At the beginning of the Passover Seder, shortly after the introduction and blessings, we hold up the matzoh and issue the invitation, "All who are hungry, let them come and eat. All who are in need, let them come to celebrate Passover." It is a powerful call, one that resonates with the Jewish sense of "tikun olam" -- healing the world -- and our own historical memory of what it was like to lack sufficient food.
Imagine if we stopped for a minute and truly thought about all those who die from malnutrition every day. Currently, in the Sahel region of West and Central Africa, an estimated one million children stand on the brink of severe acute malnutrition. Inadequate rain, poor harvests and rising food costs have left children vulnerable and weak.
Not just in the Sahel, but in Somalia and across the Horn of Africa, malnutrition and disease have taken the lives of tens of thousands of children. Deprived of clean water, nutritious food and basic sanitation, these children are among the most destitute on earth.
In fact, the lack of clean water is a silent killer of children around the world. Nearly 4,000 children perish daily for lack of access to safe water and adequate sanitation.
The numbers are staggering and represent actual lives. I have seen personally what malnutrition does to a child and what it means to be hungry. On a trip to Kenya this past fall, I encountered a woman and her child wandering through the desert. She startled me, appearing to have come out of nowhere. Both she and her child were so emaciated as to make their ages indeterminable. Not sharing a common language left us just staring into one another's eyes. At one point, she motioned to her belly and put out her hand to let me know they were hungry.
I know that I will see that woman's face in my mind's eye as I prepare for our Seder. She is just one of perhaps millions of parents forced to watch their children go hungry.
It does not take much to save a child from malnutrition. A little more than $20 buys two weeks' worth of therapeutic food, which can help bring a child back from the brink of death. And one dollar provides a child enough clean water for 40 days.
As we gather at our Passover tables and consider the bounteous feast ahead of us, let us take the injunction, "All who are hungry, let them come and eat," to heart. Give to help the world's vulnerable children. It will make your Seder even more meaningful.