Nourish the Body, Nourish the Soul
At our Pesach seders this week, we heard, at the start of the Magid section, the recitation of Ha Lachma Anya — a declaration of welcoming to those who are in need of sustenance.
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הָא לַחְמָא עַנְיָא דִי אֲכָלוּ אַבְהָתָנָא בְּאַרְעָא דְמִצְרָיִם. כָּל דִכְפִין יֵיתֵי וְיֵיכֹל, כָּל דִצְרִיךְ יֵיתֵי וְיִפְסַח. הָשַׁתָּא הָכָא, לְשָׁנָה הַבָּאָה בְּאַרְעָא דְיִשְׂרָאֵל. הָשַׁתָּא עַבְדֵי, לְשָׁנָה הַבָּאָה בְּנֵי חוֹרִין.
This is the bread of affliction which our fore bearers ate in the land of Egypt.
Kol dichfin: all who are hungry, let them enter and eat. All who are in need, let them come celebrate the Passover. Right now we are here; next year [may we be] in the land of Israel. This year we are afflicted; next year we will be free.
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A beautiful statement, to be sure — one specifically reserved for Pesach and no other day of the year. But the truth is, this statement of our Jewish values, ethics, and hopes isn’t really offering anything wholly new or even Passover-specific; after all, it’s not as if welcoming the stranger, feeding the hungry, teaching the not-yet-taught, or brightening the spirit of another are absent from the rest of Jewish life and or Jewish practice.
We devote ourselves to nourishing the body all the time through food drives and donations, and by supporting organizations like Second Harvest Food Bank who do such righteous work each and every day. Very recently, the New Orleans Jewish community has initiated the new Kol Dichfin: Come and Eat Fund through the Jewish Endowment Foundation of Louisiana, with the purpose of combatting the ever-worsening food shortage crisis in the New Orleans Metropolitan area. We urge anyone who is able to make a donation to do so before April 17, when the initiative will end.
And we devote ourselves to nourishing the soul each week by joining together for Shabbat services. Although at present we cannot be together in the Main Sanctuary or Forgotston Chapel to pray, sing, laugh, and think, we can — and do — continue to be present with each other by way of our live-streamed services each Friday evening and Saturday morning. We hope you will join us this week and every week to reflect on what has been, accept what is, and look ahead to what can be in the days and weeks ahead. Anyone who would like an online flip book version of our Mishkan T’filah prayer book can access it for free by clicking here.
In Pirkei Avot we read, “Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria used to say…without bread, there is no Torah; without Torah, there is no bread.” He knew then — just as we know now — that our bodies, spirits, intellects, and practices must be in alignment if we wish to outwardly live our Jewish beliefs and values. In these most troubling times and during this most humbling, hopeful of Jewish holidays, how much more true is this sentiment than ever before?