Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Haggadah shel Pesach Divrei Torah and Insights 5780



מוזגין כוס ראשון 
Pour the first cup

A man once came to the Rav of Brisk (either the Beis HaLevi zt”l, or his son, HaRav Chaim zt”l), and asked whether one could fulfill the obligation of the Four Cups at the Seder with milk.  

The Rav learned that the question came as a result of lack of funds for wine, so he gave the man a certain sum of money, and he went on his way.  

The Rebbetzin witnessed the interaction, and asked her husband about it. “Why did you give him such a large sum of money?  One needs much less for the adequate amount of wine.” 

The Rav explained his behavior; “From the fact that this man asked me if one can fulfill their obligation with wine for the Four Cups, obviously he is not having meat at the meal.  Therefore, clearly, he was lacking the money for even his basic Yom Tov needs, and so, I gave him a large enough sum to purchase everything he will require.”


Speaking of this, we know from the Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 88:6) that the four cups that we drink at the Seder correspond to the four expressions of redemption that Hashem used regarding us: ‘I will bring you out’, ‘I will save you’, ‘I will redeem you’, and ‘I will take you’.  

Asks the Mordechai {HaRav Mordechai ben Hillel zt”l}; why did the Sages specifically establish for us to have four cups of wine -- why couldn’t we have four of something else?

Explains the Netziv zt”lKlal Yisroel were afflicted, lowly slaves.  How could they suddenly rise up to the exalted status of a Jew, who is worthy to stand at Har Sinai and witness revelations of Hashem?  Obviously, they had to become elevated little by little.  And so is what happened -- Klal Yisroel went up level by level until they were ready to stand at Har Sinai.

Wine changes a person’s expressions and mind [for good, or if too much is drunk, for bad, Chas v’Shalom] like no other comestible.  Therefore, it is the most fitting remembrance of our Geulah.

(HaEimek Davar to Shemos 6:6)


אשר בחר בנו מכל עם. . . וקדשנו במצותיו 
Who has chosen us from every nation. . . and sanctified us with His Mitzvos

Once, after a pogrom, HaRav Baruch Ber Leibowitz zt”l got the whole Yeshiva together to say praises to Hashem for giving us the Torah.  His talmidim asked him, it’s not Shavuos, wouldn't it be better to thank Hashem for being alive after such an experience?  Rav Baruch Ber replied that if it were not for Torah we might also look like those people who made the pogrom. 

(From my Rebbe, HaRav Daniel Yaakov Travis shlit”a
who heard it from HaRav Don Segal shlit”a)


זמן חרותנו 
Time of our freedom

HaRav Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler zt”l explains that when we observe the Festivals that Hashem granted us, we return to their inner essence -- that time of sanctity, which still has an outpouring affect even now.  

HaRav Tzvi Hirsch Broida zt”l would say that time doesn’t travel over a person; a person travels through time.  

Therefore, each and every year, during the Shabbos’ and Festivals, we arrive at that “station” of time, wherein is the bountiful holiness from the original one.

On Pesach, our season of freedom, when we were redeemed from Mitzraim, attaining true freedom is an easier feat, as this time is filled with freedom.  Thus, it is literally, even now, ‘our time of freedom’!

(Michtav Mei’Eliyahu vol. 2, #21)



קדש, ורחץ 
Kadesh, Urchatz

These are the first two sections of the Seder.  It has been noted that, interestingly, רחץ means to wash -- but the extra vav at the beginning, making it ורחץ (and wash), seemingly connects it to Kadesh.  

HaRav Gamliel Rabinowitz shlit”a explains that Kadesh implies doing good -- sanctifying ourselves, while Urchatz would be turning away from evil -- washing ourselves off.  We thus see that in order to properly turn away from evil, one must be sanctifying themselves and doing good also.  The two go together.

(Tiv HaHaggadah)

The Yismach Yisroel of Alexander zt”l elucidates the connection between the two in this manner:  The more one sanctifies and elevates themselves, the more they realize and feel their deficiencies [and thus can fix them!], and how they must “wash themselves” spiritually.

(Haggadas Maayanah shel Torah)



By way of remez:  כרפס has the same Gematria as the acronym ש״ס, which stands for the Six Orders of the Mishnah and Gemara.  And salt-water, which we customarily dip it in1, the Vilna Gaon zt”l writes in his famous Iggeres (letter) is something that makes one more thirsty.  Therefore, the dipping of the כרפס into salt-water hints to us how we must cultivate within ourselves a thirst for more Torah.

(Neiros Pesach)

1 Vinegar also is okay to use.


Here, we break the middle board of Matzah into two pieces, hide away the larger piece, which will be used later as the Afikoman, and keep the smaller piece with us at the table.

This symbolizes that although we are relating and discussing the miracles Hashem did for us, and the kindnesses He did for us when He took us out of Egypt, there is still much more to the story than we are telling over!

(Adapted from Haggadas Kol Aryeh)



כל דכפין ייתי ויכול כל דצריך ייתי ויפסח
All who are hungry, come and eat; all who need, come and celebrate Pesach!

While at Smilovitz, HaRav Betzalel Zeitzik zt”l asked the Chofetz Chaim zt”l to help him plead for Pesach funds (maos chitim) for the poor, contributions for whom had come forth in scanty measure. 

The Chofetz Chaim, in the kindly tones still remarkably clear and distinct, addressed the people in their shul:

"Brethren, I want your advice.  I am already growing old, as you see, and expect before long to be summoned before the Heavenly Tribunal of Justice.  Suppose I shall be asked, 'Yisroel Meir, you were in Smilovltz? Tell us something about the generosity of your brethren there,’ What shall I reply?  To say that you are charitable will not be the truth, and all my life I have never lied. To tell the truth, on the other hand, would be lashon hara (slander), against which, as you know, I have also cautiously guarded myself.  What shall I do?”

He no sooner had stepped down from the pulpit than the assembly hurried forward with lavish contributions, as if impelled by the sheer force of his magnetism.  For many years the poor of Smilovitz, recalling with tender memories that plentiful Pesach, uttered a blessing when they heard the name of the Chofetz Chaim.

(Saint and Sage p. 74-75)


כאן הבן שואל
 Here the son asks

In many Haggadahs, these words are printed right before the Mah Nishtanah.

Rebbe Aharon HaGadol of Karlin zt”l quotes his father, who says that these words imply that on this night, it is an especially auspicious time for every Jewish son or daughter to ask for their needs from our Father in Heaven.

(Beis Aharon)


ואלו לא הוציא הקדושׁ ברוך הוא את אבותינו ממצרים, הרי אנו ובנינו ובני בנינו משעבדים היינו לפרעה במצרים 
 And if HaKadosh Baruch Hu had not brought our forefathers out of Egypt, behold, we and our sons, and our sons' sons would be enslaved to Paroah

This passage points out the stirring truth that if Hashem had not taken us out of Egypt, we, yes, we, even today, would still be enslaved to Paroah (perhaps a descendant-successor, albeit).  Imagine!

The Haggadah points this out specially as a lesson, and a wake up call to us to stop taking things for granted.  If someone is sick, Chas v’Shalom, they are so happy and thankful when they feel better again.  But once they are “back to normal”, they take feeling “normal” for granted. . . 

The Haggadah thus teaches us to not take for granted the amazing gift of freedom -- and all the other wonderful things Hashem has blessed, and blesses us, with.

(Tal U’Matar)


וכל המרבה לספר ביציאת מצרים הרי זה משבח
And all who increase in relating the Yetzias Miztraim, behold, he is praiseworthy

HaRav Eliyahu Lopian zt”l used to say that the word משבח can also imply to become elevated.  We thus see that through abundant discussion of the miracles that Hashem did for us when He took us out of Egypt, one becomes a more elevated person!  

HaRav Matisyahu Solomon shlit”a explains that one becomes elevated through the incredible strengthening of Emunah they get from speaking abundantly about all the kindnesses Hashem did for us, and how He brought us out from Egypt.

(Haggadas Matnas Chaim)


רבותינו הגיע זמן קריאת שמע של שחרית
 Our Rabbis, the time of the morning reading of the Shema has arrived

Chassidim relate about Rebbe Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev zt”l, the great “defender of Israel”, that, as he was returning home from shul on the night of the Seder, he would dally a little, and listen from outside the houses how the simple folk would conduct their Sedarim.

One year, he heard a certain simple, unlearned Jew conducting his Seder, and, as he was reading off about the four sons -- אחד חכם, אחד רשע, etc. -- he would draw out with great fervor the word אחד.  And he explained to his family the source for his custom, that he remembers from his youth how his father had taught him that it is written in Shulchan Aruch that one should draw out the word אחד (in Kriyas Shema).  So he was doing it here, as well.

Upon hearing and taking this all in, Rebbe Levi Yitzchok lifted his hands towards Heaven, and said, “Ribbono Shel Olam!  Who is like Your nation Israel? Isn’t this the entire purpose of the night of the Seder and relating the story of Yetzias Mitzraim -- to attain acceptance of the Kingdom of Heaven?  The great Tannaim were reclining the entire night and discussing the Yetzias Mitzraim, until they reached this goal, and their students came and told them that it was time for Kriyas Shema.  Look at this simple Jew, who, with difficulty begins the Seder, and he is already drawing out אחד like is done in Kriyas Shema!”

(Haggadas Minchas Asher p. 78)


ברוך המקום ברוך הוא ברוך שנתן תורה לעמו ישראל ברוך הוא. כנגד ארבעה בנים דברה תורה. . .
Blessed is the Omnipresent, blessed is He.  Blessed is He Who gave the Torah to His people, Israel, blessed is He.  Corresponding to four sons the Torah speaks. . .

From the fact that the Haggadah couples the discussion of the four sons with praise to Hashem for giving us the Torah, Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Rimanov zt”l explained a wonderful thing:  Even a wicked “son”, if he immerses himself in Torah, its holy light will help him to come back on the right path.  So too, a simple “son”, or one who is “unable to ask”, the Torah can teach them wisdom and understanding.

(Menachem Tzion in Haggadas Naavah Tehillah)

And I may add that, of course, a wise “son”, as well, will continue to enjoy further elevation, and wisdom, etc. from the holy Torah.


רשע מה הוא אומר?  מה העבודה הזאת לכם?
The Wicked one, what does he say? ‘What is this service to you?’

The Vilna Gaon zt”l points out that, unlike the wise son, the wicked son does not mention Hashem’s Name at all in his question.2  And this is what it means when we say ‘He denies the main principle.

(Haggadas Kol Bo)

We see this phenomenon, unfortunately, amongst many of the “wicked sons” out there.  They try to deny or ignore the fact that the Commandments are from Hashem.  And this is one of the first steps, Chas v’Shalom, in becoming wicked.  Because once you say that the rules don’t have a Divine source, then they lose their meaning, and all of them can be thrown aside at will (see LaTorah Vi’LaMoadim, beginning of Parshas Mishpatim).

2 The simple son, on the other hand, although he does not mention Hashem’s Name either, he is simple, and is just inquiring a very basic question -- ‘What is this?’


יכול מראשׁ חדשׁ תלמוד לומר ביּום ההוא
One might think that the obligation to relate the Yetzias Mitzraim is from Rosh Chodesh Nissan, to teach us otherwise, the verse says ‘On that day’

The question that many ask is, why would we even think that the obligation would begin from Rosh Chodesh Nissan?  The Redemption happened on the fifteenth day of the month!

Explains HaRav Moshe Feinstein zt”l; on Rosh Chodesh Nissan, Hashem promised to redeem us on the fifteenth.  And a promise from Hashem will be fulfilled, so therefore, it is as if it has already happened.  Thus, it is quite logical for the obligation of relating about the Yetzias Mitzraim to begin already from Rosh Chodesh, except for the fact that we have a verse that tells us otherwise. . .

(Darash Moshe)


יכול מבעוד יום תלמוד לומר בעבור זה -- בעבור זה לא אמרתי אלא בשעה שישׁ מצה ומרור מנחים 
One might think that the obligation begins from the day of the fourteenth, to teach us otherwise, the verse says ‘Because of this’ -- ‘Because of this’ was not stated except for referring to the time that Matzah and Marror are laying before you

Why specifically when we have everything in front of us?  HaRav Baruch Epstein zt”l explains that the nature of a human being is that when they see something new or out-of-the-ordinary, it arouses in their heart the desire to know what it is and the reason for it.  They are curious. And so we explain it to them, and because they have a desire to know, they will listen, and the information will take root in their minds, being less easily forgotten.  

This then, would seem to be the intent of why we specifically are to tell over all the things of Yetzias Mitzraim, etc. when the Matzah, Marror, and everything is before us.  Because the children will see it all, and they will ask about it, and then when we explain it, they will listen and remember.

(Baruch She’amar to Shemos 13:8)

Another similar reason, HaRav Yisroel Meir Lau shlit”a suggests:  Chazal knew the proper ways of education of children.  That one must not only tell them things in words, but also they must show them in action.  A picture can be worth a thousand words, as people say.  What we show children will likely have a big impact, and they will absorb it into their imagination.  

Therefore, we tell over the Haggadah while everything is before us, and we perform a little “show and tell”, which is likely to make a bigger impression.

(Haggadas Yachel Yisroel or Saviv L’Shulchan)


ברוך שׁומר הבטחתו לישראל ברוך הוא. שהקדושׁ ברוך הוא חשב את הקץ
Blessed is He Who kept His promise to Israel, blessed is He!  For HaKadosh Baruch Hu calculated the end

Says the Chofetz Chaim zt”l:  Originally, as is known, it was decreed that we would be enslaved to Egypt for four-hundred years, but, as we also know, we ended up only being enslaved there for two-hundred-and-ten years.  

This is what it means that Hashem calculated the end, קץ, which has the Gematria of 190.  Meaning that He calculated and subtracted 190 years from the total of 400, amounting to 210, since the harshness of the labor and servitude made up the rest.

(Chofetz Chaim al HaTorah p. 63)

HaRav Yitzchok Zev Soloveitchik zt”l explains that this is the praise that we are lauding Hashem with:  Originally, the servitude was to be a lot less intense, and so it would last for longer.  But the fact that it was made so much harsher, shortened the amount of years, because the entire measure of enslavement that was decreed on the Jews ended up happening in a much smaller time. Only Hashem could calculate the exact amount of harsh subjugation that would amount to the measure that would have been carried out in 400 years. . .

(Maasei LaMelech in Chofetz Chaim al HaTorah p. 64)


שלא אחד בלבד עמד עלינו לכלותינו
 That not one alone has stood against us to destroy us

Mori v’Rebbe, HaRav Elyakim Rosenblatt zt”l used to often quote from the Belzer Rebbe zt”l another way to interpret these words:  Why do nations arise against us to try to destroy us?  Only because we are ‘not one’, i.e. united b’Achdus.


ולבן בקש לעקר את הכל שנאמר ארמי אבד אבי
And Lavan sought to uproot everything, as it says, ‘An Aramean tried to destroy my father’

The Seforim HaKedoshim write that Lavan can allude to the yetzer hara.  The yetzer hara mainly tries to destroy one thing from us, and that is, the feeling that Hashem is our Father, as it says ‘You are children to Hashem your G-d’ (Devarim 14:1).  

And maybe this is also what it means that Lavan sought to uproot everything:  Because if, Chas v’Shalom, the yetzer hara uproots from our hearts the knowledge that we are Hashem’s children, as it were, and that He is our Father, then he has effectively uprooted everything.  For, as long as we feel that we are the child of the King, then we know it is improper for us to behave in a bad way. But if, Chas v’Shalom, that knowledge and feeling is destroyed, then suddenly everything seems okay to do. . .

(Haggadas HaLekach Vi’HaLibuv)


ונצעק אל השם אלקי אבתינו וישמע השם את קלנו
And we cried out to Hashem, the G-d of our fathers, and Hashem heard our voice

The Chofetz Chaim zt”l points out that the implication of this verse is that in a time of trouble, we must not only daven to Hashem, but we must literally cry out to Him!  And if we do so, He will surely answer us speedily.  

(Chofetz Chaim al HaTorah p. 196)


רבי יוסי הגלילי אומר: מנין אתה אומר שלקו המצרים במצרים עשר מכות ועל הים לקו חמשים מכות?
Rabbi Yosei HaGelili said:  From where do you say that the Egyptians were stricken with ten plagues in Egypt, and by the sea they were stricken with fifty plagues?

There are three different opinions as to how many plagues Hashem brought upon the Egyptians by the sea, and even how many plagues were contained within each plague that He smote them with in Egypt.  Each opinion posits that there were more than the previous one does.

The question is, why do we go to such an extent to try to say that there were more plagues?  What difference does it make? Explains the Vilna Gaon zt”l; the Sages were indeed trying to derive that Hashem brought more and more plagues on the Egyptians, as many as they could derive.  And it makes a big difference, for Hashem promised us that all the maladies and sicknesses that He brought upon Egypt, He would not place upon us, and therefore, the more plagues that were brought on the Egyptians, the more He will not let us get. . . 

(Maayanah shel Torah; Devarim)


בכל דור ודור חיב אדם לראות את עצמו כאלו הוא יצא ממצרים
In every single generation, a person is obligated to see himself as if he went out from Egypt

Someone related the following:  One Shabbos eve, when I was passing by the Chofetz Chaim zt”l’s house, I heard his sweet voice, so I approached the window and looked inside.  I saw that he was sitting and learning Parshas Va’eira, and with every single Plague, he would say with great wonderment, “Ah, Ah!” His wonderment was to such an extent as someone who actually saw the Makkos happening.  I stood there for more than half an hour. . .

(Kol Kisvei Chofetz Chaim, vol. 3
cited in Haggadas Vihigadeta Li’Vinicha)


HaRav Shimon Schwab zt”l tells us something further:  It is not just כאלו, as if, we personally left Egypt.  We actually did!  

He explains with a parable:  A person’s body, as we all know, is made up of many different parts all together, and over time, it ages and changes.  A person grows and develops, and as they do, their appearance changes. A person looks different in adulthood than they did when they were a baby, and then when they grow old, they look different than when they were a young adult, as well.  But nevertheless, no matter what stage they are in, virtually every part of their body is [hopefully!] still the same as it was, and when one is 90, they can still truthfully say, for example, “This is the same hand that I broke when I was a kid.”

Klal Yisroel throughout all the generations is all like one body.  Even though we have gotten older, as it were, it is still the same Klal Yisroel, and so, yes, we too can honestly say, “It is because of this that Hashem did for me when I went out from Egypt.”

Furthermore, in this paragraph of בכל דור ודור, we mention Hashem’s redemption of our ancestors before us, but in the blessing we soon say ‘Who has redeemed us -- אשר גאלנו’, we mention our own redemption first.  Again, this implies that we are all equal, like one body, in Hashem’s redemption of us all from Egypt.

(Maayan Beis HaShoeivah)



מגיד, רחצה
Maggid, Rachtzah

The Alshich HaKadosh explains the connection between these two sections:  We should tell (מגיד) to and share with others the message that we must wash (רחצה) ourselves off from our sins, and return in Teshuva to Hashem.

(Haggadas Arbaah Amudei Kesef)



One Erev Pesach, Rebbe Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev zt”l asked his shamash to go around and try to attain some of a certain item that was banned by the Czar.  His shamash went on his mission, and was able to get some.

Then the Rebbe sent him out to go get some chometz.  But although the shamash went to search for some, he came back empty-handed.  

Rebbe Levi Yitzchok zt”l then lifted up his eyes to Heaven and said something like, “Ribbono Shel Olam, look at Your People!  The Czar has made a rule, and has many policemen and soldiers to enforce it, and yet, people flout it.  But You, Hashem, commanded us many, many years ago to abstain from chometz on Pesach, and Your nation continues to uphold this!”



We eat the Marror -- when not in the Korech sandwich -- without reclining (Shulchan Aruch; Orach Chaim 475:1).  Why don’t we recline?  Because, as we know, we recline at certain junctures during the Seder as a symbol of freedom.  But the Marror is a remembrance of the bitterness of the servitude.  Therefore, we would not recline when eating it.3

(Mishnah Berurah 475:14)

3 Although if someone really wanted to eat it while reclining, they are permitted to (Mishnah Berurah ibid.).



We make a sandwich with Matzah and MarrorMatzah, the Alshich HaKadosh explains, can allude to the yetzer tov, while the bitterness of Marror can be a symbolism for the yetzer hara.  

By putting these two together for the fulfillment of this, we allude to the teaching of our Sages (Berachos 9:5) that we should try to serve Hashem with both our yetzers, by making our yetzer hara follow our yetzer tov.

(Haggadas Arbaah Amudei Kesef)


Shulchan Orech

HaRav Elimelech Biderman shlit”a writes that it is very important for us to eat this meal with joy and also seriousness and awe, as it is almost like we are eating at Hashem’s Table, as it were (see Tosafos to Berachos 42a).  Certainly we should try to avoid speaking idle words or about mundane matters, rather, we should speak words of Torah and holiness.

(Haggadas Be’er HaChaim)



My Rebbe, HaRav Binyomin Goldstein shlit”a asks (in one of his Dvar Torahs); if the Afikoman is so exquisite and so precious, then why do we hide it?  And, all the more so, why do we entrust the kids, of all people to find it?  Wouldn't we want to guard it and, if anything, keep it away from the kids? What is this custom all about?

He answers with something he heard from his Rebbe, HaRav Moshe Weinberger shlit”a, who quoted from Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, zt”l:  One of the most beautiful and special things about kids is they can always start again.  They don’t give up on themselves. They're resilient. When a kid is running, for example, and he or she falls down and scrapes their knees, they cry a little bit, but then get right back to running.  The kid doesn't say to himself, "You know, I don't think this whole running thing is for me. I think I'm going to stay sitting down all day tomorrow; better safe than sorry." The child could fall a hundred times.  It makes no difference; the kid is determined to run, because he believes in himself.

However, as we grow older, we sometimes lose that resilience and ability to start anew.  We give up on ourselves.  

Rebbe Nachman teaches that we must learn from children!  In a way, we must be child-like in the service of Hashem.  When we attempt to do any mitzvah, to learn any Torah or to daven to Hashem, we need to do so with the understanding that, "I may fall this time, but eventually I'm going to be able to do this.  I'm not quitting until this is completely accomplished!" Our Avodas Hashem needs to be with total simplicity, happiness, and holy-stubbornness, just like a child in his or her "avodah”. 

For this reason the children are the ones that find the Afikoman.  It is to teach us that our true freedom (represented by the Afikoman) lies in our ability to pick ourselves up and start anew without being weighed-down constantly by all of our perceived incapabilities.  The children are therefore the ones that retrieve the Afikoman for the adults, because they are the ones that "retrieve" for us this "hidden" secret to true inner freedom.  To not attempt to achieve our potential for spiritual greatness because we do not believe in ourselves is to remain slaves.  To never despair and to always push forward with simple faith and happiness, on the other hand, is to experience true freedom.



מוזגים כוס לאליהו הנביא 
We pour a cup for Eliyahu HaNavi

This is an allusion to the fact that we believe that just like Hashem Yisbarach redeemed us from Egypt, He will again redeem us, and send us Eliyahu to tide us [of the Redemption].

(Mishnah Berurah 480:10)



ישראל בטח בהשם עזרם ומגנם הוא
Israel, trust in Hashem, He is their Helper and Shield

The Baal Shem Tov zt”l was orphaned at a very young age.  His mother died giving birth to him, and his father died when he was all of 6 or 7 years old.  On his deathbed, his father’s parting words to him were: “Know one thing: Hashem is always with you.  Always turn to Hashem first for help whenever you need anything. If you know that Hashem is with you, then you will not fear anything, and you will conquer everything.” 

The Baal Shem Tov said that he took his father’s words and etched them into his heart, and he lived everyday of his life literally feeling that Hashem was with him.  Whenever he faced a challenge, he turned to Hashem for help.  

(From a Dvar Torah of my Rebbe, HaRav Binyomin Goldstein shlit”a)



חד גדיא 
Chad Gadya

HaRav Yaakov (Jonathan) Sacks shlit”a writes on Chad GadyaChad Gadya expresses the Jewish refusal to give up hope.  Though history is full of man’s inhumanity to man -- dog bites cat, stick hits dog -- that is not the final verse.  The Haggadah ends with the death of death in eternal life, a fitting end for the story of a people dedicated to the great command “Choose life” (Devarim 30:19).

(The Jonathan Sacks Haggadah)

We may add, perhaps, that Chad Gadya is also a very fitting way to end off because it shows us that, no matter how much brutality, etc. there is and has been throughout history, truthfully, everything is seen by and comes before the True Judge, and He will mete out the fair and true judgement on everyone according to what they deserve.  Nothing ends up unfair or unjust.


Chag Kasher v’Sameach!  May it be a healthy one too!