MARCH 22-23, 2002 10 NISAN 5762
"One might think [it begins from] Rosh Hodesh. The Torah therefore says: 'On that day.'" (Haggadah of Pesah)
The Haggadah is structured to be a complete guide as to how to do a Pesah seder. It also provides the outline of the story of the Exodus, which we are all obligated to tell our children. At one point, the Haggadah tells us that one might be tempted to say the Haggadah two weeks earlier, on Rosh Hodesh Nisan. Therefore, there is a special word in the Torah, "on that day," to tell us that the misvah to read the Haggadah is on the night of the seder and not earlier. Why would we even think of beginning from Rosh Hodesh? The redemption hadn't even happened yet!
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein z"l explains that even though the redemption didn't take place until the evening of the 15th of Nisan, Hashem promised on the first of the month that they will get out on the 15th, and a promise from Hashem is as if it is already done. Any person who doesn't feel like it is already done is considered like a person with a weak belief in Hashem. Therefore, logic dictates that the Haggadah, which tells of the Exodus, should be recited from the time of the promise. Therefore the Torah needs to tell us to wait until the 15th of the month.
As we celebrate Pesah with our family and relive the Exodus, we have a feeling of sorrow inside. How can we lean and drink the four cups when the blood of our brothers, sisters and children is being spilled in Israel. Well, I have great news! Hashem has promised that the redemption is coming! “v’shabu banim ligbulam - And my children will return to their borders!" (Yirmiyahu 31:16) It's a done deal - we are home! Let's celebrate this holiday with anticipation as truly free men to serve Hashem. Happy Holiday. Rabbi Reuven Semah
"In every generation it is one's duty to regard himself as though he personally has come out of Egypt." (Haggadah)
The Peninim Haggadah quotes Harav M. Gifter z"l who explains that all the events which occurred to Bnei Yisrael were not singular, transitory events that were meant to be immediately forgotten. Every miracle, every incident bespeaks eternity. The events are eternalized in such a manner that when that date on the calendar arrives, the Jew must relate to "then" as if it were "now." Indeed, as the Haggadah says, one must regard himself as though he came out of Egypt. This is not an event of the past; it is occurring in the present. Consequently, one is obligated to recite Hallel even at night, since it is viewed as if the miracle occurred to him personally.
In a similar vein, Rabbi E. Dessler z"l observes that time is not a line that passes above us, but rather a circle through which we travel.
Periodically, we return to those events which have been eternalized as a result of the spiritual values with which they have been suffused. During these unique periods, one has the opportunity to interface with the experiences which have consecrated these moments in time. Thus, at the specific time of the year when we remember zeman herutenu, the time of our liberation, we are infused with the spiritual concepts that highlight that moment in time. We are inspired by the kedushah, holiness, of the moment; we are elevated by the experiences as we relive yesiat misrayim.
May we merit to truly experience these feelings during this holiday season and may we be privileged to celebrate Pesah in Jerusalem with the Mashiah speedily in our days, Amen. Happy and Kosher Pesah to all. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
In Parashat Sav, the Torah discusses the Korban Todah, the Thanksgiving offering. This Korban was a sub-category of the Korban Shelamim, but differed in two significant aspects. Firstly, the Korban Shelamim could be eaten for two days, whereas the Korban Todah could only be eaten for one day. Secondly all the other korbanot did not have any Hamess in them whereas the Todah had ten loaves of Hamess bread as part of it. The Netziv explains that the reason for these differences is that a Korban Todah comes when a person wishes to express his gratitude to Hashem. The Torah therefore instructs him to bring a Korban, and eat it all in one day. Obviously it is difficult for one person to do this by himself, so he will call his friends to join him. Making a seudat hoda'ah. At the seudah he serves the Hamess bread and tells the story of his deliverance by Hashem, thereby making a Kiddush Hashem.
On Pesah we sit around the Seder and relate the story of Yesiat Misrayim. The Zohar tells that when we talk about the miracles that Hashem did for our forefathers, Hashem instructs the angels to come listen to B'nei Yisrael talking about Hashem's greatness. The Noam Elimelech states that when B'nei Yisrael are in times of trouble they should talk of the miracles that Hashem performed in Egypt, and through this, Hashem will continue to perform great miracles to save us.
This Pesah, with the precarious situation in Israel, let us all excel in this mitzvah of talking about the Ten Makkot and all of the wonders that Hashem did for us in Egypt. And may Hashem perform great miracles for us in our times. Amen. Shabbat Shalom Rabbi Raymond Haber
Why is the Shabbat before Pesah called "Shabbat Hagadol - the Great Shabbat"?
One reason is because of the great miracle that took place in Egypt on that day. On the tenth of Nissan, which was Shabbat, the Jews were instructed to prepare a sheep to be used as a Korban Pesah. When the Egyptian first-born visited Jewish homes and inquired what they were doing with the sheep, the Jews replied that they were preparing a Korban Pesah to G-d, who would kill the Egyptian first-born. Upon hearing this they went to their parents and to Pharaoh begging them to send out the Jewish people. When they refused, the first-born declared war against their parents and killed many of them, as it is written in Psalms, "Who struck Egypt through its first-born" (136:10).
What is so unique about this miracle that it should be described as a "nes gadol - great miracle"?
Throughout history the Jewish people have been confronted with numerous enemies. Fortunately, Hashem comes to our salvation and miraculously our enemies are destroyed. The uniqueness of the miracle of Shabbat Hagadol was that while Egypt and Pharaoh were still in their fullest strength and glory, their own first-born demanded compliance with Hashem's will, and when they refused, an internal war erupted, fought on behalf of the Jewish people. Thus, the Egyptians killing Egyptians on behalf of the Jewish people was the greatest miracle that the Jewish people have witnessed.
Alternatively, on the 10th day of Nisan, which was a Shabbat, Hashem commanded the Jewish people to prepare a lamb for a Korban Pesah and tie it to the foot of their beds. On Wednesday afternoon, the 14th day of Nisan, the Jews slaughtered the Korban Pesah and left Egypt the following morning (Thursday), the 15th day of Nisan.
When the Egyptians visited the homes of their Jewish slaves, they were horrified to see how the Jews were treating the lambs, which the Egyptians worshipped. When the Egyptians asked what they were doing with the lambs, the Jews did not evade the question and proudly stated, "We have a G-d Who commanded us to sacrifice these."
A major difference between a katan - minor - and a gadol - adult - is that a minor is frequently timid and likely to obscure the truth with excuses. On the other hand, an adult, mature and not ashamed of his actions, forthrightly proclaims his convictions. On this Shabbat the Jews acted as mature adults and did not hesitate to make known their allegiance to G-d. Since they acted like gedolim, this Shabbat is known as Shabbat Hagadol. (Vedibarta Bam)
"If he offers it for a thanks offering" (Vayikra 7:12)
Rabennu Bachya asserts that a hatan and kallah (bride and groom) should offer a korban todah in gratitude for their abundant joy. This seems inconsistent with the Talmud in Berachot 54b which cites the injunction that one who has been saved from danger must bring a korban todah. There are four general categories of people who are required to bring a korban todah: Those who have crossed a wilderness; those who have been imprisoned and released; those who have been dangerously ill and recovered; and those who have crossed a sea. These are people who had been in situations that could have cost them their lives, but they were spared through Hashem's mercy. From what danger were the hatan and kallah saved which would require a korban todah?
Rabbi Moshe Shternbuch cites the Talmud in Sotah 2a, which states that pairing a young couple is as "difficult as the splitting of the Red Sea." Consequently, the joining of two young people is in itself a miracle. Therefore, it behooves the young couple to acknowledge the receipt of this unique gift with a korban demonstrating their gratitude.
We may suggest another parallel between marriage and the four who were spared from death. These people have just had the occasion to reflect upon their past, thus raising their awareness of the present. They have been availed of an invaluable opportunity for a second look at their life's experiences, which enables them to nurture a greater appreciation of Hashem's gifts. Life, health and material abundance are things we take for granted until they are "almost" taken from us. At that time we reflect, acknowledge and hold dear all of our blessings. After such a harrowing experience we appreciate our "new" self even more.
When two people join in marriage, they merge to create a new being. Each has now attained completion. The inherent joy catalyzed by this recognition should imbue them with this realization. They now recognize that their "past" pales in comparison to their "new" self. This new consciousness must stimulate a sense of gratitude, which is concretized by offering a korban todah. Whenever one is inspired to appreciate his current situation, an expression of gratitude is appropriate. (Peninim on the Torah)
This week's Haftarah: Yirmiyahu 7:21-8:3 & 9:1-2.
The custom in many communities is to read a special haftarah for Shabbat HaGadol. However, the custom in the Syrian community is to read the regular haftarah for Parashat Sav, which is from Yirmiyahu, and discusses the korbanot. The message, as in last week's haftarah, is that following Hashem's commandments is more beloved to Hashem than all the sacrifices that we could bring.
"Whoever is hungry, let him come and eat; whoever is in need, let him come and conduct the Seder of Pesah"
This announcement should have been made when inviting guests to the home, not when they are all seated at the table.
According to halachah, the Pesah offering had to be eaten al hasoba - to reach satiation, i.e. like dessert, at the end of the meal. One should not be completely sated nor should he be very hungry before eating the Pesah offering. This halachah also applies to the afikoman, which is eaten nowadays in lieu of the Pesah offering.
The head of the household is addressing the members of his family, as well as all the guests. He tells them "Tonight we will have to eat the afikoman which is in place of the Pesah offering. Therefore, kol dichfin - whoever is hungry - yeteh veyechol - let him come and eat - in order not to eat the afikoman on an empty stomach." To those present who are not hungry the host proclaims, "kol ditzrich - whoever is in need - i.e. who only needs a little bit if food to conclude the meal and be fully sated - yeteh veyifsach - let them join us in the eating of the afikoman. (Ki Yishalcha Bincha)
"We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and G-d took us out from there with a strong hand" (Passover Haggadah)
After the child asks the four questions, the Haggadah is recited starting with Abadim hayinu." Where in the Haggadah is the answer to the four questions?
An answer to a young child's question has to be concise and clear. Otherwise, he will remain with his query and become more perplexed. The opening statement "We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt and Hashem took us out from there with a strong hand" briefly answers all the four questions. The father is telling his child that the four things he is asking about are done to remind us of two important things that happened to us: 1) We were slaves. 2) Hashem freed us.
Consequently, the dipping of the food exemplifies comfort and indulgence and is thus a symbol of freedom. On the other hand, it can be viewed as a symbol of bondage, since the word karpas, when reversed, can be read lrp 'x (the letter samech has the numerical value of 60) and alludes to the sixty myriads of Jews (600,000) who were enslaved in perach - hard labor. The salt water recalls the bitter tears of bondage while the haroset resembles the mixture that was used to make the bricks.
We eat matzah because it was the food eaten in Egypt throughout the years of slavery and also because it commemorates the fact that when we were freed, we did not have enough time to let the dough rise and instead quickly baked matzah. Maror reminds us of the embitterment of our lives through the slavery, and we sit reclining like free people. The purpose of the remainder of the Haggadah is to relate the narrative of the Exodus of Egypt. (Ki Yishalcha Bincha)
There is a beautiful custom that takes place every Passover at the Seder. After kiddush, the father breaks the middle matzah of the three matzahs placed before him and hides it away till the end of the Seder. It is the afikoman, the final food eaten at the Seder. Afikoman is apparently related to the Greek word for "dessert," and it's a real pleasure to watch the happy contented faces of the Seder participants munching away at still another piece of matzah. Some people observe it's even tastier this year then usual. They are eating the cardboard box.
But as all the youngsters know, before you can reach that exciting conclusion to the Seder, you first have to get the afikoman. The children are encouraged to steal the afikoman and hold it hostage, refusing to return it until you promise to buy them the gift of their dreams. Does it make sense to encourage our children to steal, blackmail and extort money from us?
There are those who suggest it's just a harmless game designed to maintain the children's interest in the Seder so they don't drift off. In that case, why not do what we always do? Tell them if they sit quietly they'll get a prize. Offer them a chance to answer questions about what we read. But thievery and extortion?
The truth is, there's a tremendous lesson to learn from the custom of stealing the afikoman. Let's take a quick look at the Seder. The kiddush is followed by a series of unusual activities. We dip a vegetable in salt water, we uncover the matzos, we re-cover the matzos, we remove the Seder plate, we refill the wine cups. Finally we get down to business and one of the children recites "Mah Nishtanah - the Four Questions." When the child finishes, he is returned to his seat at the table where, between plotting his afikoman caper, he throws things at his brother and annoys his sister. Did anyone notice that while we were careful to make sure the child asks the four questions, no one seems to care if he gets any answers?
If you examine the customs that precede the "Mah Nishtanah," you find that they all have the same theme: To inspire the children to ask. The child sees the wine cup being refilled, and he thinks: "Hey! We don't make kiddush twice!" He sees the Seder plate being removed and thinks: "Is the Seder over already?" This inspires a child's curiosity until he wants to say: "Hey, why is this night different from all other nights?"
Unfortunately what happens most of the time is that we cover the matzahs, uncover the matzahs, remove the Seder plate, fill the cups, and when the child's curiosity is stimulated he can count on receiving the same answer: "How in the world do I know why we're doing all these things? That's how your grandfather did it!"
It's sad that people can have a Passover Seder every year and never stop to think of all the "whys." How do we make this night special from all other nights? Parents have a commandment one night a year to tell their children what's really important to them - why we are Jews, the traditions and beliefs of our ancestors, the meaning and miracle of Jewish survival. And the kids have a commandment to listen. Imagine! One night a year the kids have a misvah to ask us questions and actually have to listen to our answers. What an opportunity! But do we take advantage of it? Or do we give our children the same tired Seder performance that we did last year? With all the preparations for Passover, all the cleaning and shopping and cooking - shouldn't we spend some time preparing our Seder? Thinking about what I want to tell my children. See if there is a fresh approach to the Seder that we want to share with our children. Something that will be meaningful and relevant to our children.
That, could be the reason for the custom of stealing the afikoman. Our children just asked four questions; they deserve answers. Maybe they realize the only way they can get our attention is by stealing it. Maybe the wise men who instituted the custom wanted to remind us that we aren't going to finish the Seder without the children. "Mom, Dad, remember me? I want some answers. And if I have to blackmail you to remember that you have a kid, I'm prepared to do it."
We all struggle to make the Passover Seder meaningful for our guests and for ourselves. But be careful to remember that the next generation is sitting at your Seder table. (Ohr Somayach)
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