Ha Lachma Anya – the famous paragraph that opens the Maggid section of the Seder; which reads, “Ha Lachma Anya Di Achlu Avahtana BeAra DeMitzraim Kol DiChephin Yeitei VeYeichul Kol Ditzrich Yeitei VeYifsach…Hashta Avdei LeShanah HaBaah Bnei Chorin,” “This is the bread of affliction which our fathers are in the land of Egypt. Whoever is hungry, let him come and eat… Now we are slaves, next year we shall be free men.” After the first part, which describes the Matzah, or poor man’s bread, that we ate in Egypt, the rest of the paragraph is difficult to understand. “DiChephin” refer to people who are hungry. Rashi explains that the Gemara (Pesachim 99b) prohibited eating after Minchah until the Seder so we should be hungry during the Seder; therefore, everyone, and not just the invited guests, are hungry! Clearly, the paragraph is not dealing with actual hunger for bread. In addition, Ha Lachma Anya was written in Aramaic, the native tongue of Babylonia, where the paragraph was composed. But if we were in Babylonia, how could we offer the Korban Pesach, which was only offered in the Beit HaMikdash in Yerushalayim? Also, we are not slaves, so what does “Hashta Avdei” refer to?
Rav Shlomo Carlebach answers these questions by explaining that the Seder’s purpose is to teach Torah by answering questions. This first sentence is thus an appropriate header for the Seder. Lechem is made up of two things: Mayim and Kemach, both of which represent Torah. The word “Anya” in Hebrew can mean “answer.” Two themes of the Seder, Torah and questions, are communicated in the first sentence. “Dechefchin” are those who are hungry for spirituality because we are “slaves” to Galut’s distractions, and offering the Korban Pesach refers to learning about the Korban Pesach.
This can answer another question: why do we answer both the Rasha and SheEino Yodeiah LiSheol with “BaAvur Zeh Asah Hashem Li BeTzeiti MiMitzraim,” “It is because of this that Hashem did for me when I went out of Egypt?” We want to make both of them ask questions and become more involved in torah and Judaism.
Unfortunately, most Jews are not exposed to the beauty of Torah seen during the Seder. My Rebbe, Rabbi Jachter, taught a Halacha shiur to our class that concluded that it is permitted to invite non-religious Jews to a Seder if you offer them a place to sleep. We must take this lesson to heart and try to spread Torah both to those who are sitting at a Seder table, and to those who are not as fortunate.