As I turn the pages of the Passover Haggadah I reflect on the wonders that allowed my ancestors to go free from slavery in Egypt. I often reflect on the line we read in the beginning pages: “Let all who are hungry come and eat.”
This is a powerful message which rings strongly for all who care for the hungry, but particularly to me as the daughter of Holocaust survivors. Most of our Jewish holidays are associated with the joy of eating, Passover in particular since so many of the foods we eat are also symbolic to the order of the Seder itself. The food is symbolizing both the bitterness of slavery and the sweet enthusiasm of freedom.
At the Passover Seder we remember and celebrate when a family of tribes became a nation of people, and when a body of slaves became the soul of freedom. We also remember and celebrate God’s promise to Abraham and his descendants. Every year, Jews all around the world sit with family and friends to remember and retell the Passover story. In this story our prophet Moses is not mentioned at all, but rather God is the “Main Actor” in taking our people out from slavery to freedom. Furthermore, we are commanded in the book of Exodus to tell this story to our children and their children’s children.
Passover is THE most celebrated holyday in the Jewish calendar, even more than the High Holy Days. It is a holiday of freedom in which we are required to remove all ego. There are many family traditions in which we search the house to make sure that there is no bread, crumbs, crusts, or morsels left around. Then we can sit down to the Seder, eat the Matzah, drink the four cups of wine, and tell the story of our journey towards freedom. Questions are everything, as are children. We are all children and we all ask questions. There is a Seder plate and there are fifteen steps to our journey towards freedom.
In the beginning of the fifteen steps of our Seder, a special invitation is sent out to the Jewish community. As a matter of fact, this special invitation is NOT only to the Jewish community, but also is a universal invitation for social justice to come together. As Jews, we are asked to speak on behalf of the voiceless, those children and adults who do not know when or where their next meal will come from.
Each one of us, as we sit to eat our Passover meal of plenty, needs to listen to the traditional Four Questions and reflect on a current question: why, in a country as wealthy and as bountiful as the United States, are there still children and adults who are hungry?
I am not alone in my question. Jews across the USA, emphasize this question, rewriting the Seder and the Haggadah to highlight specifically the incidence of childhood hunger and malnutrition, and in general, hunger in the USA.
According to the USDA, more than one in five American households, 49 million individuals, including 12 million children, struggle to have enough to eat. Wow!!!
Why this year? Because the key Child Nutrition Act that funds the federal government’s child nutrition programs could expire. Because if we do not act, Congress’ inaction could jeopardize access to quality meals for millions of children. Because if we do not act, those who depend on these programs will go hungry. Because if not us, then who?
Please write to the congress representative of your area. Also, please continue to support our Ahavat Torah Social Action Committee’s commitment to provide cooking oil, or monetary donations to the Sova Food Bank. Thank you for all your help. I look forward to the day when we can proudly proclaim at our Seder table, “Next year there will be no child hunger.”
May that day be soon! Amen.
About Rabbi Miriam
Rabbi Miriam E. Hamrell MHL, M.Ed., has served as our religious and spiritual leader at Ahavat Torah Congregation and helped it grow since it was founded in 2003.