Pessach 5763 – Gilayon #285

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Pesahim 10:4)



Question, and Story

Our Rabbi taught: If his son

is wise, he – the son – asks him. If he is not wise, his wife asks. If not – he

asks himself. Even two

scholars, who are well versed in the laws of Pessach – they ask each other,

"In what way is this night different from all other nights? On all other

night we dip only once, tonight twice…" He begins with shame and

concludes with praise. What is the shame? Rav said: "In the beginning our

forefathers worshipped abominations." Shmuel said: "We were

slaves". Said Rav Nachman to his servant Darrro: "A slave whose

master releases him and gives him silver and gold, what should he say?" He

replied: "He must thank and praise." Said Rav Nachman: "You have

freed us of the obligation of saying "Why is this night different".

He immediately began: "We were slaves, etc."

 (Bavli, P'sahim 116a)


It is a mitzvah to

tell the children even if they do not ask, as is written "And you shall

tell your son". According to the son's understanding, so does

the father teach him. For example, if he is very young or is not very bright,

he says to him: "My son, we were all slaves – like this maid or this

servant – in Egypt, and on this night The Holy One, Blessed Be He freed us and

took us out of Egypt". And if the son is grown and wise, he tells him what

happened to us in Egypt, and of the miracles performed for us by Moshe our

teacher" – all according to the son's comprehension. And he must make changes this night so that the children see and

ask "Why is this night different from all nights" until he answers

them and tells them this is what happened and so it was. What kind of changes

does he make? He distributes roasted kernels and nuts, and takes away the table

before they eat, and they grab the matzoth one from the other, etc. If he has

no son, his wife asks him, and if he has no wife, they ask each other "How

is this night different — even if all were scholars. If he is alone he asks

himself "Why is this night different?"

                 (Rambam, Laws of Chametz and Matzah,

Chap 7)


A Happy Holiday to all our

readers and to all of Israel – May we merit – in this festival of freedom – to

perform that which is written:


you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt. Therefore I

command you to do this thing:


shall not withhold from a hired-hand, an afflicted and needy-one, whether from

your brothers or from your sojourner that is within your land, within your








Shalom Bahbut


the Mishna it is written: "They pour him the second cup, and here the son

asks… He begins with shame and ends with praise, and he expounds from "An

Aramean astray was my father" till the end of the entire parasha."

(P'sahim 116a)


mitzvah of relating the exodus from Egypt includes two elements:


Beginning the

story with shame and finishing with praise.


The reading of the

parasha of the declaration at the offering of the Bikkurim – the

first fruits – and its homiletical exposition.


Talmud and the commentators deal extensively with the first part, and with the

importance of integrating shame with praise – regardless of how we interpret

these two concepts: whether as a physical experience or a spiritual one – or

both together.


the way Chazal chose to fulfill the obligation of "And you shall tell…"

is strange. Instead of using a Biblical source, choosing to read the

Biblical narrative of the bondage and of the exodus as is recorded in the Book

of Shemot, in its entirety or in summary – something which would be definitely

logical and reasonable – they chose to create "a new Hagaddah", by

writing a midrashic commentary on a number of passages which deal with the

exodus from Egypt, but were originally said in a totally different framework, when

bringing the first fruits to the Bet Hamikdash.



did our sages choose an indirect


than a direct – method of fulfilling the mitzvah?

First of all, it should be noted that these passages

actually comprise the original Hagaddah: the bringer of the first fruits

begins his declaration with the word "I declare"… 'hagaddah' – telling – was already

part of the ritual and national life of the Jewish nation, and therefore our

Sages proceeded on the simple and common path, i.e., using a significant

selection which was already widely known by the people, and around this weaving

the story of the exodus from Egypt as engraved upon the memory of generations.

Secondly, the Exodus narrative which appears in the

Book of Shemot, was actually the story of a nation, whereas the Hagaddah, based

on the Bikkurim declaration, is the haggada, the narration of the

individual, the

single person who declares that not only his ancestors, but he

himself has come to the

Land. The story can be transmitted to the coming generations only when it is a personal

experience which becomes

an integral part of the self-consciousness. Every story, especially every story

of freedom and independence, which has not been internalized to the point where

it becomes part of the personal experience, is doomed to oblivion. By selecting those particular passages

to be the leading motif in the Hagaddah, Chazal wished to teach us that only

one who makes the effort to turn 'history' into 'haggadah', only he can

guarantee himself generational continuity that the Torah demands of every Jew.

Only in this way will the Hagaddah of our children – the focus of our Seder

– begin at the same point where our Hagaddah ends. This concept finds

expression in the words "In every generation, one must see himself

as though he had gone out of Egypt."

Third, Chazal inserted into the text of the Hagaddah only the four

passages which describe the bondage, the exodus, and the receiving of the

Torah; they deleted the passage which tells of the entry into the Land: four

expressions of deliverance ("I took out", "I

saved", "I delivered", "I took"),

and not the fifth ("I will bring"). This is intended to

teach us that on Pessach, emphasis is to be placed only on the

exodus from Egypt and on

the primary purpose for the nations leaving Egypt, i.e., physical liberation

through emancipation from Egyptian bondage, and spiritual liberation though

receiving the Torah – the conditions essential to entering the Land. When

Chazal debate the number of cups to be drunk on seder night, they are

actually asking what is the main subject of the Seder eve; their answer

is that the entry into Land and its conquest belongs to different chapter in

the nation's history. This chapter does, indeed, complete the exodus, but is it

doubtful as to whether one may widen the screen on this occasion, thereby

blurring the concepts and the experience; on that night we are to concentrate

only on that day we became a nation.

And finally, we must take into account the words of

Rambam, Laws of Chametz and Matzah, 7:6: "And must begin with shame and

end with praise… this means that he must expound from "An

Aramean astray my ancestor" until completion of the parasha."

Rambam's terminology comes to teach us that the very recitation of the Bikkurim

Declaration and its exposition, are the prerequisite for complete and genuine

fulfillment of the commandment "And you shall tell" (cf.

article by Rav Yigal Sporn: The Reading of Bikkurim on Seder Night, ANTHOLOGY

OF RELIGIOUS ZIONISM, Yerushalayim 5749, pp. 95-101): On the night which

the Jewish people recalls its epos, the days of slavery in Egypt and the

victory over the super-power of ancient times, the exodus from life dependent

upon the favors of others to a life of independence, there exists the danger of

boasting, of "my power and the strength of my hand…", a danger from which man

must free himself, in order to thank God for the miracles God performed on his

behalf. This is the way this mitzvah is explained in the words of the

Rambam (Guide for the Perplexed III, 39):

"But the declaration of Bikkurim… the measure of humility,

for the person who takes

the basket on his shoulders and recognizes the favors of God and his

pleasantness, that man knows that part of the service of God is that he

remember the changes in situations in the world and will remember his days

of distress during times of prosperity."


then, is the experience to which we must devote ourselves on the night of the Seder?

This is the answer of Rabban Gamliel: "Rabban Gamliel said: Whoever has

not said

the following thee things on Pessach has not fulfilled his obligation: Pessach,

Matzah, and marror."


basic meaning of the verb "to say" is that one must understand the

meaning of the main concepts and activities relevant to the Pessach festival

and the observance of its commandments. Its inner significance is that one must

create new worlds in himself and in his society, just as God created heaven and

earth by His word. This is similar to Rosh Hashanah, the day of the world's

birth; Pessach commemorates the day on which the Jewish nation was born, and

therefore every Jew must, in a sense, recreate himself on this day. This takes

place while bonding with that central event in man's history, which became a

basis for all revolutions that occurred in history. (See

Michael Walzer's book, EXODUS AND REVOLUTION).


are the "new heaven and the new earth" which the Jew is asked to

create on this night? Rabban Gamliel answers that we must study three concepts

that are actually three experiences:

Pessach comes to teach us the unique experience

of the Jewish people, a people which continues to exist on the stage of history

despite declines and destruction, in contrast to what happened to nations of

old – a strange phenomenon that does not conform to the rules of history, which

do not permit nations to survive beyong their golden age. Nations which were

much stronger passed out of the world, but God passed over the house of Israel

– this, thanks to His commitment to preserve the Israelite nation through the

miracles which accompany us daily, despite all Israel's faults.


Jewish people survived and did not loose its distinctiveness, in part a direct

result of the fact that it did not abandon its Matzah, did not allow it to go sour; it

preserved its true and original character. Once a year, the Jew must return to

the Torah purity, symbolized by Matzah shemura

Matzah made of wheat

carefully guarded from harvest, shielded from all external influences that are liable to

sour it. Chametz, is eaten throughout the year; it is not inherently negative;

every year the Jewish people offer it up in the two showbreads on Shavuot, the

festival on which the Jewish people received the two tablets of the covenant

and the Torah, which protect against the dangers presented by influence by

other cultures.


of all, to make the picture complete, comes marror which reminds us that both these acts –

God's deliverance of the people, and action taken by man himself in order to

protect the Matzah – exact a heavy price. Preservation of Jewish identity has

always been bound up with the eating of marror, not only that marror

coming from the outside, but also that which comes from within, from those Jews

who, throughout the centuries, gave up their identity, in many ways and on many

levels.. Despite "I took out, I save, I delivered, I took), despite

the fact that it was always the small remnant of Israel which succeeded in

preserving its Matzah, the Jewish people today must cope and find new

ways, not only to survive but also to contain the damage, so that it may return

and renew its days of old.

On Seder night, all the sons, all types,

those distant and those close, sit around the table. Each one can come and find

his place – "all who are hungry, come and eat" – each one can come

and experience the enchanted experience tied to the miracle, which ties and

binds together – as was Hillel's custom – the Pessach and the Matzah, together

with the bitter herbs of all generations.

Rabbi Dr. Shalom Bahbout lectures in physics at the

University of Rome, is Vice-chairman of the Assembly of Italian Rabbis, and

heads the Bet Midrash "Naarei Yeshurun" in Yerushalayim.




Joy on Pessach, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, and Sukkoth – a Human and Ethical


Joy is mentioned thrice on

Sukkoth: "And you shall rejoice on your festival", "And

you shall be, oh so joyful!" and "You shall rejoice

before the Lord your God for seven days", but on Pessach,

joy is not mentioned even once. Why?

We find that on Pessach the grain crop is judged; man does not know whether

there will be grain this year or not, there is no mention of joy.

An alternative explanation: Because

on Pessach, Egyptians died. And

so we find that on all seven days of Sukkoth we read Hallel, but on Pessach we

read the Hallel only on the first day of the festival and on its eve. Why?

Because "If your enemy falls, do not exult". And so we

find that with reference to Shavuot, joy is mentioned only once, as is written,

"Then you shall observe the Feast of Weeks for Lord your God… you

shall rejoice before the Lord your God". Why is joy written

only once? Because [only] the grain has been gathered in. Why is joy not

written twice? Because the fruits of the tree are being judged. But on Rosh

Hashanah joy is not written even once, because souls are standing

in judgment, and a

person is more concerned with his soul than with his possessions. But on

Sukkoth, because the souls have received reprieve on Yom Kippur, as is written,

"For on this day he will grant you atonement," and the

grain and the fruits of the tree have been gathered in, therefore it is written

thrice: "And you shall rejoice on your festival", "And

you shall be, oh so joyful!" and "You shall rejoice before

the Lord your God for seven days".

 (P'sikta D'Rav Kahana [Mandlebaum ed.],

additions to Parasha 2)



Pesach – Our Time of Freedom?


goal ['Our Time of Freedom'] of the exodus from Egypt was not achieved; the

mission of 'Our Time of Freedom' received a semblance of freedom, something

which may perhaps be a primary condition for freedom, but is not yet true

freedom. The people who left Egypt did not accept upon themselves the Kingdom

of God, and therefore we do not recite the complete Hallel on a festival on

which the attempt to realize our freedom fell short. True, we read how, after

the crossing of the Reed Sea, the people: "… trusted in God and in

His servant Moshe", but immediately afterwards the Torah relates how

that trust was only temporary – spontaneous faith born out of being powerfully

impressed by what had happened – but not faith which derives from awareness of

God's divinity. Therefore it did not last even three days; the people call out

to Moshe "Is the Lord present among us or not?"


though this appointed time is a holiday for Israel who was delivered from the

hands of its torturers and freed from the yoke of its oppressors, there is

still no justification for recitation of the 'Complete Hallel'. We have yet to

be redeemed from our enslavement to human nature. This fact teaches us that

primary thanks for redemption is not related to what happens to the Jewish

people in history, but to what the Jewish people do in history. After all, everything that

happens is indifferent because it is an act of God in His world, whether we –

from our perspective – call certain events 'redemptions' and 'deliverances' and

other events 'misfortunes' 'pogroms' or 'holocaust.'


Leibowitz: Discussions on Israel's Festivals, p. 74)




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