beyond the straits and narrow

a growing haggadah

We print­ed a pri­vate new edi­tion of A Grow­ing Hag­gadah last year for per­son­al use. We will use it again this year. 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:

Many selec­tions of this Hag­gadah along with por­tions of oth­er Hag­gadot are avail­able at You owe it to your­self to explore what appears there. At the same time, I am pleased to note that this Hag­gadah appears on the first page of results when search­ing for “Hag­gadah” at both Google and Bing. I express my deep appre­ci­a­tion to those who val­ue the text enough to link to it on their own sites (caus­ing this high page-rank­ing).

Longer fal­low peri­ods seem to occur between edi­tions of this Hag­gadah now. The pre­vi­ous edi­tion is six 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 20015761 when Avi­gail and I vis­it­ed Reed to see if she want­ed to study there. The 20055765 changes (though small) are sig­nif­i­cant, and were at her insti­ga­tion. And then Avi­gail men­tioned at the end of Seder in 20095769 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 of our print­ed and cur­rent PDF ver­sion (and this year she cel­e­brates in Jerusalem).

hurvitz’s humanist haggadah

As I wrote last year, this Hag­gadah is now a three-gen­er­a­tion project. Its ori­gin reach­es back anoth­er gen­er­a­tion. In 1989, a year after our return to Cal­i­for­nia, I brought home to Poway the box­es Jay had labeled “Passover” and “Hag­gadah” then stored at 3909 Burn­side Ave., Los Ange­les. 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.

In 20095769 at this time of year, I shared a but­ton relat­ed to “Let My Peo­ple Go” and the move­ment to free Sovi­et Jew­ry. In 20105770, pick­ing up from the strug­gle to free Sovi­et Jew­ry, I offered a song from that move­ment, “Фараону”, that we sing at our Seder each year after Yachatz before the Mag­gid. It’s a good song. It’s easy to learn. I encour­age you to add it to your Seders.



miriam’s well

Also last year I encour­aged read­ers to expand their idea of Miri­am’s cup. I pre­fer to use the image of Miri­am’s Well and place a pitch­er of water on the Seder table from which we all drink at the end of the Seder.

but this year we must think more about egypt

Last year I asked “who is Pharaoh?”. The clas­sic Hag­gadah men­tions Pharaoh only three times and refers to Moses only once. 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.

This year we are thrilled with admi­ra­tion as we con­tin­ue to watch the hero­ic strug­gles of the Egypt­ian peo­ple in their efforts to over­throw their con­tem­po­rary pharaoh, Hos­ni Mubarak and his mil­i­tary appa­ra­tus. They reached beyond the straits of their sit­u­a­tion and strug­gled for a true improve­ment of their soci­ety. Their strug­gle is not over. In fact, as I write this, Al Jazeera reports “Egypt army to ‘use force to clear pro­test­ers’ ”!

where is this place egypt referred to so often in the haggadah?

Is it the Egypt we know?

Yes, though only the name of the place is the same, the peo­ple have changed, eth­ni­cal­ly, from when we were slaves there. In fact we are at peace and allied with the Egypt of today.

The Egypt of the Hag­gadah is more than a place, it is more than a nation state, it is a state of mind.

Our Hebrew word for that place is “Mitzra’yim” מצרים, that is: the straits, or nar­rows. The geo­graph­i­cal Mitzra’yim is a pinched green strip of land in the midst of desert along the shores of the Nile Riv­er, which through­out his­to­ry has pro­vid­ed the min­i­mum 2.5 gal­lons of water per day to sus­tain the life of its 79 mil­lion inhab­i­tants. The metaphor­i­cal Mitzra’yim is any restric­tion. Think of all the thirsts we have, and mul­ti­ply.

narrow egypt from aswan to cairo

nar­row egypt from aswan to cairo

From Aswan at the first cataract (to which the prophet Jere­mi­ah “retired” after the destruc­tion of Jerusalem)

first cataract of the nile at aswan

first cataract of the nile at aswan

down­riv­er, north, to the mod­ern bustling Cairo with a pop­u­la­tion of over 6 mil­lion, before the riv­er opens into the Delta, the dis­tance is approx­i­mate­ly 550 miles; greater than the dis­tance from San Diego to San Fran­cis­co, or about the dis­tance from New Orleans, Louisiana… to Cairo, Illi­nois! Much of the coun­try­side along the banks of the Nile still looks as it might have hun­dreds, if not thou­sands of years ago.

along the nile near aswan

along the nile between aswan and lux­or

sunset on the nile anticipating שבת at luxor

sun­set on the nile antic­i­pat­ing שבת at lux­or

The peo­ple of mod­ern Egypt have over­thrown their con­tem­po­rary pharaoh through pri­mar­i­ly non­vi­o­lent means. There is still much work to be done, even though Ambas­sador Daniel Kurtzer in his remarks to the 2011 CCAR con­ven­tion in New Orleans report­ed that among all the rev­o­lu­tions occur­ring in the Mid­dle East now, he is most hope­ful for the trans­for­ma­tion of Egypt­ian soci­ety. We all share that hope, for, in the words of Mer­ton Bern­stein who responds to a review of Joseph Lelyveld’s new biog­ra­phy of Gand­hi: “Non­vi­o­lence does not pre­vail every­where in every set­ting, but only a few weeks ago it was a sig­nif­i­cant fac­tor in the suc­cess of the Jas­mine Rev­o­lu­tion in Egypt.”

And so as we sit around our Seder tables this year, enjoy­ing the meal that com­mem­o­rates our own strug­gle for lib­er­a­tion from slav­ery in Egypt, we com­mit our­selves to act in sol­i­dar­i­ty with the con­tem­po­rary Egyp­tians and their non­vi­o­lent strug­gle. We know that when these lapel but­tons were pro­duced in the late 1960s it was meant some­what face­tious­ly. Nonethe­less, we trust, and will work, so that the Egypt­ian peo­ple’s com­mit­ment to non­vi­o­lence will achieve the desired results.


matzo balls not bombs

matzoh balls not bombs

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

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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