Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 15   No. 30

This issue is sponsored by the
Glassman, Schwartz and Chernick Families
Jerusalem - Efrat - Netanya - Johannesberg - Toronto - Harare - Perth
l'iluy Nishmos Dov ben Tuvia Glassman
and Shimmi Schwartz z"l


The Straw that Broke Paroh's Back
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

R. Bachye explains that there are two kinds of 'Chochmah', a positive one and a negative one. When referring to Paroh's plans to enslave K'lal Yisrael, the Torah (Sh'mos 1:10) uses the word "nischakmah" (rather than 'Nechk'mah'), which implies the latter. In fact, the word has connotations of cunning, which the Pasuk in Koheles (7:16) warns against, and which is a befitting description of the kind of Chochmah that Paroh now practiced on K'lal Yisrael.

He opened the proceedings by imposing a monetary tax on Yisrael, as the Torah writes "And they placed over them tax-officers ", pretending that this was a regular tax that kings would impose on one specific section of the community or another. Next came a decree of forced labour, where every Egyptian was given a free hand to take any Jew that he found to do all his building work, as the Torah writes "And the Egyptians made Yisrael work with rigour". This meant that, besides the actual building, they had to manufacture the bricks themselves, and what's more, to that end, although they were supplied with the straw, they had to fetch the earth and make the mortar themselves.

Following that, he "embittered their lives " further by forcing them to carry out "all sorts of work in the field", This incorporated digging ditches and irrigation systems and fertilizing their fields.

With these decrees, Paroh hoped to curb Yisrael's birth-rate, as back-breaking work of this nature tends to weaken the human body, making it more difficult to have children.

Then, when he saw that his plan was back-firing, and that their birth-rate was actually increasing ("kein yirbeh "), he craftily introduced the death-sentence, by ordering the two mid-wives (Yocheved & Miriam) to kill the babies in a way that would not arouse the suspicion of either the mothers or the Egyptians. To be sure, he could easily have ordered mass genocide, but, says R. Bachye, killing innocent people who had come to him in good faith would not go down so well with the international community. So he preferred to use this more subtle method.

And it was only when he saw that the midwives feared G-d more than they feared him, that he ordered all Egyptians to kill every Jewish baby that was born, as the Pasuk writes "And he commanded all his people saying !"

Yet even then, Yisrael were unaware of the decree, for whenever one of them would complain to the king, the latter would assure him that if he brought witnesses, the culprit would be punished.

When even that did not work, because Yisrael began to hide their babies, Paroh issued a public declaration, to keep track of every pregnancy, and to organize nightly search parties, to reveal the whereabouts of every Jewish baby that was born, and to drown him.

Paroh's final decree was to stop providing Yisrael even with straw with which to manufacture the bricks, but by that time, the writing was already on the wall. Perhaps we ought to refer to that decree as the straw that broke Paroh's back!



Pen Yirbeh" - 'Kein Yirbeh'!

"I made you into tens of thousands, like the vegetation of the field" (Yechezkel, 16:7). Commenting on this Pasuk, Rabeinu Bachye, explains that even though the Egyptians threw all the new-born babies into the sea, it was all to no avail. Hashem's B'rachah pervaded their seed and they increased rapidly like the vegetation of the field. Even when they proceeded to throw their babies into the Sea, their saviour was miraculously saved (by none other than Paroh's own daughter). Indeed, G-d foiled all their plans and rendered their 'wisdom' useless, as the Pasuk writes (Yeshayah 44:25) "He turns wise men back and their knowledge into foolishness".


This is what happened then, R. Bachye concludes, and that is what happens in the current Galus; for 'in every generation they rise against us to annihilate us, but Hashem saves us from their hands'. Just as He said in Egypt 'You say "lest they increase"; But I say "So they shall increase" !'.


The Medrash relates how Philipus questioned R. Elasha about the Pasuk in Malachi (1:4) "Though Edom will say 'we have become destitute, but we will return and rebuild the ruins.' So says Hashem, Master of Hosts 'They may build, but I will tear down!' ".

But that's not true, he asked him! We (the Romans) build, and all our constructions remain standing!

'The Pasuk', R. Elasha answered him, 'is not talking about material buildings. It is talking about your plans. For every year you meet and plan how to destroy us, but G-d demolishes your plans and you do not succeed.'

'How right you are!', replied Philipus. 'Every year we discuss ways and means of annihilating you, but an old man comes and nullifies our plans.'

* * *

Pearls from the Seider
(Adapted mainly from the Ta'amei ha'Minhagim)

Changing the Language

The Avudraham gives two reasons as to why we say 'Ho Lachmo Anyo' in Arama'ic: 1. because that was the spoken language of the time, and since we are inviting people to the Seider, it is important that our potential visitors understand the invitation; 2. So that the angels, who, as Chazal explain, do not understand Arama'ic, should not interfere with our grandiose statements pertaining to freedom, and counter that we are not worthy of freedom.

Interesting, because the Pardes ascribes the concluding words 'le'Shonoh ha'bo'oh ' to the fact that we want the angels to understand, and to put in a good word on our behalf.


Making the 'Swindler' Feel Important

R. Moshe Kordovira has a rather unusual explanation as to why we begin the Seider in Arama'ic. The reason that angels do no understand Arama'ic is because it is the language of 'Arami Oved Ovi' (a nickname pertaining to the Yeitzer-ha'Ra). Yet in spite of that, the Chachamim instituted that one 'throws him a bone' to pacify him, in order that he should not interfere with our prayers by prosecuting us'.

This is similar to the sections of Kadish and Kedushah de'Sidra (in 'u'Vo le'Tzi'on Go'el'), which are written in Arama'ic for the very same reason.

Opening the proceedings in his language gives the 'Swindler' a feeling of importance. We have just expelled him from our homes and hearts, by burning the 'Chametz' and the 'Yeast' (additional names by which he is known), and there is no question that he is fuming at such treatment, so we pacify him by giving him a portion right at the outset of the Seider, a concept that is reminiscent of the Sa'ir ha'Mishtalei'ach on Yom Kipur.

Indeed, Chazal draw an analogy to a hungry dog that was barking in the royal palace, just as the banquet was about to begin. At which the king ordered his servants to throw it a bone, in order to stop it from disturbing the festivities, once the banquet began.


Why Egypt?

'We were slaves to Paroh in Egypt'. Why Egypt?

The Likutei Maharil cites R. Shimon in the Zohar, who told his son R. Elazar that G-d chose Egypt because, due to their deep hatred towards the Jewish people (see Mikeitz 43:42), the two nations did not inter-mix. And this in turn, prevented Yisrael from sinking to the level of the Egyptians. Indeed, the Pasuk says "and they became a great nation there", and as the Ba'al Hagadah will say later 'this teaches us that they retained their identity (they kept their Jewish names and language ). The above Zohar explains how they managed to do this.


Keeping His Promise

'Blessed be the One Who keeps His promise to Yisrael '.

The Medrash informs us how, prior to the Exodus, the Angel of Egypt (Uza) queried G-d on the grounds that Yisrael had not yet fulfilled the four-hundred year quota that He had fixed with Avraham Avinu at the B'ris bein ha'Besarim. To which G-d replied that He had said nothing about being four hundred years in Egypt. What He had said was that Avraham's children would be in a land that was not theirs for a period of four hundred years. And since the birth of Yitzchak (exactly four hundred years earlier), Avraham's children had had to travel from one place to another in a land that was not theirs.

That is why this paragraph continues ' because Hashem reckoned the end (ha'Keitz - gematriyah 210 - with reference to the two hundred and ten years that were ostensibly missing from the four hundred years, by counting the two hundred and ten years that preceded the exile in Egypt) to do what He had said to Avraham "for your children will be strangers in a land that is not theirs" (without mentioning Egypt [Yesod ha'Emunah]).


If He had Just Given us Their Money

The Pasuk in Tehilim (106:13) says "And He took them out with silver and gold, and there was not a pauper among them". The B'nei Yisaschar explains this Pasuk, by citing the Seifer Dan Yadin that G-d took Yisrael out of Egypt with the two names Keseh ('Kuf Samech Hey') and be'Paz ('Beis Pey Zayin'), whose letters correspond to those of 'Kesef Zahav'.

* * *

(Adapted from the Ta'amei ha'Minhagim)

Hallel in Shul

The reason that we recite Hallel in Shul, with song and with a B'rachah both before and after it, at the Ma'ariv preceding the Seider, is because we do not recite a B'rachah at the Seider, which in turn, is due to the fact that we break in the middle with the meal.

The Orchos Chayim, citing the Birchei Yosef, actually says that even where the Minhag is not to recite Hallel, one should do everything within one's power to convince the community to adopt this Minhag.

This Minhag is particularly interesting as, aside from Seider night, Hallel may only be said in the day.


The Four Cups

Based on the Medrash, which ascribes the four cups of wine at the Seider to the four expressions of redemption "ve'Hotzeisi ", "ve'Hitzalti ", "ve'Go'alti " and "ve'Lokachti eschem li le'am", the Chesed le'Avraham fits them into the Seider like this:

The first Kos (the cup of Kidush) represents "ve'Lakachti" (asher bochar bonu mi'kol am), which comes first due to its importance;

The second Kos (the cup of Hagadah, which begins with the disgrace and ends with the praiseworthy) represents "ve'Hotzeisi eschem mi'tachas sivlos Mitzrayim";

The third Kos (the cup of Birchas ha'Mazon, which praises Hashem for the good that He does on our behalf and that He granted us Eretz Yisrael) represents "ve'Hitzalti eschem me'avodosom"; and

The fourth Kos (the cup of Hallel) represents "ve'Go'alti eschem be'yad chazakah u'vi'zero'a netuyah".


Five Cups

According to the Yerushalmi (who ascribes the four cups to the four expressions of redemption) the fifth cup is based on the fifth Lashon "ve'Heveisi eschem el ho'oretz" - and the reason that it is not one of the official cups is because, unlike going out of Egypt, which is permanent, acquiring Eretz Yisrael is not, as we know only too well (Toldos Esther).

The Maharam Chagiz however, ascribes the four cups to the four exiles that followed our entry into Eretz Yisrael.

Consequently, the fifth cup is aptly referred to as 'the cup of Eliyahu'.


Why Wine?

The B'nei Yisoschar asks why, to commemorate the four expressions of redemption, the Chachamim instituted four cups of wine? Why not four kinds of food or four things to say?


To answer this question, he cites Chazal, who say that it is possible to exempt Yisrael from punishment from the day the Beis-Hamikdash was destroyed, based on the Pasuk "intoxicated, but not from wine". What they mean, he says, is that they do not deserve the full punishment for their sins, because they no longer have their full senses (like a drunkard when he is inebriated). In fact, they are compared to children, who are not subject to punishments because they do not have Da'as. And it was the very same argument that saved them at the Yam-Suf. The angels asked G-d why Yisrael deserved to be saved, whilst the Egyptians were being drowned, when the truth of the matter was that 'The ones were guilty of idolatry just as much as the others'?

And He answered that for over two hundred years the Jewish people had been so badly battered that they had lost their senses, and someone who has lost his senses is not taken to task to the same degree as a person who is totally sane.


No B'rachah over the Four Cups

The reason that Chazal did not institute a B'rachah over the four Kosos (like we do over Ner Chanukah) says the Rokei'ach, is because we do not drink them in one go (only over a long period - indeed, if one drinks them in one go one is not Yotzei), as opposed to Megilah, which may take a long time, but which we read in one go (without a break).

And it is for the same reason that we do not recite a B'rachah over the three meals on Shabbos.


Washing the Hands

The reason that we wash our hands before dipping the Karpas into salt-water (even those who do not usually wash before eating something that is dipped in one of the seven liquids) is to add to the list of changes that we do on this night, to encourage the children to ask 'Mah Nishtanah '.



The reason that this dip is called 'Charoses' is because it reminds us of the bricks, which our ancestors had to manufacture from 'Charasin' (clay) - (Mordechai citing the Yerushalmi).

* * *

The Seventh Day of Pesach
Yetzi'as Mitzrayim & Kri'as Yam-Suf

(Adapted from the Beis Halevi)

"And Yisrael saw the Egyptians dead on the banks of the sea. And Yisrael saw the great Hand which G-d displayed against Egypt, and the people feared G-d" (Sh'mos 14:31).

Up to this point, says the Medrash, Yisrael did not fear G-d. From then on, they did.

Why was that, asks the Beis Halevi? Had they not witnessed numerous miracles that G-d had performed in Egypt? Had they not seen with their own eyes the horrific punishments that the Egyptians had suffered? So what did they see at the Yam-Suf that they had not seen in Egypt?


To answer the question, the Beis Halevi points to a profound distinction between the two sets of miracles. The miracles in Egypt were performed solely in order to punish the Egyptians for their cruelty to Yisrael and to bring them to their knees. This ultimately led to Yisrael's salvation, but indirectly. The direct purpose of the miracles was, as stated, to punish the Egyptians, not to save Yisrael. The reason for this was due to the fact that, at that stage, Yisrael did not have sufficient merit to deserve redemption, as Yechezkel (16:7) testified, "You increased and grew but you were (spiritually) naked " (see Rashi, Bo 12:6). Moreover, the time of redemption had not yet arrived, as the four hundred years mentioned at the B'ris bein ha'Besarim had not yet expired (though there are other opinions in this matter [see "Pearls from the Seider - Keeping His Promise"]), as the Mechilta explains, based on the Pasuk in Shir ha'Shirim (2:8) " ... jumping over the mountains". Indeed, G-d did a little time-hopping, bringing the redemption date forward, on account of the Egyptians' cruelty, even though Yisrael were not yet worthy of redemption; and it was as a result of the Midas ha'Din that was sent to punish the Egyptians that Yisrael merited to be redeemed from slavery, unworthy as they were.


And that is what the Medrash means when it quotes Hashem as saying 'I am currently busy with the death-sentence; and I will show you how I have pity on you via the blood of the Pesach and the blood of the Milah, which will atone for you'. He was punishing the Egyptians, and the salvation of Yisrael was but a by-product of that punishment (Din tempered with Rachamim). This explains as to why Yisrael was warned not to leave their homes on the night of Makas Bechoros (as they would not have been saved from the clutches of the destructive angel doing its rounds). It also explains why prior to the Exodus, Moshe continually asked Paroh for three days leave (with the clear view of returning to Egypt) - since they were as yet unworthy of going free permanently. And it also explains why Moshe had to ask for Paroh's consent to go free. All this would not have been necessary, had the time of redemption arrived and had they been worthy of being redeemed.

And it also explains the dialogue between Moshe and G-d following Moshe's first visit to Paroh (recorded at the end of Parshas Sh'mos) and to the painful aftermath of that visit. Moshe could not understand how it was, that G-d had sent him to save Yisrael from the hands of the Egyptians, and yet not only had there been no improvement, but the situation had deteriorated!

So G-d responded with "Now you will see ..." . Yisrael was not being redeemed on their own merit, He was saying, but on the merit of the rough treatment that they were receiving at the hand of Paroh. And now that Paroh had reacted with such cruelty, Moshe would see what would happen to Paroh and that he would be forced to let Yisrael go.


In total contrast, the Splitting of the Yam-Suf was performed specifically in order to rescue K'lal Yisrael from the clutches of the pursuing Egyptians, and G-d took the opportunity of drowning the Egyptians simultaneously. Indeed, the phenomenal miracle was predominantly for the benefit of Yisrael; the Egyptians died because they were on the sea-bed, and anyone standing on the sea-bed would have died when the water came crashing down. This time, the miracle was based on the Midas ha'Chesed acting on behalf of Yisrael, and the death of the Egyptians was a by-product of that Chesed (Rachamim tempered with Din). And this is what the Pasuk in Tehilim (143:12) means when it says " ... and with Your kindness, cut off my enemies".

The reason for this was the fact that, by this time, Yisrael had many merits to their credit; Firstly, the blood of the Pesach and the Milah; secondly, the merit of following Moshe blindly into the desert, even to the point of returning towards Egypt when ordered to do so (as the Pasuk says in Yirmiyah [2:2] " I remembered for you the kindness of your youth when you followed Me in the desert") ; and thirdly, the merit of their blind faith when they jumped into the Yam-Suf (as the Mechilta explains, commenting on the Pasuk "Speak to the B'nei Yisrael and they shall travel" (Beshalach 14:15).

And this explains the Pasuk in the Shirah "Your right-hand is mighty in strength, Your right-hand crushes the enemy". Yes it was Hashem's right-hand, denoting Chesed, that crushed the Egyptians, not His left-hand (denoting Din) as one might have expected.

It now transpires that in Egypt, it was G-d's Midas ha'Din that spilled over to rescue K'lal Yisrael, whilst at the Yam-Suf, it was His Midas Rachamim that destroyed the Egyptians.


Under normal circumstances, upon coming into contact with the Midas ha Din, one is overcome with awe before the Almighty; whereas contact with the Midas ha Rachamim leads a person to love Him.

But the events of the Yam-Suf were different. As we explained, it was not the Midas ha'Din that brought about the downfall of the Egyptians, but the Midas ha Rachamim. It was an awesome demonstration of G-d s unique characteristics, of His ability to perform Rachamim and Din at one and the same time, to carry out Din with Rachamim (in Egypt) and Rachamim with Din (at the Yam-Suf). And it enabled Yisrael to stand in awe as they watched His Midas Rachamim carry out Din there where it was needed. It is as the Gemara in B'rachos explains (in connection with the Pasuk in Tehilim "And rejoice with trembling" - 'Where there is jubilation, there shall be trembling'.


Now the entire Pasuk with which we began falls into place Firstly, Hashem (the Midas Rachamim) saved Yisrael (the main objective of the miracle); then Yisrael saw the great Hand that Hashem (the Midas Rachamim) displayed against Egypt (because it was from the salvation of Yisrael that He destroyed the Egyptians) and the people feared Hashem (something that they were unable to do in Egypt, as we explained).

* * *

This section is sponsored jointly
by an anonymous donor
l'iluy Nishmas
Hena Hitza bas Eliyahu
(Anne Dodick, mother of Risa Rotman) z"l
on the occasion of her seventh Yohrzeit



1. The Fast of the Firstborn.

When Erev Pesach falls on Shabbos, the first-born must fast on Thursday, 12th Nisan, unless they attend a siyum on a Masechta of Gemoro or a Seder Mishnayos.'


2. Bedikas Chometz.

Bedikas Chometz (searching for chometz) takes place on the night of the 13th (on Thursday night). After the search, one nullifies the chometz and recites the first 'Kol chamiro ... ', as one does every year.


3. A first-born May not Eat before the Bedikah.

If a first-born fasted on the 12th, and finds it difficult to search for chometz before breaking his fast, he may have a snack first. This could be up to a ke'beitzah (an egg-volume) of bread or cake, a small portion of a wheat or barley dish or other food. If he insists on eating a full meal, he should appoint an agent to search on his behalf.


4. Davening on Friday Morning.

On Friday morning, davening is as usual, including 'Mizmor le'sodoh' and 'Lam'natzei'ach'.


5. Biy'ur Chometz.

Biy'ur Chometz (destroying the Chametz [except for the Chametz that one intends to eat on Shabbos[) must be performed like every year by the end of the fifth hour (11:15) , though there is no need o say "kol Chamiro", since the chometz may still be eaten


6. The Sale of Chometz.

The sale of chometz to a gentile should take effect as from Friday (and it is correct to date the document of sale accordingly, to clarify that the sale was not made on Shabbos).


7. Avoid Cooking Sticky Dishes.

For this Shabbos, one avoids cooking sticky dishes (particularly chometz ones) that will leave the pots dirty, as one may not wash them on Shabbos. If one cooked chometz food, he should get a gentile to wash the pot if possible. If this is not practical, the Jew must wash only as much as is required to remove the chometz. Remember that any pot made of metal or glass etc. that requires tevilah, will need to be toveled without a brochoh if it is sold to a gentile for the duration of Pesach. Consequently, one is advised to prepare Pesach food in Pesach dishes (or on paper plates) to avoid these problems; but at all costs, not to prepare hot chometz food in metal or glass dishes. In fact, these should be cleaned and put away before Shabbos.


8. Baking Matzos shel Mitzvoh.

Those who are particular to bake matzos for the Seder on the afternoon of Erev Pesach, must bake them this year on Friday afternoon. One should take special care to separate 'chalah' from the matzos before Shabbos, since not doing so will present a problem regarding eating them on Yom-tov, particularly in Eretz Yisroel (see paragraph 10).


9. Bi'ur Ma'asros

Erev Pesach of Sh'mitah is the time of Bi'ur Ma'asros, which is brought forward to Friday, since it cannot be performed on Shabbos. One transfers the kedushah of Ma'aser-Sheini coins on to a small coin or onto fruit which one then destroys. The latest time to perform this mitzvah is Erev Shevi'i shel Pesach.


10. Taking Challoh from the Challos before Shabbos

Similarly, one should take great care to ensure that 'challah' has been taken from the Shabbos challos. Should one discover on Shabbos that challah has not been taken, one is faced with the problem that one may neither take 'challah' on Shabbos nor may one leave the chometz challos until after Shabbos.

The 'Mogen Avrohom' contends that the only way out of the dilemma is to give all the challos to a gentile as a gift. Other poskim give different options, so it is best to avoid the problem altogether and ensure that 'challah' has been taken before Shabbos.


11. Preparing the Seder-Table.

Since it is forbidden to prepare anything for the Seder on Shabbos, some of the items for the Seder must be prepared on Friday. Boxes of matzos and bottles of wine must be opened before Shabbos if there is any problem in opening them on Yom-tov. Selecting the matzos for the Seder-plate however, can wait until Seder-night.


12. The Bone.

Since cooking on Yom-tov is permitted only if one actually has in mind to eat the food, one should roast the bone on Friday, unless there is meat on it and one intends to serve it for Yom-tov lunch.


13. The Egg.

The egg may be prepared on Yom-tov.


14. The Moror.

The Moror may be grated on Seder-night provided it is done 'ke'l'achar yad' (e.g. holding the grater upside down).


15. The Lettuce.

Lettuce which needs bedikah should be washed and examined on Friday. Ensure that the leaves remain fresh for the Seder, since withered leaves may not be used, but do not leave them in water for 24 consecutive hours. The stalks, incidentally, neither contain worms, nor can they become disqualified through withering.


16. The Charoses.

The Charoses may be prepared on seder-night, but the apple and the nuts should be grated ke'le'achar yad. However, it is advisable to prepare it on Friday in order to begin the Seder promptly.


17. Salt-Water.

This can be prepared on Seder-night.


18. Kashering Glass.

Remember that if you intend to kasher glassware that has been used exclusively for cold food or drink (for 3 x 24 hours in cold water), you must begin by Tuesday afternoon at the latest.



19. Daven early on Shabbos Morning.

On Shabbos morning one davens early in order to finish eating chometz and clear away the remnants in good time. Some communities who would otherwise recite 'Yotzros' omit them for this reason.


20. Se'udah Shlishis.

Some have the minhag to divide the Shabbos meal into two parts, benching in the middle and going for a stroll, or speaking Divrei Torah for a while, before washing again and continuing with the next course in order to fulfill the Mitzvah of Seudah Shlishis with bread.

Nevertheless, because the correct time to eat Se'udah Shlishis is later in the afternoon, most people wash and eat bread and cold chometz dishes in the morning, and warm meat or fish dishes in the afternoon.


21. Final time for Eating Chometz.

One may no longer eat chometz after 9:57 (Magen Avraham) 10:28 (G'ro)


22. Shaking out the Tablecloth.

After the meal, in a place where there is an eiruv, one shakes out the tablecloth thoroughly in an area that is 'hefker'. Otherwise, one throws all the remains of the chometz into the toilet. The cloth is put in a room or locked cupboard together with the chometz dishes that will not be used on Pesach. If any bread remains, one has the option of either giving it to a non-Jew (bearing in mind the laws of the eiruv), or to a dog, or to flush it in small quantities down the toilet.


23. Sweeping the Floor.

One then sweeps the floor, taking care not to contravene the laws of Shabbos, and gets rid of all final traces of chometz. All this must be completed by the end of the fifth hour, leaving sufficient time to make bi'yur chometz (and recite the second 'Kol Chamiro') before 11:17 (M.A.) 11:33 (Gro).


24. Avoiding Problems.

Many people avoid most of the above hassles by eating a 'ke'zayis', or preferably a 'ke'beitzah' of challah (or of pitot, which reduces the incidence of leftover crumbs) and then, after removing all traces of chometz, they serve only Pesach foods on Pesach dishes, or on paper plates.


25. Brushing Teeth.

One must remember to brush one's teeth and clean one's dentures, before the time of bi'ur chometz.


26. Eating Matzah on Erev Pesach.

One may not eat matzah all day, and some poskim even forbid cooked matzah (e.g kneidlach).


27. The Matzos are Mukzeh.

The 'Matzos shel Mitzvah' are muktzeh on Shabbos. (Pri Megodim).



28. Minchah and the Seder Korban Pesach.

In the afternoon, one Davens Minchah as usual, except that one includes the Seder Korban Pesach. In the rush that is part and parcel of every regular erev Pesach, it is not always easy to fit in the full text of 'Korban Pesach' as is printed in every good Hagodoh.

But this year is different. There is plenty of time to say the full Seder, both the excerpts from the 'Torah she'biksav' and from 'Torah she'be'al peh'. It is worthwhile using the opportunity and saying it with kavonoh. Chazal explain the posuk "And we will pay the bulls with our lips" to mean that whenever we cannot actually bring sacrifices, we should learn about them, and that this is considered as if we had actually brought them.

One should therefore recite the relevant sections from the Chumash and the Mishnah at the appropriate times. The sections dealing with the sacrificing should be recited on Erev Pesach afternoon when the Korban Pesach was actually sacrificed, and the sections dealing with the eating should be recited at the Seder table.


29. Reading the Hagodoh at Minchah

Most communities in Chutz lo'Oretz read the Hagodoh (from 'Avodim Hoyinu' until 'le'chaper al kol avonoseinu'), but this is not the Minhag of Eretz Yisrael.

* * *

The Order of the Seider


To explain the basic differences between the nightly Mitzvah of Zechirah and tonight's Mitzvah of Sipur (or Hagadah), R. Chayim Brisk lists three distinct specifications that are inherent in the term 'Sipur': 1. It must be conveyed through questions and answers; 2. One needs to commence with Yisrael's initial degradation, before leading on to Hashem's praise; 3. Discussing the reasons for the main Mitzvos are an integral part of the Mitzvah.


The question is asked why we need to relate the details of Yetzi'as Mitzrayim, when in effect, we know them already? The Malbim ascribes this to the fact that the basic Mitzvah of Sipur Yetzi'as Mitzrayim is to pass it on to our children. This is certainly true to a certain extent (as is borne out by so many things that we do in the course of the Seider); yet if this was the only reason, then why is someone who has no children at the Seider-table obligated to ask the same 'Mah Nishtanah' as a child would have done, and then to present the Hagadah in the form of an answer to his own questions? Surely he knows it all already and to repeat it all would be meaningless?


According to the Maharal, the basis of Pesach is Hakaras ha'Tov (gratitude), which, he explains, is the prerequisite to Torah (which is why Pesach precedes Shavu'os). That being the case, the Seider with all its details is our way of thanking Hashem for all that He did for us at the time of Yetzi'as Mitzrayim. And not only do thanks need to be expressed, but the extent of one's 'Thank you' increases with the extent of the kindness that one received. Bearing in mind the endless stream of miracles that G-d wrought on our behalf at that time, Chazal's statement 'The more one relates the events of Yetzi'as Mitzrayim, the better', is hardly surprising.

Looking at it from a different angle, perhaps one can also say that knowledge is in the brain, and on Pesach, the anniversary of our birth as a nation (which was the result of the miraculous events that took place then), the Torah wants us to transmit the knowledge to our hearts ("Ve'yoda'to ha'yom, va'hasheivoso el levovecho" [from the intellect to the emotions]), in order to become emotionally involved in the proceedings, to stimulate the realization that it is not only our fathers, but us, who left Egypt (as Chazal require us to do).

What we just wrote will help to shed light on paragraphs 3, 4, 5, 6, 9 & 26-29.

* * *



After one arrives from Shul, the Seider, as always, begins with Kidush. Indeed, it is befitting that one opens the proceedings by declaring the day holy.



One of Chazal's interpretations of 'Lechem Oni' (one of the Torah's descriptions of Matzah) is 'Lechem she'onin olov devorim harbeh' (bread over which many words are said, with reference ofcourse, to the Hagadah). So it is appropriate to begin the Seider with 'Ho Lachmo Anyo', which discusses the Matzah, and (bearing in mind that Matzah represents the redemption), the future Ge'ulah. When the Beis-Hamikdash stood, the Seider revolved around the Korban Pesach, but today, when unfortunately, we have no Beis-Hamikdash, it revolves around the Matzah instead.



It is a well-known educational fact that the best way of transmitting knowledge is by way of questions and answers. The Torah itself, when referring to the three more knowledgeable sons, presents the various levels of explanation following the questions posed by the child (though age is not a criterion). So what better prelude to the Hagadah could there be than the four questions, as conveyed by the Torah?


(Physical Degradation)

The opening phrase of Magid, this contains in a nutshell the essence of Yetzi'as Mitzrayim and why we are conducting a Seider. According to one opinion, it also constitutes the physical degradation with which we are obligated to begin the Hagadah; and he gives precedence to this opinion (over the opinion mentioned in 9), because the Gemara mentions it first (even though chronologically, the order ought to have been inverted.And that in turn is a. because of the reason that we presented at the beginning of the paragraph and b. because the latter opinion is the perfect introduction to the paragraphs that follow.

Yet before elaborating on the details of the Hagadah, the Ba'al Hagadah wants first to convey the extent of our obligation, as well as the method, the time and other factors concerning the Mitzvah, as the subsequent paragraphs will prove.

And he adds that we are all personally obligated, because, as he explains, were it not for the miracles that took place then, we would still be there. This leads to the obvious conclusion that we are not just celebrating a historical event, but are participating in a personal thanksgiving celebration.



This proves that the obligation to relate the story of Yetzi'as Mitzrayim really does extend to even the wisest and most knowledgeable, because if it was not an obligation, merely relating the story would be deemed Bitul Torah (a waste of time) for such great Torah-scholars.



This paragraph teaches us that it will not suffice just to mention Yetzi'as Mitzrayim, since this is something that we are obligated to do every night. The Mitzvah of Sipur Yetzi'as Mitzrayim on this night, must therefore be more extensive and must be presented in a different format, as we explained in the introduction.



Now the Ba'al Hagadah teaches us that tonight, not only does one need to elaborate on the nightly mention of Yetzi'as Mitzrayim, but that one needs to explain it according to the knowledge and the maturity of the son who is (or who is not) asking. And he gives a rough idea as to how one must answer each son in the way that is most beneficial.



This paragraph teaches us that the Mitzvah of Hagadah applies, not on (or starting from) Rosh Chodesh (when G-d first informed Moshe about the Seider), or even from the time that one Shechts the Korban Pesach earlier in the day, but at the Seider exclusively.


(Spiritual Degradation):

The Ba'al Hagadah added this to accommodate the opinion that requires us to begin Magid, not with our physical degradation, but with our spiritual decline. This automatically leads us to mention Avraham Avinu (who chose a different path than that of his father Terach), and the other Avos, who followed in his footsteps. And it was to them that Hashem initially promised that He would take us out of Mitzrayim when the time came. And that is the Ba'al Hagadah's cue to continue ...


(The B'ris Bein ha'Besarim):

This promise was not confined to Galus Mitzrayim, but extended into the future. It was a declaration of the eternity of the Jewish people. And that is why we continue ...



The promise that, just as we survived Paroh, so too, will we survive all the nations that attempt to destroy us. They will perish, but Yisrael will live on.


12. TZEI U'L'MAD ...
(The First Attempted Genocide):

The first person who attempted genocide, as the Ba'al Hagadah explains, was Lavan. So we now discuss a Pasuk in Ki Savo in connection with Bikurim (which is also said as an expression of thanksgiving), which not only begins with the mention of Lavan and his intentions, but which describes Yisrael's journey to Egypt, their sufferings and reactions (in considerable detail), and Hashem's response. And we comment on that Pasuk, phrase by phrase. Incidentally, these six short paragraphs incorporate all the nine merits on account of which Hashem took our ancestors out of Egypt (see footnote).

(The Galus begins)

The current paragraph begins with Lavan's attempt to commit genocide, and then Yisrael's descent to Egypt and their settling in Goshen. Then comes ...


(The Cure Before the Stroke - Becoming a Nation):

The growth of Yisrael from seventy to 600, 000 x 5 (bearing in mind that four fifths of the people died during the plague of darkness), and that's not counting the women, the tribe of Levi, or the large segment of Efrayim that left Egypt thirty years before the Exodus.


(The Slavery begins):



(The Slavery Intensifies):

The basic slavery turns into affliction.

Note, that whilst elaborating briefly on each of these headings (drawn from the Pasuk in Ki Savo, as we explained), the Ba'al Hagadah illustrates his statements with quotations from Pesukim, drawn from both Chumash and T'nach.



(Prayer: The Catalyst of Redemption) :

Our fathers cried out to Hashem and He heard their cries.



(Hashem Responds):

Our cries and Hashem's response in greater detail.



(It Gets Worse before it Gets better):

The greatest horror of all - the killing of the Jewish babies, and the harsh oppression, the catalysts that sparked off the Divine response, perhaps more than any of the other cruel acts perpetrated by the Egyptians.



(The Smiting of the Firstborn -

The Straw that Broke the Camel's back):

The Exodus begins, marked by the tenth plague, the killing of the Egyptian firstborn.



(The Plagues in More Detail):

And then, as an alternative interpretation of the phrase "be'yad chazakah u'vi'zero'a netuyah ... ", the Ba'al Hagadah discusses the Ten Plagues.


21. 22. 23. R. YOSSI HAG'LILI OMER;

(K'ri'as Yam-Suf);

The Tana'im now elaborate on the intensity of the plagues, each one presenting his view of what each of the plagues comprised, and that whatever it was, the Egyptians suffered five times more at the Yam-Suf than they did during the Ten Plagues; just as a hand comprises five fingers.


24. ILU HOTZI'ONU MI'MITZRAYIM (Acknowledging Hashem's Miracles):

Enumerating each of the fifteen major miracles that G-d wrought on our behalf during the period of Yetzi'as Mitzrayim, for which we are indebted to Hashem.



How much more so now that we experienced all fifteen.



(Our Obligations on Leil ha'Seider):

However much we discuss Yetzi'as Mitzrayim, we will not fulfill our obligation without discussing the reasons behind (the Korban) Pesach, Matzah and Maror.



(Internalizing the Redemption):

And finally, the Ba'al Hagadah stresses that Sipur Yetzi'as Mitzrayim is not just a narrative, but a personal thanksgiving, as we already mentioned in 'Avadim Hayinu' (4).



(To Thank & Praise Hashem ):

And it is all of these miracles that obligate us to acknowledge what Hashem did and to praise Him to our utmost ability. Consequently, we recite Hallel (even though Hallel is not generally recited at night-time). And we continue ...



We are no longer slaves of Paroh, but slaves of Hashem.



The difference between being slaves of Paroh and being slaves of Hashem is that, the former was a humiliating experience, whereas the latter elevates us to a position of holiness and rulership.

We break in the middle of Hallel (for the Se'udah) because the first two paragraphs (that we just recited) belong to Yetzi'as Mitzrayim (i.e. Magid), whereas the rest of Hallel refers to the ultimate long-awaited redemption, which we hope will come soon. That is why it is placed next to 'Sh'foch Chamoscho', which also refers to the future Ge'ulah, and which we will recite after Birchas ha'Mozon.

* * *


The nine merits on account of which Hashem took our fathers out of Egypt (all contained within the paragraphs that follow 'Tzei u'L'mad'): Because ...

1. ... Ya'akov initially went down to Egypt only in order to sojourn.

2. ... Yisrael stood out there (they retained their names and language).

3. ... of Yisrael's Mesiras Nefesh (self-sacrifice) with the two bloods (that of the Korban Pesach and that of the B'ris Milah, which they performed before bringing the Pesach).

4. ... of the back-breaking work that they had to do for the Egyptians (for which the Redemption compensated; and the same applies to 7, 8 and 9).

5. ... they prayed to G-d.

6. ... of the covenant that G-d made with the Avos.

7. ... the Egyptians tormented them by separating the men from their wives.

8. ... they drowned the Jewish babies, and killed them, to use their blood to cure Paroh's leprosy.

9. ... of the ongoing oppression (i.e. no respite from their work).

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