Only partially vaccinated and still quite scattered, we will once again, hold our Seder via zoom. It was interesting to review last year’s Haggadah for needed changes. Last Passover, we were in quarantine and it was hard to grocery shop so here is the alternative list that allowed lots of options and little requirement, in the attempt to reach underneath the reason each item is included on the plate:
- beitzah(egg)- represents new life and springtime- traditionally a roasted egg, but consider any form of egg, or any kind of seed or nut, an avocado or avocado pit, or even a flower
- karpas(fresh vegetable dipped in salt water)– also spring, renewal, along with the tears of slavery- traditionally parsley- consider anything leafy or celery or avocado, or even a onion
- maror(bitter herbs)-the bitterness of our lives- traditionally horseradish – consider anything spicy.
- charoset(brick mortar)- the hardship of slavery- traditionally a mix of nuts, apples, and wine- try a mix of some kind of fruit and nuts like peanut butter and jelly or granola
- lamb shank, beets- bloodshed required to induce freedom- consider any slice of meat or beets or a yam, anything colorful
- orange(equality)- for all genders and races- this is for something you don’t normally see on a seder plate- so use your imagination.
- olives (peace)- What represents peace to you?
- carrots(sustainability)- a simple, practical, nutritious food
- potatoes(sustenance)- another basic practical, nutritious food
- fish(merit)- something a little extravagant
- chocolate(fair trade)- something that represents the rights of workers
Referencing the plagues set upon the Egyptians, we inserted this list letting us acknowledge the vulnerable members of our society still being passed over through:
- a justice system that instills fear and divides communities. Just as the first plague of blood recalls violence and turmoil, we must take action to reform our criminal justice system to overcomes its brokenness.
- a basic lack of shelter and affordable housing. Just as the plague of frogs transformed the Egyptians’ homes into unlivable conditions, affordable housing can transform lives at the most basic level.
- a dysfunctional health care system where millions of Americans still do not have insurance. The plague of lice reminds us that affordable, quality healthcare is important to have when we are healthy and especially when unforeseen circumstances arise. We must advocate to ensure that all Americans can receive the treatments that they need.
- the plague of gun violence in America that kills 32,000 Americans each year. Gun violence runs rampant in our communities, as did the wild animals in the fourth plague. We are commanded to take necessary measures to ensure the sanctity of human life and safety of our communities.
- hungry kids that exist in every community. Our tradition is explicit in commanding that we feed the hungry, and we must work to make that a reality. The plague of cattle disease reminds us how important it is to ensure that all people have the resources and support needed to live healthily.
- COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, is wreaking havoc across the globe, and those most vulnerable are being hardest hit. With thousands falling ill, vast sectors of our economy are shut down, and many workers continuing to labor under dangerous circumstances. This crisis has major implications for economic justice, underscoring the need for universal health care, workers’ rights and more. Just as COVID-19 plagues our society in this moment, so did boils plague the Egyptians when this sudden health crisis impaired their lives and livelihood. This year, we add an empty chair at our table to honor the lives of those lost during this last year and a one-minute silence of respect and acknowledgement.
- the effects of climate change that most significantly impacts low-income communities and people of color. The climate disruption of the plague of hail is a reminder that the onus is on each of us to take action to prevent climate disruption in communities where such events would have a devastating impact.
- valuing workers’ essential dignity. Just as the locusts disrupted work and resources for the Egyptians, so does the lack of paid sick days disrupt the lives of families and workplaces across the United States. Without a national minimum standard, workers face agonizing choices between health and subsistence.
- education as the key to opportunity and prosperity. The plague of darkness reminds us to pursue a bright future for all our children through robust public education.
- There are many structural policy changes that we can make to ameliorate economic inequality. The drama and pain of the plague of the death of the firstborn does not remind of us of any one social justice issue, but it does remind us of the importance of taking action before crises become truly dire. Enacting new legislation, particularly voting rights, underscores the previous nine plagues making sure that we are a country of, by and for the people. On Passover, as we celebrate our redemption from the land of Egypt during this transitional time of the pandemic, we commit to structural change as our opportunity to leave Mitzrayim more united, less isolated and more committed to hope and awakening for all.
And just in case you never added the Cup of Miriam to your seder, here is the info:
The Fourth Cup: Kos Arba: A cup of wine for Eliyahu ha-Navi, Prophet Elijah and a cup of water for the Prophet Miriam, Miryam, kos mayim Chayim: Blessed is the mystery that flows through time and space bringing us clean healthy water.
Traditionally, Elijah the Prophet visits each home on Seder night as a foreshadowing of his future arrival when he announces the coming of the Jewish Messiah. Jewish feminists place a Cup of Miriam filled with water beside the Cup of Elijah.
Midrash teaches us that Miriam, the prophetess, was the keeper of a miraculous well accompaning the Hebrews throughout their journey in the desert. Both Miriam and her well were spiritual oases in the desert, sources of sustenance and healing.
The Cup of Miriam is living waters, the fresh beginning; The Cup of Elijah is wine, awareness that our world is imperfect and still in need of repair. Miriam is present; Elijah is future. Miriam is place; Elijah is time. Miriam is the sea; Elijah is the mountain. The water of Miriam rises from the earth; the fire of Elijah descends from the sky. Together they are the circle of sunlight and rain needed for growth. Together they give us the consciousness to be free. These cups are our determination for a time of true redemption when all people will live:
- free from bigotry and oppression.
- with equality for all races to never again shunned by prejudice and hatred.
- in respect for the aspirations and humanity of women and girls.
- with sustenance for communities living in hunger.
- in peace, particularly in those societies torn by savage war.
- with safe harbor for refugees and survivors of violence.with the promise of dignity and human rights for all.