Supplementary Seder Readings

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

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It has become customary at the seder to set aside a few minutes for Jews in other lands, especially the Soviet Union and those in Arab lands, who are not free to celebrate Passover. We also remember another group of our brothers and sisters, perhaps less familiar to us, but living in even more dire circumstances. These are the Ethiopian Jews or "Falashas" as they were called by the Ethiopians. Even their name, "Falasha," means stranger, though this group of Jews has been living in Ethiopia at least since the time of the Second Temple. They call themselves instead "Beta Yisrael," "The House of Israel."

Though their origins may be mysterious, their current problems are not. Once a proud and prosperous community of 500,000, their numbers have dwindled in recent years due to poverty, disease, drought, civil war, and missionary efforts. Today, while most have been resettled in Israel for which they hoped, some still remain in Ethiopia. Their only desire is to be able to return to the land of their ancestors, Israel.

Ethiopian Jews' Prayer

Many Haggadot incorporate readings that reflect events that have affected modern Jews. Incorporating this reading into the seder symbolizes a modern fulfillment of God's redemptive power. It also signifies the legitimacy of Ethiopian Jews as part of the Jewish nation. We celebrate the successful ingathering of Ethiopian Jews in the State of Israel for which they prayed and waited for so many years. We shall not forget their oppression and the modern miracle of their redemption even as they are rapidly becoming mainstream Israelis. We also want to preserve their heritage of values and liturgy.

Do not separate me, O Lord, from the chosen

From the joy, from the light, from the splendor,

Let me see, O Lord, the light of Israel,

And let me listen to the words of the just

While they speak about the Law.

To teach fear of Thee, O Lord, King forever.

Thou are blessed, O Lord, be merciful to me.

By day be Thou my shepherd, and my guardian at night.

When I walk be my guide, when I sit be my guardian.

When I call Thee, keep Thou not silent.

I love Thee, hate me not;

I have confidence in Thee,

Abandon me not.

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