Passover Publications & Resources

Handcuffs at the Seder

by Rabbi Arthur Waskow

Submitted by Rabbi Randy Fleisher

March 2004


A group of Rabbis and rabbinical students (myself included) engaged in civil disobedience at a NYC rally against police brutality just before Passover in 1999. Many of us were arrested. This teaching was written by Rabbi Arthur Waskow:

Teaches the Haggadah, "In every generation, one rises up to destroy us." Who is this "us"? Perhaps this "us" is all human beings, for all of us carry the Image of God.

NO! Surely this "us" does not include foreigners, strangers.

"Us." is just us:

Us Jews. Us white folks. Us Americans. People whose skin, whose speech, is familiar.

But we are taught: "Love the stranger as yourself, for you were strangers in the Land of Mitzrayyim/ Narrowness/ Egypt." Abner Louima: a stranger. Amadou Diallo: a stranger. Strangers because they came new to the shores where three generations have made "us" us Jews into home-borns.

Not "us." Strangers?

"In every generation," teaches the Haggadah further, "every human being is obligated to understand that we ourselves, not our forebears only, come forth from slavery to freedom." When are handcuffs a mark of freedom? When we freely choose to stand with those who are not free, demanding that we too be put in fetters.

For EVERY human being must be free to come forth from slavery to freedom;

and when in our city, our country, our generation,

some are marked for bullets,

some for a stick into the bowels,

some for harassment on the streets,

some for constant humiliation,

some for poverty in the midst of Pharaonic wealth

Then those who are not so marked must step across the line into action. Into wearing handcuffs as a mark of freedom.

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