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The Order of the Seder

It is very interesting that Jews all over the world, no matter what group they belong to, refer to the ceremony Pesach night as "the Seder." Seder in Hebrew means "order," and there seems to be a specific stress upon the order that things are done that special night. The Commentators teach us though, that the actual emphasis is upon the lack of order!

Imagine someone who works in a sewer all day yet succeeded in scheduling a meeting with the king, after working hours. Not wanting to be late, the fellow came to the palace directly from his place of work. The guards were astonished to see him and asked him want he wants. He told them that he has an appointment to meet with the king right now. They checked the king's diary and confirmed the schedule but told him that he cannot possibly go inside to see the king in his present state. His clothes were shabby, his body was filthy and the stench was unbearable to everyone except those, like he, who were used to it. They told him to go home, take a shower, use some strong deodorant and dress in respectable clothes. Only then should he return and he would be allowed to meet with the king.

The same is true in a spiritual sense. Although we may not be cognizant of it, sin stinks. Stories are told of holy men and kabbalists who covered their noses when passing by transgressors. How then can one who is full of sin perform mitzvahs which bring him close to Hashem? That is why King Dovid wrote (Tehillim 34:15), "Depart from evil, and do good." According to the natural order of things, one should first depart from the disgust of evil and only then approach the Almighty by doing good.

In Egypt, Hashem waited 210 years for us to follow the normal pattern. However, what unfortunately happened? We sunk deeper and deeper into impurity until we reached the 49th level. Had we stayed there a bit longer, we would have reached the 50th level, G-d forbid, and then we would never have been able to escape.

Therefore, Hashem changed the order of things and gave us two very special mitzvahs: circumcision and the Pascal Lamb, both of which bring a Jew especially close to His Creator. He indicated that we should first "do good," so that we would be able to escape from bondage in the merit of those mitzvahs, and only later we should concern ourselves with the commandment to "depart from evil." In other words, we would observe mitzvahs in spite of the stench of our sins, and later work on purifying ourselves and cleaning ourselves up.

This was the tremendous novelty of the first Pesach in Egypt. Hashem changed the natural order of things in order to redeem us from bondage and bring us closer to Him and accept His Torah on Mount Sinai.

And this conduct is repeated every Pesach. The Kabbalists taught that at the Seder, one can achieve levels of holiness which he does not yet deserve because Hashem does not follow the natural order of things on that holy night.

Every Hagadah begins with the symbols of the order of the Seder - in many homes it is sung by all participants before the ceremony actually begins. If we study them carefully, we will notice the lack of order intrinsic within them. We begin with Kadesh - which symbolizes the holiness achieved by the proper performance of mitzvahs (before we perform a mitzvah we recite a prayer stating that Hashem has sanctified us with His mitzvahs). Then we say Urechatz - which symbolizes washing ourselves of the impurities of sin. We meet with the King although we still reek with the stench of the sewer! How can this be? The answer is that at the Seder, as in Egypt, this is possible.

Therefore the Shem MiShemuel says that we should invite those who are far from being religious to our Seder and we will be amazed to see how much they can receive from the night's ceremony. Because Pesach night Hashem grants levels of achievement way above what we deserve - not according to the proper order of things.

And while reaching out to others, we should not forget to "reach out" to ourselves too. At this special time, we may also gain levels that we are undeserving of. Let us not waste even a moment of this precious evening with idle talk and nonsense. Let us focus upon the lack of order of the Seder and gain as much as we possibly can from this once in a year opportunity.

And 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, this very year, Amen.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel