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"Tatty I'm Hungry"

Friday, 19 April, 2019 - 2:18 am

Blog_tattty.jpgMy three-year-old daughter came to services with me on Sunday morning. I had my tefillin on and was in the middle of praying when she began to nudge, “Tatty, I’m hungry!”

 I couldn’t talk, so I motioned to her, “later.” But she continued.

After ten minutes of her nudging “Tatty, I’m hungry,” one of the congregants came over with a bagel and cream cheese for her, explaining that he comes from a family of Holocaust survivors and cannot bear to see any child hungry.  

My daughter took the bagel but didn’t touch it even though she loves cream cheese. My friend was perplexed. “I thought she was starving,” he said. “Why isn’t she eating it?”

“You have to understand what she’s saying,” I explained with a smile. “Thank G-d, she ate a very good breakfast 30 minutes ago. Thank G-d, we have food in our house and don’t starve our kids! What she meant when she said ‘I’m hungry’ is actually ‘Tatty, I want candy!’”

When my kids come to shul, I like to give them candy so they’ll have sweet memories and positive associations. I had already given her one ten minutes prior, but thinking it would get her another one, she decided to try the “Tatty, I’m hungry” tactic. Now, there’s no way my friend could have known this, and I’m grateful he tried to help. It just shows how it’s all about understanding the underlying message.

As we sit around the Passover table, ready to begin the Seder, the first thing we say is, “All who are hungry, come and eat; all who are needy, come and celebrate.” Of course it is a mitzvah to invite people to eat and experience the beauty of the Seder with us, but the statement is much deeper than that.

Beyond the literal invitation, it’s a call to each and every one of us to feed our souls. The same way our bodies require a nourishing breakfast each morning, our souls require spiritual infusions and inspiration.

Like my daughter, our souls call out, “I’m hungry! I’m hungry!” And we mistakenly think that the void we feel needs to be filled with physical things—a newer car, fancier food, another vacation, more money, etc. Ever wonder why Jews are so disproportionately successful in the world? It’s because we feel a deep internal void that we try every which way to fill. But really it’s the soul. The soul is hungry and the Seder is our chance to give it the nourishment it so desperately craves.

When we eat matzah, drink four cups of wine, recite the haggadah, relive the story of our Exodus—this is the spiritual “candy” the soul yearns for.

And let’s not forget, our children will be at the Seder and they are hungry too! It’s our responsibility to make it engaging for them, so they learn to satiate their soul the right way from the very start.

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