Passover Anew: Kindling Candles, Four More Questions, Facing New Plagues

Dear friends, We send you three passages for use in your Passover Seders or in your gatherings for Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday. One is for kindling candles of commitment, one is Four More Questions to add wherever you wish, and one to accompany recitation of the Plagues with three outcries for the choking of our breath and a prayer for new breath, new Spirit.  Shalom, salaam, paz, peace, namaste! --   Arthur


Between the Fires:

An Invocation for

Kindling Candles of Commitment


We are the generations

That stand between the fires.


Behind us

The burning crosses lit by hate

To choke our people in the smoke of terror;

Behind us the flame and smoke

That rose from Auschwitz and from Hiroshima.


Not yet behind us

The burning forests of the Amazon,

Torched for the sake of fast hamburger and fast wealth.

Not yet behind us, the glare of gun fire

exploding in our children.

Not yet behind us –

the hottest years of human history

That bring upon us

Melted ice fields. Flooded cities.

Scorching droughts. Murderous wildfires.

Before us we among all life-forms
face the nightmare of a Flood of Fire,
The heat and smoke that could consume all Earth.

"Here! The day is coming,”

Said the Prophet Malachi,

“That will flame like a furnace,”

Says YHWH / Yahhhh --

The Infinite InterBreath of Life --

Yet for all who revere

My Interbreathing Name, Yahhhh,

a sun of justice will arise

with healing in the beating of its wings,

its rays, its winds.


“Here! Before the coming

of the great and awesome day

of YHWH/ the Breath of Life,

I will send you the Prophet Elijah

to turn the hearts of elders to their youth

and the hearts of the youth to their elders,

lest I come and smite the earth with utter desolation."


Here! we ourselves are coming

Before that great and terrible day

Of smiting Earth —

For we ourselves shall turn the hearts

Of elders and youth to each other

So that this day of smiting

Does not fall upon us.


We ourselves are coming

To douse that outer all-consuming fire.

We must light again in our own hearts

the inner fire of love and liberation

that burned in the Burning Bush --

The fire that did not consume the Bush it burned in,

For love is strong as death --

Love’s Fire must never be extinguished:

The fire in the heart of all Creation.


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

But the loving light in which we see more clearly
The Rainbow Covenant glowing

in the many-colored faces of all life.




  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 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. Because in Eden, the Garden of Delight, we humans tried to gobble all the fruitfulness of Earth, 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, Eden for a grown-up humankind where love and freedom join in fuller celebration.


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

 That is the fourth question.


Woven by Rabbi Arthur Waskow, The Shalom Center

Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License;


Facing Plagues: Three Outcries and a Prayer  

 Can’t Breathe” 

Again and again,

With gun or choke-hold.

Police have stolen the breath of Black Americans.

The police are not merely police

For they hold a national authority

To use violence on behalf of the nation:

To serve us all, protect us all.

When they subjugate the Black community

They implicate us all, 

They make us all Subjugators, 

They make us all Subjugated.

But their misdeeds have stirred 

A great Uprising against racism.

Then when our rulers ignore the racist danger 

And pretend the danger is the protest,

The subjugation becomes still worse 


We can’t breathe.

All humanity is choking

From a virus that invades our lungs

We have left no space for other species 

And the virus leaps into our lives 

Then when our rulers ignore the danger 

It becomes still worse 

Choking our societies, our jobs, our businesses,

Our democracy. Our lives.  


Earth Can’t Breathe

All life on Earth depends on Interbreathing

Plants breathe in Carbon dioxide, breathe out Oxygen. 

Animals breathe in Oxygen, breathe out Carbon dioxide.

We breathe in what the trees breathe out;

The trees breathe in what we breathe out.

Our Interbreathing is the Breath that keeps all Earth alive. 

Nishmat kol chai, tivarekh et shimcha: Yahhhh elohenu:

Hallelu-Yahhh (x4)

The breath of all life praises Your Name;

For your Name in truth whispers all breath.

For your Name in truth whispers all life. 

YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh/ Yah, is our God.

The God of all life.

Hallelu-Yahhh (x4)

But too much CO2 is the “climate crisis” --  

Chokes our breathing.

Earth can’t breathe.

All Earth is scorched by burning fossil fuels

But Carbon Pharaohs burn their way to faster wealth.


You Who are the Breath of Life,

At Sinai You taught us,

You shall not take My Name with an empty heart.

You shall not breathe My Name with empty heart.

Every breath we take 

is Itself Your Name, 

Part of that great Breath that is the Holy One.

You Who are the Breath of Life,

Heal us to breathe.


I Speak, I Who freed you from choking in the Tight and Narrow Place:

To live Broad Spaces where My breath, my wind, blows free,

No one shall rob you of My Name, My Breath, My Holy Spirit.



Woven by Rabbi Arthur Waskow, The Shalom Center

 Text is available for use under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike Non-Commercial License;, which means to cite the source.

  If you are moved by any of these passages, if you dip them once or twice or more into your Seder, please make a contribution to The Shalom Center through the "Contribute" banner on gtthe left margin --  AW



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