The Seder begins with an invitation. We cannot truly rejoice with our family while we forsake those who are not as fortunate. “All who are hungry, let them come and eat with us; all who are needy, let them come and observe the Passover with us.”
“All who are hungry” and “All who are needy” – what is the difference between them? Aren’t the needy those who have no food, the very same ones already described as the hungry?
It appears the text is suggesting that there are two different kinds of deprivation to which we need to be sensitive. The hungry are those who lack physical nourishment. It is their stomachs which need to be filled. The needy are those who desperately require spiritual sustenance. It is their souls that beg to be sustained so that their lives may have meaning.
There are two – and only two – blessings which have their source in the Torah. The first is on food. When we complete a meal we are commanded – “and you will eat and you will be sated and you shall bless the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 8:10). The second is for the study of Torah – “For I will proclaim the name of the Lord [the Torah], and you will ascribe greatness unto our God [with a blessing] (Deuteronomy 32:3).] Why precisely these two? Because a human being is a combination of body and soul and both of these components require nourishment in order to survive. Food is what allows us to live; Torah is what gives us a reason for living. Food sustains our bodies; Torah sustains our souls. Both are essential. That is why both require a blessing.
And that is also why we invite two kinds of disadvantaged. The hungry are those who lack food. For them we provide physical nourishment. The needy are those who seek meaning to their lives and who thirst for the peace of mind that comes from faith and commitment to Torah. Let both be a part of our Seder and become sated.
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