“Pour out Thy Wrath” at the Pesach Seder, or “Pour out Thy Love”?

At a meeting of religious leaders in the Galilee last week co-sponsored by ICCI and the Division of Religious Communities of Israel’s Ministry of Interior—which took place at Kibbutz Hanaton, a Conservative Kibbutz that is undergoing renewal and rejuvenation—one of the rabbis from the area taught some texts about Passover to a group of Druze, Christian, Muslim and Jewish local religious leaders. The non-Jewish religious leaders were fascinated by this opportunity to learn about what Jews do and say on the eve of Passover.

During the question period, one of the Druze participants at the session asked the rabbi to relate to the passage called Shfoch Hamatchah—”Pour Out Thy Wrath” which is a collection of Biblical verses recited after the meal to remember the pogroms in Jewish history by non-Jews against Jews. The rabbi answered by saying that the passage was not necessarily against Christians or Muslims but rather against pagans “who did not know God”. Another rabbi spoke about his personal interpretation of these verses, i.e. when he recites them each year, he thinks about the Nazis!

I thought about this discussion later in the week. I grew up in a home which did not recite these verses. They were removed from the Haggadah which I used as a child. because they represented a spirit of vengeance which was considered problematic. In recent years, however, I have learned about some very interesting and different interpretations of these verses.

For example, in the Family Participation Haggadah edited by Noam Zion and David Dishon, which has become very popular in recent years in Israel and the Diaspora,   the editors bring a medieval rendering of this passage which says “Pour out Thy Love on the nations who have known you and who call upon your name. For they show loving-kindness to the see of Jacob and they defend your people Israel from those who would devour them alive….” (according to the editors, this unique addition to a medieval Haggadah appears side by side with “Pour out Thy Wrath” in a manuscript from Worms of 1521, attributed to the descendants of Rashi, and they add that scholars today debate its authenticity but they see it as a genuine expression of love for righteous gentiles).

As someone who works in the field of inter-religious dialogue and education for the past two decades, I find this text particularly appropriate in the contemporary world in which interreligious dialogue between Jews and Christians—and increasingly between Jews and Muslims –is becoming more mainstream and more normative. This is why I will bring this text to the seder that I will be attending this year in Jerusalem with my extended family.

Rabbi Ron Kronish

Director, ICCI

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