As we recount the story of the Exodus from Egypt on Seder night, we vacillate between the slavery endured by our people and the celebration of attaining Freedom. In life, we are faced with obstacles and challenges which we need to overcome in order to reach our full potential and, as we grow and develop from one Pesach to the next, so our yearning for freedom shifts accordingly. Freeing ourselves from the limitations which obstruct our spiritual self-actualization is an on-going challenge. For our clients, at Yad Aharon & Michael, attaining this goal is compounded by their financial hardships which result in their physical needs not always being met and their self-esteem often crushed, that many have forgotten what it means to feel wholesome, honoured and valued as individuals.
Herein lies the symbiosis between the Festival of Freedom and Yad Aharon & Michael’s mission: our core objective is to liberate those trapped in their circumstances by addressing their basic material shortfalls and emotional insecurities, thereby paving their way towards their spiritual fulfilment and gratitude for the relief bestowed upon them by the Almighty through Yad’s holy work.
On Seder night, the Megillah navigates us through Am Yisrael’s unforgettable and poignant voyage from bondage to freedom. Not only do we recount the story of the Exodus from Egypt in a way which will capture the imagination of the children, but we are instructed to transcend the night’s ‘order’ of events, time and space, thereby liberating ourselves from the shackles in our personal lives which prevent us from attaining our own freedom.
Most of our 550 families need to stretch the contents of their weekly food parcels as far as possible, which explains why the Afikoman resonates so deeply with what I witness in my work at Yad. Inasmuch as I encourage my clients to “throw caution to the wind” during the week of Pesach because our hampers are guaranteed to sustain them for the entire duration of the Chag, their mind-set of “keeping some of the foods aside just to have something in the cupboard” prevails. For most of us, the Afikoman merely symbolizes one of the effects of being enslaved but, for the “Yaddies family”, it is a very real and painful, daily struggle and I feel humbled, privileged and enriched by the many invaluable life lessons which my clients have taught me through my interactions with them over the years.
Food plays a pivotal role in Jewish life and the Seder is a perfect example of this. The festive meal which is served to celebrate our freedom is indeed a welcome respite from the ongoing stresses which so many of our families have to contend with on an ongoing basis, and Pesach enables them to join the whole of Klal Yisrael in experiencing freedom in every sense of the word.
Let’s join hands and “extend our tables” and ensure that “Even the poorest Jew, a recipient of charity, must, on the eve of Pesach, eat only in a reclining position as a mark of freedom and drink no less than four cups of wine” (Mishnah: Pesachim101) because I know that the greatest reward for doing is the opportunity to do more.
The Management, Staff and clients of Yad Aharon & Michael wish the entire community a Chag Pesach Kasher ve Sameach!
BY ALICE FRIEDMAN, MD YAD AHARON & MICHAEL