The Freedom Seder, radical but not Messianic

As I wrote here before I  like to get ready for Passover by reading the original Freedom Seder which took place on April 4, 1969, the first anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, the third night of Passover.

Hundreds of people of varied racial and religious communities gathered in a Black church in the heart of Washington DC to celebrate the original Freedom Seder. For the first time, it [explicitly] intertwined the ancient story of liberation from Pharaoh with the story of Black America’s struggle for liberation, and the liberation of other peoples as well.

 

As radical as they were for the time, I noticed something a bit sad this time through:

How much then are we in duty bound to struggle, work, share, give, think, plan, feel, organize, sit-in, speak out, hope, and be on behalf of Mankind! For we must end the genocide [in Vietnam],* stop the bloody wars that are killing men and women as we sit here, disarm the nations of the deadly weapons that threaten to destroy us all, end the brutality with which the police beat minorities in many countries, make sure that no one starves, free the poets from their jails, educate us all to understand their poetry, allow us all to explore our inner ecstasies, and encourage and aid us to love one another and share in the human fraternity. All these! For, as is said, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig-tree, and none shall make them afraid, for the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath spoken. For let all the peoples walk each one in the name of its god, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever.”

* Insert any that is current—such as “Biafra,” “Black America,” etc.—depending on the situation.

 

With all its calls and hope for”Liberation Now! Next Year in a World of Freedom”, it still acknowledged that each year or era ahead would have its own  war crimes or genocide to talk about at the seder. So in this part of the Freedom Seder there is not exactly a vision of a utopia or Messianic future, but more along the lines of

לֹא עָלֶיךָ הַמְּלָאכָה לִגְמוֹר, וְלֹא אַתָּה בֶן חוֹרִין לִבָּטֵל מִמֶּנָּה

It is not your duty to complete the work. But neither are you free to desist from it.

 

Video of the seder is below:

 

 

Enjoy a young Arthur Waskcow and Rabbi Balfour Brickner and Rev. Channing Phillips. Rev. Phillips tells abortion jokes. It was filmed by the CBC. (Yes you have your 1960s era well funded Canadian public broadcaster to thank for this historic footage.)

You can get a copy of the haggadah in pdf here.

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