Passover is Almost Upon Us

300px-Brick-making Slaves making bricks, Egypt 1274 BCE

I missed a week of blogging as I was doing taxes. But tonight’s post will, I hope, more than make up for it. Below is a poem from Haggadah: a Celebration of Freedom. It is read with the fourth cup of wine at the Passover seder. (You can order this haggadah from Aunt Lute books.)

For the humble whose lives escaped notice, who’ve
resisted slavery since the dawn of history:

the Egyptian who knew the Hebrews were leaving, who
gave her neighbor gold earrings and a quick kiss,
and veiled her face to hide the tears

the woman in ancient Assyria who opened her door
to a slave running away, who shared what she had,
leftover fish and barley bread, and wrapped
the rest in a palm leaf and walked her guest
past the gates  of the city, knowing her own children
could be taken to recompense the master
deprived of his property

cotton-gin-w-slaves Slaves at the cotton gin

the woman in Alabama who opened her door
to slaves running away, dressed their wounds,
fried up chicken and corn bread,
tucked them under blankets and hay in the wagon
whose husband rode them north to the next station
on the Underground Railroad, knowing they both
could be imprisoned, their farm taken
to recompense the masters

the Germans and Poles who hid Jews in the attic,
who forged passports and found them passage
on ships, who shared cabbage and potatoes
and a rationed bit of sausage, knowing if they
were discovered they’d share the same grave,

the deacon who runs a sanctuary for Guatemalans
escaping the death squads,
the dyke who runs a battered women’s shelter;

and for those whose neighbors noticed well enough,
and hated them:

the white woman who walked Black children to school
past mobs of screaming Klansmen, whose neighbors called
her niggerlover, got her husband fired, phoned
them with death threats, shot through their windows

the Muslim feminist who defended Hindus against Muslims
who raped and murdered them, burned their homes
and took their land, and the mullahs put a price
on her head and the neighbors called her a slut
and demanded her blood, and she escaped into exile

the Israelis who defended Arabs against Jews
who tortured them, shot them, bulldozed their homes
and took their land, and the neighbors called them
self-hating Jews and woke them with obscene calls

the woman who spoke for the forests against humans
and the inhuman corporations who bulldozed and chainsawed
and clear-cut them, and the neighbors called her a
treehugger taking their jobs, and her car was bombed
and her body half blown away;

for the woman whose neighbors say she’s shrill or crazy
or too sexy–she looks like a whore, or too ugly–
she can’t get a man, she makes trouble because
she’s a dyke, because her boyfriend put her up to it;

for the man who will not kill and is called a fag, who will
not rob the poor and is called a traitor, who hurls
his own body against the tanks instead of writing letters
to the editor, and is called a terrorist

for those we never saw and those we could not fail to see,
for all the women and men who risk  imprisonment, exile
or death, for righteousness’ sake, we drink.

Hear O Israel!
it is not the Messiah but these
imperfect few, in every generation,
whose courage has redeemed you.

2 Responses to Passover is Almost Upon Us

  1. Mary Ann Aschenbrenner March 24, 2015 at 8:48 am #

    This is a beautiful reminder. Thank you for sharing this poem.
    I am so glad that you asked me to build your website, that I am a part, however small, of your work.

  2. Michael Moore March 31, 2015 at 12:46 pm #

    Such a powerful prayer… Thank you!

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