of the holiday of freedom is figuring out how to
celebrate it in servitude (=exile).
Ha Lachma Anya,
the opening words of the maggid is the only piece in
Aramaic because it is a galus add-on. In it, we invite
people to the Seder on Seder night, something that can
not be done when we have a Beis HaMikdash [all korban
Pesach eaters must be pre-registered]. We also pine for
the return to Eretz yisrael - but until that time we
must learn to find freedom in the darkness.
Thus, Aruch Hashulchan teaches that the Rabbis
go to Bnei Brak for the Seder and turn to the hope
artist, Rabbi Akiva whose ability to roll away the
and see the light is the key component of an exile seder.
Only after the students can connect the night [the
shema of faith] with the morning
shema, [the shema of manifest kindness] can the Seder
end. Our obligation to our children remains the same:
light even at the darkest time. One way to do
that is to develop a love for Torah. If it is sweet
for you, then your children will also want some nosh.
is what we call it while Hashem (in His
Torah) calls it Chag Hamatzos - why the different
emphasis? The Berditchever Rebbe famously explained:
Pesach is what Hashem did for us while Chag Hamatzos,
our great leap of faith (we left 210 years in <18
minutes!) was for the love of God. For the other is
the essence of any relationship. Our tefillin
say Shema Yisrael and His "tefillin" say mi
k'amcha Yisrael (cf. Berachos 6 -who is like Thy
nation, O' Israel?). Thus on Pesach night, the night of
our betrothal to God, we sing Shir Hashirim - the song
that encapsulates I am for my Beloved and He is for me.
the risk of sounding corny ... Ever told God you love
Him? Ever look to see His manifest love in your life?
Pesach may be a good time to try.
That which does not have the potential to be chametz
may not be used for matzah (as a general rule).
Yet, once each item achieves its respective status, it
can never be transformed. No matter how much water you
add to matzah - it shall never become chametz and
crushing chametz can never revert it back to matzah. At
some point, our life decisions become irreversible.
Thankfully, every year we can make matzah again; A Jew
never gives up hope.
As we start the seder, the traditional Eastern European
beginning of Kadesh was "Kadesh: When Father
comes home from synagogue on Passover night, he must
immediately recite the Kiddush, so that the
little children will not fall asleep and they will ask
the Four Questions beginning with Ma Nishtana."
The Shpoler Zeide so movingly taught:
When our Father
- in Heaven
sees that Jews have gone to shul and poured out their
souls in prayer and song -even though they are so tired
from the heavy pre Pesach work, then ...
He must recite Kiddush right away-
the Creator must renew his betrothal, his
Kiddushin, [same root as Kiddush] to Bnei
Yisrael right away. He must redeem us from exile right
So that the little children will not fall asleep
- God's children are the Jews ['Is not Ephraim my
beloved son, a precious child?'] and He must act
quickly so that His children will not fall into the
slumber of exile and despair, Heaven forbid, of ever
So that they will ask the Four Questions beginning
with Ma Nishtana -
while we are still strong enough to ask Ma Nishtana?
- Why is this night -- why is this bitter exile --
different from all other nights? Why has this
dark exile been so prolonged and never seem to end?"
- Taz, classic commentator on Shulchan Aruch proves from
here that we must wash for wet veggies or fruit all year
round - just like we wash for bread
Vilna Gaon even made a bracha! For those that don't
follow this, there's what to rely on, but they must
answer why Seder night is different? Magen Avraham says
it's in order to evoke the question. [This would explain
why some have the custom of only the Seder-master
washing, for it's even stranger!] Netziv offers a 3rd
approach. Magen Avraham is correct that normally one
need not wash for fruits/veggies, but on this night one
must wash - for in the time of the Beis HaMikdash, we
will need to wash once again - and on Pesach night, we
herald back to Temple times. That's also why we wear a
Karpas - Yachatz
[we break the matzah] ... the quickest piece of Seder.
It takes longer to say it than do it. What's it about? A
partial answer based on the gemara:
On seder night we highlight lechem oni, [bread of
affliction] - the poor man's bread. Poor people do not
eat whole food - they"ll take whatever you give (just
ask a student who left his lunch at home). In
talmudic lexicon, darko shel ani b'perusah -
the way of the poor is with a piece. Poor people
(and Jews on Sunday) eat leftovers. This explanation
however falls short - because we can simply bring a
broken piece to the seder. Why the breaking ceremony?
Some say: we want to express our poverty - so we
davka break it at the seder. Rambam says break it before
eating, while Shulchan Aruch says to break it before
maggid [the story]. Rambam seems more logical. Why
do we follow the Shulchan Aruch? Kol Bo explains that
good stories need props to pull in the listener and we
begin the story by exclaiming Ha Lachma Anya ("This is
the poor man's bread..") . We break it first as a
classic show and tell.
Others raise the ubiquitously Pesach in order that
the kids should ask notion.
Ba'alei Hatosafos and Orchos Chaim claim
that it alludes to the splitting of the sea. Thus the
Moroccans till today have the custom at Yachatz to says:
thus the Holy One Blessed Be He split the sea for us
into twelve pathways.
A penetrating insight by Rav Meir Goldvicht adds a whole
new world. Karpas, according to Rabbeinu Manoach alludes
to the sale of Yosef.
Here's the short story: Pasim, the name of
Yosef's special coat (that signified status) is
connected to the word karpas in the Megillah.
Rashi, [Bereishis, 37:3] in defining Yosef's coat,
explains that karpas denotes a special type of
wool. The original custom of dunking the karpas
vegetable into red wine fills in the picture. In sum, we
dip the multicolored coat into the blood - beckoning the
sale of Yosef. Why bring this up now? Because as we
ponder leaving Egypt, we must remember how we got in.
is a question we barely speak of, because the answer is
shameful: We break the matzah to symbolize unity torn
asunder, we hide the bigger piece [for afikoman]
and look for it at the at the end of the seder. At some
point, we find the afikoman. Ultimate redemption,
[personal and national] comes with the search towards
unity. The geulah will beckon the ten tribes.
After afikoman, we call in Eliyahu - ultimate unifier of
the generations - present at bris, seder and redemption.
Seder often brings together a lot of different types of
people - perhaps it is a pre-redemption test for
ultimate geulah requires unity.
- The Haggadah is so called because of the mitzvah
of Maggid - the central mitzvah of the night.
Its source: Exodus [13:8]:
v'higadeta l'hvincha bayom hahu leimor
and you shall express to your child on that night
saying. - this verse forms the crux of the night.
Now note that we employ this verse for the weak child
that does not even know [how, when] to ask a question.
He is the Torah's
target for seder night; elitism is not a Jewish thing!
All of our children need be addressed. The goal is to
stimulate questions. First, we must address their hearts
- where their unasked observations/question reside.
At p'tach lo - softly open them up. I suspect that
if we show them the proper respect and love, they will
quickly move up the ladder to be the chacham No
Jew is without questions. Our goal is to awaken hearts,
to make it safe and exciting to be worth their while.
- We wash, eat Matzah and then Maror, even though we
experienced the maror (servitude) first?! A yiddishism
teaches that a worm in chrain (horseradish) doesn't
know how bad he has it (until he tastes the honey)!
A nation numbed by servitude cannot pine for freedom. A
taste of freedom allows one to fathom how bad it was.
For those of us afraid to make the leap (whatever it may
be) - because it's not so bad - how do you know?
- The Hillel "Where's the Beef" Sandwich. According
to most, Korech is the bread [matzah] and the lettuce
waiting for the lamb, because Hillel puts all 3 mitzvos
together. According to Rambam, the meat was never eaten
with the matzah and maror. Why are these two eaten
together? Sefas Emes explains that a Jew, before he is
redeemed must realize that the same God who brought
redemption [matzah] also brought the servitude [maror] -
both experiences are purposeful. The Maror for example
opened up the Jewish mouth and taught us how to pray.
- The Hidden [Afikoman]. The bigger half of the
Yachatz is eaten - either as matzah's main mitzvah
[Rashbam] or as a Korban Pesach commemorative [Rosh].
But why do we hide it away and why does its Seder name
derive from its hidden-ness?
The Vilna Gaon likens it to hiding the bread on Shabbos,
since we drink the wine before it.
Rav Chaim taught that the korban pesach, as any
sacrifice needs special shemira (watching). We are not
hiding it - we are guarding it!
Rav Schwab [and many others] based on Tehillim 31 [mah
rav tuvecha asher tzafanta le'yireiecha- how great
is Your goodness that you have hidden away for those
that fear you] teach that we hide the bigger piece away
ourselves and to teach our children that for the
faithful Jew, the best is yet to come.
Shulchan Aruch - Barech
- It seems like the standard Grace after Meals, but
it really IS different. Consider that even after the
bentsching, the seder is not over. Netziv teaches that
the meal is not a simple hiatus; it is also part of the
Hallel, fittingly sandwiched between the Hallel part
one and Hallel part two. With one proviso: it needs to
be channeled properly. This is a model for the whole
year and classic Jewish spirituality. After Barech, we
fittingly exclaim in that Hallel - let every bone in my
body [even the ones that do the eating, drinking and
shmoozing] express your greatness Hashem .
- we can not say Hallel at night! Thus says the
mishna. Hallel is said mimizrach shemesh ad mevo'o
(from sunrise to sunset). So why is this night different
? R. Hai Gaon famously explains that this is not
formalistic kria hallel - this is spontaneous
shira hallel. We have just left Mitzrayim and are
tasting freedom. Look at those pictures of the camps on
liberation day. One can not tell a volcano when to
erupt. Shulchan Aruch and Ramo teach that Pesach and
Tisha B'av are intertwined. That's why we have the egg
on the seder plate - as a reminder of mourning. On Tisha
B'av, there is no limit to our mourning. We are like a
bride who lost her groom under the chupa [cf. kinah of
eli tziyon]. Spontaneity in either direction transcends
limits. Halacha understands this. Our paradoxical
challenge: to become spontaneous [even if it appears
- Echad Mi Yodeia Who Knows one ... the song
saved for almost the end. If the hagaddah is a mountain,
then the seder ends with the chad gadya climax
and the penultimate song which cherishes Jewish numbers.
The reverse numbering reminds us of the ultimate
centrality of serving God in our lives. Consider that
every number is Jewish - from the 13 attributes of mercy
that Hashem revealed to Moshe in the Golden Calf
aftermath to the 8 days of milah to the 5 books
of Moses.. with one exception. Who knows 9? You mean
goyim don't have children after 9 months, so what gives?
The old joke about Judaism's view that the fetus is only
viable when it graduates medical school couldn't be
farther from the truth. A friend of mine likes to say we
start educating our children twenty years before they
are born. Minimally in utero is the time that the mother
[and occasionally the father] begins to worry about the
childs's spirituality. Rivkah, upon hearing that she may
be bearing a spiritual deviant is beside herself. The
prayer and tears for our children's yiddishe neshama is
the unique contribution of Jewish mothering.
It's over - or not?
A halachic irony: People stay up the whole Shavuot night
even as the minhag is not mentioned in Shulchan Aruch
while post Seder slumber is de rigueur when directs us
to stay up the whole night -
until we have
been overtaken by sleep (ad sheyachtifenu
sheina). Perhaps, after all the pre-pesach work, the
latter qualification may only be a matter of seconds,
but at least one has to take out a sefer (book). Why do
many not do this? Perhaps we are sleeping already. Rav
Gedalya Schorr teaches that the sleep of exile is so
deep. (even R. Akiva had to wake up his talmidim).
On Pesach night we read Shir HaShirim. In it we say
Ani Yesheina v'libi Er. I am asleep but my heart is
wake. The Jew only appears to be sleeping
May God redeem us quickly; our hearts pulsate with
ahavas Hashem. Let us not remind ourselves that we
dare not fall into the dark slumber of despair!
a kasheren, a zeisen Pesach -
Haba'ah b'yerushalayim - Good Shabbos
To Sponsor or Dedicate Reflections, please email
 Even R.
Eliezer who "praises the lazy ones" that do not
leave their home for Yom Tov [cf. Sukkah 27]
breaks his own ideal to be with R. Akiva!
 See Sefer
Ohr Zarua who points out, based on a midrash,
that the verse ohr zarua latzadik u'liyishrei
lev simcha [Tehillim 97] has R. Akiva
embedded at the end of each word. [reish of ohr,
ayin of zarua ...] We thus say it to commence on
Yom Kippur, - which is R. Akiva's yahrtzeit. The
incredible metaphoe of that verse is that a
for the righteous indicates that a Righteous
person is able to see the seedling of light even
before it breaks ground - which is the raison
d'etre of R. AKiva.
 As in
l'hagid baboker chasdecha v'emunasecha baleilos
- cf. Berachos 12
na Hashem elokeinu .. v'nihiyeh anachnu
v'tzetzaeinu kulanu yodeia shemecha]
It's a reminder for the Kohein. Cf. Shulchan
Aruch O.C. 158. Indeed sardonically asks those
who only wash on seder night for the vegetables
: Why is this night different than all others?].
This notion of connecting of Karpas to Mechiras
Yosef, while novel is well sourced. See Yerios
Shlomo [R. Shlomo Kluger brought down in R.
Yaakov Emden siddur], Rabbeinu Manoach [on
Rambam chametz u'matzah, 8:2] , Ben Ish Chai [parshas
tzav] . Most remarkable is the custom of the
Jews of Gerba to stop in the middle of maggid to
tell the story of mechiras Yosef
Some even claim that Rabban Gamliel who states
that one who has not mentioned Pesach Matzah
Marror has not fulfilled his obligation is
referring not to the maggid obligation - but
rather to the mitzvah of pesach, matzah and
marror. Remarkably, even the objects of the
korban pesach , matzah and marror require a
haggadah - the implication being that they are
props in the big story of yetzias mitzrayim - a
story that must be expressed in its full glory