Pessach 5766 – Gilayon #442

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(Mishnah Pesahim



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

the mud.

(Pesahim 116a)



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

Songs 8).

 (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)


A joyous holiday to all our

readers and to the entire House of Israel. In the season of our freedom, may we merit to fulfill the verses:

And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, therefore I

command you to do this thing.

Do not abuse the hired laborer, the poor person and the destitute

among your brothers or the stranger who is in your land, in your gates.


In memory of my grandparents,

Laura and Amos Bardea,

of blessed memory.

In Freedom

Amos Bardea

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

spiritual world.

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

with Praise"


[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.

(Shir HaShirim

Rabba 5)


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!

(Isaiah 18:3)

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

Zuta, 2)

Rabbi Yosi

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.

(Yalkut Shimoni,

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)


Abarbanel explains

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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