Let My People Go (Отпусти народ мой) [that they may serve me]!

a growing haggadah

A new edi­tion of A Grow­ing Hag­gadah (which is still avail­able in its 2005 HTML ver­sion) has been print­ed. If you are inter­est­ed in hav­ing a PDF ver­sion of the text to print and use (in whole or in part) at your Seder you can down­load it here.

Longer fal­low peri­ods seem to occur between edi­tions of this Hag­gadah now. The pre­vi­ous edi­tion is five years old, the pre­ced­ing edi­tion appeared three years before that. While I remain fair­ly sat­is­fied, I am not com­pla­cent. I made many changes fol­low­ing Seder 5761 when Avi­gail and I vis­it­ed Reed to see if she want­ed to study there. The 2005 changes (though small) are sig­nif­i­cant, and were at her insti­ga­tion. And now, Avi­gail men­tioned at the end of Seder in 2009 that the time for a new edi­tion had arrived and she want­ed to help edit it. In recog­ni­tion of her full par­tic­i­pa­tion in the task (both in writ­ing, edit­ing and mak­ing oth­er, often struc­tur­al, sug­ges­tions), her name appears on the cov­er.

Hurvitz’s Humanist Haggadah

This Hag­gadah is now a three-gen­er­a­tion project. Its ori­gin reach­es back anoth­er gen­er­a­tion. I brought from 3909 Burn­side Ave., Los Ange­les, the box­es Jay had labeled “Passover” and “Hag­gadah” home to Poway in 1989, a year after our return to Cal­i­for­nia. In those box­es were Hag­gadot and oth­er mate­ri­als Dad had col­lect­ed begin­ning in the ear­ly ’50s. Some of those tid­bits found their way into this Hag­gadah, oth­er mate­ri­als are buds of ideas that may bloom in a dif­fer­ent Hag­gadah. This text has moved on. Dad’s gar­den was extreme­ly fer­tile; his pres­ence still hov­ers over this Hag­gadah. Actu­al­ly, it might nev­er have exist­ed were it not for the HHH (Hurvitz’s Human­ist Hag­gadah). When I last skimmed that work (now many years back) I noticed lit­tle of it still appar­ent in this one (at this point, hard­ly even the Neertza, though I have restored some of the “bit­ter­ness” he expe­ri­enced). Mom’s last type­script of Dad’s final edi­tion is dat­ed 1968.

Last year at this time I shared a but­ton relat­ed to “Let My Peo­ple Go” and the move­ment to free Sovi­et Jew­ry. This year, pick­ing up from the strug­gle to free Sovi­et Jew­ry, I offer, first, a song from that move­ment that we sing at our Seder each year after Yachatz before the Mag­gid.


Фараону, Фараону говорю
Отпусти народ мой
Фараону, Фараону говорю
Отпусти народ мой
Отпусти народ Еврейский
На Родину свою
Отпусти народ Еврейский
На Родину свою
Отпусти народ, отпусти народ
Отпусти народ домой.

Faraonu, Faraonu gavaryu; Aht­pusti nar­od moy. (2)
Aht­pusti nar­od Yevrayskee; Nar­o­dyenu svayu. (2)
Aht­pusti nar­od, aht­pusti nar­od, Aht­pusti nar­od damoy.

To the Pharaoh I say: Let my peo­ple go! Let the Jew­ish peo­ple go to our home­land! Let the peo­ple, let the peo­ple, let the peo­ple go home.

In Decem­ber of 2008 Deb­bie and I were in Mex­i­co City. There we vis­it­ed the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty’s muse­um where I was sur­prised to see a but­ton I have in my col­lec­tion:

СБОВДА button at Museo Tuvie Maisel in Mexico City

СБОВДА but­ton at Museo Tuvie Maisel in Mex­i­co City

There was no expla­na­tion of why this but­ton from the Amer­i­can move­ment to free Sovi­et Jew­ry (with Russ­ian text “СБОВДА” mean­ing “Free­dom”) would be in the muse­um in Mex­i­co City.

Freedom for Soviet Jewry СБОВДА

Free­dom for Sovi­et Jew­ry СБОВДА

Date: ca. 1970s
Size: 4.44
Pin Form: straight clasp
Print Method: cel­lu­loid
Text Free­dom
Sovi­et Jew­ry

water is scarce

I have increased the focus on water issues, espe­cial­ly at the end when we drink from Miri­am’s Well. I know that oth­er Hag­gadot sug­gest putting a “Miri­am’s Cup” filled with water on the Seder Table. I pre­fer to…

drink from miriam’s well

A large pitch­er of fresh, tasty drink­ing water from which all will drink at the end of the Seder stands on the table through­out the Seder. Also a bowl(s) to emp­ty the remain­der of wine in the cups before drink­ing from Miriam’s Well should be avail­able.
I usu­al­ly put slices of orange and sprigs of fresh mint at the bot­tom, fill the pitch­er with ice, then fill the remain­der of the space with cold water.

Emp­ty what­ev­er wine remains in the wine glass­es into the emp­ty bowls then pour some water from the pitch­er that has stood on the table into everyone’s wine glass.

We have escaped bondage and crossed the sea. We enter the arid land before us, made hes­i­tant by gen­er­a­tions of servitude—mixed with our recent strug­gle, and yet heady in our new free­dom.
We have thirst­ed for free­dom, but now we thirst for water. As with so many peo­ple in the world who do not have water, we face bit­ter­ness [Exo­dus 15:23] and quarreling.[Exodus 17:6–7, Num­bers 20:11] Our ancient texts tell us that Moses was able to turn the bit­ter into sweet­ness and bring forth water. But many dis­putes over water remain.
Fur­ther, we are told that Miri­am, the mid­wife of our lib­er­a­tion has stood ready, wait­ing to sus­tain us in the time ahead as we come to grips with our tasks and respon­si­bil­i­ties.
Our Sages spoke of Miriam’s Well, cre­at­ed in the twi­light of creation’s week. It now lies hid­den in the sea of Galilee for Eli­jah to restore to us. Ish­mael received water from it as “the well of liv­ing and see­ing”; Rebec­ca drew from it when she greet­ed Eliez­er; the well first appeared to our peo­ple when Moses struck the rock on Miriam’s account at the place of bit­ter­ness in Sinai—and it trav­eled with us through­out the desert years. Its waters, we are told, taste of old wine and new wine, of milk and of hon­ey.

This is the well of the Ances­tors of the world:
Abra­ham & Sarah, Isaac & Rebec­ca, Jacob & Leah and Rachel dug it;
the lead­ers of old­en times have searched for it;
the heads of the peo­ple, the law­givers of Israel, Moses, Aaron and Miri­am, have caused it to flow with their staves.
In the desert we received it as a gift and there­after it fol­lowed us on all our wan­der­ings:
to lofty moun­tains and deep val­leys.
Not until we came to the bound­ary of Moab did it dis­ap­pear because we squan­dered our free­dom by not ful­fill­ing our respon­si­bil­i­ties.
Now, as we begin a new sea­son of renew­al, may these cleans­ing, refresh­ing waters, rem­i­nis­cent of Miriam’s well, recall for us a time of puri­ty of pur­pose and help us focus on the tasks ahead.

All drink the water from Miriam’s well.

who is pharaoh?

I am not shy about men­tion­ing human action in my Hag­gadah. In fact, I hope that the process of pur­su­ing the Pesach adven­ture goads us to action. I write:

The clas­sic Hag­gadah does not men­tion any human actors oth­er than the nay-say­ing Pharaoh. The ear­li­est texts that form the Hag­gadah were com­posed at the time of the begin­nings of Chris­tian­i­ty. Most schol­ars sug­gest that not men­tion­ing human actors in the redemp­tion stressed the pow­er of God and dimin­ished the pos­si­bil­i­ty of imag­in­ing that Moses could be ele­vat­ed to deity-like sta­tus. In our day, we are not so con­cerned and about deify­ing humans. In fact, the reverse is true, we need to enhance our under­stand­ing of our­selves as capa­ble of trans­form­ing the world around us, and not wait for some force to appear to save us at the last moment.

Through­out the Hag­gadah I have marked ques­tions for dis­cus­sion relat­ed to this sub­ject:

  • Who can we name who ded­i­cat­ed their lives to the strug­gle for free­dom?
  • How did this hap­pen? How did Moses move from oppres­sor to ally to lib­er­a­tor?
    How do we move our­selves from pas­sive to active?
  • What have I done to resist improp­er restraints?
  • What new minor restric­tions do I expe­ri­ence or see placed on oth­ers?

I am will­ing to ask how even we can become like Pharaoh:

We ask our­selves how we use our pow­er to place oth­er peo­ple in the nar­row, lim­it­ing straits of “Mitzra’yim.”

After all, we are told: In each and every gen­er­a­tion an indi­vid­ual should look upon him or her­self; as if he or she had left Egypt. And, so, it is not strange that dif­fer­ent gen­er­a­tions of our peo­ple have iden­ti­fied real rulers as Pharaoh (even if, with­in a gen­er­a­tion his name might be all but for­got­ten!)

Nasser Is A Pharaoh

Nass­er Is A Pharaoh

Date: ca. 1960s
Size: 3.175
Pin Form: straight
Print Method: cel­lu­loid

May all our pharaohs come to naught and be remem­bered as lit­tle as he. And, may we expe­ri­ence a lib­er­at­ing Pesach as we progress towards Shavuot.

your lapel buttons

Many peo­ple have lapel but­tons. They may be attached to a favorite hat or jack­et you no longer wear, or poked into a cork-board on your wall. If you have any lay­ing around that you do not feel emo­tion­al­ly attached to, please let me know. I pre­serve these for the Jew­ish peo­ple. At some point they will all go to an appro­pri­ate muse­um. You can see all the but­tons shared to date.

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1 Response to Let My People Go (Отпусти народ мой) [that they may serve me]!

  1. colin eimer says:

    Chag Sameach
    Each year I pro­duce a illus­trat­ed cal­en­dar which we dis­trib­ute free to mem­bers of the syn­a­gogue and some oth­er syn­a­gogues and col­leagues. The cal­en­dar is not sold.
    I thought it might make an inter­est­ing page of illus­tra­tions to have some of your lapel badges as illus­tra­tions. Do you have them in a down­load­able (pre­sum­ably pdf?) form which I could use? I would of course give you as the source in the ‘cred­its and acknowl­edge­ments’ sec­tion.
    I look for­ward to hear­ing from you
    Todah meirosh

    Rab­bi Col­in Eimer
    South­gate & Dis­trict Reform Syn­a­gogue

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