Bread of Affliction

Bread of Affliction

Towards the beginning of the Passover Seder, we introduce the Matzah
over which the story of the Exodus will be told. As did our fathers
before us we declare:

This is the bread of affliction which our ancestors ate in the land of
Egypt. Whoever is hungry, let him come and eat! Whoever is needy, let
him come and celebrate Passover! Now, we are here; next year may we be
in the land of Israel! Now, we are slaves; next year may we be free
men!

The placement of this paragraph in the order of the evening ceremony
would give us to understand that we are simply drawing attention to
the unleavened bread that sits on the table as we tell our children
about the miracles of the Exodus. Why then do we invite the poor and
speak of our hope for the future in the context of this opening
declaration?

We can find the answer to this question when we understand that the
Passover Seder is not merely a meal in which a story is told, it is a
reliving of the Exodus experience. We begin by bringing back the
memory of being slaves in Egypt and as we progress through the
evening, we are freed from slavery and become servants of God.

As we make that introductory statement about the Matzah we are still
in the mindset of slavery and we are not yet free. But we need to
remind ourselves that even in the darkest times there were two aspects
of freedom that our persecutors could never take from us.

One aspect of freedom that we never lost was the ability to share.
Even when we were enslaved we shared our bread with our brothers. And
the second aspect of freedom that we never lost was the ability to hope.

It is for this reason that we make these declarations in this
introductory paragraph. We speak of our desire to share with the less
fortunate and we speak of our hope. We are reminding ourselves that
the freedom to give and the freedom to hope were never lost and can never be lost.

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