Passover Publications & Resources

Reader: Some of you may wonder why an orange has been included on the Seder plate. Years ago, when women were first being admitted to the rabbinate, Susannah Heschel gave a speech in Florida, the Land of Oranges. After she spoke of the emerging equality of women in Jewish life, an irate man rose and said, “A woman belongs in the rabbinate as much as an orange belongs on the Seder plate!”  Since that day, many of us have placed an orange on our Seder tables as a symbol that women belong everywhere Jews belong.  The orange has particularly strong symbolism because it carries within itself the seeds of its rebirth.  As women step forward to claim their full role in Judaism, we too can be full participants in a Jewish rebirth. 

 Who will be today’s Midwives?

 One Sunday morning in 1941 in Nazi-occupied Netherlands, a mysterious character rode up on his bicycle and entered the Calvinist church.  He ascended the podium and read aloud the story of the midwives who saved the Hebrew babies and defied Pharaoh’s policy of genocide.

 “Who is today’s Pharaoh?” he asked.  “Hitler”, the congregation replied.  “Who are today’s Hebrew babies?”  The Jews.”   Who will be today’s midwives?”  He left the church, leaving his question hanging in the air.

 During the war, seven families from this little church hid Jews and other resisters from the Nazis.

 The Shifra and Puah Award 

Al AXELROD, the Hillel rabbi at Brandeis University in the 1960’s, established this annual award for non-violent resistance to tyranny.  He named it after the midwives who resisted and outsmarted Pharoah and saved the Hebrew infants from drowning.  (In Tel Aviv the maternity hospital is located at the intersection of Shifra and Puah Street).

 To whom would you give this award this year?  (In 1849 Harriet Tubman deserved such an award.  See page 99).

 From Rags to Riches:  A Folktale

Iraqi Jews tell the tale that in one country the king was always chosen in a special way.  When the old king died, a bird called the ‘bird of good fortune.’ Would be released.  On whomsever’s head it landed, the people would place the crown making him their next ruler. 

Once the bird of good fortune landed on the head of a slave.  That slave had been a simple musician who entertained at the master’s parties.  His costume consisted of a feathered cap and a belt made of the hooves of sheep.

When the slave became king, he moved into the palace and wore royal robes.  However, he ordered that a shack be constructed next to the palace and that his old hat, belt and drum be stored there along with a giant mirror.

 The new king was known for his kindness and love for all his people-rich and poor, free and slave.  Often he would disappear into his little shack.  Once he left its door open and the cabinet ministers saw him don his feathered hat, put on his old belt and dance and drum before the mirror.  They found this very strange and asked the king:  “After all, you are a king!  You must maintain your dignity!”

The king replied:  “Once I was a slave and now I’ve become a king.  From time to time I want to remind myself that I was once a slave lest I grow arrogant and treat with disdain my people and you, my ministers.”

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