For Adelphi Friends Meeting First Day School, 2012
INTRODUCTION: The Passover Seder is one of the oldest traditions in the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam). In the Old Testament law book, Leviticus, Chapter 23, we are instructed to celebrate the feast of unlevened bread. It is a time to tell the story of how Israelites and Egyptians suffered as the Israelites escaped from slavery and raced to their freedom. It is also a time to think about how we might suffer now to be fully free, and to win freedom for others oppressed today by slavery, hunger and prejudice.
PREPARATION: Ancient Jewish law and modern hygiene both teach us to wash our hands before eating. We do so to keep our bodies healthy and our spirits fresh.
[We will begin by lighting candles and then each person in turn will continue by reading a paragraph.]
Welcome to all as we celebrate the Passover seder. It is a time of joy and relaxation, a time to ponder our history and find its relevance to our lives today. And it is a time to renew our courage in order to transform our planet into a place of peace.
"Passover" refers to the night when the Angel of Death passed over the Jewish houses in Egypt. This occurred around 1200 BC when 600,000 Jews were slaves in Egypt. Passover falls on the first full moon of Spring, the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan. It is known as the Festival of Spring. We celebrate the Earth's renewal, and remind ourselves of the interdependence we share with all that lives on our planet.
The Passover Seder is a time for Jewish people to recall their ancestors' past as slaves in Egypt and to identify with the suffering and hardships that are part of a people regaining their freedom. For many the Seder is a time to reaffirm the most human traditions of the Jewish people and its identification with enslaved peoples the world over.
SONG SUGGESTION: Go Down Moses, Number 294
Since drinking wine is not part of Friends tradition, we will use grape juice.
THE FIRST GLASS OF WINE OR GRAPE JUICE
<Raise the first glass of wine.>
Behold this cup of wine. Let it be a symbol of our joy tonight as we celebrate the festival of Passover. On this night, long years ago, our ancestors heard the call of freedom. Tonight the call rings out again, commanding us to champion the cause of all the oppressed, summoning all the peoples throughout the world to be free. Let us raise our glass in gratitude that this call can still be heard. Let us give thanks that the love of freedom still burns among us. Let us work and pray for the time when all the world will be liberated from cruelty, tyranny, oppression and war. We give thanks for life and the opportunity to celebrate this season together.
PRAISED BE THOU, O GOD, RULER OF THE UNIVERSE, WHO HAS CREATED THE
FRUIT OF THE VINE.
Bo'ray p'ri hagoffen ("Bo'ray paree hug often")
<Drink from the first glass of wine or grape juice.>
THE PARSLEY AND THE SALT WATER
<Each person holds up a piece of parsley>
These greens are a symbol of Spring. We celebrate the coming season, the joy and freshness of new growth, the sense of hope in renewal. We dip the parsley in salt water to remind us of the tears shed in slavery and oppression. As we eat the parsley we renew our hope for the future and our pledge to work until all people are free.
ALL: praised be thou O God, ruler of the Universe, who HAS created fruit of the earth.
THREE SYMBOLS: PESACH, MATZO, AND MARROR
Pesach or Pascal Lamb: We are reminded that the blood of the lamb was used to mark the doorposts of Jewish homes in Egypt so that the plagues would "pass over" them. Because we choose to affirm all animal life, no bone is present here.
Matzo: Passover is "the feast of unleavened bread." On the table are three matzo. The family usually has one loaf of bread at the evening meal. On Sabbath there would be two. A third is added for the special festival of Passover. The middle Matzo has a special name, "the Afikomen." We break it in half and at some point during the evening we will hide it. The Seder ends when the Afikomen is found and a ransom paid for its return.
What is the meaning of matzo? When our ancestors were fleeing from Egypt they did not have time to bake bread for their journey, so they carried the flattened dough on their backs and it baked in the sun.
<The top matzo is broken and distributed, each person holds up a piece.>
This is the bread of affliction which our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. As we eat it, let us be reminded of others who are hungry and let us resolve to strive for the day when all may celebrate together enjoying freedom, justice and peace.
<Put the matzo aside, uneaten.>
<Everyone receives a portion of bitter herbs.>
Maror: The bitter herbs serve to remind us of the bitterness of our ancestor's experience as slaves.
<Each person takes a bit of bitter herb on a piece of matzo.>
ALL: Praised be thou, O God, ruler of the universe, who has brought forth bread from the earth.
<Eat matzo and bitter herb.>
The Hillel Sandwich: Harosses is a sweet blend of apples, nuts and honey to resemble the mortar that the slaves used to build the pyramids. In typically Jewish fashion we combine matzo, bitter herbs and sweet harosses to remind us of the dream of freedom that brought hope amidst the suffering, the bitterness of slavery and the joy of freedom.<Everyone has a hillel sandwich.>
THE SECOND GLASS OF WINE OR GRAPE JUICE
The four glasses of wine correspond to our hopes for liberation to come for peoples throughout the world. To freedom! to life! to peace! to Jerusalem.
<Raise the second glass of wine, but don't drink yet.>
Every Jew should feel as though he or she had taken part in the Exodus from Egypt. We should therefore give thanks for deliverance from slavery into freedom, from sorrow into joy, from mourning into festivity, from darkness to light and from bondage to redemption.
<Drink from the second glass of wine or grape juice.>
THE FOUR QUESTIONS
It is a tradition on this night to ask the following questions:
Why on this night do we eat only matzo? We were slaves in the land of Egypt. Our mothers in their flight from bondage did not have time to let the dough rise, so they carried the dough as they went.
Why do we eat bitter herbs? We were slaves. We eat bitter herbs because the Egyptians made bitter the lives of our ancestors.
Why do we dip the herbs? We were slaves. The first time we dipped our greens in salt water to taste the tears of enslavement. This reminds us of life and growth. We mix bitter herbs with horasses to remind ourselves that even through the bitterness of slavery, our ancestors were able to sustain themselves with the vision of freedom.
Why do we recline as we eat? We were slaves. Reclining at the table was the sign of freedom in ancient times. On this night we recline to remind ourselves that like our ancestors we can overcome bondage and slavery.
We add a modern question:
Why is there an orange on the table? Susannah Heschel, a well-known Jewish feminist scholar, introduced an orange to the seder plate. She did so while speaking at Oberlin College Hillel, the campus Jewish organization. She chose an orange as a symbol of inclusion of gays and lesbians and others who are marginalized within the Jewish community. She offered the orange as a symbol of the fruitfulness for all Jews when lesbians and gay men are contributing and active members of Jewish life. In addition, each orange segment had a few seeds that had to be spit out--a gesture of spitting out, repudiating the homophobia of Judaism. She writes, "Now the story circulates that a man said to me that a woman belongs on the bimah [podium of a synagogue] as an orange on the seder plate. A woman's words are attributed to a man, and the affirmation of lesbians and gay men is erased. Isn't that precisely what's happened over the centuries to women's ideas?"
From Tamara Cohen, An Orange on the Seder Plate, A modern-day custom in support of including marginalized Jews in mainstream Jewish life
<Everyone should take a piece of matzo. The matzo is blessed with a special blessing. Let us say together.>
For the times when we do not know which way to go, but move forward anyway;
For the times when immediate action is required, and we are able to act swiftly;
For the times when immediate action is the easy answer, and we wait and let the truth ripen;
For the times when we do not know enough to make a decision, but we must decide and so we do:
For the times when we have a hunch, a flash, a knowing that comes to us without our knowledge, and we use these things to guide us:
For our half-thought dreams, our visions, the farthest reaches of what we think we can become;
For movement, despite our fears, despite their obstacles and delays, in times when movement means growth and life;
To all these times, to action, movement, dreaming, we dedicate this matzo.
<Eat a small amount of matzo.>
As part of the Seder we tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt. This version is excerpted from A.J. Muste, by way of Arthur Waskow's Freedom Seder, and edited by Laura Yeomans.
Moses lived in a period of dictatorship. His people were slaves. The bosses made them work under a speed-up system and committed horrible atrocities, such as trying to kill all the boy-babies born to the Jews. Moses himself was saved from such a death only because his mother hid him in a reed basket in the Nile River....
When Moses was a young man he became curious about the Hebrew slaves and one day went to the brickyards where some of them were working. The first thing he saw was an Egyptian boss hitting a Hebrew laborer. He hit the boss and killed him!...A fire had been kindled in Moses' heart, a fire of concern about his people and their suffering. The next day he went back to the hot brickyards.
This time Moses found two Hebrews fighting each other. When he rebuked them, they turned on him and said,"Who made you our boss? Do you mean to kill us as you did the Egyptian yesterday? Moses feared ... they would tell the Egyptians that he killed the boss ... so he ran away. On his flight he met a young woman and her sisters who were having a hard time getting water for their flocks.....Moses drove away some shepherds who were bothering the women. Later he fell in love with one of the women and they married....
Only after a while, God came into the picture. What was the sign that God had come? It was a bush that burned and burned and did not stop burning....God is the Being whose heart does not stop burning, in whom the flame does not die down. The voice that came out of the bush said, "I have seen the affliction of my people that are in Egypt and have heard their cry by reason of their oppressors." It was the physical, economic, and spiritual suffering, the injustice, the degradation to which actual people were subjected here on earth, that caused God concern.
And the proof that God had entered into Moses, and that Moses had really been converted was that he had to go back and identify himself with his enslaved people - organize them into "Brickmakers' Union Number One" - and lead them out of hunger and slavery into freedom and into a "good land, and a large land flowing with milk and honey."
To be religious, the Hebrews discovered, is to get out of Egypt into Canaan; to refuse to be slaves.... And religious leaders are those who identify themselves with the oppressed, in order to carry out their true mission in the world. (This concludes the excerpts by A.J. Muste.)
Moses called upon Pharaoh, "Let my people go." Pharaoh knew of no god who redeems the oppressed. This conception of god revolutionizes the meaning of religion.
THE TEN PLAGUES
recall the ten plagues brought down upon the Egyptians, and as we
name each one, we spill a drop of wine. Our pleasure is lessened as
we remember the suffering of others. Legend has it that when the
angels rejoiced in the suffering of the Egyptians, God rebuked them
saying, "Are these not my people also?" Together we name
the ten plagues: ALL: Blood, frogs, vermin, poisonous beasts,
pestilence, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, slaying of the first
A brief interlude for jumping around, froggies.
Let us now read together a poem that reminds us of Dayenu, a Passover tradition. It is by Arthur Waskow.
If we were to end a single genocide but not stop the other wars that kill as we sit here,
IT WOULD NOT BE SUFFICIENT.
If we were to end the bloody wars, but not disarm the nations of the weapons to destroy the world, IT WOULD NOT BE SUFFICIENT.
If we were to disarm the nations, but not end the brutality with which the police attack blacks in some countries, brown people in others, Moslems in some countries, Hindus in others, Baptists in some countries, atheists in others, communists in some countries and conservatives in others,
IT WOULD NOT BE SUFFICIENT.
If we were to be sure that no one starved, but did not free the daring poets from their jails,
IT WOULD NOT BE SUFFICIENT.
If we were to free the poets from their jails, but not train minds to understand the poets,
IT WOULD NOT BE SUFFICIENT.
If we educated all people to understand the free poets, but forbade them to explore their own internal ecstasies, IT WOULD NOT BE SUFFICIENT.
If we allowed people to explore their inner ecstasies, but did not allow them to love one another and share in the human family, IT WOULD NOT BE SUFFICIENT.
CHORUS (with mounting intensity): Dai, dai, AYnue, dai, dai, AYneu, dai, dai AYnue DaiAYnu, dai ay NU!
<Raise the third glass of wine.)
Let us drink the third glass of wine to our community. Let us drink in recognition of the community around us that encourages all to love one another.
THE PASSOVER MEAL: Let us now eat dinner.
THE CUP OF ELIJAH:
<The front door is opened.>
pour the fourth and final glass of wine, we pour an extra glass for
Elijah. Elijah is the messenger appointed to herald the age when all
peoples throughout the world shall live in justice, peace and
freedom. We open the door of the house to symbolize our faith that
such a time may come and to symbolize our commitment to the stranger
who may enter and join our celebration.
<The door is closed.>
[Pour Miriam's Cup, a cup of water because waters birth new possibility and take on the tastes that we create anew. Someone reads:]
As a child, Miriam reached out to Pharaohs daughter to save the life of her baby brother Moses; together they crossed boundaries of class and race and nation to give a new birth to freedom. As a grown woman, she led the women in rejoicing as the Red Sea waters broke and the birthing went forward. She had the courage to rebuke Moses; and she called forth the well of water that nourished the runaway slaves in the wilderness.
Miriam: The Red Sea
High above shores and times,
I on the shore
forever and ever.
Moses my brother
has crossed over to milk, honey,
that holy land.
I sing forever on the seashore.
I do remember
horseman and horses,
waves of passage
poured into war,
all poured into journey.
My unseen brother
have gone over,
deep seas under.
I alone stand here
and I sing, I sing,
until the lands
sing to each other.
Let us drink the final glass of wine to our future. Once again may we be reminded that our liberation is not yet complete. The tasks before us are many and great. We retell our history to derive from it meaning and hope to carry on. It is traditional to end the Passover with the appeal:
ALL: "Next year in Jerusalem! Next year in a time of peace!"
<Drink the fourth glass of wine.>
SONG SUGGESTION: Vine and Fig Tree, Number 300