Passover and the Courage to Change
by Ilana DeBare
Earlier this year, I took part in a Shabbat service where women from Temple Sinai wrote personal, modern versions of the traditional prayers. Sinai member Karen Marker wrote a version of the Mi Chamocha (Who is like you?), the prayer where we praise God for parting the Red Sea and taking us to freedom.
It struck me as a wonderful reading to incorporate into a Passover seder. And so, since we are at the time of year when some of us start preparing haggadot for Passover, here it is.
Note: It is helpful in reading this to know that Karen chose to undergo a conversion to Judaism (including immersion in a mikvah) because she had not been raised as a Jew, even though her father’s side of the family was Jewish.
By Karen Marker
This is a true story
of a prayer forgotten and remembered.
It is the story of my grandfathers
who stood on the edge of the waters
in Lithuania, 1890, at age 13,
in Sweden, 1903 , at age 22,
on the ground of the only things they knew
of religion and war,
the anger of neighbors, the mandates of rulers,
accusations, burning villages, the loss of fathers.
This is a prayer for everyone who is more afraid of drowning in the place
where they are standing than stepping into the darkness
and seeking a radical change.
This is the prayer for those who yelled at their god:
Why have you enslaved us to restrictive religious practices and persecution?
who knew nothing of each other,
nor of us yet to be born of their children,
cast off their religion and country
believing that the waters would part and carry them
to their dream of open space, liberation,
political, civic, and economic freedom.
They set sail as millions followed after,
took on new names and a new language,
never looked back when they started over.
This is the story of the miracle that happened.
You sent hidden wells with my grandparents
into their new world,
in the libraries and the classrooms,
in protests and in conversations.
You sustained them
in the wilderness of the not-so-perfect world on the other side.
Michomocha. Who is like you
that even in forgetting we remember?
This is the story of the mikvah
where I immersed and touched no edges,
three times curled up as a fetus
in the embrace of living waters.
When I arose
I had found my voice,
and the stories of my grandparents.
Who is like you
Oh god who gives us the courage
to step into the waters,
gives us the miracle of starting over