Divrei Torah on the Haggadah
הרב מרדכי גרינברג
It has been our custom in previous years to discuss the Haggadah before Pesach. This year we will continue in that tradition.
Nuts on Pesach: It is mentioned in halacha that on Rosh Hashana, one should not eat nuts, because the gematria (numerical value) of "egoz" (nut) equals the gematria of cheit (sin). But on Pesach, there is a mitzvah to give children nuts. The difference between Rosh Hashana and Pesach is the difference between teshuva m'ahava and teshuva m'yirah. If teshuva is m'ahava, we go back to turn our bad deeds into good ones.
In Kotzk, the chasidim would come to the rebbe for Yom Tov, but everyone would bring their own food to the rebbe's table. One of the chasidim was so poor, and all he had to eat were nuts, so he cracked the nuts under the table. One of the chasidim saw this, and yelled at him, that the gematria of egoz is chait. To this the Rebbe replied that chait in gematria is also chait. Sometimes one's over-zealousness about sin may cause one to sin.
Sippur Yetziat Mitzrayim: There is a mitzvah every night to mention the exodus from Egypt. It seems that in addition, there is a special mitzvah on the night of the Seder? What is the additional mitzvah on Seder night? From the Rambam, one can see many halachot which indicate the difference. On the Seder night, the mitzvah is to tell the story in depth, as we say in the Haggadah, "Anyone who elaborates upon the story of Yetziat Mitzrayim is praiseworthy." Also, the Haggadah is in a question and answer form. If the child does not ask, we must cause him to ask. Through his asking, he will be able to understand better. Modern psychology shows that a child will not absorb the information if spoon-fed. The child must actively participate in the learning process. In addition, part of the mitzvah is "Matchil b'gnut um'sayem bishevach." We start by discussing the negativity of the galut so that we can appreciate the greatness of the geula. We also have to mention the pesach, matzah and maror, and to explain the significance of the mitzvot associated with the night.
Eternal Freedom: We mention in the Haggadah, "If Hashem had not taken us out, we, our children, and our children's children would be enslaved to Paroh in Mitzrayim." Why is this? Maybe Hashem would have taken us out even if he would have not taken our forefathers. The Maharal asks this question, and answers with a mashal (parable). A man was trapped in a burning house, and one of the firefighters risked his life by coming in to the fire to save the man. If this man subsequently had children, it is not possible to say that the firefighter also saved the children. However, in Egypt, it was different. When Hashem took the Jews out of Egypt, not only did he take them out, but he also placed within them a character of freedom. "He also took us out." Therefore we must personally express freedom, because Hashem gave us characteristics of freedom. We say in tefilla, "Vayotzienu misham l'cherut olam - He took us out of there for eternal freedom." We will never be an enslaved nation again as we were in Mitzrayim. Therefore, we bless Hashem "asher ga'alanu, v'ga'al et avotaunu - who redeemed us and redeemed our forefathers." The way to read the sentence, is to empahasize the word "Hashem." "If HASHEM would not have taken us out of Mitzrayim." Since the geula was done by Hashem, it was a geula which lasted for all generations. If it were done by man, or through another source, it would not have had a permanent national effect on us.
The Haggadah says that whoever elaborates upon the story of Yetziat Mitzrayim is praiseworthy. The Magid M'dubna gives the following parable: There was once a poor man who won the lottery. He decided to invest his money and to educate himself. Every year he would celebrate the day on which he became rich. Even after he lost his money, he still celebrated. People would wonder why he still celebrated, since he had already lost all of his wealth. He would answer that he gained much wisdom in the time that he was wealthy, so he thanked Hashem for that. So too, Bnei Yisrael, even now in the galut, must thank Hashem for all of the essential changes that occurred to us a result of leaving Mitzrayim.
All the Days of Your Life: There is a machloket (dispute) mentioned in the Haggadah whether to mention Yetziat Mitzrayim at nights. Why is this machloket brought in the Haggadah? It is brought to contrast the daily mitzvah and the mitzvah on the Seder night. This machloket stems from the understanding of the intention of the pasuk, "kol yemei chayecha - All the days of your life," whether it refers to nights, or to the time of Mashiach.
There is a similar machloket in Menachot regarding the word "tamid" (always) which is written in the mitzvah of the lechem hapanim. According to one opinion in the Gemara, the new bread must be placed on while the old bread is being taken off. According to the other opinion, one may remove the bread in the morning and put on new bread in the afternoon. What, then, does the word "tamid" teach us? The bread must be there every single day.
The Gra quotes a Midrash that says that in the future, every creature will be cured except for the nachash (serpent). The Gra explains that the Midrash learns this from the pasuk which says that the nachash will eat dirt "kol y'mei chayecha." The Midrash learns from the pasuk that the nachash will not be cured, even in the times of Mashiach.
The Rav M'brisk quotes what we say in tefilla, "ki lishuatecha kivinu kol hayom - For Your salvation we hope all / every day." This means we have faith that Mashiach can come at any second of the day, and any day. It is said about R. Chaim of Volozhin that he had a special jacket in his closet, saved for when Mashiach would come.
The Gemara says that one of the questions asked to man after leaving this world is "tzipita l'yeshua," which on a simple level means, "Did you look forward to the redemption?" Rav Kook, explains the question differently. The pasuk says (Yechezkel 3:17), "tzofe n'taticha l'beit Yisrael - I made you a scout for the house of Yisrael." A tzofeh is someone who actively looks and watches. The question that we will be asked is, "What did you do to bring about the geula?"
Eating as a Mitzvah: The response to the rasha (wicked son) is, "Hakhe et shinav - Knock out his teeth." The Kotzker explains as follows: The rasha says, I understand that one can serve Hashem on Yom Kippur, by fasting and praying, but how do we serve Hashem through eating? Therefore, since he does not know how to use his teeth, he does not deserve to have them. Similarly, a gentile is only allowed to bring a korban olah, which is totally burnt on the Altar. Only a Yisrael can bring a shlamim, because only Yisrael can relate to service of Hashem which combines man and Hashem.
Haggadah at Night: The Haggadah mentions, "Yachol m'beod yom - I might think that the mitzvah of telling the story of Yetziat Mitzrayim begins during the day." Why would someone think that this mitzvah begins before Yom Tov? One would think since there is mitzvah of tosefet Yom Tov, and since we can start the chag early, the obligation to tell the story would also begin then.
Genut and Shavach: There is a dispute in the gemara how to fulfill the concept of "matchil begenut um'sayem bishevach - One starts the story telling with the disgrace and conludes with praise." According to one opinion, the disgrace was the fact that our ancestors were idolaters,; according to the other opinion, the disgrace is that we were slaves in Egypt. The Maharal explains that the dispute is what to emphasize, the enslavement of the soul, or of the body. The term, "geula" means change of ownership, but the word "pidyon" means to change the nature of something. For example, we take something from hekdesh, and after pidyon it becomes chulin. Now that we left Mitzrayim, in addition to being physically free, we now have a new essence and a new soul. Therefore we mention these two concepts of physical and spiritual salvation when saying the bracha before the second cup of wine, "al geulatenu, v'al pedut nafshaynu." We thank Hashem in Birkat Hamazon similarly, "shehotzetanu m'eretz Mitzrayim, ufditanu m'beit avadim." In our Haggadah we follow both opinions and mention both the physical and the spiritual enslavement.
There was a maskil who had heard much about the revolutionary commentary of the Malbim on Tanach. When he went to see the Malbim, surprised to find the Malbim wearing tefillin and studying Gemara. The maskil asked him, "I thought you were one of the new school, not one of the old school?" The Malbim answered, "I am from the new school, and the maskilim are from the old school. M'tchila ovday avoda zara. Originally we were a nation of idolaters."
Esav: The structure of most of the Haggadah is that we read psukim from the parsha of bikkurim in Devarim and pesukim from Yehoshua, and we compare those sources to the pesukim in Shemot. One of the pesukim that we mention from Yehoshua is, "Va'eten l'Esav et Har Seir - I gave Esav Mount Seir." Why is Esav mentioned here? The redemption process really begins from brit ben habetarim, Hashem's covenant with Avraham. Hashem promises, "Yadoa teda ki ger yihye zaracha." Know that your descendants will go to exile, but they will leave the exile to become a great nation. But Esav and Yishmael were also descendants of Avraham, and it is possible to say that they were promised to be Hashem's chosen nation! The Haggadah teaches us that all of the promises given to Avraham where only promised to those children who went through the exile of Mitzrayim. Only through Mitzrayim can we become the am segula (chosen nation). The Haggadah tells that Esav did not go through Mitzrayim. Similarly, the Torah mentions the descendants of Esav, followed by the descendants of Yaakov who go down to Mitzrayim, to show that Esav was not exiled, and therefore will not receive the blessing of Avraham.
Calculating the Redemption: The Haggadah mentions that Hashem calculated the end of the enslavement of Mitzrayim. Why is this such a complicated calculation? Hashem said to Avraham, "Know that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign land, and they will be enslaved and oppressed for 400 years." (Bereishit 15:13) The Rav M'brisk says that the 400 years in the pasuk refers to the slavery and the oppression in addition to the aspect of being strangers. Hashem compressed 400 years of slavery and oppression into 210 years, so that there would be 400 years of being a stranger, and slavery and opression. Therefore the gematria of "ketz," the end of the exile, is 190, which is the amount of slavery which was added and compressed into the 210. Similarly, the Gra comments on the pasuk "vayemareru et chayehem - they made their lives bitter" (Shemot 1:14), the trop is "kadma v'azala," which literally means, "went out ahead." Hashem, through making the lives of Yisrael bitter, was bringing the end of the galut closer. The gematria of "kadma v'azla" is also 190.
Chazal allude to the fact that Yisrael left Mitzrayim earlier than they were meant to. They point out that every day of Pesach will always fall out on the same day of the week as another holiday, according to the "At-bash" gematria system. The first day will fall on Tisha B'av.
Alef - Taf: Tisha B'av
Bet - Shin: Shavuot
Gimmel - Resh: Rosh Hashana
Dalet - Kuf: Kriat Hatorah (Simchat Torah)
Hey - Tzadi: Tzom (Yom Kippur)
Vav - Pay: Purim
Chazal do not mention, however, which festival corresponds to the seventh day of Pesach, but it has been said that the seventh day of pesach, which should correspond to Ayin, always falls out on Yom Ha'atzmaut. Hashem gave us the oppression we deserved on Tisha B'av, during the galut.
"V'hee She'amda:" We say in the Haggadah, "V'hee she'amda la'avoteinu velanu - This is what stood for our forefathers and for us." What is "this?" Some say that it is the promise which is mentioned in the continuation. Some say that it refers to the fact that Hashem gives us punishment, split over the course of many generations, because we would not have survived if it were concentrated into one generation. The Netziv writes that the antisemitism itself mentioned just before, "In every generation they stand upon us to destroy us," is what saves us. If the nations would have loved us, we would have intermarried long ago. Bilam refers to Yisrael as, "Am levadad yishkon - A nation who dwells in solitude." We must be separate. "Uvagoyim lo yitchashav - Amongst the nations they are not considered," the goyim do not let us come in even when we try to. In pre-war Germany, the Jews wanted to enter the German culture, but the Germans became aware that the Jews were becoming too involved, and wanted to stop the increased influence of Jews.
Lavan: In the Haggadah, Lavan is used as an example of someone who wanted to destroy the Jews. The Maharal asks, why was Lavan used as an example? Every enemy of the Jews had an excuse to persecute the Jews. Esav claimed that Yaakov had stolen the bechora, and Pharaoh maintained that the Jews were his labor force. But Lavan is the prime example of antisemitism. Lavan hated Yaakov for no reason. The Maharal says that the hatred of the non-Jews toward the Jews exists in their very essence, and therefore, it does not depend on any reason.
"V'at Eirom V'erya:" The Haggadah describes Yisrael as being naked and bare. What is the difference? How can someone be naked twice? Chazal say that Bnei Yisrael were naked from the mitzvot. Therefore Hashem gave them mitzvot of the blood of mila and blood of pesach. The mitzvot are man's clothing. Chazal say that David Hamelech was scared when he was in the mikveh, because he thought that he was bare of mitzvot. David then realized that man is always clothed with the mitzvah of mila. In Mitzrayim, we were naked, and we did not even have the mitzvah of mila. This is evident from the word "erya" which comes from the root "erva."
"Dayeinu:" Everyone asks, what would be the point of being at Har sinai without getting the Torah? The simple answer is that there would be enough in any of the points mentioned to thank Hashem. But there is something deeper. Hashem wants to give good to us, but he recognizes that the good will be greater if we achieve this good on our own. Chazal say that the twenty-six references of "ki l'olam chasdo - Jis ggodness is forever" in Tehillim 136 correspond to the twenty-six generations that Hashem allowed the world to exist before giving the Torah. Now that there is a Torah, we need to work in order to receive the reward. On a simple level, it seems that the chesed is greater before the giving of the Torah. However, in truth, the chesed is on a greater level after matan Torah, Just as the Rambam writes that it is a higher level of tzedaka to give someone a job, rather than giving him money. "V'harikoti lachem bracha ad bli die - I will pour you blessing without bounds." Hashem will give us blessing until our lips become tired of saying enough. In Dayenu we represent this by thanking Hashem for the chesed which he has already done for us. After the Seder, there is much greater chesed, and now we have so much more to thank Hashem.
There are fifteen things for which we thank Hashem for in Dayeinu. The fifteen lines can be divided into three parts. There are five lines which discuss leaving Mitzrayim; five about the elevation of Yisrael through miracles; and five five more about our mitzvot and obligations to Hashem. These three levels correspond to the three levels of exile which Hashem described to Avraham, "strangers, slaves, oppressed." When leaving Mitzrayim, these three levels of exile were removed in opposite order, as it says (Shemot 6:6), "I will take you from the oppression of Mitzrayim, and I will save you from the slavery, and I will redeem you."
Why are there fifteen lines of Dayenu? The fifteen lines correspond to Hashem's name, Yud and Hay. Yud represents the next world, and Hay represents this world. Fifteen always represents the elevation from physical to spiritual. This is a reason for the fifteen steps between ezrat nashim and ezrat Yisrael in the Beit Hamikdash.
Demostrating Freedom: The Rambam rules that one should feel as if he personally left Mitzrayim. Also, he must show the members of his family that he feels this way. We must recognize that we too achieved this level of eternal freedom.
קוד השיעור: 3958
R. Avi Chermon