Editor’s Note: At the Seder at the Dreamaway Lodge in Becket this past Tuesday, the second night of Passover, Linda Kaye-Moses of Pittsfield offered the following remarks at that point in the narrative before the traditional recitation of the 10 plagues visited upon the Pharaoh when he refused to let the Israelites leave Egypt.
When I sat down to write this, I looked over what I had written last year and found sadly that the same rhetoric and behavior directed at refugees, immigrants, the victims of bigotry fleeing toxic environments in their own countries or in our country is still being voiced and acted upon by those who sit in positions of power in our country. The unendurable that so many face remains unendurable when they are placed in situations that may be only slightly less dangerous than those they found impossible to endure.
Those who may already be here are being subjected to cruelties we have believed would never have existed in our country, where parents are removed from their families, where so many are being detained indefinitely, or taken from their families; where our leads proclaim, despite our objections, that some are more equal than others, that some human beings deserved to be ostracized from humanity for simply being who they must.
“Never again!”, we have said in our prayers, but “never” has arrived, “never” has morphed into “now,” and we have become observers on the fragile banks of a river of humanity drowning in a flood of fear. We watch Holocaustic events flow past before our disbelieving eyes, that we cannot endure, even as observers. It is unendurable for people whose families, tribes and worlds are being poisoned and shredded. It is unendurable for those whose decision is to be only who they are, to love only who they choose to love, whose choices conflict with those in power.
And those who flee, face away from the terror behind them, only to face the bitter cruelty of our immigration process or the rampant intolerance in our country today, a country that has become infected by the disease of xenophobic nativism masquerading as patriotism. They are being crushed between what they have seen where they came from, the plagues of territorialism, of physical and psychological destruction, and the dehumanization they experience on their way here, and once they have arrived or are living here.
Tonight, when we described the storied plagues visited upon the Egyptians, I will instead be voicing prayers for the Refugees, for the Deportees and the Detainees, for those whom the Plagues of anti-Semitism, anti-feminism, homophobia and racism have harmed; prayers that they may find safe harbors here, in those sanctuaries we find the strength to offer them, in defiance of what the agencies of our government attempt to force us to accept.
Why is this night different from all other nights, here, as we sit in this loving and welcoming time together? The answers, for me, are still the same as they will always be. This night is different because it lights my way, in sharp relief, to an understanding that the plague of inhumanity to others only breeds an inhumanity in our souls; that the revenge at the roots of our story of Exodus, only breeds more monstrous and vengeful acts, and that brutality in the name of patriotism, indeed for any reason, poisons us all.
As a child I believed my leaders when, as Jews, they spoke to me of the necessity of considering myself to be an active member of my Indivisible community, with the emphasis on “active,” on being proactive, on activism, and perhaps on a little bit of radical activism. As I listen to the progress of this Seder tonight, I am reminded that, if I do not hear the “truths” of this night, tonight, if do not hear them now, if not now, then when?