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Pesach - Vol. 5, Issue 25
Compiled by Oizer Alport
Sheb’chol haleilos ein anu matbilin afilu pa’am achas halaylah hazeh shtei pe’amim
Toward the beginning of the Seder, the children ask about a number of practices that we do differently on this night than on all other nights. One of them is that on all other nights, we aren’t accustomed to dipping even a single time, yet at the Seder we dip not once, but twice. What is the answer to this question?
The Ben Ish Chai explains that the reason that we dip two times is because the Seder represents both slavery and redemption. To express the dual nature of the night, we dip twice. Still, what do slavery and redemption have to do with dipping as opposed to some other activity that we can perform twice? The specific connection to dipping is that the redemption began when they dipped a bundle of hyssop in blood (Shemos 12:22). Because it is bundled together, it symbolizes the concept of unity, which is the key to redemption.
However, it wasn’t just the redemption which began through dipping, but the enslavement itself also began when Yosef’s brothers dipped his coat in blood. Rabbeinu Bechaye writes that although Hashem had already promised Avrohom Avinu that his descendants would be slaves in a foreign land, it was only at the time of Yosef’s sale that it was established where and how painful the enslavement would be as a punishment for the brothers’ hatred of Yosef, so this was considered the beginning of exile.
Interestingly, Rav Elchonon Wasserman questions how the Jewish people could suffer so much from blood libels on Pesach throughout the centuries when we know that they have not the slightest shred of truth to them. He suggests that they are a Heavenly punishment for the blood libel that Yosef’s brothers did after selling him and making their own “blood libel” by falsely dipping his coat in blood.
Still, why should this sin affect us for all time? The Meshech Chochmah explains this phenomenon by noting that on Yom Kippur, we ask Hashem to forgive us for our sins by saying “Ki atah salchan l’Yisroel u’machalan l’shivtei Yeshurun b’chol dor vador” – for You are the forgiver of the Jewish people and of the tribes of Yeshurun in every generations. What is the significance of the repeated expression, and what is the meaning of the phrase “the tribes of Yeshurun,” an expression that we don’t find anywhere else?
Rav Meir Simcha explains that the sin of the golden calf is the root of all sins between man and Hashem and we are punished for it in all generations whenever we sin against Hashem (Rashi Shemos 32:34), so we first say “for You are the forgiver of the Jewish people.” The sale of Yosef by his brothers is the root all sins between man and his fellow man, and we are punished for this in all generations whenever we sin against another person, so we ask Hashem to forgive these sins as well by praying that He should forgive the tribes of Yeshurun (who sold Yosef) in every generation.
In light of this insight, Rav Mattisyahu Salomon explains that as long as there is baseless hatred among us, we still have the roots of the sin of selling Yosef, and we are still punished with blood libels. Still, why are we specifically punished for this sin on Pesach more than at any other time of the year?
Rav Salomon notes that the Rema writes that many people have the custom to eat an egg at the Seder as a symbol of mourning, as Tisha B’Av falls on the same night of the week as the first night of Pesach. At the Seder we remember the Exodus from Egypt and yearn for the future redemption, but we also remind ourselves of the reason that we are still in exile. This is symbolized by first dipping the karpas in saltwater to recall the sin of the sale of Yosef and then dipping maror in charoses which can sweeten our bitter exile through unity and togetherness.
If Tisha B’Av still comes on that night later that year, it’s an indication that we didn’t sufficiently internalize these lessons and rectify these sins. As our children ask us about the two-fold dipping, let us resolve to properly understand its message so that this year we may follow-up our commemoration of the Exodus from Egypt on Pesach with a celebration on Tisha B’Av of our redemption from our current exile.
Vayeitzei el echav vayar b’sivlosam (Shemos 2:11)
From the birth of Moshe until Hashem spoke to him from the burning bush, there are a mere 27 verses in the Torah. Precious little background information about Moshe’s childhood and his qualifications to serve as the leader and redeemer of the Jews are given. The Darkei Mussar and Rav Mattisyahu Salomon write that the one attribute which is repeatedly emphasized in these verses is his ability to be “nosei b’ol im chaveiro” – compassionate in sharing in the suffering of those around him – which is one of the 48 methods by which the Torah is acquired.
Although Moshe had the good fortune to be raised in Pharaoh’s palace, he refused to exempt himself from sharing in the plight of his people. The Medrash Tanchuma relates that he voluntarily assisted them in their labor to lighten their load and to better identify with their suffering. We are also told of his pain at witnessing the merciless beating of a Jewish slave by his Egyptian taskmaster, which he reacted to by slaying the Egyptian (2:11-12).
The Torah continues to relate that not only was Moshe pained by a non-Jew striking a Jew, but also by one Jew raising his arm to hit another Jew (2:13). His concern for others wasn’t limited to Jewish suffering, as he then came to the aid of non-Jews (Yisro’s daughters) who were being unfairly persecuted by other shepherds (2:17). The Medrash adds (Shemos Rabbah 2:2) that Moshe’s sensitivity wasn’t just humanitarian, as he even had compassion on a tired and thirsty sheep in his flock, carrying it on his shoulder from the stream where it ran for a drink back to the pasture where the other sheep were grazing.
The common thread in all of these episodes is Moshe’s tremendous empathy and compassion for others. If these are the only snapshots we are given into his early life, it must be that it was for this attribute that he was chosen to redeem the Jews and receive the Torah. In fact, his sensitivity was so great that even after being selected, he attempted to decline for fear that his older brother Aharon would be hurt at being passed over (Rashi 4:13).
The Alter of Slabodka notes that even after being reassured that Aharon would rejoice at the good news, Moshe still didn’t immediately depart on his sacred mission. Instead, he first stopped to receive permission from his father-in-law Yisro, to whom he felt gratitude for hosting him all of this time. Moshe was chosen precisely because he understood that a possible slight to even one person outweighed the Redemption of the entire Jewish people and if Yisro objected, a different mechanism for their salvation would need to be found.
V’achaltem oso b’chipazon pesach hu l’Hashem (12:11)
Most of the laws pertaining to the Passover sacrifice which the Jews brought in Egypt also apply to the Korban Pesach which was brought in the Temple by future generations. One exception is that the initial sacrifice had to be eaten hastily, a requirement which was unique only to the first Passover. Why were the Jews in Egypt subject to this requirement, and why wasn’t its rationale applicable to future generations as well?
Rav Tzaddok HaKohen explains (Tzidkos HaTzaddik 1) that whenever a person wants to begin a new spiritual undertaking, it must be done speedily. Because a person is naturally drawn after his habits, he will be unable to uproot himself from his instinctual attachment to worldly pleasures unless he swiftly seizes his moment of inspiration and decisively acts upon it. Once he has successfully done so and finds himself firmly on the new path he has selected for himself, he may then continue in slow, small increments until he reaches his ultimate target.
When the Jewish people were at the 49th level of impurity in Egypt, on the night that they were to be transformed from Pharaoh’s slaves into Hashem’s servants, they were required to consume the Passover sacrifice with great alacrity in order to quickly and effectively uproot the powerful impure forces from within themselves. Once they were redeemed and accepted the Torah, which bound them to their new mission as Hashem’s chosen people, they were able to continue their growth in a more gradual manner, as symbolized by the lack of a requirement to consume the Korban Pesach in the future in haste.
Vayomer Moshe el ha’am Zachor es hayom haze hasher yatzasem miMitzrayim (13:3)
During his travels, Rav Yisroel Salanter once entered an inn at which he had stayed several times previously. Rav Yisroel noticed that the innkeeper had significantly deteriorated in his level of religious observance since his most recent visit. The innkeeper explained that the change was due to an atheist who had recently lodged there.
The guest spent several days sharing his philosophy about the lack of a Divine system of reward and punishment. Finally, to prove his case, he took out a sandwich filled with non-kosher meat. He announced that if he’s wrong, he should choke on the sandwich and die an agonizing death. The atheist proceeded to consume the entire sandwich with no apparent consequences. Ever since, the innkeeper’s religious belief and observance had slowly weakened.
Rav Yisroel didn’t respond to the story. He chose to wait for the right opportunity, which wasn’t long in coming. Later that day, the innkeeper’s young daughter returned home from school. She was glowing and excited about receiving her diploma, with especially good marks in the areas of singing and mathematics. Rav Yisroel asked her to sing for him so that he could judge her talents for himself, but she grew bashful and refused. He went to inform the innkeeper that his brazen daughter refused to sing for their respected guest.
The innkeeper summoned his daughter and demanded an explanation. She told him that the entire purpose of her diploma was to prove her talent once and for all. She argued that it was in fact their guest who was being unreasonable in demanding that she perform according to his whims just because he refused to believe her established record.
Hearing this, Rav Yisroel told the innkeeper that two of the great early commentators – the Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 21) and Ramban (Shemos 13:16) – explain that the reason the Torah contains so many mitzvos as a remembrance of the Exodus from Egypt is because it was in Egypt that Hashem proved His power and providence through the numerous miracles he performed for the Jewish people once and for all.
Rav Yisroel concluded by pointing out that just as the innkeeper’s daughter rightfully refused to lower herself and perform on demand for whomever may doubt her diploma, so too Hashem already established Himself for all time through the events of the Exodus and has no further need to prove Himself to every doubter who comes along throughout the generations.
Zeh K-eili v’anveihu Elokei avi v’arom’menhu (15:2)
Rashi writes that the clarity of the Divine revelation at the Red Sea was so great that even the lowest maidservants reached tremendous levels in seeing Hashem, levels which even many of the greatest prophets never merited reaching. Why does Rashi specifically refer to the maidservants, and where is it at all hinted to that the maidservants reached such levels?
The Vilna Gaon notes that the Mishnah in Bikkurim (1:4) rules that a convert must bring bikkurim (first-fruits) to the Beis HaMikdash, but he does not read the verses (Devorim 26:5-10) that other Jews do when bringing them. These verses refer to the enslavement of our ancestors, something which isn’t true of the convert’s forbearers.
Our verse may be split in two, with the first half referring to “my G-d” and the second half discussing “the G-d of my father.” Why does the Torah split the praises in two, and what is the significance of the switch from “my G-d” to “the G-d of my father?”
The Vilna Gaon explains that the Jewish people said the latter praise and were therefore able to refer to the G-d of their ancestors, as per the opinion of the Mishnah in Bikkurim. The first phrase, which emphasizes the personal G-d of the speaker, must therefore have been said by the maidservants who were unable to refer to their forefathers. The praise said by the maidservants uses the expression, “This is my G-d.” The word “zeh” connotes a physical presence that one is able to point to. Rashi therefore concluded that the maidservants saw Hashem so clearly that they were able to point to Him, a level which even many of the prophets didn’t reach.
Pesach Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) Why don’t we recite the Shehechiyanu blessing, which is customarily said when doing mitzvos which occur only at infrequent intervals, when performing the mitzvah of checking our houses for chometz on the night before Pesach? (Tur, Taz, Pri Chadash, and Kaf HaChaim Orach Chaim 432; Hagahos Maimonios Hilchos Chometz U’Matzo 3:5, Shalmei Moed)
2) Does a father who lives in America and observes two days of Yom Tov have a mitzvah to relate the story of the Exodus on the second day of Pesach to his son who lives in Israel and observes only one day of Yom Tov if they spend Pesach together, and is the law the same regarding a father who lives in Israel and observes only one day of Yom Tov but has a son who lives in America and observes two?
3) In the song “Echad Mi Yodeah” which is sung at the end of the Seder, each number from 1 to 13 is associated with something which has a unique connection to the Jewish people. The number nine, however, is used to refer to the nine months of a woman’s pregnancy, which is ostensibly relevant to non-Jews as well. In what way is this concept distinctly connected to the Jews?
4) What did Pharaoh do wrong in refusing to accept orders from Moshe and Aharon, two total strangers, who suddenly appeared in his palace and began demanding that he should immediately set free an entire nation of slaves, something that no rational person would have considered normal? (Nesivos Rabboseinu, Ayeles HaShachar 7:16)
5) Hashem told Moshe (Shemos 7:3) that He would harden Pharaoh’s heart so that he would refuse to free the Jews. Does this mean that Pharaoh lost his free choice to repent his ways even if he changed his mind and wished to do so? (Rambam Hilchos Teshuvah 6:3, Radak Shmuel 1 2:25, Ruach Chaim 3:7, Chofetz Chaim, Peninim MiShulchan Gevoha, Ayeles HaShachar)
6) Rashi writes (11:4) that although Moshe warned Pharaoh that the slaying of the first-born would take place at “approximately” midnight, Hashem actually said that the slaying of the first-born would occur at exactly midnight. When the night is split evenly in half, there is no point in time remaining in the middle, as one second is the last moment of the first half of the night, and it is immediately followed by the first second of the second half of the night. How was it possible for Hashem to kill the first-borns precisely at midnight? (Ibn Ezra, Nesivos Rabboseinu, Mas’as HaMelech, Chavatzeles HaSharon)
7) Why is the eating of chometz on Pesach considered more stringent than the consumption of other non-kosher foods, as it is punished with kares (spiritual excision), a harsh punishment not meted out for eating most other prohibited foods?
8) The Mishnah in Pesachim (10:5) rules that a person is obligated to view himself as if he actually took part in the Exodus from Egypt. As we are thousands of years removed from the physical Exodus, how is it possible for a person to fulfill this seemingly impossible legal requirement? (Chochmah U’Mussar 1:27, Me’Rosh Amanah, Haggadas Moadim U’Zemanim)
9) The Medrash teaches that wherever the word “vayehi” appears, it connotes pain. Parshas Beshalach begins, “Vayehi beshalach Paroh es ha’am” – When Pharaoh sent out the (Jewish) people. Why did the Torah use the word “vayehi” in conjunction with the freeing of the Jews, something which should have caused joy and not suffering? (Hadar Z’keinim, Darkei HaShleimus, Bishvilei HaParsha)
10) The Gemora (Sotah 2a, Pesachim 118a) teaches that shidduchim – matching up men and women for the purpose of marriage – and providing people with parnassah (sustenance) are as difficult as splitting the Red Sea (14:21). In what way are they comparable? (Aruch L’Ner Sanhedrin 22a)
11) The Daas Z’keinim writes (15:1) that the Shiras HaYam begins “az yashir” – and they sang – because the numerical value of the word “az” is 8, which hints to the fact that the Red Sea split in the merit of the mitzvah of circumcision, which is performed on the 8th day of a boy’s life. Why did it split specifically in the merit of this mitzvah, and what is the connection between them? (Zahav Sh’va)
© 2010 by Oizer Alport. Permission is granted to reproduce and distribute as long as credit is given. To receive weekly via email or to send comments or suggestions, write to email@example.com
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