K’ha Lahma ‘Anya
This short opening paragraph that begins with K’ha Lahma ‘Anya is comprised of three seemingly unrelated statements 1) This Massah is the poor man’s bread that our forefathers ate in Egypt. 2) An invitation to all who are in need to join our meal 3) A prayer that next year we should be in the land of Israel free from foreign rule. Many commentators ask why we are reciting an invitation at this point in time, when anyone who might still need an invitation can not even hear us. It seems so artificial to offer a formal invitation that we know is not even being heard, let alone being accepted. However if we connect these three statements, the purpose of this paragraph takes on a different meaning.
We begin by pointing out that Massah is poor man’s bread, alluding to one aspect of the Misvah of eating Massah, which is to stimulate compassion for the poor. Once a year we eat what the Torah describes as Lehem ‘Oni (bread of poverty) in order to experience the plight of the poor first hand. That, together with the national experience of slavery in Egypt, serves as a means of instilling compassion for the poor within us, which should lead us to invite the poor all year round. Which means that we are saying that we eat this bread of poverty tonight to inspire us to offer the invitation of ”Kol Dikhfin Yette’ V’Yekhul” (all who are hungry shall come and eat) on a regular basis.
If we do act accordingly, and care for the poor, we pray that the reward for fulfilling that Misvah will be redemption from exile. That is the reason that we conclude with “…next year in the land of Israel…”. Since the exile came about because of the social injustices that the prophets repeatedly admonished for, namely mistreatment of the poor and unfortunate, we pray that the correction of those transgressions, through concern for the poor throughout the year, will bring about the redemption from exile within the coming year.
Mr. Morris Arking teaches Halachot and classes in the community for the past 15 years, including a daily Halachah class in Bnei Yosef in Brooklyn, NY.