The Birth of Freedom: A Haggadah Companion for 5783
In response to the situation in Israel over the past few months, I have created a companion document for the Haggadah, that speaks directly to this moment. It is suitable both for those who are here in Israel, and anyone around the world who feels connected to what is happening here.
The companion is called The Birth of Freedom, and for each section of the Haggadah, it provides teachings from our sages and mystics, and prompts for reflection, conversation or creative expression.
These teachings and prompts connect the universal human quest for freedom and the specific details of what is happening in Israel at the moment.
The goal of the companion is to help us as individuals, and also as a people, find ourselves in the story of the Exodus from Egypt, to enable us to experience true and deep liberation, within and without.
The following excerpts are from the Maggid section of the companion, during which we tell the story of our slavery in Egypt, and our departure.
* * *
We were slaves to Pharaoh in the land of Egypt.
And the Eternal, our G!d,
Took us out from there with a strong hand and an outstretched forearm.
And if the blessed Holy One had not taken our ancestors from Egypt,
We and our children and our children’s children
Would still be enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt.
And even if we were all sages, all discerning,
All elders, all knowledgeable about the Torah,
It would be a mitzvah (commandment or connection) for us
To tell the story of leaving Mitzrayim.
And the more anyone speaks about leaving Mitzrayim,
The more they are praiseworthy.
What is one story of your own, personal liberation, that you have already experienced?
What has been a Mitzrayim for you, and how have you left it behind?
And what is the Mitzrayim that we now face together, as citizens of this young country or as members of Am Yisrael?
How might we support each other in walking towards freedom?
מִתְּחִלָּה עוֹבְדֵי עֲבוֹדָה זָרָה הָיוּ אֲבוֹתֵינוּ
Originally, our ancestors were idol worshipers.
And now, the Omnipresent has brought us close to His service, as it says:
“Yehoshua said to the entire people, so said the Eternal, G!d of Israel,
‘Your ancestors always dwelled beyond the River [Euphrates],
Terach the father of Avraham and the father of Nachor,
And they worshiped other gods.
And I took your father, Avraham,
From beyond the river and I led him through the entire land of Canaan,
And I increased his seed and I gave him Yitzchak.
And I gave to Yitzchak, Ya’akov and Esav;
And I gave to Esav Mount Seir, to inherit it;
And Ya’akov and his children went down to Mitzrayim’” (Joshua 24:2-4).
In Olat Re’iyah, R’ Avraham Yitzchak Kook (1865 – 1935) offers a surprising and radical explanation of why the Haggadah mentions our idolatrous ancestors at this point.
Rav Kook boldly asserts that our ancestors’ capacity for imagination and their celebration of physical vitality are tremendous assets, which we, their descendants, need to refine and channel into our service of the Infinite One and life itself.
In more recent times, what are some of the idols that our ancestors, or we ourselves, have worshipped?
To what have we ascribed greater significance or power than was warranted?
When and how have we mistaken effect for Cause, creation for Creator, messenger for Source?
And if so, as we all surely have, what would it mean to find the holy spark within these mistakes, to refine them and to bring them into our service of the Oneness?
Were these mistaken acts of worship expressing a deep need or desire, which deserves to be acknowledged, refined, and expressed in a healthy way?
To download the PDF of the Haggadah Companion, The Birth of Freedom, please click here.