, we have not finished drinking yet!)
Consider our commitments to vision and sustenance. Contribute your commitment to celebrating and building our community of activists. L’Chaim! (To life!); To community!
In this section, songs and psalms are sung to express joy and praise. Here are some and you can add/teach your own.
Shalom Chaverim (Peace, friends)
Shalom Chaverim, Shalom, Shalom
L’hitra’ot, Shalom, Shalom
Pitchu Li, Sha’arei tzedek
Avo vam, odeh yah
Zeh ha sha’ar la’shem
Tzadeekeem yavo’oo vo
(Open to me the gates of justice, let me enter and give thanks to the Source, this is the Lord’s gate, let all who are righteous enter.)
Make a commitment to finding your own voice and using it, in songs of protest or otherwise, to bring about change. L’Chaim! (To life!) To freedom and the end of Zionist apartheid!
Nirtzah: Conclusion, A Reading for Passover about Commitment
Excerpted from “Next Year Where,” by Jonathan Safran Foer from Wrestling with Zion:
Next year in Jerusalem, I’ve said, again and again and again. It is easily possible for Zionist Jews to have their Seders in Jerusalem, and if they wanted to live in Jerusalem, no more would be required than the effort to go. But the Jerusalem of next year isn’t just a place where people suffering in exile long to return to, but an idealized place, a perfect world of co-existence. Yet it would be impossible for us all to coexist in the Jerusalem of next year, without first examining our different and competing visions of an idealized Jerusalem.
When you say, Next year in Jerusalem, to what place am you referring? What does it have to do with the road-grid seen from the towers in the separation wall, and the striations of civilization that exist now and have existed in the past in Jerusalem. Is there a place where hatred and love can coexist or must one choose?
The narrative of the Haggadah takes us from slavery to liberation ‘next year in Jerusalem.’ These last words of the seder are weighty ones: they are troubling contemporarily while a Zionist state occupies Jerusalem, but they are also an opportunity to vision our personal commitments to universal ethics, to a next year of struggle against exclusion and apartheid.