How can we observe Passover this year in the spirit of a crucial teaching that appears in the Passover service itself? ---
In every generation, Pharaoh.
In every generation, Freedom.
This year The Shalom Center will bring to bear Doing, Knowing, Feeling, and Being — what in Jewish mystical tradition are seen as the Four Worlds of reality — to express the deep inner crisis and the volcanic world crisis of facing the Pharaohs of our generation and seeking our own and the world's freedom.
Once again the Voice of the Burning Bush speaks: the Bush whose flame of freedom is never consumed.
1. In the world of action: The Shalom Center will create text and drama for multireligious communal and household Freedom/Shalom Seders to be held all across America before and during Passover this year.
Perhaps we should even call them the Seder of the Burning Bush.
We are already working with grass-roots groups ---
in Washington DC for a Seder on Sunday March 28, eight days before Passover. It will include a public presence to "Face the Pharaohs" at the White House and at a major center of corporate power;
and in Philadelphia for a Seder on April 4 (the anniversary of Martin Luther King's great antiwar speech at Riverside Church in 1967, his death in 1968, and the first Freedom Seder in 1969), one day before Passover.
We invite other regional grass-roots groups — Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Unitarian, Buddhist, and other spiritually-grounded communities — to get in touch with us at
to begin planning similar actions.
2. In the world of Knowing: We will name and give the evidence for the behavior of the governmental-corporate amalgam that is trying to rule us as Pharaoh ruled ancient Egypt:
What were the misdeeds of Pharaoh? Enslaving workers, building a deadly war machine, murdering children, making immigrants into pariahs, wounding the earth itself by bringing upon his own what we call "the Plagues" — undrinkable water, mad-cattle disease, swarms of frogs and insects, disastrous weather and climate extremes.
Who and what behaves like this today? —
The present government of the United States has attacked our neighbors, sent our own youth to needless deaths, poisoned our earth, violated our rights, broken our laws, endangered our children, and thwarted our hopes.
The present government of the United States lied to its own citizens in order to win public support for an aggressive war against a country that was no threat to us.
To fight that war and increase its own power, it sent hundreds of Americans and thousands of Iraqis to their deaths.
It robbed the public of more than one hundred billion dollars that were desperately needed to heal the sick and educate the children of America. It utterly failed to protect the innocent citizens it conquered from the predictably disastrous aftermath of its conquest.
Moreover, to fight that war it ignored the opposition of America's allies and broke America's sacred obligations to all peoples, violating the United Nations Charter.
The present government of the United States is plundering our forests, poisoning our air, and raising high the very corporations of Big Oil that are scorching our globe and endangering the futures of our children.
The present government of the United States is strengthening racism, trying to reverse the great achievements of the last generation — not only by opposing affirmative action, but by imprisoning two million people, the highest number in the world, mostly people of color.
The present government of the United States has handed over to the extremely wealthy and to great corporations tax breaks of hundreds of billions. There is only one thing the rich can buy with those hundreds of billions of dollars — MORE POWER.
The present government of the United States is bleeding dry our own city and state governments so that they can no longer provide what the people need — health care, schools, pensions, even local police and fire protection.
The present government of the United States has endangered freedom of the press by encouraging extreme concentration of control of the news media, and by erecting high walls of secrecy around the public business of the government.
The present government of the United States has undermined the civil liberties of its citizens and shattered the human rights of its immigrants, singling out the Arab and Muslim communities for special restrictions as Pharaoh singled out the Israelites.
The present government of the United States has imprisoned thousands, some of them American citizens, without recourse to any legal system, and is putting in power judges who will uphold corporate interests against those of the people, and will attack the personal dignity, privacy, and freedom of women and gay & lesbian people.
The present government of the United States has in the guise of "free trade" deprived millions of Americans of their jobs, subjected tens of millions of workers in other countries to sweatshops and child slavery, and undermined the labor movement through which workers seek to protect themselves against the greed of great corporations.
The Shalom Center will not only incorporate these truths into a Freedom Seder, but provide the back-up evidence to educate those who celebrate the Passover.
3. In the world of relating: The Shalom Center will explore how Christians, Jews, Muslims, and those of other traditions can draw on the Jewishly-rooted celebration of Passover while also expressing the truths of other traditions.
The new Freedom Seder will also look inward, to the liberation of our own persons and relationships from the habits, addictions, and hostilities that are our internal Pharaohs and that eat away the hope, the love, and the life-juices that spring from the core of our beings. How do we succumb to being Oiloholics, Workaholics, Affluenza sufferers — and how can we resist these internal addictive Pharaohs that make us co-dependents with the external Pharaohs?
The new Freedom Seder will draw on the Song of Songs (a tradtiional reading for Passover, which heralds not only spring but "Love that is strong as death") and on other spiritual teachings to invite participants to imagine and work on alternatives to Pharaoh. What does it mean to keep in touch with each other AFTER Passover not only to resist slavery but to create and celebrate joy and freedom?
4. In the world of being:
God says to Moses: "Come to Pharaon!" — not "Go!" but "Come!" "Come" because "I have hidden my radiance in Pharaoh's heart. Come to Me, the Me who lives hidden inside Pharaoh. Don't be afraid. of Pharaoh. What looks like his radiance, his glory, is really My radiance, My glory.
From seeing God hidden within Pharaoh, Moses can learn both courage and compassion.
Courage as he realizes that Pharaoh seeming power is not his but just a part of the enormous power of the flow of life, the unity of universe
Compassion as he recalls that the tzelem Elohim, the spark of God, is found even within Pharaoh, and he can resist Pharaoh tyranny while yet remembering the kavod (honor) due his spark of divinity.
This is the Passover of Being. It transcends fear and rage, arrogance and rebellion.
When Moses first faces Pharaoh, he says, "YHWH sent me." Pharaoh says, "Who is this YHWH?"
And this is the deepest question of Passover, the one we all must face.
We welcome your joining with us on all these levels for the Passover that comes to us this year, this generation, from the voice of the Burning Bush. The Bush that is never consumed.