The Beginning of the Story

Ha Lachma Anya is essentially the "Story of the Matzah". Told in Aramaic, once the everyday language of the Jews, this story has three parts: a memory, an action and a hope.

First we point out the Matzah, the bread of poverty we ate in Egypt. Then, remembering our poverty in the past, we invite all needy persons to join our table tonight. Finally, we express the hope that while this year human beings are still enslaved in many way, often lacking a home for themselves, next year we will all be free people, in our own personal and national home. (A Night to Remember: The Haggadah of Contemporary Voices, Mishael Zion and Noam Zion, p.20)

“Know from whence you came. If you know whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go.” (James Baldwin)

"I don't think you can be fully a member of the Jewish people and, creatively, a member of humanity, without knowing who you yourself are. The only way you achieve a deep sense of self is to know your own beginnings." (Rabbi Chaim Potok, American novelist and scholar)

MAGGID By Marge Piercy

The courage to let go of the door, the handle.

The courage to shed the familiar walls whose very

stains and leaks are comfortable as the little moles

of the upper arm; stains that recall a feast,

a child’s naughtiness, a loud battering storm

that slapped the roof hard, pouring through.

The courage to abandon the graves dug into the hill,

the small bones of children and the brittle bones

of the old whose marrow hunger had stolen;

the courage to desert the tree planted and only

begun to bear; the riverside where promises were

shaped; the street where their empty pots were broken.

The courage to leave the place whose language you learned

as early as your own, whose customs however dan-

gerous or demeaning, bind you like a halter

you have learned to pull inside, to move your load;

the land fertile with the blood spilled on it;

the roads mapped and annotated for survival.

The courage to walk out of the pain that is known

into the pain that cannot be imagined,

mapless, walking into the wilderness, going

barefoot with a canteen into the desert;

stuffed in the stinking hold of a rotting ship

sailing off the map into dragons’ mouths.

Cathay, India, Siberia, goldeneh medina,

leaving bodies by the way like abandoned treasure.

So they walked out of Egypt. So they bribed their way

out of Russia under loads of straw; so they steamed

out of the bloody smoking charnelhouse of Europe

on overloaded freighters forbidden all ports—

out of pain into death or freedom or a different

painful dignity, into squalor and politics.

We Jews are all born of wanderers, with shoes

under our pillows and a memory of blood that is ours

raining down. We honor only those Jews who changed

tonight, those who chose the desert over bondage,

who walked into the strange and became strangers

and gave birth to children who could look down

on them standing on their shoulders for having

been slaves. We honor those who let go of every-

thing but freedom, who ran, who revolted, who fought,

who became other by saving themselves.

In the current political and war-torn climate, with people pouring out of Syria - nowhere to go and no way to know what lies ahead for them, let us take a minute of silence to reflect on what we can do with our own sense of renewal and our own deeply entrenched roots of wandering to help them begin again, find strength and courage and a safe place to rest their weary bodies. (At the back of this Haggadah you will find a list of charities to which you might consider donating time or money in the coming year.)

Raise the tray with the matzot and say:

הָא לַחְמָא עַנְיָא דִי אֲכָלוּ אַבְהָתָנָא בְּאַרְעָא דְמִצְרָיִם.

כָּל דִכְפִין יֵיתֵי וְיֵיכֹל, כָּל דִצְרִיךְ יֵיתֵי וְיִפְסַח.

הָשַׁתָּא הָכָא, לְשָׁנָה הַבָּאָה בְּאַרְעָא דְיִשְׂרָאֵל.

הָשַׁתָּא עַבְדֵי, לְשָׁנָה הַבָּאָה בְּנֵי חוֹרִין.

Ha lachma anya dee achalu avhatana b'ara d'meetzrayeem. Kol deechfeen yeitei v'yeichol, kol deetzreech yeitei v'yeefsach. Hashata hacha, l'shanah haba-ah b'ara d'yisra-el. Hashata avdei, l'shanah haba-ah b'nei choreen.

This is the bread of affliction, which our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. Let all who are hungry come and eat. Let all who are in need, come and share the Pesach meal. This year, we are here. Next year, in the land of Israel. This year, we are slaves. Next year, we will be free.

Refill the wine cups, but don’t drink yet.

haggadah Section: Maggid - Beginning