Sharon L. Sobel
Sharon L. Sobel

Open the Door, Open it Wide: The Real Mean of “Halachma Anya” – This is the Bread of Affliction

Each year we begin our Passover Seder with an ancient Aramaic saying, as we break one of the three ritual matzot (plural of “matza”) in half.

We hold up one half of the middle pieces of matza and we clearly say:

This is the bread of affliction which our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. All who are hungry, come and eat. All who are needy, come and celebrate Passover with us. The hour has come, now we are here. Next year, may we be in the land of Israel. Now we are slaves. Next year, may we be truly free.

And then we open our front door and and invite in all who are in need of a place to celebrate Passover, all who need a place to eat, all who are alone, or lonely, lost or wandering.

Usually, we do this as a ritual act: we break the middle matza, recite the ancient words by rote, and open the door. We peer into the darkness and then hastily close the door again and continue with the rest of the rituals.

But what does it truly mean to hold up our “bread of affliction” and to OPEN OUR DOOR to others?

I think now is the time to transform this symbolic ritual into reality, to take the lessons from our Passover tables and turn them into living reality, so that next year, when we say at the end of “Ha lachma anya…next year may we truly be free.” These words will be filled with deep meaning because we have worked hard to make them so.

I write this on the day of Erev Pesach, the week that Syria used poisonous gas killing so many innocent citizens, in a civil war that has been raging for years? Where are our “Open Doors” to those Syrian refugees who need to to be treated as humans, and not as pawns in some bizarre game of “not welcome through my door.”

Where are our Open Doors to those who are starving in parts of Africa because we lack the intelligence and have too much red tape to adequately distribute food and water in a just and equitable manner?

Where are our Open Doors to those who are suffering in silence from Mental Illness or other illness afraid of what our current administration in Washington is going to do to our Health Care system?

Where are our Open Doors to those who are aging and might not have enough resources to enable them to live long lives filled with dignity, honor and as full-functioning humans?

Where are the Open Doors to our educators and parents and students who have invested so much in our public school system, to our Nationally Funded Arts programs which give our country more than just culture, but breadth and depth?

Where are the Open Doors to Women who deserve and demand a right to make our own decisions about what happens with our bodies?

Where are the Open Doors to members of the LBGTQ+ community who are being violated and having their long-fought for rights stripped as we speak?

We have so many doors that are either closed or being theatened with closing.

This Passover, – this Pesach – Our Ha Lachma Anya prayer takes on especially significant meaning.

I invite you to Open Your DOOR. Open it Wide! As you break the middle maztzah,  think about how you can find ways to symbolically open other doors throughout the coming year, how we can break down barriers, open doors to peace and understanding, justice and freedom for all.

One of my favorite quotes this time of year is from Morris Joseph. He said: “Passover affirms the great truth that liberty is the inalienable right of every human being.”

Let’s knock down the closed doors of injustice, hatred, racism, xenophobia, poverty, war, mistruths, and so much more.

This year, not all are free. Next year, may we open the doors so that all may join us in freedom at our Pesach tables, no matter where we celebrate

Chag Pesach Sameach!

About the Author
Rabbi Sharon L. Sobel is the Rabbi of Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook, Long Island. Her career has extended from leading congregations to leading national organizations. She is passionate about Israel, social justice and enabling others to use Jewish living as a lens to living life with meaning and purpose. Rabbi Sobel is a fitness and food enthusiast. She views food as a catalyst for creating community and welcoming. (She is a secret “Iron-Chef Wanna-be”). She truly sees her table as a “mikdash m’at – a miniature alter”, a place where the holy and the ordinary come together. The daughter of a Reform rabbi (Rabbi Richard J. Sobel, z”l, from Glens Falls, NY), Rabbi Sobel was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York, in May, 1989. She received her undergraduate degree in Mass Communications from Boston University’s School of Public Communications.
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