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Pesah 5783 - Let All Who Are Hungry Come and Eat!

April 7, 2022 - 17 Nisan 5783

“Let all who are hungry, come in and eat; let all who are in need come and join us for Pesah!” 

כָּל דִּכְפִין יֵיתֵי וְיֵכֻל,כָל דִצְרִיךְ יֵיתֵי וְיִפְסַח

It is a lovely statement but not one we often take seriously. At our synagogue, we conduct our seder inside a building guarded by security and an alarm system. If we truly meant that statement - all who are hungry, come and eat - we would hang a giant banner outside our homes and synagogue, with the date and time of our free seder experience - no registration required. Throughout the seder, we would place a rotation of participants outside, welcoming every passerby to join us. We would drive through disadvantaged areas of town before sundown to gather as many individuals as possible to join our seder. 

But in this world, right now, our truest efforts to enact “All who are hungry, come and eat” would not be practical or safe. Our synagogue has limited funds to purchase ingredients, and our volunteers only have so much time to prepare food. As much as we would like to hope otherwise, strangers cannot always be trusted, and strangers will not always trust us. Still, we conduct our seder with a radical script that assumes a world with the highest levels of trust, safety, and openness. With its call to transform our past experiences into a future Messianic era and with its insistence that that era will come, our seder challenges us to constantly question the status quo and to dream big for our and our children’s future.

Beyond “All who are hungry, come and eat,” our Haggadah trains us to actively usher in a better world than the one we experience now. In the words that immediately follow “all who are hungry, come and eat,” we recite, “Now we are here; next year in the land of Israel. Now - slaves; next year we shall be free.” Rather than asking God for next year’s freedom, we assume the best will come, and we celebrate our assurance ahead of time. Later in the seder, rather than simply expressing our hope for the Messianic age we actively pour a glass and open the door for Elijah to appear, Not just hoping, but knowing that he will come. On Pesah, we do not merely thank God for the freedom we experience now; we remind ourselves that even with all of our gratitude, this freedom will never be enough until all of us are truly free - and yes, that freedom is achievable.

At the seder table, we prepare ourselves to challenge the status quo. Just as we teach our children to ask questions over the tiniest details of the seder, we remind ourselves to notice the little places in our lives and the world around us that should be questioned, that are ripe for improvement. In this hours-long roleplay for the sake of encouraging our children to prolong our Jewish future, we set up a scenario in which we must speak with positivity about our tradition. At the seder table, in the presence of our next generation, Judaism is not doomed, our synagogue is not dying, and our country is not in ruins. Instead, there is only  our role in bringing freedom to each of these realms. When we lose our inhibitions with four cups of wine, we train ourselves to get rid of the stumbling blocks of “it didn’t work last time” or “we couldn’t possibly get the funding.” In our personal lives, in our Jewish community, and in our surrounding world, we push ourselves to think big, imagine what perfection might look like, and brainstorm how to start getting there. 

When we say, “Next year in Jerusalem,” we shift our attention to a state that has recently demonstrated to the world its faith in the future. When those who opposed Netanyahu’s proposed judicial overhaul swarmed the streets in protest, they demonstrated their belief in the survival of the state of Israel. Rather than hang their heads in defeat, they paused from the comfort of their daily lives to promote the civil society for which they longed. While their efforts did not promote immediate sunshine and rainbows, they did inspire respect from their Prime Minister, who announced a pause in his efforts to change the court system. This year, when we say l’shanah haba’ah birushalayim, we point to the example of a people who believes in the power in numbers, a people who take action towards a better world for their children and their children’s children. 

Even in the relative freedom in which we find ourselves today, the holiday of Pesah entrusts in us the duty to find where we are lacking in that freedom - to support organizations and policies that truly do feed the hungry and ensure freedom for those who experience modern slavery in the form of domestic abuse or oppressive working conditions. Closer to home, Pesah entrusts us in the duty to break through what may seem like impassable roadblocks to our personal aspirations, and certainly, to break through what may seem like impassable roadblocks to our local and global Jewish community. If only we live every day as if we were slaves in Egypt, we will live every day knowing the freedoms we have won, and thus, the miracles that we know are possible.

Thu, May 30 2024 22 Iyyar 5784