In every generation, we must look upon ourselves as if we were freed from slavery. These words from the Haggadah urge us to experience Jewish Peoplehood and empathy, and to explore Pesach messages that are relevant to our time. There are many different ways for households and seder gatherings to address the challenges and meaningful Pesach symbols relevant to the suffering of Israelis and Palestinians; we hope these resources will provide meaningful options. In this painful time since October 7, may we approach each other with the care and with the curiosity of Pesach’s questions.

1. For a Simple Opening Prayer

On this joyful night when we celebrate the liberation of the exodus from Egypt, we rededicate ourselves to freedom for all people. Source of Redemption, we pray the hostages will return home from captivity. We pray for peace for our siblings in Israel and for suffering Palestinians in Gaza. And we renew our hope for two states for two indigenous peoples, our hope for shared liberation. On this night of seder, may we know the joyful gratitude of Dayenu.

2. For a Complicated Opening Prayer

The Haggadah mocks me.
It demands Why, when all I can ask is How.
How do we recite:
We break the middle matza, with so much already broken;
God redeemed us with an outstretched hand, with our Jewish siblings still in captivity;
Let all who are hungry come and eat, with millions of Gazans starving;
The wicked child, with every nation blaming the other;
Next year in Jerusalem, with Palestinians politically homeless;
with Jews unsafe in our own homeland, in any land.
How do we remove enough joy from the cup, eat enough bitter herb?
How do we reach the gratitude of Dayenu?
How do we find the afikoman when we too are fractured, unfound?
How have my ancestors responded to the Haggadah, returned to the Seder table?
Generations of Jews have defied injustice with their sacred acts of joy,
walked through plagues of darkness into the light of spring
arisen in love under the blossoming of the fig tree.
In every generation we must see ourselves as though we were freed from enslavement— see ourselves in the eyes of every enslaved person.
In this generation fill our cup 4 times over with the tastes, the smells, the songs of freedom,
that it may overflow with empathy, with hope, with renewal for the Jewish People.

(Rabbi Jill Maderer)

3. For All Ages/Stages: Explore the Power of the Pomegranate

When Cantor Hyman visited Israel on a solidarity mission, he bore witness to the Jewish and non-Jewish farmers who work the fertile land next to Gaza, who all had to leave suddenly. Much like the Israelites fled from Egypt in haste, the farmers left the area without being able to glean the ripened pomegranates. The fruit remained to rot on their branches, never to sustain the people — unrealized promises. 

For discussion: What beauty or hope also lies in the image of the pomegranate?

4. For All Ages/Stages: Compassion Means We Cannot Harden Our Hearts

Our Sages taught: At the very hour that the Egyptians were drowning, the angels wanted to sing before the Holy Blessed One. God said to them: “My children are drowning in the sea— yet you would sing in My presence!?” As the heirs of slaves redeemed from Egypt’s violence, we rejoice at the sight of oppression overcome. Yet our triumph is diminished by the slaughter of the foe. Therefore, we take ten drops from the wine within our cups: one for each plague God brought upon Egypt.  (Mishkan HaSeder)

For discussion: What are thinking as you remove drops of wine/juice from your glass?

5. For Gatherings Where a Difficult Israel Conversation Would Rupture Peace in the House

When in the Book of Genesis God announces to the aged Abraham and Sarah that they will have a child, God hears Sarah laugh in disbelief: “Now that I am withered, and with my husband, so old?!” But careful to protect Abraham’s feelings, God reports to Abraham only that Sarah referred to herself – not to her husband – as too old. God omits the full truth for the sake of Peace in the House/Shalom Bayit. Today, for the sake of a joyful gathering with loved ones, some of us may choose to give ourselves permission to omit as God does in the story– not to express every divisive truth.

For discussion: When do you choose omission in order to prioritize Shalom Bayit and what circumstances or boundaries guide you not to prioritize Shalom Bayit?

6. For Deeper Israel/Gaza Conversation: Interpretive Four Questions

-Passover is a holiday of storytelling, and the Haggadah commands us to tell the story as though we had been present in it. What is one story that has shaped how you understand the war in Gaza?

-Passover warns that great suffering comes from hardening our hearts. How are you feeling hard-hearted right now? How are you feeling tender-hearted?

-Passover is a time to ask questions. When you think about the current war in Gaza, what questions come to mind? What is something you’d like to understand?

-The seder ends with the aspiration: “Next Year in Jerusalem.” What do you hope will be true one year from now? How do you hope you will feel?

(Union for Reform Judaism)

-What do you love about the people and the land of Israel

-What are you afraid of when it comes to Israel?

-What makes you furious  and/or sad about Israel?

-How might honest conversation about Israel bring you closer to the people you love, even when the conversation is difficult?

(T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights)

7. For More Understanding and Conversation Amid Difference

At a recent Broad Perspectives event Dr. Sigal Ben-Porath invited us to respond to dispute or hurt with the words “Tell Me More.”  With care and with the curiosity of the questions of Seder, can you ask someone at your Seder Table – someone whose ideas might challenge or offend you – Tell Me More.

8. For more resources:

In Every Generation: A Haggadah Supplement from Shalom Hartman Institute

This Broken Matzah – A Collection of Poetry and Art