Haggadah for J Street Followers

Dayenu, J Street style: And if we deliver peace between ourselves, the Palestinians, and our Arab neighbors ... that will be enough!

Moshe Phillips

OpEds Moshe Phillips
Moshe Phillips

On one hand, there stand the ancient rabbis who compiled the Haggadah with its multilayered sophistication and overwhelmingly positive, energetic, highly visible and impactful style, that has served as a key to the puzzle of how to  actively engage Jews and their children. 

On the other hand, there stands Edgar Bronfman, Sr. and the fans of his radical, new Haggadah. The heir to the Seagram's fortune and president of the World Jewish Congress for well over 25 years did not rise to his position in the WJC due to his Jewish scholarship, his self-sacrifice on behalf of Jewish causes or his piety and adherence to Jewish observance -- he brought none of these things to the table. Bronfman was asked to lead the WJC because of his immense personal wealth.

Now he has produced a new Haggadah for himself and other American Jews who rush to criticize how Israel defends itself against its enemies. One Bronfman fan of the Haggadah is Rabbi Arthur Green.

Green is listed by as an Advisory Council member of J Street, the controversial and George Soros funded Jewish pressure group that was created to lobby for a Palestinian state. Green is a former dean of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC) and was a prominent member of Breira. J Street is a direct descendent of Breira which itself was a 1970s effort by the radical left to erode popular support for Israeli policies in the American Jewish community.

"The beautifully produced Bronfman Haggadah is a daring and creative re-reading of the traditional text," Green says. Green is the author of "Radical Judaism: Rethinking G-d and Tradition", but he and Bronfman are obviously not just in favor of "rethinking" the Haggadah, but fully destroying the goals of its original writers.

Bronfman rewrites the standard, family favorite “Dayenu” song stating “And if we deliver peace between ourselves, the Palestinians, and our Arab neighbors ... that will be enough!”

He concludes his work with such statements as “commit ourselves to supporting every idea, every effort, and every carefully crafted plan that seeks to lead Palestinians and Israelis, Jews and Arabs—indeed all of the world’s clashing people—out of the dark and narrow straits of fear and violence, out of the strictures of hatred and war, and into the spiritual Jerusalem—the true Promised Land—an open and peaceful place flowing with the milk and honey of justice, compassion, and freedom for all.”

Bronfman casts Jews and their Arab enemies as morally equivalent.

Green has also said about Bronfman's book that it "is a daring and creative re-reading of the traditional text. It will make for a seder like you never had before, and is sure to cause lots of questioning and discussion."

Yes, "a seder like you never had before" -  because it is an abrupt break with Jewish tradition.

Even after a very quick read through of the ancient text of Haggadah, it should be plain to see that a more pro-Israel, pro-Zionist and Pro-Jerusalem group of authors was never assembled than the anonymous rabbis of antiquity responsible for the original, classic guide to the Passover Seder. The passion of these ancient rabbis for the rebuilding of the Holy Temple permeates the work.

Let’s pause for a moment and take a look at the “political” views of the Haggadah, in contrast to Bronfman's ideas.

There is much more here than just “Let My People Go!” and “Next Year in Jerusalem!”

The tragedy here is that far too many Jews miss the “political” ideas embedded inthe Haggadah in the rush to get to the meal or because they using Haggadahs that break with the traditional text and ideas such as Bronfman's.

What are these ideas?

Anti-Semitism exists and yet the People of Israel survive:

"For not just one alone has risen against us to destroy us, but in every generation they rise against us to destroy us; and the Holy One, blessed be He, saves us from their hand!"

Jerusalem is holy to the G-d of Israel and is under His Divine protection:

"And with an outstretched arm," this refers to the sword, as it is said: "His sword was drawn, in his hand, stretched out over Jerusalem."

The climax of the Exodus story is the construction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem:

"If He had brought us into the land of Israel, and had not built for us the Beit Habechirah (Chosen House; the Beit Hamikdash i.e. the Holy Temple) Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!"

The central importance of the Holy Temple in the Passover story and in Judaism must never be forgotten:

Thus did Hillel do at the time of the Bet HaMikdash: He would combine the Passover lamb, Matzah and Maror and eat them together, as it said: "They shall eat it with Matzah and bitter herbs."

The nexus of the City of Jerusalem, the Holy Temple and the Kingdom of Israel in Judaism must never be forgotten:

 "Have mercy, L-rd, our G-d, upon IsraelYour people, upon Jerusalem Your city, upon Zion the abode of Your glory, upon the kingship of the house of David Your anointed, and upon the great and holy House which is called by Your Name."

Jerusalem will be fully rebuilt:

"Rebuild Jerusalem the holy city speedily in our days. Blessed are You, L-rd, who in His mercy rebuilds Jerusalem. Amen".

G-d has indicated just one place on earth forthe construction of His Holy Temple:

"I will pay my vows to the L-rd in the presence of all His people, in the courtyards of the House ofthe L-rd, in the midst of Jerusalem".

The future of Jerusalem belongs to the Jewish People:

"Next Year in Jerusalem!"

Just in case the essential lessons of the evening were not clear enough the Adir Hu song is sung towards the very end of theevening to remind everyone:

May He soon rebuild His House [the Holy Temple in Jerusalem]
Speedily, speedily and in our days, soon

G-d, rebuild! G-d, rebuild!
Rebuild your house soon!

One is left to wonder which epithets the J Street crowd and their ilk would hurl at the authors of the Haggadah if they published it our time: Racists, Extremists, Far-Rightists, Militants, Religious Extremists…

That an emphasis on the authentic Jewish ideas of the Haggadah has been lost should really come as no surprise. After all, the authentic Jewish political concepts handed down in the Tanach (the Jewish Bible) remain unknown to most contemporary Jews -- an even greater tragedy with far more powerful side effects.

How did this happen? How did the Jewish people become so indifferent to the eternal “political” lessons the rabbis sought to have taught to every generation that a Bronfman Haggadah could be published and there is no outcry?

There is no easy answer.

Some of the blame must fall on the radical left. Since the 1960s segments of the American Jewish left, many of whom had a firm hand in influencing the initiation of J Street, such as Arthur Waskow and Tikkun Magazine’s Michael Lerner, have perverted the seder. For decades they linked Passover to civil rights, South Africa, nuclear freeze, feminism and most appallingly to the mythical “Palestinian People.”

What would the ancient Rabbis responsible for the Haggadah think Bronfman's heresy? Of the Obama Administration’s policies toward Israel and Jerusalem? What would they tell J Street?

The Rabbis response is in the Haggadah.