Below is an overview of the Uri L’Tzedek Food and Justice Haggadah Supplement by a former Uri L’Tzedek intern, Yitzi Raizner. The supplement, featuring 26 articles and insights about food, justice and Pesach, is available for free download here:
Justice at the Seder Table
by Yitzi Raisner
The Seder is an orchestrated affair with fourteen movements, from Kadesh to Nirtzah. At my family’s Seder, though, there is a prelude which marks the true beginning of the meal, long before the first cup of wine is poured. One might call it Bechira, “The Selection.” For you simply cannot approach the Pesach table without a thoughtfully chosen Haggadah (and pillow, for that matter). My grandmother is loyal to the Szyk Haggadah for its aesthetic offerings. My sister, on the other hand, appreciates the Abarbanel’s unique insights. It’s a highly personal choice and no two people end up at the table with the same one.
This year, Uri L’Tzedek, “an Orthodox social justice organization guided by Torah values, and dedicated to combating suffering and oppression,” has partnered with a number of like-minded groups to produce a Haggadah supplement tailored to the needs of a new generation of Jews. This is a generation, according to Nigel Savage, founder of Hazon and a contributor to the supplement, “striving to find meaning and wisdom in ancient tradition, and not merely in the abstract, but in relation to a wide range of complex and troubling contemporary issues.” Members of this generation will find a compelling treatment of one such issue in the Food and Justice Haggadah Supplement. Its message is simple: As we eat sumptuously and recount the story of the Exodus, we cannot ignore modern-day slaves, the impoverished and oppressed people of the world. Some of them, like the farm workers who pick the grapes for our wine, provide the backbone of our food security while enjoying no such security themselves. This is a grave injustice. Read more »
Below you’ll find two prayers by Jon Kelsen and Dina Weiss, written to accompany the search and nullification of chametz in our homes. I found them meaningful – hope you will too.
The Torah instructs us to clear our homes of all hametz (leavened foods) prior to the onset of the holiday of Pesah. In the Talmud, R’ Alexandri refers to his yetzer hara (evil inclination) as “leaven that is in the dough” (TB Berakhot 17a). The Midrash provides a way of understanding this equation:
“ושמרתם את המצות” ר’ יאשיה אומר: אל תקרא כן, אלא ושמרתם את המצוות. כדרך שאין מחמיצין את המצה, כך אין מחמיצין את המצוה; אלא, אם באה מצוה לידך, עשה אותה מיד:
“And you shall guard the matzoth. ” R. Yoshayah said: Rather read [the word “matzoth”] as “mitzvoth. ” For just as we may not allow matzah to rise, so too we may not “ferment” [i. e. delay] a mitzvah. Rather, if a mitzvah comes your way, do it immediately (Mekhilta d’Rabbi Yishmael, m. d’ Piskha 9).
Because leavening is a process that takes place over time, R’ Yoshayah equates hametz with laziness. In other contexts, hametz is equated with the attribute of self-inflation, of arrogance. This more expansive definition of hametz invites us to link the process of destroying and relinquishing hametz with the complementary practices of working to remove those “hametzdik” attributes which we have allowed to grow within our souls, and which manifest themselves in multiple ways, including in the maintenance of superfluous possessions and even income.
Using the traditional liturgy as our template, we have composed two prayers intended to frame our intentions as we work to discard our hametz, clean our homes, and engage in bedikat and bi’ur hametz (the search for and destruction of hametz). The first text is designed to be recited during the days and weeks prior to Pesah as we clean and dispose of our hametz; the second text is meant to be recited after the burning of the hametz, on the morning of April 18, erev Pesah. We hope that these texts resonate with you and move you to adapt them to fit your own circumstances.
Hag Kasher v’Sameah,
Jon Kelsen and Dena Weiss
I am present, in body and mind, to fulfill the positive commandment of “On the first day, you shall dispose of hametz from your homes. ”
As I prepare to destroy all the leavened food in my possession, so I commit to removing all objects and aspects of my life which share distinct features with hametz: clothing I do not wear which might clothe another, tzedakah I am withholding which might sustain another; love I have not shown which might inspire another. I also prepare to challenge my traits of procrastination, selfishness and narrow perspective, arrogance, and fear.
God, should it please You, help me to grow from the experience of discovering and destroying the hametz from my home and office, my closet and my desk, my heart and my mind. I recognize that I have not done so completely. Regard my efforts as achievements. Help me to turn my mistakes into lessons and to continue this process of purification throughout the coming year. This year we are here, next year may we be in Eretz Yisrael. This year we are slaves, next year may we be free.
הנני מוכן ומזומן הנני מוכן ומזומן לקיים מצוות עשה כמו שכתוב בתורה “אך ביום הראשון תשביתו שאור מבתיכם. “ וכמו שאני מוכן להשבית כל מחמצת שברשותי, כן אני מוכן להשבית שאר דברים שברשותי שיש בהם מעין תערובת חמץ: בגדים שאינני לובש היכולים להלביש ערומים, צדקה שקפצתי בידי היכולה להקים דלים, אהבת חינם של חננתי. ואף אני מוכן להתמודד עם יצרי הרעים שבכל מחבואות מחשבותי ,שאור שבעיסה: החמצה, אנוכיות, מוחין דקטנות, גאווה, ופחד.
יהי רצון יהי רצון מלפניך ה’ אלוקינו ואלוקי אבותינו, שתעזרני ללמוד לעלות ולהתקדש על ידי עבודת בדיקת וביעור החמץ: הן מביתי הן ממשרדי, הן מארוני הן משולחני, הן מליבי הן משכלי. מתודה אני לפניך שלא סיימתי את מלאכת הקודש בתמימות. צרף יגיעתי להשגתי, מחשבתי למעשי. הפוך שגגות לזכויות, ירידות לעליות, ותזכני למשוך שפעת הקדושה והטהרה של מצווה זו. השתא הכא, לשנה הבאה באראע דישראל . השתא עבדי, לשנה הבאה בני חורין.
Hey Chevre, really great event coming up that you might want to check out if you’re in the New York Area.
The event will feature:
Opportunities to connect with inspiring food justice campaigns;
Space for conversation connecting the Seder themes to food justice;
Re-imagined rituals to highlight food justice issues;
Delicious, Tav HaYosher certified food;
Readings from Uri L’Tzedek’s newly released Food and Justice Haggadah Supplement;
Cost: $18. This is a 21+ event.
Time: Sunday, April 10 · 6:00pm – 8:00pm
Location: 274 Garfield Place, Brooklyn
To RSVP: Visit http://www.pursueaction.org/food-justice-seder/.
This event is brought to you by Pursue, Uri L’Tzedek, and Hazon and is co-sponsored by Congregation Beth Elohim / Brooklyn Jews.
“Will you really sweep away the righteous with the wicked… ?” Genesis, 18:23
These words echoed in my spirit as I watched the images of the tsunami strike in Japan, and as the situation continues to unfold it evokes profound spiritual anxiety in me. How do we make sense of such enormous tragedy within the context of our faith? For we who believe in an active God who cares about what happens in this world, how do we make sense of wide-scale catastrophe? How do we respond when horrible things happen to innocent people?
We hold God accountable. Continued here…
It sounds like a dream: a Muslim woman wearing a full head covering, laughing and joking with an orthodox rabbi as they paint a mural of Run-DMC for Brooklyn schoolchildren. But on Martin Luther King Day, 2011, that dream was real.
On that day, over 50 Muslims and Jews gathered together in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn to participate in the kickoff event for United in Service: The Jewish Muslim Volunteer Alliance (JMVA). They came came from the Council for the Advancement of Muslim Professionals New York Chapter, Uri L’Tzedek: Orthodox Social Justice, and Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School, or because they heard about the groundbreaking event from family or friends. Together, they painted several large murals inside IS 292 junior high school.
Kyla Pollack, the Co-founder and Chair of JMVA and Chair of Interfaith Service Initiatives for Uri L’Tzedek, explained that: “We formed the JMVA to create a group where Jewish and Muslim New Yorkers could unite around our commonalities and our shared interest in improving our city. By working on service projects together, we demystify each other and hopefully open up space for dialogue. It’s an opportunity for people who wouldn’t otherwise interact to come together around a shared, positive goal.”
Fariha Khaliq, a member of the JMVA steering committee, added, “It is important to educate ourselves about other cultures, traditions and religions.” Khaliq and Pollack, along with four other young New Yorkers, first met in October to form the JMVA and plan its events. By all measures, last week’s kickoff was a smashing success. Read more »