Pessach 5763 – Gilayon #285
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"ACCORDING TO HIS
INTELLIGENCE, HIS FATHER TEACHES HIM"
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,
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
ARAMEAN ASTRAY MY ANCESTOR"
BETWEEN THE PESSACH IN EGYPT
AND PESSACH FOR ALL GENERATIONS
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."
mitzvah of relating the exodus from Egypt includes two elements:
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
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
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
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
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)
Board: Pinchas Leiser
(Editor), Miriam Fine (Coordinator), Itzhak Frankenthal and Dr. Menachem Klein
Translation: Kadish Goldberg
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