For many people, the Passover holiday is an occasion to recall our own suffering and liberation in order to remind ourselves of the suffering of people today, Jews and non-Jews, and think about how we can support their liberation. Passover is a holiday of remembering; to remember effectively, we start to remember by taking action weeks before: sending invitations, cleaning, reviewing menus or travel plans. Before we remember the poor, before we remember to remind ourselves that we were once slaves, poor and oppressed–before we sit down to our meal with friends and family, we must remember to prepare. As in a classroom, if we just show up and leave when it’s over, the learning is unlikely to stick.
The Haggadah itself frames the act of remembering the affliction of the past with an act of remembering people suffering in the present. Before we get to the heart of the seder, of remembering the exodus from Egypt, we remember what it is we are supposed to remember by reciting Ha Lachma Anya, This is the bread of affliction… We invite kol dichfin, all who are hungry, those who have no festival food and no place to eat, to join us. Since many of us may not have poor people ready to invite, there is a tradition to give ma’ot chittin, “wheat money,” so that the poor can celebrate the holiday. We remember that the seder is not about me alone, about how I was saved and raised up. It is about me as part of a we, a people that includes everyone, together–rich and poor, learned and unlettered, ill and well, and all of the ways that we are different, suffering and thriving. The seder reminds us that our personal stories lead us to our collective story. We remember that our coming together has a symbolic significance just like the items on the seder plate, a ritual gesture toward unity through gratitude, study, conversation, food lovingly prepared.