Pesach 2003 / 5763

The Secret of Eating at the Seder

by Sarah Yehudit Schneider

The great Kabbalist, Rabbi Tsadok HaKohen, revealed a deep secret about how to fix the way we engage with the world. He says that humanity’s first sin was not Adam and Eve’s eating of forbidden fruit, but rather the way they ate it.  The Tree of Knowledge, says he, was not a tree or a food or a thing at all.  Rather it was a way of eating.  Whenever a person grabs self-conscious pleasure from the world, he falls, at that moment, from God consciousness, and eats from the Tree of Knowledge.

All neuroses, personality imbalances, and existential dissatisfactions, teaches Torah, have their root in this first “sin” of unholy eating.  Everyone has an eating disorder, for “eating” is much more than simply taking food into one’s mouth. Material acquisition, sexuality, honor-seeking, addiction to power, praise, drugs, or even attention are all forms of eating.

The Passover seder is the most potent tool for treating eating disorders.  It is the only time in the year where three acts of eating are actually commanded as mitzvot (religious obligations).  And mitzvot are distinguished by their unparalleled capacity to draw healing lights into the deepest layers of soul.

At these three moments of ingesting matzah, bitter herbs, and Afikomen (the half of the middle matzah which is hidden, then retrieved and eaten at the end of the meal), the channels from heaven to earth are perfectly aligned and the possibility of transformation is maximal.  The root impurity of every human soul, its grabbing instinct, gets zapped by the healing light of the seder’s holy eating.

To seize the moment one must bring prayerful intention to the meal. Part of Passover preparation should include a plan for utilizing these precious opportunities for deep soul healing.  What is your prayer?

Choose a meditation or prayer-focus to silently recite while eating the matzah, bitter herbs, and Afikomen.  It could be your most important life goal for the year (for example, finding a spouse, conceiving a child, finishing your book or finding the right job).  It could be a goal more related to character development (for example, overcoming anger or laziness, impatience or tardiness).  It could be a prayer for healing of oneself or a loved one.  And, of course, this is an especially propitious time to pray for relief from a literal eating disorder.  It is also possible to meditate on a verse (in Hebrew or English) that reflects one’s spiritual yearnings (for example, “Please, G-d, create in me a pure heart,” or “Please reveal to me the path of life” or “G-d transformed your curse into blessing, for G-d loves you.”).  Instead of prayer, one could choose a holy focus for meditation (for example, the Hebrew letters of G-d’s four-letter name, or the word shalom [peace/שלום], or ahava [love/אהבה].

Your plan should be clearly articulated and written out beforehand. Bring a copy to the seder table.  You should eat these three foods in silence, with eyes closed, and concentrate on whatever you have chosen as your focal point.

Whatever you choose, its seeds will be planted in your deepest depths, where the soil is always rich, the fruit is always sweet, and the harvest always bountiful. The Passover seder is the only opportunity we have throughout the year to bring healing lights down into direct contact with this most primal level of soul.


[1] Sefer Maamarim-Kintrressimm vol. 1, p. קה – 214

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