Passover Seder, Cup 4: Obama, This Year in Jerusalem

We built this city, and after us, the Christians built this city, and after them, the Muslims.

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[All fill the last of the four cups of Seder wine]

We built this city.

We built this city on freedom.

We built this Jerusalem, this faith, this people, on the idea that God cannot be seen nor touched, that God cannot be built of stones, nor destroyed in fire, nor claimed by one people alone, nor translated into the language of maps, nor used as a weapon to shun other peoples, malign other faiths, or deny others this city.

We built this city on courage. We built this city on the kind of belief that it took to leave our slavemasters behind, everything we know behind, to take the step into the sea that had nothing but miracles holding back its walls from drowning everyone that it did not first crush.

We believe in this city despite the blood and the darkness and the tragic sacrifice of children, in the face of the bestial words and acts of those who take the Lord's name as license.

We built this city, and after us, the Christians built this city, and after them, the Muslims built this city.

But this is what it has taken 3,000 years, and this Seder, to teach us: All along, it was You who built this city. This is not our city, nor theirs, nor theirs. It is the city of the One God who is all of ours.

Just before saying grace, we learn anew to share the Afikoman, by dividing it. We learn anew that the root of the Hebrew word for sharing, is the same as that of the word for dividing. And the Talmud uses that root, as well, when it tells us that those who are truly well-off, are those who find happiness in their own portion.

When we say grace, we say You are Blessed, our Lord, who in His mercy rebuilds Jerusalem.

Rebuilds. Makes over. And in making over, makes complete.

So long as Jerusalem is not shared, we, all of us, remain in exile.

We will none of us be free, so long as we mistake stone for God, walls for God, the wails of the narrow for God's will.

It will be Ir Shalem, the rebuilt Jerusalem, whole and at peace, only when it is shared. Shared by free peoples, shared by women and men, open to prayer, free of fear.

The slave still in us, the weakling still in us, fills the fourth glass of wine and calls on God: Pour Your fiery wrath on the nations which deny You.

The slave in us scrawls on the walls of the Holy City that our friend over the sea Barack Obama is Pharaoh, that to divide Jerusalem is to devour the children of Israel.

This year in Jerusalem, as we fill the fourth cup, may we read the Seder passage differently. Sh'foch hamatcha - Let go of your wrath, let it drain out and be gone.

The freed person in us is justly terrified by the path to a shared Jerusalem. When the sea divides enough for us to see a path, the walls on either side threaten to collapse and drown all those they do not crush. We look to the opposite shore and see not the City of God but a wilderness.

But it is the freed person in us who takes the first step on to that uncertain path. And, in so doing, for the first time, knows what it is to be free.

L'shana Haba'ah B'Yerushalayim Ha'Bnuyah

Next Year in a Jerusalem Rebuilt




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