Four New Questions for the Passover Seder

  1. Why do we break the matzah in two before we eat it?

Matzah, the pressed-down bread that embodies the "fierce urgency of Now," was both the bread of the oppressed and the bread of freedom.

If we keep the whole matzah for ourselves, it remains the bread of affliction. Only if we share the matzah can it become the bread of freedom. We must break the matzah in two in order to share it with each other.

If we hold all our abundance, our prosperity, for ourselves, the withholding brings forth anger and resentment, guilt and fear. The abundant bread becomes the bread of affliction. Only if we share our abundance with each other can it become the bread of freedom.

If we gobble all the abundance of our Mother Earth for human society alone, leaving no space for other life-forms, the Earth will choke and curdle. Whatever bread may barely grow will bear affliction. Only if we share our air, our water, with the myriad shapes of life will all this growing birth our freedom.

If we hold our own knowledge, our own wisdom, for ourselves alone, we end up in a Narrowness that enslaves us. Only if we share our wisdom with other traditions, other communities, and open ourselves to learn from them, can our wisdom lead to freedom. [Mitzrayyim, the Hebrew word for Egypt, actually means  “Tight and Narrow Place.”]

If we try to hold the whole land for ourselves, even the Land of Israel, the land will remain a land of affliction. Only if we share it with another people can it become the land of freedom.

And so, at the beginning of the Seder we break the matzah, and at the end of the Seder we share its pieces with each other, to eat the bread of freedom.

2. Why is there an orange on the Seder plate?

 Of all the foods upon the Seder plate, only the orange bears the seeds that can grow the next generation of our freedom.

The orange first came to us as the newly fruitful gift of those who had been treated as outsiders to our community – – lesbians and gay men, Jews by choice, women, the blind and those whose minds or tongues were stammering.

All these have sown the seeds of creativity. If these seeds flower, they will sow new generations of the unexpected.

3. Why is there charoset on the Seder plate, and why do we linger on its delicious taste? 

Because charoset embodies the delicious Song of Songs, which itself celebrates the embodiment of love among human beings and love between the earth and human earthlings. All the many recipes for charoset draw on the ingredients named only in the cookbook of the Song of Songs – – wine, nuts, fruit, spices.

We are taught to recite the Song of Songs during Passover in order to remind us that the joy of freedom cannot be celebrated in human societies alone; as in the time of Eden, all Earth must sing for joy.

In Eden, the Garden of Delight, we humans tried to gobble all the fruitfulness of Earth. So Eden ended with an Earth turned stingy and with half the human race subjugated to the other half. Passover calls us to Eden once again, where love and freedom join in fuller celebration.

4. These are three questions. What is the fourth question?

 That is the fourth question.



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