• Rabbi Rubanowitz

Pesach - Shabbat Hagadol “Hunger Games” at the Seder

Almost every Haggada I read provides another explanation for why the Shabbat before Pesach is called “Shabbat Hagadol, or as we Ashkenazis say, Shabbos Hagodol”. In  this Tish Talk I get to share an idea of my own, which sprung from my attempt to answer the following question, asked pretty much every year by somebody:  “At the start of the Seder, in the “Ha Lachma” part, we say: “Kol Dichfin…Kol Ditzrich”, which is Aramaic for  “Whoever is hungry, or whoever needs [ to partake in the] Pesach…please join us-and eat! “.  But–what kind of invitation is it when it occurs after everyone is already home “for the Seder” and behind closed doors? Who are we inviting? We are all here! Is this just meaningless lip service?

But–how about reading that Aramaic with a little different emphasis, like so: “Whoever is HUNGRY, let him eat, whoever NEEDS Passover, let her partake…”. In other words, the invitation is to those present, here with us, offered with a caveat: “This experience will inform you-and transform you, if you are hungry for it. If you are seeking to glean. If you have identified a need to connect, learn, change. The stuff that happens here is not automatic. Many leave the Seder just a little tipsier that when they arrived but with their soul untouched. Others become unhinged, elevated to another plane. Thus, some deep soul searching, questioning oneself with “what does the Seder mean to me and how do I hope it will affect me”  must occur prior to jumping in.

Alas, how can this be helpful to the perhaps many of us who are at a loss to inspiration? What if we cannot identify any deep need or appreciation for the freedoms that the Seder night afford us? Enjoying the unique “freedom” of the Jewish identity is not axiomatic to our nature. How many of us pine for the opportunity to live a life consistently committed to Torah, G-d, and all the attendant obligations? Who really can say they NEED and are HUNGRY for this commitment to Judaism?

The answer lies in Shabbos. Experience a great Shabbat, a day of true peace from this world enveloped in the sphere of the spiritual, of Torah and of love- of our family, friends and community, and you will develop, cultivate and curate that desire to connect and be part of that holy world, that seat at the Seder table. Hence the Hunger Games. If you want the real Seder experience, try a GREAT Shabbos first, a Shabbat Hagadol, and you’ll not only be begging for that invitation, you’ll extend it to others.

Now here’s to a GREAT Shabbos to you!

Shalom Rubanowitz