Everything is related, as the renewal of the Earth in Spring shows us so beautifully.
At this season, whether we observe Passover, Easter, another holiday, or none at all, Rabbi Peter Stein’s words are meaningful. Rabbi Stein is spiritual leader of Temple Sinai, Cranston, Rhode Island; President of the Rhode Island Board of Rabbis, and a founding member of Rhode Island Clergy for Choice, an RCRC-associated clergy network.
He asks us to “re-imagine the seder rituals as an affirmation of all that we do in protecting reproductive choice.”
He adapts the familiar Four Questions – Ma nishtana halayla hazeh mikol halelot? The classical answers to “Why is this night different from all other nights?” have to do with the particulars of Passover: on this night, we eat unleavened bread, bitter herbs, dip greens twice into salt water, and recline at the table as a sign of freedom.
But Rabbi Stein suggests other responses – responses that particularly resonate given the ongoing attacks on the nation’s family planning programs, of which Planned Parenthood’s services are a key part but by no means the entire program.
On many nights during the year, women are denied the right to be moral decisors. On this night, as we remember the slavery in Egypt, we renew our commitment to freedom and equality. We will work to maintain laws and community institutions that allow women control over their bodies.
On many nights during the year, women are denied access to contraception and quality health care. On this night, as we remember the abusive tyrant Pharaoh, we renew our commitment to protect clinics and doctors’ offices and pharmacies as places that are open and accessible to women in need.
On many nights during the year, laws are being changed and funding is being challenged that would reduce safe and legal access to abortion services. On this night, as we remember the example of Shifrah and Puah*, we renew our commitment to raise our voices and keep abortion legal and accessible to those who want and need it.
At the seder I’ll attend, I’ll be thinking about Rabbi Stein’s thoughtful re-imagining, about all of those in need – and about positive ways to convey the message that we must preserve our nation’s family planning program.
Marjorie Signer, RCRC Director of Communications
*Shifrah and Puah were the midwives who defied Pharaoh’s decree to kill the newborn Hebrew males. See Exodus 1:15-22