Tag Archives: haggadah

Protest Haggadah cont.

parshat tzav, preparing for the seder

Join Geoffrey Stern and Rabbi Adam Mintz recorded on Clubhous on March 29th 2023. We continue our exploration of the many faces of the Torah as reflected in the Kibbutz Haggadot written at the rebirth of the Jewish People in the Promised Land of Israel.

Sefaria Source sheet: https://www.sefaria.org/sheets/477153


Welcome to Madlik.  My name is Geoffrey Stern and at Madlik we light a spark or shed some light on a Jewish Text or Tradition.  Along with Rabbi Adam Mintz, we host Madlik Disruptive Torah on clubhouse  and share it as the Madlik podcast on your favorite platform. This week’s Torah portion is tzav but since Passover will be soon upon us, we continue our exploration of Haggadot that break with the past.  Today we will focus on Kibbutz Haggadot which were written for the most part by secular Jews who had a deep understanding of Jewish texts and traditions. In these Haggadot these self-proclaimed New Jews reimagine the message of the Seder and inspire us to do the same.  So join us for Protest Haggadah continued.


Well, welcome back Rabbi. And it’s so amazing that you were in Israel over the last week.  Israel is always the center of the universe. But these days a little more.

Adam Mintz  01:09

More so this past week. That is for sure. Right.

Geoffrey Stern  01:13

So last week, we looked at some Haggadot that were really protest Haggadot they were written by the so-called Black Panthers in the 70s. In Israel, we saw Haggadot of that were written in the first DP camps coming out of the Holocaust at really pivotal moments. And we ended on a note from the Holocaust DP camp Haggadah that was talking about all the divisions within the Jewish people and how the Shelichim came and tried to grab each of these survivors to their own party. And it ended up saying that really all this diversity is good, it prepares the ground for all kinds of beliefs, so that people can go and die for the tip of every letter in their own Torah. So, we ended on a note that there really are many Torahs, we all write our own Torah. And so, I like, no matter what we’re talking about, to tie our discussion to the parsha. And this parsha begins in Leviticus 6. And it talks, as the rest of the book of Leviticus will; about sacrifices. And it says, this is the ritual of the burnt offering זֹ֥את תּוֹרַ֖ת הָעֹלָ֑ה . And Rashi explains because it’s really in a sense, you can always sense that it’s a different use of the word Torah, it’s not referring to the Five Books of Moses, it’s not referring to Revelation, and he says, שֶׁכָּל תּוֹרָה לְרַבּוֹת הוּא בָּא that the word Torah can be used to really talk about a group of laws, if I will have a little literary license, I would say, to talk about a weltanschauung, an approach to something. And the truth is that even in Samuel II, 7: 19 you have this word וְזֹ֛את תּוֹרַ֥ת הָאָדָ֖ם that there are rules for the people. And we have the most famous of all in Mishlei; in Proverbs. And it says My son, heed the discipline of your father, וְאַל־תִּ֝טֹּ֗שׁ תּוֹרַ֥ת אִמֶּֽךָ , but do not forsake the instruction of your mother. So, I really do believe that one of the things that we will see today is that you really can have a different Torah a different whole direction. And it is part of this discussion. And we don’t always have to be pinned down to a precise corpus. I think one of the surprising things that I found when I prepared this week was, I actually learned Torah from these secular Jews on the kibbutzim. Rabbi, have you ever seen a kibbutz Haggadah? I became infatuated with them about 5-10 years ago, and I have a little collection?

Adam Mintz  04:15

That’s great that you have a collection.  I have seen them. I’ll just tell you on something that’s kind of connected one step away. I’m reading a book now called the Jews of Summer, written by a professor named Sandra Fox. I don’t know if you went to summer camp growing up. Did you go to summer camp?

Geoffrey Stern  04:33

I did. Yes.

Adam Mintz  04:35

And part of the book describes the following. You know, many of the camps they were Zionist camps, they were Yiddish, his camp, they were not religious camps, Conservative camps, Reform camps. You know, Orthodox camps were only one little piece of the puzzle. And what she describes in the book, she has an entire chapter about how they rethought is only one holiday in the summer. That’s Tisha B’ Av, how these how the reform and the conservative Jews the secular Jews, rethought Tisha B’Av, in a way that made sense to them. And I thought about that in regard to the kibbutz Haggadot, they don’t reject the tradition. They reframe the tradition. I think that’s a wonderful Jewish trait.

Geoffrey Stern  05:17

And I have to say that one of my pleas last week was this. We are going through a moment in history. And my God we need a Haggadah written…  and I called it the Protest Haggadah. And sure enough, just this afternoon, it’s called Haggadah HaHerut. But if you look at the PDF, the name of the file is Haggadah, Machaa, which literally means a Protest Haggadah. But before you all rush out to get it and I, what I hope to do is if they don’t translate it, I hope to put together as a Sefaria Sheet that has all of the translations in it. They really didn’t touch the traditional Haggadah. They have little articles from famous thought leaders and, and poets and songwriters and political leaders. They did not touch the traditional Haggadah. And what we are going to do today is to see what these first-generation Jews who came out of all of the richness of a Jewish culture … they were totally literate Jews who knew all of the sources, and they re-wrote to a large degree the Haggadah, so let’s jump right in. I really suggest that you go to the Sefaria source sheet, because I have images of the Haggadot. But the first Haggadah that we look at actually begins by quoting the verses הַחֹ֧דֶשׁ הַזֶּ֛ה לָכֶ֖ם רֹ֣אשׁ חֳדָשִׁ֑ים  , we celebrated Parshat haHodesh, about two weeks ago, and it literally is the first commandment and it says, this month shall be to you. The first of all the years רִאשׁ֥וֹן הוּא֙ לָכֶ֔ם לְחָדְשֵׁ֖י הַשָּׁנָֽה , and then it says that it is in the spring, and what all of the kibbutz Haggadot do. No big surprise they’re all agricultural communes that literally celebrate the spring. And I had always seen that I think it kind of works its way into some of our Haggadot, where you have verses from Shir Hashirim, the Song of Songs, and I’m not even going to quote those because those seem to be so obvious, but all of them start with a celebration of spring. And in this one, it then brings up a piece of Talmud I had never heard of before. It says כל העולם כלו אומרים בו הלל , the whole world says  הלילה הזה אוצרות טללים נפתחים בו . Because tonight, the treasuries of dew are open. And I had never really seen that expression. Through the magic of Sefaria, you can put a few words from any phrase into Sefaria, and lo and behold, it comes from Pirkei D’ Rabbi Eliezer 32: 14. And it has an amazing story, we all know the story of how the birthright of Isaac was, are given to Jacob and not Esau, and it rewrites or I should say re-imagines that story, as having happened on the night of the Seder. And we have the old Isaac saying to his son, Esau Tonight the whole world is saying Hallel. And this night the treasures of dew are opened. And this the blessings of the dew so we asked him to bring him savory meat; he wants the Passover sacrifice. Rebecca hears about this, she delays Esau and she gives this advice to. And she says to Jacob on this night, the treasures of dew will be opened and on this night the angels utter a song make savory meat for thy father that he may eat while he still lives to bless thee. So, I had never heard of this Midrash and so I through my hands already and I say so these kibbutz Haggadot and the writers of them knew their Torah and they bring this beautiful story about passing on the blessing, literally on the night of Passover had Had you realized that Rabbi?

Adam Mintz  10:01

No, it’s very good. No, it’s very, very good. I did not realize that.

Geoffrey Stern  10:06

So then it goes, and it starts talking about the dew and it has Tal. And you know, again, you could assume this is a beautiful poem about Tao. But for those of us who spend a lot of time in synagogue around the holidays, we know that on the first day, I believe of Yom Tov, you have Tefilat HaTal.

Adam Mintz  10:33

And that’s important to say, right meaning Tal, it’s not just related to spring, we actually say Tefilat Tal.

Geoffrey Stern  10:42

We say it. And the kibbutzniks put this into the Haggadah, because they realized again, they were accentuating the connection between the spring and the birth of the new nation. The so we already have now with Jacob getting the blessing … the birth of the nation the first time. And then we have in the Tefilat Tal words like תְּחַדֵּשׁ יָמֵֽינוּ  rejuvenate our days הַעֲמֵד שְׁמֵנוּ  reaffirm or name in other words give us an identity…  it talks about קוֹמֵם עִיר בָּהּ חֶפְצָךְ  re-establish presumably Jerusalem, the city of your desire through dew. So now already through bringing in this, this prayer of the dew they are bringing in our homeland, our country, our capitals, our name and self-appreciation of ourselves. It’s so amazing that they’re adding things but they are taking from our rich tradition to the Haggadah that is already telling the story in a new way of the rebirth of the Jewish people.

Adam Mintz  12:04

It’s amazing and you didn’t mention the fact that on the side, there are instructions Mikra means to read and Makhela means that the choir would sing it and on the bottom, it’s called Makehla Yeladim, so they actually had a children’s choir so that everybody participated in this.

Geoffrey Stern  12:25

And it looks like this particular Haggadah is from Mishmar haSharon; a kibbutz in central Israel. To give you an idea, it was started in 1924 by 10 Russian immigrants who were later joined by immigrants from Poland. It was agricultural. It was the birthplace of Prime Minister of Israel, Ehud Barak. And more importantly, and I’ve been to this kibbutz. It is the home to Ulpan Mishmar HaSharon.  I visited it because we (at PEF Israel Endowment Funds, Inc.) have a donor who gave a million dollars to fix up this ulpan because he was a delinquent teen in Canada. And his parents said, we got to get him out of the house. They sent him to this ulpan. It changed around his life, and now he’s giving back. But when you ask the kibbutz why they do it, they say it’s our gift to the Medina. It’s our gift to our country. It’s how we contribute. I mean, I went there, and I felt I was back forty years. They have one beit knesset there, I said, Do you have another? And he looked at me like I just screamed fire in a theater. He goes, No, we have one Beit Keneset

Adam Mintz  13:43

Do they still eat together. Does everybody eat in a Heder Ochel?

Geoffrey Stern  13:48

Yes. He said, Let’s have lunch first and then we’ll tour and I got on line with my tray and had lunch.

Adam Mintz  13:54

Tha’s great and everybody eats together.

Geoffrey Stern  13:58

Absolutely. So what I’m getting at is that this Haggadah, if you can see the source sheet, it was written on a typewriter, it was mimeographed. I mean, this was something that you can see a kibbutz council putting together and it’s real Torah here. It made me think about the Haggadah in a new way, it made me discover Perkei d’Rav Eliezer, and to look at Tefilat Tal in a new way,

Adam Mintz  14:29

And somebody knew all that to put it together And that’s really impressive.

Geoffrey Stern  14:35

Well, absolutely, and I think a lot of times we think of spring with regard to the Haggadah as a bug not a feature as they in software, but for the kibbutzniks, it was the critical message. And so, I have another picture from the Haggadah of Hashomer Hatzair and they were the Marxists, Zionist the youth movements. And they start also HaChodesh HaZeh, and then they talk about the new year starting with Nissan in the spring. And again, all they’re doing really is quoting traditional sources and setting the stage for what is to follow. It’s truly amazing. And I only have maybe four or five Kibbutz Haggadot…. this theme, this way of beginning the Seder and celebrating it, tying it to we’ll see the land, but certainly tying it to the spring and horticulture was universal for the kibbutznikim and I think is totally founded on tradition.

Adam Mintz  15:54

Yeah, I mean, all that’s true. But relevant to them, because on the kibbutz, the change of season was much more important even than it is in the city.

Geoffrey Stern  16:06

But you can almost turn that statement around and say, How can you actually, not only how can you celebrate the Seder outside of Israel, but how can you celebrate the Seder outside of being tied to the land, I mean, make such a strong point that it really becomes part and parcel of the story. So, the next thing that they all seem to do, and they’ve taken this from traditional Judaism is to have what I would call a Kavannah or an intention, or an invocation. So one of the Haggadot says Hineni Muchan uMezuman l’Kayim Mitzvot Aseh I am prepared and focused to fulfill the positive commandment, U’lesapir B’yitziat Mitzrayim ,  the positive commandment to tell the story of Ytziat Mitzrayim Yachad im Kol Yisrael. . So, there’s no mention of God. There’s mention of the Jewish people that we are doing this commandment, they’ve kept the concept of a positive commandment. And what they’ve connected it to is Klal Yisrael. Again, something beautiful. They could have easily gotten rid of this sense of obligation, this sense of you have to; are obligated to to do something they didn’t they kept it. I love that too.

Adam Mintz  17:41

Yeah, I mean, it’s really so interesting. I mean, what you really want Geoffrey is you want to be in that room when they compose this Haggadah, because obviously they composed it in the kibbutz. Right, you said it was it was created on the typewriter. There were a group of people who wrote it together. And that’s what’s so great.

Geoffrey Stern  18:02

So that last one was from Neut Mordechai, which is a kibbutz; the home of Teva Naot, a shoe factory branches all over Israel. We’ve heard of these kibbutzim and each one, the populations have dwindled. You’re talking about 600 people in each one of these kibbutzim, but you’re absolutely correct. You can almost see them sitting around a table not planning their harvest and not planning how the kids are going to be educated. But planning the Haggadah and throwing stories around, and Midrashim and prayers from the youth. So in the Hashomer Hatzair hineni; the kavanah,  it harkens to what I was talking about last year, that there’s almost not only a license to be Mahadesh to be innovative here. There’s almost a commandment because it says Bikol door Vador Haiyav adam l’rot et atzmo… that every generation we have to see ourselves as coming out of Egypt. So maybe we have to find our pharaohs and we have to find our Egypt’s and our promised lands. So here it says Ki gam anu Yatzanu m’bet avadim, because we also….  now we’re talking to the rest of the Kibbutznikim who are survivors possibly who have come from the four corners of the world? We all nidchei Yisrael al admatom… . We are the scattered of Israel back on our land. And therefore, it says And here’s a beautiful innovation. It says al ken yached layla zeh therefore let us dedicate this night mikol halelot  from all of the other nights v’narbeh l’sapir beyetziat mizrayim  and to talk about the story of going out from Egypt b’yamim haHem b’zman hazeh so picking up on the concept that we say every Hanukkah that we celebrate now for something that happened then b’yamim hahem b’zman hazeh that’s how they interpret that we have to literally and it was easy for them to see themselves coming out of Egypt and into a new promised land. But I love that innovation as well.

Adam Mintz  20:39

Yeah, and the fact that they again take the tradition and apply it to them. that’s the way they feel. These kibbutzim . You know, these are people who came from Europe, right? Mostly before the Holocaust, right? These are people who came on on the Aliya and it was very difficult living in Israel then very, very difficult. And they were making a tremendous sacrifice and to live in a kibbutz was really difficult. And, you know, in the early kibbutzim The children didn’t even sleep with the parents. So, it was a whole different kind of socialist view, and they see themselves as really being freed and, you know, and committed to building the land. It’s really, it’s so positive. You and I were talking before about this weekend in Israel and the power of peaceful protests. And like you said in the Haggadah, Haggadat Machja’a (Protest Haggadah) They were really making a statement about what the future of the State of Israel was going to be like.

Geoffrey Stern  21:46

Absolutely. And how they say…. So the next one for Mishmar HsSharon it says Savri! Nikvachei Golyiot , “Savri” we all know “Savri”  we say it before we say Boreh Pri Hagafen and before Birkat HaMazon … it’s this welcome. It says Savri to those gathered from exile. Let us sanctify my comrades and my leaders this holiday of Pesach. Let us raise our hearts the memory of the holy ones, the fighters who established Israel in our land, bless the pioneers of our people that immigrated, that prepared the way and built the earth that was barren and renewed for us a holiday of joy, festivals and times of celebration, this holiday of freedom, a commemoration of the Exodus from Egypt, and then it says, Kol Hanishama T’halellyah, Kol Hanishama T’halellyah the seamlessness with which it blends this renewal of the land, the renewal of spring, the ingathering of the exiled. It’s so powerful, it’s so beautiful, and they were telling all of the children in their kibbutz their own story.

Adam Mintz  23:02

Yeah, you said it. It was their story. It was the story of the Exodus, but it was their story. And it really required tremendous creativity by somebody in the kibbutz who was able to put these things together. I’m really fascinated by that. I would love someone to write an article about who actually wrote these Haggadot, what was their background? How did how did they know so much? You know, Geoffrey, you found that Pirkei d’Rav Elizer because we have Sefaria…   you know how to put in those words and it popped up But how did they find that before the days of Sefaria

Geoffrey Stern  23:42

I think this was part of their upbringing,

Adam Mintz  23:45

It was part of their culture which means that even though they were secular in the kibbutz, but they had some background, whatever that story was, they had some background, that’s also interesting.

Geoffrey Stern  23:56

So, I have to say I mentioned earlier that there is a Haggadah that just came out published by the protesters, but it leaves the original traditional text of the Haggadah. 100% intact. And to me, that’s a metaphor of giving to the traditional rabbis call them Haredi, call them religious Zionist. Give them the realm of religion. We’ll write a commentary. But these kibbutzniks felt literate enough. They owned their tradition. As you say, Rabbi, is it a protest? I don’t really know because I don’t know if they cared what anybody else thought about them, but they were harvesting their traditions for their Seder. Now in one have in the Haggadah that just came out. It’s all kind of commentary on the side. The next thing that I’m going to read, I don’t know whether it’s a prayer or it’s commentary because it’s all written in Hebrew. For me, it feels like it’s part and parcel of the Haggadah. But maybe it’s narration. Here’s what it says, “You do not have a record of historical recognition more profound than this. And you do not have a confluence of the individual and the society in the widest sense of the globe of the world. And the depths of the generations larger than this ancient pedagogic imperative.” He’s talking about the Haggadah.  “I do not know of a literary creation, that teaches a loathing for subjugation more than this, and he love for freedom, comparable to this story of enslavement and exodus from Egypt. And I do not know of any historical narrative that is so totally directed toward welcoming the future that is so totally a symbol of a vision, and to our future, such as the memory of the Exodus from Egypt, such a deep desire for freedom embedded in the heart of a nation in the spring of its days, to create a brilliant creation like this. And to transfer it from generation to generation.” You have to read it in the Hebrew, I have never heard someone speak with so much love and respect for our traditions as this Kibbutznik.

Adam Mintz  26:25

I mean, that’s an amazing thing. Because he’s really saying that our experience is their experience. He’s drawing a straight line from the exodus in Egypt 3,500 years ago, to the experience in the kibbutz. Right?

Geoffrey Stern  26:38


Adam Mintz  26:39

And that’s an amazing thing. I mean, the truth of the matter is that one of the paragraphs in the Haggadah says,  בכל דור ודור חיב אדם לראות את עצמו כאלו הוא יצא ממצרים . In every generation, you need to feel as if you yourself left Egypt. So the truth is, that’s the challenge for each one of us to make it feel as if we left Egypt. Now we fall short on that, because how many people think feel as if we left Egypt, how many people feel as if our year was Egypt? And now finally, we know, finally, we’re free. We don’t really feel that way. It’s so encouraging to read these, these Kibbutz Haggadot, written by basically Jews who had adopted something other than traditional religion, but they connect so much to this idea of the Exodus, and they see their experience as an experience of freedom. Now, that’s a that’s an interesting thing, you know, because the kibbutz is actually the opposite of freedom, because the kibbutz had a lot of rules, but they embrace the rules. So, they felt as if they were free. Right, there’s a lot to be said about that, you know, to analyze the kibbutz kind of mentality.

Geoffrey Stern  27:51

But you picked up on that thang that I said a second ago, where it said, mitzvot aseh it’s a positive commandment, they knew what commandments and obligations were,

Adam Mintz  27:59

That’s what I’m saying.  they know exactly what that is. Right. And they draw that direct line. What it sounds to me if I had to write a story about it, is that these people on the kibbutz, had traditional backgrounds. They gave that up, they adopted the kibbutz. But when it came to Pesach, they felt the need the desire to combine the tradition of their youth, and the reality of where they were now. And I think that’s a beautiful, beautiful thing. And that’s really a model. And I want to tell you something, Geoffrey, that when I speak on Pesach, I’m going to use some of this material from these Haggadot. Because this stuff, you cannot make this stuff up. This stuff is amazing. You can’t find this stuff anywhere. So, I give you a lot of credit for finding this material.

Geoffrey Stern  28:47

Thank you. The only thing and I think we might be saying the same thing. I don’t because of the moment in history that these people were, I don’t think they were reclaiming their Judaism and taking the traditional Haggadah and picking and choosing from it. I think they were writing their Haggadah; I think that they felt that they were the fulfillment of 2,000 years of Jewish history. And they were carrying those traditions with them. And if anything, and we discussed this last week, a little bit with some of the pictures of the four sons. They were the wise son. And the people with the Payot, who was still living in medieval times, were the ones who didn’t know how to ask a question. didn’t know how to challenge themselves. So let me read just a few more. Here is from the another Haggadah for from Ne’er Rechovot. It says we were slaves in every generation and in all places, we were scattered between the nations. We were choked in the darkness of the Diaspora for millenniums, we were subjugated in every corner of the earth, we knew not rest. And our lives were dependent on our enemies. And we looked at the land that was under our feet, and it was like iron, and the heavens that were above our heads, and they were like copper. And it was like a threatening shadow to all the nations on the land, and we cry to the Lord or God, and he did not answer. And we carried it in the depths of our hearts, the wrath and fury of our sins and the glory of our hope, from generation to generation. Now, listen, and now behold, we have risen to cast off from us the yoke of the exile, and to make for us a new land and new heavens with a mighty hand and a steady arm to find a resting place for our weary feet. And to renew our covenant with the land and with the plants. And great is the path in front of us. This kind of combines all of those themes that we’ve been talking to, they pick up on the language of a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. And lo and behold, it’s their hand. It’s the hand of the Halutz, they pick up on the concept of renewing the covenant. And it’s again with the land and with the horticulture. It’s just so, so strong, the biblical references to the earth that is iron and the skies that are copper. It’s all there and it’s telling their story. And I wish if I was sitting around a Seder, whether it’s in Israel today, or here, that our children have to hear our story of how we came to be identifying Jews, how we came, I think now I’m thinking of Israel, they have to appreciate yes, these kibbutzniks they had rules. Some of the children who grew up in these kibbutzim feel that they need therapy, and help. And there were a lot more Ashkenazim on the kibbutzim. They had a lot of faults, no question about it. But they did create this land and it was thoughtful and they were 10 Jews from Odessa that came and they shivered and they give their lives. We have to tell our story, because we can’t come together and do what we need to do in terms of appreciating the other story unless we can celebrate our own also.

Adam Mintz  32:44

And of course, that’s right. And I would just add to that, you know that they connect their story to the text of the Haggadah b’yad Hazakah, rightthe Yad Hazaka is their Yad Hazakah.. a great Midrash that they made up themselves. They didn’t need the rabbis to make it up. That’s a Midrash and that’s actually a good way to end. That’s really our challenge at the Seder. Can we write our own Haggadah this is what you talked about with Rabbi Bronstein last week? Can we write our own Haggadah and I want to wish everybody a Hag Samayach and Geoffrey, this is the perfect way to go into it. Our wish to everybody is that you write your own Haggadah, that you connect the traditions to our lives into our challenges, and we look forward to hearing from you if you want to share some of your ideas with us. We’d love to hear from everybody so Shabbat Shalom, everybody Hag Samaeach

Geoffrey Stern  33:38

thank you so much Rabbi Hag Kasher v’Samaeach. You’re going to be where?

Adam Mintz  33:43

we’re going to be Portofino Italy.

Geoffrey Stern  33:45

Okay, so any of our listeners who find themselves in Portofino Italy,

Adam Mintz  33:52

I’m looking forward to learning with all be well everybody.

Geoffrey Stern  33:57

So, my friends, my family, I tell you, I have so much more material here. I’m going to go through it kind of quickly because I am just so in love with these Haggadot you know most of what they’ve done is just quote selectively. One of them quotes from Ezekiel the bones coming alive. You think that would be the last thing that a secular Jew would quote, the miraculous story of the bones coming back to life. But guess what, it wasn’t miraculous to these Jews. They saw it with their own eyes. They talk about the Midrashim that we have discussed in the past. If you recall when we had a podcast called High five, and we talked about Hamushim, which is the five fingers also meant arms. Hey, guess what the kibbutz Nick came didn’t have to hear the podcast. You’ll see they quoted Hamushim aluh bnai yisrael, they quote both of the verses, then they say Byad Rama with a high hand, we came out, they are, in a sense, celebrating the military victory. They quote, The Midrash that we found in a footnote from pseudo-Philo, about there were three groups of Jews at the Red Sea or the Sea of Reeds. One of them says, let’s just jump into the sea and give up the other said, let’s go back into Egypt. And the third one says, let us fight. And they all celebrate that

Loren Davis  35:40

This takes me back 60 years because I lived in Israel in 1970.  maybe 50 years ago. And I lived on a kibbutz during Pesach. And I’m telling you, it was one of the most incredible….  I now think about what I saw. And it was the most celebrated and special holidays because these kibbutzniks brought the land into the equation, and they were proud of themselves. And they were liberated. And it was, it made Pesach so different than what I ever had ever experienced. And I remember that today.

Geoffrey Stern  36:23

Wow. Well, that just confirms what I was finding on the pages. And you can go on YouTube and find stuff in Hebrew, but it’s so richly connected to the land. The other thing that I found in every single one of the Haggadot from the kibbutzim? Some of them celebrated the military might the way the one that I just quoted did, but all of them quote, that Midrash where the angels want to sing a song, when the Jews have come through the split Red Sea, and God says, Ma’sey Yadiei Tovim B’yam v’atem omrim shira l’fanai , God says, the creations of my hands are drowning in the water in the sea, and you want to sing my praises. They were not pacifists by any means. But they were looking for peace in a sense that Midrash that they bought, where you have Esau and Jacob, both preparing the Passover sacrifice, they all have this midwife said if you would have asked me because we all know it in the States was probably introduced by some Reform or Conservative humanist, ….  they were humanists clearly. But it was all in every one of these Haggadot and certainly these people had plenty of reason to have bitterness against their, their enemies. But they, Hashomer Hatzair brings the Isaiah verses about the lamb lying down with the lion. So, it’s the verses that they pick from our tradition. These people were not going elsewhere for their inspiration. They owned Judaism. And that I believe is one of the things that has happened in Israel, from the day maybe that you were at the Seder, and where they were using Haggadot like this to where we are today, when the movement that is protesting in the streets, takes a traditional Haggadah and puts commentary on the side. They don’t seem to have the tools or the desire to actually own the Haggadah. And I was thinking recently, you know, if in America, some was to one was to outlaw all other forms of Judaism besides orthodoxy, and 20 years later, you would come back and you’d say it’s a (spiritual) wasteland out there. Would you really be surprised that it was a wasteland? You know, you have pictures of these kibbutzim, where they had to have a rabbi from the Rabbinate come and officiate at their weddings, in order to make it official. And after reading these Haggadot, you say to yourself, that’s absurd. Why would they need to reach out from anywhere else in terms of doing a Jewish tradition if they can do the Haggadah and the Seder, they can take care of Rites of Passage? It’s really such a fascinating exploration. And I would say that, you know, rather than try to import into Israel, American and European forms of Judaism, I think they just have to look back into their own very rich history. They have to look back to their grandparents, who came with that rich history to this country and rebuild it from there and take ownership of it and say, no one’s going to take my Judaism away from us. They have beautiful poems by Bialik that I encourage you to read. Anyway, I just was tied up with this oil week because I’m fortunate to have the originals of these Haggadot in my hand to feel them to touch them to look at the graphics. Some of them are calligraphy. Some of them are written on a mimeograph machine. It’s just so inspiring. So, I hope I shared with you a little bit of that inspiration, and that we can all use it to inspire ourselves to rediscover our Judaism and to reinvent and rejuvenate our Judaism at this festival after-wall of spring and rebirth.

Sefira Source Sheet:

Protest Haggadah cont. | Sefaria

(א) וַיְדַבֵּ֥ר ה’ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֥ה לֵּאמֹֽר׃ (ב) צַ֤ו אֶֽת־אַהֲרֹן֙ וְאֶת־בָּנָ֣יו לֵאמֹ֔ר זֹ֥את תּוֹרַ֖ת הָעֹלָ֑ה הִ֣וא הָעֹלָ֡ה עַל֩ מ וֹקְדָ֨הֿ עַל־הַמִּזְבֵּ֤חַ כׇּל־הַלַּ֙יְלָה֙ עַד־הַבֹּ֔קֶר וְאֵ֥שׁ הַמִּזְבֵּ֖חַ תּ֥וּקַד בּֽוֹ׃ (1) ה’ spoke to Moses, saying: (2) Command Aaron and his sons thus: This is the ritual of the burnt offering: The burnt offering itself shall remain where it is burned upon the altar all night until morning, while the fire on the altar is kept going on it.

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spring awakening

shabbat hagadol

1 Observe the Spring month and keep the Passover unto the LORD thy God; for in the Spring month the LORD thy God brought thee forth out of Egypt by night….

3 Thou shalt eat no leavened bread (חָמֵץ) on it; seven days shalt thou eat unleavened (מַצּוֹת) bread therewith, even the bread of affliction; for in haste didst thou come forth out of the land of Egypt; that thou mayest remember the day when thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of thy life.
4 And there shall be no leaven (שְׂאֹר) seen with thee in all they borders seven days; … (Deuteronomy 16: 1 – 4)

To me… especially during this historic Arab Spring, I am struck by how closely tied Spring (Aviv) and Revolution (Exodus) are in the Bible. The ancient symbol that most profoundly ties these two ideas together is not so much Matzo.. a uniquely Jewish foodstuff, as it is hametz and the annual purge and abstinence from all things leavened (חָמֵץ andשְׂאֹר).

It turns out that leavened (unlike matzo) is a symbol which was part of the vernacular of the ancient world and whose significance was readily understood not only within Judaism, but also Christianity and Arab – indo-Iranian groups in the ancient near east.

We first find Leavened in the Bible in Leviticus 2: 11:

11 No meal-offering, which ye shall bring unto the LORD, shall be made with leaven; for ye shall make no leaven, nor any honey, smoke as an offering made by fire unto the LORD.

In his scholarly commentary on Leviticus, Jacob Milgrom writes regarding leavened . . . leaven. hames . . . se’or.:

The difference between the two is that se’or leavens the dough and the leavened dough is called hiimes” (Yahel ‘Or). … Similarly, Akk. emesu ‘be sour’ and emsu ‘sour’ (adi.) are used in connection with wine, vinegar, beer, fruit, or leavened bread, in other words, with foods that have fermented and, in the case of bread, to which leaven has been added. Fermentation is equivalent to decay and corruption and for this reason is prohibited on the altar.

“Leaven in the dough” is a common rabbinic metaphor for man’s evil propensities (e.g., Babylonian Talmud Berachot

“Sovereign of the Universe, it is well known to You that it is our will to do Your will. Who prevents us from doing so? The leavening agent in the dough (the evil inclination within us) and our subservience to the nations. May it be Your will to save us from these so that we can return to fulfilling Your commandments wholeheartedly.” Prayer of Rabbi Alexandrai

The New Testament mentions “the leaven of malice and wickedness”

Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened [bread] of sincerity and truth. [Corinthians 5:8]

and “the leaven of the Pharisees,” which is “hypocrisy” (Luke 12:1; d. Mark 8:15).

This view is shared by the ancients:

“Leaven itself comes from corruption, and corrupts the dough with which it is mixed . . . and in general, fermentation seems to be a kind of putrefaction” (Plutarch, Quaest. Rom. 109). Plutarch records that the Roman high priest (Flamen Dialis) was forbidden even to touch leaven (ibid.). To be sure, all of the above-cited references stem from late antiquity (Christian, rabbinic, and Hellenistic sources), but they undoubtedly reflect an older and universal regard of leaven as the arch-symbol of fermentation:’ deterioration, and death and, hence, taboo on the altar of blessing and life. [pp 188-9 Leviticus 1-16: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary Anchor Bible, Vol. 3, Jacob Milgrom]

Listen to what Philo of Alexandria (representing the Jewish Hellenistics) wrote:

Leaven is forbidden because of the rising which it produces. Here again we have a symbol of the truth, that none as he approaches the altar should be uplifted or puffed up by arrogance; rather gazing on the greatness of God, let him gain a perception of the weakness which belongs to the creature, even though he may be superior to others in prosperity; and having been thus led to the reasonable conclusion, let him reduce the overweening exaltation of his pride by laying low that pestilent enemy, conceit. …. For naked you came into the world, worthy sir, and naked will you again depart, and the span of time between your birth and death is a loan to you from God. During this span what can be meet for you to do but to study fellow-feeling and goodwill and equity and humanity and what else belongs to virtue, and to cast away the inequitable, unrighteous and unforgiving viciousness which turns man, naturally the most civilized of creatures, into a wild and ferocious animal! (Philo,The Special Laws, Book I, 293-295 quoted in The Passover Anthology, Philip Goodman).

My guess is that if someone in 1st – 3rd Century CE had asked a Jew, a Hellenist, an early Christian or even a local pagan whether he had gotten rid of his leaven… the respondent may have hesitated and wondered whether the subject of conversation was old pita in his kitchen cabinet or the worker conditions in his sweat shop.

It is surprising that the symbolism of the purging of leaven as a metaphor for introspection and repentance seems not to appear in the Haggada directly itself and is relegated to the commentaries as meta-interpretation.  In fact, the removal, nullification and prohibition to own leaven is not mentioned during the Seder service all… surprising since at least half of the effort in preparing a seder goes into making the home hametz-free! (“On all other nights we eat Hametz and matzo .. on this night we eat only matzoh” does not count.. since the emphasis is on eating matzoh, not clearing and nullifying hametz.)

To be sure, for the Hasidic or more mystically inclined who recite a meditation (kavanah) before or after the Bedikat and Biur Hametz (search and nullification of the leaven) ritual, there is mention of leaven as a metaphor for impurity:

May it be Your will, Lord, our G-d and G-d of our fathers, that just as I remove the chametz from my house and from my possession, so shall You remove all the extraneous forces. Remove the spirit of impurity from the earth, remove our evil inclination from us, and grant us a heart of flesh to serve You in truth. Make all the sitra achara, all the kelipot, and all wickedness be consumed in smoke, and remove the dominion of evil from the earth. Remove with a spirit of destruction and a spirit of judgment all that distress the Shechina, just as You destroyed Egypt and its idols in those days, at this time. Amen, Selah.

But the sense of leaven as representing decay, corruption and arrogance is lost.

It occurred to me that while we Jews do our cleaning during our first month Nissan, Persians at the outset of the Iranian Norouz, (the Persian new year, which falls on the first day of spring) continue the practice of “khooneh tekouni” which literally means “shaking the house”? Everything in the house is thoroughly cleaned, from the drapes to the furniture.

Similarly Lent comes from the word length.. as in the longer days of spring. Instead of Ash Wednesday, the Eastern Church celebrates Clean Monday, otherwise known as Ash Monday. According to Wikipidia:

The common term for this day, “Clean Monday”, refers to the leaving behind of sinful attitudes and non-fasting foods. It is sometimes called “Ash Monday,” by analogy with Ash Wednesday (the day when the Western Churches begin Lent). …. Liturgically, Clean Monday—and thus Lent itself—begins on the preceding (Sunday) night, at a special service called Forgiveness Vespers, which culminates with the Ceremony of Mutual Forgiveness, at which all present will bow down before one another and ask forgiveness. In this way, the faithful begin Lent with a clean conscience, with forgiveness, and with renewed Christian love. The entire first week of Great Lent is often referred to as “Clean Week,” and it is customary to go to Confession during this week, and to clean the house thoroughly.

The fact that so many other competing religions, especially Christianity, retained the spring-purification rites may explain why it’s symbolism became muted in Judaism. (The: “the leaven of the Pharisees,” snipe does not help.) But for whatever the reason, it seems to me that a reintegration of this critical element of the Passover message is overdue, especially because the Jewish version of spring-purification message is uniquely political… it combines the Exodus-Revolution.. with spring purification…

The unique Spring message of Passover is that in every spring and in every generation, each person and every people needs to look witrhin and at the ruling powers. We have to root out the corruption, pride, arrogance, decay and death that is the “leaven in the dough”, both in our souls and in our public squares… we need to weed out arrogance in our souls but also in our Pharaohs… This political element to the nullification of leaven, is uniquely Jewish.

If I had a Passover message for modern day Egyptians and the Arab square, it is that we Jews support you in your Spring Awakening.  We Jews invite you to join us in the celebration of Pesach. We wish that in addition to bringing down your Pharaohs, you also clean away the mold and toxins of anti semitism and victimization with which your rulers have infected and distracted you. We wish you to recognize that we Jews and our local territorial conflict are not the source of much anything that is wrong in the Middle East, certainly not on your street. Know that we Jews (this Passover and every Passover) re-dedicate ourselves to resolving our local issues.. in our house, and we invite you to do the same in your own homes and in your square.

As for me and my fellow Jews, let us reintegrate the political and spiritual, social and ethical message of the awakening of spring and purging/abstinence from decay and corruption into our Passover celebration.

Let us make note that most haggadot, especially older illuminated ones, don’t start with kiddush, but rather with the search for leaven…. even though the search and nullification of leaven takes place before the onset of the holiday and holiday service.

The message is clear: The nullification of the leaven/decay is critical for the freedom that is to follow. Just as the Kol Nidre nullification of vows prior to the onset of Yom Kippur is forever connected to the service to follow, so too, the Kol Hamirah is critical to the seder to follow.

Both nullification (Bitul) formulas are legal in form and in the Aramaic vernacular. Both are combined with an invitation for others to participate, and both are intrinsic to the holiness of the coming day. The difference is that nullification of Hametz is of biblical origin (and requires a blessing) while Kol Nidre is of unknown origin. Most importantly, Kol Nidre has a soulful tune and Kol Hamira has none….

All leaven and leavened products in my possession, whether I have seen them or not, whether I removed them or not, shall be deemed of no value and ownerless like the dust (ash?) of the earth.

Followed by the invitation to join the meal and the service:

All who are hungry, come and eat,
All who are in need, come celebrate the Passover.

Compare with:

“In the tribunal of heaven and the tribunal of earth, by the permission of God—blessed be He—and by the permission of this holy congregation, we hold it lawful to pray with the transgressors.”
“All vows, prohibitions, oaths, consecrations, vows, vows, or equivalent terms that we may vow, swear, consecrate, or prohibit upon ourselves — from the last Yom Kippur until this Yom Kippur, and from this Yom Kippur until the next Yom Kippur, may it come upon us for good – regarding them all, we regret them henceforth. They all will be permitted, abandoned, cancelled, null and void, without power and without standing. Our vows shall not be valid vows; our prohibitions shall not be valid prohibitions; and our oaths shall not be valid oaths.”

I suggest that when on the morning before the seder, we recite Kol Hamira we follow the direction given by Rav Saadyah Gaon in reference to Kol Nidre and that we: “begin the chant with bated breath, like a servant who approaches his sovereign in fear, then gathers strength in speech, and finally lifts up his suppliant voice, as a son at home in his father’s house.”

I also beseach anyone out there with musical talent to record a soulful tune for Kol Hamira….

For God’s sake… if there’s a tune for the table of contents of the Haggadah (Kadesh, Urchatz, Karpas Yachatz….) can’t there be a tune for the spring awakening?


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