Pessach 5766 – Gilayon #442
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THEY BROUGHT MATZAH AND
HAZERET AND HAROSET AND TWO COOKED DISHES BEFORE HIM, EVEN THOUGH
THERE IS NO COMMANDMENT REGARDING HAROSET. R. ELIEZER SAID IN THE NAME
OF R. ZADOK: IT IS A COMMANDMENT.
Even though there is no commandment regarding haroset
– and if there is no commandment, why is it brought?
Ami said: Because of worms in the vegetables…
Eliezer said in the name of R. Zadok:
It is a commandment.
is it commanded? R. Levi says: In remembrance of the apple tree. R. Yohanan says: In remembrance of the mud. Abayeiy said: For that reason, it must be made tart and
Tart – in remembrance of the apple, and thick – in remembrance of
remembrance of the apple tree – that they would give birth there without grief,
so that the Egyptians would not find them out, for it is written: you
aroused me under the apple tree (Song of
(Rashi Pesahim ad loc)
must be made tart and thick – and the Jerusalem Talmud says: some make a commemoration
of the [plague of] blood, and therefore it is called "dipped in drink"…And
in the responsa of the Geonim
it is explained that haroset should be made
from fruit, which is similar to the [way that] Community of Israel [is spoken
of] in the Song of Songs: you aroused me under the apple tree, like a
pomegranate split open, the green figs form on the fig tree, I
said, "Let me climb up the date-palm", to the nut-garden,
and shekadim (almonds) – because the holy One
blessed be He worked diligently [shaked] to
bring the end [of servitude in Egypt].
(Tosafot on Pesahim 116a)
In memory of my grandparents,
Laura and Amos Bardea,
of blessed memory.
The festival of Freedom
– also known as the Festival of Spring – marks the events preceding the
reception of the Torah. The exodus to material and spiritual freedom is a
necessary condition for the acceptance of the yoke of Torah. Besides the outer
level of national liberation from external control and the proclamation of freedom,
there is also a deeper spiritual level at play. This level finds expression in
the exodus from Egypt's psychological world, from Egyptian culture, from the
ethos of Egyptian society, and from its world of values and concepts. An even
deeper level is that of liberation from the straits [metzarim,
a play on Mitzrayim, the Hebrew word for
Egypt], from the world of limited existence, from a narrow and limited reality,
one which is finite and fathomable. Liberation from Egypt into the desert, into
an abandoned place that lacks any ruler or sovereignty allows one to trade the
yoke of reality for the yoke of something beyond, to take upon oneself the yoke
of the unlimitedness and inconceivability of perfect
existence. Essentially, this is the demand for liberation from universal human,
social, ethical, and political values, from everything that springs from a
limited world, i.e., from material and social reality, while these very values
are re-established as part of the yoke of Torah, which is the acceptance of the
Kingdom of Heaven, the kingdom of infinite, perfect, eternal, and inconceivable
existence. The divine covenant develops and arises from anarchism and nihilism.
Serving as a container, the nation must clear out its old content to make way
for the new. The nation's liberation from slavery and its being emptied of the
Egyptian ethos is the first step towards acceptance of the new yoke. The
process is analogous to the first step taken by the father of the nation when
he received the call, Go from your land, from your
birthplace and from your father's house… First comes the exit from the
wicked culture, from the cultural environment that sets one's character traits and
personality via processes of socialization, education, opinion formation, and the
building of beliefs and world-views, since "man is the pattern of his
homeland's landscape." It was not for naught that God did not show Abraham
the land of his destination until he first stood the test of loosing his earlier
As I have said, the
construction of the believer's spiritual world as a way of founding a nation
that stands before God to worship Him is a two-stage process, involving removal
and rebuilding. The process is analogous to that of repentance, in which
confession of sin precedes the resolution to avoid it in the future. A midrash quoted by Rashi in connection to the story of Joseph and his brothers
alludes to this principle. When the brothers lower
Joseph into the pit, Scripture tells us that the pit was empty, it contained
no water (Bereishit
37:24). Noting the repetitiousness of the statement that the pit was
both empty and contained no water, the midrash teaches that, "Did I not know that it
contained no water? What is to be learned from the phrase contained no water?
That there was no water in it, but there were snakes and scorpions in it." Aside from the midrash's understanding of the
natural world, it also teaches something of great importance regarding humans
and society. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, so it is also in man's psychological
and spiritual life and in societal existence; no vacuum can survive and every
empty space is filled. Either it contains water or it
contains snakes and scorpions; each must be removed to make room for the other.
Pesah marks the removal of the snakes and scorpions,
while their replacement with water is marked by the holiday of the Giving of
the Torah, and each is dependent upon the other. Abandonment of sin is the true
human courage in which a person works on his character traits – "Who is
courageous? He who conquers his own [evil] inclination."
It is more difficult than making a resolution for the future. To the same
extent, the exodus from Egypt in its deep spiritual sense is more difficult
than accepting the yoke of the Torah and the commandments. It was difficult – almost
impossible – for the people to shed the psychological elements that they had
absorbed during their stay in Egypt. The People's conduct,
their constant desire to return to Egypt, their need for miracles and wonders,
their complaining, and their constant tendency to idolatry all demonstrate that
the people had not shed the Egyptian ethos they had absorbed in Egypt. This is
also the reason why the people had to stay in the wilderness for forty years
until the entire generation that had left Egypt had died out, leaving only the
new generations that had been inculcated with freedom, the generation that was
allowed to enter the land in order to create a kingdom of priests and a holy
nation upon Israel's soil in the spirit of this freedom.
An entire system of
commandments, including the holiness of the Sabbath and festivals, commemorates
this freedom – "a commemoration of the Exodus from Egypt." Memory is
not an intellectual matter of historical consciousness, but rather something
essential to the commandment being performed here and now. It asserts that
without psychological freedom the commandment lacks religious content. The
acceptance of the yoke of Torah is not a passive matter in which someone places
the yoke on the receiver from the outside. Rather, it is an active matter in
which the receiver creates a container for receiving the religious framework
required by his standing before God. Freedom is at the foundation of religious
action; the performer of a commandment is aware of his free will, of the choice
between good and evil, between fulfillment of the obligation and the offering
of the sacrifice – and its rejection. Since "God exempts coerced acts[from punishment]," notions of "reward and punishment" that are
incompatible with the idea that human action is predetermined may be forwarded
only after the principle of free will is accepted. Only the ability to choose
allows for religious obligation; punishment can be justified only when there is
criminal responsibility. The "deaf, the imbecile and the minor" lack
criminal responsibility because they are unable to choose, making them exempt
from prosecution. The great idea of celebrating bar-mitzvahs in Judaism encapsulates
the principle that only when a person gains the freedom that springs from his natural
ability to choose can he bear religious obligations. A
Jew takes the religious obligations upon himself at the age when he first
becomes a free agent subject to criminal responsibility. As a result, his
parents can no longer be held legally responsible for his actions, and they are
no longer punished for his crimes. This principle entered the general system of
law, making the system's relation to minors different from its relation to
As I have said, freedom
is a fundamental precondition for the acceptance of the yoke of Torah, the yoke
of which it is said, "Do not read [the verse as saying] harut [inscribed] on the tablets, but rather herut [freedom] on the tablets." This
freedom stands at the foundation of democratic government. The procedures for
electing the public's representatives (which we have just seen in action) and
the procedures through which decisions are made by the majority are not
democracy's essence, but rather a corollary of its principles. Freedom is the "soul"
of democracy – that is why political authority derives from the general public
and is not concentrated in some limited group. All the procedures of democratic
rule derive from this, including elections, acceptance of majority decisions,
the separation of powers, and the system of checks and balances between
different authorities. The main point of democracy is the limitation of
governmental authority to the minimum required for the avoidance of anarchy, "If
not for the fear of the sovereign, people would swallow each other alive"
(originally spoken in reference to the evil Roman regime). The Sages often
expressed their distaste for power and sovereignty, which act powerfully to
corrupt one's character: "Love work and hate lordship, and do not become
friendly with the authorities" (Avot 1:10). In his commentary on the Mishnah, the RaMBaM explains that
in connection to this mishnah it was said that "When
a man is appointed [to a powerful position] from below [by mortals], he becomes
wicked from above [becomes wicked in God's eyes]", and they said "Be
careful regarding the authorities – they only draw a person near for their own
benefit – they appears as friends when it suits them but do not stand by a
person's side in his hour of need" (Avot 2:3).
In these days of the
festival of freedom [herut] following the
election [b'hirot] process, we should remember
that the principles of freedom and democracy can only apply when the public
leaders live within the people. Now it is the time to rein them in and limit
their power to the necessary minimum in order for the individual to be able to
partake in his religious efforts and draw near to the lofty and the perfect. This
closeness to the lofty and perfect is a direct result of his total liberation
from slavery to all aspects of tangible reality, "for they are my
servants, and not the servants of servants."
Amos Barde'a is a thinker and scientist.
Hametz is checked for
by lamp-light on the night of the fourteenth. It is unnecessary to check any place
into which hametz is not brought.
(Mishnah Pesahim 1:1)
Hametz is checked
for by lamp-light on the night of the fourteenth – the search is not performed
by sunlight or moonlight, but by lamp
light [because search by lamp is better]. Even though there is no proof-text
for this, there is a hint of it: And at that time I shall search for
Jerusalem with lamps (Zefaniah
1), and it says: God's lamp is
man's soul (Proverbs 20).
(Tosefta Pesahim 1:1)
Rabbis taught: Hametz is checked for by
lamp-light on the night of the fourteenth, in accordance with [the verse] searching
his innermost parts (Proverbs 20).
Another view: God's lamp is man's soul
– R. aha said: The soul reports every single thing that a person does in
secret, in the dark, and in the open. It writes up notebooks for the Holy One
blessed be He recounting what human beings do.
(Yalkut Shimoni Mishlei 20)
Holy One blessed be He Suffers together, so-to-speak, with those who suffer
you find that all the while that Israel was enslaved, the Divine Presence [was
enslaved] with them, so-to-speak, for it is said: And they saw the God of
Israel and beneath his feet was the likeness of a sapphire pavement. And
when they were redeemed what does it say? Like the very sky for purity
and it is said in all their troubles He was troubled. This only tells me
about the community's troubles, where do I learn this regarding the troubles of
the individual? It is learned from the verse: He shall call me Me and I will answer him, I am
with him in his troubles.
(Mekhilta Bo Messekhet De Pas'ha 14)
this had not appeared in Scripture, we would not be allowed to say it. It is as
if Israel told the Holy One blessed be He: "You redeemed Yourself."
(Mekhiltah Bo, 99a)
"Begins with Denigration and Finishes
In[the chapter] Arvei Pesahim
[it is written in reference to] the Haggadah that
it "begins with denigration and finishes with praise." Why does it
begin with denigration? Because praise can only be truly
recognized when contrasted to its opposite.
(The MaHaRaL mi'Prague's Netzah Yisrael page
is the only possible order of creation: first darkness, then light, because the
advantage of light is only recognizable from [contrast to] the darkness, and darkness becomes its throne. Therefore, it
begins with denigration, since denigration is part of praise and is the
preparation for it.
(R. Zadok Ha'Kohen, Dover Tzedek mitzvah assei 1)
I have sworn you, o daughters of Jerusalem,
by gazelles or by the hinds of the field: Do not wake or arouse love until it
of Songs 2:7)
The Oath of Love, Redemption from Egypt and
the Future Redemption
I have sworn you, O daughters of Jerusalem – What shall you tell him? That
I am faint with love. Just as this sufferer awaits
healing, so the generation in Egypt awaits redemption.
I have sworn you, O daughters of Jerusalem…
love – What is this
love? It is Jerusalem; The Holy One, Blessed Be He, said to Israel: You built
the Temple, and it was destroyed; you shall not rebuild until you hear a voice
from heaven, in fulfillment of that which is written When
a flag is raised in the hills, take note; when a ram's horn is blown, give heed!
By gazelles or by hinds of the field – Should you rebel against the kingdoms, your
blood shall be as that of the gazelle and the hind" (Shir Hashirim
bar Hanina said: Why three oaths [why does the phrase
I have sworn you appear three times in the Song of Songs]? One – The
Holy One, Blessed Be He, swore Israel not to ascend the wall; one – He swore
Israel not to rebel against the nations; one – The Holy One, Blessed Be He, swore
the nations not to enslave Israel too much.
Levi said: Why these six oaths [if we count the double phrase Do not wake or
rouse as two oaths in each of the three verses]? Three –
as enumerated above; the others – not to reveal the end, not to force the end,
and not to reveal the secret of intercalation.
Shir Hashirim 2, 981)
Joy of Deliverance does not Cancel Sorrow over the Loss of Human Life
You find joy mentioned three times in
connection with the holiday [of Sukkot]: and you
shall rejoice in your holiday (Devarim
and you shall have nothing but joy (Devarim
and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days (Vayikra 23:40). However, in connection to Pesach, we
do not find even a single mention of rejoicing. Why? You find that judgment is
passed [by God] on the grain crop on Pesach, and no one knows if there will be[grain] this year or not [therefore, people's anxiety interferes with their
joy]. Another opinion [has it] that [rejoicing is not
mentioned] because Egyptians died during it [during the deliverance from
Egypt]. Similarly, you find that we read the Hallel
all seven days of the [Sukkot] festival, but on
Pesach we only read Hallel on the first day and its
night. Why? Because, Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let
your heart be glad when he stumbles (Mishlei
(Yalkut Shimoni 23: 654)
that our custom during the Seder of spilling wine when we recall the plagues of
Egypt is intended to strengthen in our minds the ethical importance of
regretting, even as we celebrate our deliverance, the price paid by other human
beings, even though they were rightfully punished for their evil deeds, in
accordance with the verse, Do not rejoice when your enemy falls.
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