Additional seder blessings for interfaith families

Here are four readings that interfaith families may want to include in their Passover seder.

• Karpas Kavannah:

Karpas (parsley that is dipped in saltwater during the seder) and kavannah (spiritual focus) — time for spring awakening, new directions, renewal and bursting forth of new ideas.

We take this time to honor others who travel with us from other faiths. We acknowledge that they bring a new perspective to our lives. We are grateful for the growth that we have experienced because they are in our lives.

As a plant bursts forth with new energy to bloom, so too we recognize that at this time of Jewish history we are blossoming in different ways. As the garden needs tending, so, too, do our relationships with spouses, in-laws and families of other traditions.

• Maror/Charoset:

Maror (bitter herbs, such as horseradish) — the symbol of bitterness and slavery of the Israelites in Egypt.

Today, in a Jewish community that is free, this bitterness takes on another layer of meaning. We acknowledge that there are many among us who are embittered by their feelings of resentment, discomfort and fear. We know that there is just cause for some of these feelings of fear, for Jews were “other” for so many centuries and mistreated because they were different.

This history has often contributed to some of our families’ inability to accept the idea of intermarriage. We acknowledge that Jewish people have struggled and been enslaved in the past and we stretch to transform this defeated posture. We commit ourselves tonight to moving beyond our own positions.

Tonight we dip our bitterness in the sweetness of charoset. Charoset, the sweet mixture of fruits and nuts, symbolizes the mortar of the bricks of the Israelites. It is also the mortar of commitment that enabled the Jewish community to survive through those centuries of oppression.

By blending our maror and charoset, we acknowledge the blending of faiths and traditions that sit around this table here tonight. We know it is not always sweet and it is not always bitter, but that life is a mixture of both.

• The Artichoke on the Seder Plate:

The seder plate holds the main symbols of a traditional Passover seder — the shank bone, egg, karpas, charoset and maror.

The artichoke, however, is a new development. What is an artichoke? Surely a work of God’s imagination! Many petals, with thistles and a heart. To me this has come to represent the Jewish people.

We are very diverse in our petals. We call people Jews who are everything from very traditional Orthodox Chassids, to very liberal secular. We are social-justice activists and soldiers; we are Israelis and Jews of the diaspora. Our skin can be white as Scandinavian, dark black as Ethiopian, and we now welcome many Chinese and Latin American adoptees. Lately we add another category, that of interfaith.

Like the artichoke, which has thistles protecting its heart, the Jewish people have been thorny about this question of interfaith marriage. Let this artichoke on the seder plate tonight stand for the wisdom of God’s creation in making the Jewish people a population able to absorb many elements and cultures.

• Sh’foch Ha’matcha:

At this point in the seder, traditional Jews would open the door and shout angry words at their enemies. Tonight we are beyond this, for we sit together, Jew and extended family. We sit around one table with an open door and an outstretched hand.

Tonight we take all the pain from our journey — all the pain that humanity has endured throughout the ages — and bring it into a healing circle of love and forgiveness. With forgiveness for what is past, we move forward in the spirit and energy of creating positive change in our future.

Let us acknowledge our grief, mourn for what has been, release the past and move powerfully forward from a place of love for our families, our communities, our planet and all humanity. Tonight we pour our blessings into the world.

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