A Kavvanah for Ha Lachma Aniya Which Opens the Maggid Recitation of the Haggadah

…This year we are here; next year in the Land of Israel. This year we are slaves; next year we’ll be free people:

 :הָשַׁתָּא הָכָא, לְשָׁנָה הַבָּאָה בְּאַרְעָא דְיִשְׂרָאֵל. הָשַׁתָּא עַבְדֵּי, לְשָׁנָה הַבָּאָה בְּנֵי חוֹרִין…

There are many factors that contribute to the miraculous survival of this ancient, indigenous tribal nation called Israel and their adaptation through millennia to the “modern world” (whatever that looked like in any given year and century).  There’s the Torah’s repository of deep wisdom; there’s the mitzvah practices that connect us to God and to each other; there’s the sense of cosmic mission; there’s the smarts and inventive nature that breeds financial success, etc., etc.

Yet there is another factor that is often overlooked. It’s a curious trait mentioned by the prophet Zecharia (9:12) and echoed in the Mussaf of Yom Kippur. HaShem refers to Israel as “prisoners of hope / אסירי התקוה.” It is observably true that the people, Israel, have a remarkable capacity to pick themselves up, face forward and expect the best (by making the best of whatever life brings), trusting that HaShem will come through, even while recovering from horrific tragedies where HaShem seems to have let them down.

And so, true to form, we begin our maggid with an affirmation of hope: Next year, for sure, we’ll be free people in our promised land. A certainty we’ve affirmed every Pesach for 3,500 years, and, for sure, some year, HOPEFULLY this year it will be so.


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