Passover Reflections: Seder During Wartime

These reflections were written by participants in Rabbi Julie’s Pre-Passover workshop, Seder During Wartime, in April 2024.

From: Miriam Haimes

As we partake of Karpas
Let us think about rebirth.
As the sprouts spring from the earth.

Let us think about the sprouts reaching for the sun.
As we gather together, we are as one.

Differing shades grow at different rates.
Let us together think of our fates.

Karpas as a symbol of spring.
Let our hearts rise up and sing

Of hope, love and rebirth.
And let us remember how precious is our time on earth.

From: Sarita Eisenberg

Parsley – on a plate in restaurants, seen but not eaten.
But this year in Gaza, people are foraging for greens to survive.

Parsley – at our seders, the vehicle for the salt water to symbolize our tears.
But also reminding us that there is life beyond tears.

Parsley – a small sprig easily ignored.
But a powerful symbol of rebirth and hope.

From: Jay Sabin

As we eat this product of the ground, we hope, we pray for renewal. To spring forward away from the events of October 7 toward something new, different, refreshing, flavorful, green, crunchy, sharp. This herb was planted in the past but represents the future. The presence of salt water represents – perhaps – not tears but the ocean from which all life sprang. Let us too spring, jump, move with adroitness and agility into the future. Amen.

From: Jeff Chanin

Let us view recent horrors as the nadir

Let us realize rectification and temporal enhancement are needed now

What do “we” want?

What do “they” want?

Mostly similar desires: Health and happiness for our families, friends and all people.

From: John Lasiter

May I take this Karpas and salty water into my body so I can contain both the hope of growth and the tears of life’s sadness, holding them both at the same time in equal places.

From: Anonymous

I find hope very hard this year to name and identify – this year is so fraught, not least in our own country; so that looking forward feels almost fantastical, a projection of wish instead of realistic managing of expectations.

But for once, I do find that looking backwards helps me find wisps, even evidence of hope. I am thinking personally of so many dark passages in the life of my family and myself – and yet here we are. If we can find evidence of hope and light from the darkest moments of our personal and communal past, perhaps we can step forward. As we saw from the recent eclipse, light did return.

From: Linda Ariel

On the evening of October 7, 2024, Simchat Torah began with joy in Israel, the end of the cycle of Torah and then beginning it anew.

And yet, we were confronted by a new Torah, that of fear, anger, terror, hopelessness and loss with the violent and sudden Hamas attack in Israel.

The period following, that of late fall and then winter, was suffused not with brown, yellow and orange but with red of blood and feelings of desolation and being untethered.

As we approached Pesach, the next of the triad of the Shalosh Regalim [three pilgrimage festivals]. We are still in limbo and yet … the leaves are budding, flowers are beginning to bloom, and our sprouts of parsley are starting to re-emerge.

By any stretch of the imagination, we haven’t arrived at wholeness, but we have indeed begun to emerge with sense of possibility along with the scents of flowers.

From: Lynne Tapper

Signs of new beginnings of hope
The healing properties of nature
The resilience and growth, despite many challenges
Honoring the suffering, the hurt, the deep sorrow
Knowing that spring will always come
May there be everlasting peace

From: Anonymous

Planted on faith
Ascended through darkness
Restored our hope.
Submerged in salt water
Life is dotted with tears
Except now we have proof
Year after year, spring always returns.

From: Rabbi Julie Roth 

Our sages understood
that hope and possibility can’t be taken for granted
that redemption sometimes feels ancient and elusive
so karpas was inserted early
green, tender, resilient

even this year
when we cry for the hostages
when out hearts break for all the empty seats at seders
we remember the message of the parsley
with or without the salt water

the Jewish people
is still here
year after year
even when we think a fresh start is impossible
green, tender, resilient

From: Shirley Grill

Like the karpas we eat tonight, may we see a rebirth in Israel Palestine and Gaza…
Where the leaders think first of new birth and not ancient anger.
Where we abandon our Moror and embrace a new peaceful world order.
Where our children receive our strength and the green shoots grow with vigor and health.
Karpas…a new beginning in the ME; moror an end to the pain.

From: Nick Levitin

Maror – bitter herbs which we eat to remind us of the suffering endured by the Israelite in ancient Egypt. But this year when we eat maror, we might wish to allow ourselves to be reminded of others who are suffering as well, the Israeli hostages in Gaza, those who are innocent in Israel and Gaza who are suffering the consequences of war, those who are fighting for survival in Ukraine, those in America who fear for their democracy. Life can be very bitter and as we Jews celebrate the freedom we embraced as we came out of Egypt, it would do us well to remember those who suffered then as well as those who suffer now – with the hope that one day we will all be free.

From: Aileen Grossberg

Karpas. Green- spring- verdant. Karpas :usually parsley, a symbol of spring and renewal. In this difficult year, in a tumultuous world, we need karpas as a symbol even more.

This is not to negate that we dip karpas in tear-filled water, but if we focus only on tears, what is our future?

Karpas represents the future- call it a dream. Karpas growing in the ground might wither, but if watered it comes back to life. Its seeds, indeed, give it eternal life, from generation to generation.

As we sit around the seder table- be it multigenerational or not- we all ingest the hope of the karpas, tempered by the tears of frustration, pain, defeat, hurt and broken dreams.

BUT karpas survives. Like the wild flower that grows from a crack in the sidewalk, hope finds a place to give us a chance for a future and perhaps at the best, peace or at the least hope for co-existence.

From: Anonymous

I’ve read that there is a connection between our springtime karpas and both Joseph and his coat of many colors – to his promise both before and after he was sold by his brothers into slavery. To all the promise, in our sacred story, our people must have felt when Joseph and Egypt rescued them, before a Pharaoh came along who did not know Joseph.

It’s that juxtaposition of promise and catastrophe that strikes me now, and how to remember the former while living in the reality of the latter.

From: Anonymous

We bless this cup of wine to sanctify
To make the everyday holy
To mark this moment in time
as different from all other nights.

We believe holiness is found in distinctions
So tonight we will not equate Judaism with Zionism
Or Zionism with the Israeli government
And we will not call holy that which is profane,
even a desecration of all we hold sacred.

But as we differentiate, we will not box in
or choose corners or divide when connection is possible
rather we will find holiness in multiplicity and wrestling
we bless redemption without closing our eyes
to all that is yet to be redeemed.

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