The Tikkun Passover Seder Supplement for 2016/5776
This is meant as a supplement to the traditional Haggadah. You can use it in addition to a traditional Haggadah, introducing whichever parts you like to your Seder to provoke a lively discussion. Or you can use this as the basis for an alternative Haggadah, which can then be supplemented by the traditional Haggadah.
Pronunciation guide: we write kh to get the sound you get when pronouncing the first two letters of Chanukah or the third and fourth letters of le’cha’im.
A NOTE TO NON-JEWS
You are very welcome at our Seder! 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 which is found in many other religious and spiritual traditions, as well: 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 this universal experience of nature and adds another dimension: it suggests that class structure (slavery, feudalism, capitalism, or neoliberal imperialism) can be overcome. We human beings, created in the image of the Transformative Power of the Universe (YHVH, Yud Hey Vav Hey, a.k.a. God), can create a world based on love, generosity, justice, and peace.
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 all in one transcendent and immanent reality.
OUR CHALLENGE AND OUR REDEMPTIVE HOPE
When faced with the enormity of the environmental crisis created in large part by advanced industrial societies, the temptation is to take a small piece of the crisis and see what we can do to fix it. Recycle here, stop fracking there, or oppose a new oil pipeline. Yet for every struggle won, the dynamics of capitalist economies—which must continually find new raw materials, create new markets, seek growth, and promote ever-new forms of consumption and ways to exploit the physical world—guarantee that larger forms of destruction will continue. Until we have a globally unified environmental movement with an articulated vision of how to replace the capitalist marketplace with an environmentally friendly economic system, even the most concerned environmentalists are in danger of despairing and giving up.
That’s why Tikkun and the Network of Spiritual Progressives have advanced the Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the US Constitution (ESRA), which would require the largest corporations selling goods or services in the United States to prove a satisfactory history of environmental responsibility in order to keep doing business here.
As we campaign for this, we need, in addition to the thousands of local projects working to save the planet, a campaign for a New Bottom Line that evaluates our social, economic, and political systems and institutions as “efficient, rational, or productive” not to the extent that they maximize money and power (the Old Bottom Line), but to the extent that they maximize love, generosity, environmental sanity, and sustainability; enhance our capacity to transcend a narrow utilitarian or instrumental attitude toward each other by treating one another as embodiments of the sacred; and respect nature by responding to it with awe, wonder, and radical amazement—cherishing it rather than just exploiting it or treating it as a commodity to be sold.
Unrealistic? Yes. Just like every other liberation struggle and attempt to move beyond the narrow consciousness of what is possible that has been drummed into our heads by the pharaohs of every age. Passover must become the time to replenish our energies, to become the agents of an expanded consciousness that can envision and create a world that lives in harmony with planet Earth—God’s gift to us.
Around your Seder table, take turns reading aloud the paragraphs below.
Sing the order of the Seder: Kadesh, Urchatz, Karpas, Yachatz, Magid, Rachtsah, Motzi, Matzah, 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 world’s people 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. This 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 an 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, despairing, depressed, or resigned—hence enslaved to an oppressive reality.
Yet in every generation there is a different voice, the voice of the Force of Healing and Transformation, Yud Hey Vav Hey, Adonai, Yah, Shechinah, 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—whatever it is about the universe that makes it possible to overcome the internalized oppression we all carry, so that we are able to participate in the struggles to heal and transform the world.
Yet as much as we must celebrate the victories of the past, we are also sadly aware of the oppressive realities of the present.
Now ask people at your Seder to list some of those oppressive realities.
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 onlythe homeless, the jobless, the underemployed, the African Americans who are often targets of random violence from police or others, but also those who can’t vote as new racist laws are enacted to prevent people of color from participating in the democratic process, those who are filling up our jails and prisons (often for drug offenses that are rarely punished when committed by upper-middle-class whites), those who are working more than one job in order to help support their families, and of course the millions of refugees who are being turned away from countries that can afford to take them in.
While some of us don’t suffer from the forms of deprivation described above, all of us do suffer from a spiritual and psychological deprivation generated by the ethos of the global capitalist system. Many of us 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. People today increasingly report that even their friends, spouses, or children seem to see them through the frame of the questions, “What have you done for me lately?” and “What can you give me to satisfy my needs?”
No wonder people feel unrecognized, disrespected, and very lonely, even when they are part of a family or a loving relationship. These are also the downtrodden, a part of the 99 percent: victims of the very same system that makes people jobless, homeless, hungry, or desperate, and scared that they will soon be among the economic casualties of this system—a system that teaches us to close our eyes to others’ suffering.
The spiritual distortions of contemporary capitalist society are transmitted daily through each of us to the extent that we, 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.
Pause here for a moment to look around and see the beauty of everyone at this Seder!
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. 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 peoples are truly free.
Recite the following and drink the first glass:
Barukh ata YHVH, Eloheynu Melekh Ha’olam Borey pree ha gafen.
Now, create blessings and toasts to the struggles for liberation that continue around the world.
We thank God and the universe for enabling us to celebrate together this evening. Brukh ata YHVH Eloheynu melekh ha’olam, sheh’hekhee’yanu, veh’keey’eh’manu veh’hee’g’ee’yanu la’zman ha’zeh.
Drink the first cup of grape juice or wine.
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 in the contemporary world 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, that they may become known to the powerful as “disloyal” or “dissidents.” In capitalist societies, it is not just external coercion but also the internalization of the worldviews of the powerful that make the oppressed willing participants in the system. As we do the Urchatz on Passover, we symbolically wash our hands of this participation in our own oppression.
Hand washing without a blessing.
We eat a vegetable and celebrate 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 if we create a global economic system that no longer relies on endless growth or promotes the notion that well-being comes from accumulating and owning things and experiences. Ecological sanity cannot be achieved without global economic justice.
Dip some parsley, celery, or another green vegetable into the salt water. This is symbolic not only of our past suffering from oppression, but also of our tears for the suffering of the earth, and the suffering of all on this planet who are caught up in systems of oppression. Then, close your eyes and take a few minutes to visualize the earth as a living organism whose suffering you allow yourself to consciously experience.
Brukha at Yah Shekhinah, ru’akh khey ha’olamim, boreyt pree ha’adamah.
Adamah, veh’ Shamayim
Adamah, veh’ Shamayim Chom Ha’esh, u’Tslil Ha’Mayim, Ani margish zeh beh’gufi, ruchi veh nishmati
Love the earth, love the sky, heat of fire, drop of water. I can feel it in my body, in my spirit, and in my soul! Heya heya heya heya heya heya heya ho!
Celebrate and love each other! Build a world of peace and justice! We can do it in our lifetime, we can save our planet earth. Heya heya…
Bottom line: awe and wonder, love and kindness, social justice. End the suffering of our planet, be God’s love, be God’s peace. Heya Heya…
We break the middle matzah in half, acknowledging our own brokenness and recognizing that imperfect people can usher in liberation. There’s no sense in waiting until we are totally pure and psychologically and spiritually healthy to get involved intikkun (the healing and repair of the world). It will be imperfect people—the wounded—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 socially transformative movements. And whenever we tell ourselves that we have to postpone being involved in social transformation work until we are the fullest embodiment of our most ideal and healthy selves, we are electing to allow the status quo to continue, because that state of perfection will never come except as a result of working on both the psycho-spiritual level and the institutional-change level at the same time.
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.
The broken matzah may also be seen as symbolizing the need for the Jewish people to give up the fantasy of controlling all of Palestine, when in fact what is needed is either a two-state solution or one democratic state with equal rights for all.
The State of Israel calls itself “the state of the Jewish people.” Many of us who have had the opportunity to live there for any length of time have come to love and cherish Israel for many reasons. Sadly, it is also a state which is known globally for its human-rights violations, the slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza, the seizure of Arab and Bedouin lands, the imprisonment of thousands of Palestinians without trial by their peers, the revelations by Israeli soldiers of acts of brutality they personally witnessed their peers committing in Gaza and the West Bank, and assaults on random West Bank Palestinians and the destruction of their olive trees. All this has been documented by the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, Rabbis for Human Rights in Israel, and the soldiers’ organization Breaking the Silence. These are not isolated incidents. They are the inevitable consequences of imposing and enforcing the Occupation. On this Passover, we call upon all people—all Jews, and our fellow Americans of all religions and none—to do everything in their power to support the peace movement in Israel and Palestine and to push, in every nonviolent way possible, to end the Occupation by 2017, the fiftieth anniversary of the start of the Occupation. Enough is enough.
Lift the matzah:
This is the bread of affliction that our ancestors ate as they were liberated from Egypt. Let all who are hungry come and eat. This year we are here, next year we will be in a world liberated from pain and oppression!
But as we say 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. We in the wealthier countries of the world live in contradiction to this inclination toward generosity.
When we say, “Let all who are hungry come and eat,” we also include those who are hungry for spiritual nourishment. Our society, based on selfishness and materialism, often makes spiritual consciousness seem irrelevant or trivial. Too many people seek meaning or compensation from loneliness and meaninglessness in drugs, alcohol, profligate sex, addiction to television, or shopping, or sports, or power, or in fundamentalist or even violent religious and nationalist communities. These perverse responses to a perverse reality can only be fully overcome when the ethos of global capitalism is replaced by a global ethos of love, generosity, love of the earth, and awe and wonder at the grandeur of the universe—in short, what we at Tikkun call The Caring Society—Caring for Each Other and Caring for the Earth.
This is a taste of what a Seder conducted according to a Judaism of Love—an Emancipatory and Transformative Judaism—will look like. Yet this is only the very beginning of the Seder—we haven’t even reached the Four Questions or the story of our liberation from Egypt. The complete version of this supplement can’t fit into these pages, so please visit our website at www.tikkun.org/JudaismofLoveSeder to download the full version. Then join us to build a Judaism of Love—an Emancipatory and Transformative Judaism. Will you? The first step is easy: join, at no cost, our Judaism of Love movement, part of the Network of Spiritual Progressives, atwww.spiritualprogressives.org/Judaismof Love.
If you happen to be in the SF Bay Area in April, register at www.beyttikkun.org to attend our second-night Seder on April 23.
(To return to the Spring 2016 Table of Contents, click here.)
Tikkun 2016 Volume 31, Number 2: 54-58