Slaves to Materialism

Readings for the seder table.

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Their land is full of silver and gold, there is no limit to their treasure. Their land is full of horses, there is not limit to their chariots. And so their land is full of idols: they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their own fingers have wrought.
-Isaiah 2:7-9

The upper classes in any society are more satisfied with their lives than the lower classes are, but they are no more satisfied than the upper classes of much poorer societies--nor than the upper classes were in the less affluent past. Consumption is thus a treadmill, with everyone judging their status by who is ahead and who is behind.
-Michael Argyle, The Psychology of Happiness

Readings for the Seder Table

The following readings are designed for use during the seder to supplement the Haggadah that you are using. Each of the readings corresponds to a traditional part of the seder.


The Torah (Deuteronomy 16:3) calls matzah "lechem oni", which is commonly translated as "bread of affliction", but means, more literally, "poor person's bread" or "peasant bread." For our ancestors, bread was the staff of life, symbolic of all food. One name for Passover is "The Festival of Matzah," but it might also be called "The Festival of Simple Food." Part of the great genius of this holiday is the way in which the simple peasant food of our slave past was transformed into the food of our redemption. How might matzah as simple food redeem us now?

One way is our own personal health. Many of the serious diseases in our society have now been linked to over consumption of animal foods and processed foods of all sorts. In the past decade, medical authorities have begun to recommend less animal food and more whole grains and fresh vegetables.

A second way is by sharing food with the hungry. What do matzah/simple food and hunger have to do with one another? If we all ate more simply, there would be more for others. This is an important lesson for the modern world and especially for us in America. More than 70% of the grain grown in the US goes to feed livestock. The livestock flesh, in turn, will feed far fewer people than the feed that went into it. If all the grain grown for livestock were consumed directly by people, it would feed five times as many people as it does when fed to animals.

A third way is that eating simple, fresh food grown by local farmers who practice sustainable farming methods reduces pollution for fertilizers and pesticides which threaten the health of humans, other species, and whole ecosystems.

Is this not the fast that I have chosen? To loose the chains of wickedness, to undo the bonds of oppression, and to let the oppressed go free...Is it not to share thy bread with the hungry?
-Isaiah 58:6-7

This is the lechem oni, simple bread, that our ancestors ate when they were slaves in Mitzrayim. Let all who are hungry come and eat. Let all who are in need celebrate Pesach with us. This year, we are still alienated from the land and its living communities. Next year may we be more connected to our people's homeland, Israel, and to the natural world that is homeland to us all. This year, we are still slaves, tied to materialistic and destructive consumption patterns. Next year, may we and all the peoples of the earth be redeemed by having enough to satisfy our needs without consuming beyond what the earth can sustain.

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