Nothing Gets in the Way of Hunger

As we fill our bellies at the seder table, we must not forget the hundreds of thousands of children who starve while bank executives continue to rake in excessive salaries.

Hopefully, upon reading what is about to come, we won't lose our appetite when we sit down to the seder table. Someone might, heaven forbid, get an upset stomach and feel nauseous. Worse than that: a fish bone might get stuck in someone's throat, and he'll be unable to swallow, only to vomit.

The diligent preparations were impeccable. Getting rid of the chametz went perfectly, and there has not been such a general housecleaning conducted here in quite some time. When the dishes were purified, so was the conscience, lest a crumb of shame remain. And truly, we sat down at the table, and our consciences are as clean as the polished dishes. We deserve to feel good this evening: So why the hell does the cleansing leave such a foul taste in our mouths? Who didn't take part this time in the great operation to be rid of the foul? Who stood aside as more than a million and a half poor people, with their 600,000 children, clamored at the doors seeking food handouts?

Everyone enlisted to help - the big corporations, the banks, the TV channels, famous people, and people who presumably are simply good citizens. In the Jewish state, not a single Jew should be lacking for what is necessary for the holiday: it's possible to be hungry the day before; it's possible to be hungry the day after - but tonight, the seder night? Has all of Israel ceased being each other's guarantors? What are we, cannibals? And does our good country devour its residents? Jews are merciful children of the merciful, and they won't fill their bellies tonight unless all the bellies are filled. They won't raise a cheer of goodwill unless the shame of hunger is removed from the last of the hungry. The famous Jewish heart is still warm and still broad. And if the state won't take care of its poor, we will fill their place, and we will be concerned.

The resources are limited and the needs great, and from holiday to holiday things only get worse and the government is nowhere to be found. There is no choice but to bring the needy out into public, to show them off, to ignore their dignity and ask for handouts on their behalf. What do you want? That we should hide them? What's preferable in your eyes - that they disappear and go hungry, or be exposed and get their bottle of cooking oil, bottle of wine, the chicken, and the package of matzot? And what shall I reply? That nothing stands in the way of hunger. But on the way to being full this one night, maybe we can get rid of the self-satisfaction that says there is nobody else in the world like us. At least we should get rid of the smile on the faces of those making the efforts and those encouraging them on.

I would like to feel that after the TV show, the people collecting the mitzvot go home and vomit. Sometimes, when the state is fat and the citizenry thin, one must get over the disgust; just as one gets over the unavoidable disgust when drinking castor oil to get rid of constipation. But one must never forget, not for a moment, that the mitzvah is the result of a crime, and the criminal is the state.

The banks are joining the cause, and they too are getting credit for their mitzvah. Their billionaires are allocating a few coins, and sometimes they go so far as to issue excited calls to the public to open their hearts and wallets. They are even ready to put charity boxes on the counters in their branches - let everyone make a donation and get famous, let everyone make a donation, let all the needy wait for the bread of affliction, the lahma aniya (poor man's bread). The vampires of the Israeli economy, who suck at the bank accounts of the public, count the fees, and spit them in the public's face, all those glorified managers awaken in me a condemnable atavistic feeling toward pawnbrokers and money changers and money lenders at gouged interest rates - and for that I am ashamed and apologize along with all of the homes of Israel.

According to the calculations, this chairman makes NIS 64,000 a day (NIS 23.2 million a year) and that CEO makes NIS 92,000 a day (NIS 33.5 million a year). These people and their colleagues have names, everyone knows their names. And just out of respect for the holiday, I'm not naming them once again, so the bones don't get stuck in their throats. And maybe they have long since ceased caring, because they have long since removed themselves from the commonplace, as the Haggadah says about the evil son who rejects the main point.

A teacher in Israel does not earn in two years (730 days) what a CEO earns in one day. Tonight, between the plates of food and the glasses of wine, after we have polished the dishes of our conscience and wait for Elijah the Prophet, are we prepared to think about this? If 100 leading executives in the economy were to donate a single salary apiece, there would be no need for all these shameful and demeaning donation campaigns. But if they donate, how will they pay all their bills?

There is not a speck of populism in any of this; reality as it is, is not demagoguery. And according to reality, it is more difficult to be a school principal than a bank manager, who in a competition-less circumstance keeps the notebook open and register recording. Thus, what do we have left over after the seder tonight? There's reason to suspect that all we have left is "pour out your rage on the Gentiles who knew you not." And that returns us to Egypt - to questions of foreign affairs and security, which always sneak and steal our thoughts away.