Supplementary Seder Readings

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

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And thus we were born into the world. The wisdom of women who were midwives, like Shifra and Puah, made that birth possible.

-- By Aggie Goldenholz and Susan Pittelman, from "Our Community Women's Seder," Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Used with permission of the authors.

Prayer for Jewish Communities in Lands of Oppression

Ha lachma anya means both "bread of poverty" and "bread of affliction." In this reading, the interpretation of "affliction" is used as a reminder that the oppression of Jews is a contemporary problem. (To be recited after "HA LACHMA ANYA," "This is the bread of affliction" at the beginning of the seder.)

Behold this matzah, the symbol of our affliction but also of our liberty. As we look at it, let us remember our brethren everywhere who are in distress. On this festival of our freedom, may our hearts be turned to our brothers and sisters in Russia and in Arab lands who are not able to celebrate this Passover in the traditional, reclining attitude of free men. Rock of Israel, hasten the day when all of our brethren will know true freedom and in consort with the whole house of Israel give thanks to Thee for Thy wondrous deeds and Thy redemption. And may the redeemer come unto Zion. Amen.

Matzah of Hope

The Matzah of Hope is a symbol from the days of Soviet oppression of its Jewish population when Soviet Jews had to celebrate the seder secretly, if at all. One possible symbolism is that the three matzot represent the traditional divisions of the Jewish population: Cohen, Levi, and Israel. The fourth matzah represented those Jews not free to fulfill their potential as Jews. (A fourth matzah is added to the traditional three on the main seder plate and the following prayer is recited after "HA LACHMA ANYA" at the beginning of the seder.)

This Is The Matzah of Hope: This matzah, which we set aside as a symbol of hope, for the three million Jews of the Soviet Union, reminds us of the indestructible link that exists between us. As we observe this festival of freedom, we know that Soviet Jews are not free to learn of their Jewish past, to hand it down to their children. They cannot learn the languages of their fathers. They cannot teach their children to be the teachers, the rabbis of future generations.

They can only sit in silence and become invisible. We shall be their voice, and our voices shall be joined by thousands of men of conscience aroused by the wrongs suffered by Soviet Jews. Then shall they know that they have not been forgotten and they that sit in darkness shall yet see a great light.

Prayer for Jews Driven Out of Middle Eastern Countries

In the 20th century, as Jews immigrated to Israel and established the state, many Arab countries responded by persecuting or expelling their Jewish populations. In many cases, those Jewish communities had lived for centuries in peace with the majority culture and had prospered. The following prayer remembers those communities. During the seder, hold up the middle Matzah before the Ha Lachma Anya (Bread of Affliction) section and recite the following reading:

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