New Freedom Seder: Against the Pharaohs of Our Generation

Rabbi Arthur Waskow, 3/7/2004



* Copyright (c) 2004 by The Shalom Center and Rabbi Arthur Waskow for the New Freedom Seder as a whole.

* Copyrights by the authors of their specific passages.
Please ask permission to quote passages or to use the Seder as a whole. Thank you.

Special thanks to Emily Nepon, who in 2004 was Program Director of The Shalom Center, for her work on this project, and to David Friedman and Rabbi Tirzah Firestone for their support.


In every generation, Pharaoh.
In every generation, Freedom.

About three thousand years ago, ancient Israelites fused a shepherds spring celebration of the birthing of lambs and a farmers spring celebration of the sprouting of barley into a spring celebration of their liberation from slavery and the downfall of a tyrant at the hands of YHWH, the Breath of Life.

About two thousand years ago, the Jewish people reshaped that celebration into a Seder that could be eaten and a story told at home.

And the Passover story and celebration entered the blood stream of Christianity as well. It entered through the Palm Sunday demonstrations of a group of Jews who came to ancient Jerusalem at Passover time as part of the general Jewish ferment against the Roman Empire. This specific group was led by Jesus, waving palm branches as a symbol of resistance.

And it entered Christianity more deeply still through the teachings of Jesus in the Last Supper, which seems to have been a Passover Seder,

Still later, Islam welcomed Moses as a prophet:

In the name of Allah, most benevolent, ever-merciful. These are the verses of the illuminating Book. We narrate to you from the history of Moses and Pharaoh in all verity, for those who believe. The Pharaoh became high and mighty in the land, and divided the people into different classes. He impoverished one class, slaying its males and sparing its women, for he was indeed a tyrant. We wished him to favor those who were weak in the land and make them leaders and heirs and establish them in the country.
(Al-Quran, 28: 1-6; Ahmed Ali translation)

In modern times, the experience of slavery for African-Americans and their hope of liberation were crystallized into dozens of songs, thousands of sermons, about the Exodus of ancient Israelites from slavery.

In 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King was planning to take part in a Passover Seder with the family of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who marched and prayed and struggled alongside him against racism and militarism in America.

But ten days before the Seder, Dr. King was murdered -- called across a different river to a different Land of Promise.

His death called forth a Black uprising in many American cities, followed by the US Army's armed occupation of my neighborhood in Washington DC.

Walking past the troops as I prepared for Passover, I was overwhelmed to find myself feeling and thinking, "This is Pharaohs Army!"

So that experience renewed and transformed my own understanding of the Seder. I felt myself called to write a Freedom Seder that would celebrate the freedom struggles of Black America and of other peoples alongside the Jewish tale of liberation. It was published in Ramparts magazine and a tiny pocket-size book in 1969, illustrated by Lloyd McNeill, a Black artist/ activist.

On April 4, 1969, the first anniversary of Dr. Kings death and the third night of Passover, a group called Jews for Urban Justice sponsored the first Freedom Seder. It was held in the basement of a Black church in Washington, and more than 800 people Blacks, Jews, white Christians took part. The seder was broadcast in New York by WBAI and across Canada by the CBC.

In 1970, the Freedom Seder was published by Holt Rinehart Winston. It was celebrated by about 4,000 people in the Cornell University Field-house, providing an opportunity for the brief liberation from underground of Father Daniel Berrigan, an anti-war resister who was being pursued by the FBI.

Beyond the specific content of the original Freedom Seder, during the years since 1969 it has seeded a great harvest of new versions of the Seder that have spoken to many forms of freedom: feminism, peace between Israelis and Palestinians, ending the danger of nuclear holocaust, achieving eco-sanity, solidarity with Latin American movements against tyrannical rulers, personal spiritual liberation.

For millennia, from year to year to year to year the Seder has renewed the lives of families and friends; has welcomed the newborn, accompanied the dying.

Now it is we who renew the Seder, rebirthing the Telling of freedom itself as the Telling rebirths us.

New Pharaohs have arisen. It is time for a new birth of freedom, time for a NEW FREEDOM SEDER.

— Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Director
The Shalom Center <>


" 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
"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, April 4, 1967
"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
What is the depth of the American soul if we can allow destruction to be done in our name and the name of "liberation" and never even demand an accounting of its costs, both personal and public, when it is over?
We may well be the ones Proverbs warns when it reminds us: "Kings take pleasure in honest lips; they value the one who speaks the truth." The point is clear: 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 Chitister


This New Freedom Seder can be used by small groups of family and friends or by larger communal gatherings. In the latter case, it assumes there will be different tables of eight to ten people, with a combination of some readings that everyone hears and some discussion among the small groups at the different tables. It includes several different instructions for discussion and sharing among participants at the tables. In planning communal seders, people might best choose among these suggested discussions so as to have at most two, possibly only one, such table discussion during the Seder.

By the same token, the text here may be longer than is possible for some family or communal Seders, or just right for others. Use your own judgment to include or omit.

On each table there should be matzah (unleavened bread), parsley or mint, a beet, a bitter herb like horse radish, an egg, some olives, an orange, and charoset (a mixture of grape juice with chopped nuts, apples, and raisins with cinnamon and other sweet spices).

A Note on Blessings and the Name of God

The most mysterious and most intimate Name of God in Jewish tradition was written as four Hebrew letters that in Western transliteration are YHWH. This Name is especially closely connected with the liberation from Egypt, since it was revealed to Moses at the Burning Bush as the Name of God he could give to the Israelites in preparing them for their birth of freedom.

We do not know how the name was pronounced in Biblical days. The "YHWH" had no vowels. It certainly was not pronounced "Jehovah," and probably not "Yahweh."

When the letters on the scroll or book said YHWH, Jews have usually said aloud "Adonai," "my Lord," and most translations say "Lord." But this conveys a sense of God that is outside, above, dominating and not at all a sense of God as intimate, "in here," liberating. So in our generation some Jews have struggled toward a new way of understanding and translating YHWH.

Two aspects of the Name could help us understand it better. One is that these four letters draw on the letters for the past, present, and future of the verb "to be" so that this Name of God might mean "The One Who Was/Is/Will Be." Or they may represent the causative of the verb "to be": that is, "The One Who brings Being into being." Some translations have therefore used "The Eternal" or "Holy One of Being."

Another aspect of YHWH is that if we were to "pronounce" these four letters without any vowels Yyyyhhhhwwwwhhhh the pronunciation would be simply a breath. In this way, we not only mentally understand but bodily experience God as the One Who is the breath and gives the breath to us and to all life. What the trees breathe out, we breathe in; what we breathe out, the trees breathe in. As the prayer book says, "The breath of all that lives praises Your Name. "

In accord with this aspect of the Name, we could simply pause to breathe whenever we come to YHWH, or we could translate it as "Breath of Life," or we could use as a substitute another of the ancient Names of God: "Yah," as in "Hallelu-yah," "Let us praise Yah."

This Haggadah prints this Name as YHWH. Readers may choose, therefore, how to say these letters. We would encourage readers to pause and breathe so as to have an inner sense of God within and all around them, God Who breathes into us the urge toward freedom.

Not only the Name of God but the form of blessing should be open, and can vary from one recitation to another. Some possibilities:
"Barukh atah Adonai elohenu melekh ha-olam .; Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe..."
"Nivarekh et eyn-hachayyim ; We bless the Wellspring of Life "
"We are thankful for the majesty of creation . . . "
"We celebrate Life . . . "
"We honor the breath, the sacred spirit...."


** By creating light

[All say together:]

We are the generation
That stands between the fires.
Behind us is the flame and smoke
That rose from Auschwitz and from Hiroshima,
From the burning of our Towers
In jet fuel lit by rage,
From the torching of our forests for the sake of
Fast hamburger;

Before us is the nightmare of a Flood of Fire:
The scorching of our planet
From a flood of greenhouse gases,
Or the blazing of our citie
In thermonuclear fire
Or the glare of gunfire
Exploding in our children.

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 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.]

** By celebrating the earth and spring:

[Use a chant without words to keep energy focused as community passes around a basin to wash and dry the hands. Take pieces of parsley or mint, , dip them in vinegar or 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.

Barukh atah YHWH elohenu ruakh ha-olam boray p'ri ha a-da-mah.

[Everyone then eats this piece of parsley. (If you wish, from here on invite people to munch on carrots, celery, and other light vegetables.)]

[Someone speaks:]
If we cannot take joy in the return of spring, how can we be happy in utopia? The Song of Songs brings us 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.

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.

[The reader passes a blossom from the flowers on the table if possible on a living plant to everyone. All sniff and look carefully at their flowers. All sing either verses in Hebrew from the Song of Songs, or the English song "Morning has Broken"]

Do-di li va-a-ni lo
Ha-ro-eh ba-sho-sha-nim
Mi zot olah
Min hamidbar
Mi zat olah
M'kituret mor
Mor u-livonah
Mor u-livonah
Uri tzafon u-vo-i teyman
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 his 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!

By breaking bread and setting it aside:

[Someone at each table: Break the middle matzah in two. Put the larger piece aside, leaving the smaller on the plate. Uncover the remaining piece of matzah, lift up the dish and say:]

This is the pressed-down bread of the oppressed that our forebears ate in the Tight and Narrow Land (Mitzrayyim, Egypt). Let all who are hungry eat, and all who are in need come and celebrate the Passover.

[Put it back, covered, on the plate. Then lift the larger piece and say the following.]

In the world today there are still some who are so pressed-down that they have not even this bread of oppression to eat. There are so many who are hungry that they cannot all come and eat with us tonight. Therefore we say to them, we set aside this bread as a symbol that we owe you justice and that we will work to make it real.

Share your bread with the hungry, says YHWH. This year we share in a city and a world at war, but we pledge to work during this coming year so that we can share and celebrate in a city at peace and a world at peace.

(OR say the following:)

We break the middle matzah in two, wrapping one portion in a napkin and hiding it. This division reminds us of the forced division of communities and families due to disappearances, detentions, and deportations of immigrants that are carried out in the name of public safety.

The portion of matzah that remains visible becomes our bread of affliction, lekhem oni, the suffering of those who do not know where their loved ones have been taken.

The hidden piece of matzah, the afikomen, represents the horror hidden from our viewthe treatment of those detained and prevented from speaking with their families, friends, or even lawyers. The disappeared are doubly blocked from our sight, physically separated in jails and detention centers, but also wrapped in a blanket of fear of further disappearances and legal attacks, fears intended to silence their communities.

Until these divided parts are made one again, our seder cannot truly be ended. Until these families and communities are reunited, we have not yet achieved our freedom.

[Then send one piece of matzah to be hidden.]

[Someone says]

By Drinking the Fruit of the Grapevine

We will drink from four cups of grape juice to honor FOUR STAGES on the path of LIBERATION. These cups are (1) Becoming aware of oppression, (2) Opposing oppression, (3) Imagining alternatives, (4) Accepting personal and communal responsibility to act.

** First: the cup of awareness: learning to recognize the reality of oppression.

[Pour cups of grape juice.]

[The youngest person present asks:]

Why is this night different from all other nights? On all the other nights we may eat either leavened or unleavened bread, but on this night only unleavened bread; on all the other nights we may eat any species of herbs, but on this night only bitter herbs; on all the other nights we do not dip even once, but on this night twice; on all the other nights we eat and drink either tense or relaxed, but on this night we all relax.

Mah nishtanah ha-lai-lah hazeh mi-kol ha-le-lot? She-b'khol ha-le-lot anu okh-lin chametz u-ma-tzah, ha-lai-lah ha-zeh kulo ma-tzah. She-b'khol ha-le-lot a-nu okh-lin sh'ar y'ra-kot, halai-lah ha-zeh ma-ror. She-b'khol ha-le-lot eyn anu mat-bilin a-fi-lu p-am a-chat, ha-lai-lah ha-zeh sh'tay f'a-mim. She-b 'khol ha-le-lot a-nu okh-lin beyn yosh-vin u-veyn m'su-bin, ha-lai-lah hazeh ku-la-nu m'su-bin.

Another participant says:

But these are not the only questions we could ask. Any question is a way in. And every question is an act of freedom. So let us ask new questions, our own questions, even if we do not yet know the answers.

[Members of the community ask questions arising from their own life-experience about freedom, food and hunger, work and jobs, homelessness, war, etc. The more concrete the better. If possible go around the circle of the table so that everyone has the chance to ask one question.]

[A reader responds:]

All this we do because we were slaves to Pharaoh in the Tight and Narrow Space, and YHWH our God brought us forth from there with a mighty hand and an arm outstretched to sow us as seed into the world.

[Why Bitterness? —: 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? Wouldnt you rather work in a factory even if the conditions are bad and you dont get paid much, than have no job at all? No. At least for me, as a woman, I work. I support my family and I like working. But that doesnt mean that gives other people the right to come and we always have to say, yes, yes, yes, for everything, and well 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, were not going to do that. Thats like slaves. Thats past time. We came to the point where we said, Its enough. And thats why we formed the union."
Source: National Public Radio, August 18, 2000.

[Why Leavened or unleavened? — simple or puffed-up. Someone reads:)

Traditionally, we carefully rid our household of "chametz," last years leavened bread and other foods. Chametz can also symbolize "puffed-up" pride, greed and jealousy. On Passover, we each eat the simple bread to cleanse our minds and lives of puffed-upness," to spring-clean ourselves as well as our surroundings.

Our first step in the order tonight is to check ourselves and our neighbors for CHAMETZ. So let us all now rise, go around our table and look at the labels on each others clothing and see where the clothing was made, where we bought it, and how much it cost. Lets take a few minutes to discuss, especially with our children, what we know about these countries.

(Pause let people start going around the table encourage them to look at each others labels. Then ask these questions):

A)What are the workers paid to make these clothes?
B)Where are these countries?
C)What do we know about the treatment of children, the health, the living conditions in their countries?
D)Is anyone wearing a "made in the USA" label?

[Why tense or relaxed? — Poverty or wealth]

(People from different places at the table each read a single paragraph: )

The top 10% of American households own:
98% of the tax-exempt state and local bond
94% of business asset
95% of the value of all trusts (Collins and Yeskel, 2000)

In 1970, CEOs received an average of 1.3 million or 40 times the average workers salary. By 1998, this increased to 37.5 million or 1000 times the average workers salary. (Fortune Magazine and Business Week Survey)

The number of American families living in poverty increased by 400,000 in 2002. (New America Foundation from US Census Bureau)

2/3 of adults in poverty are women, and 44% of single mothers remain below the poverty level. (Washington Post, 2000)

The poverty line for a family of 4 is $18,100. But in order for full time workers to stay above the poverty line, they would need to earn at least $8.70 an hour, far greater than the $5.15 minimum wage. The minimum wage only provides a full time worker with $10,712 at 40 hours a week. (Federal Register, 2002)

The typical Black family had 60% as much income as a white family in 1968, but only 58% as much in 2002. (United For a Fair Economy, 2004)

One in nine African Americans cannot find a job. Black unemployment is more than twice the white rate a wider gap than in 1972. (United for a Fair Economy, 2004)

From 1995 to 2001, typical families of color saw their net worth fall 7% to $17,100, while typical white families net worth grew 37% to $120,900. (United for a Fair Economy from Survey of Consumer Finances, 2001).

(Then someone reads:]

Big Oil Burning: The Planetary Pharaohs

They Enron-cook the books.
They rent the Burmese army to sweat rebellious workers.
They pour the smoke that chokes asthmatic children.
They sweltered heat-stroke on 40,000 European elders.
They melt the ice caps that keep our planet balanced.
They torch great Amazon forests.
Their Saudi branch pipe-line paid to explode the Twin Tower
And their Texas branch pipe-line cooked lies to burn Iraqi cities.
With oily money they bought the oil-soaked White House.
They scorch all earth, befoul all oceans.

As we breathe in what the trees breathe out,
Air pungent, sweet, and peppery,
And the trees breathe in what we breathe out,
Air filled with songs and stories, sighs and laughter,
The burning oil fills up our lungs and noses,
heats and dissolves our brain,
Turns all earth oiloholic.

Heat melts.
Melts us to death, or
Melts our walls of separation
To connect our different agonies —
Warming our hearts to join in cooling Pharaoh.
— AW

[Why dip twice? — Into salt tears of Estrangement or the sweetness of Inclusion: )

Said Pharaoh to his people: "Look, these foreigners, these strangers, these Godwrestlers, become more and mightier than we! Come now, let us use our wits against them, lest they become still more numerous, and then, if war occur, they be added to our enemies and make war upon us!" (Exodus 1: 9-10).

"In this new war, our enemys platoons infiltrate our borders, quietly blending in with visiting tourists, students, and workers. They move unnoticed through our cities, neighborhoods, and public spaces. They wear no uniforms. Their camouflage is not forest green, but rather it is the color of common street clothing. Their tactics rely on evading recognition at the border and escaping detection within the United States. Their terrorist mission is to defeat America, destroy our values and kill innocent people." (John Ashcroft, Attorney-General of the United States)
I have been working with a Colombian asylum detainee. The day she finally got out of INS jail, where she had been for nine months, she looked back at the windows of the jail to wave goodbye to the women she was leaving behind. They knew and she knew that the windows were too high for the inmates to see out of but they knew she would be able to see the windows from the street. So the women inside stood up on chairs and pressed their palms to the windows. We stood there in this miserable warehouse district of Queens looking at all these hands held high.
— Anne Pilsbury, attorney
[Someone reads:]

In the Bible's story of the Exodus, what are the plagues that resulted from Pharaohs oppression? And what are the plagues that result from the Pharaohs oppression today?

They ruin the land and shatter its people,
But they are not punishments upon the land or people.
They are consequences of the Pharaoh's oppressive rule.
They teach us:
When rulers ignore human needs and destroy human lives,
the earth itself writhes and rebels in agony.

The damage falls not on the powerful alone, but on us all.
And so we pour from our glasses the juice of celebration
To affirm our grief at the sufferings of Mother Egypt.

We will recite THE PLAGUES of ancient story;
We welcome you to call out the plague of today
That for you echoes with the ancient warning:

[Pause after naming each plague, drop grape-juice from the cup onto the plate, have someone call out the our-generation item listed, and wait for communal response and the naming of other contemporary plagues.]

Waater into Blood (Pollution & privatization of water; the flood that destroyed New Orleans)
Frogs (Frogs -- dead & maimed by chemicals)
Vermin (Poverty)
Beasts (Extinction of thousands of species)
Mad cow disease
Boils / Pestilence (Collapse of health system; disappearance of health insurance; asthma epidemic; environmental cancer; neglect of people with HIV and AIDS)
Hail (Radical climate change, global scorching)
Locusts (Famine, genetically modified foods, patented seeds)
Endless night (Plague of blindness to each other, failure of empathy: no one can see us, we cannot see others. Prison system. Collapse of educational system (no "enlightenment"). Electrical blackouts.)

Slaying of the First-born (war, terrorism, torture, prisons, AIDS, gun-violence dead, especially children).

(Recite some of the names of children & adults killed in urban gun violence and dead of homelessness, those killed in the Twin Towers, in Iraq [both US soldiers & Iraqis], Israelis, Palestinians, AIDS;)

(Also recite names of some of those killed while struggling to make change happen: )

Martin Luther King, El-Hajj Al-Malik Shabazz (Malcolm X), John and Robert Kennedy, Oscar Romero, Medgar Evers, Chaney, Schwerner, & Goodman, Viola Liuzzo, Allison Krause, Orlando Letelier, Ronnie Karpen Moffitt, Harvey Milk, Barnett Slepian, Yitzhak Rabin, Anwar Sadat, John Africa and the MOVE family, Nizah Morris —

(and others named by those present)

(Read:) In every generation, a Pharaoh rises up to enslave us. In every generation, every human being must seek to free the community anew. In many peoples perhaps foremost among them, the African-American community — this ancient story has stirred new births of freedom, new songs of hope.

(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:]

Barukh atah YHWH elohenu ruakh ha-olam boray p'ri hagafen.
Blessed are You, YHWH our God, Who creates the fruit of the vine.

[We drink from the first cup, the cup of awareness.]
** Second cup: resistance to oppression

Pour the cup of grape juice.
(Someone different reads each passage:)

Now the king of Egypt said to the midwives of the Hebrews the name of one was Shifrah, the name of the second 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 did not do as the king had spoken to them, they let the children live. God dealt well with the midwives. (Exodus 1: 16-21).

"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
I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today my own government. (MLK, April 4, 1967)

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 token woman gleams like a gold molar in a toothless mouth.
The token woman arrives like a milkbottle on the stoop
coming full and departing emptied.
Another woman can never join her,
help her, sister her, tickle her
but only replace her to become her
unless we make a common cause,
unless she grows out, one finger of a hand,
the entering wedge, the runner
from the bed of rampant peppermint
as it invades the neat clipped turf
of the putting green.
— Marge Piercy, from The Token Woman

[Resistance to oppression of workers and the poor:]

"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. Moses had had a fire kindled in his heart once, but it went out, or at least died down. God is the Being whose heart does not stop burning, in whom the flame does not die down.
"What was God all burned up about? 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."'
"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).
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

[Resistance to war and militarism]
Pharaohs heart and that of his servants changed regarding the people. They said, What is that we have done, sending free the Godwrestlers from serving us? So the king of Narrowness/ Mitzrayyim had his chariot harnessed, his soldiers he took with him, and he took six hundred selected chariots, every sort of Egyptian war-chariot. The Egyptians pursued the Godwrestlers and overtook them encamped by the sea, all of Pharaohs chariot-horses, his riders, and his army. YHWH caused the sea to go back with a fierce east wind all night, and the Godwrestlers came through the midst of the sea upon the dry land. But YHWH shook the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. The waters returned, they covered the chariots and the riders of all Pharaohs army, not even one of them remained. (Exodus 14: 5-9, 27-28)
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
A third-grader had to be buried before he had grown old enough to shave; before he had frazzled his parents' nerves with his first solo behind the wheel of a car; before he could bring home his first date; and before he could sneak a puff on a cigarette while he hoped nobody noticed. ... That's all the time Faheem Thomas-Childs spent on this earth; just under seven months shy of his 11th birthday—about the time it takes to grow a decent sized Christmas tree.
The city has stopped to cry out in collective pain for this family, because the way he was killed is a symbol of just how much of our civility we've already surrendered to men whose lust for money and power that flows from spreading violence knows no limits, no decency. ... Faheem's murder has already sparked a renewed spirit of neighborhood cohesiveness in and around the T.M. Pierce neighborhood. Men and women (but thankfully, mostly men) have begun to patrol the streets leading to the school, in effect setting up "safe corridors" for the youngsters heading to their classes. Private corporations have joined unions and the school district to set up scholarship programs and several politicians are pledged to try and get stiffer gun laws passed in Harrisburg (where the NRA rules) for anyone carrying an illegal firearm near a school. When this neighborhood starts to reclaim its honor, it will have begun the long march back to earning the name of "community."
— J. Whyatt Mondesire

(Sing newer anti-oppression songs)

[All say together:]

Barukh atah YHWH elohenu ruakh ha-olam boray p'ri hagafen.
Blessed are You, Whose interwoven Breath of Life breathes forth the fruit of the vine.

[We drink from the second cup, the cup of resistance.]

** Third cup: Creativity: envisioning the new world.

[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.
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 brother
have gone over,
deep seas under.
I alone stand here
and I sing, I sing,
until the lands
sing to each other.
---Muriel Rukeyser

Symbols of transformation, old & new

[Someone says/ does each of the following. One participant lifts up the matzah, showing it to the celebrants, and says:]

Why do we eat this flat, unleavened matzah? Because the decision to act came upon our forebears so quickly that their dough had not yet risen when You, the Breath of Life, bore them to freedom through a hurricane of transformation.

[All say:]

Blessed are You, Yahh, Breath of Life, who makes us holy by connecting us with all of life, and has breathed into us the wisdom to transform this unleavened, pressed-down bread of the poor into the bread of liberation.

Barukh atah YHWH elohenu ruakh ha-olam asher kidshanu b'mitzvotav vitzivanu al akhilat matzah."

Participant lifts up the bitter herbs, showing them to the celebrants.
These bitter herbs we eat, what is the reason for them? Because the Egyptians made the lives of our forebears bitter in the Narrow Place, Egypt.

[All say:]

Blessed are You, YHWH our God, Breathing Spirit of the universe, who makes us holy by connecting us to the eating of herbs so bitter they take away our breath.

Barukh atah YHWH elohenu ruakh ha-olam asher kidshanu b'mitzvotav vitzivanu al akhilat maror.

[All eat the bitter herb.]

Why this charoset (a sweet mixture of grape juice, chopped apples, raisins, and nuts)? Because sometimes we make our slavery itself into a sweetness, out of habit.

Why this egg? --- Because the springtime is a time of rebirth, when we can bring new possibility, new freedom, into our lives.

Why this olive? Because for millennia the olive branch has been the symbol of peace, and we seek to make peace where there has been war. And because today in the land of Abraham, Hagar, Sarah, Isaac, and Ishmael, living olive trees bring sustenance and rootage to their families. When they are uprooted, these olive trees cry out to be planted anew for the sake of life, and peace, and justice.

Why this orange? Because in olden days there was no orange on the Seder Plate and it was said that outsiders gay men and lesbians, transgendered people, converts, those who lack some important ability or skill, the unlearned all these no more belonged in the community than an orange belongs upon the Seder plate. So we place an orange to say firmly, All these belong in our communities.

The best hope to avoid a new surge of anti-Semitism will not come only from de-coding the anti-Semitic themes [in some strands of Christian thought, from ancient times until this very day] . . .but rather by re-crediting the ancient Jewish vision of Jesus and many other Jews in his own and every generation, and in other strands of Christian practice through the centuries: —that in place of the Old Bottom Line of money and power, a New Bottom Line of Love and Generosity is possible. People of all faiths need to shape a political and social movement that reaffirms the most generous, peace-oriented, social justice-committed, and loving truths of the spiritual heritage of the human race. It is only this resurrection of hope that can save us from a new wave of global hatred.
— Rabbi Michael Lerner

(Someone reads:)

The power that flows upwards from the consent, support, and nonviolent activity of the people is not the same power that flows downward from the state by virtue of its command of the instruments of force, and yet the two kinds of power contend in the same world for the upper hand.
. 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

[Invite (ahead of time) everyone to bring a physical item that symbolizes their own sense of becoming free. Put these also on the table; each person explains it.]

[All sing either:]

And every one 'neath vine and figtree
Shall live in peace and unafraid
And into plowshares beat their swords
Nations shall learn war no more

or "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.

[All say together:]
Nivarekh et eyn-hachayyim sheh hakol niihyeh bdvarah.
We bless You, Wellspring of Life, through Whose flowing all is created.

[We drink the Cup of Miriam.]

[**Fourth cup: Responsibility and action]

[Pour the cup. Someone reads:]

The mark of Cain in the face of man has come to overshadow the likeness of God. There have never been so much guilt and distress, agony and terror. Ashamed and dismayed, we ask: Who is responsible?
All may be guided by the words of the Baal Shem: If a man has beheld evil, he may know that it was shown to him in order that he learn his own guilt and repent; for what is shown to him is also within him. ...
Let Fascism not serve as an alibi for our conscience. Where were we when men learned to hate in the days of starvation? When raving madmen were sowing wrath in the hearts of the unemployed?
We have failed to fight for right, for justice, for goodness; as a result we must fight against wrong, against injustice, against evil. We have failed to offer sacrifices on the altar of peace; now we must offer sacrifices on the altar of war. ...
In a free society, some are guilty. But all are responsible.
--- Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, 1944; 1964.

Someone reads:

All are responsible. Yet we are not all alike. At our tables, year by year, we meet four people — seeking:

One who seeks wisdom in the teachings of the past.

One who rebels, seeking new knowledge from a time of transformation.

One who seeks truth through simplicity of heart.

One who does not relate by asking but comes open, waiting to be filled with experience.

[At each table, invite and wait for discussion on these four sorts of seekers: Are they among us? Are they within each of us? Are there other approaches some of us would take])
[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 ourselve
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

[Invite brief comments on "coalition" of different sorts of people coming together.]

Raise the cup. All sing or recite Dayenu:

Had You taken us out of Egypt,
but not torn the Sea apart for us,
it would have been enough for us!
Had You brought us through it dry,
but not sunk our oppressors in its midst,
it would have been enough for us!
Had You sunk our oppressors in its midst,
but not fed us manna,
it would have been enough for us!
Had You fed us manna,
but not given us the Shabbat,
it would have been enough for us!
Had You given us the Shabbat,
but not given us the Teaching,
it would have been enough for us!

I-lu ho-tzi ho-tzi-a-nu, ho-tzi-anu mi-mitz-ra-yim, ho-tzi-a-nu mi-mitz-rayim dai-ye-nu.
I-lu na-tan na-tan la-nu, na-tan la-nu et ha-sha-bat, na-tan la-nu et ha-sha-bat, dai-ye-nu.

[Someone says:]

What does this mean, "It would have been enough"? Surely no one of these alone would indeed have been enough for us. It means to celebrate each step toward freedom as if it were enough, then to start out on the next step. It means that if we reject each step because it is not the whole liberation, we will never be able to achieve the whole liberation. It means to sing each verse as if it were the whole song and then sing the next verse!

[All read:]

How many and how hard are the tasks the Redeemer has set before us!
If we were to free the peoples of the world,
but not to beat the swords of every nation into plowshares,
it would not be enough for us.
If we were to beat the swords of every nation into plowshares,
but not to free our earth and air of poison,
it would not be enough for us.
If we were to free our earth and air of poison,
but not to share our food and end all hunger,
it would not be enough for us.
If we were to share our food and end all hunger,
but not to free the millions from their prisons,
it would not be enough for us.
If we were to free the millions from their prisons,
but not to free our children and our cities from gunfire,
it would not be enough for us.
If we were to free our children and our cities from gunfire,
But not to free all people into joyful personhood,
it would not be enough for us.

Then how great, doubled and redoubled,
are the claims the Redeemer makes upon our effort!
You call us to struggle, work, share, give,
think, plan, organize, sit-in, speak out, dream, hope,
and pray for the great Redemption:
to end the oppression of all peoples,
to beat the swords of every nation into plowshares,
to free our earth and air of poison,
to share our food and end all hunger,
to free the millions from their prisons,
to free our children and our cities from gunfire,
to free all people into joyful personhood,
and to free ourselves to know You.
(Someone reads:)
Before entering Miquat (where you get ready to start the Hajj {Pilrimage 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 Allah, 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
One of the most powerful, and deeply spiritual, ways to work for social change is for us to take action in the
present that embodies - right now! — the future vision that we seek. That is what has been happening in the San
Francisco wed-ins, as it did in the sit-ins forty years ago.
Forty years ago, the sit-in movement had a vision of the future: integrated restaurants. The sit-ins did not beg
legislators to change the law. They did not attack the restaurant-owners. They went, Black and white together, to
integrate them.
What happened next was up to the owners and the police. They could accept integration, they could beat people
up, they could put them in jail, they could kill them, they could change the law. They did all those things, but
mostly, ultimately, they changed the law.
The vision of new possibility was not left in the hands of visionaries, for it was embodied in defiant love. It made real the spiritual teaching that the means and the ends are indi9visible, for it made the ends themselves into the means. Not in a far-off future but in Now.
And it gave actual faces to the "issue." It was no longer a matter of courts and law books but of real live students,
restaurant-owners, waitresses, police.
So the public responded. The sit-ins seeded a fruitful American politics that is still nourishing us, even in days of
Imperial War and Insatiable Wealth. -- AW
0 Freedom!
0 Freedom!
0 Freedom over me!

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

And go home to my Lord and be free!

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

(Someone says:)
We join at the time of Passover to connect our separate stories in the telling of new freedom Our telling cannot end
tonight.. We must name and number the different tribes to carry on the journey. We have a wilderness of change to
cross before we can enter a new time of greater justice, greater freedom, greater peace, and deeper healing.
To begin this process, on this very night we will exchange our addresses ——
(hand around a paper for name, organization, address, phone. Email)
and we will talk about the actions we feel drawn to take.
(One person might start the process by suggesting an action. Allow time for conversation.)
{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."
Barukh atah YHWH elohenu ruakh ha-olam boray p'ri eytz.
Blessed are You, YHWH our God, Who creates the fruit of the vine.
{All drink the fourth cup, the cup of personal and communal commitment to action.]
"God has 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, April 3,1968, the night before his death.

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 as "We shall overcome," above)
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!

(If there is a full-scale meal at this New Freedom Seder, it is eaten now. At the end of the meal the children are invited to hunt for
the Afikoman {the piece of matzah that was hidden earlier] and it is redeemed from the children who have found it, since it is
necessary to have this taste of matzah as the last taste at the end of the meal.)
{One way of redeeming it is to ask the children to name an organization that is working for social justice, freedom, peace, or healing
of the earth, and the adults agree to contribute to that group in accordance with their own means.
(The Afikoman is distributed among the Seder company, and every one eats a bite of it.)

{There are many different traditions of songs to sing, praising the Breath of Life Who brings freedom and justice to birth.)

(Read together:)

All living are one and holy, let us remember
as we eat, as we work, as we walk and drive.
All living are one and holy, we must make ourselves worthy
We must act out justice and mercy and healing
as the sun rises and as the sun sets,
as the moon rises and the stars wheel above us:
we must repair goodness.
We must praise the power of the one that joins us.

Whether we plunge in or thrust ourselves far out

finally we reach the face of glory too bright

for our eyes and yet we burn and we give light.
We will try to be holy,
we will try to repair the world given to us to hand on.

Precious is this treasure of words and knowledge and deeds

that moves inside us. Holy is the hand that works for peace and for justice,

holy is the mouth that speaks for goodness

holy is the foot that walks toward mercy.

Let us lift each other on our shoulders and carry each other along.

Let holiness move in us. Let us pay attention to its small voice.

Let us see the light in others and honor that light.

Remember the dead who paid our way here dearly, dearly

and remember the unborn for whom we build our houses.

Praise the light that shines before us, through us, after us. Amein.

— Marge Piercy, from Amidah
(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.

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