What Does This Ritual Mean to You?

Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster

Mah ha’avodah ha’zot lachem—what does this ritual mean to you? Over the past decade, I’ve seen the wicked child’s demand take prominence in contemporary Jewish life. Our children are demanding that we explain our own behavior before they commit to it themselves, a challenge that makes sense in an age of doubt. But over the past several years, I’ve begun to see the question through a different lens. I’m a rabbi and a social justice activist whose work—literally, my “avodah” is focused on ending the modern-day slavery of workers. And I’m a parent, trying to explain to my children why building a world of chesed, standing as a ally with workers insisting that their human rights are respected, is so important to me. What does it mean to me? What should it mean to them?

A few years ago, I joined the Coalition of Immokalee Workers for a few days of their March for Fair Food in Florida, a two week, 150 mile journey demanding that corporations join the proven, worker-led human rights solutions for farmworkers. It was a couple weeks before Passover, and my older daughter, Liora, who was then 5, came with me to march and protest. Having begun my human rights career fighting torture, I was grateful that the CIW’s message—pay farmworkers more, respect human rights, no more slavery in the fields—was simple enough for Liora to understand and also one that would give her hope. Pesach, after all, is not just a story of oppression in the past—it is the story of freedom in the present and the continuing potential for redemption in the future. Early one morning, as the sun rose, we sat on a bus that bore the sign “No more slavery in the fields,” and she turned to me and asked “Can I practice the four questions now?” In that moment, I knew the commitment—what does this mean—had been passed along to another generation.

This year, T’ruah took on the question Mah ha’avodah ha’zot lachem as an organization. What does it mean for all of us, rabbis and activists, to fight modern day slavery as Jews? Our answer is our new anti-slavery hagaddah, The Other Side of the Sea. To receive a copy of the hagaddah, together with other Pesach resources, please visit: http://www.truah.org/passover

Author bio: 

Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster is Director of Programs for T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights. Ordained in 2008 from the Jewish Theological Seminary, where she was a student activist and leader, she is a noted speaker and writer on Judaism and human rights, including speaking internationally on behalf of the U.S. State Department on the issue of human trafficking. 

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