Interfaith Passover Readings to Add to Your
Rabbi Geela Rayzel
RaphaelJewish Federation Feature
|Rabbi Geela Rayzel
Here are five readings that interfaith families may want to include in
their Passover seder.
Karpas (parsley that is dipped in salt water during the seder) kavannah
(spiritual focus) means time for spring awakening, new directions, renewal
and bursting forth of new ideas.
We take this time to honor others who travel with us from other faiths
and cultural traditions. We acknowledge the fact that they bring a new
perspective to our lives and a legacy of their own that enriches ours. We
are grateful for the growth that we have experienced because they are in
As a plant bursts forth with new energy to bloom, so too we recognize
that at this time of Jewish history we are blossoming in different ways.
As the garden needs tending, so, too, do our relationships with spouses,
in-laws and families of other traditions. Weeding out all that is not
necessary and loving, we make room for fresh insight and respect. Welcome
those who sit around this table for the first time or the 20th, bringing
new understanding to our discussion.
The maror (bitter herbs, such as horseradish) is the symbol of
bitterness and slavery of the Israelites in Egypt. Today, in a Jewish
community that is free, this bitterness takes on another layer of meaning.
We acknowledge that there are many among us who are embittered by their
feelings of resentment, discomfort and fear. We know that there is just
cause for some of these feelings of fear, for Jews were "other" for so
many centuries and mistreated just because they were different.
This history has often contributed to some of our families' inability
to accept the idea of intermarriage. We acknowledge that Jewish people
have struggled and been enslaved in the past and we stretch to transform
this defeated posture.
We also know that sometimes our own enslavement or emotional bondage
prevents us from being open to hearing each other in our marriage.
Loyalties to families of origin need to be honored, unless they prevent us
from creating true intimacy. Bitter places are stuck places, and we commit
ourselves tonight to moving beyond our own positions to find new points of
intersection and connection.
Tonight we dip our bitterness in the sweetness of charoset. Charoset,
the sweet mixture of fruits and nuts, symbolizes the mortar of the bricks
of the Israelites. It is also the mortar of commitment and interdependence
that enabled the Jewish community to survive through those centuries of
oppression. It is the building blocks of hope and tradition, which are
sweet. We take our maror of fear and, by dipping it into the sweetness, we
create a new model that honors the fear and suffering, yet holds out hope
for the future.
By blending our maror and charoset, we acknowledge the blending of
faiths and traditions that sit around this table tonight. We know it is
not always sweet and it is not always bitter, but that life is a mixture
of both. Just as our taste buds are designed for sweet, salty, sour and
bitter, so we taste the range of textures of our relationships. By our
dipping tonight we bring together the bitter and the sweet for something
new to emerge.
The Artichoke on the Seder Plate
The seder plate holds the main symbols of a traditional Passover seder
-- the shank bone, egg, karpas, charoset and maror. The Kabbalists of the
Middle Ages added hazeret, another kind of bitter lettuce. And in recent
years feminists have added an orange on the seder plate to symbolize
women's leadership roles and full empowerment in Jewish life.
The artichoke, however, is a new development. What is an artichoke?
Surely a work of God's imagination: many petals, with thistle and a heart.
To me, this has come to represent the Jewish people.
We are first of all, very diverse in our petals. We call people Jews
who are everything from very traditional Orthodox Chasidim, to very
liberal secular. We are Reform, Reconstructionist, Orthodox, traditional,
Modern Orthodox, Conservative, Renewal and, of course,
post-denominational. We are social justice activists and soldiers; we are
Israelis and Jews of the Diaspora. We are young, old, single, married.
Many are vegetarian, while others swear by Hebrew National. Our skin can
be white as Scandinavian, dark black as Ethiopian -- and we now welcome
many Chinese and Latin American adoptees. Lately, we have added another
category, that of interfaith.
Like the artichoke, which has thistles protecting its heart, the Jewish
people have been thorny about this question of interfaith marriage. Let
this artichoke on the seder plate tonight stand for the wisdom of God's
creation in making the Jewish people a population able to absorb many
elements and cultures throughout the centuries -- yet still remain Jewish.
Let the thistles protecting our hearts soften so that we may notice the
petals around us.
Ten Plagues of Being Intermarried
1. Not comfortable with Hebrew.
2. Can't stomach the idea of
3. Songs are unfamiliar.
4. Being dragged into a war
in a faraway land.
5. People assuming I'm Jewish when I'm not.
Not being recognized as a full citizen.
7. My in-laws' (original)
8. Losing my family traditions/identity.
have different set of beliefs than I do.
10. Not feeling welcomed by
Sh'foch Ha Matcha
At this point in the seder, traditional Jews would open the door and
shout angry words at their enemies, those who had persecuted them and had
accused the Jewish community of a blood libel -- of making matzah with the
blood of Christian children. Opening the door at this juncture gave the
Jewish family the excuse to open the door to show that there was nothing
sinister happening at the seder.
Tonight, we are beyond this, for we sit together, Jew and extended
family. We sit around one table, with an open door and an outstretched
hand. We welcome those who journey from other faiths to sit in peace and
Tonight, we take all the pain from our journey -- all the pain that
women, men, children, Jew, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist and all
humanity have endured throughout the ages -- and bring it into a healing
circle of love and forgiveness. With forgiveness for what is past, we move
forward in the spirit and energy of creating positive change in our
future. Let us acknowledge our grief, mourn for what has been, release the
past, and move powerfully forward from a place of love for our families,
our communities, our planet and all humanity. Tonight, we pour our
blessings into the world.
Rabbi Geela Rayzel Raphael is rabbinic consultant with
InterFaithways: Interfaith Support Network of Greater Philadelphia. This
article originally appeared on www.InterfaithFamily.com. For more
information about counseling, support and other resources, contact her at