Passover: the First Cup

haggadahPassover comes after Purim and is my favorite holiday, since it celebrates a successful slave revolt. Whether that revolt actually happened is irrelevant; what matters is that the Passover legend shaped the consciousness of the Jewish people and was adopted by other people struggling to liberate themselves—most notably African slaves in the United States. The book that is used to walk you through the service on Passover is called a haggadah. There is no one correct haggadah—there are probably thousands of different versions of this book. Like many of my generation, I was inspired to write a non-traditional haggadah. Aunt Lute Books published it, and you can obtain it through them at .

During the service, you drink four cups of wine. Here’s what I wrote for the first cup:

For the mother who gleaned in the fields
back bent under the weight of the sun
shoving off those who would
snatch an ear of grain from her
bleeding hands, feet bleeding into
thick dust, for the sake of a handful
of ears of grain short of stalk and
empty of kernels, for the sake of a mouthful
of bread for her children;

for the mother who conjured up
nourishment from weeds and the parts
of a pig that the master cast aside,
for the mother bending over her
own swelling belly to pick cotton
whose back dripped blood,
whose breasts could only drip prayers
for the children auctioned away;

for the mother who snatched up
her children and hid in the forest
till the pogrom was over, till
her hands were blue as the snow
and the ashes that had been her home
were cold, till day broke over
the frozen body of her newborn son;

for the mothers who hid their
children in cellars or convents
for the mothers who carried their
children across borders with
bombs falling behind them;

for the mothers picking coffee or planting rice
cleaning toilets or sewing sneakers
or soldering silicon chips;
for the mothers who work two shifts
to buy books as well as bread
for their children; we drink.

Blessed is the fruit of the vine
and the earth and the sun and the rain,
and the hands that planted and pruned.
Blessed are the mothers who gave us life and
sustained us, and whose labor enabled us to
reach this occasion.



One Response to Passover: the First Cup

  1. Mary Ann February 18, 2015 at 9:37 pm #

    Wow. This is beautiful. Thank you, Martha.

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