The "Pour Out Your Wrath" prayer is not an original composition but rather a combination of biblical verses. Writes Joseph Tabory: "The earliest mention of this custom is probably the version of the haggadah found in Machzor Vitry (p. 296). In this version, we ﬁnd an additional six verses before the ﬁnal verse from Lamentations: ﬁve from Psalms and one from Hosea. This version seems to be a later addition to the Machzor Vitry as there is no mention of this custom in the description of the seder attributed to Rashi in this same work (p. 2.87.). It is difﬁcult to determine when this addition was in- corporated into the MachzorVitry. The earliest appearance of these verses that can be dated with some certainty is in the workof Eliezer ben Judah of Worms. He mentions them as an aside, considering them an accepted custom. There is, as yet, no evidence for the recital of these verses outside of Germany or France earlier than this, although they have been interpolated into one of the manuscripts of the siddur of R. Amram Gaon." JPS Commentary on the Haggadah, Joseph Tabory, 2008 pp 53-4
Our discomfort with "Pour out Your Wrath" is not simply our modernist discomfort with the curse incantations, but is also one of context. How does such a curse belong at a Seder.... a celebration of freedom? To understand the context of this vitriolic combination of verses, we must understand the context of the Seder night itself.
The Seder is first and foremost about Deliverance - Geula. Deliverance from Egypt and the Final Deliverance of the Messianic Era. It is a Layl Shemurim... a night of Watching.
The "Pour Out Your Wrath" incantation comes after the 3rd cup of Geulah (Extraordinary chastisements - וּבִשְׁפָטִים גְּדֹלִים), the cup of the violent act of deliverance. Prior to its recitation, the Cup of Elijah - the forebearer of the Messiah is filled. According to most customs, the Fourth Cup of unification with God (I will take you) is filled after the door is shut.
Certainly one could make a case, that the antidote for "Pour out Your Wrath" with it's emphasis on the disruptive (חבלי דמשיח) nature of redemption, would be to focus on the harmony to follow....
שְׁפֹךְ אַהֲבָתְךָ עַל הַגּוֹיִים אֲשֶׁר יְדָעוּךָ
וְעַל מַמְלָכוֹת אֲשֶׁר בְּשִׁמְךָ קוֹרְאִים
בִּגְלַל חֲסָדִים שֶׁהֵם עוֹשִׂים עִם יַעֲקֹב
וּמְגִנִּים עַל עַמְּךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל מִפְּנֵי אוֹכְלֵיהֶם.
יִזְכּוּ לִרְאוֹת בְּסֻכַּת בְּחִירֶיךָ
וְלִשְׂמֹחַ בְּשִׂמְחַת גּוֹיֶיךָ
Pour out Your love on the nations that know You
And on the kingdoms that call upon Your Name
For the loving-kindness that they perform with Jacob
And their defense of the People of Israel
In the face of those that would devour them.
May they be privileged to see
The Succah of peace spread for Your chosen ones
And rejoice in the joy of Your nations.
This alternative to Pour out Your Wrath has an interesting and questionable pedigree. “Chayyim Bloch (1881-1973) reported that he found an unusual version of this prayer in a manuscript haggadah that had been compiled in 1521. He states that this manuscript, which included other poems that are not found in standard haggadot and differing versions of the text, had disappeared during the Holocaust without a trace. Fortunately, he claims, he retained some notes with this prayer… …. Chayyim Bloch has a reputation for presenting new texts as ancient documents.” The JPS Commentary on the Haggadah, Joseph Tabory, 2008 Jewish Publication Society p. 55. While Blochs pseudo-blessing may satisfy our modernist sensibilities, it's contextual justification is forced. Why would we bless our non-Jewish friends at this juncture... if not simply to offset the existing curse.
So what would an authentic alternative to "Pour out Your Wrath" sound like? Yes, Chayyim Bloch's "Pour Out Your Love" combined with the traditional "Pour out Your Wrath" covers all the bases but begs the question of why curse and why bless and why here?
Rabbi Alexandri's prayer offers an alternative. What delays liberation and redemption is subjugation to sin on a personal level and political subjugation on a national level. As long as we are subjugated on a national level, we may be forgiven for focusing on the external forces that rob us of our self-determination and self-esteem. But once we have returned to our homeland and have gained equal rights throughout the world, then that which separates us from redemption and liberation is the hamtez that lies within.
What might such an incantation sound like?
Below is a poem (piyut) written by Rabbi Shimon ben Yitzhak Born in Mainz, Germany; an important scholar of his time. As a paytan he composed yozerot, kerovot, selihot, hymns, and rashuyyot le-hatanim. It is probable that he sang his piyutim himself. His piyutim bare traces of the language found in early piyutim, and they are marked by the pain of the persecutions of the Jews in Bar-Isaacs' lifetime. Birth: after circa 970 Mainz, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany Death: 1020
Isræl Jacob Yuval notes that it has been pointed out by scholars that this "poem cursing the “evil impulse” was stylistically similar to the curse against the Gentiles. This liturgical poem continues alphabetically; the verbs used to curse later on are “sweep him away, hurl him, compel him, banish him, sacrifice him” (see A. M. Haberman quoted in Two Nations in Your Womb: Perceptions of Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages by Isræl Jacob Yuval. pp 123-4). This piyut is part of the Erev Rosh HaShanna Selichot, but that does not mean that the author had Selichot in mind.... after all speaking about the Haggadah, scholars note that: "When such a volume was compiled, it became customary to add poetical pieces. ...These piyyuṭim were not written for this service, but were selected from other collections." Jewish Encyclopedia entry for Haggadah
אויל המתעה מרגיז ומחטיא בלעהו קלעהו ועוד בל יסטיא
געול המגאל ומטנף טהורים דחהו מחהו מלבות והרהורים
התל המהתל ומפתל ישרים וכחהו שכחהו ולא יקומו אשרים
זבוב המארב במפתחי הלב חנקהו נקהו ולב חדש תלבלב
טמא המזוהם ומסית להאשים יעהו צעהו בלי ענוש בענשים
כלי אשר כליו רעים לפתהו כפתהו מקום בית מרעים
מנון המפנק מנוער לאחרית נדחהו קדחהו מהשאיר לו שארית
שאור המעפש ומבאיש העסה עקרהו נקרהו חטא בלי לשא
פתלתל המנקש ומעקש דרכים צרפהו ערפהו בלי היות סרוכים
קוץ המכאיב וסלון הממאיר רעלהו העלהו כרם להפאר
שפוך מי טוהר דמים להדיח תחטאנו באזוב תכבס ותריח
שני מתלבן עולם ונושע ברחמים יצדיק חקר כבודם לשעשע
חוזק זרע יחשוף וישיב וכשנים קדמוניות אותנו ישיב
Rabbi Simeon b. Isaac, b. Avun (980 - 1040) From: The Authorised Selichot for the Whole Year by Abraham Rosenfeld 1978 p. 152 Selichot for the Eve of the New Year.
Destroy and cast away the seductive folly which excites man to sin, so that he may mislead us no more.
Cast away and blot out from our hearts and thoughts the pollution which deﬁles and pollutes the pure.
Mislead the deceiver, who causes the straight to be crooked; rebuke him and discard him so that idolatry shall not be established.
Strangle and clear away the gadﬂy that lurks at the gate of the heart, so that a new heart may ﬂower (within us).
Sweep utterly away the unclean and foul who seduces us to sin, that he may not cause us to be sorely punished.
Seize the rogue whose instruments are evil, bind him fast, lest the house of the evildoers rise again.
Repel and burn him that was brought up delicately from a child, and has in the end become a master, so that no remnant be left of him.
Remove and destroy the moldy leaven which spoils the dough, so that it may not involve us in sin.
Cause the intriguer, who ensnares us and leads us astray to be burnt out; break his neck, so that he should have no followers.
Poison and uproot the pricking thorn and piercing briar, lest it spoil the vineyard.
Pour out water of puriﬁcation to rinse away our guilt, purge us with hyssop, and wash us clean.
Let the scarlet (sin) be whitened that we may be saved for ever; may he justify us in his mercy, and delight in the search of our glory.
May he lay bare his powerful arm and bring back our captives, and restore us to our former condition as in the days of old.