Together at the Seder…

Pesach 5783 / 2023

The opening words of the Haggadah are: 

הָא לַחְמָא עַנְיָא דִּי אֲכָלוּ אַבְהָתָנָא בְאַרְעָא דְמִצְרָיִם. כָּל דִכְפִין יֵיתֵי וְיֵיכֹל, כָּל דִצְרִיךְ יֵיתֵי וְיִפְסַח.

“This is the bread of oppression our fathers ate in the land of Egypt. Let all who are hungry come in and eat.”

Lord Sacks ז”ל is wondering: “What sort of hosts offers the hungry a taste of suffering? This may seem odd, but in fact it is a profound insight into the nature of slavery and freedom. Matzah represents two things: it is both the food of slaves, and also the bread eaten by the Israelites as they left Egypt in liberty. What transforms the bread of oppression into the bread of freedom is the willingness to share it with others”  

Perhaps the following story can give another way of answering Rav Sacks’ question:

I remember a Public Seder my father זצ”ל was conducting in the 1980th at the Munich community centre. It was surprising to see sitting next to each other, some wealthy people, together with people who came to the Seder because they had no means to afford even the most basics of Pesach food. I turned to my father and asked him about the somewhat strange mix of people.

My father said: “They might have very different current lives, but all have one matter which unites them. They all were imprisoned in the concentration camps. And this makes them all feel very comfortable in each other’s company”. 

When we invite to our Seder (or indeed at any other time) we try to make our guests feel as good as possible. On the Seder night – when the Haggadah starts by suggesting inviting “anyone” to the meal. It goes on to say that we all came from a very humble start in Egypt, where we have suffered in harsh conditions and survived on the “bread of oppression”.  

This start gives everyone around the table, regardless of their current “status” a good feel of togetherness. 

Chag Sameach and Mo’adim Lesimcha 

Rabbi Chaim Michael Biberfeld