The Tikkun Passover Supplement (Spring 2014 Print Version)
This is meant as a supplement to the traditional Haggadah, not as an alternative to it. A more full version of this supplement can be found online at tikkun.org/passover.
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.
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 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—who hate anyone who teaches that society can 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 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 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.
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 the current embodiment of Pharaoh-like oppression for the Palestinian people. 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 vastly greater power and hence 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 or were forced out 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.” This is the spirit of generosity which is the authentic Jewish spirit, so we must reject all those who tell us that “there is not enough” or that “we cannot afford” to end global and domestic poverty, hunger, homelessness, inadequate education, and inadequate health care. There is enough, we are enough, and we can afford to share.
We tell the story of our liberation struggle with embellishments! First we let the children ask the four traditional questions. 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.
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.
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.
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 recite the blessing after our 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 will lack delicious and healthy food.
After the blessing, as we drink the third cup of wine or grape juice, we remember the suffering of our people during the Holocaust. We remember tonight our millions of sisters and brothers who perished at the hands of the Nazis and of the many willing executioners among the peoples of Eastern Europe. And we also remember the Jewish martyrs throughout the ages who were oppressed, beaten, raped, and murdered by European Christians. We do this despite our despair at those Jews who have illegitimately used the memory of our suffering to legitimate the oppression by Jews of the Palestinian people, or to justify insensitivity toward others who are suffering in the world today. Tonight we also recall with deep appreciation the many non-Jews who did stand up for Jews, who risked their lives to save Jewish lives, and who remained true to the best values of their own ethical and religious traditions.
Sing songs of hope for spiritual and political transformation (e.g., We Shall Overcome, Imagine, Ode Yavoe Shalom).
Sing songs of praise to Goddess of the universe.
We say: Next year in a world of peace, justice, love, and generosity—L’shanah ha’ba!
Lerner, Michael. 2014. The Tikkun Passover Supplement. Tikkun 29(2):9