Ha Lachma Anya - Where are we now?

הָא לַחְמָא עַנְיָא דִּי אֲכָלוּ אַבְהָתָנָא בְאַרְעָא דְמִצְרָיִם.כָּל דִכְפִין יֵיתֵי וְיֵיכֹל, כָּל דִצְרִיךְ יֵיתֵי וְיִפְסַח.הָשַּׁתָּא הָכָא, לְשָׁנָה הַבָּאָה בְּאַרְעָא דְיִשְׂרָאֵל.הָשַּׁתָּא עַבְדֵי, לְשָׁנָה הַבָּאָה בְּנֵי חוֹרִין.

This is the bread of anya that our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt.

Anyone who is famished should come and eat,

anyone who needs should come and partake of the Pesach sacrifice.

Now we are here, next year we will be in the land of Israel;

this year we are slaves, next year we will be free people.


Did you know? This passage contains an idea that we also repeat at the end of the Seder, which is that we hope to be in the land of Israel next year. The Big Questions in this passage are:

1. Where are we now? Why is it not good enough to want to be here next year?

2. In what way are we slaves now? What does it mean to be a free people?


(2) Now we are here sunken in the depths of desire associated with the body. Next year, in the land of Israel, which the sages praised as the place of great wisdom. Now we are slaves because our intellect is subjugated to materialism. Next year may we be free from the exile of foolishness and ignorance. Only then will we understand the ways of the Creator, and then the world will be filled with the knowledge of God as the waters fill the see; we no longer need miracles such as the splitting of the Red Sea to convince us of God's greatness.


(6) Now we are here: Having mentioned the Passover offering, we may have caused some sadness among those who have gathered around the table, since we have mentioned the destruction of the Temple and the sacrifice that is no longer offered. Therefore, we say the leader of the Seder comforts the members of his household and tells them: this year we are here and unable to fulfill all our obligations such as offering the Passover sacrifice; next year we will be in Jerusalem! At the very least, this year we are still slaves here but next year we may be free. This is a type of prayer: 'May it be God's will that the Holy One fulfill the promise and oath to redeem us from our exile so that we will merit the privilege of offering the Passover sacrifice in Jerusalem next year!' This passage is recited in Aramaic because this was the language of our ancestors in Babylonia where it was composed. It was recited in Aramaic so that the women, children and those who were illiterate would understand it. There are those who say that in Jerusalem it was also recited in Aramaic because Aramaic was a language associated with joyous occasions.


The two phrases at the end of this passage reflect a controversy in the Talmud about when the final redemption will take place: Tishri or Nissan. According to one point of view, the final redemption will take place in Nissan at the same time of year that we celebrate Passover, and according to the other point of view, the redemption will be in Tishri. These two points of view reflect different perspectives on the focus of the final redemption. Is redemption for Israel alone or for all humankind? If the final redemption is associated with Nisan and Passover then it is associated more with the destiny of the Jewish people since Passover marks the birth of the Jewish people. If the redemption is to occur in Tishri when we celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the birthday of the world, then the focus of redemption is more universal.


Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook, Haggadah Shel Pesach (p. 29-30)

"This year slaves," while the yoke of flesh and blood is upon us, it is impossible to be complete with crowns, because slaves never wear the garments of princes, "Next year, free people" who are worthy of crowns, which is like Rashi's interpretation of the passage in the Talmud: "And their crowns on their heads - like free people."(Talmud Bavli Rosh Hashanah, Ch. 1) This is a prayer as well as a promise, that every year the end comes closer, the essence of holiness approaches, despite the fact that on the surface it seems to be the opposite, but when the sacred time of the festival begins, we speak of the inner dimension of matters.


Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Pesach Haggada (p. 24)

Now we are here; next year in the land of Israel - At the very moment that we gather to remember the past, we speak about the future. The seder brings together the three dimensions of time. Before the meal, we will the story of redemption in the past. During the meal, we experience it in the present. After the meal, as we conclude Hallel, and say, "Next year in Jerusalem," we look forward to redemption in the future.

What is distinctive about Jewish time is that we experience the present not as an isolated moment, but as a ling in a chain connecting past and future. The very fact that they had been liberated in the days of Moses gave our ancestors confidence that they would be liberated again. The Jewish people would return to the land of Israel. Here we see one of the most profound instincts of the Jewish mind: memory is the guardian of hope. Those who forget the past become prisoners of the present. Those who remember the past have faith in the future. We can face it without fear, because we have been there before.

Now - slave; next year we shall be free - There are two words for freedom in Hebrew, hofesh and herut. Hofesh is "freedom from." Herut" is "freedom to." Hofesh is what a slave acquires when released from slavery. He or she is free from being subject someone's will. But this kind of liberty is not enough to create a free society. A world in which everyone is free to do what he or she likes begins in anarchy and ends in tyranny. That is why hofesh is only the beginning of freedom, not its ultimate destination. Herut is collective freedom, a society in which my freedom respects yours. A free society is always a moral acheivement. It rests on self-restraint and regard for others. The ultimate aim of the Torah is to fashion a society on the foundations of justice and compassion, both of which depend on recognizing the sovereignty of God and the integrity of creation. Thus we say, "Next year we shall be benei horin," invoking herut, not hofesh. This statement is an aspiration; "May we be free in a way that honors the freedom of us all."