Envisioning the Future at the Seder

Dear Friends,


During the Seder, we chant a group of psalms known as “Hallel” – Psalms 113-118. Before the meal, we chant the first section of the Hallel (Psalms 113, 114), and after the meal, we chant the second section (Psalms 115-118).  The Vilna Gaon, in his commentary on the Haggadah, explains that the first part of the Hallel refers to our past redemption from the bondage of Egypt, while the second part refers to our future redemption in Zion.


Before we begin the second part of Hallel, we, the remnant of suffering Israel, say the following passage which cites various verses from our Sacred Scriptures regarding the goyim – nations – that have “devoured” our people:


“Pour out Your wrath towards the goyim that do not know You and on the kingdoms that have not proclaimed Your Name. For they have devoured Jacob, and destroyed his habitation (Psalm 79:6,7). Pour forth Your indignation upon them, and let Your burning wrath overtake them” (Psalm 69:25). Pursue them with anger and destroy them from beneath the heavens of Hashem (Lamentations 3:66).”


Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains that in Biblical Hebrew, the term goy refers to the outer structure or body of a nation; thus, the reference to the destruction of goyim in the above passage is referring to the destruction of national structures, but not to the destruction of peoples. (Commentary to Psalm 67:5)


What does the above passage from the Haggadah mean when it refers to goyim “that do not know You”? An answer can be found in the following Divine proclamation:


“Only with this may one take pride – contemplating and knowing Me, that I am Hashem Who does loving-kindness, justice, and righteousness on earth, for in these is My desire, spoke Hashem.” (Jeremiah 9:23)


To know Hashem is to be aware that Hashem does loving-kindness, justice, and righteousness, and that He desires that we emulate these Divine ways. The goyim that don’t know Hashem are those that refuse to emulate these ways.


The above passage from the Haggadah also calls for an end to “the kingdoms that have not proclaimed Your Name.” We respectfully refer to the most sacred Divine Name as Hashem, which literally means, “the Name.” This sacred Name expresses the Divine attribute of compassion, as our sages teach:
Wherever Hashem is mentioned, it designates the Divine attribute of compassion, as it is written (Exodus 34:6): Hashem, Hashem, Compassionate God. (Sifri on Deuteronomy 3:24)


The kingdoms that fail to proclaim the compassionate Divine Name are those that fail to emulate the compassionate Divine ways; thus, they devour Jacob.


After we read the passage referring to the downfall of evil powers, we begin to chant the second part of Hallel and other passages which refer to the future redemption of Israel and all humanity during the messianic age of enlightenment, when all will recognize Hashem and the righteous will be vindicated. Why, however, do we first pray for the elimination of evil powers? The following verse can give us an answer to this question:


“I shall cut down the pride of the wicked, so that the pride of the righteous will be exalted.” (Psalm 75:11.)


Before the righteous can rise and be vindicated, the pride and power of the wicked must be eliminated. (This answer was inspired by the commentary of the Vilna Gaon on the above passage from the Haggadah.)


There is a custom to begin this second part of the Seder by opening the door of our home for Eliyahu Hanavi – Elijah the Prophet. A reason for this custom can be found in the ancient prophecy which is chanted on the Shabbos before Passover. This prophecy reveals that Hashem will send Eliyahu Hanavi just before the future redemption, as it is written: “Behold, I will send you Eliyahu Hanavi before the coming of the great and awesome day of Hashem” (Malachi 3:23). Since the second part of the Seder is to remind us of the future redemption, we begin by welcoming Eliyahu Hanavi – the forerunner of the future redemption; thus, some have the custom of calling out when they open the door, Baruch haba – Blessed is the one who comes.


The future redemption will complete a spiritual process which began during the Exodus from Egypt. Rabbi Yechezkel Abramsky, a leading sage who lived during the era of the Holocaust, elaborates on this idea:


“We must bear in mind that the protracted manipulation of the forces of nature (during the Exodus) was designed to teach a lesson not only to the people who benefited most directly from these miracles. Indeed Hashem told Pharaoh that He could have eliminated him without fanfare, in an instant, with one fierce blow, but ‘for this reason I have let you endure, in order to show you My strength and so that My Name may be declared throughout the world.’ (Exodus 9:16). The lessons of the Exodus were not intended to inspire the limited audience of Israel alone; they were cosmic events, with universal objectives.”


Rabbi Abramsky reminds us that we have not yet reached the ultimate and universal goal of the Exodus, and he adds:


“The world is still filled with idolatry and corruption. The Jewish people and the Torah are still despised in every corner of the globe. However, Hashem has sent us His word through His prophets, promising that one day, ‘Many peoples and mighty nations will come to seek Hashem, God of all the hosts of creation, in Jerusalem’ (Zechariah 8:22). At that time, in the Messianic era, when Hashem promises that ‘As in the days of your Exodus from the land of Egypt I will show you wonders’ (Micah 7:15), the objectives that were undertaken in the days of the Exodus will at last finally come to fruition. The universal recognition of Hashem as supreme Sovereign of the Universe will finally be achieved.” (ArtScroll Haggadah of the Roshei Yeshivos, Book Two, page 84)


The future redemption will therefore be a continuation of a process that began with the Exodus from Egypt; however, the future redemption will also be greater than the first redemption, for in the Messianic era, the universal and spiritual goals of the Exodus will finally be achieved. We therefore proclaim during the second half of the Seder:


“Praise Hashem, all goyim; extol Him, all the peoples!” (Psalm 117:1).


“The soul of every living being shall bless Your Name, Hashem, our God” (Nishmas).


We conclude the Seder with the proclamation: “Next Year in Jerusalem!”


With these concluding words, we express our yearning for the era of universal enlightenment, when “Torah will go forth from Zion and the Word of Hashem from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:3)


May we be blessed with a good and sweet Shabbos.

And may we be blessed with a happy and liberating Passover.

Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen  (See below)


Related Teachings:


1. Towards the beginning of the Seder, we break the middle of the three whole matzohs, and we temporarily hide the bigger piece, which is called the Afikomen. We eat the Afikomen at the end of the meal, before starting the second half of the Seder, which is dedicated to the future redemption. The Chasam Sofer offers the following explanation for this custom:


Regarding the first night of Passover, the night of the 15th of Nisan, the Torah states, “This same night is a night of watching unto Hashem for all the Children of Israel for their generations” (Exodus 12:42). In his commentary on this statement, the Baal HaTurim states: The Holy One, Blessed be He, divided this night into two parts – the first part for the Exodus from Egypt, and the second part for the future redemption.


After citing the above commentary of the Baal HaTurim, the Chasam Sofer adds this insight: When we break the middle matzoh in two parts, the smaller piece alludes to the Exodus from Egypt, which was not the complete and final redemption, while the big piece alludes to the complete and final redemption of the future. The reason we hide the bigger piece which alludes to the future redemption is because the day of this great comfort is hidden from us. (Drashos of the Chasam Sofer Volume 2, 306b – cited in the Haggadah of the Chasam Sofer)


The ArtScroll Haggadah by Rabbi Joseph Elias (page 49) cites a similar explanation by the Sefas Emes, a leading Chassidic sage. The Sefas Emes adds the following insight: The Afikomen, which represents the complete redemption of the future, is also the last food of the evening, in order that its “taste” remains in our mouths for the rest of the night. (In other words, the “taste” of the complete and final redemption is to remain with us on this sacred night.)

For information on the Passover Haggados published by ArtScroll, visit: www.artscroll.com  .


2. The first Passover in our history began on Wednesday night, and this year, Passover also begins on Wednesday night (April 8th).

Hazon - Our Universal Vision