What is so special about this step? After all, until now we have encountered a variety of foods , from greens to bitter herbs and matzah- the notion or expectation of food is no longer absent. Yet, the ready availability of food has not been arrived at until this moment-"Shulchan Orech"-a prepared table, a table laden with food awaiting our consumption. Food takes on an urgency, an immediacy, and we are called upon to heighten our grateful awareness for this repast.
Only a few short moments ago, I received a phone call- it was a plea for food -not for Passover but for today-"Hayom"-today I hear the summons to which I must respond in sharing what we have with others who experience the burden of not having because of ill health that ravenously consumes one's resources or the dwindling of savings due to a shrinking economy. The caller cannot wait until Passover, when we invite the hungry to our table- Passover is now, and the cry for help can't wait. Thus we collect "Maot Hittim"-money for wheat, not only for purposes of baking Matzah but more immediately for the baking of bread, to be eaten right now, "Hayom", today.
We have been patient. We can afford to wait, if there is certainty that the table will be set with provisions needed for our basic survival. For ourselves, we trust in God, we open our hearts to that which is beyond time. For others, however, we are enjoined to open our hearts with kindness and compassion, to share a full table with one whose table is bare.Gratefulness is complete when it unfolds into acts of compassion.
Now our God has set a table-laden with blessings-in sight of our "enemies"-the fears of the future. The following poem is apt:
Any moment, preparing this meal,
we could be gas thirty thousand
feet in the air soon
to fall out poisonous on leaf,
frond and fur. Everything
in sight would cease.
And still we cook,
putting a thousand cherished
dreams on the table, to nourish
and reassure those close and dear.
(Edward Espe Brown, The Tassajara Recipe Book)
We eat, "our cup runneth over," grateful for our appetites and for the gift of God's gracious Hand."You open Your hand, and satisfy every living thing."