The Jewish holiday of Pesach (Passover) begins at sundown on Friday and is observed for eight days. The beginning of Pesach is commonly observed with a special Seder, or ritual dinner, which recalls the Israelites’ exodus from slavery in Egypt under Pharoah’s rule.
Some affectionately joke that Jewish holidays and days of observance are marked by either feasting or fasting, and sure enough the Pesach meal can be a feast. Whereas food is often used as a way to celebrate in the Jewish community, it takes a particularly symbolic role during Pesach and is center stage during the traditional Seder.
Indeed, on the Seder table you will find wine, matzah (unleavened bread), zeroa (shank bone), beitzah (egg), maror (bitter herbs), karpas (vegetable), and charoset (sweet paste usually made with apples, walnuts, and wine), each symbolizing different values or pieces of the Pesach story. Some modern additions may also include an orange, potato, or other items.
The community storytelling of having experienced suffering firsthand reminds us of our purpose as Jewish people in the world today. It is this memory of hardship that compels us to act. Among words read during the Seder are “let all who are hungry come and eat.” This declaration is not only about food and hunger, but a commitment to literally and metaphorically opening our doors to those in need and to being welcoming and inclusive to people of all identities.
Interestingly, we declare these words “let all who are hungry come and eat” after the Seder has already begun and our feast awaits us. In this moment we are reminded that while we may have (more than) enough, some of our neighbors remain hungry. This juxtaposition of gratitude and joy with bitterness and sorrow shows up again and again in Jewish tradition. One common example is the breaking of a glass under the chuppah (canopy) during a traditional Jewish wedding ceremony, reminding us of the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. During Pesach, the concurrent gratitude and bitterness teaches us that the journey to freedom must include our neighbors.
Hunger can also mean more than lack of nutrition. Each of us has a soul that hungers to be seen or yearns for connection. In many ways, we still experience a form of enslavement – whether to our mobile devices, unhealthy patterns, or our ego. This Pesach, consider how the declaration of “let all who are hungry come and eat” may inform your commitment to caring for someone experiencing some version of hunger.
Coastal Roots Farm’s commitment to Nourishing Community strives to do just that, both in providing nutrient-dense food to communities in need and in feeding the soul through community building and connection. Join us this year as we affirm our obligation to the care for the land, ourselves, and each other.
- “Hunger Seder,” a Haggadah from Mazon
- Mazon’s 5th Question about senior hunger for discussion at the Seder table
- Green your Passover from Repair the World
- Let all Who are Hungry Come and Eat supplemental reading from American Jewish World Service
- A Lion King Passover parody song by Six13
Written by Kesha Dorsey Spoor, Philanthropy and Communications Manager at Coastal Roots Farm