Haggadah Insert: The Four Children

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Each year at the Seder, Jews read this line in the Passover Haggadah, "In every generation, a person is obligated to see themselves as if they had left Egypt." This concept reminds us that each year we must approach the haggada with a fresh eye. It demands that we not merely read the words, but understand them afresh. We must both have empathy for what our forefathers and mothers have suffered, and – more importantly – be aware that change is possible, that we are masters of our fate, and that with determination and courage we can accomplish liberation. In our generation, liberating Israelis and Palestinians from the yoke of the occupation, which is subjugating both societies, is imperative. And it is within our reach.

This year, you can add flavor to your seder by sharing this thoughtful reflection by Rabbi Marisa Elana James. Rabbi James has graciously contributed our 17th haggadah insert. In it, she asks us to reflect upon what questions we want to ask this year, and how we want to make sure that we're not just getting stuck in what we think we already know.

Since 2001, Americans for Peace Now has asked rabbis from the extended APN family to contribute reflections on the haggada: that story which has for centuries been understood as the archetype of liberation. Many of us have made these reflections a permanent part of our seder - we hope you will, too.You can find them here.

May we all enjoy a sweet and liberating Passover,

Debra DeLee
President and CEO,
Americans for Peace Now

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Submitted by Rabbi Marisa Elana James (2017)
To be read after the four children.

Four SonsRabbi Marisa Elana James is a graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. She spent more than five years living, working, and studying in Jerusalem, where she worked for Encounter Programs and co-created and led the rabbinical student program for T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights. She most recently worked for Romemu and T’ruah in New York City, where she lives with her wife, contrabassoonist and translator Barbara Ann Schmutzler.

When we talk about the future for Israelis and Palestinians, we often have more questions than answers. As we think about the four children of the Seder with their four different ways of trying to learn, this short addition can help us think about what questions we want to ask this year, and how we want to make sure that we're not just getting stuck in what we think we already know. If we are serious about being a positive influence in the work towards a peaceful and just resolution to the conflict, we need to keep asking questions, and recognize that there is always something to learn.

We may each look at the state of the world today and have the same reactions that these children have.

In the spirit of the wise child, we may ask “what are the laws and histories that have shaped the conflicts we face?” We commit to seeking greater wisdom.

In the spirit of the wicked child, we may ask “why should I care about these challenges if they don’t affect me personally?” We commit to seeking stronger connection.

In the spirit of the simple child, we may ask “what is going on, what does it mean, and how did we get here?” We commit to seeking deeper knowledge.

And in the spirit of the child who does not know how to ask, we commit to listening to others as they tell us their stories. We commit to hearing from Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Christians and Muslims, those who are religious and secular, to begin to see the fullness of the needs for a future of peace and justice for all.

We have these all inside us: we are wise, we are wicked, we are simple, and we are always learning how to listen and learn.

Download a PDF version

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Click here to see all the haggadah inserts from previous years.

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