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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Shabbos Hagadol (71)

This Shabbat is Shabbat Hagadol the Shabbat before Pesach; the chag begins on Mon. evening. It is customary to recite the beginning of the Haggada on Shabbat afternoon. We read up until- but not including - Rabbi Gamliel's saying "Whoever did not say these three things on Pesach has not fulfilled his obligation; they are 1) Pesach; 2) Matzah; and 3) Maror."

The question has been asked: What kind of obligation is there? Certainly the pesach offering, the matzos and the bitter herbs are obligatory to eat. But just to recite the words… What kind of obligation is that?

Can you think of an answer?

Hint: There is one basic obligation on Pesach night, what is it?

Your Answer?


An Answer: The only Torah obligation we have (aside from the pesach offering at the time of the Temple) and eating matzos is to recite the Haggadah. As it says: "And you shall tell (Hebrew "v'higgadatah") your son on that day.." (Exodus 13: ) . This is the center piece of the seder festivities, telling one's children about the exodus from Egypt.

We all know that the child begins with his 4 questions, the "Ma Nishtana". The questions deal with the different laws of Pesach night.

Question # 1: Why do we dip twice during the meal? #2 why do we eat only Matzos?; # 3 why do we eat bitter herbs, and # 4 Why do we recline while eating?

The Rambam has a slightly different set of questions. His Question # 3 is: On all other nights we eat either cooked or roasted meat, but tonight we eat only roasted meat."

Of course that question was relevant during the time of the Temple, but in our time since have not yet seen the Temple rebuilt, we don't ask that question.

But with the questions as Rambam has listed them, we can understand Rabbi Gamliel's statement. (Rabbi Gamliel lived during the Temple period) Each of the three things (Pesach, Matzah & Maror) that we are obligated to say (and elaborate on) are all answers to the son's questions. So this is, in fact, an obligation. We are obligated to tell our son exactly theses three things in order to fulfill our mitzvah of "V'higgadatah l'vincha".

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Somayach
Avigdor Bonchek

"What's Bothering Rashi?" is produced by the Institute for the Study of Rashi and Early Commentaries. The five volume set of "What's Bothering Rashi?" is available at all Judaica bookstores.

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