Pessach 5772 – Gilayon #745
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used to say:
Whoever has not recited these three things on pesach
Has not fulfilled his obligation:
And these are: pesach
(the pascal lamb), matzah
And marror (bitter herbs)
(Mishnah, Pesahim 10:5)
Pesach – Pesach [must
be recited to remind us] that He skipped over the homes of Israel who actually
deserved to be trampled under the heels of the measure of justice as were the
Egyptians, since they, as did the Egyptians, worshipped idolatrously; but
despite this, the Holy One, Blessed Be He, skipped over them.
Matzah – And [we must recite] Matzah because their
dough had insufficient time to leaven (this is the version found in the Rosh); just as they were delivered before the
preordained time, for they were to have remained in Egypt 400 years, but they
were delivered after 210 years, so they were commanded to eat their bread
before it's proper stage.
And Maror – Because "They embittered their lives"
– we praise His blessed name also for the bitterness which our forefathers
suffered, because the severity of the enslavement [was taken into consideration
in calculating completion] of 400 years.
(Tiferet Yisrael/Yahin/ Pesahim 10:5)
And this is to intimate that this is the reason our rabbis, or blessed
memory, termed the blessing 'karpass'[Translator's note: karpas – in modern Hebrew 'celery'
– refers to any of the greens used for dipping in salt water at the seder. The Talmud reads karpas
as an acronym for "He delivered six hundred thousand of the Children of
Israel who worked hard in
–and all the commentators are
puzzled by this. But in accordance with [what we wrote] above, [the name karpas] may hint at the following: Just as in the
Exodus from Egypt, at the beginning of the deliverance Israel had great faith, as
is written: And they did not prepare provisions" and because of this
Scripture praises them highly, as is written "I remember the loving-kindness
of your youth […] following me in the desert, etc," as per Rashi's explanation there. Therefore we continue with this
great faith, for we believe that even this small bit of greens is subject to
God's wonderful providence. And therefore it is [also] a term for fine linen
garments, as is written "Hur, karpas u'techelet" ("White
cotton and blue wool, fine linen and purple wool"), meaning to say that I
belief that everything is in Your hands, and that this tiny bit of greens is as
wonderful a creation as expensive garments called karpas.
(Rabbi Nahman of Breslav: Likutei Halachot, Orah Hayyim – Laws of Washing Hands before the Meal and the
Breaking of the Bread, Halacha 6)
– the agony and the hope
A month ago, following the custom instituted
by Mordecai and Esther after the Jews' victory over their oppressors, we
celebrated our deliverance from the hands of Haman. Despite Purim's
characteristic chaos, the sequence of events marked by that holiday seems so logical as to be unremarkable – catastrophe, victory, and
redemption in one year, commemoration and celebration for future generations.
At the Seder the opposite occurs. On this
night, strangely enough, we participate in a ritual instituted prior to
redemption. The first Seder night occurred in
still slaves. The ritual that was intended to remind us of our exodus from
servitude to freedom via God's powerful hand was observed in the middle of the
night, before the participants knew whether the promise of the Lord, as heard
from Moshe our teacher, would indeed be fulfilled. Logic would dictate that the
first Seder night should be celebrated – as was the first Purim celebration – immediately
after the exodus from
or perhaps a year later, in order to affix this formative event in national
memory and custom.
Rabbi Kolonymus Kalmish Shapira, known as the "Aish Kodesh," after the name
of his most famous work, asked this question in the
the Children of Israel commanded to eat maror
– bitter herbs – on the night of the first Pesach? Explicitly, the purpose
of eating maror is to remind us of our
suffering under Pharaoh. "Prior to their exodus from
they were still in
he pointed out.
The same question may be asked with reference
to matzah. As we learn from the Haggadah, matzah has
double symbolism. It is the bread of poverty, the bread of slaves, and
also the bread of deliverance, the bread baked in the haste of
the Exodus. When the firstborn of
Children of Israel had not yet left their slave quarters. The first ceremony of
eating matzah thus could not have served to
remind them of this event. And they already had in plenty the bread of poverty.
They had been eating it for centuries and there was nothing special in eating
it again on this night.
The "Aish Kodesh," only too familiar with suffering and famine
in the ghetto, found meaning in this apparent absurdity: "But the plain
meaning is that they were commanded to ingest the bitterness of the period, so
that they always remember – even after deliverance – the bitterness and the
yoke of Heaven which they had then accepted upon themselves."
offered a profound insight about the act of remembering. He stressed that in
order to inscribe the memory of the bitter enslavement in the souls of the
Children of Israel for generations, it was necessary that that the generation
eat bitter herbs still in the land of their oppression, while yet slaves. He
offered two reasons:
The first is that the act of eating literally
embodied the cruelty of their slavery – it brought into their bodies a
suffering that had been imposed from the outside. Now part of their physical
beings, they bore their former suffering with them when they left
the maror at each subsequent Seder thus did
not merely evoke a vague memory of long-ago suffering; it became a rehearsal of
the act which transformed the bitterness of slavery into an intimate part of
the Israelites' very being.
In other words, the role of remembering on
Pesach is different from that of remembering on Purim. On both holidays we
are commanded to remember and rejoice in our redemption. But on Pesach we are
also commanded to remember the suffering which preceded the deliverance.
If on Purim we expunge the very name of Haman, on Seder night we incorporate
the affliction into our bodies and souls. The Seder rite does not just remind
us that God delivered us from
It also reminds us that He kept us enslaved for hundreds of hopeless years.
Now for the second reason
proposed by the "Aish Kodesh." The act of eating bitter herbs in
engraved agony upon the souls of slaves on the threshold of deliverance, it
also bound this suffering inseparably to the subsequent salvation of future generations.
It affixed to the Jewish soul a tight tie between suffering and deliverance, so
that the former, difficult as it may be, is not just suffering per se
but also a sign of impending deliverance. Maror,
then, becomes a bitter medicine which prevents total despair.
This year, my family's festival of
deliverance will be mixed with double bitterness, as we eat maror
and also recall last year's Seder, which was the last night we spent together
with our son and brother, Niot. On the night
following the holiday, Niot and three of his friends
drove down to Eilat for two days of diving. Niot was mortally injured in an accident and died on
Shabbat Hol Hamoed.
In retrospect, my evocation of the Aish Kadosh's teaching last Seder
night has taken on cruel irony. In reading his words on the maror
and matzah, I unknowingly prepared my family
for a new bitterness that will, from this year and for all the years to come, be
an inseparable part of how we experience the festival of freedom – always my
favorite holiday. As I write these lines, still in the midst of our family's
first year of mourning, it is still difficult to see deliverance on the horizon.
But the "Aish Kodesh,"
who lost his wife and daughter in the inferno before he too was murdered, planted
the seed of a promise of redemption even in the darkest time.
is a member of Kehillat Yedidya
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.
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
(Tosefta Pesahim 1:1)
Our Rabbis taught: Hametz is checked for by lamp-light on the night of the
fourteenth, in accordance with [the verse] searching his innermost parts
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)
The Holy One blessed be He Suffers Together, So-to-speak,
with Those Who Suffer
And you find that all the while that
enslaved] with them, so-to-speak, for it is said: And they saw the God of
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)
If this had not appeared in Scripture, we would not
be allowed to say it. It is as if
He: "You redeemed Yourself."
(Mekhiltah Bo, 99a)
The Joy of Deliverance does not Cancel Sorrow over
the Loss of Human Life
find joy mentioned three times in connection with the holiday [of Sukkot]: and you shall rejoice in your holiday (Devarim 16:14), and you shall have nothing but joy (Devarim 16:15), 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
that [rejoicing is not mentioned] because Egyptians died during it [during the
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 24:17).
(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.
Some time after that, when Moses had grown up,
he went out to his kinsfolk and witnessed their toil. He saw an Egyptian
beating a Hebrew, one of his kinsmen. He turned this way and that and, seeing
no one about, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. (Shemot 2:11-12).
The four actions taken by Moses tell of his
soul's greatness: it was full of exalted, divine courage. He was incapable of [passively]
witnessing injustice and violence, always rescuing whomever he could: 1) While
living in the royal house, he set out to observe the condition of his Israelite
brothers, 2) He struck the Egyptian who had hit one of his Hebrew brothers 3) He
reprimanded the wicked Hebrew who had hit his neighbor 4) He delivered the
Priest of Midian's seven daughters from the shepherds.
person of character and pure heart will learn from his example to stand in the
breech and save his brothers from their murderous tormentors.
particularly true in those places where our brothers are oppressed and
tormented by the gentiles. However, one should not disregard abuse perpetrated
by one of our own brothers from the House of Israel. Even if the victim is a
gentile, one must stand by him because all injustice is abhorrent to God. From
this we must also learn that even when one lives comfortably, in peace and
security in his own tent, surrounded by wealth and honor, the regime attentive
to his words, such a person must not say to himself, "I am at peace in my
own tent, why should I trouble myself about others, be they my brothers or from
the world at large."
(Rabbi Moshe Kalfon, Darkhei Moshe, Gerba,
Tunis circa 19th cent., as quoted in HaLayla
HaZeh an Israeli Haggadah
edited by Mishael and Noam Tzion)
Nissan They Were Delivered and in Nissan They Are Destined to Be Delivered"
– On the Geula from
goal of the exodus from
was not realized. The mission of "the time of our freedom" took the
form of a synthetic freedom, something which may be a pre-condition for freedom,
but it is not true freedom. The nation which left
did not accept upon itself the
do not recite "the Complete Hallel" on the
festival on which the attempt to realize our freedom failed.
was – and was not! – geula.
It is geula in the sense of "ataruta shamaymit"
– "heavenly awaking" – but is was not geula in the sense of "earthly awakening".
The great difference between geula as a
means and geula as an end can be
seen in the four terms of geula which announce
the great purpose for which the people will be delivered: "And I will
take them out" "And I will save",
I will take them" "I will redeem them… And you will know that I am the
Lord your God." The first four are in the hands of heaven – the last
is in the hands of
The exodus becomes geula only if the one being
saved participates "for the sake of heaven"; liberation is not geula as long as the liberated one's role is only
limited to self-benefit.
four terms of geula without "And you
will know that I am the Lord your God" represent false geula, and false geula
is worse for
than loss of belief in geula.
fall of Yerushalayim and the destruction of the
the decrees of Hadrian against Torah and mitzvoth, did not uproot Judaism – not
even from the hearts of those who had abandoned hope for geula
and anticipated that the seed of Avraham will disappear
Bava Batra 60b). The Shabbtai
Zevi debacle weakened the Judaism of its believers, and
even opened the door to its collapse among the entire Jewish people.
– who has no communication with that which is beyond the curtain – must be
extremely careful about proclaiming that military victory and national-political
success are indicative of atchalta d'geula – the beginning of the geula
("the beginning of the flowering of our geula").
on the Festivals of
and It's Appointed Times)
The Four Sons: Are Changes
and Questions the Result of External Stimuli or of Inner Understanding
Changes should be made on this night so that
the children see and ask and say: "Why is this night different from
all other nights, until he answers them, telling them: This happened, and it
Mishneh Torah, Laws of Hametz
and Matzah 7:3)
In the Torah, the wise man's question relates
to all of the commandments, the wicked man's question relates
specifically to Pesach, the simple person's question regards the
breaking of the firstborn donkey's neck, and the question of he who 'knows
not how to ask' is about matzah. Each
question was asked in its fitting context. For the one 'who knows not how to
ask' cannot ask, because he knows nothing; perforce our obligation is to produce
awareness and to make him deserving [of reward] through telling him the story
of the exodus from Egypt, and therefore the Torah places his question in the
context of matzah, the purpose of which
is to publicize the exodus from Egypt, as per their [our Sages] explication of
the passage "And you shall tell him 'for this' I said only when matzah and maror are
placed before you". And the simple son, who asks of his own volition, asks
only when he detects something unusual. Therefore the Torah places his
question in the context of the firstborn donkey, where he sees something
inconsistent with plain logic and common sense – the breaking of the donkey's
neck for no obvious reason is unusual – and he asks "what is this
about?" Therefore we effect a change on Pesach night so that the child, who
is simple, will ask. And that which is written "And should your son ask
you etc." is not specifically about the breaking of the firstborn donkey's
neck alone; the Torah wants to tell us that when your son detects change
caused by the Pesach ritual – and matzah and maror, like the breaking of the donkey's neck, is a change –
then he will ask "What is this, etc." "and
you will answer him etc." But the wise son needs no change to
stimulate questions. Therefore the Torah has him ask with regard to all the
commandments, because the wise son asks about every commandment. He
wants to understand why the Lord gave this commandment. Had the Torah placed
his question with regard to matzah and maror, his question would have been about this particular
commandment which he sees as something different – and this is not
characteristic of a wise person's question, he does not question change.
on the Pesach Haggadah of the MaHaRaL
of Prague, p. 67)
with Denigration and Finishes with Praise"
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.
Yisrael page 9a)
This 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.
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