My 2008 Article on the “Wrath Passage” in the Haggadah.

From 2008:

Just in time for Passover, my commentary on the Haggadah has been published by Haaretz. Here is an excerpt:

My mother’s Israeli boyfriend hates Passover. He loathes the holiday because of a single passage in the Haggadah (the ritual text) which he describes as “immoral and spiritually bigoted.”

This passage is the famous (or rather infamous) section which asks of God to exact revenge on those nations who lack divine awareness, and who have maltreated the Jewish people. It reads as follows:

“Pour out Your fury on the nations that do not know you, and upon the kingdoms that do not invoke Your name, for they have devoured Jacob [the Jews] and destroyed his home. Pour out Your wrath on them; may Your blazing anger overtake them. Pursue them in wrath and destroy them from under the heavens of the Lord.”

The passage itself is a combination of three verses from the Bible (Psalm 79:6-7, Psalm 69:25 and Lamentations 3:66). It was compiled and added to the Haggadah during the Middle Ages as a response to the massacres of the Crusades (beginning in 1096), and to the persecution of the Jews during the time of Easter (which usually coincides with Passover). Throughout the ages, the Jews, who had no recourse to violence, vented their indignation by sublimating and spiritualizing their desire for vengeance.

In modern times, in an era in which coexistence is valued by Jew and non-Jew alike, it is no surprise that these words have rubbed people the wrong way: after all, the verses cited in the Haggadah are perpetuating a worldview of religious warfare and animosity. Moreover, the message of “Pour out Your wrath” seemingly contradicts the ethos of Passover with its universal emphasis on freedom and compassion (both human and divine).

To read more, click here.

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4 responses to “My 2008 Article on the “Wrath Passage” in the Haggadah.

  1. Hello Roi,

    I really enjoyed the discovery of your blog, and reading your article. It came to me just on time, as I am at the last stages of designing and proofreading my Haggadah, which will be available next Passover.

    I am doing a Hebrew-English version, according to both the Ashkenazic and Sephardic traditions, and the similarities and differences are quite interesting.

    One of the differences is regarding the “wrath” passage. The Ashkenazi tradition includes the whole thing (two lines), where the Sephardic only the first part. The reason is, as I was told by a Sephardic Rabbi, that the second part is a bit angry and vengeful, and isn’t altogether in the spirit of the seder (as you stress in your article). Maybe the first part is also a bit so, but I never felt that I had the right to omit anything from the traditional Haggadah text, just because I found it irrelevant or not suitable.

    Nevertheless, I was completely enchanted by the “Pour out Your love” idea. Adding this part respects the roots but also allows progress.
    What are exactly the origins of this passage? Do you have it also in Hebrew?

    I’m wishing you a great Passover
    full of Love.

    Monicka

  2. Hey Roi,

    I do not see why the Haggadah would create such animosity. It asks God to fight for the His chosen people (who have been persecuted for thousands of years, and still are today – or should the Jewish world just forget this?).

    The Passover emphasizes freedom and compassion, yes; but it is also a time of reflection…each year is one more year that the Jewish people passes over the sea of disrespect, misunderstanding, ignorance, persecutions and (by the hand of the One who saves them all the time) reaches the bank of freedom (cultural, religious, intellectual etc).

    Remembering and reflecting never goes against modern times and its coexistence concept, au contraire.

    Some atheists and agnostics also say that the Bible is too violent and for that reason they reject the existence of God and refuse to serve Him…could there be a bigger nonsense than this?

    Fantastic article, as always, Roi.

    Cheers

  3. David Goldenberg

    Dear Roi,

    I came upon this article while doing some research for the upcoming Seder.
    You cite Yehiel Weingarten and his thoughts about this passage. You also note that he wrote these words prior to the Shoah and wondered whether his conclusions would be different a decade later. Here your answer….. Yehiel was married to my grandmother for many year (their second and final marriage after both were widowed) I was fortunate to have attended many a seder with him in their house in Tel Aviv or my folks house in Haifa. He always told the story about his prior thoughts on Shfoch Hamutcha…. how terrible it was…. etc…
    In a August 1942, German soldiers came to collect Weingartens mentor, Janusz Korczak and 192 orphans in his charge. They were all gassed.
    Ever since, Yehiel Weingarten always recited Shfoch Hamutcha.. at his seders, as do I and my family.

    Sincerely

    David Goldenberg
    March 2015

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