|‘This is the bread of afflictionâ€¦ let all who are hungry come and eatâ€¦ this year we are enslaved, next year may we be free…” is the traditional statement opening the telling of the story at the Passover seder. It is a significant statement because of the belief system that it teaches in such a compact paragraph.”This is the bread of affliction…” directs our attention to the timeliness of celebrating life’s events. Week by week through the year, as Shabbat comes, that day of rest is a marker in time as well as a marker of time. We set the day aside because it underscores the other attitudes the rest of the week teaches.
At each season – Passover, Shavuot, Sukkoth, and for the Holy Days in their turn, it is timeliness that reminds us of the stages of the journey of our living. So we speak of the Exodus from Egypt in a timely way, at the moment when the Matzah and all the accoutrements of Pesach are spread on our table, and discuss the journey.
And our discussion should be not only the ancient journey from slavery to liberation – hopefully it is also the personal journey of our own liberation. As we grow, we are nourished – even by (the bread of) affliction; and our growth opens a world of new possibilities to us.
“â€¦Let all who are hungry come and eat…” directs our attentions to the kinds of hunger that can motivate us in our lives. What is it that we crave – that moves our life story through successive ascents of fantasy, reality, spirituality, and finally into action.
Whom do we crave to share this journey with? Parents, children, siblings, more distant relations – and the stranger whom we have yet to encounter – the “other” whose life resonates with our own. Of course, on a practical level, that statement is about opening our homes to let others share in the wonder of a Seder – even for Elijah who foretells a time when journeys are less arduous.
“This year we are enslaved, next year may we be free…” calls us to look beyond the moment and its suffering. We seek to uncover all the places in our lives that are fermenting, transforming us and binding us in place rather than letting us grow and expand into our full humanity. It is the freedom that tradition teaches as the escape from forced labour, from idolatrous worship and more globally from falsehood.
The stages of life journey are the essence of the Passover night. These are some questions whose answers can help any family tell its own story at the seder and give that evening a greater depth:
So, look for your own answers – on a basic level, on a metaphorical level, on a humanitarian level. And next year, may we all be free.
Chag Kasher v’Samei’ach. Best wishes for a joyous and appropriate festival celebration.
Calendar of dates of Jewish Festivals for the years 2008 to 2010.
Pesach is a time for us to ask where we came from, where we are going, and what our life journey means
The Pesach haggadah is a multi-layered text, embracing some traditions thousands of years old — and some very recent, writes Rabbi Greg Alexander
Two powerful feminist additions to Pesach custom, worth considering for your next seder: Miriam Cups and oranges