The Seder is about reexperiencing the bitter slavery our ancestors went through and the redemption from Mitzrayim. But if we, living in 2023, never experienced real slavery and redemption, then how can we truly experience it?
The answer to this question lies in the words that we declare during the Seder, “All who are hungry, come and eat; all who are needy come and celebrate Passover.”
How do these words answer our question? Let’s first ask the question: “Why we declare this statement at the seder when everyone who should be there is already there?” This will also help us get a better understanding of our first question of how we could relate and re-experience the bitterness of and freedom from Mitzrayim.
Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv explains the declaration. This is not meant as an invitation to the poor to join (which presumably was already done at this point). Rather, we’re teaching our children that part of the mitzvah of Passover is making sure that those in need are provided for.
A deeper explanation from a different perspective on this is told over by Rabbi Aron Moss who says that the invitation is not intended for outsiders. Rather, we are inviting ourselves and the people around us to really be in the present moment at the Seder. While we may be sitting at the table, our minds can be miles away thinking about something not related to the Seder or Pesach at all. This can cause us to miss out on the most powerful spiritual journey – the Seder!
Each one of us is hungry and needy. We have a soul that hungers for nourishment and inspiration, and we all feel a profound need for our inner self to be freely expressed. Our soul yearns to love, to give, to contribute to the world and to connect to Hashem. But sometimes our soul is trapped, surrounded by obstacles to its being free – scars from the past that cripple us; fears that prevent us from opening our hearts; negative attitudes that darken our vision; egotism and complacency that stunt our growth.
We are stuck in our own inner Egypt, with these internal slave-masters holding us back from becoming who we are supposed and want to be. Like King Pharaoh of old, our ego doesn’t want to let us go. Even as we sit down to the Seder to read the story of Bnei Yisroel’s freedom from slavery, we are still slaves.
So the answer to the very first question of how to relate to the bitterness of and freedom from Mitzrayim is to invite yourself to really come to the Seder and experience freedom. Don’t let yourself be enslaved to your Egypt any longer. “Whoever is hungry, come and eat. Whoever is needy, come and celebrate Passover.” If you are hungry for inspiration, come and absorb the Haggadah’s message of liberty! Don’t just sit there – enter into the Pesach experience with your entire being. Read the story of the Exodus, taste the Matzah, the food of faith, and drink in the wine of freedom. Once we let ourselves be fully present at the Seder, only then can we can really free ourselves from our own slavery.
Let this year’s Seder be an experience of real freedom for you and one that will last for and throughout the rest of the year!
L’Shana Habba B’Yerushalayim!
Seder Questions by Devora David