A new "Freedom Haggadah" and one Seder Thought
Produced in the last few weeks, a new Haggadah includes thoughts from many of Israel's most respected thought-leaders, in this critical period of Jewish history
Before the new Haggadah, which I’ll describe below, a thought that I had this morning when thinking about our own upcoming Seder:
Each year, as we read through the Haggadah, I find myself struck by the strange and almost impossible requirement that “In each generation, we are obligated to see ourselves as if we ourselves were redeemed from Egypt.”
After all, how are do we do that? I was never a slave. I’ve never endured anything that comes remotely close to that suffering. Yes, I understand that I should try to imagine what an extraordinary salvation the Exodus was, but still …. We sing it, but I’ve never felt that I could really fulfill it.
Until this year.
No, I’ve still not been a slave, and no, I’ve never had to endure anything close to that suffering. But here is what I will be thinking about this year:
When the Israelites were redeemed from Egypt, they knew that they’d exited one horror, but they had no idea what would be next. Would they die in the desert? Would they themselves see a Promised Land? Or would one horrible situation simply devolve into another?
We, like them, are striding into a future entirely known.
None of us knows what is going to happen in Israel. What all of us on all sides of this painful complex of issues share is that it’s not at all an issue of who will “win.” What is ominous and not at all unthinkable is that we can all lose.
None of us knows if this is just a terrible period that we can overcome, or whether, even if we do get through this, this frightening season is but the first rupture between two very different populations that in the end, will not be able to live together. None of us can know if this (so far) bloodless battle is but the first battle in a civil war to follow? A collapse to follow? An end to Jewish sovereignty to follow?
It’s happened twice before (see our column about that here), each time at about 73-74 years after it started.
Nothing about the future of the Jewish people is certain now. Nothing.
So, yes, this year, I think I will be able to fulfill that command of the Haggadah a bit better. Now, I know what it feels like to really know that I know nothing about the what the future holds. Now, I know better than to assume that the salvation we did experience is forever. Now, I know better than to be confident that we got our state, so of course, we’re going to keep it.
Now, we all know that we know nothing about what the future holds—so now, we’re just like those celebrating but terrified Israelites, thankful to leave Egypt, but no doubt consumed by wonder and fear about what might lie ahead.
Might be something worth discussing at the Seder.
Here, in the words of Dr. Orr Scharf of the University of Haifa, is what the new above-mentioned Haggadah is meant to do:
As Israeli faces one of its darkest hours, we do everything we can to ensure that it remains a liberal democracy.
Thirteen weeks into the protest, the coming of Passover is an ideal opportunity to draw inspiration from the Jewish tradition in the current reality.
The Freedom Haggadah is a stepping stone in the struggle for Israeli democracy. Twenty authors - novelists, poets, intellectuals - contributed new, original pieces to accompany the iconic texts of the Haggadah.
The Hebrew version came out last week, and now I'm proud to share the English version, in whose preparation I had the privilege to participate.
You will find a PDF document attached, and may also read it online here: https://online.flipbuilder.com/rzigt/gafx/
Read it, share it, print it, circulate it, and join our prayers and struggle, wherever you are.
Just when we need it, a lot of new material for this year’s Seder.
To all those celebrating, wishes for joyous and meaningful Passover. We’ll resume our regular schedule after the holiday.
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