Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
I offer 4 items to include in your Seders with suggested placement in the ritual. Why 4? Because the #4 and multiples (i.e. 40 - 400) occur repeatedly in Jewish tradition, cross-culturally and in the Seder itself The number “4” is symbolic representing sh’lei-mut (wholeness, completion, stability, continuity, and renewal).
Examples of “4”:
In Jewish literature the flood lasted 40 days and nights signaling at once a return to primordial darkness and to new beginnings. There are 4 matriarchs and 3 patriarchs (plus 1 if we include Joseph, as suggested by some commentaries) who embodied all human virtues and vice. Tradition holds that the Hebrews were enslaved for 400 years and wandered for 40 years before entering the land of promise, time-spans representing long periods that closed generations and ushered in new ones. Moses received the Torah including the Written Law (the Hebrew Bible - Tanakh) and the Oral Law (Rabbinic tradition – the Talmud and subsequent rabbinic law and lore) in 40 days and nights representing the complete Revelation at Mt. Sinai. There are 4 poles of a chupah symbolizing the beginning of a new generation and a fulfillment of the old. And the holiest name of God (YHVH) is composed of 4 letters. Mystics teach that this four letter Tetragrammaton represents the entirety of existence; the lower and upper worlds, the hidden and the seen, the concrete and the abstract, the physical and metaphysical, eternity and infinity.
The number 4 is significant cross-culturally, as well, suggesting the totality of existence: 4 directions, 4 seasons, 4 elements.
In the Seder we ask 4 questions, tell of 4 kinds of human beings and we drink 4 cups of wine symbolizing all the ways God inspired the Hebrews to be freed from bondage. For Jews, freedom is not the endgame. It is, rather, a necessary precondition for a covenantal partnership with God that will usher in the messianic era. In the “time to come” tradition teaches that the Jewish people will be gathered from the 4 corners of the earth to Jerusalem (Y’rushalayim, also known as Ir Salem, the city of wholeness, a city possessed of 4 quarters, like the 4 chambers of the heart).
4 suggested additions to your Seders:
1. Say a blessing for the people and state of Israel – place following the recitation of the 15 steps of the Seder ritual:
Eternal God, receive our prayers for the peace and security of the state of Israel and its people. Spread your blessings upon the Land and upon all who labor in its interest. Inspire her leaders to follow in the ways of righteousness. Awaken all to Your spirit. Remove from every heart hatred, malice, jealousy, fear, and strife. Let the Jewish people scattered throughout the earth be infused with the ancient hope of Zion and inspired by Jerusalem as the eternal city of peace. May the Jewish state be a blessing to all its inhabitants and to the Jewish people everywhere, and may she be an or la-go-yim, a light to the nations of the world. Amen!
2. Affirm that to be pro-Israel means to be pro-Palestinian - after Halachma Anya (“This is the Poor Bread”):
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a tragedy because it is a struggle between two rights. Therefore, to be pro-Israel must mean also to be pro-Palestinian, for as long as the Palestinians are an occupied people without a state of their own, not only are they not free but neither are the Israelis free. Peace will require painful concessions from both sides of this conflict for each people to find peace, security and fulfillment. Amos Oz has warned that those who refuse to compromise will be doomed to destruction for “the opposite of compromise is fanaticism and death.”
3. Include the olive on the Seder plate - read following Ba-shanah Ha-ba-ah Biy’ru-sha-la-yim (“Next Year in Jerusalem”):
The olive embodies our prayers for peace in the Middle East and in every place where war destroys lives, hopes and the freedoms we celebrate this night. Today, in the land of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Hagar, and Ishmael, living olive trees bring sustenance and roots to their families. Where they are uprooted, let them be replanted, for the sake of life, for the sake of justice and peace.
Next year, wherever we may be, may we be whole and at peace.
4. Offer these words as the final statement in the Seder:
May I recognize my failure to understand those who oppose me.
May I be able to look at the face of my enemy and see the face of God.
May we all be instruments of peace.
(Rabbis for Human Rights, North America)
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April 2, 2012 | 10:51 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
I am grateful to David Bedein, the Director of the Israel Resource News Agency, Center for Near East Policy Research at the Beit Agron International Press Center in Jerusalem for his comment and input on Marwan Barghouti’s crimes and demeanor at his trial for multiple murders. Mr. Bedein and have communicated privately. I also wish to express my appreciation to him for the way he communicated in both his comment and his private communications with me. He was more than civil and respectful, virtues which are too often lacking in public discourse.
In posting Uri Avnery’s piece which the journalist titled “The New Nelson Mandela” I did not intend to impugn Mr. Mandela’s integrity. However, by association with Marwan Barghouti I clearly did and I wish to apologize publicly to Mr. Mandela for this slight. He did not deserve it.
April 2, 2012 | 6:51 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
A number of angry comments have been written in response to my recent blog “The New Mandela.” I feel it necessary to respond to them and make several points.
First, the article I posted titled “The New Mandela” was written by long-time veteran Israeli journalist and peace activist Uri Avnery, and not by me. I did say that I thought his analysis was generally correct and enlightening, which is why I posted it for those who would not have seen his piece otherwise. One may not like Avnery, nor agree with him, nor welcome his comments, but no one can question his love for the state of Israel and for the Jewish people. Uri Avnery is not naïve nor is he a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He is an astute Israeli political analyst who has spent his life thinking and writing about all things Israel. Israel’s press is filled with such voices.
Second, I believe the point he was making about Marwan Barghouti being the “New Mandela” is that Nelson Mandela, in his early years, was also deemed a terrorist who was involved in actions that resulted in the killing of others, just as Barghouti has been so characterized. The fact that Mandela grew past his terrorism and became the remarkable leader that he did does not cancel out his early career. The same can be said of Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir. Both were involved in what David Ben Gurion and much of the Jewish world at the time considered terrorist acts, and both became Israeli Prime Ministers. Menachem Begin, in particular, became a man of peace in the truest sense.
Third, yes - Barghouti was convicted of murdering Israelis during the 2nd Intifada as the commander of the Tanzim. He sits in an Israeli prison after being sentence to 5 life sentences. Yet, there is precedent for releasing people with blood on their hands from Israeli custody. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu exchanged more than 1000 Palestinians for Gilad Shalit, and among those 1000+ were more than 300 Palestinians with “blood on their hands.” This was not the first time Israel has done so. Should Bibi have done so? Most Israelis said “yes” with deep concerns and fears about the real possibility that some of these released terrorists would kill innocent Israelis again.
Given Barghouti’s past position in support of negotiating a two-state solution non-violently to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (a position he supported during the Oslo period and which he now has returned to, according to many reports) the question is whether he should be released so that he might become the “New Mandela.”
And finally – I respect the strong and passionate feelings of Jews and Israelis for the state of Israel. I feel passionately myself. Yet, before I respond to anything anyone else says or does, I ask myself whether I am responding out of rage, fear and hate, or out of love and concern for the people and state of Israel. I would ask everyone else to do the same. We are, after all, a people that thinks and critiques and asks the hard questions. Let no one question another’s motives. Rather, critique the ideas thoughtfully. We all gain when we all do so.