By Rabbi Neil Fleischmann
Introduction: On The
(THOUGHT) Why is a seder
called a seder? The conventional
answer to this is that is the ordered schedule of the night that gives the
ceremony its name. (This is similar to
the reasoning behind the name of the siddur, the ordered compilation of
our prayers.) A different approach is that the name serves to remind us to
scrutinize the miracles and see order rather than happenstance behind them.
This, in turn, helps us to appreciate the miraculous order of daily life.
(Based on Chidushei HaRim’s take on MaHaRal as presented in Ma’aynah Shel Torah
(THOUGHT) Though it's the
holiday of freedom we are not free to celebrate it any way we want. there
are many rules to Pesach. And there is a set structure, an opening Seder
that kicks it off. This is representative of our view of freedom in
general. We are freed by rules, but are not free from rules.
Everyone must follow the order of the Seder, yet no two Seders are the
same. Similarly everyone must keep the mitzot, yet no-one's traditional
Jewish life looks the same.
(THOUGHT) The haggadah is a
book. The Seder night is a major time in the Jewish calendar and it features a
book. This indicates that reading is key to serious thinking. Do people today,
particularly members of Western society value reading? It seems to me that
contemporary man does not read enough books or value reading books enough.
(QUOTE) Rabbi Nachman Kahane observed that a Jewish home is traditionally full of
books, because that's a major Jewish value. Decorating the house with sefarim (books)
is appropriate, even if they aren't learned in full. And, according to many
authorities buying holy books is a fulfillment of the obligation of writing a
A woman was walking her young stroller aged son. They passed by a building
which she pointed to.
library", she said, "We'll go there sometime".
What's a library? he asked.
place where you borrow books", she explained.
books? You mean buy books," her
son replied, confused.
no", she assured him, "you go there and take the books out to read
and then bring them back when you're finished". He looked at her,
confused, and she was at a loss, wondering how to successfully explain this.
After a moment's pause she said, "Like DVDs.”.
he immediately replied, "That sounds nice, let's go one day".
Karen G. R. Roekard writes in
her essay The Evolution of the Passover Haggadah, “If a
measure of Jewish affection for a book were to rest with the number of versions
there are of it, then clearly the Passover Haggadah is the
most popular Jewish book of all time. In the 16th century there were approximately 25 printed versions.
This figure rose to 37 in the 17th century
and then jumped to 230 versions in the 18th century. In the 19th century the numbers rose by another 1250 and estimates
for the 20th century
are that there are now over 3000 versions of the haggadah.”
[(Extra Credit Question) Can you name the Jewish
book that holds second place for most published versions?]
Main Body: The Haggadah
Kadesh U’Rechatz, Karpas
Kadesh, U’Rechatz, Karpas, Yachatz, Maggid,
Rachtzah, Motzi, Matza, Maror, Korech, Shulchan Orech, Tzafun, Barech, Hallel,
parts of the Seder parallel the fifteen steps of the Bet HaMikdash on which the
fifteen songs of ascent from Tehillim were sung. This drives home the point
that the Seder is a process of spiritual ascension. May we be blessed to transform as we progress
through every phase of the Seder.
Rabbi Shlomo Kahn in From
Twilight to Dawn suggests that when we
contemplate kadesh and rechatz (holiness
and the preparation it entails) we should seriously consider the karpas (vegetable).
A vegetable starts out buried and down trodden. In time it evolves into an
attractive food that finds its place at a beautifully set table as part of a mitzvah. These
words can serve to remind us of the development we are all capable of achieving
by making the right efforts in advance.
Kadesh – (QUOTE)
Abraham Twerski's From
Bondage to Freedom) "There are people who approach the royal
Seder table with no advance spiritual preparation. They may think, ‘I don't
really belong here. If anyone knew the real me I certainly wouldn't be
invited.’ Therefore, we begin the Seder with the Kiddush, in which we state ‘Mikadesh
Yisrael,’ that G-d sanctifies each Jew. There is an element of intrinsic
sanctity in every individual. Even though we may not feel worthy and deserving
at this point, we have to take G-d's word for it. Each person is holy,
sanctified, and unique."
(THOUGHT) Rav Kook notes
that this is written as an imperative and in the singular form. Every one of us
is implored to sanctify ourselves. Rav Kook says that there is a specific
focus to this sanctification. The first mitzvah given to the new Jewish
People was to sanctify the new month, that is- to sanctify time. So, Rav Kook
says the sanctification we're to work on at the start of and throughout the
Seder is the sanctification of our time, our lives.
The Torah Temimah stresses that the four cups of wine that we are obligated to
drink at the seder represent not four synonyms for
redemption, but four separate redemptions. Each step along the way formed its
own redemption, leading to the next level. That redemption is a process is an
important life lesson.
Wine is used to represent the four stages of freedom that comprised the process
of redemption because wine represents change. Wine comes about through a
transformation and affects us by changing our state of being.
Q - What is unique about the mitzvah of this kiddush? A – By saying kiddush and
drinking the wine we simultaneously fulfill the mitzvah of drinking one of the
four cups of wine we are obliged to drink on the seder night.
4 CUPS -
(THOUGHT) The Vilna Gaon and others list the 4 redemptions of which the four
cups of wine serve as a reminder: 1. Work was decreased. 2. We were totally
saved from having to work as slaves.3. G-d declared us to be His People. 4. We
were actually taken out of Egypt. (This
fits with the translation of each of the 4 phrases).
In 2005 the comic strip Rhymes With Orange presented the following scene:
In one long frame you see two men sitting at a
bar. One of them has a martini glass in front of him. He turns to the other
guy, who has four glasses of wine before him and asks, "Rough day?"
And the other guy replies, "Nope, Passover."
fact is that you don't fulfill your sacred obligation of drinking the four cups
of wine on the first two nights of Passover if you drink all four in a row. The
four cups must take place in context, sitting in a leaning position, surrounded
by the appropriate words.)
U’Rechatz - Hand washing for eating a wet
vegetable, a halachic hand washing (Pesachim 115a).
(THOUGHT) If we were to stretch ourselves up as high as
we could in the upright position which is unique to man, we would lift our
hands up toward the sky. Thus, hands are the top, starting point, of man. One
reason for hand washing is to accentuate our holiness by according proper
respect to our starting point which everything else follows. If one neglects the
starting point it's a sign of disregard of the whole. This is why the Rabbis
(Sotah 4b) severely chastise one who is neglectful regarding the mitzvah of netilat
yadayim (saying that one who
neglects this mitzvah will be uprooted from the world). On Pesach night, the
night of the formation of the Jewish People, we give particular care to hand
washing, which acknowledges the special respect due the beginning of any
special thing. [MaHaRaL].
(THOUGHT) Some point out that this washing is phrased as a command (Rechatz;
“You must wash”), as opposed to the later washing which is described passively.
Washing at this point is unusual and therefore we need to be instructed to
observe it. The later washing is well known and therefore referred to simply as rachtzah; the washing.
Karpas - Vegetable
dipped in saltwater.
(THOUGHT) The saltwater reminds us of our sweat and tears in Mitzrayim. A
vegetable is eaten in order to cause kids to be interested. We try to evoke
questions from children because if there are no questions there can be no
answers. To increase the curiosity factor it was the custom of Rabbi Pinchas
Teitz to use a banana for karpas!
(He also did this in order to reinforce the fact that the brachah on a banana is borei
pri ha’adamah even though it
grows on a tree, because the tree does not last from year to year).
(HALACHA) Halachic authorities point out to have in mind the maror when saying the brachah on the karpas. Why is this necessary,
given that the maror comes
after we said hamotzi, and
should be covered as part of the meal? The Aruch HaShulchan explains that since
the maror is eaten as the fulfillment of a
specific mitzvah it does not count as a real part of
(THOUGHT) The Best Is Yet To Come
It is customary to save for the afikoman the bigger half of the matzah that is broken in two. The Sfat Emet
says that the piece of matzah that is put away as the afikoman represents the redemption (geulah)
yet to come. The bigger piece is put aside for the end of the Seder because the
Geulah to come will be bigger than the one that we celebrate on Pesach.
Brachot 12b quotes from Yirmiyahu (23:7-8): “Days are coming when people will
no longer swear ‘as G-d lives who brought the children of Israel up from the
land of Egypt,’ but rather, ‘as G-d lives who brought up and brought back the
offspring of the House of Israel from the land of the North and from all the
lands wherein He had dispersed them.’”
According to the Chachomim even though the pasuk in Yirmiyahu
seems to say that Yetziat Mitzrayim will no longer be remembered after kibutz galuyot – the return of the exiles, it
actually means that the future geulah will be so great that it will be the
one we primarily remember, but Yetziat Mitzrayim will still be remembered as
well. This fits with the explanation of the Chachomim that the command to remember Yetziat Mitzrayim “all the days of our life,” includes
an obligation to verbally remember Yetziat
Mitzrayim even in Yemot
HaMashiach; While Mitzrayim will still be recalled, the geulah of moshiach will be the one primarily remembered.
The Gemorah uses Yaakov to prove that when a pasuk states that something will no longer
be said it really means that it will no longer be the primary point mentioned
and not that it won’t be referred to at all. Yaakov is told by Hashem that he
will no longer be known as Yaakov and will from now on be called Yisrael. But
Hashem himself does still use the name Yaakov after this time. (Perhaps this
example of Yaakov/Yisrael is more than just an example, as the names Yaakov and
Yisrael respectively represent the people that went down to and were redeemed
from Mitzrayim and the Jewish People that will ultimately be redeemed.)
The Gemorah gives the example of a man who is on the road and is saved from a
wolf and tells everyone of the miraculous incident. Then he is saved from a
lion, and then a snake. With each new salvation the previous incidents pale in
comparison. Similarly, Bnei Yisrael's future geulah will make Geulat Mitzrayim secondary in
The above cited thoughts fit with the idea that we focus on the bigger half of matzah because the ultimate geulah is what everyone will talk about.
There is a beautiful thought suggested by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach that adds on
to this: Why is the hidden Afikoman brought back specifically by children? This
represents the idea that children will be the ones who bring the ultimate
This connects to Shabbat 119b, which says that "Al tig'u bi'Mshichai"
refers to the learning of young schoolchildren (hevel tinokot shel Beit
Raban). Reish Lakish quotes Rabi Yehudah HaNasi as saying that the world is
maintained only because of the learning of young children. Abayei adds that the
Torah of children is more powerful than the Torah of adults because their
mouths have not yet sinned. Reish Lakish adds that the learning of small
schoolchildren should not be interrupted even to rebuild the Beit HaMikdash.
This can be understood to mean that there is no more potent way to bring the
Geulah than through the merit of children. May that time come speedily in our
(STORY) Rav Elchanon Wassermann hid with from the Nazis
until he was found and murdered. People
who were with him asked, "Why?" "Imagine," Rav Elchanon
told them, "the following:" "Someone has never seen bread, and a
man volunteers to teach him." The teacher picks up a little seed, and the
disciple assumes that this is bread. So he's shocked when the man takes this
"bread" and buries it in the ground. Then, a pretty plant grows and
the man assumes that must be bread. And he's shocked again when the other man
cuts down this "bread". Then the teacher takes the plant and picks
off the kernels. The spectator thinks that the pile of kernels is what's called
bread. But then the other guy throws these pieces in the air and smashes them.
The other fellow is again confused. Then the kernels are ground and mixed with
water and then they're shaped into a mound, which looks pretty nice. Now the
guy figures this is bread.
So he's quite shocked when the other man turns up the oven and throws this
final product of so much work in, to be burnt. As the moments pass, the air
fills with a scent that causes the stranger's mouth to water. He begins to
suspect that something good is on its way. And soon he's eating a fresh slice
of delicious hot bread with butter on it. And he understands."
All that happens along our many years on the road to
redemption are part of the process. Sometimes
it’s hard to understand how everything, including suffering, we’ve experienced
is part of the positive process. In
the end it will become clear.
"HA LACHMA'ANYA" - This IS the bread of affliction.
(STORY) The Maggid of Dubno addresses this phrase with a moshol: - parable: A poor man
returned home nightly with a sack over his shoulder filled with junk he scavenged
throughout the day. Dressed in rags he brought home barely enough to provide
for his family. One day he found a diamond and he became a rich man. Now he
returned home each evening dressed in a fancy suit and bought his wife and
children the best of everything. Then one day he came home again dressed in
rags. His wife's face fell and his children cried. They were sad until he
explained - "It's one year since we became rich and I'm only dressing this
way to remember. He reached outside the door where he had special gifts for
all. They celebrated on that day for many years to come. Then one day he came
home dressed in rags and his kids wanted to know where the presents were and
how a year had passed so quickly. They were happy until he explained - "It's
not an act, this time I've last the money through a bad investment, we're
poor." So too, the Maggid of Dubno explains why we say this is the bread of affliction instead of
saying this is like the bread of affliction. Until our
ultimate redemption we live incomplete lives. We might not think so and that's
part of the problem, but it is so. The matzah is not just a reminder of afflictions
and redemptions of the past but it serves as a sobering reminder of our
imperfect present and of the redemption still to come.
"KOL DICHVIN YEITEI VEYEICHOL" - Anyone that's
hungry should join us and eat.
(THOUGHT) "On a night when we pray for the ultimate
Redemption, even though we may not be meritorious enough to deserve it, we say,
'Let all who are hungry come,' without exception. If we do not discriminate,
then we can expect that G-d will not be too discriminating with us." -
Rabbi Abraham Twerski
(STORY) The Ba'al Shem Tov would have a special Shalosh - Seudos surrounded by
his closest students. One time a poor looking fellow wandered into Shul at
Shalosh-Seudos time. The Ba'al Shem Tov invited the man in and sat him at the
head table. Later his students asked the Baal Shem Tov why he sat the poor man
at the head table and didn't stop at inviting him in. He told them, "When
I arrive in heaven at judgment time, I'm going to want to sit up front and I'm
afraid I won't deserve it. I hope Hashem will remember my putting this man up
front and that He will seat me up front as well." [Ethics From Sinai, I. Bunim]
MAH NISHTANA - If a person is alone, he asks himself.
(STORY, THOUGHT) - 1981 marked the first visit of Rav Noach Weinberg, Z”TL, the
pioneer of outreach work, to Yeshiva
University for a student
organized "schmooze". One of the things that he said in that
talk was that the Mishnah in Avot which states, "Know what to answer"
has a dual meaning. On one level it simply means to know how to answer the
other. But on a deeper level it means know how to answer the questioner inside
"HAD NOT THE HOLY ONE BLESSED BE HE TAKEN OUR FATHERS OUT FROMEGYPT, THEN
WE, OUR CHILDREN, AND OUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN WOULD HAVE REMAINED ENSLAVED TO
PAR'OH IN EGYPT."
(THOUGHT) How do we know that if G-d hadn't taken us out
that we wouldn't have freed ourselves eventually? The reason we never would
have become free is because we didn't aspire to be free. Before G-d freed us
from Egypt He freed us from our own self inflicted slavery of complacency. We
felt so stuck that we didn't want to even bother trying to extricate ourselves
because we felt that all we had in Egypt was all we'd ever have. The lesson for
us is to look and see if our lives are less than we want them to be. As Rabbi
Twerski puts it, the question we need to ask ourselves is, "Is it possible
that I may be in a rut, but similar to my enslaved ancestors, fail to recognize
it?" We would be well served if we took this Pesach as a time to answer
this question and try to free ourselves from the myriad of things that enslave
Mitzrayim can be seen as a metaphor for all that enslaves us. (The word can be
read as metzarim, meaning straights).
We need to c all out to G-d from our own personal Mitzrayim. This is what Dovid HaMelech did, “ Min hameitzar karatiKah – From the dire straits I called to
G-d.” Had G-d not given us a hand and pulled us out of Mitzrayim, we would
today be doomed by having stayed with animal comfort over choosing Divine
(STORY) A man who had recently died appears to his friend
in a dream. The friend asks him what he does all day. He says, "I eat
whenever I want, and I sleep whenever I want, and I fulfill my every desire
whenever I want." His friend says, "That's great! Who’d have guessed
that you'd go to heaven!" He replies, "I'm not in heaven. I've been
reincarnated; I’m a cow in Nebraska!" Our true
joy is not to be found in fulfillment of animal passions, rather in what makes
us human. What makes us uniquely human is anything we do that is included in
our ability to work for and achieve the greatest pleasure possible, that of
closeness to G-d.
"THE MORE ONE SPEAKS OF YETZIAT MITZRAYIM, THE MORE PRAISEWORTHY HE
(THOUGHT) Why is the
narration of Yitziat Mitzrayim so important today If the fact is that we are
presently eating "bread of affliction" because the independence we
acquired didn't last,? The answer to this question is that the connection with
G-d that we established by rejecting the pagan beliefs of Egypt and
accepting the Torah remains with us. The praiseworthiness of dwelling on this
story is predicated upon the fact that appreciating the greatness of the exodus
reflects our valuing spirituality over materialism.
(SEQUEL STORY) Even though the man lost his
wealth, he continued (as best as he could) to celebrate the day on which he had
once become rich. His family asked him why he kept up this practice and he
replied that while the money was gone the knowledge that he gained from the
experience remained. So too, we are again in exile, but we remember the lessons
we learned when we were freed and we feel hope based on our past redemption.
I think that knowing that
there are others that are different yet similar to you who have their varieties
of stuff too is a big part of our mission in life.
This may sound like a stretch, but I think that the idea of seeing ourselves as
i we went out of Egypt
and the whole Seder and Pesach experience relates to this calling.
The Rambam writes that we
need to discuss what happened (irah) and what ws (hayah). Rav Noach
Weinberg's he'orah on this was that one is just the surface facts of what
happened (ira) and the other is the details of the inner experience, what
was it like (hayah)?
With everyone we meet we need to go through these two levels- to see the
surface and to see below it.
This connects with the concept of there being an eternal Jewish People.
We are part of a whole? But how so, if not by getting one another.
THE FOUR SONS
(THOUGHT) Why, when
speaking of the four sons, does the Haggadah say the Torah speaks of four sons,
and then says, echad X, echad Y, (one is X, one is Y), etc? When the mishnah
says there are a certain number of things - for example, four types of damages,
it doesn't say that one is this and one is that, it simply lists the four
categories. So what is the meaning here behind this repeatedly added word - echad/one
- that precedes each kind of son.
The idea here is
that every type of person stands as one, all their own. When addressing someone you need to remember
that they are a unique individual, one person is insightful, one has a lively
wild side, one is shy, one is verbally challenged. None of them are invalid or undeserving of
an answers to their questions. They may
not be like you, they may not jive with your particular taste, but they are
one, like the different other ones around them, like you who are not them. This
is the point of prefacing each personality portrayed here with the word
Sibling rivalry is
often on full display at the Seder table. A big family gathering like this is a
time when tensions often run high. It's
tempting to be pulled more toward certain kids over others when each is vying
for attention in a what can be a chaotic setting. It's easier to focus on
certain types of kids one on one. This
is a reminder not to let anyone get lost in the crowd. When presented with group
dynamic remember that each person is a singular one. (Rabbi Nachman Cohen, The
(THOUGHT) You might expect that on this night
which marks the establishment of a bond between G-d and the Jewish People we
would focus exclusively on the relationship between G-d and us. The Seder
includes a surprisingly heavy focus on our relationship with other Jews. The
four sons represent all kinds of Jews with all sorts of attitudes. We want them
all at the Seder. These are the people that we invited and embrace, without
checking IDs. As we commemorate our beginning as a People we immediately adapt
a dual focus: exerting energy not only on our relationship with Hashem, but
also working hard on reaching out to our fellow Jews. [Lubavitcher Rebbe]
(THOUGHT) It has been suggested that the four sons
parallel four generations of American Jewish life. The Chacham represents the
old school piety of generation of the forties and fifties. The Rashah is
strikingly similar to the rebellious sons of The fifties and sixties who
rejected their father’s Judaism with the rhetorical question “what is all this
ritual of yours?” The sixties eased into the disinterested, isolated seventies,
the “tam” generation. And then there’s the oblivious generation that
doesn’t know how to ask. Rabbi Shlomo Riskin adds that today there is the fifth
son who sadly does not attend the Seder at all.
"KNOCK OUT HIS SHIN"
(THOUGHT) Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach quotes a Belzer tradition that interprets this
line in a homiletic vein: The advice given as to how to respond to the rashah is to knock out his teeth. The
Hebrew word used to mean his teeth is shinav, which can be interpreted to mean
"his Hebrew letter shin. The lettershin’s three prongs
represent the three pillars of the Jewish nation: Avraham, Yitzchak, and
Yaakov. Every day in our prayers we beseech G-d while referencing the merit of
our forefathers. We do not only mean to remind G-d of their goodness, but we
are reminding Him and ourselves that the attributes of our forefathers are our
values. Their essence lives inside us. A father is instructed to shake the
three pronged values of our ancestors, the traits of Torah, Avodah, and Gemilut
Chasadim out from within even the child that’s called "wicked."
"IN THE BEGINNING OUR ANCESTORS WERE IDOL WORSHIPPERS"
(STORY) Two men were having a debate, one being secular, and the other being a
traditional, observant Jew. The former berated the latter calling him old
fashioned, and questioning why he adhered to ritualistic Judaism. The "frum"Jew responded
that in fact his friend was the one who was old fashioned, citing this line
from the Haggadah. It says here, the Jews worshipped foreign values –avodah
zarah - in the past, and only
now in "modern times" did G-d bring us close to His service.
This is something worth thinking about at the Seder: What
is Avoda Zara? Are we guilty of it today? Who is modern and who is old
"EISAV INHERITED HAR SEI'IR, BUT YA'AKOV AND HIS DESCENDANTS WENT DOWN TO
(THOUGHT) Why does the Haggadah include the fact that Eisav inherited Har
Sei'ir? If it's going to be so detailed, why not include Yishmael rather than
going from Terach (the forefather idol worshipper mentioned above) to Avraham,
then mentioning only Yitzchak, and then specifying both Eisav and Yaakov as
Avraham's sons? The Brisker Rav answered this question by citing the pasuk in which Hashem tells Avraham that his
genealogy, his nation, will be through Yitzchak ("Ki beYitzchak yikra
lecha zera"). G-d did not, however, specify to Yitzchak which of his
sons would be the progenitor of this chosen nation. But, He gave him a sign:
The sign was that the son that was the father of the nation would be exiled
into a strange land and suffer there for some time. So, the fact that Eisav
settled peacefully into his inheritance, while Yaakov and his children went to
Mitzrayim and spent years of servitude there is quite significant. This detail
provides proof that Yaakov and not Eisav's family are the chosen nation
promised to Avraham.
(THOUGHT) Unlike Edom
(Eisav) whose name betrays his true nature, Lavan's name paints a deceptively
pure, white picture of an evil man. While the Haggadah describes Lavan as
wanting to totally destroy the Jewish People, the Torah is lacking in any overt
reference to such a desire. And that's the point. We as a nation (as well as we
as individuals) have enemies that dress in white, feigning diplomacy and
niceties. On the other hand, we have enemies like Eisav, who come openly
wanting blood. We must be on the look out for enemies of all types. As the
Chovot HaLevavot writes, in regard to some people, our attitude needs to be
“respect but suspect" (chabdeihu
(THOUGHT) The one line here that seems to receive the most attention, because
it doesn't seem to make sense, is –
IF HE WOULD HAVE BROUGHT US TO HAR SINAI AND NOT GIVEN US
THE TORAH IT WOULD HAVE BEEN ENOUGH
(THOUGHTS) Why would being brought to the mountain and
then not receiving the Torah have been worth anything?
One answer to this question is that the aura of the shechina would have affected us positively, and
that itself would have provided sufficient reason for being brought to the mountain of Sinai.
Another answer is that the Jews, for were unified (Ke’ish echad be’lev
echad), and that is something amazing that would have made the trip to
A unique and deep (and also dangerously easily
misunderstood) answer to this question is that what we're saying is that if G-d
would have brought us to Har Sinai but not given us the Torah it would have been
enough. The point is that we're here thanking G-d for placing the Torah under
our auspices, rather than giving it to us to obey, but maintaining it Himself.
(STORY) One Amora was disagreeing with several others. He was sure that his
view made sense, but couldn't convince the others. Finally, he used signs to
prove he was right (first a tree tilted, then a stream flowed backwards, then
the walls caved in). The Rabbis were unimpressed. So, he asked for a voice to
resound from Heaven announcing he was right. It happened. But the Rabbis
insisted that "It is not in heaven" (Lo bashamayim hee) and
they did not accept his view. The end of the story is that G-d was very pleased
with how all this went.
(The modern, humorous version of this is: Three rabbis were arguing against
another rabbi. The one Rabbi gets G-d to announce that He agrees with him. The other Rabbis
remain unfazed. "Fine," they say, "Now, it's three against
Another point of note in this song is the fact that it goes way past the
leaving of Egypt all the way up until the building of
the Beit HaMikdash in Yerushalayim. This indicates the strong connection
between leaving Egypt and
not only the receiving of the Torah, but the culminating event of the Temple’s
construction and use.
RABAN GAMLIEL SAYS THAT ANY ONE THAT DOESN'T MENTION THREE THINGS DOES NOT
FULFIL HIS OBLIGATION
Rav Yitzchak Mirsky says that the reason why the Rabbi’s
considered having us start telling the story of Yetziat Mitzrayim on the day of the fourteenth is
because that’s when the Korban
Pesach was slaughtered. That
preparation made the statement that we were rejecting the false gods of Egypt. There are many such symbolic acts
included in the details surrounding the Korban
Pesach: We are told to pull
the animal towards us, which Chazal say hints to the idea that we need to pull
ourselves away from the god of Egypt. Also we barbequed it, so that the
smell filled the land. There were
many separate sacrifices prepared and eaten, not one symbolic one for the
nation. And we ate the quality
parts of the best sheep, and couldn’t tell the Egyptians we were only taking
the bad ones.
Rav Noach Weinberg points out that G-d did all the work
when it came to getting us out of Egypt. The one thing we had to do
was repudiate their values (by publicly displaying lamb blood as a signal to
G-d to come and save us).
If we want to speed up the redemption still to come, and
want to insure our inclusion in it, we must be brave enough to clearly and
openly signal to G-d that we reject alien values of today's culture.
(THOUGHT) The Midrash says that when G-d passed over our homes, two bloods
intermingled: the blood of Mila and the blood of Korban Pesach. Mila takes
place at the start of life, when a person is basically all future. Korban
Pesach is a mitzvah that was facilitated by the head of the household, the
family's patriarch, and this means it comes after time, when a person already
has a past that has led him to the achievement of the place that he presently
calls his own life. A major challenge we constantly face, and a challenge
represented by the mixing of the blood of these 2 mitzvot, is to combine the
freshness of youth that focuses us on the future together with the experienced
years of middle age and beyond. [Lubavitcher Rebbe]
MATZAH - Conventional Torah wisdom has it that chametz represents an over emphasis on our
ego, while matzah represents humble subservience to G-d.
The only letter which is different in the Hebrew word chameitz and the Hebrew word matzah reflects the difference between
what chameitz and matzah each represent. The chet of chametz is self contained, tightly sealed,
representing an attitude of "I can do it all myself". The heh of matzah represents an opening. Like a pressure
cooker's escape valve that protects it from exploding, the human psyche needs
to have an opening, a portal in order to survive and thrive. Through that
opening we take in G-d and rise above our physical selves.
(THOUGHT) Matzah reminds us that G-d took us out of Mitzrayim quickly.
Tradition has it that we were on the forty-ninth level of impurity and had we
fallen to the fiftieth level of impurity we would have become irredeemable. So
G-d had to take us out quickly, before it was too late. But the question is
that G-d did not truly "have to" take us out quickly. Unlike human
beings, G-d does not procrastinate. It would seem that He could have taken us
out before we fell so low. The real reason why he took us out when we'd already
fallen to level forty-nine is that the falling was a necessary preparation for
the redemption.[MaHaRaL as cited in Hegyonei Halacha]
(STORY- MOSHOL) What happens inside a chicken's egg is a process of
putrification. Just when it is about to pass the point of no return - the chic
emerges from the egg. If you were to break it open early - the chick would not
live. If you were to seal the egg so that the chick couldn't break out at the
right moment, the chick would die. Similarly, galut is part of the redemption process. The
falling low in Mitzrayim was necessary for the redemption to follow. This is
important to remember today. The deterioration and suffering that we see and
feel is all a necessary part of the process of redemption presently taking
Rachzah – The traditional washing before eating bread or matzah.
Motzi – The traditional blessing before eating bread or matzah.
MAROR– The fulfillment of the mitzah of eating
matzah on this night.
(THOUGHT) G-d told Avraham that his descendants' slavery would last for four
hundred years. Yet, we were released after two hundred and ten years. The
reason most often given for this is that two hundred and ten very difficult
years of concentrated slavery served as the equivalent of four hundred years of
average intensity slavery. The Vilna Gaon points out that the musical notes
under the words in the Torah - "And they made their lives bitter" (vayimoreru
chayeihem) are the notes called KADMA VE'A ZLA which means to precede and
to go, in other words to go earlier. The “trup” substantiates the theory that the
intense bitter slavery was cause for an early redemption. May it be G-d's will
to hasten our redemption again due to terrible suffering we endured in the
Holocaust. .[The Vilna Gaon as cited and embellished upon by R Shlomo Kahn in From
Twilight to Dawn]
(QUOTE) "May we not hopefully assume that the unprecedented holocaust of
Nazi Germany led to a hastening of the messianic redemption in the
establishment of the State of Israel?" - Rabbi Shlomo Kahn
IN EVERY GENERATION A PERSON MUST SEE HIMSELF AS THOUGH HE WENT OUT OF EGYPT
(THOUGHT) Can we possibly imagine that we left Egypt? Many commentators suggest that this is
the most challenging of all the mitzvot of the seder night.
Rabbi Mayer Twersky explains that Jewish holidays do not
simply commemorate historical events. The theme of the day precedes the
holiday. This idea helps explain the obligation that each of us has to view our
self as if we went out of Mitzrayim. It is because of the energy of the day,
which was present even before The Exodus that we can be expected to tap into
the mood of the day and feel like we left Mitzrayim.
There are two aspects to the Jewish people: Each of us
has a potential role to fulfill both as an individual and as part of a nation.
This is symbolized by the 2 images that G-d projects to Avraham that his
descendants will resemble: sand and stars. Though both are myriad in number,
the difference between these two entities is that grains of sand all mesh
together, while stars can be individually distinguished.
On this night when we focus on our creation as a nation, we run the risk of
forgetting our value as individuals. We must never lose sight of G-d's singular
love and concern for each one of us. Yitziat Mitzrayim was not only a communal
experience, but something that every Jew at the time went through. We owe it to
ourselves and to G-d to recognize today that each of us have our own Mitzrayim
to overcome, and that G-d is with each of us - carrying us out of our
Mitzrayim. G-d loves each of us.
The Gemorah explains that Purim is celebrated in the second Adar during a leap
year: so that the redemption of Purim connects to the redemption of Pesach. I
believe that the true meaning of this is that Pesach is about an open,
spectacular, communal miracle, while Purim more overtly serves to remind us of
G-d's involvement in each of our individual lives. Purim should be kept nearby
to help us not miss the point of Pesach - that our lives are collections of
Regarding what other holiday is there a guide book to walk us through the
miracle? Regarding what other holiday is there a multiple choice list of how to
explain it to different types of Jews? Regarding
what other holiday to we have to go through a list of questions and answers
about the day, even if we sit alone? Regarding what other holiday are we
addressed as individuals and told, if any one Jew neglects to mention the major
themes of this miracle, then he or she does not get credit for the celebration.
All this substantiates the idea that we all have a personal lesson, our own
specific work to accomplish on this night.
Behind this unique obligation of feeling like we
ourselves were taken out of Egypt
is a mandate to always remember how much G-d loves us. We repeat this often in our prayers
and yet we sometimes forget the “abundant love G-d has for us (“Ahava rabbah
[Rabbi Neil Fleischmann]
(STORY) A man sees all the scenes of his life flash before his eyes. In each
scene he sees 2 sets of footsteps, one clearly is G-d's and the other is his
own. However, when he sees the most difficult scenes of his life, there is only
one set of footsteps. He feels that G-d abandoned him when he needed Him most.
He asks G-d for the explanation and G-d tells him, "During the hardest
times in your life, I was carrying you"
(STORY) A girl that went through 12 years of Jewish schooling, later left
Judaism and adapted Christianity. One day she met a rabbi from her past, and he
asked her what had attracted her to Christianity. She told him that at a hard
time in her life she was approached by a Christian missionary in a bus station.
The missionary told her, "G-d loves you." She told the Rabbi the
following tragically sad words: "Despite all my years of Jewish education
and Jewish upbringing that was the first time that I was ever told that G-d
MORE ON KOREICH - Rav Kook says that the idea of Hillel's putting the Matza and
maror together is that we don't simply recognize exile and redemption and
separate entities. Suffering and freedom and parts of the same whole, there is
no one without the other. by putting the two together we represent how
they can each only be fully accepted and understood when taken together. (All
Rav Kook ideas on Hagaddah are from Light of Redemption, By Gideon Weitzman,
based on the writings of Rav Kook.)
EGGS - After a long wait for real food, Jews around the world eat too many hard
(THOUGHTS) An egg is the only thing that's born, and then
reborn. Similar to the chick, The Jewish People were taken out of Egypt, but then
we were re-redeemed when we received the Torah. [Hegyonei Halacha]
Unlike other foods, an egg becomes harder the more it is cooked. So too, the
Jewish People survive and thrive even after continuous persecution.
An egg is a reminder of the circle of life and thus of
mourning. It is an indication of the deep connection between the redemption
from Egypt and the life we
were granted in Israel.
On this night we look toward the ultimate redemption being granted to us
speedily in our time.
Rav Kook says that it's not enough to not be enslaved in
order to be free. Freedom means enjoying life within the proper context.
that's why the Seder is not simply a prayer or a ritual for the Synagogue
or home. The centerpiece of the Seder is an aesthetically pleasing lavish
meal, celebrating our holy freedom.
Enjoy Your Meal
Nirtzah - Leshanah Habaah BeYerushalayim HaBenuyah
as we celebrate our redemption from Egypt we recognize
that we are still in exile today. We acknowledged this at the start of the seder when we
pointed to the matzah and said, in
present tense, "This is the bread of affliction." We did not simply
say that this is a reminder of the slavery of Egypt, we rather use to matzah as a symbol
of our unredeemed state, which we are presently living in as we await complete
Dayeinu we don't end the song until we mention being taken to Eretz Yisrael and
having the Beit HaMikdash. The geulah was not merely about leaving Egypt but was the
start of a process, which is not complete until we are free in out own land, in
its entire splendor. This is a pinnacle we reached, but sadly lost.
at the very end of the seder we say "leshanah
haba'ah be’Yeryshalayim” - next year in Jerusalem." Once again, while we
celebrate Yetziat Mitzrayim, we acknowledge that we don't have the complete
redemption we hope for. We yearn to have a rebuilt Beit HaMikdach by this time
next year and we pray for all the clarity and holiness that the time of
Mashiach will bring. We sing with joy, hope, and even confidence that next year
we will be in Yerushalayim.
Gemorah in Ta'anit says that anyone who mourns for Yerushalayim will merit
seeing its joy. The Gemorah speaks in the present tense, as if someone who
mourns for Jerusalem
is right now witnessing the joy of the rebuilt city. The Vilna Gaon explains
that - as Rashi writes about
Yosef and why Yaakov could not stop missing him - a dead person is forgotten,
but a person who is still alive cannot be forgotten. When we mourn for
Yerushalayim we testify that the city and all she represents is not dead. As
long as people are able to continue mourning for Yerushalayim it stays alive. This is why
the Gemorah says one who mourns for Jerusalem
is already rejoicing. We celebrate that Jerusalem
is still in our hearts. This
explains why, even though we always have some sadness over not yet having a
fully rebuilt Yerushalayim, we also are moved to joy by the very mention of the
holy city. We know that
it is not lost forever; we know that Yerushalayim will soon be revived and we
will all eat the Korban Pesach together. Leshanah
There once was a homeless
man who was given a tip by his friend. He was told, "If you go to a
Jewish house on a certain night, you'll get the best meal of your life."
So he goes, expecting the best meal ever, and he is disappointed by what he
finds. on the table is some wine and not much else. they drink one
cup of wine and then it's talk, talk talk for a long time. His stomach is
rumbling, he's starving.
Time goes on and someone
tells him that they're going to have some food. They all take a bit of
parsley and dip it in salt water and eat it- not filling. Then it's more
talk ann more talk, on and on. After a long time he's told that food is coming.
It's a cardboard box filled with a food that looks like more cardboard
and tastes like it too. Then they say there's more food- it's a bitter thing
that makes him cry. Then he's told that they're going to have a sandwich.
He's thinking hot pastrami. But no. it's a sandwich of the
bitter stuff of the cardboard.
He runs out of there,
furious. He goes to his friend and complains, "You lied to me. You tricked
me. You said that I'd have a great meal there and at this house the meal was
terrible- the worst meal i ever had." "When did you leave?" his
friend asked. He says that he left right after the strange sandwich. His
friend says, "You left just a minute too soon. If you would have
stayed they were about to bring out soup and fish and meat and it really would
have been the best meal you ever had."
This, ironically, applies to us. The Jewish People have been through hard
times. And we await the ge'ulah-redemption impatiently. Sometimes
it gets hard and we're ready to give up. But if we just wait a little
longer, the geulah is coming very soon. It will be bigger and better than
Yetziat Mitzrayim. Let's hold on a wait a bit long. And please G-d
we'll all be together in Yerushalayim.
Passover and the Four Songs
By Rabbi Neil Fleischmann
The number four is often associated with Passover. The connection to the number four for many
people is prompted by the famous four questions of the Seder night. Those questions and other examples of the
number four employed that night (four cups, four sons) actually go back to the
Torah itself. When G-d tells Moses that he will save the Jewish People he uses
four different words to represent the four stages of their redemption. Tradition teaches that we are to see
ourselves as if we too are leaving our own Egypt. This means that we need to go through our own
process of being reborn as this season comes around.
This brings to mind an idea of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook about four stages
of being a Jew. Rabbi Kook wrote (in Orot
HaKodesh - The Holy Lights) poetically about four songs that emanate from
inside of a person.
The first level is to sing the song of one’s own soul, which means to
seek and find satisfaction within oneself.
We all need to heed this voice and work on ourselves. Passover and springtime provide an auspicious
time to deal with our own personal Mitzrayim/Meitzarim, our own dire straits,
and to orchestrate our personal exodus from our own individual Egypt. This is symbolized by the deflated matzah
which represents a return to humility and a tempering of our ego on the one
hand a return to spiritual basics and adherence to G-d’s Torah and mitzvot on
the other hand.
Then there is a person who sings a broader song, the song of the nation
of Israel. In general, and in particular at Passover time, this individual
thinks of the Jewish community. At the
Seder and beyond this singer’s thoughts turn to the story of the small family
that became the Jewish people thousands of years ago and lives on today to
joyfully tell of our survival and hope. He or she focuses on the essence of our
people and shares in its highs and lows.
Such a person is reminded at Passover time of the birth and rebirth of
our nation and commits lovingly to the Jewish past, present, and future through
a commitment to G-d and his Torah as it applies to his people.
The third song is for all of humanity. The soul of one who sings this
song expands its sensitivities beyond the borders of its Jewish family and
yearns for the enlightenment and redemption of all mankind. A Jewish person who hears this song sees all
of his or her Torah observance through a broad lens. All of his or her visions and ideals are
directed to and inspired by the totality of humanity. At Passover time such a
person remembers, as G-d has implored us to do, how we suffered in Egypt, and
channels that experience toward being kind and empathic to all who are weak and
Then there is someone who connects with all creatures and all of
existence, and sings their holy song along with them. A person who knows and lives this song is
tuned in not only to G-d’s word, but also to G-d’s world. At Pesach time, the
world blossoms and we recite a special blessing when we witness the miracle of
the first appearance a fruit tree’s buds. As winter, like an exile, fades away,
and spring comes in and redeems there are those who feel it. Such a person’s every word of prayer and
study, every fulfillment of a mitzvah, is synced in to a broad ecology
which includes all of this world and even the world to come.
Just as there is a fifth redemption that goes beyond the other four there
is also a fifth song. There is a person
who houses all of these songs combined into one song with the sound of sweet,
symbiotic symphony. The songs of the
individual soul, of the nation, of humanity, and of the world merge into one
song along with this person at all times. At Passover, when we read The Song of
Songs, we have the chance to start fresh and become a holy song of G-d. May we be so blessed.