This is meant as a supplement to the traditional Haggadah, not as an alternative to it. There are many wonderful Haggadot, yet all of them need this kind of a supplement. A shorter version of this supplement appears in our Spring 2014 print magazine.
A Note to Non-Jews: Jesus was a Jew, and the Last Supper was a Seder. Our supplement affirms the liberatory message that is part of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and is found in many other religious and spiritual traditions as well. You may find some of this ritual helpful if you create your own rite to celebrate the key insight of all the spring holidays of the world: that rebirth, renewal, and transformation are possible, and that we are not stuck in the dark, cold, and deadly energies of winter. Judaism builds on that universal experience and adds another dimension: it suggests that the class structure (slavery, feudalism, capitalism, or neoliberal imperialism) can be overcome, and that we human beings, created in the image of the Transformative Power of the Universe (God), can create a world based on love, generosity, and nonviolence.
We understand God in part as the Transformative Power of the Universe—the force that makes possible the transformation from that which is 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 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. In short, we are inviting you to make your Seder or Easter celebration not only a wonderful opportunity to be with friends, family, and/or community, but also a moment to make new personal commitments to be part of the transformation we celebrate and which our society and the planet earth so badly need.
Lighting the Candles
To start the Seder, light the candles for Passover. Recite:
Baruch ata Ado-nai (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, as social change activists and people working as community organizers or as agents of the public sector, as those who teach meditation or yoga or who have developed alternative approaches to health and health care, and as all who use their intelligence and creativity to serve their fellow human beings and to advance the liberation of all humanity from physical, psychological, and 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 Adonai, 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.
Sing the order of the Seder:
Kadesh, Urchatz, Karpas, Yachatz, Magid, Rachtsah, Motzi, Matza, Maror, Koreych, Shulchan, Orech, Tsafoon, Barech, Halel, Nirtzah.
Before blessing the wine, read this together:
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 make people in every generation become passive, yet in every generation there is a different voice, the voice of the Force of Healing and Transformation, Yud Hey Vav Hey, Adonai, 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—are not only the homeless, the jobless, the underemployed, 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 are also those of us who find ourselves surrounded by others who seem endlessly 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 satisfy my needs?” 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 in tikkun 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 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 wash our hands, we imagine washing away all cynicism and despair. 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 the Ur’chatz on 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)
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 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 read Embracing 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, 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 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 tikkun.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 that 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 (spiritualprogressives.org). This is the spirit of generosity that 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.
1. 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!
2. 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!
3. Sheh bechol haleylot eyn anu mat’bee’leen afeeloo pa’am achat, ha’lie’lah hazeh ha’lie lah hazeh sheh’tey pe’ameem
On all other nights we don’t dip our food in salt water even once, but this night we dip twice!
4. 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
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?
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:
While we have every right to celebrate our own liberation, as does every person on earth, our cup of joy cannot be full when we are the cause of the suffering of another people. We pray to live to the day when our own freedom and liberation will no longer be linked to the suffering of others.
Before the blessing over the second cup of wine, say:
We are the community of Tikkun, the Network of Spiritual Progressives (NSP) of all faiths—the religious and spiritual community formed around the ancient Jewish idea that our task is to be partners with God in healing and transforming our world. We know that the world can be healed and transformed—that is the whole point of telling the Passover story or the Easter story. Our task is to find the ways to continue the struggle for liberation in our own times and in our own circumstances. Some of the steps include:
• Recognizing each other as allies in that struggle and supporting each other even though we see each other’s flaws and inadequacies as well as our own.
• Pouring out love into the world, even when we don’t have a good excuse for giving that love to others and even when it seems corny or risky to do so, thus breaking down our own inner barriers to loving others and to loving ourselves.
• Rejecting the cynical view that everyone is out for himself or herself, that there is nothing but selfishness—and instead allowing ourselves to see that we are surrounded by people who would love to live in a world based on love, justice, and peace if they thought that others would join them in building such a world.
• Taking the risk of being the first ones out in public to articulate an agenda of social change—even though being those people may mean risking economic security, physical security, and sometimes even the alienation of friends and family.
• Allowing ourselves to envision the world the way we really want it to be—and not getting stuck in spiritually crippling talk about what is “realistic.”
The stories of Passover and Easter are about our people learning to overcome the “realistic” way of looking at the world. On this day, we want to affirm our connection with a different truth: that the world is governed by a spiritual power, by God, by the Force of Transformation and Healing, and that we are created in Her image, we are embodiments of the Spirit, and we have the capacity to join with each other to transform the world we live in.
The oppressive ancient Egyptian regime in which Jews lived as slaves was overthrown. The Passover story reminds us that in every age we must continue the struggle for liberation, which Jews first experienced on the first Passover some 3,200 years ago.
The traditional Haggadah (the official guide to the Passover Seder to which this is meant to be a supplement and not a replacement) reminds us that the primary obligation of Passover is to experience ourselves as though we personally went out of Egypt.
So now, let someone at the table tell the story of our enslavement, of the genocide against the firstborn Hebrew males, of the way Moses was saved and grew up in the palace and then came to identify with his own people, the slaves. Let someone tell of how Moses killed an Egyptian policeman who was beating an Israelite slave and then fled to Midiyan, how Moses heard God’s voice through a fire that was burning inside him and returned to Egypt, how his demand to “let my people go” was met by the Pharaoh with an escalation of oppression of the Israelites, how his own people shunned him as a troublemaker who was only making things worse, and how God brought forth a set of environmental disasters. Let someone tell of how Moses was able to convince the Israelites and the Pharaoh that these disasters were intentional plagues from God, how the Israelites eventually came to accept that they could use those plagues as cover to leave Egypt, how 80 percent of the slaves couldn’t make that leap and so decided not to leave with Moses, and how joyful a celebration it was for those who did leave by making a huge leap of faith in believing that transformation was really possible.
While this story is being told, let all the people at the table keep their eyes closed. Try to imagine that it is you who is going through this experience, you who has the doubts about Moses and the possibility of a radical transformation, and you who finally is able to take that leap of faith. Allow yourself to experience what it must feel like to do that in your own life today!
Yet liberation struggles often require major sacrifices and struggle. We mourn the losses of our own people, who struggled out of the crematoria and gas chambers of Europe and went on to create the State of Israel. And we mourn the losses of the Palestinian people, whose struggle against the English colonialists got diverted into a struggle with the newly emerging Jewish homeland. We mourn the crippling of the dream of an Israel that could be the embodiment of Jewish ideals, and we mourn the distortions that have taken place in the Jewish people as so many have twisted themselves and their thinking in order to provide justifications for Israeli behavior that should have been critiqued and opposed. We mourn the distortions in American society and the ways that noble ideals have been transformed into oppressive and even violent behaviors.
We dip our fingers into the wine and withdraw some of the wine. Our cup of joy cannot be full when we are the cause of the suffering of another people. And we pray to live to the day when our own freedom and liberation will no longer be linked to the suffering of others.
Dam, tzfardeyah, keeneem, arov, dever, shecheen, garad, arbeh choschesh, makat bechorot. Each person can now take a turn to call out whatever modern plague we witness and regret, even as we also can see them as stern warnings to the human race to quickly change our direction and repent. And now we commit ourselves to a struggle for liberation based on nonviolence.
Loe Yisah Goy
Loe Yisah goy el goy cherev loe yilmedu ode milchamah.
(Let every one beneath her vine and fig tree
sit in peace and unafraid,
and into ploughshares beat their swords,
nations shall learn war no more.)
Down by the Riverside
I’m going to lay down my sword and shield
down by the riverside (x3)
and study war no more.
I ain’t going to study war no more. (x3)
Ode yavoe shalom aleynu (x3)
ve’al kulam Salaam.
Aleynu ve’al kol ha’olam,
Ode yavoe shalom aleynu (x3)
ve’al kulam Salaam.
Aleynu ve’al kol ha’olam,
We hold up a substitute for the Pesach sacrifice of a lamb. As we hold up this vegetarian substitute for the shank bone, which may be a roasted Paschal Yam or Pachal Beet, we remind ourselves to draw closer to the spiritual reality of the universe—a process that in ancient days was supposedly facilitated by animal sacrifice.
The Torah tells us that the Israelites had to take uncooked dough with them, “for they had prepared no provisions for the way.” Symbolically, the matzah reminds us that when the opportunity 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 also stands in contrast to chametz (Hebrew for the expansive yeast that makes bread rise), which symbolizes false pride, absorption in our individual egos, and grandiosity.
Baruch ata Adonai (YHVH) eloheynu Melech Ha’olam, asher kidshanu be’mitzvotav ve’tsivanu al achilat Matzah. We channel your blessing (YUD HEY VAV HEY) the Force of Transformation and Healing in the Universe, who has brought sanctity into our lives by teaching us, through the eating of Matzah, to experience and never forget our humble beginnings as slaves.
Brucha at Yah Shechina, Ruach chey ha’olamim, Ha motsee’ah lechem meen ha’aretz—Blessed are You, Goddess, the Life force of all universes, who has created a world that has enough delicious food for everyone, and to Whom we now recommit ourselves by affirming that we will do all we can to transform our global economic and political arrangements, nonviolently and in an environmentally sustainable way, to ensure that the food gets redistributed so that everyone has enough to eat.
We pick up the matzah, which Jewish mystics associate with disconnecting from chameytz (the leavened and expansive parts of bread that to the mystic symbolizes the never-quenched expansiveness of ego). Every time we eat the matzah during the eight days of Passover, we will remind ourselves of our spiritual commitment to overcome ego and let go of pretense so that we can see the world and ourselves as we really are.
We eat the bitter herbs. As we eat the horseradish or other bitter vegetables, we remember that the struggle for liberation is not a party. If we insist that it always must “feel good,” we will remain stuck in the oppressive reality of today, because the 1 percent and those who work for them can always guarantee (through their armies, police forces, homeland security, and spying forces) that there is much pain in store for us, including loss of livelihood, jail, or assassination.
Say the following blessing and then eat the horseradish or other bitter herb straight, without anything mitigating the experience:
Baruch ata Yud Hey Vav Hey, the transformative and liberating Power of the universe, who leads us to acknowledge the bitterness of slavery in all its many forms—asher kidshanua be’mitzvotav, ve’tsivanu al akh’ee’lat maror.
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 historical enslavement of Africans and the oppression of Armenians, LGBT people, women, people of color, and many others. We mourn the suffering of the people of Tibet suffering under the cruel occupation by China. We mourn the suffering of the Syrian people struggling to free themselves from the oppression of the Assad dictatorship without allowing a cruel version of Islamism to take its place. We mourn the suffering of the millions of children subjected to sexual slavery. We mourn the suffering of the 1.5 billion people living on less than a single dollar per day and the many who are slowly dying of malnutrition or diseases related to malnutrition. 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 persists in our own time in the use of double standards in the judgment of Jews, in acts of violence against Jews, and in refusal to acknowledge the history of Jewish suffering as equal to the suffering of other victims of oppressive social regimes in Christian, Islamic, and secular societies. Meanwhile, we Jews need to acknowledge the ways that this suffering has at times distorted our consciousness and made it hard to fully grasp the pain others feel. That distortion, being acted out by the government of Israel, in its treatment of Palestinians as well as in its treatment of refugees from Africa, might, for the first time in history, create an antagonism toward Jews based on the actual behavior of those Jews who allow Israel to call itself “THE Jewish State” while simultaneously violating the commands of our Torah to “love the stranger” (the Other). To counter this, we must evolve a global Judaism that compassionately embraces the Jewish people and all other peoples.
On a bit of matzah, we put the bitter herbs together with charoset. We combine the bitter herbs with charoset (a dish made from apples, nuts, and wine) to remember that our own love and generosity can make the struggle not feel impossibly bitter.
Find and eat the Afikomen. This piece of the matzah, which was previously broken off and hidden, symbolizes the part of each of us that is split off and must be reintegrated into our full being for us each to be a whole and free person.
As we do the blessing after the meal, we recommit ourselves to transforming global and economic arrangements in such a way as to ensure that the delicious foods we ate together tonight will be equally available to everyone on the planet and that no one lacks delicious and healthy food. If you’ve eaten and been satisﬁed, thank God for all that we have been given.
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 sustenance to those in need. The two 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 progressive political leaders are unwilling to champion any program to seriously address world hunger and homelessness.
There is also a deep spiritual hunger that must be fed. Though the cynical proclaim that those who accumulate the most toys win, our tradition teaches that money, power, and fame cannot sustain us. Our spiritual tradition teaches us to be present to each moment; to rejoice in all that we are and all that we have been given; to experience the world with awe, wonder, and radical amazement; and to recognize that we already have enough and are enough.
Not just during the Seder, but also at every meal, it is incumbent upon us—the Jewish tradition teaches—to speak words of Torah, to study some section of our holy books, or to in other ways make God feel present at our table. Try this: bring God and God’s message of love, generosity, peace, social justice, ecological sanity, and caring for others into every meal that you eat.
Enjoy the meal. Following the meal, say a blessing expressing thanks to God for the food and expressing a commitment to do what you can to redistribute food on this planet so that everyone will have enough. Of course, as you know, the Seder is only half ﬁnished—the second half begins after we ﬁnd the Aﬁkomen and begin the after-dinner section of the Haggadah. Meanwhile, have a very good meal. Be’tey’avon!
Now eat and enjoy a tasty meal. After you have eaten, dance to some music—or move around the table and talk to people you don’t know.
Do you really have to leave right after the meal? Pretend this is a hot date with God that got out of hand, and you just can’t tear yourself away—you’ll still survive tomorrow even if you don’t get home till after midnight!
Sing together the blessing over the third cup of wine or grape juice or whatever other substance or meditation produces a state of altered and joyous consciousness within you, and say with the same blessing as we used for the second cup of wine.
We pause in our celebration to remember the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (which began on the second night of Passover), the Holocaust, and the ways that those in the present who choose to testify to the possibility of transformation become the focus of everyone’s anger, their displaced frustrations, and eventually their murderous rage. Being a spiritual or moral vanguard is risky. No wonder it’s easier to assimilate into the celebration of money and cynicism about the contemporary world.
Tonight we remember our six million sisters and brothers who perished at the hands of the Nazis and at the hands of hundreds of thousands of anti-Semites—many of them Germans, Poles, Croatians, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians, Romanians, Hungarians, Austrians, Italians, French, Dutch, Russians, etc.—who assisted those Nazis throughout Europe. We remember also the Jewish martyrs throughout the generations—oppressed, beaten, raped, and murdered by European Christians. And we remember tonight with pride the battle of the Warsaw Ghetto and the tens of thousands of Jews who resisted, fought back, joined partisan units, or engaged in acts of armed violence against the oppressors.
It is not fashionable in some circles to speak about these atrocities, particularly because some reactionary Jews use these memories to legitimate human rights violations against Palestinians—as though they were still fighting the Nazis, as though shooting Palestinians angered by expulsion from or Israeli occupation of their homeland could somehow compensate for our own failure to have taken up arms soon enough against the Nazi oppressors. Some use the violence done to us as an excuse to be insensitive to the violence done to others—as though our pain were the only pain—or to legitimate a general “goyim-bashing” attitude based on a total distrust of non-Jews. But though the memories of past oppression are sometimes misused to support insensitivity to others, it is still right for us to talk about our pain, what was done to us: how unspeakable, how outrageous.
Permitting ourselves to articulate our anger—rather than trying to bury it, forget it, or minimize it—is the only way that we can get beyond it. So, tonight it is appropriate to speak about our history, about the Holocaust, and about the ways that the American government and peoples around the world failed to respond to our cries and our suffering. What was done to us was wrong, disgusting, an assault on the sanctity of human life and on God.
It is with righteous indignation that Jews have traditionally called out, “Shefokh Chamatkha ha’goyim aher lo yeda’ukha”—“Pour out your wrath, God, on those people who have acted toward us in a way that fails to recognize Your holy spirit within us as it is within all human beings.” But also pour out your love on the many people who stood up for us when we were facing annihilation, for people around the world who mobilized against the Nazis, for Europeans who committed individual acts to save Jews and gypsies and LGBT people who were targeted for extermination. The goodness of so many non-Jews played an important role in our survival as a people. And pour out your love, too, on all those who have taken risks to fight against racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia in all its various forms; against war; against cruelty to animals; against abuse between human beings; and against environmental irresponsibility. We as a humans have been the beneficiaries of so much human goodness expressed both in daily life and in acts of remarkable courage.
Tonight we reaffirm our commitment to the messianic vision of a world of peace and justice in which inequalities have been abolished and our human capacities for love and solidarity and creativity and freedom are allowed to flourish, in which all people will recognize and affirm in each other the spirit of God. In that day, living in harmony with nature and with each other, all peoples will participate in acknowledging God’s presence on earth. We remain committed to the struggles in our own time that will contribute to making that messianic vision possible someday.
Al nah tomar heeney darkee ha’achrona
Et or ha yom heesteru shmey ha’ananah
Zeh yom nichsafnu lo od ya’al veyavo
Umitz adeynu ode yareem anachnu poe.
(Do not say that we have reached the end of hope
Though clouds of darkness make it hard for us to cope
The time of peace, justice, and loving is still near,
Our people lives! We proudly shout that we are here.)
Welcoming the Possibility of the Messianic Age
Fourth cup of wine or grape juice: use the same blessing as for the second cup of wine, and then drink it down.
We open the door for Elijah—the prophet who heralds the coming of the Messiah and a world in which all peoples will coexist peacefully—acknowledging the image of God in one another.
To deny the possibility of fundamental transformation, to be stuck in the pain of past oppression, or to build our religion around memories of the Holocaust and other forms of suffering is to give the ultimate victory to those who oppressed us. To testify to God’s presence in the world is to insist on shifting our focus from pain to hope and to dedicate our energies to transforming this world and ourselves. We still believe in a world based on love, generosity, and openheartedness. We continue to affirm the Unity of All Being.
Eliyahu ha navee, Eliyahu HaTishbee
Eliyahu, Eliyahu, Eliyahu HaGeeladee
Beem heyrah beyameynu
eem mashi’ach ben David (x2)
Miriyam Ha nivi’ah, Oz vezimrah beyadah
Miriyam, Miriyam le taken ha’olam
Beem heyrah beyameynu, Tavoe eileynu eem
meymey ha’yeshua (x2)
Now let us build together a communal vision of messianic redemption.
Close your eyes and let some picture of messianic redemption appear in your minds. Then, open your eyes and share with others your picture of the world we want to build together.
Share the fourth cup of wine or grape juice!
Count the Omer
Echard Mee yo’dey’ah Chad Gay Yah
Imagine (the Tikkun version)
Imagine there’s all kindness; it’s easy if you try—
No hell below us, above us only sky.
Imagine all the people living for today …
Imagine there’s no countries; it isn’t hard to do—
Nothing to kill or die for, and no oppression too.
Imagine all the people, living life in peace.
You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.
I hope someday you’ll join us … and the world will be as one.
Imagine no possessions; I wonder if you can—
No need for greed or hunger, a sisterhood of man.
Imagine all the people, sharing all the world.
You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.
I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.
Imagine love is flowing, no scarcity of care—
Holiness surrounds us, the sacred everywhere.
Imagine awe and wonder, replacing greed and fear.
You may say we’re all dreamers, but we’re not the only ones—
Tikkun and Spirit soaring, and the world will live as one!
Sing songs of liberation! Study the Song of Songs—the traditional reading for Passover.
Chasal The Seder has been completed according to the traditional requirements.
If you wish to build a spiritual community that supports the values and orientation in the above Haggadah, please join the Network of Spiritual Progressives at spiritualprogressives.org and subscribe to Tikkun magazine at tikkun.org/subscribe. Help us build a Tikkun community and/or NSP chapter in your area by creating a monthly study group of the articles in Tikkun’s print version or the articles on the web. Remember, though, that only our signed editorials represent our position—we encourage a wide diversity of views in Tikkun. And, if you live in the Bay Area, you can also join Beyt Tikkun synagogue-without-walls (beyttikkun.org) and actually do this seder with us!
This Haggadah was composed by Rabbi Michael Lerner (email@example.com), chair of the Network of Spiritual Progressives, editor of Tikkun, and rabbi of Beyt Tikkun synagogue-without-walls (which means we don’t have the money to buy our own building).
If you found this set of ideas, this supplement to the traditional Haggadah, useful and inspiring, please give back by supporting Tikkun, the Network of Spiritual Progressives and/or Beyt Tikkun). Donations to Tikkun are tax-deductible (visit tikkun.org/donate). Or mail a check to Tikkun at 2342 Shattuck Ave, #1200, Berkeley, CA 94704. And even if you have no money, you can support us by volunteering in our office, or in your own home town by bringing together a group of people to read Tikkun articles together once every two weeks or one a month!