Back to Parsha homepage

Archive of previous issues



On the night of the seder, there seems to be some redundancy. First, we eat massah, commemorating our redemption, and then we eat marror, recalling the bitterness of bondage. Although it may seem that we have then fulfilled our obligations of massah and marror, we combine massah and marror together for "korech." Wherein lies the significance of combining the symbols of bondage and redemption together? Once we have already eaten massah and marror, why do we need to eat them again, together in the form of a sandwich?

A critical message lies therein, one which may be demonstrated through a story. A certain Jew, who happened to have been a first-born, fasted on Erev Pesah. That night, he attended the seder of the "Avnei Nezer" zs"l. When the host distributed the "karpas," celery dipped in salt-water, the hungry guest devoured his portion hastily. The Avnei Nezer observed the manner in which his guest ate his karpas and said compassionately, "I cannot understand how somebody can celebrate the festival of freedom when he is enslaved to a piece of celery."

This story illustrates a critical point. True, we left the Egyptian bondage and we were rescued from the contaminating forces of Egypt. However, we are still quite a distance from total spiritual freedom. We are still bound by the chains of our yesser hara and physical desires, we still confront a bitter and fierce battle against our internal drives and inclinations, we find ourselves struggling constantly with "korech," the conflict between massah and marror, freedom against our enslavement to our bodies. We still have a long while left until we eat the afikoman, which consists of massah alone, symbolizing the ultimate redemption. This redemption has yet to come. It will be followed by "barech, hallel, nirsah," and the taste of the afikoman will forever remain in our mouths.


"Rabban Gamliel says, whoever does not mention the following three items has not fulfilled his obligation: Pesah, massah, and marror." The korban Pesah recalls for us how the Al-mighty passed over the homes of Benei Yisrael, saving them from the plague of the first-born. Massah commemorates the fact that the dough of our forefathers did not have the opportunity to rise, and the marror reminds us of the bitterness of slavery. Many scholars have already asked the obvious question. If these are, indeed, the symbols of these three misvot, then shouldn't the order be different? Shouldn't the marror, which symbolizes our bondage, have been mentioned prior to the massah, representing the redemption? Why does the pasuk - "...on massot and marror you shall eat it [the korban Pesah] - place massah before marror, and why do we eat the massah before the marror? As is the case regarding all the misvot, the order here teaches us a profound insight. A slave, given his lowly status and loss of dignity, becomes accustomed to his life as a slave, to the point where he does not even sense his misfortune. To the contrary, at times a slave reaches the point of, "I love my master" and prefers slavery over independence. As Benei Yisrael told Moshe, "We remember the onions and garlic which we ate in Egypt for free." Very often, a slave cries to be released only from the suffering of his labor, not his slavery. For example, the Russian Czar once visited an army base where he was greeted with an elaborate display. The Cossacks stood in two rows with their swords drawn. Suddenly, one of them thrust his sword toward the Czar's head, attempting an assassination. Instantly, the soldier next to him deflected the sword and knocked it to the side, saving the monarch's life. With utmost self-control, the Czar completed his survey of the base. When he reached the general's tent, he ordered the execution of the attempted assassin and asked to bring him the one who had saved his life.

"The Czar owes you his life, and he does not like remaining in debt," he remarked. "What do you want as a reward?" "My dear Czar," answered the soldier, "my general is very rough with me. He punishes me whenever I do anything wrong and gives me even more difficult responsibilities. Please have him deal with me more kindly." "You can rest assured that this will be taken care of," said the Czar. The Cossack thanked him warmly and left. The Czar then whispered under his breath, "What a fool! He could have asked that I appoint him general!" In truth, the Czar was incorrect. The soldier would have - and could have - never asked such a thing. His perspective was one of a private, one who receives orders, whose only ambition is to lighten his workload.

The same can be said about Benei Yisrael's bondage in Egypt. "They did not listen to Moshe out shortness of breath and hard work." As if they were saying, leave us to finish our work for the day so we can go home. In fact, as Hazal tell us, after the first eight plagues, when the difficult labor came to an end on Rosh Hashanah, the majority of the people still refused to change their status, and four-fifths of the nation perished during the plague of darkness. It then becomes clear why we eat massah to commemorate the redemption before we proceed to recall the bondage through the consumption of marror. Only after the redemption can we fully appreciate how bitter the slavery really was, how dreadful the situation in Egypt was for our forefathers.

The same is true regarding spiritual bondage, as well. The "Divrei Hayim" zs"l would tell of a certain rabbi who arrived in a city only to find rampant drinking. Men would spend the nighttime hours drinking and roaming the streets intoxicated. They would come home and beat their wives. He instituted a rule that nobody may drink even a drop of the bitter liquid, and severe punishment would be administered to anyone found violating this code. Not even a single day passed before the first drunkard was found roaming the streets. They grabbed him and brought him before the rabbi.

"What do you have in your mouth to justify your actions?" asked the rabbi. "I swear," groaned the drunkard, "nothing but the taste of liquor." The rabbi wondered, perhaps this is a valid argument. Maybe the taste is so overpowering that one cannot stay away. He asked for some liquor and placed a little bit on his tongue. Immediately, he choked and spit it out. "Ah! It is bitter as anything! I see no better punishment than to make this man drink this awful beverage!" Similarly, someone in whom sinful behavior has become ingrained sees no greater pleasure than these transgressions. Only after he separates from them does he realize how filthy such behavior really is. Only after the "Pesah" and the "massah" can one truly understand the bitterness of the marror


Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
Taken from the pamphlet, "Min Hama'ayan" by Rav David Yossef shlit"a
The Laws of the Night of the Seder

The Laws Regarding "Massah shemurah":

The massah used for the misvah of massah on the night of the seder must have been carefully watched from the time of the harvest. In other words, the wheat used for the massah must have been protected and watched to ensure that no water was mixed with it. If there is no such massah available, it suffices if the wheat was watched from the time it was ground. Throughout the rest of Pesah, however, "massah shemurah" is not required. Some, however, do have the custom to eat only massah shemurah throughout Pesah, and those who have this custom and wish to change their custom to be more lenient must perform "hatarat nedarim." One must be careful to separate "hallah" from the dough when he bakes massah. As long as the dough used weighed 1.6665 kilograms (3.67 pounds), hallah must be taken and a berachah must be recited. Preferably, hallah should be taken - albeit without a berachah - starting from 1.6153 kilograms (3.5 pounds).

The Four Cups of Wine:

Women, as well as men, are obligated in the misvah of drinking the four cups of wine and all other misvot pertaining to the night of the seder. Therefore, if a group of women, who are knowledgeable and proficient in the halachot, wish to conduct their own seder, they may do so and recite all the appropriate berachot. Parents should educate their children with regard to the misvah, as well, and children who have reached the age at which they understand the significance of the Exodus should be given wine. Although parents are not required to give them a full "revi'it" of wine, children should, preferably, drink a revi'it of grape juice so that they will not get drunk or fall asleep. Children should also be given treats and candies on the night of the seder so that their interest is maintained and they will ask questions and participate. The custom is that everyone has someone else pour his wine for him as a symbol of our freedom. One must recite his berachah over a full cup of wine, as Hazal say that one who does so earns a boundless portion in the World to Come, and inherits a portion both in this world as well as in Olam Haba. Nevertheless, a full cup is not indispensable for the misvah, and as long as a revi'it of wine is in the cup, the misvah is fulfilled.

The Laws of Reclining

On Pesah night, one must behave as if he, himself, left Egypt. Therefore, we introduce elements of royalty and luxury at the seder to emphasize our freedom. Hazal instituted the specific practice of "hesebah," that one must recline on his left side during the seder, as this was the custom of the ancient kings. Even a pauper who does not own a pillow or cushion must recline on a bench, the floor, or on his friend. He should not, however, lean on his own leg, for this gives the impression that he is in mourning, Heaven forbid. Hesebah must be performed specifically on the left side, no matter whether the individual is right-handed or left-handed. One who reclined on his right side, straight back, or forward, is as if he did not recline at all. Hesebah must be done while eating the massah and drinking the four cups of wine. One who ate the massah without reclining must eat it again while reclining, and one who drank one of the cups of wine without reclining must drink another cup with hesebah. Additionally, one must perform hesebah while eating the "korech" and the afikoman. Throughout the rest of the meal, it is preferable to recline but not necessary. While eating the marror, however, one should not recline, as the marror symbolizes the bitterness of bondage, not our freedom. One should not recline during birkat hamazon, either. Hesebah while eating the karpas is optional. The authorities are in dispute whether one should recline while reading the Haggadah and reciting Hallel. One who wishes to rely on those poskim who do allow for hesebah during these points in the seder may do so. A woman of such stature in the home that her husband would not object to her reclining must do so. Today, the widespread custom among both Ashkenazim and Sefaradim is for women to recline. However, if she neglected to recline while eating the massah or drinking the wine she does not have to eat the massah or drink the wine again.

Rabbi Meir Abuhassera zs"l

Monday, the second day of Hol Hamoed, marks the fifteenth anniversary of the passing of the saintly Rabbi Meir Abuhassera zs"l, the son of the Baba Sali zs"l. He was both a brilliant scholar as well as a great sadik. Already at a young age, he was appointed by his father to deliver shiurim in his yeshivah in Bodniv. While still a youngster, he was involved in community affairs. When his father went to Demanhor and from there to Israel, Rabbi Meir was engaged. The Baba Sali requested that the wedding not be delayed, so his brother, the Baba Haki zs"l, made the arrangements. Even throughout the period of his engagement and marriage, Rabbi Meir was in charge of the yeshivah and taught regular shiurim. When the Baba Sali was the rabbi of Arpod and the surrounding region, Rabbi Meir stood at his side as Rosh Yeshivah and head of the Jewish court. And when the Baba Sali first moved to Eress Yisrael in 5711, the position of rabbi was passed down to Rabbi Meir. In 5724 the Baba Sali moved to Israel for a second time and settled in Netivot. His son moved to Israel, as well, but he resided in Ashdod, preferring to close himself off in his home, dedicating his life to the sublime service of Hashem. Masses of people thronged to the home of the Baba Sali to ask him to pray on their behalf. When he became ill and could not handle all the requests, he asked his son, Rabbi Meir to open his doors and offer salvation for those who needed it. Rabbi Meir obeyed his father, and his house turned into a source of salvation for scores of people.

However, a difficult illness took his life still while his father was alive. His sons shlit"a continue his tradition as was promised by the prophet, "My spirit which is upon you will not leave your mouth, the mouths of your children, or the mouths of your children's children, said Hashem, from now and forever."

For the sake of the yeshivah students we cite his promise: "One who guards the sanctity of his mouth and eyes is guaranteed success in his learning and will merit completeness in his fear of G-d."


"You shall tell your children on that day"

The "Sefer Hahinuch" writes, "There is a misvah to tell the story of yesi'at misrayim on the night of the fifteenth of Nissan, each individual according to his own linguistic capabilities, and to praise and exalt Hashem for all the miracles which He performed for us there, in order that one recall the miracles and events which occurred to our forefathers during yesi'at misrayim, and how the Al-mighty avenged for them. One is obligated to articulate these matters, in order that his heart be aroused through his words. This is a fundamental precept in our Torah and our faith, and that is why we say constantly throughout our berachot and tefilot, ' a remembrance of yesi'at misrayim.'"

"You shall destroy all leavened products from your homes"

The Ar"i zs"l writes that "Pesah" may be seen as a combination of two words - "peh sah" - (the mouth which speaks) alluding to the missvah to tell of the events of yesi'at misrayim on Pesah. Furthermore, during this festival, one must be extra careful how he speaks, not to speak any lashon hara, gossip, falsehood, or silliness. The Alshich zs"l saw a further allusion to this point in the mishnah which discusses the laws of searching for hamess which says, "If the house was already checked, and a mouse came with a piece of bread in its mouth and enters the house - the entire house must be checked again" (Pesahim 10). The implication is that even after a person is clear from all suspicions, he must still stand guard against the evil inclination, lest it come and enter one's mouth, in the form of forbidden speech.

"For seven weeks you shall eat massot"

The Abarbanel zs"l writes that the seven days of Pesah symbolize the seven decades of a person's life. On the first night there are many misvot, especially that of teaching one's children the miracles of yesi'at misrayim, alluding to the emphasis on education during the early, formative years of a person's life. The entire first day is a Yom Tov, symbolizing that the first ten years of a person's life must be dedicated to kedushah, to Torah education. During the next five days, we observe Hol Hamoed, where work is permitted but hamess remains forbidden. Similarly, during the middle stage of one's life, he goes out to work and earns a living while being careful not to violate any averot. At the end, there is another Yom Tov, just as the end of one's life can once again be dedicated to the pursuit of Torah study and kedushah.


Hands are specially constructed for taking hold of objects.

Hashem equipped our hands with opposable thumbs, or thumbs that can be moved against the fingers. This action makes it possible to grasp things in the hand and make delicate motions. To help to understand the work thumbs do, try to pick up a pen with your thumb motionless alongside your hand. If you accomplish that, then try to pick up a dime in the same way.

Hands are also used to feel things. The human hand contains at least four types of nerve endings that make the fingers and the thumbs highly sensitive. Blind people rely entirely on their sense of touch when reading Braille books. Surprisingly, there are 27 bones that make up the hand: eight in the wrist, five in the palm, and fourteen make up the fingers and thumb. Thirty-five powerful muscles move the hand, with fifteen of them in the forearm, rather than in the hand. This allows the hand to have great strength, without making the fingers thick with muscles that would make them difficult to move. Twenty muscles within the hand itself are arranged so that the hand and fingers can make a variety of precise movements. In the hands, we see the astonishing completeness of Hashem's creations. Many engineers, and inventors have tried to mimic the design of the hand, its adaptability, and capabilities, but without success. A robotic hand made to weld will not be able to spray paint, or hammer nails. But a human hand can do innumerable tasks of all different nature. We have to thank our Creator for giving us such intricate tools, and we have to remember to always use them to serve Hashem, and to do His misvot.

CONTINUING STORY (11) Flashback: The boy, Naftali, was on his way to stand trial for accidentally injuring a general and was saved by a warm, caring Jew. The man brought Naftali into his home and allowed Naftali to study Torah day and night. When Naftali reached adulthood, the man approached Naftali in his private room and asked if he would marry the man's daughter. Much to his surprise, Naftali asked that he come back the following day.

The next day, Naftali's host once again approached the young man's room, in the outskirts of the yard. Many different thoughts circulated in his mind. Why did Naftali not give him an answer right away? Why would he not approve of this match? Perhaps he simply didn't feel ready for marriage. But why not? After all, the man offered to support him and provide all his needs so he continue his progress in becoming a Torah scholar. With a sense of confusion and concern the man gently walked up to Naftali's door.

Just as his hand was about to knock, he came to an abrupt halt. He heard crying, wails of panic and desperation. Where were these cries coming from? He listened carefully, and noticed that these sounds came from Naftali's room. Listening even more carefully, he heard that it was Naftali's voice.

"Please! Please!" cried the young scholar bitterly. "I plead with you, please allow me to say yes. Please!"

The man, concerned for the boy's well-being, opened the door, only to find Naftali sitting there by himself!

to be continued...

excerpts from
Sing You Righteous...
by: Rabbi Avigdor Miller shlit"a

Holy Bodies (part II)

Aaron: The Pesah-offering, then, was a tremendous innovation.

Mr. Goodfriend: It shook the world. "Bestir yourself, O North! and come , O South!" (Songs 4:16). "Bestir yourself, O nation which performs only north-offerings (the Olah, or burnt-offering, was slaughtered on the north side of the altar -- Vayikra 1:11), and make way for the nation whose offerings are either north or south (the Shelamim offering, which is eaten, was slaughtered on any side of the altar)" (Zevahim 116a).

Aaron: The Exodus therefore, even before the giving of the Torah, was a tremendous elevation of Israel.

Mr. Goodfriend: Indeed it was. "For I am the L-rd Who took you up (Hama'aleh etchem) from the land of Egypt" (Vayikra 11:45), was said in the admonition against eating the crawling things and other forbidden foods (ibid.). "Said the Holy One...: Had I taken you up from Egypt solely because of this that you should not defile yourselves (by eating the abominable things), it would have been sufficient" (Baba Metziah 61b); "that you should be elevated...and not be rendered unsightly by these abominable things; therefore it is written in an expression of elevation, for this is a great elevation (Mala'ah) for you" (RSHI, ibid.).

Produced by Cong Bnai Yosef
and the Aram Soba Foundation -
translated from Maayan Hashavua in Israel
For advertising or dedications call 718-627-9861 between 9-12am daily

Back to this week's parsha | Previous Issues

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.
Jerusalem, Israel