Passover

Special Resource | Passover

Passover Resources for Educators

The Burden and Responsibility of Freedom

“In every generation, each person is obligated to view himself as if he had come out of Egypt.”  The artist created elliptical portraits of Jewish people from various eras—as well as a few mirrors—in order to include the viewer among them.  My Haggadah: The Book of Freedom  by David Moss, 2015. 

“In every generation, each person is obligated to view himself as if he had come out of Egypt.” The artist created elliptical portraits of Jewish people from various eras—as well as a few mirrors—in order to include the viewer among them.
My Haggadah: The Book of Freedom by David Moss, 2015. 

“Freedom is a heavy load, a great and strange burden for the spirit to undertake. It is not easy. It is not a gift given, but a choice made, and the choice may be a hard one. The road goes upward towards the light; but the laden traveler may never reach the end of it.”

― Ursula K. Le GuinThe Tombs of Atuan

A few weeks ago in Parashat Beshalach, we read about the exodus from Egypt. In this dramatic Torah portion the Israelites exit Egypt on their way to freedom. This is not a purely joyous moment for them. They leave with heavy hearts, concerned about their future and with a feeling of hopelessness. They question the very decision to leave and some would rather go back and be slaves than face the unknown.  At the moment of truth the sea parts and they walk to safety. The long journey to freedom has begun.

We have been blessed through this foundational myth with the idea of freedom as an ultimate value. But at the same time there are both internal and external forces that work against it. The Torah portion tells us about the wish of the people to give up this newly found freedom. Their fear, uncertainty and longing for what they left behind, prepare them for the long way ahead. The journey to freedom is as important as freedom itself.

Most of us were born to freedom. We did not have to realize we were shackled, we did not have to take a long journey, we did not arrive at the metaphoric bank of the Jordan River in order to cross it to the Promised Land.  Still, some of us have had “a certain Egypt” and overcame what we perceive as oppression or tyranny. And of course most of us are enslaved to something: career, bad habits, way of thinking, tablets and iPhones, fill in the blank... Either way we must never take the freedom and independence that we have for granted. We have a responsibility to protect it, to fight for it and to tell the story of the long journey toward it to our children and students this year. Especially this year!

 “May we all be blessed this Pesach with the ability to feel yetziat mitzrayim, on the national level and on the personal level, so that we are redeemed from whatever confines us.”

- Jennie Rosenfeld, Towards Personal Redemption

 

We include a few resources that explore the Exodus from different national, communal and personal perspectives. Enjoy!

 

EXODUS - A MIDRASH SONG
by Etti Ankri (lyrics and music)

Etti Ankri is an Israeli singer-songwriter. She has performed in the United States and other countries. Ankri has been called a "rock genius" the "poet of Israeli spirituality," and "the contemporary voice of... Israel." Her midrash song about the Exodus from Egypt is full of the rhythms of her Mizrachic roots.

Etti Ankri “Exodus” with English subtitles

Etti Ankri “Exodus” with English subtitles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hebrew Lyrics
 

Lyrics in English
Translation by Robbie Gringras
From video: Makom-Israel Engagement Network

This is Jacob’s pain
Over little Joseph
Sown within us
Is senseless brotherly hatred

And sometimes it seems to me
When I am ready to give up
Pharaoh is my disorder
And I am sad for Egypt

And sometimes it seems to me
That we are still there
Walking towards the mountain
Begging for water

May it open up in two
The salt water
And we shall pass in between –
All those that are walking

To leave in the exodus from Egypt
To arrive in the desert
Perhaps we’ll find some water there
On the way to the mountain

May it open in two
The salt water
And we shall pass in between
All those who are weeping

And they are gaining on us
An army of cavalry
It is difficult for Moshe
The people have no faith in their hearts

The beach’s touch is calming
The sea gapes open its mouth
What if we return to Egypt?
Fear has no memory

We were builders of pyramids
Interpreters of dreams
We had nothing we could call our own
Only salt and tears

 

EVERY PERSON NEEDS TO HAVE A CERTAIN EGYPT
Poem by Israeli poet Amnon Ribak

The Exodus as a metaphor for dealing with hardship and resulting in personal growth.

The poem suggests that from a crisis, from the abyss and from despair, a person can find his/her inner Moses, and take themselves out of their “certain Egypt” on a journey of personal redemption.

to redeem themselves from it, from the
house of slavery,
to go out in the middle of the night to the
desert of fears,
to march straight into the waters,
to see them open before them to both sides.

Every person needs a shoulder,
on which to carry the bones of Joseph,
Every person needs to straighten their
backs.

Every person needs to have a
certain Egypt,
and a Jerusalem,
and one long journey,
that they will forever remember
in their feet.

Every person needs to have a
certain Egypt,
To deliver themselves from it
with a strong arm,
or with grinding teeth.

Every person needs terror and great
darkness,
and comfort and promise and redemption,
that they would know to look up at the sky.
Every person needs one
prayer,

that would always be on their lips.
A person needs to bend one time –
Every person needs a shoulder.

Every person needs to have a
certain Egypt,

The Poem in Hebrew

 

TEXT STUDIES & LESSON PLANS

1. Towards Personal Redemption – Text Study
Lesson on using “Exodus” - Etti Ankri’s song
By Dr. Jennie Rosenfeld
JOFA (Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance)

2. Beshalach – The Test of Freedom – Text Study
By Rabbi Alex Israel
For Pardes (Institute of Jewish Stidues)
Pardes’ web site includes many resources for educators

3. Chofshi – Free.
A lesson plan from MAKOM about the concept of “free” as it appears in “Hatikvah”,
Israel’s national anthem. Etti Ankri’s song featured in this lesson plan as well.

4. Exodus, Freedom and Responsibility – Facilitator’s Guide
American Jewish World Service

 

 

 

 

Educator's Resources for Passover

 

Dear Educators,
From the vault of discarded-but-not-forgotten resources, another installment of holiday ideas. It is quite amazing to me that in all my many years as a Jewish educator the issue of freedom is only becoming more and more relevant. It is enough to follow recent election campaign rhetoric to understand that even the most basic freedoms we assume are granted in a democratic society are at risk. On this holiday, as we celebrate and enjoy unprecedented freedoms, let us not forget that we cannot take them for granted and let us remember those who are still enslaved in one way or another.

We hope the resources we put together here are thought provoking and inspirational for you and your students.

Chag Cherut Same'ach
Happy Freedom Holiday

Vavi Toran

Every Person Needs to Have a Certain Egypt
Poem by: Amnon Ribak
The poem in Hebrew

to redeem themselves from it, from the house of slavery,

to go out in the middle of the night to the desert of fears,
to march straight into the waters,
to see them open before them to both sides.

Every person needs a shoulder,
on which to carry the bones of Joseph,
Every person needs to straighten their backs.

Every person needs to have a
certain Egypt,
and a Jerusalem,
and one long journey,
that they will forever remember
in their feet.

Every person needs to have a
certain Egypt,
To deliver themselves from it
with a strong arm,
or with grinding teeth.

Every person needs terror and great darkness,
and comfort and promise and redemption,
that they would know to look up at the sky.
Every person needs one
prayer,

that would always be on their lips.
A person needs to bend one time –
Every person needs a shoulder.

Every person needs to have a
certain Egypt,


The Haggadah, which we read on Erev Peasach, is the reenactment of our master story. The text tells us that "In each generation, each person is obligated to see himself or herself as though he or she personally came forth from Egypt." It is not enough to remember or retell the story, but rather to experience the move from slavery to freedom on an intimate personal level. We, who are blessed with freedoms and liberties, are also obligated to look beyond our opulence and help others who are not yet liberated to come forth from their Egypt. 

These Israeli songs, hinting at the Passover story, deal with personal liberation and modern day exodus.

Out of Egypt - Alma Zohar (with subtitles)

From Slavery to Freedom
Lyrics: Yanlele Rotblit
Music: Yitzhak Klepter and Guy Bokatto
Sunger: Arik Einstein
Hebrew Lyrics

And there's something in me, like a full moon of Nisan
That calls me to rise, and calls yet again all the time                 
To embark on a journey full of perils
For a hint of a chance of an envisioned happy and unimaginative future

There is probably a chance, that from the top of some mountain
I will see far away a promise for tomorrow
That might not arrive, but even if I'll die on the road
Tonight I will go forth, from slavery to freedom

My ability to suffer failed, I could bear no more
Enough is enough, I said, I have to go
The slave in me, I left behind
In a place to where I shall never return.                        

I have nothing more to say, there are no words
I have nothing more to lose, except for these shackles

They have cut me to a pulp, I am still scratched
Tonight I will go forth, from slavery to freedom

 

 


Freedom Haggadot

A couple of years ago, we were fortunate to have a remarkable opportunity to closely examine the Arthur Szyk's Haggadah at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. Szyk (pronounced "Shick") created his magnificent Haggadah in Lodz, on the eve of the Nazi occupation of his native Poland. The Haggadah is filled with sumptuous paintings of Jewish heroes, tyrannical foes and stunning calligraphy. Behind the beautiful design and masterful illustrations Szyk carefully interjects his criticism of Nazism in Europe. Szyk, who immigrated to the US in 1940, was throughout his life a staunch visual commentator on social and political issues. He was known for standing up to tyranny and was dubbed "A Soldier in Art" by his peers. 

Unfortunately, tyranny and enslavement have not been eradicated yet. On Passover night we ought to be mindful of people in the US, in Israel and around the world who are not free. We bring you several samples of "Freedom Haggadot" and other resources with the hope that you will find a way to incorporate them into your Seders. 

Link to Social Justice Haggadot

Freedom and Justice seder

Pesach Seder Supplements on Economic Justice, Slavery, and other issues of Tzedek

A Human Rights Haggadah

 

Current human rights issues in Israel

Strangers No More -  Oscar Winning Movie Trailer  

Strangers No More - Oscar Winning Movie Trailer  


 

Two Historic Haggadot and their Influence on Contemporary Israeli artists

There are several Haggadot dating back to the Middle Ages that we are familiar with. These illuminated manuscripts tell historic tales of Jewish life and creativity. They are also fine examples of ancient Jewish art and are therefore being addressed visually in contemporary Israeli art. Two of the most widespread examples are the Birds' Head Haggadah and the Sarajevo Haggadah.

 

Birds' Head Haggadah

The Birds' Head Haggadah, the oldest surviving Ashkenazi illuminated manuscript (S. German, c. 1300), derives its name from the birdlike human figures illustrated in the manuscript's margins. This motif is believed to be related to the biblical (Second Commandment) prohibition against creating graven images. The Birds' Head Haggadah, discovered by Israeli art historian Bezalel Narkiss in 1946, the realistic human figure is avoided by providing it with the head and beak of a bird. Some of the figures wear helmet-like hats reminiscent of the conic hats Jews were obliged to wear in Ashkenaz (Germany) during the Middle Ages. From time to time new theories claim that the codex was illuminated by Christian artists who interjected anti-semitic elements by depicting Jews as ravens.

Michael Sgan-Cohen 
The Wandering Jew

Sgan-Cohen used the hybrid figure as a symbol of the wandering Jew and by association as his self-portrait. In his painting The Wandering Jew Sgan-Cohen used the motif of the Hand of God, pointing (in the picture) to the image of a man (the artist's self-image) with a bird's head wearing a Judenhut, a pointed Jewish hat that was forced upon Jews in the Middle Ages. The chair, a symbol of settling down, remains in the foreground empty for now.

 

 

Zoya Cherkassky
The Aachen Hagaddah

Cherkassky created the illustrated "Aachen Passover Haggadah" (named after the German city of Aachen where the artist did a residency). The Haggadah portrays graphic designs in red, black and gold - inspired by Jewish images, the Russian Avant-garde and anti-Semitic images. Throughout the Haggadah there are images of birds; their head is a Jewish head wearing a Streimel. These illustrations resemble the ones appearing in the Birds' Head Haggadah.The red, swollen feet symbolize the wandering Jew and the journey from Egypt to the Holy Land. 

Radical Storytelling: Samuel Klein explores a challenging new Haggadah by artist Zoya Cherkassky

 

 

The Sarajevo Haggadah - Creation

The Sarajevo Haggadah is an illuminated manuscript one of the oldest Sephardic Haggadahs in the world. Originating in Barcelona around 1350, the Haggadah has survived many close calls with destruction, including World War II and the Bosnian War. Historians believe that it was taken out of Spain by Spanish Jews who were expelled by the Alhambra Decree in 1492. Notes in the margins of the Haggadah indicate that it surfaced in Italy in the 16th century. It was sold to the National Museum in Sarajevo in 1894 by a man named Joseph Kohen.  The novel People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks (2008), crafts a fictionalized history of the Haggadah from its origins in Spain to the museum in Sarajevo. The fascinating history of Dervis Korkut, who saved the book from the Nazis, was told inan article by Geraldine Brooks in The New Yorker magazine. The article also sets out the story of the young Jewish girl, Mira Papo, whom Korkut and his wife hid from the Nazis as they were acting to save the Haggadah. In a twist of fate, as an elderly woman in Israel, Mira Papo secured the safety of Korkut's daughter during the Bosnian war in the 1990s.

Moses receiving the Torah

Moses receiving the Torah

Moses of Sarajevo"

Moses of Sarajevo"

The dramatic history of this Haggadah and its beauty fired the imagination of several Israeli artists, most notably the painter Arie Aroch. Aroch was familiar with the Sarajevo Haggadah and its illustrations, which interested him both thematically and composition-wise. 

Several pieces of his artwork are either directly related to the Haggadah or offer further developments on the themes and composition. These include: Moses from Sarajevo, The Creation, and The Figure 2 (based on a page where the number 2 was scribbles on the margins).

Other Resources for Passover

About Passover - Goisrael

Jewish Virtual Library

The iCenter: The Four Sons of the Haggadah - Creative Midrashim

The iCenter: Passover: Bringing Israel into your Seder

Neot Kedumim - Once we were Slaves

Shitim - Machon Ha'Chagim (in Hebrew)

Good News from Israel blog

Lookstein Resources for Passover

Hazon: Educational Resources for Passover

Hazon: Healthy sustainable passover resources

PJ Library

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yoga Postures and Themes for Passover

Explore freedom from an embodied perspective with these Passover-theme related yoga postures offered by Julie Emden, Director of our Embodied Jewish Learning Initiative.  Julie offers workshops, classes, and a Yoga and Jewish Wisdom Teacher Training. She can be reached at: jemden@jewishlearningworks.org. 

These postures and themes were created for At the Well, a project supporting Jewish women to celebrate Rosh Hodesh all over the world.  See more resources from At the Well for the month of Nissan here.

Materials : yoga mat and blanket
Opening Kavanah - You are the Authority

The foremost theme for this month and gift of Passover is that we move from slavery to freedom, from constriction to expansion, from responding and reacting to other’s demands of us to acting from a place of true sovereignty and authority from within.  Please take on these suggested practices (and those from any body-based practice) with this in mind, and consider your own body’s unique needs when practicing yoga.  At Sinai upon receiving Torah, at the same time that we camp at the base of the mountain as one soul, we each also hear our own unique message, and we each receive our own unique place or letter in the Torah.  And when we receive manna in the desert, the amount we each receive is according to our individual needs - no more, no less.  Do not do anything that is not right for your body, in this moment, in this time.  You are the authority and you are sovereign over the gorgeous domain that is your body-soul-heart-spirit being, for this practice and always.

Theme 1:  Moving from Constriction to Expansion - Mitzrayim

When we look at the Hebrew word ‘Mitzrayim’, we see the word ‘Tzar’, which means constriction, surrounded by the word ‘Mayim’, which means water.  All of the joints in the body are surrounded by water in the form of synovial fluid.  As you practice these poses, bring awareness to the fact that the joints (tzar) in our bodies - our wrists, elbows, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles - which enable us to move and create change  in the world!- need mayim, softness, and  fluidity in order to be healthy and strong.

Hip Openers - Lying on the floor
Lying Two-Knee-Spinal-Twist 

Eye of the Needle 

Happy Baby

Theme 2:  Softening the heart - Exodus 8:28 - “And Pharaoh hardened his heart…”

As Pharaoh witnesses and experiences the ten plagues, we hear over and over that his “heart is hardened”, and the language in the text indicates that his obstinacy becomes habitual.  Releasing habits that no longer serve us to live in integrity with our deepest potential and desire is another theme for the month of Nissan. In fact, Moses is told at the burning bush to ‘take off his shoes’ (Exodus 3:5),  but the Hebrew can also be translated as ‘unlock your habits!’  Day to day, as we sit and move with postures of leaning over computers and steering wheels, we can create a habitual shape in the body of shoulders rolling forward, chest collapsing and a ‘closing of the heart’.  These poses support us in opening our hearts and shoulders, and also bringing awareness to the spaces behind our hearts.  They provide a countering to the habitual way we often move through the world.

Heart Openers

Supported Backbend Lying back over a rolled blanket or Bolster

Cow-Face Pose arms    

Eagle Pose Arms 

Theme 3: Stepping into the Sea on Dry Land - Exodus 14:22 - “And the Israelites entered the sea on dry land”

You may have seen the movie, or considered the scientific research about the parting of the sea in the Exodus story.  What is possibly as fascinating as the notion that the sea parted for the Israelites, is that the text says that the Israelites stepped onto dry land ‘b’toch’, inside of, the sea.  What?!  How could the land be dry, even if the sea had parted? And have you ever tried to walk on wet soaky sand just after the waves recede on a walk at the beach? It’s not easy.  This is our task in Nissan, and in our lives.  How can we maintain stability, stay grounded and connected to our foundation, in times of turbulence, change and upheaval? How can we stay upright and connected to what is solid, perhaps relying merely on our bones, our etzem, our essence, during times of intense change and transformation. These standing poses can help us feel our feet, solidly rooted and firmly planted and the limbs of our legs rising up from that foundation, as a resource, a source of strength and support for us as we move through the world and reach for our dreams.

Standing Poses

Mountain/Mt Sinai Pose

Warrior 2

Side Angle

 

To experience these and more, join Julie for one of her Passover workshops:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Passover Resources - Slavery in Our World

From David Waksberg,  CEO Jewish LearningWorks

We had not even left Egypt before Moses passes along the commandment to "Remember this day, on which you went from Egypt, the house of enslavement..."

Passover bombards our senses to remind us of this seminal moment of liberation. The maror, the haroset, even the matzah evoke the bitterness, the harsh labor, the affliction of slavery. The Torah instructs us to explain to our children - "It is because of what the Lord did for me when I went free from Egypt." The Haggadah calls upon us to see ourselves as having personally gone out from Egypt.

With this heightened awareness - we are instructed not to oppress the stranger, for we were once strangers in Egypt. And Passover helps us REMEMBER WHAT THAT FEELS LIKE.

How strange then, to be at a Seder, celebrating our freedom, and realize we are eating chocolate, drinking coffee, and wearing clothing produced by slaves.

Slavery remains very much alive in our world and in our lives. In fact, abolitionists assert that there are more than 20 million people in some form of slavery today - more than at the peak of the slave trade two centuries ago. In collaboration with our partners at Fair Trade Judaica, we began to learn how to make our Passover Seders slave-free. And then we realized - as educators, we strive to empower our students to apply the wisdom of our tradition to the reality of their lives. Passover offers a wonderful opportunity to shine a light on contemporary slavery. Just as Passover calls upon us to feel as if we ourselves were slaves, it calls upon us to not avert our eyes to the trafficking and bondage that surround us.

Therefore, we have compiled some slavery-free resources to help us learn and teach. They include:

  • Curricular materials for educators about contemporary slavery through a Jewish lens;
  • Texts/source material related to slavery/trafficking/unfair & exploitive labor practices
  • Supplementary material for Seders dealing with contemporary slavery/trafficking;
  • Information on Fair Trade products
  • Background information on contemporary slavery and trafficking in our world, our products, our community, and our lives, and what we can do about it.

We are indebted to our friends at Fair Trade Judaica for their partnership in preparing these materials. We hope you find them useful.