Shabbat comes in 6.06 pm: goes out 7.09 pm
This week’s Torah portion mentions the holiday of Pesach. It is probably a good thing too because we need to start preparing. In fact, the issue of preparation is essential to Passover. In our Torah portion we read: “Let each of them take a lamb to a family, a lamb for each household. But if the household is too small for a lamb, let him share it with a neighbour who dwells nearby in proportion to the number of persons…”
And all of this had to be pre-arranged. It wasn’t something you left until the last moment. Four days before Passover the lamb was set aside, and a decision was made as to who would partake of it. It was forbidden to consume a paschal offering to which you weren’t pre-invited. So why, then, do we bother saying at the beginning of the Seder, “All who are hungry come and eat?”
The commentators on the Haggadah pondered on this question. Some suggested that the statement was an invitation to the people who are present for the Seder to come to the table. The Mishnah says that one should not eat from the hour of the Minchah service (about 3PM) until the Seder begins. So everyone who was already invited would literally be ready for dinner – and we say to them “All who are hungry come and join us!”
But the second part of this statement says something else. “All who are in need, join us for the Pesach Seder.” There is a difference between ‘hunger’ and ‘need.’ There are many people who may not be hungry – they have the means to provide ample food on Passover – but they are emotionally and socially needy; they have no one with whom to celebrate Passover. They’re lonely, or maybe they just don’t have the knowledge to conduct the Seder. They may be too proud to ask for an invitation. But they are in need of a place to be on Passover eve – a family with whom they can celebrate.
If we wait for the Seder to begin, it’s too late. The time to open our hearts and our homes to others is now.
Shabbat Shalom, Rabbi Paul Arberman