Rabbi Debbie’s Supplemental Haggadah Readings for Passover 2024

Passover this year feels different from previous years. The world is in great turmoil; tensions are high and tempers are frayed. As you gather around your Seder table, you might be looking for some different perspectives for yourselves or to share. Below are some readings I have collected in light of this. Many of them will be used or referenced at our Passover Gathering. Some of these may be difficult, some may be contentious, and hopefully, some will offer comfort. Feel free to use any or none of them during your seders. As we noted when Thanksgiving came around, gathering with family and friends in times of trouble poses a unique set of challenges, but coming to the table with an open heart and a well of compassion can ease some of the burden.

May you all have a happy, peaceful, and meaningful Passover.

–Rabbi Debbie, April 2024  

A Prayer by Satmar Ḥazan Naphtali Stern, z”l, in 1944, from the Wolfsberg Labor Camp

There is no society without worshippers,
There is no time without someone who prays,
There is no place that cannot be transformed into a place of prayer
And there is no human being who does not, in the privacy of his heart,
Embrace a silent prayer, offered up to the hidden powers,
To redeem him from his distress
To improve his condition and to better his lot.
The human being is a being who prays.

Seder Plate, Susan Eisenberg 2006

This year even the charoses tastes bitter,
salt water over everything. Enough
rejoicing at plagues though God
uproots olive groves and smites
first-born sons. Let the shank bone signify
orphaned arms and legs.
Let the roasted egg signify
eyes blinded by rubber bullets.
Let the matzo signify peace
without justice: fragile and tasteless.
Keep the door open all night for Elijah.
He has been wandering
since seven tanks swallowed his house in Gaza.

Reflection by Rabbi Matthew Goldstone PhD

The seder is full of “fours” – the four cups, the four questions, the four children, etc. But there is another, relatively unknown, four in the Passover story from when the Israelites were standing before the sea and Pharaoh’s army was approaching. According to the midrash:
“The Israelites at the Red Sea were divided into four groups. One group said: Let us throw ourselves into the sea. One said: Let us return to Egypt. One said: Let us fight them; and one said: Let us cry out against them.”
At the moment of crisis, when they were ostensibly trapped between sword and water, the people could not agree on the proper course of action.
At our seders this year we might find divisions among family and friends as to what should have been done in response to the events of October 7th and what Israel – and the world Jewish community – should do next. Or we ourselves, as individuals, might be internally conflicted about decisions – big or small – that Israel and our communities have made in response to the act of terror and ensuing antisemitism.
Like the ancient Israelites, Jews today hold different opinions about the best course of action in moments of crisis. Ultimately, in the Exodus story, it turns out that none of the Israelites’ recommended responses carried the day. Instead, Moses pleaded that the people trust in God, and God intervened to provide redemption. While we cannot simply wait for miraculous intervention today, the midrash teaches us that we do not need to have all of the right answers, and sometimes, in moments of crisis, we simply do not know the correct path to take.

A Plague Poem Rabbi Margaret Frisch Klein

My creatures are drowning... 
Why are you singing?
A drop of wine
A drop of blood
Not just 10 for the plagues
Too many drops to count this year
Maybe every year
A drop of wine
A drop of blood
We rejoice with each hostage freed
Out of the narrow places
A drop of wine
A drop of blood
A tunnel is a narrow place
A very narrow place
We weep for each life lost
Child, woman, man
Every Gazan, Every Israeli
Every soldier
Every “non-combatant”
Every victim from any country
Every person
Each created in the image of the Divine
A drop of wine
A drop of blood
We weep for each victim
Each victim of terror
Each victim of sexual assault
Each victim of displacement
Each victim of brutality
Each victim of promises made
And promises shattered
Each victim searching for water
And searching for food
And searching for safety
Searching for school
And searching for healing
Each victim of fear
We pray that soon
All will be out of the tunnels
Out of the narrow places
God admonished the angels
“My creatures are drowning, and you rejoice?”
A drop of wine
A drop of blood
Too, too many drops this year
We cannot sing this year
Next year may all be free
Out of the narrow places.

Being an Egyptian, Rabbi Anat Katzir

Almost every year, at some point when we read the plagues, after remembering how bad it was to be an Israelite slave and finding hope in the faith and endurance of my people, I think to myself. Yeah, being a slave in Egypt must have been awful, and we had Moses, and Aaron, and Miriam, and maybe God.  

But what was is like to be an Egyptian?

I’m not thinking about the hard-hearted Pharaoh or one of the fancy Egyptians, with headdresses and makeup, who lived in the palace and had bowls of jewelry they could taunt Israelite captured babies with.

I mean the simple Egyptians, that worked in the field. Whose crops were eaten by locusts, whose livestock died from disease. They sat there scratching their heads, perhaps from lice, perhaps because they couldn’t understand why all these horrible things were happening to them. What must have been their pain as they held their eldest children in their arms in that final plague… Were there no uninvolved Egyptians?

As I sit and eat the bitter herb and charoset, and pray for freedom for children of Israel, I also wonder what food symbolizes the pain of those who have no choice? What is the food of the voiceless, caught up in someone else’s war?

Maybe brussels sprouts. Bitter, but if given time, and cared for properly, can become something good. Or maybe because sprouts have hope.

Source of Life, Source of Mercy, may we be blessed with compassion and with hope.

An Urgent Prayer for the Protection of Human Life by Rabbi Andy Vogel and Rabbi Seth Goldstein, April 3, 2024

Eloheinu, Elohei chol basar,
Yotzreinu, Yotzer bereshit

Our God, God of all human beings,
Who created each person with a spark of the Divine,
we pray for the urgent protection of human life.

May we recall that You give life to all, and sustain all life through Your love,
and may we remember Your instruction to us
that preserving life is our highest duty in our service to You,
Asher ya’aseh otam ha-Adam va-hai bahem
that we fulfill our humanity in the safeguarding of human life. (Lev. 18:5)

So, we pray:

May the destruction of innocent life come to an end.
May the ruin that comes from war cease now.
May each life be treated as a sacred treasure, as You have intended.
In a time of growing darkness, grant us the strength to be beacons of light,
defenders of the vulnerable, and champions of justice.
May our hearts be filled with compassion, our minds with wisdom,
and our hands with action,
as we strive to safeguard the dignity and well-being of all Your children.

May none stand idly by the blood of any other.

For we know that
the lives, security and peace of us all –
Jew, Muslim and Christian;
Israeli and Palestinian,
are bound up with each other, all as one.
We are all one and connected.

So, may we fulfill the words of the Psalms:
S’ur me’rah ve aseh tov bakesh shalom ve radfehu
“Turn away from harm and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it.” (Psalm 34:15)

May we be among those who speak out and resist evil.
May peace and justice fill Your world.
And may we be among those who make peace and pursue justice.

From Rabbi Jonathan Sacks z”l 2004

Moses became a hero because he had “greatness thrust upon him.” He led Israel not because he chose to, but because he was commanded by God. In contrast to the story we know of Moses, we have Yocheved, Miriam, Bitya, Tzippora, Shifra, and Pua. These women were not commanded. They acted because they had a strong moral sense, indomitable humanity, and an intuitive grasp of what heaven asks of us on earth: they “feared God.” The monument the Torah erects to freedom, the sovereignty of God, and the sanctity of life bears the names of those women who by their courage showed that though tyranny is strong, compassion is stronger still.

Author Unknown

On this night, 
We retrace our steps from then to now, reclaiming years of desert wandering.
On this night,
We ask questions, ancient and new, speaking of servitude and liberation, service and joy.
On this night,
We welcome each soul, sharing stories of courage, strength and faith.
On this night,
We open doors long closed, lifting our voices in songs of praise.
On this night,
We renew ancient hopes and dream of a future redeemed.
On this night,
We gather around Seder tables, remembering passage from bondage to freedom.
On this night,
We journey from now to then, telling the story of freedom.

By Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Joshua Heschel

LEADER: Prejudice is like a monster which has many heads, an evil which requires many efforts to overcome. One head sends forth poison against the people of a different race, another against the people of a different religion or culture. Thus the evil of prejudice is indivisible.
GROUP: Human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and the persistent work of dedicated individuals who are willing to be co-workers with God. Without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the insurgent and primitive forces of irrational emotionalism and social stagnation.
LEADER: What is called for is not a silent sigh, but a voice of moral compassion and indignation, the sublime and inspired screaming of a prophet uttered by a whole community.
GROUP: The voice of justice is stronger than bigotry and the hour calls for that voice as well as the concerted and incessant action.
LEADER: I have personal faith. I believe firmly that in spite of the difficulties of these days, in spite of the struggles ahead, we will and we can solve this problem. I believe there will be a better world.

Author Unknown

Let’s bring Dayeinu into the present. We are grateful, and yet what miracles and accomplishments would be sufficient (Dayeinu) in today’s world for us to be truly satisfied?
1. When all workers of the world receive just compensation and respect for their labors, enjoy safe, healthy and secure working conditions, and can take pride in their work… DAYEINU (everyone says this out loud each time)
2. When governments end the escalating production of devastating weapons, secure in the knowledge that they will not be necessary… DAYEINU
3. When technology is for the production and conservation of energy and our other natural resources is developed so that we can maintain responsible and comfortable lifestyles and still assure a safe environment for our children… DAYEINU
4. When the air, water, fellow creatures and beautiful world are protected for the benefit and enjoyment of all… DAYEINU
5. When all politicians work honestly for the good of all… DAYEINU
6. When all women and men are allowed to make their own decisions on matters regarding their own bodies and their personal relationships without discrimination or legal consequences… DAYEINU
7. When people of all ages, sexes, races, religions, cultures and nations respect and appreciate one another… DAYEINU
8. When all children grow up in freedom, without hunger, and with the love and support they need to realize their full potential… DAYEINU
9. When all children, men and women are free of the threat of violence, abuse and domination; when personal power and strength are not used as weapons… DAYEINU
10. When all people have access to the information and care they need for their physical, mental and spiritual well-being… DAYEINU
11. When food and shelter are accepted as human rights, not as commodities, and are available to all… DAYEINU
12. When no elderly person in our society has to fear hunger, cold, or loneliness… DAYEINU
13. When the people of the Middle East, and all people living in strife, are able to create paths to just and lasting peace… DAYEINU
14. When people everywhere have the opportunities we have to celebrate our culture and use it as a basis for progressive change in the world… DAYEINU
All: If tonight each person could say this year I worked as hard as I could toward my goals for improving this world, so that one day all people can experience the joy and freedom I feel sitting with my family and friends at the Seder table… DAYEINU, DAYEINU

Lewis John Eron

When did we leave Egypt and when did Egypt leave us? When were the chains of slavery broken and when did we finally truly feel free? Freedom came in steps. It was part of the journey from Egypt to Canaan our people took and we can still take. Freedom is courage and hope and clear vision. Freedom is walking to a place we can’t see. Freedom in knowing that we can find food in the desert.  Freedom is feeling safe though our houses are booths. Freedom is choosing good rules to live by and freedom is singing our very own song.

Sharon Cohen Anisfeld, Women’s Seder Sourcebook

Words fail.  The story of bitterness is the most difficult to tell, perhaps because it is not really a story after all. It is a taste in the mouth. The taste of sharp words — unspoken — dissolving on the tongue. The taste of swallowed anger. Heartburn. It is useful to eat as big a chunk of these bitter herbs as one can bear. If there is hope, it lies in the tears that well up in the eyes and the clear-headedness that comes after. 

Excerpt from Rabbi Michael Lerner, 2015 Passover Supplement

Yet the message of Passover and Easter is that we are not stuck; that liberation and transformation are possible; and that we should celebrate the partial victories of the past in order to gain both perspective and hopefulness about the future. No, not the hope that some politician is going to save us, but the hope that we ourselves can become mobilized to engage in tikkun olam (the healing, repair, and transformation of our world). Just as the Israelites who were emancipated from slavery in Egypt (celebrated on Passover) became mobilized through retelling the story to their children, and just as the early Christians who encountered Jesus’ liberation message for the poor started rejecting the injustice around them, we can begin to live as witnesses to the possibility of a different world. 

Author Unkown

What does this mean, ‘it would have been enough’?  Surely no one of these would indeed have been enough for us. A Jewish philosopher was once asked, “what is the opposite of hopelessness?” And he said, “Dayenu,” the ability to be thankful for what we have received, for what we are. Dayenu means to celebrate each step toward freedom as if that were enough, then to start on the next step. It means that if we reject each step because it is not the whole liberation, we will never be able to achieve the whole liberation.

Author Unknown

Dear God! Already there has been wrath poured through our world. We need Your healing love more than ever.  

Pour out Your love on nations that know You, and realms that call Your Name, for the caring deeds they perform for all who limp in the world, for their defense of all who wrestle with God.

May all who pour love into the world merit the Sukkah of Peace, and may they rejoice among the joy of all Your nations.

Spread over us wings of peace: Shalom

And then, and then, Judy Chicago

And then, and then
All human beings will be gentle
And then, and then
All human beings will be strong
And then all will be so varied, rich, and free
And everywhere will be called Eden once again.



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