As the Seder begins, we offer an invitation: let all who are hungry come and eat. Every year I am blown away by the openness of this invitation and the incredible way we as a community rise to the occasion to fulfill its promise. I am struck by two yearnings the Seder endeavors to address, the first a hunger for actual food, the second a hunger for community and friendship.
The Seder is a promise of hope. Hope arises from hesed or love. When we know someone cares for us, or when we care for someone else, we realize suddenly the healing possibilities inherent in our actions. Feeding someone who is hungry offers them hope. It relieves the mind of the deadening qualities of real hunger. It strengthens the body to have resources to escape poverty and find new pathways. For the person helping, they remind themselves of their own ability to make a difference. By making a donation to Second Harvest, I remind myself of my capacity to help others and to alleviate the suffering in the world. By bringing blessing and hesed into the lives of others, I remind myself that blessing and hesed exist within me. This also engenders hope.
Hunger exists as a real challenge in our community, as does the quest for meaning in our own lives. Second Harvest has hundreds of thousands of clients every month in Santa Clara. Housing the men’s shelter this year has been an aspect of our communal preparation for Passover. Nearly a hundred volunteers have given of their time to serve and visit with the men staying at Kol Emeth. This too is a way to get ready for Passover. Creating such opportunities to volunteer and donate create a fertile ground in the self for the words of hope we will recite at the Seder.
The Seder also invites community and friendship. Soloveitchik teaches that there are two aspects to Adam in the Bible. First, is the Adam who is commanded to fill the earth and master it. Here in Silicon Valley we are very connected to Adam the builder, the maker, the one who forms social and communal structures capable of achieving enormous scientific and physical feats. Yet there is another Adam, an Adam who is lonely. An Adam for whom companionship is about sharing fear, emptiness, joy, a wholeness of self. Silicon Valley is advanced in this area of human interaction.
The Seder is one way of building the sustaining relationships that second part of our selves so craves and needs. When we open our home to others, or receive an invitation, there is something special and sacred that takes place. People come to know each other over the breaking of matzoh, the shared message of hope in the Seder, in a very different way than in an office building or physics lab.
This year, I urge you to find a way of hosting people around Passover. It may be at the Seder, or at another time. Perhaps you have attended another person’s Seder for many years. Maybe host one on the other night this year, not only to reciprocate, but also to invite others, particularly people without a place. Kol Emeth every year offers Seder matching. We host people from our community and from the larger community in need of a place. Last year, one of our members hosted a couple in town for cancer treatments at Stanford. What an amazing gift for both giver and receiver! Feel free to reach out for a place, but also to offer a chair. Who knows? Maybe your guest will turn out to be Elijah….
I wish you blessing in your preparations, and may those preparations create pathways in your own heart towards love, blessing, and hope.
Rabbi David Booth