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The Mitzvah of Pesach | The Seventh Day of Pesach
The Mitzvah of Pesach
Reb Chaim Soloveichik of Brisk asked, what is the difference between the mitzvah, at the seder table, to recount the story of going out of Egypt, and the mitzvah which we are commanded to mention the Exodus from Egypt every day of the year?
He answers that there are three differences: 1) On Pesach night we must tell the story in the form of question and answer; 2) On Pesach night we must explain the significance of the pesach sacrifice, matzah and maror; 3) On Pesach night we must begin the story by mentioning the disgrace of the servitude and ending with the appreciation of the freedom.
The mitzvah of the whole year, on the other hand, is simply to state that Hashem took us out of Egypt.
What is the significance of this difference?
The Haggadah Shel Pesach declares: “And even if we are all Wise Men; all men of understanding; all elderly; all Torah scholars, it is incumbent upon us to recount the story of the Exodus from Egypt. And he who expands upon the recounting of the story of the Exodus, he is considered praiseworthy.”
This statement is an innovation which we do not usually find in the words of the Sages concerning Torah study. On the contrary, the Rabbis taught (Pesachim 3b), “One should always teach his student the shorter way.” I once heard Reb Ya’akov Kaminetsky zt”l comment that one who teaches Torah in a longer manner than is necessary for his student to understand, will be punished for bitul Torah (wasting time that could be spent on Torah study) since he could have learned other things in the time that he used unnecessarily. Why, then, should the praise be given to the one who tells this story at length rather than briefly and concisely? And why should even those who know the story in detail, and have heard it so many times already, repeat it again and again at length?
Realizing that he must prove the remarkable declaration he just made, the Author of the Haggadah backs up his position with ma’aseh rav, an authentic story of the great Rabbis who did exactly what he just said. Therefore, immediately following, he relates: “The story is told that Rabbi Eliezer, Rabbi Yehoshua, Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah, Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Tarfon were reclining in B’nei Berak and were relating the story of the Exodus from Egypt the entire night until their students came and told them, ‘Our Masters, the time for the recitation of the morning Shema has arrived.’”
This story proves, unequivocally, that even those who are wise, elderly and aged should discuss the story at length, not in brief. But why is this different from all other types of Torah study?
The answer is that the uniqueness of this night’s mitzvah is expressed, subsequently, by the Author of the Haggadah himself: “In each and every generation, everyone is obligated to see himself as if he himself proceeded from Egypt as it says (Shemos 13:8), ‘And you shall tell your child on that day: It is because of this that Hashem acted for me when I left Egypt.’ Not our ancestors alone did the Holy One, Blessed is He, redeem, but, rather, He redeemed us with them as well….”
This cannot be merely an intellectual exercise, simply remembering for a moment and relaying the information to the next generation. That method is good when the goal is simply to learn and to teach the facts. Then, the smarter the teacher and the student are, and the more information they already have, the shorter the lesson can and should be.
But Pesach night we are commanded to go through an emotional experience. We have to actually live through the Exodus and help our children do the same, and the only way to do that properly is to discuss it at length and in depth until everyone feels as if he or she were actually one of the slaves who were freed by Hashem. Through the method of question and answer; by describing, in detail, the contrast between servitude and freedom; and by using visual aides, showing the matzah and the maror and explaining the reason for the mitzvahs of the seder, we can perform the difficult task of actually reliving the Exodus. And it is a practice which must be repeated, at least once a year, no matter how many times we may have done it already and no matter how wise and learned we may be. After we experience the Exodus on Pesach night, it is enough to merely mention it for a moment, every day of the year, so that we reawaken those feelings again, always, our entire lifetime.
And the Torah spoke of four different kinds of sons, to teach us that we must use a different approach for each type. If we want him to actually imagine himself a part of the Pesach, Exodus experience, then we must speak to him in a language which he can relate to.
May we all be privileged to partake in the actual sacrifice of the Pesach, in the third Beis Hamikdash, in the newly rebuilt City of Yerushalayim, by the hands of Moshiach, soon, in our lifetime, Amen.
After thinking for a moment, I told my wife that her excellent question proves that which we were taught by the Kabbalists (especially by the Ramchal) that Jewish holidays are not mere commemorations of events which occurred in the past. They interpreted that which is written (Ester 9:28), “And that these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation,” to mean that whenever Jewish events are remembered, they are kept once again. That is why we don’t refer to the holiday of Shavuos, for example, as “The time that the Torah was given to us” – in the past tense. Rather, we say (in the holiday prayers), “The time of the giving of the Torah” – in the present tense. Because every year, at this time, Hashem gives us, once again, His holy Torah.
Similarly, on Pesach we do not say, “The time that we were redeemed,” but, rather, “The time of Redemption.” For the salvation of the Jewish People, as a whole, and of every individual Jew from his own personal bondage, is repeated every year at this time.
Therefore, I concluded, we repeat the blessing at the seder every year, because, contrary to the one who was saved from an accident only once, we are redeemed, again and again, more and more, each year.
The holiday of the seventh day of Pesach (and in the Diaspora, the eighth as well) commemorates the splitting of the Red Sea before the Children of Israel, to protect them from their enemies, the Egyptians.
This event, too, is not something which occurred only once in the history of the Jewish People. Rather, it is something which recurs every single year. A Jew who feels that he is surrounded by his enemies – especially the greatest enemy of all, the Yetzer Hara (the Evil Inclination) – can find consolation in the fact that on the Seventh day of Pesach Hashem will split the Sea for him to save him from his adversaries. Of course, this requires that he agree to jump into the Sea, placing his complete faith in Hashem; follow His representatives to the Mountain of Sinai; and accept G-d’s commandments and the entire Torah. If he does so, then Hashem is ready to free him, once and for all, from his bondage, and even show him his enemies sprawled before him.
It’s a great offer – definitely one worth considering seriously.
May Hashem help us make the proper decisions and go in His way, and realize ultimate Redemption and Salvation in this world and the world-to-come.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network