Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Green Haggadah

There are many aspects of the Haggadah that relate to ecological and environment concerns. By next year – God willing - we will have completed the Green Haggadah that will contain a fully developed Jewish ecological theology.
But for now it is important to understand the flow of the Haggadah story: we were idol worshippers, we found God; we descended into Mitzraim (Egypt) and forgot God; we then underwent enforced enslavement, despair and loss of hope; finally we cried out; God heard and the redemption of the Children of Israel began - the plagues, the midnight last supper, the transition to freedom, the Exodus from Mitzraim, and the crossing of the Sea. As a response to all this, we praise God through the Hallel; we celebrate our freedom through ritual foods, eating and singing; and we demonstrate our determination to continue the adventure through the gathering of the generations around the table and praying that next year we will all be together as one people in a perfected Jerusalem (world).
So what is the ecological angle on Pesach? In the Hasidic mode of interpretation, Mitzraim is a metaphor for whatever we are attached to, enslaved by, trapped in, whatever makes our lives less holy, whenever we feel squeezed by circumstances into a narrow place (literal meaning of Mitzraim). Today we recognized that we are slaves to fossil fuel and that this is squeezing us into financial discomfort; we are slaves to consumerism and that have made our wants become confused with our needs; that we have been trying to play Pharaoh by enslaving nature but now nature is freeing itself and we are in mortal danger (the enslaver is a slave to his enslavement) as the planet warms up and the climate begins to shift. Are the ten plagues waiting for us around the corner?
In this context leavened bread represents our inflated sense of anthropocentrism in which we are the rulers of the planet and everything created is for our benefit and enjoyment. Along comes matzah and says: get real; remember your place; remember your responsibilities; remember who you really are and what you should really be doing. We burn the excess pride; reduce the arrogance in the flames that turn the organics into carbon dioxide. Thus we hope to return to being members of the living planet, the consciousness of Earth.
Wishing you a wonder-filled Pesach
Michael Kagan author of the Holistic Haggadah

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