This year let’s give voice to the silent one at the Seder table by using this reading and asking one more question, “Why Is the Egg on the Seder Plate Silent and Ignored?”
(One) In our own day as in the ancient days, an event becomes a story; a story is woven with new legends, and the midrash leads to new teachings. So it is with the orange on the Seder plate. To begin with, a woman in the western Diaspora asked a woman teacher of the old tradition: “What is the place of lesbians in Jewish life?”
(Two) She answered, “As much place in Jewish tradition as bread on a Seder table!”
(Three) In response, some lesbian Jews reacted by placing bread upon their Seder plate.
(Four) But most of our people were not willing to accept a choice that said: Bow down to tradition, or break one of its most ancient rules. Instead, seeking to wrestle and grow with our ancient teachings they said: “Bread on the Seder plate would shatter tradition. The participation of gay men and lesbians in Jewish life transforms the tradition, but does not shatter it. We will place on the Seder plate not bread but an orange – a transformation, not a transgression; a symbol of growth and transformation.
(Two) As the telling was retold, new legends and teachings grew forth. Some found the threat to exclude and diminish goes beyond gay men and lesbians. It also faces all women in orthodox Judaism: According to their telling, a male rabbi said, “A woman belongs on the bimah [pulpit] as much as an orange on a Seder plate!” So in many homes, the orange on the Seder plate became a symbol of the place of women in the future of Judaism.
(Three) Why an orange? An orange carries within itself the seeds of its own rebirth. In our generation, the Jewish people is again giving birth to itself. For the first time, women are sharing equally with men. For the first time, gay men and lesbians have themselves come to share in shaping the future of Judaism. For the first time in 17 centuries, 1000’s of non-Jews are entering the Jewish community and contributing new vitality to our ancient people. So for the first time we bring to the Seder plate a fruit that carries, within itself, the seeds of its own rebirth. Tonight all who in the past were not warmly welcomed into our community – lesbians, gay men, women and converts, take a rightful place in shaping the future of our people. Tonight there is an orange on the Seder plate.
(Four) But there is already is a symbol on the Seder plate to represent all those who were present but were unmentioned in the traditional Hagadah; the egg. The egg represents the daily sacrifices that gays, lesbians and women have made in the past as well as their silent offerings. The egg also represents the thousands of non-Jews who joined the Jewish people when Israel left Egypt and whose contributions are unmentioned. An egg, like an orange, also represents new life and future growth.
(Two) The Orange/Egg represents the Jewish genius to find new insights in ancient traditions; and new opportunities for Jews to express their love for God, Torah and Israel. The egg need be silent no more.
From A Jewish Renewal text modified by Rabbi Allen S. Maller.