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Ha Lahma Anya

HA LAḤMA ANYA (Aram. הָא לַחְמָא עַנְיָא; lit. "Behold the poor bread"), opening words of an introductory paragraph of the Passover *Haggadah . The announcement is in Aramaic, and is proclaimed at the *seder service immediately after the conclusion of the karpas ceremony (in which greens are dipped in salt water; see *Passover seder).

The announcement is composed of three unrelated sentences. The first reads, "Behold this poor bread (or, 'bread of poverty'), which our fathers ate in the land of Egypt." This points to the centrality of the maẓẓah ("the unleavened bread") in the Festival of Passover. The second sentence invites the poor to the Passover meal: "Let anyone who is hungry come in and eat; let anyone who is needy come in and make Passover." The third sentence reads, "This year we are here; next year we shall be in the land of Israel; this year we are slaves, next year we shall be free men."

The origins and exact purport of the Ha Laḥma Anya are obscure. Most early portions of the Haggadah were written in Hebrew and are mentioned in the Mishnah. The language and content of this announcement, however, suggest that it was composed in Babylon after the destruction of the Temple. The second sentence does find an almost exact analogy in the Talmud (Ta'an., 20b), where R. Huna is said to have exclaimed before his meals "Let every needy person come and eat." Mattathias Gaon, in the ninth century, claimed that this sentence of Ha Laḥma Anya had always been a minhag avoteinu ("custom of our fathers"; B.M. Lewin, Oẓar ha-Ge'onim, 3 (1930), Pesaḥim 112). Had this sentence been the central feature of the announcement, however, the Ha Laḥma Anya would be expected to open the Haggadah, and to precede the *kiddush and karpas.

The present version of the announcement is probably a combination of several texts which date from the talmudic and post-talmudic periods. It has undergone several modifications. *Maimonides (Yad, appendix to Ḥameẓ u-Matzah) cites the present version with minor changes and a small addition. *Saadiah Gaon 's text opens with the third sentence, and is followed by the second. He omits the first sentence altogether. In certain late medieval manuscripts, the first sentence reads, "Behold like this poor bread…." Most texts, including those of Maimonides and *Judah Loew b. Bezalel , have the simple version in use today, "Behold the poor bread."


Davidson, Oḥar, 2 (1929), 116, no. 2; Liber, in: REJ, 82 (1926), 217–9; E.D. Goldschmidt, Haggadah shel Pesaḥ ve-Toledoteha (1960), 7–9; M.M. Kasher, Haggadah Shelemah (1955), 5–8 (Hebrew pagination).

[H. Elchanan Blumenthal]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.