Supplementary Seder Readings

Remembering the oppressed--and others in need--at the seder

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Inserting new rituals and liturgical additions into the seder is a popular custom, though one that many traditionalist Jews might shun. Additions tend to center around remembering, praying for, and/or vowing to help people who are oppressed or otherwise in need. In other instances, the additions may support a political or social stance. The following is a compilation of several seder additions. Some refer to political causes--such as the plight of Soviet Jews--that are no longer relevant today in the same way. These are included here not just for historical reasons, but because they may very well be pertinent, in modified forms, to different contemporary situations.

Unless otherwise noted, the following are reprinted with permission from Hillel.org, the website of Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life.

Let All Who Are Hungry

Ha lachma anya, recited toward the beginning of the seder, states that the matzah represents the bread of poverty. This is followed by an invitation welcoming anyone in need to the seder table. This reading, by an organization dedicated to fighting hunger, is a reminder that the words are more than ritual and can be seen as a call to action. (The following reading has been prepared by "MAZON: a Jewish response to hunger" to be read at "HA LACHMA ANYA".)

"The words are a pledge, and the pledge is a privilege. Surrounded by the hungry and the homeless, we can redeem the pledge. This evening, so that the hungry may eat, we contribute to Mazon, A Jewish Response to Hunger, and we say, together:

Barukh eloheinu sheb'tuvo he'vianu v'zikanu l'mitzvat matan mazon.

Blessed is our God through whose goodness we have been brought to the privilege of sharing our bread."

Pour Out Your Love, On Our Allies: The Righteous Gentiles

This unique addition to a medieval Haggadah appears side by side with "Pour out Your Wrath" [which is said upon opening the door for Elijah] in a manuscript from Worms (1521) attributed to the descendants of Rashi. Scholars today debate its authenticity but its sentiment for righteous gentiles is genuine.

Pour out your love on the nations who have known you and on the kingdoms who call upon your name. For they show loving-kindness to the seed of Jacob and they defend your people Israel from those who would devour them alive. May they live to see the sukkah of peace spread over your chosen ones and to participate in the joy of your nations.

-- Reprinted with permission from Noam Zion from A Different Night: The Family Participation Haggadah, published by the Shalom Hartman Institute.

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