Thursday, March 25, 2010

The four questions for Seder 2010

As they sit down for the Passover seder, Jews traditionally ask four questions,
each a variation on: Why is this night different from all other nights?
Traditionally, the second question asks: Why on all other nights do we eat all kinds of herbs, and on this night only bitter herbs (horseradish or maror)?

In this 2010 version of the Passover seder, olives replace horseradish as the second question is asked and answered. (Thanks to Jewish Voice for Peace for bringing this to my attention.)

Zayit – Olive

(Olives are distributed to seder participants and the following is recited):

: al shum mah? – This olive: why do we eat it?

The olive tree is one the first plants mentioned in the Torah and remains
among the oldest species in Israel/Palestine. It has become a universal symbol of peace and hope, as it is written in Psalm 52:I am like a thriving olive tree in God’s house, I trust in God’s loyal kindness forever and ever.

We add this olive to our Seder plate as a reminder that we must all be God’s bearers
of peace and hope in the world. At the same time, we eat this olive in sorrow, mindful that olive trees, the source of livelihood for Palestinian farmers, are regularly chopped down, burned and uprooted by Israeli settlers and the Israeli authorities.

As we look on,
Israel pursues systematic policies that increasingly deny Palestinians access to olive orchards that have belonged to them for generations. As we eat now, we ask one another: How will we, as Jews, bear witness to the unjust actions committed in our name? Will these olives inspire us to be bearers of peace and hope for Palestinians–and for all who are oppressed?