Invite Your Neighbor - בא

Friday, 19 January, 2024 - 11:07 am


Invite Your Neighbor 

The Pesach offering, which the Jewish people offered on the day before the exodus from Egypt, was unique in that each household had to offer their own animal, which had to be consumed before midnight. What if there were not enough people in the household to eat the entire animal? The Torah tells us that in that case, they would invite a neighboring family to join them in offering and eating the Paschal lamb:  

Speak to the entire community of Israel, saying, "On the tenth of this month, let each one take a lamb for each parental home, a lamb for each household.

But if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his neighbor who is nearest to his house shall take [one] according to the number of people, each one according to one's ability to eat, shall you be counted for the lamb. (Exodus 11:3-4)

In general, societies understand that within every community, there are people who are fortunate, successful, and resourceful, while others are less fortunate. Societies understand that there is an obligation for the people with resources to share their blessings with those less fortunate. For the Jewish people, however, the opposite is true. The model of sharing expressed at the Paschal offering, at the very birth of our nation, is a model that is motivated not by the need of a less fortunate neighbor but by the abundance of the blessing the person has. In other words, the calling to share is in response to the need of the giver, who can't possibly eat the entire offering on their own.  

Inviting someone else to partake in our blessing is the way we transcend our limited human existence and connect to our spiritual core that is interconnected with all other souls. Spiritual freedom is the ability to escape the inner Pharaoh, the inner ego, and experience reality beyond the confines of self. Like in the original Passover celebration in Egypt, we begin our Passover Seder by inviting the poor to our table, "Whoever is hungry, let him come and eat. Whoever is in need, let him come and join in celebrating the Pesach Festival", because we recognize that true freedom is the ability to feel the need and perspective of another. 

We share our blessings, time, and empathy not merely for the benefit of another person but because of our own deep need for transcendence. Allowing us to experience spiritual freedom by transcending our finite self and tapping into our soul, is a part of the infinite reality of G-d. 

Adapted from Rabbi SR Hirsh

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