> Holidays > Passover > The Haggadah

All Who Are Hungry

August 16, 2012 | by Rabbi Stephen Baars

"All who are hungry ― come and eat. All who are needy ― come join the Passover celebration."

The Power of Choice

The Haggadah is asking which of two categories we fall under: Are we here because we are hungry, or are we here because we are needy?

"Need" is defined as "awareness of a lack."

Freedom is not simply something that's "nice" to have; rather it is a necessary factor to our very being. As much as we need food to exist, we need freedom to live. Just as a man starving in the desert scrambles for even the slightest morsel of food, we should be searching for ideas of personal freedom!

Slavery is not just being ordered around by a guard with a whip. Even a life outside of prison can really be a life of horrendous slavery. Not "knowing" what to do with one's life is just as much slavery as not being "allowed" to do it.

Making poor choices and becoming dependent on desires is another form of slavery. A heroin addict or even a smoker is often a slave to his body's desires. Materialism, too, may be addictive. Many forces pull on a person's body and cloud the desires of the soul. If a person loses sight of what is truly meaningful, he no longer experiences true freedom. "Desire" enslaves as much as any drug.

Imagine that you have no material possessions. Zero. Ask yourself: "Now what is the quality of my life?" This will tell you if your soul is really free from the desires of your body.

Or, as the Haggadah says, ask a more immediate question: "Why am I at the Passover table? Am I hungry and want to get the Haggadah over with so we can get to the meal? If you have ever worked on a very meaningful project that had you so engrossed you completely forgot about eating, then you know what it is like to be aware you need to eat without being hungry. Your body needs food; your car needs gas. But hunger is a desire that controls you.

Or ... are you at the Passover table because you are needy? Do you recognize a lack freedom and therefore wish to participate in the Seder that is a lesson in freedom? Do you feel that your soul is restrained, that life is lacking it's luster? Do you ever feel that even though you don't have someone telling you what to do, at the same time you don't know what to do? Do you want to satiate your need for freedom?

Which is it? The answer will tell you whether your body or your soul is in charge! We can let our body pull us so that our drive is to eat, or let our soul take control and strive for freedom. If you come to the Passover table because you are hungry, then you have made the choice of following your body. The point is not to become an aesthetic and starve yourself. Rather, it is an issue of who is in control ― your stomach or your soul?

These two choices are in front of you. Make a real choice now. And don't be a hypocrite: If you came for the meal, then skip the Haggadah and go straight to the chicken soup! Or, take the Haggadah seriously as a guide-book to finding freedom. Make a decision!

This choice is not only for Passover. It's a choice we can make every day of our lives. Look to yourself and determine what is driving you, your stomach or your mind. Your eyes or your heart. Does the idea of a meaningful idea get you excited as much as the smell of chocolate cake?

The most important step is to decide. Because the alternative of not choosing is paralysis. Today, many young people find it difficult to choose a spouse, a career, a roommate ― and certainly a life direction. "Choosing" is one of life's greatest pleasures. Right or wrong decisions bring success or failure. But for those who make no decisions, there is simply nothing. The Haggadah exhorts us: Start choosing today.

Hungry and Needy

Rabbi Tom Meyer

All who are hungry ― come and eat. All who are needy ― come and join the Passover celebration.

It's hard to believe that as you're reciting this on Passover night, a crowd of homeless people will be hanging outside your door. Or that if you say it loud enough there's going to be a rush into your house. So what does the Haggadah mean?

The message is that we cannot have true personal freedom unless we care about other people ― both their physical and spiritual needs. That's why the Haggadah says: "All who are hungry... All who are needy..." Don't these two things sound similar? The first one refers to physical hunger ― if you're hungry come have a bite. The second is spiritual ― if you have any kind of need, join us.

Why is caring about other people so crucial to our own sense of freedom? Because we cannot get out of our ego unless we care about other people. A person has to get outside himself and realize that the welfare of others is part of his own happiness and freedom.

For the Sake of Mitzvot

Rabbi Shraga Simmons

All who are hungry ― come and eat. All who are needy ― come and join the Passover celebration.

Why are we eating simple, tasteless matzah? There are three possible reasons:

  1. A person is miserly and doesn't want to spend money.
  2. A person is poor and can't afford to spend money.
  3. A person is fulfilling the mitzvah.

This is why we declare: "Everyone should come and join in our lavish celebration." On this night, we invite guests to show that we're not miserly. On this night, we wear our finest clothes and set the table with our best dishes and goblets, to show that we're not so poor. Therefore, the only reason for eating this matzah must be for the mitzvah!

Now, we are here; next year we should be in the land of Israel. This year we are slaves; next year free people.

The Torah (Deut. 8:12) states that exile from Israel comes as a result of over-indulgence. By eating simple, unadulterated matzah, we show our commitment to a life free of opulence. This, explains the K'sav Sofer, is the prerequisite for a life of true freedom in the Land of Israel.

* * *

Furthermore, what is the connection between matzah and inviting poor people to join our table?

The verse in Lamentations (1:3) says that the tribe of Judah was exiled because of ani. The Midrash explains that they neglected both the mitzvah of matzah (which we refer to as lechem oni) and the mitzvah of giving tzedekah to the poor, ani in Hebrew.

The Chidah explains that on Passover night, as we celebrate our freedom ― the opposite of exile ― we do so by eagerly performing those same two mitzvot ― eating matzah and inviting the poor, as our text here declares.

Reaching Out

Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf

All who are hungry ― come and eat. All who are needy ― come and join the Passover celebration.

After uncovering the matzah, symbol of our physical deprivation, we immediately turn our thoughts to the needs of others.

The Pharaohs and Hitlers of history have made countless attempts to demoralize us by first crushing our bodies, hoping that our spirits would then be easy prey. But we will not be subdued. Right from the outset of the Seder we affirm our commitment to the maintenance of dignity ― despite all efforts to denude our hearts of human sentiment and our souls of their inclination to share.

But you may ask: Isn’t it insincere to now be inviting guests to the Seder? The Seder has already begun and there is no one around to invite!

Clearly the invitation to "all who are hungry" cannot be addressed to potential guests. Rather, we now lift our eyes from the Haggadah and address these words to those who are with us tonight.

Sometimes, in our concern for people in far-off lands, we overlook the needs of those who are closest to us. At this point we reflect on our feelings for one another, for family, and for friends. It is time to let those who are right next to us know that their needs are important to us too ― that we are concerned, that we care, and that we will always be there for them.

This is a good time to think about what someone close to you needs, and how you can either assist or facilitate assistance. These needs may be physical, emotional, or spiritual.

from the "Passover Survival Kit Haggadah"


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