Beit Midrash

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To dedicate this lesson

The “poor” Bread: Rich in Meaning

We begin our narrative of the Seder – following a few ritual prerequisites – with the saying of Ha Lachma Anya (“This is the bread of affliction...”). This is a most unusual item, with myriad questions abounding.

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Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Nissan 13 5781
We begin our narrative of the Seder – following a few ritual prerequisites – with the saying of Ha Lachma Anya ("This is the bread of affliction..."). This is a most unusual item, with myriad questions abounding. Such as:

- Why is this paragraph in Aramaic, when the rest of the Hagada is in Hebrew, lashon ha-kodesh? - And then why do we switch back to Hebrew for the words, "l’shana haba’a?" - Why do we invite others to come join us in the Pesach offering, when, according to Halacha, this had to be arranged much earlier? - Why do we announce this invitation to join our Seder from our seats, as opposed to opening the door to the man in the street? - Finally, why do we say, "now we are slaves..." when we have been liberated from slavery?

Let’s try to solve all these puzzles, & see if a central message of Ha lachma anya emerges.

According to many, this section was not part of the Seder in the days when the Bet HaMikdash existed, but was added later in Babylonian exile. There, Aramaic was the language of the common people (Hebrew was a "higher" language spoken by the more learned) & using Aramaic was a way to both invite others to share with us, & signify that we were removed from our Hebrew-speaking home-land. As such, it connoted that we were still akin to "slaves," as we were not in the bosom of our homeland.

Inviting others to join us may refer to the meal held before the Pesach lamb, which had to eaten while satiated, or it may be a general declaration that we will not forget the less fortunate anytime that we celebrate. Others suggest that this is a novel way for each person at the Seder to feel as if he/she is the host, as only the host has the right to invite others to eat (& we all say this paragraph!).

As to why we suddenly switch languages in the middle of the text – going from Aramaic to Hebrew for the words, "l’shana haba’a – next year" (in the land of Israel), there are 2 conflicting opinions. Some say this reflects a fear, among those living in Exile, that our neighbors will hear us talking about moving to Israel & will accuse us of disloyalty and planning a rebellion.

But others see this as a way of emphasizing - through the use of Hebrew - the hope that next year, the only place where we will all be is in Israel!

So Ha lachma anya is a fitting way to start our Seder: With the firm promise that we will care for our fellow Jews, that everyone will feel welcome at our table, & that we’ll hold a grand Seder next year for all Jews - in Israel! May it indeed come true - Chag Sameach!
את המידע הדפסתי באמצעות אתר yeshiva.org.il