Sunday, March 24, 2013

"This is the Bread of Poverty"

In the introductory paragraph of the maggid section of the Hagada, “הא לחמא עניא”, we find an apparently unconnected sequence of statements.

First we declare that this bread that we have before is “the bread of poverty eaten by our ancestors.” Then we invite anyone who needs to join our seder. And then we declare, “This year we are here, next year may be in Eretz Yisrael. This year we are slaves, next year may we be free men.” What is the idea that connects these declarations?

The Bina L’Itim explains that one of the critical requirements of the mitzvah of tzedaka (charity) is to reassure and comfort the impoverished person so he should not feel shame for having fallen to the state that he needs to accept charity. Thus, in this declaration in which we invite those in need to join our seder, we surround our declaration with two statements intended to comfort the impoverished person.

First we say, “This is the bread of poverty which our ancestors ate in Egypt.” We are all descended from those impoverished Egyptian slaves; we all understand and share in your current difficulty.

Secondly, we declare, “This year we are here, next year may be in Eretz Yisrael.” Just as our ancestors were redeemed, so too, next year may we all be redeemed from poverty and suffering.

(ספר בינה לעתים - סוף דרוש שני לשבת הגדול)


pearleaf said...

One thing that few mention is that Ha Lakhma Anya is not in Hebrew like most of the Haggadah text. It is in Aramaic which is the language spoken by and known to "the street." Any passage, prayer or document in Aramaic (e.g. Ketubah, Kaddish), I believe, is intended to be understood by any Jew, not just scholars. Tis declaration at the start of the Maggid is indeed a series of apparently unconnected statements, but each is basic to the purpose of the Passover Seder.

LazerA said...

Pearleaf, thank you for your comment. (I would just point out that almost every major commentary on the Hagada discusses the fact that Ha Lachma Anya is written in Aramaic. So I'm not sure why you feel this is something that "few mention.")