“My father was a wandering Aramean….”
It is with these words that our Passover Haggadah reminds us each year of the wanderings of our people throughout the ages. As we read the familiar passages, sing the well-known melodies and eat the traditional Pesach foods, we recall the tale of our people’s passage from slavery and exile into freedom in the land of Israel. We feel connected, linked to past generations, as if indeed this was our own personal story. We were there in Egypt; we crossed the Sea of Reeds; we sang the songs of victory with Miriam; we stood at Mt. Sinai and received the Torah from God.
And we remember what it was like to be slaves, to be the oppressed. “In every generation, we are commanded to see ourselves as if we came forth from Egypt.”
Empathy, one of the highest values in our Jewish tradition, demands that we do not separate ourselves from those around us whose lot in life is less pleasant than our own. To be a Jew means identifying with the downtrodden and persecuted.
During this time of year, our festival of Pesach reminds us of this obligation. We think of others and try to feel what they might feel. We look outward at our world, at the hungry, the homeless, the sick and the needy, and we reach out a helping hand.
Near the beginning of our seder, there is an ancient reading that some Jews recite in Aramaic as well as in the vernacular. This prayer declares: “Let all who are hungry come and eat.” In our world, especially during these difficult economic times, it is incumbent upon us to remember this reading.
So what can we do to help the needy within our community? It is no longer enough to invite the hungry to come in. Often the hungry do not live in our neighborhoods. So what should we do? Sometime between now and Pesach, bring cans and packages of chametz to Bet Chaverim and place them in the receptacle near the front door. This food will be distributed to the poor and hungry in our area.
Doing this is very simple. It is also very Jewish.
May God bless you and your loved ones with a sweet and meaningful Pesach.