We begin the Magid section of the Hagada with the words: “Ha Lachma Anya…”, “This is the poor bread that our fathers ate in the land of Egypt. Anyone who is hungry, come and eat! Anyone who needs, come make Pesach! This year we are still here; next year in the Land of Israel. This year we are still slaves; next year, free people!
Why do we invite guests after declaring that the matza is poor bread?
If our invitation is sincere, why are we only inviting them now?
This statement was introduced during the Geonic period of the Babylonian exile. Rav Matityahu Gaon (9th century) states that the minhag originally was to leave the door open so that all of the poor people would feel free to enter and join the meal. Later it became unsafe in many communities to leave the door unlocked so the guests would be invited in advance.
The reason that it is still included today is to raise awareness about giving tzedaka to the poor and inviting those who would otherwise not have a place to spend the seder.
The reason that we invite the poor right after we look at this poor (made with only flour and water) broken matza is because at that moment we remember how poor we were in Egypt and how we now want to make sure to include the poor in our happiness.
The path to the redemption begins with righteousness as it says in Yishayahu 1:27 “The city of righteousness, a faithful city Zion will be redeemed with judgment and those that return to her with righteousness.”
How does this manifest itself today?
Many families invite guests to their seder or donate money to help provide food so that those in need can conduct their own dignified seders.
I heard about a beautiful initiative while listening to an interview on a Jerusalem radio station: A young couple takes over an entire school in downtown Jerusalem and makes a seder for 500 people who would otherwise not have a place to spend the first night of Pesach. Participants include the elderly, Holocaust survivors, lone soldiers and anyone else who doesn’t want to be alone or cannot afford to conduct their own seder.
Initiatives like these will help bring us closer to the true redemption. May we spend next Pesach in Yerushalayim HaBnuya, the rebuilt Jerusalem.