The New Freedom Seder, 2012: Occupy Holy Week/ Occupy Passover

By Avi Katz: The Matzah Globe

SEE PHOTOS from April 1 in Philadelphia and in NYC! Click here for PHL March and Freedom Seder and click here for NYC  Occupy Passover/Occupy Holy Week albums on Facebook.

First question: “Mah nishtanah haSeder hazeh miKol Sedarim? Why is this Seder different from all other Seders?”  Questions & answers for this portion of the Seder could be done in Occupy “mic-check” style, with the community as a whole.  — Invite answers from participants. For example: “Because this Seder is about our lives today, not 3,000 years ago; because this Seder speaks from and for The 99% — of all religions, ethnic groups, colors …“  — Because we will begin with the bitterness of oppression and walk step by step toward the Beloved Community of Justice , Peace, and Freedom


“I felt as if my legs were praying.”
-- Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, coming back home from the voting-rights March in Selma, Alabama, 1965

"Prayer is meaningless unless it is subversive, unless it seeks to overthrow and to ruin the pyramids of callousness, hatred, opportunism, falsehoods. The liturgical movement must become a revolutionary movement, seeking to overthrow the forces that continue to destroy the promise, the hope, the vision."  -- Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, 1970


 [All say together:]

It is our task to make from fire
  Not an all-consuming blaze

But the light in which we see each other;

Each of us different,
  All of us made in the image of God.
We light this fire to see more clearly

That the earth, the human race, 
are not for burning.

We light this fire to see more clearly

The rainbow in our many-colored faces.

Blessed are you, YHWH our God, Breathing Spirit of the Universe, who gives us light that we who gather here today may become a light for peace and freedom and healing for all peoples and our planet.

Blessed are you, Yahh, Breathing Spirit of the Universe, who has breathed life into us, lifted us up, and carried us to reach this moment.

[Light candles at each table.]

(With care, singable to the traditional tune. Do Mic-check style.)

Each Passover Seder Teaches:
Celebrate each step toward Freedom,
Dayenu!  Wonderful!

One Tunisian Died despairing,
Thousands Rose to win their Freedom:
Dayenu!  Wonderful!

Egyptians overcame their tyrant
Appealing peacefully to the Army:
Dayenu!  Wonderful!

At the Capitol – Madison, Wisconsin
100,000 Resisted Union-bustin':
Dayenu!  Wonderful!

In New York City Dozens Tented
Calling out to “Occupy Wall Street”:
Dayenu!  Wonderful!

Then Hundreds Walked on Brooklyn Bridge:
Police attacked and the World took notice.
Dayenu!  Wonderful!

Across the Continent the People Saw,
They Occupied space in a myriad cities:
Dayenu!  Wonderful!

In London and Australia, in Africa and Israel,
The many many Thousands Gathered:
Dayenu!  Wonderful!

Police Attacked and the People Bent;
The people bent but did not Break:
Dayenu!  Wonderful!

The Godly and the Secular
Stand Arm in Arm to Free our Land:
Dayenu!  Wonderful!

The Generations Intertwine
And here We Are! – Yes, here we are!
Dayenu!  Wonderful!

You Who Interbreathe all Life
Give Us, the 99%,
The Strength to Overcome through Love
For Justice and Community.
Dayenu! Wonderful!

Dai, dayenu, dai dayenu, dai dayenu –
Dayenu dayenu!


1) Give everyone a piece of raw horse-radish. Why do we eat this Bitterness?

Answers from people who have suffered from the bitterness of oppression. Homeless person, disemployed person, college student or grad in deep debt but no job or prospect, sick person whose insurance company has been denying coverage or who can’t afford necessary meds, child with asthma from choking on gas fumes and coal smoke.

Turning workers into slaves. Someone reads:]
"So the Tight Place made the Godwrestlers subservient with crushing-labor; they embittered their lives with hard servitude in clay and in bricks and with all kinds of servitude in the field, all their serfdom in which they made them subservient with crushing-labor. (Exodus 1: 13-14.)

"Look," one Nicaraguan free trade zone worker says, "some people might say, What are you all complaining about? Wouldn’t you rather work in a factory even if the conditions are bad and you don’t get paid much, than have no job at all? No.. I support my family and I like working. But that doesn’t mean that gives other people the right to come and we always have to say, yes, yes, yes, for everything, and we’ll have to be beaten and hit, just like a dog when it gets hit and it just moves its tail and it comes back. No, we’re not going to do that. That’s like slaves. That’s past time. We came to the point where we said, It’s enough. And that’s why we formed the union."  --  Source: National Public Radio, August 18, 2000.

2.  Take sprigs of parsley,  dip them in salt water, pass them around the table, and say]:

Blessed are you, YHWH our God, Breathing Spirit of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the earth.

Question: Why do we eat these greens, and why do we dip them in salt water?  “Because the Earth is green and fertile, but with salt tears we mourn its wounds.”  Answers from an urban farmer, an eco-activist, an anti-fracking activist, people at the tables: Spring & the sprouting of new life; Life begins in the salty oceans, salty tears of sorrow for the wounded waters and the wounded Earth.

 [Everyone then eats this piece of parsley.

3.  Blood-red beet.  Why do we eat this blood-red beet? “To remember the sacrifices, deaths, and woundings of those who have struggled for justice.”     Especially now, we remember the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on  April 4, 1968.
"If we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism."  --  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,  April 4, 1967

I have been to the mountaintop. … I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!  -- --  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., April 3, 1968

Invite other names of those who have been killed in their work for justice.

Everyone eats a chunk of the beet.

4.  Matzah:
Everyone gets one “sheet” of matzah. Each person breaks the matzah and hands one piece to her/his neighbor or actually feeds the matzah to the neighbor.

Why do we eat this pressed-down bread? --  Because it is the bread of a pressed-down people. --  Why do we break the matzah?  ---  Because we need to break the matzah if we are to share it. Why do we share the matzah? Because if we do not share it, it remains the bread of affliction; when we share it, it becomes the bread of freedom.

Other answers from people who are working on food justice, working for remission of international debt of poorest nations (Jubilee USA), people at the tables.

"My thinking had been opened wide in Mecca. I'm for truth, no matter who tells it. I'm for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I'm a human being first and foremost, and as such I'm for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole."
--- El-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, in The Autobiography of Malcolm X

***  The Plagues

The ten plagues of the Exodus story were all ecological disasters. We interrupt the foods that mark our Seder to address them at this point in the Seder because they interrupted the flow of food to human beings and other life-forms, in the ancient past and in the present. The Plagues were not lightning-bolts flung by a Super-Pharaoh in the sky, but eco-disasters brought about by the arrogance and stubbornness of a top-down, unaccountable ruler, Pharaoh. Today, what Plagues are our own “pharaohs,” the 1%, the global corporations, bringing on our Earth?

As the community recites the Plagues, we grieve for the Earth and human beings who have suffered from these Plagues by diminishing our pleasure in the fruit of the vine. For each Plague, we drop some grape-juice from our glasses.

Ñ    Undrinkable water poisoned by fracking.
Ñ    Asthma: Lungs suffering from coal dust and gasoline fumes.
Ñ    Suffering and death for fish, birds, vegetation, and human beings from the oil upheaval in the Gulf of Mexico.
Ñ    Smashed mountains and dead coal-miners in the lovely hills of West Virginia.
Ñ    Unheard-of droughts in Africa, Russia, Texas, and Oklahoma.
Ñ    Unheard-of floods in Pakistan, putting one-fifth of the country under water.

Participants add other Plagues of today.

If the people speak and the king doesn't listen, there is something wrong with the king. If the king acts precipitously and the people say nothing, something is wrong with the people.
— Sister Joan Chittister
5. Cup of wine or grape juice: Why do we drink this fruit of the vine?  -- Because grapes grow not alone but in clusters, and we must work for freedom and justice and peace not separately but in clusters. (Someone different reads each passage:)

Now the king said to the midwives of the Hebrews, whose names were Shifrah,& Puah:
"When you help the Hebrew women give birth, if he be a son, put him to death; but if she be a daughter, she may live." But the midwives held God in awe, and they let the children live. God dealt well with the midwives. (Exodus 1: 16-21).

 "God came into the picture. What was the sign that God had come? A bush that burned and burned and did not stop burning. Moses had had a fire kindled in his heart once, but it died down. God is the Being whose heart does not stop burning, whose flame does not die down.

"What was God all burned up about? The voice said, 'I have seen the affliction of my people in the Tight & Narrow Place and have heard them cry out because of their oppression."'
"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, a land flowing with milk and honey."' (A. J. Muste , 1943).

 (All join in singing:)
When Israel was in Egypt's land,
Let my people go;
Oppressed so hard they could not stand,
Let my people go!
Go down, Moses,
'Way down in Egypt's land;
Tell ol' Pharaoh,
Let my people go!
Thus says the Lord,
bold Moses said,
Let my people go;
If not I'll smite your first-born dead;
Let my people go!
No more shall they in bondage toil,
Let my people go;
Let them come out with Egypt's spoil,
Let my people go!
We need not always weep and mourn,
Let my people go;
And wear these slav'ry chains forlorn,
Let my people go!
The devil thought he had us fast,
Let my people go;
But we thought we'd break his chains at last,
Let my people go!
[All say together:]

"At the end of every seven years you shall grant a Release.  Every creditor shall Release what s/he has lent to a neighbor; s/he shall not exact it of the neighbors, because YHWH [Yahhh] the Interbreathing of all life, has proclaimed a Release from debt.

" Do not harden your heart or shut your hand against your neighbors who are poor --

“Rather you shall open your hand to them, and lend them sufficient for their need, whatever it may be. You shall give to them freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to them; because for this YHWH [Yahhh] your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake.

“ I command you this today so that you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Mitzrayyim, the Tight and Narrow Place, and YHWH [Yahhh] your God, the Interbreathing of all life, liberated you. “ -- Deut. 15

"When I dare to be powerful — to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid."  --  Audre Lorde

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: "This is not just."
          --  Martin Luther King, April 4, 1967

A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death -- Martin Luther King, April 4, 1967

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.
Building Jerusalem./ 
I sing forever on the seashore./ 
I do remember 
horseman and horses / waves of passage 
poured into war,
/ all poured into journey.
/ My unseen brothers 
have gone over,
 deep seas under/ .
I alone stand here
 ankle-deep / 
and I sing, I sing,
until the lands
 sing to each other.   ---Muriel Rukeyser

6.  Orange.  Why do we eat an orange? --  The orange was first used because it had NOT been on the traditional Seder plate. Making present what had been left out was first intended to affirm lesbians who had been left out of the recognized community; then all the marginalized of society. (Someone reads:)

Fannie Lou Hamer, leader of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, when the President of the United States offered the MFDP two symbolic seats at the Democratic National Convention instead of recognizing the whole MFDP as the legitimate delegation: "We didn't come all this way for no two seats when all of us is tired."

 “ The prosperous and mighty of our day still live at a dizzying height above the wretched of the earth, yet the latter have made their will felt in ways that have already changed history, and can change it more.
Their cooperative power has as its chief instrument direct action, both noncooperative and constructive. This power can be spiritual in inspiration but doesn't have to be. Its watchwords are love and freedom, yet it is not just an ideal but a real force in the world.
It must now be brought to bear on the choice between survival and annihilation. Whether combined with violence, as in peoples war, sustained by a constitution, as in democracy, or standing alone, as in satyagraha or living in truth, it is becoming the final arbiter of the public affairs of our time and the political bedrock of our unconquerable world.
— Jonathan Schell, The Unconquerable World

"Solidarity Forever":)
Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
For the movement makes us strong.

In our hands is placed a power greater than their hoarded gold,
Greater than the might of armies magnified a thousand fold,
We shall bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old,
For the movement makes us strong.

In a free society, some are guilty. But all are responsible.
--- Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, 1944; 1964.

 [After discussion, all sing:]
Go tell it on the mountain, Over the hills and everywhere.
Go tell it on the mountain  -- Let my people go!
 Who are the people dressed in white? 
Let my people go!  Must be the children of the Israelite.
Let my people go!
  Who are the people dressed in red? Let my people go!
  Must be the people that Moses led. Let my people go! 
Who are the people dressed in black?  Let my people go!  
Must be the hypocrites a-turning back. Let my people go!

(Someone reads:)
In those years, people will say, we lost track
of the meaning of we, of you
we found ourselves
reduced to I
and the whole thing became
silly, ironic, terrible:
we were trying to live a personal life
and yes, that was the only life
we could bear witness to
But the great dark birds of history screamed and plunged
into our personal weather
They were headed somewhere else but their beaks and pinions drove
along the shore, through the rags of fog
where we stood, saying I
— Adrienne Rich, In Those Years

(Someone reads:)
  Before entering Miquat (where you get ready to start the Hajj {Pilgrimage to Mecca]) which is the beginning of a 
great change and revolution, you must declare your intention. It is the intention of a "transferral" from your house 
to the house of people, from life to love, from the self to God, from slavery to freedom, from racial discrimination 
to equality, sincerity and truth, from being clothed to being naked, from a daily life to an eternal life and from
 selfishness and aimlessness to devotion and responsibility.

    — Ali Shariati, Hajj

7.. Charoset: Why do we eat charoset? --  Because by mixing apples, apricots, and raisins, nuts and cinnamon, wine and cloves, it embodies the tastes and smells of the Song of Songs, the earthy poem of love and eros  --  the springtime when flowers rise up against winter, the juices of love arise from the depths of depression, and the night-time of history gives way to the sunlight of Eden, the garden of delight; the Earth and humans at loving peace with one another.

 (Someone says:)
Come with me, my love, come away,
For the long wet months are past,
The rains have fed the earth
And left it bright with blossoms.
Birds wing in the low sky,
Dove and songbird singing
In the open air above,
Earth nourishing tree and vine,
Green fig and tender grape,
Green and tender fragrance.
Come with me, my love, come away.
Do-di li va-a-ni lo; Ha-ro-eh ba-sho-sha-nim  (Repeat)
Mi zot olah Min hamidbar, Mi zot olah
M'kituret mor, Mor u-livonah Mor u-livonah( Chorus)
Uri tzafon u-vo-i teymann Uri tzafon u-vo-i teyman

Morning Has Broken
Morning has broken like the first morning;
blackbird has spoken like the first bird.
Praise for the singing! Praise for the morning!
Praise for them springing fresh from the Word.
Sweet the rain's new fall sunlit from heaven,
like the first dew fall on the first grass.
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden,
sprung in completeness where Our feet pass.
Mine is the sunlight! Mine is the morning
born of the one light Eden saw play!
Praise with elation, praise every morning,
God's recreation of the new day!
--------- Eleanor Farjeon
(Sing this translation of Psalm 149 to the tune of "Michael Row the Boat Ashore."

Praise Yah in the heavens, halleluyah.

Praise God in the heights, halleluyah.

Praise God, all you angels, halleluyah.

Praise Yah, all you hosts, halleluyah.

Praise God, sun and moon, halleluyah.

Praise Yah, you stars of light, halleluyah.

Praise God, you high heavens, halleluyah.

All that flows in all the world, halleluyah.
Let them all praise God's Name, halleluyah.

For God spoke and they appeared, halleluyah.

With God they take their stand, halleluyah.

God's rhythm none can break, halleluyah.

Praise Yah from the earth, halleluyah.

You sea-monsters and all deeps, halleluyah.

Fire, hail, snow, and steam, halleluyah.

Stormy wind to do God's word, halleluyah.

Mountains high and small hills, halleluyah.

Trees of fruit and cedars too,halleluyah.

Wild beasts and quiet flocks, halleluyah.

Creeping things and winged birds, halleluyah.

Leaders and officials, halleluyah.

 Societies and peoples, halleluyah.

Young men and women, too, halleluyah.Let us praise the holy Name, halleluyah.

For God's Name includes us all, halleluyah.

 God's radiance shines out, halleluyah.

And God lifts the people's hearts, halleluyah.

 For all who wrestle God, halleluyah.

For all who bring God close, halleluyah.

At each table, someone pours juice from the Cup of Elijah, sitting untasted in the center of the table, into each person's glass.]
{All say together:]
I take responsibility to become the Prophet Elijah,
"turning the hearts of the parents to the children 
and the hearts of the children to the parents,
 lest the earth be utterly destroyed."
And each drinks from the glass.

(All sing:)

O Freedom!
 O Freedom!
 O Freedom over me! 

And before I'd be a slave 
I'd be buried in my grave

And go home to my God and be free!

No more killing...
No more hunger ...
No more pollution ...
No more racism ...
No more sexism ...


We shall overcome, We shall overcome.
We shall overcome some day!
Deep in my heart, I do believe,
We shall overcome some day.
We'll walk hand in hand..(Repeat).
Black and white together... (Repeat...)
Christian, Muslim, Jew (Repeat)
We are not afraid... (Repeat...)
The people shall be free... (Repeat...)
We shall live in peace... (Repeat...)
We shall overcome!


This little light of mine/ I'm gonna let it shine (x3)
Let it shine/ Let it shine/ Let it shine.

Everywhere I go/ I'm gonna let it shine (x3)
Let it shine/ Let it shine/ Let it shine.


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