Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Pesach 5769

Hagadah Shel Pesach 5769


The word kadesh, which literally means recite Kiddush, can be read as kuf, 100, dash, trample. This alludes to the idea that we are obligated to praise HaShem with 100 blessings daily, and by doing so we will not trample upon the mitzvos that at times become habitual


The word urchatz is literally translated to mean ‘and wash.’ It is noteworthy that the word urchatz in at bash (where the letter aleph is taf, bais is shin etc.) spells the letters pay, gimmel, samach, and hey, which equal in gematria the word Pesach.

Karpas Yachatz

The word karpas refers to the vegetable that is dipped in salt water. It is noteworthy that when rearranging the letters in the word karpas, it forms the words raf and kes. The word raf means weaken and the word kes means chair. The word yachatz means to divide. This alludes to the idea that the Medrash (Tana Divei Eliyahu §23) states that when the Jewish People became weak in Torah, they were attacked by Amalek. The Medrash (Tanchumah end of Ki Seitzei) states that until Amalek is annihilated, the Name of HaShem and His throne are divided, so instead of the word kisei, the word is kes. The word yachatz alludes to this idea that the Name and Throne of HaShem are divided until Amalek will be annihilated.


The word maggid means to relate. What is the reason we use this word for the most important component of the Seder night? Perhaps the explanation for this is that the word maggid contains the word gad, which means fortune (See Rashi Bereishis 30:11). The Gemara (Shabbos 156a) states that ain mazal liYisroel, the Jewish People are not subject to luck or fortune. One could claim that the entire miracle of the Exodus from Egypt was orchestrated by the stars, as Pharaoh himself told Moshe (Shemos 10:10) reu ki raah neged pineichem, “look – the evil intent is opposite your faces.” The Medrash (Yalkut Shimoni Ki Sisa §392) states that Pharaoh was forewarning Moshe that he saw blood in the Wilderness, and his prediction was correct, as HaShem sought to annihilate the Jewish People after they worshipped the Golden Calf. Nonetheless, this blood was transformed into the blood of circumcision. When we relate the miracles of the Exodus, we are demonstrating that we can extricate ourselves from our mazal, our fortune, and we are under the umbrella of Divine Providence. The commentators write that the word mazal, fortune, is derived from the word nozeil, which means to flow. It is noteworthy that the word maggid is associated with the word Agadah which also means to flow. Thus, we recite maggid, and this reflects the idea that we are leaving the realm of fortune and luck and entering into the arena of Divine Providence.


The word rachtzah means washing. One must wonder, though, why at the Seder we refer to washing with the words urchatz and rachtzah, when normally we refer to washing our hands as netillah. Perhaps the answer to this question is that it is said (Shemos 2:5) vatered bas Pharaoh lirchotz al hayeor, Pharaoh’s daughter went down to bathe by the River. The Gemara (Sota 12b) interprets this to mean that the daughter of Pharaoh went down to the river to wash herself clean from the idols of her father’s house. Similarly, by the Seder we are declaring that we are washing ourselves clean of our prior impurities.

Motzi matzah

The words motzi matzah literally mean “recite hamotzi on the matzah.” Perhaps there is an allusion here to the idea that one must avoid strife. The word matzah also means strife, as it is said (Mishlei 13:10) rak bizadon yitein matzah vies noatzim chochmah, only by willfulness is strife fomented; but wisdom is with those who take counsel. Thus, at the Seder we are declaring that we seek to be motzi, take away, matzah, strife.

Maror Korech

The word maror literally means bitter. Yet, we know that everything HaShem does is ultimately for the good. How is this evidenced in maror? Perhaps the answer to this question is that the word mor, meaning bitter, and the word korech, which means bundle together, both equal the same gematria (246). Thus, we are demonstrating that by eating the matzah and maror together, we are finding the good in the bitter situation.

Shulchan Orech Tzafun

The words Shulchan Orech are translated literally to mean a set table and tzafun means hidden. Perhaps these words allude to the idea of the manna in the Wilderness, as it is said (Tehillim 78:19) vayidabru beilokim amru hayuchal Keil laaroch shulchan bamidbar, and they spoke against G-d. They said, “Can G-d prepare a table in the wilderness?” The word tzafun alludes to the idea that the manna descended from heaven and was concealed in two coverings.

Barech Hallel Nirtzah

Barech refers to the recital of Bircas HaMazon, Grace after the meal. Hallel refers to the praises we offer to HaShem, and Nirtzah refers to the songs we sing at the end of the Seder, signifying that HaShem favors us. It is noteworthy that the first letters of these three words spell out the word habein, the son, alluding to the idea that at the Seder we are like HaShem’s children.

Ha lachma Anya
This is the poor man’s bread. The Gemara (Pesachim 115b) states that the word oni, literally translated as poor, can mean responding, as we respond or raise our voice over the matzah. This description of the matzah is difficult to understand. Why do we associate the matzah with our responses? In the simple sense, the Gemara means that the matzah is the vehicle with which we ask questions regarding the Exodus and provide ourselves and our children with answers to these questions. Perhaps, however, there is a deeper message contained in this statement of the Gemara. We find that when Yosef revealed himself to his brothers after not seeing them for twenty-two years, it is said (Bereishis 45:3) vayomer Yosef el echav ani Yosef haod avi chai vilo yachlu echav laanos oso ki nivhalu mipanav, and Yosef said to his brothers, “I am Yosef. Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him because they were left disconcerted before him. The Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 93:10) states that Yosef was the youngest of the Shevatim and the brothers could not withstand his rebuke, so certainly when HaShem will bring a person to justice at the end of days, he will not be able to withstand His rebuke. Thus, we see that a response symbolizes that one is not afraid to answer ones questions and rebukes. Similarly, by the Pesach Seder we are confounded by the fact that the Jewish People in Egypt descended to the depths of impurity. As a sign that we are prepared to overcome our initial depravity, we eat the matzah which is a symbol of freedom and this is our response to our early history. The matzah is the vehicle with which we ascend from the lowest level of impurity and reach the heights of purity and freedom.

Di achalu avahasana biara diMitzrayim

That our forefathers ate in the Land of Egypt. What is the significance of stating that our forefathers ate this bread in the land of Egypt? Some of the commentators (Abarbanel) interpret this to mean that the Egyptians fed the Jewish People matzah, as matzah takes a long time to digest. This explanation, however, is difficult to understand, as this does not appear to be a disgrace or a praise of the Jewish People. Rather, this was the reality. What lesson do we learn from this statement? Perhaps the answer to this question is that the word ani, which literally means poor, also means humble, as it is said (Shemos 10:3) ad masai meanta leianos mipanai, until when will you refuse to be humbled before Me? Thus, we are declaring that although we were enslaved to Pharaoh and the Egyptians, we, unlike Pharaoh, were able to humble ourselves before Hashem and this is what allowed us to be redeemed from slavery. It is noteworthy that when Hashem appeared to Moshe for the first time at the burning bush, it is said (Shemos 3:7) vayomer HaShem raoh raisi es ani ami asher biMitzrayim vies tzakasam shamati mipnei nogsav ki yadati es machovav, HaShem said, “I have indeed seen the affliction of My People that in Egypt and I have heard its outcry because of its taskmasters, for I have known its sufferings.” We see that that the first words HaShem used to describe the plight of the Jewish People was that He saw their oni, their affliction, which can also be interpreted to mean their humility. Thus, it was the humility and submissiveness of the Jewish People which were the catalysts for their being redeemed from Egypt.

Rav Eizel Charif - How Far Do Your Hands Reach?
Rav Eizel Charif, the sharp witted Rov of Slonim in the 1800s, once saw a wealthy but stingy man of his city emptying his pockets of Chametz before Pesach. “Why are you doing this,” he asked the gentlemen? The man told him that he needed to get all the chametz out of his pockets and make sure it was clean for Pesach.“Surely you forget the Halacha that says that when doing a bedika you are only obligated to search ‘Ad SheYado Magaas,’ until where your hand can reach. For years I have witnessed your behavior when it comes to giving tzedakah and it appears to me that your hand does not reach all the way to your pocket. Do not bother; you have no obligation to check them!” [Reprinted with permission from]

R' Yaakov Levitt zt”l (Bialystok) illustrated with a parable the difference between the right way to tell the story of the Exodus and the wrong way:
A villager once took seriously ill. The doctor was called, and the doctor recognized that the villager’s illness was fully curable if treated properly. He wrote out a prescription and he told the villager's wife, “Give your husband this prescription with water three times a day until it is finished, and he will be cured.”
The family did as it was told. Every day, the simple village wife tore a small piece off the prescription, dissolved it in water and gave it to her husband to drink. Needless to say, his condition did not improve.
The doctor was called, but he was very perplexed. “I know that this prescription works,” he said. “I have prescribed it for this illness before.”
“Let me see the prescription,” he requested finally. “Perhaps I made a mistake.” The villager’s wife explained, however, that she could not show him the prescription because she had given it to her husband as instructed.
“Fools,” he shouted. “Can a piece of paper cure your husband’s illness? It’s not the paper that makes the difference, but what’s written on the paper that would have cured him.”
So it is with the Hagadah. It is not the book of the Hagadah or simply reading the Hagadah which illuminates one's soul. Rather, one must absorb the contents of the story. (Hagadah Shel Pesach Shaarei Armon p. 150)
With Passover come and gone, thoughts of liberation and Jewish survival linger in the hearts and minds of many. Linked inextricably with these thoughts is the image of the Jewish woman, who has always been an agent of continuity and vision for her people. From the enslavement in Egypt through life in the desert and beyond, a beam of feminine light pierces the darkest moments in Jewish history, pointing towards a better future.
This week, Women in Judaism shares the story of one Jewish woman who refuses to give in to what another might consider impending doom. Lady Amelie Jacobovits is the widow of the late Rav Lord Immanuel Jacobovits, Chief Rabbi Emeritus of the British Commonwealth. Her Passover story of Holocaust survival demonstrates how the powerful life force of a Jewish woman connects our past, present and future.
By Lady Amelie Jacobovits (Adapted from the Jewish Women’s Journal, summer 1993)
“Occasionally, one memory escapes from the vault that holds the terror of those years. One Passover, my three-year old grandchild looked up at me from his chair at the Seder table. I don't even know what he said, because the rush of Passover 1941 blocked everything else. I was a young girl hidden in a dark cellar in central France. I was without other family - alone with four other children, all of us strangers.
Today and in recent years, as I celebrate Passover surrounded by the comforts and luxury of our London flat and the security of more than a dozen relatives and friends, I realize that for all of their splendor, these holidays cannot compare in my heart to that unique event 62 years ago. 1941 was the most extraordinary Passover of my life. But before I describe it, let me explain how I got to that cellar.
I was born in the years preceding World War II and lived content and well loved by my family in Nurnberg. By 1933, however, my world was getting darker till, one day, Nazi storm troopers marched into Nurnberg ordering that all major buildings must fly the swastika flag by evening. In 1936, my parents took us to Paris, as my father had been appointed rabbi of the prominent Rue Cadet synagogue. Within a few years, as the political situation deteriorated, my father was conscripted into the army and had to leave us. In 1940, when the Nazis began bombing Paris, my mother fled with us - her four children - on the last train before the main onslaught. It was the eve of the Jewish holiday of Shavuot.
The mass of people on that train - a tornado of humanity - repeatedly wrenched us from one another. Months later, on another leg of our desperate journey I lost track of my family altogether and began to wander from village to village. Lone children all over were doing the same.
One night just before dawn I could go no further. I knocked on the farmhouse door of what turned out to be a kind, courageous gentile farmer. He took me to his cellar where I found another little girl. Eventually two boys and another girl joined us. None of us admitted we were Jewish for several days.
It was a dire winter. Each morning, a few rays of light would poke their way into the cellar through two windows high on the wall - our only eyes to the world outside. The farmer had lowered us into the cellar through those windows and every day through one of them he lowered a net with five morsels of food and a bucket for our natural needs. Strange as it sounds, we were very lucky. In that difficult winter, five homeless children developed values so different from those today - as well as a bond of lifelong friendship.
One day, peering from the cellar up through the windows one of us noticed a streak of sunlight in blue sky. A few days later, another saw blades of grass penetrating the frozen terrain. We had no calendar or sense of time, but we concluded that, if the weather was indeed changing with spring on its way, maybe we were nearing Passover. Each of us children came from a different range of Jewish commitment, yet we shared a strong desire to do something to celebrate what we sensed was the upcoming Passover holiday.
When the farmer appeared with our food the next morning, we asked if he would lower in tomorrow's basket a small amount of flour, a bottle of water, a newspaper and a match. Two days later we received a small bottle of water, but we had to wait several days for the flour. The entire region was drained of provisions, with everything being transported north to Germany. Our host the farmer had himself barely anything to eat.
A day later, a newspaper came through - and then a match. We waited a few more days. We saw a full day of sunshine and blue skies, and we decided that, in order to cultivate a festive spirit, we would switch clothing with one another and wear them as if new. So we changed clothes; the two boys trading and the girls exchanging dresses. Before evening we baked our matzah, though we hadn't a clue how to do so. We poured water into the flour and held the dough in our bare hands over the burning newspaper on the floor. We produced something which resembled matzah and, whatever it was provided enough for the five of us.
That night we celebrated Passover. One of us recalled by heart the Kiddush - the blessing that sanctifies the Passover night. Another remembered the Four Questions - the part of the Seder the young children recite. We told a few stories of the Exodus that we remembered having heard from our parents. Finally, we managed to reconstruct “One Kid, Which my Father Bought for Two Zuzim,” the song which typically ends the evening.
We had a Passover to remember. With no festive food, no silver candlesticks and no wine - with only our simple desire to connect with G-d - we had a holiday more profound than any we have known since. I thank God for allowing me to live to be able to tell my children and grandchildren about it. Even more, I feel obligated to the younger generations of my family, who never experienced what I did, to pass on the clarity it gave me - the vivid appreciation of G-d’s presence in my life, of His constant blessings, wonders and teachings…and of His commitment to the survival of the Jewish people. [Reprinted with permission from]
The new Rabbi
When the Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev became the Rav of Berditchev he was approached by Chaim and Baruch for a Din Torah. Baruch claims that Chaim owes him a thousand coins and Chaim denies the loan. The Rav heard both sides of the argument and ruled that Chaim must in fact pay Baruch, which he promptly did and the litigants left.
The next day Chaim approached the Rav Levi Yitzchak with a question. “Rebbe, I accept your judgment and your decision. However, although I understand that the judgment is based on the Torah, how could a true judgment based on Torah be untrue, because Rebbe, I know that I truly am innocent! I do not owe Baruch any money at all!” “That is a good question answered Rav Levi Yitzchak give me please three days to give you an answer.”
The Holy Berditchever fasted and prayed that they should answer him from heaven. Whereupon it was then revealed to him that in fact Chaim grandfather had once borrowed the exact sum from Baruch’s grandfather and failed to pay back the loan!
When three days had passed and Chaim re-entered the Rebbe’s study, the Berditchever explained to him how the debt had occurred. “In the heavenly court it was ruled that you must pay off your grandfather’s debt and return the money owed to the grandson of your grandfather’s lender. The sign that what I am telling you is in fact true is that if you go home and look at your volume of Shulchan Aruch which you inherited from your grandfather, in such and such a place you will find the missing note that proves the loan.” Chaim went home, opened the Shulchan Aruch and as the Rebbe predicted there was the document.
Afterwards the Rebbe called in the leaders of the community and announced to them that he wished to relinquish his newly acquired post as Rabbi of Berditchev. The Rebbe explained that a town in which the cases brought before him, required him to fast for three days in order to get heavenly aid in order to decide matters of law was too much for him to handle. The leaders of Berditchev answered that while they understood, it was unfair to leave them just like that on the spot without a replacement. Perhaps the Rav would kindly wait until they found a suitable replacement? The rebbe agreed.
Meanwhile Pesach came, and the custom was that after the prayers in shul the poor guests who had lodgings or meals were divided up among the men of means in the community. One such householder who had a guest assigned to him, hurried home and forget about his guest. When he arrived, his wife began to ask him where their guest for the Seder was. The householder quickly realized his mistake and hurried back only to find the shul cold, dark and empty. Upset but without any other choice he returned home and explained to his sad wife that they were to conduct the Seder that year without any guests.
The next morning after services he spotted his would be guest and the householder approached the poor man. “Where were you last night, I came to the shul looking for you?” he asked. “Why, when I saw myself alone and without knowing anyone I didn’t know what to do.” “So why didn’t you stay?” the householder asked. “Well,” continued the poor man, “as I said, I didn’t know anyone but its Pesach and I needed a place to stay and eat. I didn’t want to stay here by myself in shul so I left and found a place with another householder,” he answered, pointing to a different person.
The first householder approached his fellow and began berating him for stealing his Pesach Seder guest. “You left him and didn’t take him, so I took him fair and square,” was the second man’s retort. Soon their discussion had blown into a full-fledged argument. After Yom Tov they took their argument to the Rav. The Berditchever heard both sides and ruled that the “thief” who stole the guest from his fellow householder had to repay him a sum of money for his loss.
Afterwards the Rebbe called in the leaders of the community and announced to them that he wished to stay on as the Rav of the community. “Any community whose householder fight like that over the precious mitzvah of Hachnasas Orchim and guests is a place where I wish to serve as the Rabbi.”

Shel Pesach 5769
Prepared by
Rabbi Binyomin Adler

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1 comment:

Passover and Torah said...

Great article and source of knowledge