Love of Money or Money of Love?
Guest contributor: R' Gavriel Prero
"Ha Lachma Anya... This is the bread of affliction that our forefathers
ate in the land of Egypt. All that are wanting should come and eat, all
that are needy should come and join in the Pesach offering. Now we are
here, next year we should be in the land of Israel. Now we are slaves,
next year we should be free men."
So begins the portion of the Seder known as Maggid, the section in which
we relate the story of our enslavement to and exodus from Egypt. We
begin our Seder with an invitation and a wish: we invite those who are
in need to come celebrate with us, and we wish that next year we should
be free to serve G-d in the land of Israel. Rav Baruch Frankel in
Margenisa D'Rav writes that the link between the invitation and the wish
is actually a cause and effect relationship. The Talmud (Baba Basra 10a)
states that "Charity is great, as it brings closer the redemption." By
extending our charitable hand to those who lack the bare necessities to
make a proper Pesach celebration, we are bringing close to actualization
our living in the land of Israel as free men.
However, giving charity is not an activity confined to the Pesach
season. If we are charitable year round, we continuously bring ourselves
closer to the end of our exile. Yet, this message has been given a
prominent place in the Pesach celebration; it is recited as the very
first passage in the Maggid liturgy. The reason for the conspicuous
placement of this message is provided by Talmud as well. In further
describing attributes of charity, the Talmud states that "all who
neglect the commandment of giving charity, it is as if they themselves
have worshiped idols." Benevolence is to be part and parcel of our
personalities. Just as G-d is benevolent and giving, so are we to be. If
we, instead, are miserly, or merely fail to make an effort to be
charitable, it is as if we have denied G-d's very existence by
On Pesach, we recall how the nation of Israel, when in Egypt, was
commanded to take a sheep to use for the Paschal offering. The sheep was
the god of Egypt, an animal that they revered and deified. This action
was a clear rejection of the idolatrous practices the nation witnessed
during their servitude in Egypt. We were given the commandment to have a
Paschal offering every year, to recall our embracing of G-d as the One
and Only, and our rejection of idolatry. If, on Pesach, we fail to be
charitable, we are in essence regressing to the very state that we
rejected while in Egypt. It would be hypocritical to, at one moment, eat
a Korbon Pesach or recall one during the recitation of the Hagadah,
while simultaneously be a person who neglects his needy brothers and
sisters. Either we recall and embrace the rejection of idolatry the
Korbon Pesach commemorates and act charitably, or we act without
compassion for those in need and reject all that the Korbon Pesach
stands for. Because we cannot begin to recite the Hagadah without
clearly indicating that we have accepted the dominion of G-d, we must
begin by affirmatively demonstrating that we are indeed concerned with
the needs of the poor and needy, thereby demonstrating that we have
spurned the idolatry that Egypt epitomized. Hence, Ha Lachma Anya needs
to be at the beginning of the Maggid liturgy.
R' Gavriel Prero
For questions, comments, and topic requests, please write to Rabbi Yehudah Prero.
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