Shulchan Orech - When Eating Becomes a Song of Praise
By Rabbi Gideon Goldwater
This is the part we have all been waiting for. But why stop, literally in the middle of saying Hallel, to have a feast? Surely the spiritual journey we are on, is about distancing ourselves from the shackles of base desires such as gourmet dishes and luxurious hors d’oeuvres?
It is specifically on an evening such as this, that we must be reminded of the place of physical pleasure in the life of a Jew. Judaism recognises the centrality of elevating every facet of life, including even seemingly base acts such as eating.
It is specifically on this night, when we relive the journey from slavery to prophecy that our ancestors embarked upon, that we remind ourselves of our own ability to elevate the mundane to supernal heights. Each meal that we eat can be a lowly act of carnivorous devouring. But it can also be an act focused on attaining the energy needed to do tremendous good in the world over the coming hours or day. Each great tasting food can fill us with selfish gratification, or it can help us to appreciate the beauty of creation, and the hard work and effort that others may have put into it. In the middle of singing our praises to God we stop, because it is at this point that we are now able to eat in the desired frame of mind.
Rebbetzin Shoshana Gifter relates how she once she and her husband, the famed Rosh Yeshivah Rav Mordechai Gifter, considered throwing out their dining room table which was getting rather shabby after years of constant use. In the end they decided not to. “We have shared so many family meals, meaningful discussions, and uplifting songs around this table, how can we even think of getting rid of it”. To them the physical table that had helped make so much good happen, was itself synonymous with the inspiration that was shared around it.
If there is one supper of the year to appreciate the beauty that Hashem has enabled us to experience in our lives, then Seder Night is it. Through having this kind of consciousness about the world and our actions in it, we can transform our mundane tables, into a Seder Table full of meaning and purpose.