Utzedek Pesach, Food and Justice

Haggadah Section: Karpas

The commentators offer various reasons for the mitzvah of karpas. The Tur, following Rashbam [Pesachim 114a s.v ad shemagiah], famously explains that the karpas is meant to elicit questions from the children, as it was unusual to dip anything prior to the actual meal [Tur, O.C. 473]. The Bach, however, offers a different approach towards karpas. He suggests that perhaps the custom of karpas is to give us the opportunity to eat something, since the meal is s ll far off, and we should not have to go through the en re Maggid narrative without consuming any food [Bach, O.C. 473 s.v v’lokeiach yerakot].

At first glance, the Bach’s approach seems so prosaically pragma c that the ritual seems in danger of losing its religious significance. However, his suggestion is actually quite profound, in that it highlights Judaism’s sensitivity to the needs of human beings even in a context, such as the seder night, in which we might expect to ignore our physical needs in favor of fulfilling the key religious duty of recalling our national redemption. However, rather than deny the necessity of food or the impact of hunger on our physical and emotional psyche, the Bach posits that the physical reality of human hunger was in fact the primary impetus for the Rabbis to institute the custom of karpas.

This has implications for Judaism at large. Judaism does not view human suffering and the inability to access necessary material needs as an expression of religious worship; Judaism is a religion that responds and affirms our humanity. This is highlighted in the way that our own religious rituals, such as karpas, reflect these basic needs. Rather than claim that poverty or injustice are the means to reach greater spiritual heights, Judaism constantly and consistently emphasizes our imperative to ameliorate suffering, whether our own or that of our fellow human beings.

We are given the ritual of Karpas lest we suffer for a few hours until it is me to eat our celebratory meal. How do we respond to the 925 million people worldwide who do not know where their next meal will come from?1

Millions of Americans need help putting food on their tables, but can’t get fresh produce from the local food pantry.​


Millions of American homeowners grow more food in their backyard gardens than they can possibly use.
Ample Harvest <http://www.ampleharvest.org> is a nationwide effort to diminish hunger in America by making it easy for millions of backyard gardeners across the country to quickly find local food pantries eager to receive freshly- picked crops for their clients. If you grow food or know others who do, reach out to Ample Harvest and become a part of the solution. 


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