An Interfaith Healing Seder for the Earth: Ten Plagues, Ten Healings
Today, April 4, 2016, we are presenting a revised version of this Seder, originally published in 2013. Today is the 48th anniversary of the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King in 1968. It is also the 49th anniversary of his most profound and troubling speech: “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence,” a speech he delivered in 1967 at Riverside Church in New York City to the assembled “Clergy and Laity Concerned About Vietnam.” In it he called on all Americans to struggle against the “deadly triplets” that he said afflict our lives: racism, militarism, and materialism.
And today is the 47th anniversary of the original Freedom Seder, which in 1969 radically altered the Seder’s focus by weaving the liberation struggles of Black America together with the ancient story of the Israelite liberation struggle out of slavery to Pharaoh.
The original Freedom Seder addressed the most urgent crisis of that day, and drew together Jews and Christians, black and white. And in the decades since, for many many thousands of people it liberated the Passover Seder itself to address other deep issues: liberating us from immoral and self-destructive wars, affirming the rights of immigrants and of people trafficked into the slave trade and of exploited workers, liberating us from fear and hatred among Muslims, Jews, and Christians.
To honor the memory and wisdom of Dr. King and to renew the life-giving energy of the Freedom Seder, today we are sharing with you a new Passover Seder. It challenges the Corporate Carbon Pharaohs of today that are bringing a new Ten Plagues upon our planet. And it celebrates the Ten Healings of our wounded Mother Earth that we should undertake.
The Seder begins with a journey into the streets to challenge today’s Pyramids of Power. Some may want to organize such a journey; others may simply want to use the Haggadah, the Telling, that we present below, in their family or community Seder.
This year, on Friday, April 22, the first Seder begins in the evening of Earth Day. As befits a Seder for the whole Earth, this Telling is rooted in the Jewish tradition and includes in its flowering passages from other traditions.
Let me call your special attention to new approaches to the meaning of charoset and the welcoming of Elijah, to the Ten Plagues and Ten Healings, to a whole new song and a new verse in “Go Down Moses,” to a new translation and a new melody of an old psalm.
With blessings of freedom and community, of shalom, salaam, peace, Earth! — Rabbi Arthur Waskow
WISDOM FOR THE JOURNEY
“I felt as if my legs were praying.”
— Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, coming back home from the voting-rights March in Selma, Alabama, 1965
“Prayer is meaningless unless it is subversive, unless it seeks to overthrow and to ruin the pyramids of callousness, hatred, opportunism, falsehoods.” — Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, 1970
CHALLENGING THE PYRAMIDS OF POWER
The people gather at a central point, perhaps a synagogue.
The people move into the streets. Chanting and singing as they go, carrying a portable large-sized globe of Planet Earth, they walk toward a Pyramid of Power of our own day: perhaps an office of Exxon or BP, or a coal-fired power station, or a bank that invests