greens

April 2013 Ritual: Blessing A Spring Meal

By: Diann L. Neu

Each spring communities gather to honor the renewal of Earth in its new growth, tenderness, and fresh starts. Jews come together with family and community to observe the Seder of Passover. Christians celebrate Easter.
Passover and Easter are both songs of springtime. Both are celebrations of a season of new growth and new birth. Passover and Easter unite us through sacred history and sacred scripture. According to the synoptic gospels, the Last Supper of Jesus was a Passover Seder (Matthew 26:17; Mark 14:12; and Luke 22:7).
We at WATER use this traditional time of ritualizing the renewal of life as an occasion for bringing Jewish and Christian women, children, and men together to reclaim the symbols of our Jewish and Christian heritages from a feminist perspective and from women’s experience. For both traditions, this feast is a celebration of freedom and a commemoration of the struggles and sufferings of many. This meal blessing follows the traditional structure of the Seder.

Introduction

SHALOM, SALAM, PAZ! Welcome to this Meal Blessing that celebrates Spring, Passover, and Holy Thursday. March 20 is the Spring Equinox. Passover begins every year on the 14th of Nisan and coincides with the first full moon of spring in the Jewish calendar. In 2013 the first night of Passover is March 25. Holy Thursday | Maundy Thursday is celebrated every year on the Thursday before Easter, which falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox. This year Holy Thursday is March 28.
Spring invites us to pause, notice the flowers, listen to the birds, and give thanks for the renewal of life. Passover is a delicious combination of spring rite, freedom festival, and shared meal that mixes the bitter and the sweet, joy and sadness, hope and struggle. This is what we celebrate tonight.
For those of us whose religious commitment includes the Christian story, coming to the Passover Seder is coming to the Eucharistic table. We understand the life of Jesus and the message that he and his followers preached to be a call to gather at the table. We celebrate honoring Divine Wisdom Sophia, the Holy Spirit who is female and calls for the liberation of all women, children, and men from the patriarchal, kyriarchal power in society and in religious communities.

Naming the Circle

Let us speak our names and share why we are here tonight. Pause for sharing.

The Seder Plate

Our Seder plate contains five symbols of Passover:
• Red beet (commemorating the Passover offering);
• Roasted egg (a symbol of both life and death: spring fertility and sacrifice in the temple);
• Maror (ma-ror’) or bitter herbs (representing the bitter existence of slaves);
• Haroset (ha-ro’-set), a mixture of chopped fruits and nuts, flavored with wine and spices (resembling the mortar used for bricks); and
• Karpas (kar-pas’), a green vegetable (as a symbol of spring).
We also have a plate with three matzahs, a cup of salt water to symbolize our tears, a cup of water for Miriam, two candles, and lots of wine and juice.
All: Blessed are you, Holy Wisdom, Source of Life, Who has preserved us and kept us safe and free until we could be together this day.

Seder Song

Let’s sing the Seder-order before we begin the service.
Kadesh • Urechatz • Karpas • Yachatz • Magid • Rachatz • Motzi Matzah •
Maror • Korech • Shulchan Orech • Tzafoon • Barech • Hallel • Nirtzah

Kindling the Lights

Let us light the candles that guide us on our way toward liberation. One woman lights the candles. Bring the light to your eyes three times in blessing.
All: Blessed are you, Holy Wisdom, Light of the World, Who calls us to gather at your table to kindle the festival lights and begin our celebration.

Kadesh

(Ka-desh’, Blessing over the first cup of wine)
Let us pour wine or juice into our glasses. Pause. At this table we drink four cups of the fruit of the vine, more than at a regular meal. The abundance of the drink symbolizes the abundance of Wisdom’s table. We drink four cups to honor the elements of earth, air, water and fire that combine to give us food, shelter, drink, and warmth. Let us raise this first cup in thanksgiving for the abundance of Earth’s gifts.
All: Blessed are you, Holy Wisdom, Creator Spirit, Who gives us all we need in the elements of earth, air, water and fire. Blessed be creation!

Urechatz

(Ra-chatz’, first washing of hands)
Let us wash our hands to prepare ourselves for this meal. We wash away the old and prepare for the new. Dip your hands into the water, and then dry each other’s hands. Pass a bowl of water and a towel.
All: Blessed are you, Holy Wisdom, Well of Life, Who cleanses our hands and hearts of all that keeps us from loving well.

Karpas

(kar-pas’, dipping the green vegetables into salt water)
Let us dip spring vegetables into salt water to celebrate the thawing, the return of warmth, and the reawakening of earth. Take some greens, dip them in salt water, and eat.
All: Blessed are you, Holy Wisdom, Source of Life, Who calls forth life from Earth each year. May these green plants of spring strengthen us in our struggle for freedom.

Yachatz

(ya-chatz’, breaking the middle matzah)
One half of the broken matzah will become the afikomen (ah-fee-ko’-men) that we will eat at the end of the meal. The broken matzah represents the break with that which enslaves us, and the search for new identities.

Magid

(ma-geed’, telling the story)
One woman holds up a piece of matzah. Behold the matzah of affliction that our foresisters baked in the land of Egypt. Let it remind us of people everywhere who are poor and hungry. Let us name specific people who are suffering at this time.

The Four Questions

All: Why is this night different from other nights? Why do we gather to celebrate a Passover Seder as a feminist community? Why do we eat bitter herbs? Why do we eat only matzah?
Response: Tonight is different because we are celebrating a Seder together. We eat bitter herbs to remember the bitter lives of the slaves in Egypt, and the bitter realities of a world where few are truly free. We think of war, domestic violence, economic injustice, the condition of Earth, cancer and illness, and our own failings.
We eat only matzah because when Pharaoh released the Jews from Egypt, they fled so quickly that there was no time to let the bread rise. The sun beating down on the dough baked it into matzah as they carried it on the journey. From this we learn that we must act decisively for freedom, and let the practicalities take care of themselves.

Telling Stories

What of your story do you want to retell on this night as we remember our journey from oppression to liberation? What springtime freedom do you wish for? (Time for sharing).

The Ten Plagues

The biblical plagues played a necessary part in the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. But many today, especially women, have still not completely escaped the bonds of slavery. We name the plagues of our enslavement. (Two women announce the plagues alternately.) Pour a drop of wine into your plate as the plagues are listed.
1. We are plagued by war and violence that kill and harm people and Earth.
2. We are plagued by the chains of sexism, racism, classism, heterosexism, and ageism that bind women and children everywhere.
3. We are plagued by the absence of women in political and religious leadership.
4. We are plagued by the unequal, inaccurate, and often absent recording of women’s history and literature.
5. We are plagued by the sexist and racist language and content of many prayers and blessings.
6. We are plagued by repressive religious laws.
7. We are plagued by an unequal pay scale for women.
8. We are plagued by the denigration of women’s bodies, minds, and souls.
9. We are plagued by the devaluation of womanhood after child-bearing years.
10. We are plagued by the destruction of planet Earth.
Lift the second cup of wine and say before drinking:
All: From these plagues upon our lives we seek redemption.

Song:

“We Shall Overcome”

Rachatz

(ra-chatz’, second washing of hands)
From the moment of conception, we are bathed in water. Water is essential for creation and for survival. It is a scarce resource. It is used for cleansing and for healing. We reclaim our healing powers and remember that our bodies are holy. Let this second washing be done by one of us symbolically for all of us.
All: Blessed are you, Holy Wisdom, Connector of Continents, Who cleanses us of our wounds and pains and calls us to be healers.

Motzi Matzah (mo-tzee’ ma-tzah’, blessing over eating the matzah)
Let us break bread together. Because this is the feast of unleavened bread, tonight we break matzah together.
All: Blessed are you, Holy Wisdom, Nourishing Holy One, Who brings forth bread from Earth and Who has sanctified us through your commandments and instructed us to eat unleavened bread. Eat this unleavened bread.

Maror and Korech (ma-ror’, eating the bitter herbs; ko-rech’, eating the sandwich of matzah, maror, and haroset)
The maror, or bitter herbs, reminds us of the pain and bittnerness of slavery. Haroset reminds us of the color of the bricks that the Jews made as slaves to the Egyptians. Although we must eat the maror, we are also obligated to combine it with the sweet
haroset. The two tastes together remind us of the twin realities of our lives: pain and joy.
Let us make a sandwich of two small pieces of matzah, maror, and haroset and taste the bitter and the sweet.
All: Blessed are you, Holy Wisdom, Who has sanctified us through your commandments and instructed us to eat maror, the symbol of the oppression of women’s lives. May it remind us of women’s suffering throughout the world and help us to be in solidarity with all who are in pain.

Shulchan Orech

(shul-chan’ o-rech’, eating the meal)
We have blessed our foods. We have remembered our history. Let us share in the food we have each prepared for this celebration. Eat the meal.

Tzafoon

(tza-fūn , eating the afikomen)
That which is broken can now be restored. The hidden afikomen must now be found. Children, look for it! Search carefully! (The children search for the afikomen. When it has been found, the grown-ups bargain to get the afikomen back.)

Song:

“Afikomen ‘Round the Mountain,” adapted from a Folk Song
Afikomen ’round the mountain when she comes (2x)
Afikomen ’round the mountain (2x) Afikomen ’round the mountain when she comes.

Barech

(ba-rech’, grace after the meal)
Let us bless the third cup in thanksgiving for this community.
All: Blessed be the wine, the symbol of the regenerative blood that flows cyclically from us and reminds us each lunar month anew of our creative essence and power.

Hallel

(ha-lel’, psalms of praise)
Let us now raise the fourth cup of wine to praise all children.
All: Blessed be the children.

Seder Song:

Let us sing the Seder-order before we end the service.
Kadesh • Urechatz • Karpas • Yachatz • Magid • Rachatz • Motzi Matzah •
Maror • Korech • Shulchan Orech • Tzafoon • Barech • Hallel • Nirtzah

Nirtzah

(neer-tzah’, closing portion of the Seder)
Our Seder is now ending. Next year, may we celebrate in a world at peace.

Song:

“Oh Freedom,” Traditional Spiritual
Oh Freedom, Oh freedom, Oh freedom over me.
An’ before I be a slave, I’ll be buried in my grave,
An’ go home to my G*d an’ be free.

There’ll be singin’… There’ll be dancin’…
There’ll be prayin’… There’ll be laughin’…