Passover of Peace: A New Seder of the Children of Abraham, Hagar, & Sarah

By Elana Levy and Carole Resnick for Syracuse Jews for Peace (April, 2009)

The material in this hagada is in part taken from the hagada by this name, written by Rabbi Arthur Waskow. Material from many other sources has also been included.

A traditional seder plate includes five items:
- zeroa, a roasted shank bone representing the Paschal lamb, the holiday offering
made in Temple days (vegetarians today often use a roasted beet for its bloodred
color, or a roasted sweet potato for the pun of calling it the Paschal Yam;)
- beitzah, a roasted egg (with various symbolism; many see it as a symbol of
- maror, the bitter herb (usually horseradish), symbolizing the bitterness of slavery;
- karpas, the green vegetable, symbolizing spring growth and renewal;
- charoset, a mixture of apples/nuts/cinnamon (following the Ashkenazic recipe)
or dates/nuts/honey (following the Sefardic one), by some thought to represent the clay or
mortar used by the Israelite slaves; by others, thought to make present the song of Songs and its celebration of love among people and between people and the earth.


In Jewish tradition the day begins and ends at sunset. Tonight we light these candles in the hope that they will shed new light on our traditions; inspire us to learn and share our stories.

Blessing the Candles
Please join together in the blessings as we light the holiday candles, first in English then in Hebrew.
Blessed is the Spirit of Freedom in whose honor we kindle the lights of this holiday, Passover.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו להדליק נר של יום טוב פסח.‏
Baruch atah Adonai, elohaynu melech ha-olam, asher kidshanu b’mit-vo-tav, v’tzee-vanoo l’had-lik nair, shel yom tov pesach.

Now we say a Shehecheyanu, expressing thanks for being here to celebrate together.

Blessed is the Force of Life that has allowed us to reach this point, this spring, and the renewal of our quest for freedom

Baruch atah Adonai, elohaynu melech ha-olam, shehecheyanu, v’keemanu, v’higi-anu laz-man hazeh.


Welcome to all as we celebrate the Pesach. It is a time for joy and relaxation, and also a time to ponder our history and to find its relevance in our lives today. It is a time to renew our hope and courage in order to transform our planet into a place of peace and justice. The idea for this seder grew out of the community effort to oppose the policies of the Israeli government which led the Israeli military attacks on Gaza. We also see the seder as part of long-term efforts to build relationships among Jews, Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims and others by sharing our cultures. For a number of years we have been welcomed to the Islamic Society to break the fast during Ramadan and have been enriched from learning more about that tradition. This is an opportunity for us to share one of our traditions to continue building that mutual understanding and community.
Pesach falls on the first Full Moon of Spring. The flood of moonlight enhances the evening’s joyous mood. Passover is the first holiday of the Jewish agricultural calendar and is also known as Hag Ha’Aviv, the festival of Spring. We celebrate our earth’s renewal and remind ourselves of our interdependence with all that lives on this planet.

The ritual of the seder includes 4 cups of “wine” or grape juice. We begin with the cup of Spring, when earth awakes and peoples come to birth.
Blessing over the wine:
Blessed is the Source of the bounty of the earth, Who creates the fruit of the vine.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָפֶן.
Baruch atah Adonai, elohaynu melech ha-olam, boray pree hagofen.
All drink 1st cup

The salt water on the table traditionally represents the tears of the Israelite slaves. Tonight let it represent the tears of the Palestinian people as well who have lost their right to self determination. The green vegetable which we dip in the water suggests the possibility of growth and renewal even in the midst of grief. By including tangible symbols of suffering - the salt water, the bitter herbs - the Seder makes clear that the way to liberation is not to attempt to transcend our pain or our dark places, but to experience them viscerally, to take them into ourselves and to let them be transformed through our open-hearted experiencing of them.

[Everyone takes a sprig of spring greens, dips it in salt water, recites the blessing together, then eats the greens]
Blessed is the Source of life and the Strength of farm workers, that brings forth the fruits, grains, and vegetables from our bountiful earth.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה

Baruch atah Adonai, eloheynu melech ha-olam boray pree ha-adamah.
(From this point on, everyone should feel free to eat greens, dates and raw vegetables from plates at the table.)

SONG: And Everyone ‘Neath Their Vine and Fig Tree
And ev’ry one ’neath vine and fig tree shall live in peace and unafraid
And ev’ry one ’neath vine and fig tree shall live in peace and unafraid.
And into plowshares beat their swords, nations shall learn war no more
And into plowshares turn their swords, nations shall learn war no more

Lo yisa goy el goy cherev. Lo yil m’du od milchama
Lo yisa goy el goy cherev. Lo yil m’du od milchama
Lo yisa goy el goy cherev. Lo yil m’du od milchama
Lo yisa goy el goy cherev. Lo yil m’du od milchama

We lift the second cup: the cup of memory.
Blessing over the wine:
Blessed is the Source of the bounty of the earth, Who creates the fruit of the vine.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָפֶן.
Baruch atah Adonai, elohaynu melech ha-olam, boray pree hagofen.

Traditionally this holiday celebrates coming out of slavery, through the “narrow place,” mitzrayim. For us today, one Narrow Place is the place of bloodshed that comes from war between the two families of Abraham — the family that calls him Ibrahim and the family that calls him Avraham — the children of Hajar/ Hagar through her child Ismail/ Yishmael and the children of Sarah through her child Yitzchak/ Is'haq.

Despite the separate paths of Isaac and Ishmael and the creation of two separate peoples, with distinct and separate identities and histories, the story requires us to remember that Ishmael and Isaac will always have the same father. Their fates will always be inextricably tied to one another.
Rabbi Phyllis Berman has written an interpretation of the biblical story, in Jewish tradition called a ‘midrash’, of Hagar and Ishmael leaving the home they shared with Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac.

According to this midrash, Abram and his cousin Sarai fell in love as young people, and traveled from their hometown. They came to a place where a powerful king ruled. There were no women anywhere. They learned that all of the town’s women were being “protected” in the royal palace. Word had it that men who protested disappeared and were probably killed. Soon Sarai was taken by this king. Hagar had been taken some weeks before. They were both new, and both from foreign places, and became close friends very quickly.

The king promised that each woman could leave the palace a year after she arrived. But in every case the woman became pregnant before that time. Since the king would not release the child with its mother, all of the women stayed. Sarai and Hagar determined that the key to their freedom was to avoid becoming pregnant. Knowing that a woman’s fertility is greatest at the time of the new moon, they suggested to the king that he establish a monthly new moon feast for the men of the palace, which would be prepared by the women, rather than the usual royal staff. The king was delighted, and agreed also to the stipulation that once the food and wine were prepared and served, the women would go off by themselves to celebrate the moon – and coincidentally to avoid any opportunity to become pregnant .

It took perhaps 6 months before the king even realized that there were no new pregnancies among the women. After overhearing a conversation during Abram’s weekly visit to Sarai, the king accused them of bewitching the women and ordered Sarai to leave. She refused to leave without her friend Hagar, and he agreed to release both women. According to the story, this is how Sarai, Hagar, and Abram came together as a family. Although they now wished for children, neither woman became pregnant, until finally, after many many prayers, Hagar became pregnant with Ishmael – a name which means in Hebrew “God hears.” Sarai loved and cared for Ishmael alongside Hagar, but still grieved the fact that she could not nurse a baby herself. Years continued to pass, and biblical events occurred. Soon after Abram became “Abraham” and Sarai became “Sarah,” she became pregnant with Isaac.

Although Sarah was thrilled to be pregnant, she and Hagar were deeply troubled. Abraham dreamed that he had been commanded by God to circumcise all males in the family, clan and village. Ishmael was 13 years old and both Hagar and Sarah were horrified at the thought – but finally they agreed. The women feared what might next issue from Abraham’s dreams! But they all rejoiced together when Sarah birthed her baby, together choosing the name Isaac, meaning in Hebrew “laughing one.”

All was well until Sarah dreamed that Abraham had had another dream in which God told him to take his firstborn son to a nearby mountain to be sacrificed. Sarah and Hagar tried to reassure each other that it was only a dream, but when it came to Sarah the third time, they began to plan a way to protect their firstborn, Ishmael, from that fate. Their plan was as is written in Torah. Sarah tells Abraham that Ishmael is teasing Isaac and demands that Ishmael and Hagar be sent away. Because Abraham knew how incredibly close Hagar and Sarah were, he would not question the seriousness of it.

The night before Hagar left, the women are said to have each written two scrolls telling the true story of their love and friendship. Each took the other’s writing, to be passed down to the generations of women after them. Hagar and Ishmael survived their journey into the desert, and Ishmael had many children, winning a great deal of respect among those with whom he settled. Sarah never fully recovered from her loss. It was years later that Abraham had the dream Sarah’s own vision had foretold. Abraham took Isaac to be sacrificed on a nearby mountain. Isaac was saved from death only at the last minute. In the Muslim tradition it is Ismail who is to be sacrificed by his father, Abraham. In our generations both peoples, the Palestinian and the Israeli, have faced the possibility of destruction, of being sacrificed.

It is said that Sarah was near her death when Abraham and Isaac returned from their harrowing journey. She presented Isaac with the scroll written by Hagar and told him to give it to his wife. When he married Rebekah, Isaac followed his mother’s wishes and gave her the mysterious writings, which were then passed on to Leah, then to Dina, then on down through the generations. When the actual scrolls disappeared the story continued to be passed on from woman to woman in each generation.

Too long has the true story of love and friendship between the mothers Hagar and Sarah been only in the domain of women. It is time now to tell it where men can also hear, and we can learn together.


Let us now recite the plagues that were visited upon Egypt. Although we rejoice with a full cup, our happiness is diminished by the memory of those who suffer to gain freedom. We grieve the violence that has occurred in the effort to achieve freedom. In condemnation of the many subtle acts of violence that dehumanize our fellow human beings, we make our symbol of joy less full, less perfect. As we pour wine from our cups we recall the ten plagues of ancient Egypt, as well as the plagues of the current time:

DAHM Blood – pollution and privatization of water

TZFAR-DAY-A Frogs – desecration of the ecosystem

KEE-NEEM Lice - poverty

A-ROVE Swarms of flies –extinction of species

DEH-VER Pestilence – illness caused by a toxic environment

SH-CHEEN Boils – absence of humane or affordable healthcare

BA-RAD Hail – melting of the polar ice caps

AR-BEH Locusts – genetically modified seeds

CHO-SHECH Darkness – torture of prisoners

MA-KAT BE-CHO-ROTE Striking the first-born – the loss of all children who die in war

SONG: Peace Salaam Shalom

We lift the third cup: the cup of determination.
Blessing over the wine:
Blessed is the Source of the bounty of the earth, Who creates the fruit of the vine.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָפֶן.
Baruch atah Adonai, elohaynu melech ha-olam, boray pree hagofen.

On March 16, 2003, Rachel Corrie, a 23 year old American, was crushed to death by an Israeli Army bulldozer in Gaza as she was trying to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home. These words are taken from her writings which were collected after death and presented in a play called: My Name is Rachel Corrie. Rachel was neither Jewish, nor Muslim. She was simply a young person of conscience, determined to act on her beliefs.
In an email to her mother on February 28, 2003, Rachel Corrie wrote: “I spent the evening and this morning with a family on the front line in Hi Salam…The two front rooms of their house are unusable because gunshots have been fired through the walls, so the whole family sleeps in the parents’ bedroom. I sleep on the floor next to the youngest daughter and we all share blankets…

…I am amazed at their strength in defending such a large degree of their humanity against the incredible horror occurring in their lives and against the constant presence of death. I think the word is dignity.

Of course, we burn out. Of course, it is overwhelming. Whenever I organize or participate in public protest I get really worried that it will be really small, embarrassing, and the media will laugh at us. Oftentimes it is really small and most of the time the media does laugh at us and of course it doesn’t get coverage all over the world, but in some places the word ‘Rafah’ is mentioned outside of the Arab press. If the international media and our government are not going to tell us that we are effective, valuable, we have to do that for each other, and one way we can do that is by continuing our work, visibly.

I look forward to seeing more and more people willing to resist the direction the world is moving in: a direction where our personal experiences are irrelevant, that we are defective, that our communities are not important, that we are powerless, that the future is determined, and that the highest level of humanity is expressed through what we choose to buy at the mall.”


Traditionally, 4 questions are asked by the youngest child at the seder who is old enough to read. The questions all address the experience of remembering slavery and appreciating freedom by explaining the use of ritual foods during the seder: What makes this night different from all other nights? Why is it that on all other nights we eat both bread and matzo, but on this night only matzo? Why is it that on all other nights we eat all kinds of vegetables, but on this night we must eat bitter herbs? Why is it that on all other nights we might not dip one food into another even once, but on this night we dip different foods twice? Why is it that on all other nights we may sit or recline while eating, but on this night we all recline?

Tonight we will frame the questions a little differently, to highlight the struggles of the Palestinian and Israeli people today.
Why is this night different from every other night?
Because tonight two peoples
Call out to each other: "Let our people go!"
Tonight the children of Hagar through Ishmael and the children of Sarah through Isaac call out to each other:
We too are children of Abraham! We are cousins, you and we!
As Isaac and Ishmael once met at Be'er LaChai Ro-i, the Well of the Living One Who Sees,
So it is time for us to meet —
Time for us to see each other, face to face.
Time for us to make peace with each other.
They met for the sake of their dead father, Abraham;
We must meet for the sake of our dead children — Dead at each others' hands.
For the sake of our children's children, So that they not learn to kill.
So tonight we ask each other Four More Questions:

[From the plate with four pieces of matzah, lift the bottom slice. Say:]
"This is the bread of affliction: It is whole, and so long as it is whole, no one can eat from it."

[Now break the matzo in half for all to see]

Why do we break the matzah in two?
Because the bread of affliction becomes the bread of freedom --when we share it. Because the Land that gives bread to two peoples must be divided in two, so that both peoples may eat of it. So long as one people grasps the whole land, it is a land of affliction, and no one is nourished by it. When each people can eat from part of the Land, it will become a land of freedom.

[Pass the broken pieces of matzah so each person can break off a piece. Say the blessing and eat the matzo.]

Blessed is the Source of the strength of farmworkers and the skill of bakers which has brought us this bread from the earth. It is a mitzvah, a blessing, to partake of this matzah.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם הַמּוֹצִיא לֶחֶם מִן הָאָרֶץ.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ עַל אֲכִילַת מַצָּה.
Baruch atah Adonai, elohaynu, melech ha-olam, ha-motsee le-chem min ha-aretz.
Baruch atah Adonai, elohaynu melech ha-olam, asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav, v’tsivanu al acheelat matzah.

Under Siege (edited for length) Mahmoud Darwish (1941-2008)

Here on the slopes of hills, facing the dusk and the cannon of time
Close to the gardens of broken shadows,
We do what prisoners do,
And what the jobless do:
We cultivate hope.
You who stand in the doorway, come in,
Drink Arabic coffee with us
And you will sense that you are men like us
You who stand in the doorways of houses
Come out of our morningtimes,
We shall feel reassured to be
Men like you!
When the planes disappear, the white, white doves
Fly off and wash the cheeks of heaven
With unbound wings taking radiance back again, taking possession
Of the ether and of play. Higher, higher still, the white, white doves
Fly off. Ah, if only the sky
Were real [a man passing between two bombs said to me].
[To a killer] If you had contemplated the victim’s face
And thought it through, you would have remembered your mother in the
Gas chamber, you would have been freed from the reason for the rifle
And you would have changed your mind: this is not the way
to find one’s identity again.
The siege is a waiting period
Waiting on the tilted ladder in the middle of the storm.
. ***
Our losses: between two and eight martyrs each day.
And ten wounded.
And twenty homes.
And fifty olive trees...
Added to this the structural flaw that
Will arrive at the poem, the play, and the unfinished canvas.

If you are not rain, my love
Be tree
Sated with fertility, be tree
If you are not tree, my love
Be stone
Saturated with humidity, be stone
If you are not stone, my love
Be moon
In the dream of the beloved woman, be moon
[So spoke a woman
to her son at his funeral]
In the state of siege, time becomes space
Transfixed in its eternity
In the state of siege, space becomes time
That has missed its yesterday and its tomorrow.
The martyr warned me: Do not believe their ululations
Believe my father when, weeping, he looks at my photograph
How did we trade roles, my son, how did you precede me.
I first, I the first one!
The siege will last in order to convince us we must choose an enslavement that does no harm, in fullest liberty!
Resisting means assuring oneself of the heart’s health,
The health of the testicles and of your tenacious disease:
The disease of hope.
Greetings to the one who shares with me an attention to
The drunkenness of light, the light of the butterfly, in the
Blackness of this tunnel!
My friends are always preparing a farewell feast for me,
A soothing grave in the shade of oak trees
A marble epitaph of time
And always I anticipate them at the funeral:
Who then has died...who?
Writing is a puppy biting nothingness
Writing wounds without a trace of blood.

SONG: Od Yavo Shalom Alenu
Od yavo shalom alenu (3) V'al kulam.
Salaam. . . alenu v'al kol ha'olam
Salaam . . .. salaam . . ..
[May peace yet come to us — and to all; to us and all the world.]

[Each person takes 2 pieces of greens and dips one into the horseradish, and one into the charoset]
Blessed is the sacred Spirit, our Source of life, whose creative power gives us the bitter herb.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ עַל אֲכִילַת מָרוֹר.
Baruch atah Adonai, elohaynu melech ha-olam, asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav, v’tsivanu al acheelat maror.
[Each person eats first the sprig dipped in horseradish, then the one dipped in charoset.]

Why do we dip herbs three times, once in salt water, once in bitter herbs, and once in sweet charoset?
First for the tears of two peoples, Israeli and Palestinian; then for the bitterness of both peoples, tasting ruined lives; and then for the sweetness of two peoples, Palestinian and Israeli. For the future of both peoples, who must learn not to repeat the sorrows of the past but to create the joys of the future.

Most of the initial contacts between the Jews returning to Palestine and the Arab residents of the land were neighborly. However, as more Jews settled there, and land was purchased out from under Arab peasants, resentment began to build. Meanwhile, Jews around the world were being told that this was the perfect arrangement—“A land without a people for a people without a land.” However, some early zionists realized that this mythology would lead to fierce conflict—as has indeed happened. Judah Magnes, a Reform rabbi who was born in the U.S. and emigrated to Palestine in 1923, was an eloquent voice for cooperation:

“…We must once and for all give up the idea of a “Jewish Palestine” in the sense that a Jewish Palestine is to exclude and do away with an Arab Palestine. This is the historic fact, and Palestine is nothing if it is not history. If a Jewish national home in Palestine is compatible with an Arab national home there, well and good, but if it is not, the name makes very little difference. The fact is that nothing there is possible unless Jews and Arabs work together in peace for the benefit of the common Holy Land. It must be our endeavor first to convince ourselves and then to convince others that Jews and Arabs, Moslems, Christians and Jews have each as much right there, no more and no less, than the other: equal rights and equal privileges and equal duties.
During World War II, as Europe was becoming increasingly dangerous and deadly for Jews, England was closing the doors to Jewish emigration to Palestine. At the same time, most other countries also closed their doors to Jews seeking to escape the Holocaust. As a result, ever more Jews were killed.
Meanwhile, Arabs in Palestine faced increasing pressure:

“I first became aware of the Jewish-Arab conflict a little before the end of the Second World War. I was on my way to visit some close relatives in Sumeil, an Arab village in the Tel Aviv region. Rounding a bend in the road I saw a group of young people on a hill in the distance being trained in the use of weapons. After the initial shock I watched astonished as they went through various exercises, following orders in Hebrew with perfect discipline. I was eleven years old.... Why were these Jewish boys and girls (who must have been about 16 to 25 years old) preparing for war? Whom were they going to fight? What group did they belong to? When I told one of my teachers about it, he said they must belong to the Haganah. That was the first time ...I vaguely understood that we were heading toward confrontation.” --Abu Iyad

Troop build-ups and other threatening actions by neighboring Arab states were cited by Israel as reason for its attack in 1967. In that Six Day War Israel routed Arab armies and took control of all of historic Palestine. Israelis and many Jews around the world were elated that they now had access to all of Jerusalem, including the holy Western Wall. However, for Palestinians the experience was very different.

“It is like being in a small room with your family. You have bolted the doors and all the windows to keep strangers out. But they come anyway—they just walk through your walls as if they weren’t there. They say they like your room. They bring their families and their friends. They like the furniture, the food, the garden. You shrink into a corner pretending they aren’t there, tending to your housework, being a rebellious son, a strict father, or an anxious mother—crawling about as if everything was normal, as if your room was yours forever. Your family’s faces are growing pale, withdrawn—an ugly grey as the air in their corner becomes exhausted. The strangers have fresh air, they come and go at will—their cheeks are pink, their voices loud and exuberant. But you cling to your corner, you never leave it, afraid that if you do, you will not be allowed to go back.” --Raja Shehadeh

Shehadeh thus describes both the experience of occupation and the growth of Israeli settlements built on much of the best land and provided with resources by the Israeli government denied to Palestinians. The expansion of settlements has continued relentlessly, as have the economic and military wars of Israel against the Palestinian people.

Why does the Torah teach: "When a stranger lives-as-a-stranger with you in your land, you shall not oppress him. The stranger who lives-as-a-stranger [hager hagar] with you shall be as one of your citizens; you shall love her as yourself."

For we ourselves were strangers in the Land of Egypt, and the Land of Rome, and the Land of Spain, and the Land of Germany — and they oppressed us;
Therefore — When once again Hagar/ The Stranger lives with you, you shall not oppress her; you shall love the stranger as yourself.


On our seder table there is a large cup of wine and a large cup of water which none of us has touched. They are reserved for two special guests: Miriam the Prophetess and Elijah the Prophet. The wine is traditionally symbolic of Elijah’s presence at the seder. The water is placed on the table as a symbol of Miriam’s importance during the journey to liberation.

A Midrash teaches us that a miraculous well accompanied the Israelites throughout their journey in the desert, providing them with water. This well was given by God to Miriam, the prophetess, to honor her bravery and devotion to the Jewish people. Both Miriam and her well were spiritual oases in the desert, sources of sustenance and healing. Her words of comfort gave the people the faith and confidence to overcome the hardships of the Exodus. We fill Miriam's cup with water to honor her role in ensuring the survival of the Jewish people. Like Miriam, Jewish women in all generations have been essential for the continuity of our people, whose stories have been too sparingly told. We ask Miriam to be with us tonight, as again we celebrate our liberation.
According to tradition, the prophet Elijah never died, but was carried up to heaven in a chariot. Elijah is the champion of the oppressed. He appears In every generation to determine if the time is ripe for the coming of the Messiah.

Traditionally, the closest child to the door opens it.

Let us open the door for Miriam and Elijah to enter together. As we sing the song of Elijah and Miriam we express our hope for a world of freedom and peace.

Close the door and sing:

Ey-lee-ya-hu ha-no-vee,
Ey-lee-ya-hu ha-tish-bee,
Ey-lee-ya-hu, Ey-lee-ya-hu,
Ey-lee-ya-hu, ha-gil-a-dee.

Bim-hey-roh, b’yo-mey-nu
Yo-vo ey-ley-nu;
Im Mo-shee-akh ben Dovid
Im Mo-shee-akh ben Dovid.

Miriam ha n’via, oze v’zimra b’yadah
Miriam rik’di itanu l’hagdil zimrat olam
Miriam rik’di itanu l’takein et ha-olam
Bim’heyra v’yamenu, t’vi eynu
Bim’heyra v’yamenu, t’vi-eynu
El mei ha-y’shua
El mei ha-y’shua


[At this point in the Seder there originally appeared the paraphrase of a poem by Danny Siegel. In a letter dated May 10, 2012, he has asked us to remove it since he did not give permission for its use and since "the Seder's message is diametrically opposed to my personal position concerning Israel." Out of respect for his work on tzedakah and his books of Jewish verse and poetry and out of consoderation for his feelings, we have deleted it from the text. We commend his books, including "And God Braided Eve’s Hair" (United Synagogue of America, 1976), and his work on tzedakah to our readers. See Rabbi Arhur Waskow, editor.]

We lift the fourth cup: the cup of covenant and hope.
Blessing over the wine:
Blessed is the Source of the bounty of the earth, Who creates the fruit of the vine.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָפֶן.
Baruch atah Adonai, elohaynu melech ha-olam, boray pree hagofen. takes a lot of things to change the world:
Anger and tenacity. Science and indignation,
The quick initiative, the long reflection,
The cold patience and the infinite perseverance,
The understanding of the particular case and the understanding of the ensemble:
Only the lessons of reality can teach us to transform reality.
Bertolt Brecht

SONG: Circle Round for Freedom
Circle round for freedom,
circle round for peace.
For all of us imprisoned,
circle for release.
Circle for the planet,
circle for each soul.
For the children of our children,
keep the circle whole.
(Linda Hirschorn)

Four children bring different questions to the Seder table tonight:

The angry child asks, "Why should I compromise?"
And we answer that we choose the route of compromise because the alternative is the mutual destruction, both moral and physical, of our two peoples. If we fail to compromise, we will lose a vision of the future for our children.

The naive child asks, "Why can't we just love each other?"
And we answer that neither of us can live as if history has not happened. Unfortunately, too much blood has already been shed on both sides. It takes time to build trust.

The frightened child asks, "How can I be safe?"
And we answer that we are both afraid. "How can I be safe if my brother or sister is not safe?"

The wise child asks, "How can we take the steps that walk in peace, toward peace?"
This is the question we wrestle with tonight. But this is a question that goes beyond tonight. For in each one of us lives all four children: Each of us bears in our own belly the angry one, the frightened one, the naive one, the wise one. Which of these children shall we bring to birth? Only if we can deeply hear all four of them can we truthfully answer the fourth question.

In the early 1970’s, a small group of high school students wrote a letter to then Prime Minister of Israel, Golda Meir. It was a few years after the Six Day War of 1967, and a sense of euphoria was felt throughout Israel. The popular belief was that now, after tripling its size, Israel had proved to the world that it was undefeatable, and that no one would ever dare to wage war against it again.

Yet these young people felt differently. For them it was obvious that the latest acts of occupation would necessarily lead to new wars and bloodshed– unless peace initiatives were to take the place of blunt militarism. They told this to Meir, warning her that if she chose to ignore Egypt’s calls for peace in exchange for the occupied lands – their own blood, as soldiers-to-be, would be on her hands. Meir ignored the letter, and the 1973 Yom Kippur war came to prove the young prophets right.

This letter became the first in a long tradition of similar letters, all taking the name of “Shministim” –Hebrew for “High School Seniors”. In a country where the army and mandatory conscription are held as sacred, the voice of young people who state they will refuse to join the army, or in any other way serve the occupation, was and still is a voice that gets a lot of attention.

The well known letters came out in 1982 – in response to the (first) Lebanon War; 1991 – in response to the (first) Intifada; and in 2001, 2002 and 2005 – in response to the second Intifada. Hundreds of high school students signed these letters each round, declaring that they would refuse to serve the occupation in any way, each time getting a unique platform to voice a radical message, bringing attention to the human rights violations Israel commits against the Palestinians in its citizens’ names.

All refusers spent varying periods of time in jail (usually two to three months). In 2002 it was different. Five of the signatories of the letter were singled out and court-marshaled, resulting in a sentence of two years in prison. The army tried to make a showcase out of the five and use the political trial for its own good, the effect was very much the contrary, as the five refusers had an even greater platform to give testament to the realities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

In 2008, a new Shministim emerged. They are activists who go to the West Bank, see the building of the Separation Wall, which many Israelis and Palestinians call an Apartheid Wall, and learn from their Palestinian partners the true meaning of day-to-day life under the military regime of Israel

These are some of the personal statements made by these young Israeli women and men:
“I refuse to enlist in the Israeli military on conscientious grounds. I am not willing to become part of an occupying army, that has been an invader of foreign lands for decades, which perpetuates a racist regime of robbery in these lands, tyrannizes civilians and makes life difficult for millions under a false pretext of security.”

“I am convinced that it is no one but ourselves who determines that it is our fate to live by the sword. There is another way, which is not the way of war. This is the path of dialogue, of understanding, of concession, forgiveness, of peace. I believe that a person should take responsibility and feel reconciled to the way he chooses. This is why I shall not join an army behind whose actions I cannot stand and whose behavior I cannot justify.”

“I wasn’t born to serve as a soldier who occupies another, and the struggle against the occupation is mine too. It is a struggle for hope, for a reality that sometimes feels so far away. I have a responsibility for this society. My responsibility is to refuse.”

“I believe in service to the society I am part of, and that is precisely why I refuse to take part in the war crimes committed by my country. Violence will not bring any kind of solution, and I shall not commit violence, come what may.”

“I will not lend my own hand to the occupation and to acts that contradict my most basic values: human rights, democracy and the personal responsibility each and every human being bears towards fellow human beings.”

Why is there an egg upon the Pesach plate?
It is the egg of birthing.
Tonight it is our task to help the Midwife Who tonight is giving birth to two new peoples —
For tonight only Hagar can give a new birth to the children of Israel,
And only Sarah can give a new birth to the children of Ishmael.
Our lives are in each other's hands.
No Pharaoh can force us to kill.


End the dinner by saying this blessing and then eating olives
Blessed are You, the Breath of Life, Who breathes our breath into the olive tree and brings forth from the tree the olive – fruit of peace and hope and abundance. May all the children of Noah and Naamah, all the children of Abraham, Hagar, and Sarah, protect these trees and harvest these olives in peace.
Barech: Saying Grace after the meal
Let us acknowledge the Source of life, the Source of all nourishment. May we protect the bountiful earth, that it may continue to sustain us, and let us seek sustenance for all who dwell in the world.

The task of liberation is long, and it is work we ourselves must do.
As the Talmud tells us: We may not live to complete the task
But neither may we refrain from beginning

SONG: Somos El Barco
Somos el barco, somos el mar,
Yo navego en ti, tu navegas en mi
We are the boat, we are the sea, I sail in you, you sail in me.
The stream sings it to the river, the river sings it to the sea
The sea sings it to the boat that carries you and me
The boat we are sailing in was built by many hands
And the sea we are sailing on, it touches every land
So with our hopes we set the sails
And face the winds once more
And with our hearts we chart the waters never sailed before

Le-shana haba-ah ba-olam be-shalom.
Next year may we be in a world of peace.
We have talked this Pesach night about liberation from oppression, and the formal part of the Seder is now concluded.
Just as we have been privileged to hold this Seder, so may we be privileged to carry out its teachings in our actions.



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