‘Visions of Passover’ (2)

We begin the storytelling portion of the Passover seder with an invitation called “Ha Lachma Anya,” in which we describe the meaning of matzah: “This is the bread of affliction that our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. Let all who are hungry come and eat. Let all who are in need come and celebrate Passover. Now we are here. Next year in the land of Israel. Now we are slaves. Next year we will be free.”

Here, the seder calls upon us to remember not just the oppression of the our ancestors under pharaoh’s harsh reign but also those experiencing oppression in our own time. Indeed, recognizing the universal need for redemption, we declare ourselves unfree so long as there are those in need of freedom. The ancient words of “Ha Lachma Anya” seem to anticipate the modern words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his letter from Birmingham Jail: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”

The tablecloth that cloaks our tables during the seder represents that single garment of destiny, reminding us of our obligations to others outside the sacred time and space of Passover. And as we eat the bread of affliction juxtaposed against the elaborateness of the seder and ritual and the Passover meal, we remember that no matter how far we have come, there is always farther to go.

— Ross is a student rabbi at Temple Beth Ha-Sholom in Williamsport.