Monday, April 10, 2017

Pesach/Haggadah Insights 5777

Pesach/Haggadah Insights 5777:

Baruch Hashem, we have the tremendous privilege of learning together another year of Pesach and Haggadah insights:  It is my sincere hope that these teachings and stories will help you -- and maybe even your Seder and Pesach as well.  But let us all remember that these are not just nice vorts:  They are timeless messages that need to be taken to heart. (This concept is discussed by many; Rebbe Chaim Miller shlita, based upon the Maggid of Mezeritch zt”l on Torah in Ten, among them).

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Hashem, thank You so much for bringing us to this moment!  And now, with Your Help, we will begin:

א) So, we start with a beautiful thought on essentially one of the big concepts of the Seder itself:  Asks the Maggid of Yerushalayim (HaRav Sholom Schwadron zt”l); why do we specifically need to tell over the story of Pesach to our children (or just overall) while having the Pesach, Matzah and Marror?  

And he answers beautifully that it comes to teach us that when we tell over the Story of the Going out from Egypt and the stuff we do at the Seder while actually doing it -- that will influence our children more.  They won’t just hear all the stuff -- they will see their parents doing it as well. (Quoted in a Shiur on

We tell over the story of Hashem taking us out from Egypt and what things we must do at the Seder -- while doing it ourselves.  Teaching is so very important -- but influence perhaps even more so.

) In Yachatz, we take the middle of the three Matzos, break it in half, and put away the bigger half:  Explains HaRav Avraham Yehuda HaKohen Schwartz zt”l; this symbolizes the fact that we can never say even close to as many praises as Hashem deserves.  No amount of praises can list His Greatness. (From Haggadas Kol Aryeh).  

However, it is relevant to add that whatever praises we praise Hashem with are very important and beloved to Him.

ג) So, before Mah Nishtanah, in old Haggadahs, there were three extra words: ‘Kan haben shoel’ (‘Here the son asks’).  Says Rebbe Asher M’Stolin zt”l; ‘Here’ -- can refer to the Seder:  At the Seder night, it is an auspicious time for every “son” -- i.e. child of Hashem -- to ask their Father their requests and prayers and receive His Bounty. (From Beis Aharon).

ד) Now we have an incredible thought really on Studying Torah:  The Haggadah says ‘Blessed is the Omnipresent, Blessed is He.  Blessed is He Who gave the Torah to His People, Yisroel….. With regard to four sons does the Torah speak….’

Explains HaRav Chaim Soloveitchik zt”l; with the wisdom of the nations of the world, a small child studies something much different from what an older person or wise person does:  

Then they gradually move upwards from there…. However, with Torah, he says, a small child learns the same Torah as someone who is extremely learned!  This is the wonder of the Torah!  

And this is also what it can mean, explains Reb Chaim zt”l, when it says what we quoted above (about Hashem giving us the Torah, and then the Four Sons). (Quoted in Haggadas Beis HaLevi).

ה) Why in the phrases right before speaking of the Four Sons, is the Name used for Hashem ‘HaMakom’ -- the Omnipresent?  

So, HaRav Yoshe Ber Soloveitchik zt”l explains that this is the same Name as is used when we comfort mourners.  It symbolizes when things are tough and it is harder to feel Hashem.   

However, this is also the Name that describes Hashem as the One Who reaches all people and everywhere.  The use of this Name is saying that even when things are tough, He is with us.  

And this is the answer to our question, as he explains:  There are many walks of life; some bad some good (like with the Four Sons):  But Hashem reaches to all people and is with them. (From Haggadas Hararei Kedem).

Hashem is with us all; but the question is; are we with Him?

ו) HaRav Natan Kaziev shlita writes: “The mitzvah of telling the story of the Exodus to our children is unique in that the Torah does not specify in which specific manner it should be done.  Instead, the command for us to pass down this information to every generation is mentioned in the Torah four times, and in four different styles.  The message of the Torah is not for us just to talk about it, but rather, to speak to each person in a manner which is suited to his or her capacity to understand and listen……” (From The Sephardic Haggadah).

ז) So, we know that one of the Four Sons is the Wicked one (Rasha).  And he asks us; “What is this Service to you?” One of the things we tell him is that if he were in Egypt, he wouldn’t have gotten redeemed.  

But says the Be’er Moshe (Rebbe Moshe Yechiel HaLevi Epstein of Ozharov zt”l); he wouldn’t have been redeemed from Egypt -- which was before we got the Torah.  However, now, when we have the Torah, Baruch Hashem, he could rise up to the level that he would be redeemed! (Told over by HaRav Elyakim Rosenblatt shlita on

And we may add that this is alluded to with the fact that the Four Sons are juxtaposed with blessing Hashem for giving us the Torah.

ח) “With regard to the child who doesn’t know to ask (She’aino yodea li’sh’ol), the Haggadah says that “You must open for him” -- i.e. the conversation.  But the feminine form of the word ‘you’ is used (אתּ).  Why?

Explains HaRav Yitzchok Zilberstein shlita; people’s hearts are open; but we need to be able to tell things over properly.  However, sometimes, they close up and don’t want to listen at all (Rachmana Litzlan/may Hashem save us).  

But what you must do, he explains, is to speak softly and tell things over softly.  The feminine language represents softness -- which teaches us that we must speak and teach softly. (From Haggadas Chashukei Chemed).  

ט) Okay; so the Haggadah talks about how people have tried to destroy us, and it says ‘Shelo echad bilvad amad aleinu li’chaloseinu…’ (‘That not one alone rose up against us to destroy us….’):  

The Sadigura Rebbe (Rebbe Avraham Yaakov M’Sadigur zt”l) translates this phrase slightly differently:  “‘It is only because of our lack of oneness that enemies have risen against us’.  Were the Jews joined together in true unity, there would be no possibility for any attack from our foes.” (As quoted in The Chassidic Haggadah).  

This thought is also quoted in the name of Rebbe Shalom Rokeach of Belz zt”l and the Sfas Emes zt”l.  

י) The Haggadah says ‘Vayareiu osanu haMitzrim’ (‘And the Egyptians did bad to us’), and then it quotes the verse in which Paroah wanted to enslave the Jews so that they couldn’t help wage war on them and go up from the land:  Writes HaRav Immanuel Bernstein shlita, based on the Beis HaLevi zt”l: “The phrase that the Haggadah is currently discussing refers to the Egyptians being evil to us, in which case we would have expected the verse cited to be one of the many that describe the evil things that they did to us.  Instead, the Haggadah cites a verse that, if anything, describes their fears of the evil that we might do to them!”

And he writes further: “Additionally, the wordsוירעוּ אתנוּthemselves are actually not so easy to translate in a straightforward manner.  Apparently, they mean to say “they did evil to us”, but the way to say that in Hebrew is ‘וירעוּ לנוּ’!...... If we are to translate the words ‘וירעוּ אתנוּ’ accurately, it will emerge as saying they made us evil.  Is this true, and if so, how?

As Paroah considers his plans for the Jewish People, he knows that in order to achieve his goal, he will need the support of his nation and the understanding of the nations in the region.  To spontaneously single out a group of people for persecution may lead to feelings of unrest among his citizens and neighbors……..

The solution to the problem is: ‘וירעוּ אתנוּ’ -- they made us evil, i.e., they portrayed us as an evil People who were only looking to exploit the weaknesses of the gracious host country in order to take over when the time was right.  Looked at in this way, any countermeasures against this dangerous and subversive people would be no more than those of a faithful monarch defending the interests of his people.” (From Darkness to Destiny:  The Haggadah Experience).  

יא) So, the Haggadah describes how we cried out to Hashem, and He heard our voice.  Says HaRav Yaakov Galinsky zt”l (based on something the Ponovezher Rav zt”l told him): “A Jew who turns to Hashem when he is in trouble shows where his heart really lies:  

That he belongs in the world of Emunah and Tefillah, that he still has a connection to Hashem.  This was the case with the Bnei Yisrael in Egypt.  This was a nation who had sunk to the forty-ninth level of tumah.  They stopped performing bris milah, they worshipped idols, and the Angels couldn’t tell the difference between them and the Egyptians.  But then, in their distress, they cried out to their Creator.” (From V’Higadeta Pesach Haggadah).

יבּ) On the topic of Matzah and Marror, there is a beautiful thought from Rebbe Shlomo of Radomsk zt”l:  He explains that Matzah represents faith in Hashem and belief in Him.  However, Marror is very bitter.  Them together, he explains, shows that we have faith that all the bitter things in life are actually good and for the best.

יג) Now, with Hashem’s Help, we will close off the insights with a beautiful story: ‘Before Pesach, R’ Yisroel [Salanter zt”l] was once unable to be present during the baking of his shmurah matzah, in which he was extremely meticulous.  His disciples, who had undertaken to watch over the baking in his place, asked him for directions.  R’ Yisroel instructed them to be extremely careful not to upset the woman who kneaded the dough and not to rush her, for she was a widow, and to upset her would be a violation of the prohibition against oppressing widows and orphans. “The kashrus of the matzos is not complete,” added R’ Yisroel, “with hidurim in the laws of Pesach alone, but with meticulous observance of the laws of behavior toward other people as well.”’ (From Sparks of Mussar).

Hashem, please send us Eliyahu HaNavi this Pesach, who will bring us back in Teshuva to You!  Please redeem us this year!  It has been a long Gallus, and even though we do not deserve to be redeemed, please redeem us just like You did our fathers and mothers back in Mitzraim.  

A Chag Kasher V’Sameach to all!

L’Shanah HaBaah Bi’Yerushalayim!

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