I just had a great blessing in Greenville, SC, where I always lead a sort of Passover Seder for a church on Good Friday. That might sound weird to Jewish readers, but remember, Christians are connecting their faith in Jesus with its Jewish roots. And these Christians love to see the connection between the death and resurrection of Jesus with the Passover and Good Friday is the time they want to do it. They say, “every year until Jesus comes.” I’m fortunate to be able to share with them.
Anyway, one of the women who comes every year, passed on a little haggadah she found at the Salvation Army store as a gift to me. It is pocket-sized and it has the famous Siegmund Forst illustrations. It was one of the kind put out by a charitable organization to its donors in the 1940’s and 1950’s. It was an unexpected gift and a nice addition to my collection.
The Passover Haggadah is a piece of Jewish history. We ought to get to know it before the Seder comes . . .
One of my favorites parts of the Seder happens close to the beginning. The shankbone and the egg are removed from the Seder plate (because they could easily roll off–Jewish customs are not always for mysterious reasons!) and the Seder plate is lifted up. Everyone recites a sort of introduction to the Seder:
This is the bread of poverty which our forefathers ate in the land of Egypt. Let all who are hungry enter and eat; let all who are needy come to our Passover feast. This year we are here; next year we will be in the land of Israel. This year we are slaves; next year may we be free men.
In the Schocken Passover Haggadah, edited by Nahum Glatzer, we read this comment: “The reference to the Passover ‘feast,’ or rather the Passover sacrifice, suggests that the passage was written before the destruction of the temple.” This would seem to conflict with the line “this year we are here,” but perhaps he is right. Perhaps the line changed over the years, but originally it was written for celebrations at the temple.
At the temple, Passover was one of three pilgrimage feasts (Deut. 16:16). The people brought with them their tithe of grain, fruit, and meat, to eat and share with the poor and the Levites (Deut: 14:22-29).
This could very well be the origin of the saying, “Let all who are hungry enter and eat; let all who are needy come to our Passover feast.”
But are we to suppose that a hungry person might just happen to be on our street at the time we hold the Seder? Are to picture ourselves opening our doors and inviting in a homeless person to eat Passover with us? (Note: If they are not Jewish or religious, they might not have the patience to sit for a long, ceremonial meal!).
No, but I think there are two good ways to fulfill the aim of this beautiful introduction to the Seder.
First, we can, in advance, invite some to our Seder who might not celebrate it otherwise.
Second, leading up to Passover, why not make some donations to a local food bank or send money to a world hunger fund?
Then, when the night of Passover comes, we will truly be able to say, “Let all who are needy come to our Passover feast.” Then we will be able to fulfill in spirit the command to set aside a tithe in our towns for the poor and the dispossessed.
Let’s get ready. Passover is coming.