Sunday, March 28, 2010

Hagadah Shel Pesach 5770

Hagadah Shel Pesach 5770
הא לחמא עניא, this is the poor man’s bread.
Why do we begin the Hagadah with the word הא? I once saw a commentator write that the word is really הא (with a סגול) which means here. This interpretation is based on the verse that states (Bereishis 47:23) הא לכם זרע, here is seed for you. This is what Yosef told the Egyptians after informing them that he had acquired the people and their land for Pharaoh. Perhaps the idea is that we are alluding to the fact that initially we were like the Egyptians, who were enslaved to Pharaoh. Ultimately, however, HaShem redeemed us from Pharaoh and slavery.
די אכלו אבהתנא בארעא דמצרים, that our forefathers ate in the Land of Egypt
Why do we mention that our forefathers ate the poor man’s bread in Egypt? Would it not have been sufficient to state that the Jewish People ate the poor man’s bread in Egypt? The answer to this question is that the Zohar states that in Egypt the דיבור, the speech of the Jewish People, was in exile. How are we to understand this enigmatic statement? According to one opinion in the Gemara (Brachos 40a) the tree that Adam HaRishon ate from was wheat. The Gemara derives from this that a child does not begin to call “Abba, Imma, father, mother” until he tastes wheat. Thus, we see that prior to consuming wheat, the child is lacking in דעת, knowledge. Furthermore, the Gemara (Nedarim 41a) states that the true poor person is one who is bereft of דעת, knowledge. Thus, the Zohar that states that the דיבור was in exile can be interpreted to mean that the Jewish People did not have the ability and knowledge to call out to their Father in Heaven. The word אוכל, normally translated as eating, also means to consume. Perhaps it is for this reason that we specifically mention our forefathers. This is not referring to our biological father. Rather, this alludes to our Father in Heaven. Thus, the passage can be interpreted as follows: this is the poor man’s, i.e. poor in knowledge, bread, that our forefathers ate, i.e. that our forefathers “consumed” while in Egypt. Simply stated, the Jewish People were lacking in knowledge that would have allowed them to call out to their Father in heaven to redeem them.
כל דכפין ייתי ויכל כל דצריך ייתי ויפסח, all who are hungry come and eat, all that are in need should come and partake in the Korban Pesach
There is a famous question regarding this passage. Why do we extend an invitation to all those who are hungry to come and eat when we are already seated at the Seder? It would seem to be more appropriate to invite people prior to the commencement of Pesach. Furthermore, there is a Halachic difficulty with inviting people to partake in the Korban Pesach if they had not been previously registered for it. Additionally, the context of the Ha Lachma Anya passage indicates that it was said when the Jewish People were in exile and there was no obligation to bring a Korban Pesach. What, then, are we demonstrating by mentioning the Korban Pesach?
Perhaps the answer to these questions can be illustrated by an analogy that I once heard from the Maggid from Binei Brak, Rav Yaakov Galinski, Shlita. A former Russian general was sent to Siberia for his supposed misdeeds. Every night this general would arise and don his army uniform and then proceed to perform the various Russian army salutes. His fellow prisoner was bewildered at his colleague’s behavior. “Boris,” his friend asked, “what are you doing?” Boris replied, “I am remembering the time when I was in the army. I may not be at that status currently, but I wish to remind myself of what I once was.” Similarly, Rav Galinski said, on Yom Kippur we wear white and fast all day to emulate the level we wish to aspire to, which is that of the angels.
The same idea can be applied by the Seder night, when we don the traditional white kittel and exhibit symbols of freedom. While for the moment we may be in exile, we call out to everyone who can hear that if you are hungry, come and eat. Furthermore, we invite people to partake in the Korban Pesach, as if the redemption has just arrived and we are demonstrating our exuberant feelings at having been delivered from the long and painful exile.
השתא הכא לשנה הבאה בארעא דישראל השתא עבדי לשנה הבאה בני חורין, now we are here, next here we should be in the Land of Israel. Now we are slaves, next year we should be free people.
Why do we first ask to be in Eretz Yisroel and only then do we pray that we should be free? Shouldn’t we first ask to be free from the subjugation of the gentiles and from the blandishments of the Evil Inclination and only then beseech HaShem that we return to Eretz Yisroel? The answer to this question can be found later in the hagadah when we recite the words ואלו לא הוציא הקב"ה את אבותינו ממצרים הרי אנו ובנינו ובני בנינו משעבדים היינו לפרעה במצרים, and if HaShem would not have taken us out of Egypt, then we and our children and our children’s children would still be enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt. This passage indicates that it was impossible for us to be free had we not left Egypt. Thus, here we ask HaShem that we leave the Diaspora and return to Eretz Yisroel, and only then can we truly be free. Support for this idea can be found in Bircas HaMazon, where we recite the words נודה לך ה' אלקינו על שהנחלת לאבתינו ארץ חמדה טובה ורחבה ועל שהוצאתנו ה' אלקינו מארץ מצרים ופדיתנו מבית עבדים, We first thank HaShem for bringing us to Eretz Yisroel, and only then do we thank HaShem for taking us out of Egypt. The reason for this is because the ultimate goal is to reside in Eretz Yisroel, and as long as we are not dwelling in Eretz Yisroel, we are not considered a truly free people.
מה נשתנה הלילה הזה מכל הלילות, why is this night different from all other nights?
Why do we have the children ask questions? Is this the best form of educating our children regarding the story of the exodus? Would it not be sufficient for us to tell our children the story in an engaging manner, rather than have them pose ready-made questions? To answer this question, we must understand the function of a question. A question is usually a sign that something is troubling the person posing the question. One who is in exile and is not troubled by the current situation is certainly lacking an understanding of what HaShem wants from us. The Halacha states that one who is G-d fearing should constantly be distressed over the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash. The Kotzker Rebbe would say that one who is not concerned over the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash should be concerned over his own personal destruction. For this reason we require that the children ask us why this night is different than all the nights of the exile. When we show the children that it is important to ask questions as s sign that we are not complacent in the exile, we are demonstrating to them that we wish to leave the exile and be redeemed as soon as possible. Based on this premise we can also understand why the first night of Pesach occurs on the same night as Tisha BaAv. Tisha BaAv is the one day of the year when we are shaken out of our complacency and we mourn over the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash. Similarly, on Pesach night we are removed from our complacency in an exalted fashion, as we recline like free men and demonstrate that we are ready to leave the exile and be redeemed.
Pesach Stories
A Pesach Dream

I had had too much to drink ― four overflowing cups of wine, plus a little bit more at the dinner. My son ― you know, the one who everyone says is going to be a rabbi, with the way he reads Hebrew ― heard at his Hebrew school that you have to drink a full cup each time the Seder calls for a toast to the redemption from Egypt. Four full cups, when one is usually more than enough to set my head swimming.
Now the songs and the kibbitzing and the lively discussion at the table ― my wife's cousin, the professor from Stanford, had opinions on everything ― pounded into my brain from every direction. Try as I might to concentrate on my guests, I couldn't keep my mind from drifting off into another world. As I leaned back on my cushion, the pages of my Haggadah blurred into a swirl of words and white, my eyes lost their last battle to stay open, and I was gone.
I awoke with a start to the sound of what I thought were shots being fired all around me. I was no longer at my home, but in a small, dimly lit, broken-down room. I was seated at a long wooden table, together with twelve or thirteen other people. There were no chairs, and we sat on benches or crude wooden crates. It was late at night and very dark. The only light in the room came from two thin candles in the center of the table, and I had to strain my eyes just to see the faces of those around me.
Through the shaded windows ― covered with burlap cloth ― I could see occasional flashes of light, brilliant and fleeting as lightning. Yet this wasn't lightning, for each burst of light was accompanied by a strange thunder, a terrible, deafening noise ― so close the room shook, and so loud I held my breath in fear. Where in God's name was I?
As I peered through the darkness, still too dazed to speak, I could discern young and old at the table. There were boys with funny little caps, and dark, cavernous eyes, the sleep drained from them, like old men's faces in children's bodies. There were several women with shawls of gray and worn hands, who sobbed almost imperceptibly in a sing-song wail. Men with long, black coats and longer faces had the strangest expressions, as if they were asleep while awake, their eyes fixed vaguely on some far-away object beyond my sight. The flashes of light seemed to illumine their faces in fear each time the room brightened and shook, and I grew frightened by the terror in their eyes.
At the head of the table was an old man, whose face was barely visible to me, for he wore a large black hat, pulled low upon his forehead, and he had a majestic, flowing white beard, like a soft blanket to cover his wearied features. He kept his head down in his lap, and only when I finally spoke ― too perplexed to remain silent ― did he look up, piercing me with his stare, like an ancient patriarch.
"Where am I?" I cried out. "Who are all of you? Am I dreaming this?"
The old man stared straight at me, his gaze both soothing and scolding me with its authority. "Do not become foolish, Shmuel," he said slowly but sternly. "You are at the Seder able, and there will be no dreaming until we finish the Afikoman."
"But where are we?" I repeated, still determined to solve this mystery.
The patriarch gave a long sigh and I saw tears begin to glisten in his tired eyes. "You are in Warsaw, of course, celebrating the Pesach of 1943."
I gasped in confusion. Was I hallucinating? Could this be the Warsaw Ghetto of which I had read? Certainly the bombs exploding outside just beyond our windows seemed real enough, and the faces of my fellow Jews at the table were the most vivid and striking I had ever seen. But I had no time to think, for the old man, whose name I learned was Reb Yisrael, motioned for all of us to open our Haggadahs and begin the Seder service.
I listened with fear and wonder as Reb Yisrael recited the Kiddush and sanctified the holiday, his body trembling but his voice unwavering as he held the small glass of wine, chanting each word slowly and deliberately. When he reached the phrase, "For You have chosen us from among all nations," he began to weep loudly, the wine spilling from side to side...
I was a mass of confusion, lost in a semi-panic, like one who has been turned around by a blinding snowstorm so that he cannot find his way home. Everything that was happening was bizarre and beyond belief, and yet I had the feeling that I had been here before. Was I imagining all of this? Or was my other, a life which seemed far off and improbable now, merely an illusion? And why, as I stared at Reb Yisrael, did he begin to look so familiar, as if I somehow knew him all my life?
They called upon me to recite the Four Questions, and it seemed rather ludicrous and ironic that I should be asking why this night is different from all other nights. We came to the eating of the maror, a small bite of a bitter radish which one of the women had saved for weeks. The assembly began to discuss the bitterness of Egypt, and argued that their own lives had reached a depth of bitterness even more distasteful.
One after another, they told horrible tales of families split apart, of babies starving for lack of a piece of bread, of sleepless nights and haunted dreams spent agonizing over a loved one taken by force in the dead of night. No, they needed no maror to simulate ancient bitterness. It was in each man's mouth, and with every flash of light I could glimpse the desperate faces of souls who had lost all hope of a better world.
Suddenly, the conversation was abruptly halted by Reb Yisrael's anguished cry: "Stop your moaning and wailing!" he demanded. "Is this still not Passover, the Festival of Freedom? Are we not Jews, ever oppressed but ever hopeful, ever persecuted but ever resurgent? And, as the Haggadah says, do they not oppress us in every generation, only to fall before the hand of the Almighty?
"Have faith, all of you, and do not let your resignation give victory to the beasts at our door. Remember the words of the ninety-fourth psalm: 'The Lord will not cast off His righteous, nor will He forsake His inheritance.' We are here tonight because our ancestors did not give up hope when they faced adversity. And neither shall we!"
Buoyed by Reb Yisrael's moving speech, the participants of this unique Seder began a long discussion of the oppression in Egypt and God's eventual salvation. There was no mistaking their troubled souls; they had fought an evil as great as Pharaoh, they had experienced the ten plagues a hundred-fold. Yet they still sang 'Dayenu' and thanked God for that which they still had, for their being alive to read the Haggadah one more time, for the Judaism they clung to like a piece of wood in a rampaging river, which kept their heads raised above the swirling waters of approaching doom...
As the sound of fighting increased outside, we reached the section of the Seder dealing with Elijah the prophet, the messenger of Mashiach, and we filled his cup in the center of the table. There wasn't enough wine left for the large goblet, so we poured whatever liquids we could find into the cup of redemption.
Reb Yisrael's wife looked at me and said, with almost a smile: "Shmuel, you open the door for Elijah. Tell him to enter. We have waited patiently for him, and his seat has remained empty these two thousand years. It is time for him to join the Seder."
I arose from my seat and went to the door. I was scared, for I felt Elijah's presence. I opened the door and stepped into the small hallway, while those at the table recited Elijah's prayer. I could hear them call out for the great prophet to usher in that age of glory when all men would pursue peace and justice, when the lions would no longer prey upon the lambs. I heard clearly the prayer end with "Shalom," the ancient plea for peace.
As I turned to re-enter the room, I saw something fly through the window. There was a flash of blinding light, a huge explosion. I was sent flying into the wall, and a heavy veil of darkness descended over me.
I opened my eyes, and I was back at my home. All of my guests were there, and they were staring at me.
"You were dozing, dear," said my wife. "You could never handle those four cups of wine."
I got up from the table and rushed into my bedroom. From a desk drawer, I pulled out an old photograph album that my father had given me years ago. Frantic, I leafed through the worn pictures, now yellow with age, until suddenly I stopped. I stared long and hard at the photo of my grandfather, whom I had never known, and read the note scrawled at the bottom:
Reb Yisrael: 1873-1943.
Matzah and Maror are Mechutanim
One Seder night, the holy Rebbe R' Yissachar Dov of Belz was walking through the alleyways of his town Belz. As he passed by the house of a simple yet G-d-fearing Jew, he stopped by the window to listen in on his Seder. He overheard the Jew saying the section of the Haggadah which establishes the correct time to remember the Exodus:
"One might think that the obligation to discuss the Exodus commences with the first day of the month of Nissan... therefore the Torah adds (Shemos 13:8), 'It is because of this that HaShem did so for me when I went out of Egypt," [the pronoun this implies something tangible, leading us to conclude that] I have commanded you [to discuss the Exodus] only when matzah and maror are lying before you [at the Seder]."
The simple Jew, it seems, was not very learned. Instead of saying, "I have commanded you only when matzah and maror lie (munachim) before you," he said, "I have commanded you only when matzah and maror are mechutanim (i.e. relatives through marriage) before you." It was all his disciples could do not to break out laughing. Yet to their surprise, R' Yissachar Dov took his blunder quite seriously. After pondering the simple Jew's words for a moment, he remarked, "Indeed, matzah and maror are mechutanim!" Seeing his disciples' amazement, he related the following story.
Reb Zelig was a rich and important Jew who's daughter's time had come to marry. Her father searched far and wide for a young man worthy to take his daughter's hand in marriage, yet it seemed that every boy he met just didn't suit the bill.
One day, while travelling on business, he came across a young man sitting and learning in the Bais Hamidrash. At first, R' Zelig was put off by the boy's shoddy clothes and impoverished appearance. The more they spoke, however, the more impressed he became. "This young man is a diamond in the rough," he thought to himself. R' Zelig wasted no time, and immediately arranged a shidduch, with a date for the wedding to be arranged later.
So excited was R' Zelig by his chassan that he began to become paranoid lest someone else "discover" him and steal from him his catch. He sent an urgent telegram to the young chassan. "Come right away," it said, "the wedding must take place immediately! Do not worry about clothing or wedding expenses, I will take care of everything."
Alarmed, the chassan promptly gathered his meager possessions, and travelled to the city of the kallah. When he arrived, he was whisked off to the tailor to have a new suit made for the chasunah. The tailor was instructed save the chassan's old torn suit for the father of the kallah, who was footing the bill. Then, not even taking the time to prepare a lavish wedding banquet, as would normally befit a man such as R' Zelig, a hasty chasunah took place.
In later years, when R' Zelig's son-in-law disagreed with him, or refused to take his advice, R' Zelig would go to his closet and remove the old, tattered clothing his son-in-law had worn before marrying his daughter. "You forget," he would say, "that I'm the one who made you what you are today. Look at your regal clothing - this is what you used to wear!"
Not to be outdone, R' Zelig's son-in-law had his own trick up his sleeve. He had put aside a stale piece of bread from the hastily prepared leftovers which had been served at his chasunah meal, saving it for just such an occasion. Taking it out, he would say, "Ah, but you too forget just how anxious you were to have me as your son-in-law. Why, you didn't even take the time to prepare a normal meal - you just couldn't wait!"
"So, you see," said the Belzer Rebbe, "they were mechutanim worthy of one another."
"The same discussion," concluded the Rebbe, "takes place between the Jewish nation and HaShem on the Seder night. HaShem, so to speak, takes out the maror, showing it to us. 'You see,' He tells us, 'this is how bitter your lives were before I took you out of Mitzrayim. Without Me, you would still be there!' But, not to be had, we too have what to say. We take out the unleavened matzos before HaShem, as if to say to him, 'Ah, but remember the rush You were in to have us as your nation. Why, you couldn't even wait until our bread had time to bake!' Indeed, matzah and maror are the finest of mechutanim." (
A Pesach Miracle
It happened in Jerusalem in 1915 - the Year of the Great Drought. There was no grain in the entire city. Pesach was only days away, and the Jews of Jerusalem wondered whether they would have matzos for the holiday. Rabbi Yisrael, the leader of the Jewish community, was walking on the outskirts of town, praying that God would help them, when he noticed a cloud of dust winding toward the city. As it approached, he saw that it was a long caravan of camels. Halloo there, he called to them. In just a few seconds, an Arab merchant rode up to him. He looked worn and tired, but from his clothing, Rabbi Yisrael knew that he was quite wealthy. Salaam Aleikum, the merchant greeted him, Is this the road to Damascus? No, Rabbi Yisrael answered, This road leads to Jerusalem. What a magnificent caravan. Magnificent? he snorted. It is only trouble. I have been carrying flour for weeks, but no one buys it. I just want to get home. Flour? Rabbi Yisrael answered. I would gladly buy it all, only I don’t have the money. Our holiday of Pesach is just three days away and we need flour to bake matzah. Maybe we can help each other, the merchant suggested. What if I give you the flour now and you pay me back when I return here in a month. Rabbi Yisrael quickly agreed, and the Jews of Jerusalem had matzah for Pesach. During Chol HaMoed he wrote letters to the Diaspora describing what happened and asking for help to pay for the flour. In just a few weeks there was enough money to pay for it all, but the merchant never showed up, so Rabbi Yisrael put the money in a bank. A year went by, and then another, but the merchant never returned. After a few years, the sum in the bank doubled and tripled. No one could touch it though, because it belonged to the Arab merchant. Many years later, when Rabbi Yisrael was dying, he told his son what to do: Wait ten more years for the merchant to return. If he does come back, you must pay him for the flour, but if he doesn’t, you must take the money and share it among the poor people of Jerusalem before their holidays. This way, everyone will benefit from the merchants kindness. Ten years later, Rabbi Yisrael’s son took some of the money to buy food and clothing for the poor people of Jerusalem. He did that before every holiday for many years.

The Vizhnitzer Rebbe Demands an Extra Matzah From The Skulener Rebbe
Pesach was fast approaching in Post World War II Romania and the Skulener Rebbe zy"a was fortunate to have someone illegally obtain for him some wheat and a mill on the black market. Since there were very few matzos to go around the Rebbe decided he would allot one matzah to all the Rebbes in the surrounding area.
The Vizhnitzer Rebbe zy"a hearing about the availability of matzos sent his son to the Skulener Rebbe. Upon his arrival the Skulener Rebbe gladly handed the Vizhnitzer Rebbe's son the matzah he put aside for him. After receiving the matzah his son said that his father requested 2 matzos. The Skulener Rebbe explained that there was a limit of one in order to allow as many of the Rebbes as possible to all be mikayem the mitzvah of eating matzah.
The Vizhnitzer Rebbe's son explained that he had strict instructions from his father to bring back two matzos and made it clear that he would not leave back to his father until he had two matzos for him. Seeing that he had no choice the Skulener Rebbe relented and gave him two matzos.
A few weeks later on Erev Pesach the Vizhnitzer Rebbe's son knocked on the Skulener Rebbe's door and asked to speak to the Rebbe. When he was brought in to the Rebbe he pulled out a single matzah and handed it back to the Skulener Rebbe. Befuddled the Rebbe asked him why he was so insistent on taking two matzos when he first came and why did he make the long trip, on Erev Pesach of all days, to come and bring it back.
The Vizhnitzer Rebbe's son explained that when his father heard that the Skulener Rebbe had only a small quantity of matzos and was giving them out, he was sure that at the end the Skulener Rebbe would inevitably give out ALL the matzos leaving nothing for himself for Pesach. Therefore the Vizhnitzer Rebbe schemed to take an extra matzah for safekeeping so that he can return it to the Skulener Rebbe Erev Pesach so that he himself would enjoy a Seder that included the prized matzos. (

Hagadah Shel Pesach 5770
is graciously sponsored by Mr. Avrohom and Mrs. Alexander Goldberg in honor of the birth of the twins Yehuda Simcha and Leah bnei Noach Arieh and Sori Goldberg.
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Hagadah Shel Pesach 5770
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Hagadah Shel Pesach 5770
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