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  • Is Matzah a Quick Fix?

    by gTorah.com

    Jews eat Matza because our ancestors left Egypt בחפזון – in a hurry, and we recall this by recreating the food that they couldn’t adequately prepare, leaving it in it’s simplest form. That it to say, the haste, the hurry, the speed, is a key element of one the main mitzvos of the Chag. The fact they left quickly is not incidental to their leaving at all; it is not just the way they gained their freedom, as seen in the way we remember the way they left. Why is there such focus with the way in which they left?

    There is a character trait called Zrizus. Rav Hutner teaches that it is not just the speed with which a task is accomplished; that exists in every realm, good and bad equally. This is not an objectively “good” character trait in any way; it simply describes the intensity of the desire for a specific outcome, which in turn generates the alacrity and passion with which it is carried out. Yet it is ostensibly a key part to Jewish life.

    We praise Hashem as ברוך אומר ועושה, ברוך עושה בראשית. Sometimes we refer to מעשה בראשית and sometimes just בראשית. The Vilna Gaon explains that מעשה בראשית refers to everything within creation; but this does not encompass everything. There is more that Hashem creates, which is not contained, per se, within creation. Time. מעשה בראשית appreciates the universe and all that is in it. But ברוך עושה בראשית refers specifically to the concept of time, a beginning. עושה בראשית. We express gratitude for the creation of time. For a beginning. For בראשית.

    Time is important to all mitzvos, learnt from Matza. The Midrash teaches ושמרתם את המצות – “You shall guard the Matzot/Mitzvos” – ensure that they don’t become ruined by waiting; do it right away. The Midrash subtly indicates that speed is not just an extra credit to a mitzva. If the analogy is fully developed, any mitzva without the speed is ruined! Zrizus, the way we perform mitzvos, is a prerequisite. Why are mitzvos related to time at all?

    The Midrash in Koheles allegorically teaches that when a poor peasant marries a noble princess, he will never be able to satisfy her, as she’ll always have better.

    Our souls are the noble princess. Our souls do not interface with the mundane, common, physicality of life. Because it is not any of those things. Not mundane. Not common. Not physical. Not of life. It transcends all those things. Nothing of this earth can ever satisfy the needs of the soul. It speaks a different language.

    The moment the Jews were selected to be God’s flag bearers, His ambassadors to show mankind a better way, they became connected to something that totally transcends all of creation. By connecting to the Creator, everything created became instantly mundane and beneath that connection. Not just מעשה בראשית. But even בראשית. Because time, too, is a creation.

    No longer just beings who exist for a fixed amount of time. No longer actions with temporary magnitude. In that instant, בחפזון Jews became נצחי. Not simply forever, a lack of expiration date. Eternal. It is a fundamental change of essence; they transcend time. A change noticeable in every single frozen moment of existence.

    They become this עם נצחי with their departure from Egypt. That transfer, that metamorphosis from beings existing within the system, to immortal souls operating on a plane above creation above time, had to happen בחפזון. Not just quickly. So much more than that. Ironically in that moment, they became above all moments.

    Perhaps that is why the final plague happened כחצות, in a non-moment. In the space where נצחי, eternity, is forced to operate within the restricting confines of זמן, of time, the paradoxical result is חפזון. An expression of the attempt to transcend time.

    R Shlomo Farhi explains that this reinforces the importance of the concept of Zrizus as a necessity, an absolute prerequisite without which the Mitzvah is left deficient. The lack of חפזון returns the Mitzvah, and ourselves to time and space. It becomes just another thing on the day’s activity list. Acting slowly is clips the wings of the Mitzvah, grounding it, limiting it, inhibiting it, stifling it.

    Waiting during the food preparation generates Chametz. Chametz is food, but it wont feed or nourish us. It may be good enough for others; but to us, it is inedible.

    This is the why so much of the Chag centres upon the very deliberate חפזון manner in which we left Egypt. It’s what we recall, and it is the platform from which we learn how important and meaningful that even the way we do things can truly matter.

    WHY WAS PAROH SO RESILIENT?

    Throughout the story of Egypt, we find that Paroh’s heart is hardened, after which he resisted overtures to release the Jews. How could Paroh have his free will compromised?

    The question of Paroh’s free will is based on the presumption that Hashem hardened it – but this is not entirely accurate The Seforno explains that there are two verbs used in relation to Paroh – כבד, heaviness, and חזק, strength. Being described as חזק, strong, is not a bad thing by any stretch! A careful reading will show that – for the first seven plagues – all uses of כבד are in reference to Paroh acting in such a way. Where Hashem is acting directly, there is only חיזוק – Hashem gave him the strength to continue – but why

    To understand what the story is truly about, ask yourself, what was the point of it all? To obliterate the Egyptians? Or to extract the Jews? Both events happened, but lots of other things happened too. Miracles are always as simple as possible, so why the extravagance of plagues that didn’t produce free Jews or defeated Egyptians? Why extend the Egyptian’s suffering

    Hashem is very clear why, but it slips right under the radar. Hashem explicitly states the purpose of what is to come to Moshe, foreshadowing the first plague.

    וְיָדְעוּ מִצְרַיִם כִּי-אֲנִי ה, בִּנְטֹתִי אֶת-יָדִי עַל-מִצְרָיִם; וְהוֹצֵאתִי אֶת-בְּנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל, מִתּוֹכָם – Egypt will know that I am the Lord, when I stretch my my hand over Egypt, and extract the Jews from among them. (7:17)

    Hashem announces that this is about making something known. Consider that Hashem’s power to this point was entirely unknown. What miracles had been performed that more than ten people saw? People knew about the God of their fathers, but there had never been “outstretched hand” type miracles in history – yet. Egypt – and the world – would know soon enough

    This is why Paroh needed the חיזוק – he could not release the Jews because of the beating Egypt was taking; he could not give in for the wrong reasons. He needed חיזוק as he grew to understand the nature of what he was up against.

    But after the 7th plague, the task is seemingly complete; Paroh concedes, completely:

    יִּשְׁלַח פַּרְעֹה, וַיִּקְרָא לְמֹשֶׁה וּלְאַהֲרֹן, וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם, חָטָאתִי הַפָּעַם: ה, הַצַּדִּיק, וַאֲנִי וְעַמִּי, הָרְשָׁעִים. הַעְתִּירוּ, אֶל-ה, וְרַב, מִהְיֹת קֹלֹת אֱלֹהִים וּבָרָד; וַאֲשַׁלְּחָה אֶתְכֶם, וְלֹא תֹסִפוּן לַעֲמֹד – Paroh sent for Moshe and Ahron, and said to them, “Now I have sinned. Hashem is righteous; my people and I are guilty. Beseech Hashem, and bring an end to this fiery hail; I will release you, you will be here no more…” (9:27,28)

    Egypt now knows, but the education is not complete. The subject changes subtly:

    וּלְמַעַן תְּסַפֵּר בְּאָזְנֵי בִנְךָ וּבֶן-בִּנְךָ, אֵת אֲשֶׁר הִתְעַלַּלְתִּי בְּמִצְרַיִם, וְאֶת-אֹתֹתַי, אֲשֶׁר-שַׂמְתִּי בָם; וִידַעְתֶּם, כִּי-אֲנִי ה – So that you tell over to your sons and daughters, how I toyed with Egypt, with my wonders that I placed in them, and you will know that I am the Lord. (10:2)

    Now it is about the Jews. The Jews needed to understand what Hashem would do for them. A generation of slaves could scarcely fathom what was taking place – see the troubles they gave Moshe even after all this – Hashem wanted to show His care to the Jews.

    This is where stubbornness comes in. Once Paroh had conceded and submitted to God, he needed stubbornness to resist anew. This had nothing to do with his free will – Egypt’s understanding is not referred to again.

    This is וּלְמַעַן תְּסַפֵּר בְּאָזְנֵי בִנְךָ וּבֶן-בִּנְךָ – for us to internalise how incredible the events were, how much Hashem did and does for us.

    WHAT IS SHABBOS HAGADOL ABOUT?

    Shabbos HaGadol – “The Great Shabbos” – is an anniversary of a one off event. The Jews were automatically safe from the first nine plagues; but for the tenth they had to do something to be saved – two things, to be precise: circumcision and the Korban Pesach. Through these mitzvos they were saved, earning freedom as a result.

    The Korban Pesach was to be set aside on the Shabbos a few days before they left, the tenth of Nissan. Shabbos HaGadol memorialises that event.

    It is highly unusual to mark a day of the week, and not the calendar date of an event. Yet the Shabbos before Pesach is when we remember that the Pesach sacrifice was to be set aside, and not the tenth of Nissan. Why?

    The Sfas Emes expounds how Shabbos is the transition between the previous week and the next. It is the culmination of what came before, and sets the tone of what is to come. Particularly with regard to redemption, Shabbos has trappings of eternity and liberation, with an eye to the conclusion of Creation. As such, the pending Exodus required a particular investment on the people’s part to earn redemption the coming week. It was Shabbos that the instruction was particular to, and the calendar date was incidental – this is why it is remembered on the Shabbos before Pesach. Shabbos sets the tone for redemption and Geula.

    But why is it called Great – HaGadol?

    The Sfas Emes teaches that the “greatness” refers to the Jews. The Jews had little or no merit; they kept their names, clothing and language, but had literally nothing else. By following the instruction to prepare for the mitzva of Korban Pesach, they matured as a nation, and became capable of greatness, and worthy of redemption. The surrender to God’s will and removal of other influences, particularly Paroh’s, made the nation “great”. They became big, or adult – HaGadol.

    R’ Shlomo Farhi explains that the separation of the sheep, a sacred animal in Egypt, was not just symbolic of their intent to eat it. It correlated to the second commandment – that there be no other false gods or entities, including Paroh. This was actually a prerequisite to the first commandment, that Hashem is God, exemplified by the Korban Pesach a few days later. They couldn’t just add Hashem to the pile; they had to make a clear distinction.

    The Sfas Emes notes that setting the animal aside wasn’t even a real mitzva – it was never replicated later on in any commandments. It was a one-off instruction in Egypt. It is not a mitzva that we remember then. Instead, the we remember that the Jews took a very tentative, but very tangible first step. The Gemara gives an analogy that if a person makes an opening the size of the eye of a needle, God can then turn it into a grand ballroom. It is Shabbos HaGadol because all subsequent greatness stemmed from that first baby step, that seemed like so little.

    Shabbos HaGadol also parallels Shabbos Shuva, only from a different perspective. Shabbos Shuva is Teshuva from Fear, and Shabbos HaGadol is Teshuva from Love – and love is stronger than fear. The nature of Shabbos HaGadol and Pesach after is that the relationship between God and His people is so strong that the redemption comes without deserving it – the same is true of Teshuva and prayer. This is precisely how they were pulled out if Egypt – they were given access to so much by doing something so small.

    That first step forward makes all the difference. Take the initiative!

    RELIVING THE EXODUS

    During the Seder we recite that every person has to feel as if their very selves left Egypt.

    Why is not enough to recall that it historically took place?

    We say that מתחלה היה עובדי עבודה זרה, ועכשיו קירבנו המקום לעבודתו – At first, they worshipped strange idols, but now Hashem drew them near, in His service. This is of huge significance. This is when the transition occurred; we ceased to be slaves, and became a nation free to serve Hashem. But what is ועכשיו קירבנו המקום לעבודתו – but ״now״ Hashem drew them near, in His service?

    It is precisely for this reason that we are enjoined to feel like we personally left Egypt. In the same way our ancestors had an Exodus that transitioned them into servants of God, we each need to experience our own personal exodus, every year, and renew our own commitment.

    At the end of Maggid, we say the opening two paragraphs of Hallel, and yet no Bracha is said on it. The Emek Bracha concludes that there is no bracha because it is not a Hallel at all! A Hallel commemorates a past event; but this is the “present”! In the names of the parts of the Seder, Hallel is after the meal – the opening two paragraphs take place during Maggid, because they are actually a Shira – a song of praise, like לפיכך – the Shira at the miracle we have to see ourselves as going through!

    THE EGG ON THE SEDER PLATE

    On the Seder plate, there is a designated section for an egg. All the sections have a more obvious role; but the egg’s place is less clear.

    The Ishbitzer teaches that the egg is symbolic of the nascent Jewish nation; like an egg requires nurturing and warmth to hatch, so the newly formed nation was, on its way to “hatching” at Mount Sinai, upon receiving the Torah.

    The Rema says that this is the very same egg as on 9 Av, and points out that the fast of 9 Av will always be on the same day of the week as the first night of Pesach. But there is more to it than that.

    Avraham was told his descendants would be enslaved in Egypt. When they left Egypt, the Torah recounts how וּמוֹשַׁב בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲשֶׁר יָשְׁבוּ

    בְּמִצְרָיִם שְׁלֹשִׁים שָׁנָה וְאַרְבַּע מֵאוֹת שָׁנָה – the settlement of the Jews in Egypt lasted 430 years (12:40). Not commonly cited, is that “only” 86 of the years spent in Egypt were spent in slavery, which Miriam’s birth marked (hence her name, meaning “bitter”). The early departure was forced because the Jews were mired in the depths of decadence, the 49th level of impurity, beyond which they could not be saved. They had to leave early, if they were ever to leave.

    But this means that only one fifth of the prophesied 430 years of slavery was spent in actual slavery. This is slightly hinted to when Yosef interpreted the butler’s dream, where he described how he’d squeezed grapes for Paroh. In the dialogue, the word כוס appears four times. Figuratively, Yosef announced that when the cup was squeezed into, he would walk free, and the same with the Jews in Egypt, that when they were “squeezed” into the כוס – 86 – they walked free. That only one fifth of the time was served is one the explanations of the bizarre word וחמושים – also a source that many Jews did not live to escape Egypt, perishing in the darkness.

    The deficit in time is 344 – the word כוס multiplied four times, the numerical value of שמד – disaster. On 9 Av, the Torah portion we read berates us and says שָּׁמֵד תִּשָּׁמֵדוּן – we owe for our early, forced departure from egypt. And on the eve of 9 Av, we eat an egg, in memory of the destruction and imperfection of the world.

    As the Rema says, this is the very same egg as on 9 Av. We left early, but leaving Egypt was not the perfect redemption, which we still await. We remind ourselves of this with the egg we eat before 9 Av.

    ARAMAIC WITH A KITTEL

    We begin the story telling aspect of the Seder, Magid, with a short prayer, הא לחמא עניא – This is poor man’s bread… But next year, may we have liberty in Jerusalem.

    It is classically understood that angels gather prayers and transport them to Heaven. This particular prayer is not in the usual Hebrew, but in Aramaic, and this presents a thorny issue. It is similarly understood that angels do not relate to Aramaic, and so cannot present or transmit prayers in Aramaic; as such, prayers are not meant to be said in Aramaic. Why then, is this portion in Aramaic?

    Perhaps there is a way around this issue. There are times when an emissary is not required. There is a Gemara that teaches that Hashem’s presence is manifest in the room of an ill person. Prayers are more effective – there are no angels required; Hashem is right there.

    The Shaagas Aryeh points out how the same is true on Yom Kippur – the Kohel Gadol goes into the Kodesh HaKadashim, and utters a prayer in Aramaic. How is that the prayer can pray in Aramaic? It is because he is in the Kodesh HaKadashim, in front of the Ark, where Hashem’s presence is most manifest. No angels necessary.

    Most of the year round, we are subject to the influence of the Satan. But not all year – השטן has a value of 364, a year, less one day – that is one day per year that the Satan does not influence us – Seder night; it is a Leil Shimurim. When we are enjoined to keep Pesach, we are told that וְשָׁמַרְתָּ אֶת הַחֻקָּה הַזֹּאת לְמוֹעֲדָהּ מִיָּמִים יָמִימָה – the word ימימה is very odd; this is it’s only appearance in the Torah. It has the same initial letters as the second part of Tehillim 93:3 – כִּי הוּא יַצִּילְךָ מִפַּח יָקוּשׁ מִדֶּבֶר הַוּוֹת – Hashem Himself will save us, ימימה. This is why there is no Satan on Seder night – Hashem is there. We don’t say Shema for this reason.

    Just like on Yom Kippur. Which is one reason for a kittel. But it goes deeper – the animal used for the korban Pesach is set aside on the tenth of the month, the tenth of the month that Yom Kippur is. ימימה is a 24 hour day, but it is not the same day.

    It is the combination of the evening of Seder and Yom Kippur day that Hashem is in front of us, and therefore we wear a kittel and pray in Aramaic.

    THE DICHOTOMY OF MATZA

    There is a dichotomy regarding the Matza on Pesach. Is it poor man’s bread, indicative of slavery; or is it because of the redemption, that they were freed before they had time to prepare bread?

    The Sfas Emes explains that we cannot celebrate being freed from Egypt on it’s own; we must celebrate the fact we were enslaved as well. If we were capable of being a nation that could serve Hashem in freedom initially, we need not have been enslaved, and if we could serve Hashem in slavery, we weren’t in need of rescue. So being enslaved in Egypt was a key part of the process through which we became Hashem’s people. What transition took place in Egypt that created a nation capable of serving God?

    The Sfas Emes goes on to explain that by being in crushing slavery, the people were far beyond their comfort zones, and pushed way past the extremes of what they thought they were capable of. This was a life lesson to the people that the arrogance and ego of man could be removed, and a person could devote his entire being to something. This was a key stage in becoming Hashem’s servants – the people knew what it meant to give their all; which would not have been the same thing without the ravages of slavery.

    The Sfas Emes explains that this is what all evils and adversity in life are for – they educate us about our limits, and more than that, they show us the opposite extremes to which we can aspire, attain and transcend. This is the only purpose they serve, just like Egypt. If they weren’t there to help us become closer to Hashem, they would have no function, and therefore would not exist. This was the only way in people could have accepted Hashem as their King entirely; in the same way they had been entirely subjugated to Paroh, they could now subjugate themselves entirely to Hashem.

    This was the critical moment the Jews were born as a nation. As we say in Shema every day: אשר הוצאתי אתכם מארץ מצרים להיות לכם לאלוקים – “That I took you out of Egypt to be for you a God” (Bamidbar 15:41). The causation is clear – we had to have been in Egypt before, in order to be taken out, to become everything we were meant to be. Being God’s people hinges on the need to have subdued arrogance and ego.

    This is what טוב אחרית הדבר מראשיתו means – “the end is better than the beginning” (Koheles 7:8). It was far from pleasant to be in Egypt, but what followed was receiving the Torah. The Sfas Emes tells us that our celebration of leaving Egypt must hinge around the fact that we became better once we left – we accepted Hashem as our King and our God, and we received the Torah. The first thing we did on being freed was for Hashem – this is why there is a concept of firsts going to Hashem, for example the korban Omer (and Pidyon haBen, bikkurim etc). This is what is so vital on Seder night, to relive the Exodus from Egypt. It is when we became God’s people.

    The Sfas Emes answers that this is why Matza correlates to both slavery as well as freedom – it is devoid of the ego, exemplified by chametz, yet it also correlates to the freedom – the process of freedom started when we were slaves. It is how we became truly free to serve Hashem. Our freedom stems from having not been free once.

    LACKING טעם

    In the Haggada we read; חכם מה הוא אומר? מה העדות והחוקים והמשפטים אשר צו ה’ אלוקינו אתכם– What does the wise son ask? “What are the testimonies, statutes and laws that God our Lord commanded you?”

    The Sfas Emes understands that the wise son is asking the reasons behind the laws, not the laws themselves. Since he is the wise son, it is assumed that he knows the laws. However, how can he ask for a reason for the statutes? חוקים do not have reason, for example, the Para Aduma and sha’atnez. These mitzvos have no clear reason. So why does the wise son ask for the reason for these types of mitzvos?

    In Tehillim, we say; “מַגִּיד דְּבָרָיו לְיַעֲקֹב חֻקָּיו וּמִשְׁפָּטָיו לְיִשְׂרָאֵל – He told his words to Yakov, His statutes and laws to Israel”. מַגִּיד implies a discussion – the implication is that חוקים is not just an instruction, but a talking point, something to be talked about. So חוקים have meaning as well – but how can discover these reasons? The Sfas Emes explains that the way to attain an understanding of the חוקים is by doing them even without understanding, but with the belief that what we are doing has a deeper significance. By performing these mitzvos without understanding why, we merit knowing the reason eventually.

    The Sfas Emes explains that the mitzva of matza alludes to this. The matza is made of flour and water. It has no additional taste. In Hebrew the same word is used for taste and for reason – טעם. We specifically do not add any טעם to it to show that the command itself has enough טעם for us.

    Through this, we develop a closer relationship with Hashem, a Naaseh v’Nishma of sorts, that we do as instructed even though we don’t understand.

    The answer we give the wise son is, “We do not eat any dessert after the Pesach lamb.” He wants to know the טעם for the mitzvos including the חוקים . We tell him that the way to know the reasons is to do them, without knowing why, but with faith in Hashem’s command. We hint this when we tell him not to add to the טעם of the Korban Pesach.

    It seems that asking the right questions leads to self discovery, and that it is most important to simply place one’s trust in Hashem .

    ALL ABOUT APPRECIATION

    When a farmer presents bikkurim to the attending kohen, there is a prescribed dialogue that must take place, tracking the early history of the Jewish people:


    וְעָנִיתָ וְאָמַרְתָּ לִפְנֵי ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, אֲרַמִּי אֹבֵד אָבִי, וַיֵּרֶד מִצְרַיְמָה, וַיָּגָר שָׁם בִּמְתֵי מְעָט; וַיְהִי-שָׁם, לְגוֹי גָּדוֹל עָצוּם וָרָב. וַיָּרֵעוּ אֹתָנוּ הַמִּצְרִים, וַיְעַנּוּנוּ; וַיִּתְּנוּ עָלֵינוּ, עֲבֹדָה קָשָׁה. וַנִּצְעַק, אֶל-ה אֱלֹהֵי אֲבֹתֵינוּ; וַיִּשְׁמַע ה אֶת-קֹלֵנוּ, וַיַּרְא אֶת-עָנְיֵנוּ וְאֶת-עֲמָלֵנוּ וְאֶת-לַחֲצֵנוּ. וַיּוֹצִאֵנוּ ה, מִמִּצְרַיִם, בְּיָד חֲזָקָה וּבִזְרֹעַ נְטוּיָה, וּבְמֹרָא גָּדֹל–וּבְאֹתוֹת, וּבְמֹפְתִים. וַיְבִאֵנוּ, אֶל-הַמָּקוֹם הַזֶּה; וַיִּתֶּן-לָנוּ אֶת-הָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת, אֶרֶץ זָבַת חָלָב וּדְבָשׁ. וְעַתָּה, הִנֵּה הֵבֵאתִי אֶת-רֵאשִׁית פְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה, אֲשֶׁר-נָתַתָּה לִּי, ה; וְהִנַּחְתּוֹ, לִפְנֵי ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, וְהִשְׁתַּחֲוִיתָ, לִפְנֵי ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ. וְשָׂמַחְתָּ בְכָל-הַטּוֹב, אֲשֶׁר נָתַן-לְךָ – You will answer and say before your God, “The Aramean pursued my father, and he descended to Egypt, and dwelled there, where he became a nation, great and many. Egypt evilly afflicted us, and they gave us hard labour. We cried out to Hashem, God of our fathers, and He heard our cries, and saw our suffering and affliction.

    He extracted us from Egypt with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, with great wonders and miracles; and brought us to this place. He gave us this land, flowing with milk and honey. And now, see I have brought my first fruit, which God has granted me, and I place it before God,”.

    He shall place it before God and bow, and rejoice at all the good he has been given. (26:5-11)

    On Pesach, part of the above is quoted in the Haggada, which tracks the development of the Jewish people. This is odd – the actual events are recorded in Shemos, this is only a paraphrase of events there; and not about leaving Egypt at all!

    Why does the Haggada quote from bikkurim and not from its proper historical place?

    The Sefer HaChinuch explains that the mitzva on Pesach of reciting the story of the exodus is not limited to just telling the story; it must be contextualised with an angle of gratitude, which the historical sections do not have.

    Bikkurim is self-evidently about gratitude for the Land of Israel, which has extra special value in the context of liberation from Egypt. So, in reality, discussing Egypt makes a lot of sense in the context of how appreciative we are for the Land; and it also makes sense for the Haggada to quote from somewhere out of place to display gratitude.

    Proper gratitude can be learned from the laws of the thanksgiving offering – the Korban Toda.

    Along with the animal offering, there were 40 accompanying loaves of bread, with very little burnt or taken by the kohen. They are essential parts of the offering, and are subject to the laws of leftovers – if not consumed by the following morning, they must be destroyed.

    This is an impossible task for the owner. Clearly, he is not meant to eat an entire animal and 40 loaves of bread on his own. This is a feast – one he needs to invite many guests to.

    The aspect of gratitude this evidently imparts is the innate requirement to publicise it. The Korban Pesach is identical – an entire roast animal that is to be consumed after a full meal, in a tiny amount of time, before midnight. To avoid issues with leftovers problems you need to invite lots of guests and tell them about Egypt – which is precisely how the Seder begins.

    The Korban Pesach is essentially a national Korban Toda – brought on release from jail; crossing a sea; crossing a desert; and recovery from illness. The Jews were in bondage and released from Egypt; went through the sea; through the desert, and when the Jews stood at Sinai, they were cured from all ailments.

    To really contextualise what gratitude entails, the concluding pasuk in Bikkurim says that וְשָׂמַחְתָּ בְכָל הַטּוֹב אֲשֶׁר נָתַן לְךָ ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ וּלְבֵיתֶךָ – you should rejoice in all Hashem does for you. One just one blanket ‘thank you’, but thank Him בְכָל הַטּוֹב – for each thing individually!

    Gratitude means so much more when it is spelled out properly.

    THE WICKED SON

    In the Haggada, the Rasha asks a question, and the father rebukes him, and the Haggada remarks that the father should הקהה את שניו – knock out his teeth – and rebuke him that אלו היה שם לא היה נגאל – if he had been in Egypt at the time, he would not have been redeemed.

    What do his teeth and potential non-redemption from Egypt have to with each other, as part of a cogent reply?

    R’ Shlomo Freshwater explains that prior to Matan Torah, people who were evil stayed that way – Yishmael, Esav, all the Jews who died during the 9th plague. Before Matan Torah, the only people God would choose to save were the people who chose God.

    After Matan Torah, this changed – Hashem had chosen us unconditionally! This enabled everyone to be saved – even if they weren’t righteous – and any and everyone could do teshuva, as opposed to falling by the wayside like Yishmael, Esav etc.

    So what the father tells his son is that if he had been in Egypt, he simply would not have had the merit to be redeemed. But after Matan Torah, anyone can do teshuva – even a Rasha! But a puzzle remains – we just have to “knock out his teeth” – what does this mean?

    רשע is gematria 570. If we “knock out” שניו – gematria 366 – we are left with 204. What is gematria 204?

    צדיק!!

    The 4 sons are meant to be allegorical, but clearly this section of the Haggada is an inpirational piece about teshuva – no matter what we have done, we can always make amends, we just need to want it and remove the negativity.

    FALSE START

    Looking at the 15 steps of the Seder, ורחץ – “and we wash our hands” – is out of step with the rest. It is evidently linked to the previous step of Kadesh, hence the conjunctive “and”. But this results in a problem – the order makes no sense!

    A doctor sanitises his hands before seeing a patient – similarly shouldn’t we cleanse ourselves of the negative, symbolised by washing our hands, before sanctifying ourselves with positive, through kiddush?

    The same can be asked about Matza and Maror; shouldn’t we get the negative slavery out of the way before commemorating the positive liberty?

    R’ Moshe Feinstein answers counterintuitively that sometimes we are in so deep that we can’t cleanse ourselves of negativity. We have to jumpstart the process of growth by diving in and doing positive acts despite the fact we still have negative baggage. Then we build up the spiritual strength to be able to cleanse ourselves of and be rid of that baggage – which is exactly what happened in Egypt.

    There is a Chassidic analogy of a man with dirty boots in a muddy field. He must walk to the end of the field before he can clean his boots; stopping in the middle to wipe his boots is a exercise in futility.

    This is an exceptionally deep parable, but on a basic level, what it means is that when we have a problem that we can’t avoid, the proverbial “dirty boots”, we must change the situation we are in, by “leaving the field”. Once we have changed and developed, when we find ourselves with “muddy boots” we will no longer be in the “muddy field”. People can look at the world as a muddy field and wonder how they can have faith when there is so much evil, in the world. The answer is that the muddy field isn’t the problem – their boots are bringing mud everywhere!

    The reason we start the Seder in this way is to show us that we just need to take the initiative – Kaddish – and then ורחץ – we will be cleansed!

    MATZA AND MAROR – CHALK AND CHEESE

    Matza symbolises that the redemption took place with such haste that the dough did not have time to rise. The Maror symbolises the bitterness of the slavery.

    Obviously, the slavery took place before the redemption. Yet we eat Matza before the Maror – why don’t we reflect the historical order that events unfolded, and commemorate the affliction with the Maror first, and then appreciate the redemption with Matzah? The Chiddushei HaRim explains with a parable.

    There was a king who had one child, the crown prince. One day, the prince got involved in a national scandal and embarrassed the royal family greatly, for which he was banished. Over time, and as he aged, the king’s grief grew at what he’d done – he’d banished his only son and heir! He sent scouts across the kingdom to locate the prince and bring him back. A scout found the prince, dishevelled and a mess, working as a lumberjack deep in the middle of distant forests, with worn clothes and covered in dirt. The scout verified his reports and could not believe his eyes, yet approached the former crown prince; “My lord, the king has requested your immediate return to the palace. Before we get going, what do you need?”.

    “I’m not sure about going back, I like it here… But you know, what I really need is a better axe; this one is getting blunt. Could you possibly get me another?”.

    The scout was bewildered – when presented with the opportunity to return to his royal heritage, the heir to the throne refused. He had forgotten what it meant to be the prince, he had become a peasant; a simple laborer, who just wanted a better axe to be a better lumberjack.

    The Chiddushei Harim explains that we couldn’t understand how terrible the slavery was until we’d experienced redemption and liberty.

    If you put your face an inch from this text you can’t read it, you can only see the word right in front of you. To appreciate something for what it is, we need to step back from it. From darkness we understand what light is, and vice versa. Light is brightest coming in from the dark, and dark is darkest when the lights go out.

    We need to start with redemption, ultimate freedom to serve Hashem – to illustrate how awful anything else is.

    CHAMETZ AND MATZA

    In the Hagada, one of the four questions asked is that שבכל הלילות, אנו אוכלין חמץ ומצה, הלילה הזה כולו מצה – Why on other nights do we eat chametz and matza, whereas tonight we only eat matza?

    The Abarbanel explains that this question has an additional subtle nuance to it. The Korban Pesach is essentially a Korban Toda, a thanksgiving offering, for having been saved. With an ordinary thanksgiving offering, the sacrifice is brought with chametz loaves and matza crackers as part of the offering. The question therefore becomes; why is the thanksgiving offering on Pesach only supplemented with matza?

    The Chasam Sofer explains that chametz is a metaphor for negativity. It is symbolic of the inflation of the ego, among other things. Matza is synonymous with the positive and pure – it is representative of things the way they ought to be, in their simple, distilled, natural state.

    When we offer a regular thanksgiving sacrifice, we are thanking Hashem for the good He has done, but equally, the bad from which we learn to appreciate the good.

    But on Pesach there is no such thing as bad; even being enslaved served a “good” purpose – it certainly wasn’t a punishment for anything the slaves had done! If the Jews could achieve perfection without going through Egypt, they wouldn’t have had to – therefore it served a constructive purpose. The purpose was so that when they were offered the Torah the Jews would be able to understand and accept the concept of service – they had been pushed to the limit and beyond in Egypt; they could do the same for Hashem. We answer how Pesach is a night where כולו מצה – there is no such thing as bad, there is only good.

    The Chafetz Chaim wonders why Moshe was unable to build the Menorah, a problem he had not had when building everything else, and had to ask many times for the instructions to be repeated. The answer parallels the above. The Menorah is compared to to the Torah – hence the phrase “the light” of Torah – and it’s eternity. Moshe’s problem was that he did not understand how he could make something that was meant to reflect the infinite and eternal. Homiletically, how could the Jews keep the Torah forever? Wouldn’t there be evil? Exiles, wars, Holocausts, Inquisitions, expulsions and pogroms?

    Hashem’s answer to Moshe illustrates this concept perfectly. “Put it in the fire, and see what comes out”. In reality, there is no negativity, and challenges are not bad. It is only a trial from which there is potential to grow. Adversity builds character.

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  • The Four Sons: Educating your Children

    Rabbi Avi Matmon

    Pesach is a holiday of children. It is right that it is so. Our Egyptian servitude and suffering was made more painful for its cruelty to our children.

    "And he said, 'When you deliver the Hebrew women look at the birth stool; if it is a boy, kill him!'" With these words, Pharaoh sought to cut off our future by denying us a generation of children. He demanded that every son that was born be cast into the river.

    The central commandment of our Passover Seder obligation is to tell and to teach. It's the father and son at its finest moment. Remember the old MasterCard Baseball campaign a number of years ago, containing the line "Real conversation with 11-year-old son: Priceless." On the seder night that is precisely what you do.

    "On that day, you shall tell your son what the Lord, your God, did for you in bringing you out of Egypt..." Among many other things, our ancient rabbis were brilliant educators. God had commanded that we teach our children. The question then became, 'How best to teach? How best to fulfill this commandment?' I think the key is from what I read from Rabbi Henoch Liebowitz zt'l, when he asked why Yosef forgave his brothers for all the anguish they caused him.

    Before we answer the questions, the four sons is an intriguing subject and we need to probe it, for it will be greatly beneficial in understanding our children. The Four Sons serve as a wonderful model on how to transmit our rich heritage effectively, tailor-made to each child's capacity and unique way of learning. The values of the Torah are timeless and so every generation finds a different way of interpreting the Haggadah for which meaning is in it for them.

    Below you will find a number of ways of understanding the Four Sons in relation to modern day, as well as some ideas how to transmit the key lessons of the Haggadah.

    You can look at the four sons as four generations of Jews in America today. The first generation who immigrated to America represented by the Wise son. This is the Jew who grew up with a strong connection to the Jewish way of life. It is inconceivable for him to think of working on Shabbat. His father was a Rabbi and his mother did not show one speck of hair; modesty at its best. He would work from Monday to Friday, observes Shabbat and get fired for not coming to work, and look for other employment the next week. He knows why Judaism is important. His commitment is unshakable.

    His son, the second generation, is represented in the Wicked Son. This is the rebel who wants to succeed in his new life and take on Western values. Although he has grown up in a home full of Jewish values and an integrated Jewish life, he rejects this in favor of integrating into Western society and becoming accepted as the new American.

    His son, the third generation, is represented by the Simple Son. This child has spent Seder nights at his grandparents' table, has seen his grandmother light the Shabbat candles. He has a spattering of knowledge picked up at Hebrew school, but he doesn't know the meaning behind any of the symbols and is not very motivated to go beyond what he sees.

    His son, the fourth generation, is represented in the "One who doesn't know how to ask." This child does not have memories of his great-grandparents. He celebrates the American holidays and other than knowing that he is a Jew, has no connection whatsoever to Judaism. He sits at a traditional Seder night and does not even know what to ask because it is all so foreign to him.
    Today there is a fifth son, who is off in India or out at the movies on Seder night, not even aware that Passover exists. Anyone sitting at the Seder table is still connected to the Jewish people and heritage just by being there. We just need to get him curious and interested enough to ask a question that interests him and you can open the door for him.

    Another way of looking at the episode with the four sons is what Doctor Goldman related incredibly that I must share. It is a valuable lesson applicable to all ages. It's not about just teaching children; it's a lesson for the individual. Since all of Torah addresses all of Israel, we must say that all four messages of the Torah are applicable to all of us, since we all possess the "four children" within ourselves. We are therefore all required-even one who does not have children-to recite all four answers, since we are in essence speaking to the wise, wicked, simple, and "unable to ask" elements that exist within every one of us. You might be fundamentally you for your entire life, but don't expect your personality to stay the same. According to a major study of 50,000 people over the course of several decades, found the traditional notion of personality - as fixed and unchanged after adolescence - is mostly untrue.

    Doctor Abba Goldman, psychologist at Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim describes the 4 categories (sons) as stages. "The one who cannot ask" is a toddler. They cannot ask to eat. They often cry where then the mother understands that the child could be, she's often right, hungry.

    The next stage "TAM-simpleton" is not necessarily construed as derogatory. Yaacov our forefather was described as "Ish tam yoshev ohalim-a man of TAM who sits in tents". Yaacov was by far not a simpleton. If he was clever enough to deal with Eisav and Lavan, one can derive that the wool couldn't be pulled over his head. TAM can be defined as pure and innocent, an individual who cannot lie. He is a wet behind the ears, strait as an arrow, Glatt kosher product. This describes a boy which fits that category of TAM.

    The next stage is the RASHA which can be described as the teenage years. However, this is the rebellious years. Ask any teenager they would swear and proclaim proudly "We were the baddest high school class that ever was." At this age they are finding themselves, the hormones are flying, the voice gets deeper. They are awkward looking somewhere between man and boy. They're not finding their place. It's a time when they are right and the parents are wrong. As Mark Twain put it, "When I was fifteen, I discovered that my dad was dumb. When I was twenty, I was amazed by how much the 'old man' learned in the last five years." I remember I worked for my father one summer at age 16. After a week I scolded my father that he's doing it all wrong. I told him he can be more productive if you do it this way. I'm there for a week and I'm ranting and raving at my father, seasoned in his business and owner of his company for thirty years, how to run a business. Teenager years are times where it can be dangerous; they can be reckless and do dangerous things. We have to encourage all the ages to ask on this night.

    Now we come to the Chacham. Within a few years as the boy reaches his twenties his attitude changes. His anti-establishment days now behind him, he now is looking for acceptance and wants to be integrated in society. He becomes accepting of people, as well. He is easier to talk to however clever enough to stand his grounds.

    At each one of these stages one needs guidance. When I studied the book Mesillat Yesharim which I looked over many times over the course of my life I realized different passages in the book were more profound at different periods of my life.
    What is the best way to teach your son? We learn something interesting about human nature; a person is able, with his sensitivities, to differentiate between words that are sincere or not. When Yosef finally disclosed to the brothers that he is their brother, he was struck with tremendous emotions. The reason why is because he realized that Yehuda was sincere in sticking up for their youngest brother, Benyamin, a brother from a different mother (Rachel). Although one might say Yehuda had a lot to lose because he promised his father he would be responsible for him and, if anything horrible happened, he stood to lose his after-life. However, Yosef sensed the sincerity in Yehuda's voice. A person has the power to hear, determine, and recognize what the heart is saying, even though the words are saying something else. Because what comes from the heart goes to the heart.
    The important lesson is to get the message across that we are part of a great tradition. We are the chosen people and we are a proud nation that is ambassadors of G-d. Therefore, we have big shoes to fill and that is of our ancestors. We have the responsibility of living up to being Jewish. I read an incredibly story by Rabbi Yissachar Frand that I would like to share with you:


    There was a Jew who was born in Austria and as a young child, made his way to Germany on his own, without his parents. Thankfully, he was able to get on one of the Kinder transports that shuttled Jewish children to England, which saved his life. Eventually, he immigrated to Israel and settled in Petach Tikva. Having been in transit throughout his childhood, he never benefited from a Jewish education. He knew how to pray and learn Chumash, but that was about it. When he reached Petach Tikva, this man took it upon himself to run a Synagogue that had no caretaker. He made sure that Torah classes were given regularly and handled all the maintenance as well. Somehow this man raised each of his sons to be talmidei chachamim, and his daughters married talmidei chachamim.
    When he passed away, the Rabbi who was telling this story came to menachem avel (comfort the mourner). The Rabbi asked this man's son, "How did your father, who had never had a solid Torah education, remain a very devout Jew and decide to devote so much energy toward running this Bet Haknesset-Shul? And most of all how did he merit to raise all of you to be talmidei chachamim?"

    This son who was sitting shiva told the Rabbi this story. "For the most part, we take our parents for granted." the son replied. "We don't think what made them into the people that they are. You are born to your parents and grow up with them and you never stop to analyze who they are. But one day I asked my father, 'How did you do it? You didn't have parents to guide you; you didn't have an education. You were on your own; first in England, then in Petach Tikva. How did you maintain being a proper Jew and raise your children to be talmidei chachamim?'

    My father answered, 'When I left Austria, my father initially planned to travel with me to Germany. There was a problem with his passport; however, he had no choice but to put me on the train by myself. That was the last time I saw my father. As the train pulled out of the station, my father started running alongside the train to say goodbye, he called out to me 'Be a good Jew'. He kept running and repeating those 4 words: 'Be a good Jew, be a good Jew!' As the train picked up speed, he tripped and landed sprawled out on the platform, shouting for all he was worth 'Be a good Jew!' I did not know how to learn but the one thing I knew was that I had to be a good Jew'. The parting message my father took from his father was that he should be a good Jew."

    The night of the Seder is the night when you impart to your children who you are and what you live for. With all the conversations we have with our children at the Shabbat table, when do we ever tell them what we believe and what we live for. You see how this man's parting words to his son influenced his son his grandchildren and all future generations to come. View this Seder as though it will be your last chance to impart to your children what you live for so you maximize your potential of this night.

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  • Why Is The Holiday Called Pesach?

    Rabbi Avi Matmon

    The Yom Tov is called Pesach because G-d skipped ('pasach') over the houses of the Israelites when he smote the firstborn Egyptians. The name of the holiday commemorates G-d's providence over us, as he smote the gentiles.

    The Maharal points out that G-d's special care of the children of Israel was evident by all the plagues and not only by the final one.

    Makat Bechorot (death of the first born). By the first plague, when a Jew and an Egyptian drank water from the same glass, it was water for the Jew and blood for the Mitzri. Similarly, by the plague of darkness (choshech), the Mitzrim couldn't see, whereas for the Jews there was light. They walked through the Egyptians' houses to see what they owned so they can borrow it when they left Egypt. The same home was dark for the Egyptians and illuminated for the Israelite because G-d bestowed his kindness among his nation. Therefore, we wonder why the holiday isn't named after any of these miracles. Why is it named solely after Pesach, when Hashem jumped over the children of Israel's home by Makat Bechorot-the plague of the death of the first born?

    Let's first understand an important concept in Judaism. God is spoken of as being "eternal," that is, as existing outside the realm of time. Time as such does not apply to God Himself, only to His creation. God therefore has neither beginning nor end, nor does He age, since these concepts would imply existence within a framework of time. God Himself is therefore absolutely unchangeable and unchanging. He thus said, "I am God, I do not change" (Malachi 3:6).

    As Creator of time, God can make use of it without becoming involved in it. He can therefore cause change in the world without being changed Himself. God is thus called the "unmoved Mover." Therefore, it seems to indicate that the night of Pesach 3000 years ago and this year are the same to him. We say in the Haggadah "B'chol dor vador, chayav adam lirot; lirot et atzmo k'eelu hu; k'eelu hu yatza mee mitzraim." - "In each and every generation an individual should look upon him or herself; as if he or she had left Egypt."

    The Maharal answers that G-d's love for the Jewish people is expressed by all the plagues, but by Makat Bechorot, G-d's compassion was extremely evident. All the Makot were performed by the malachim (angels). G-d sent the Malachim to inflict the plagues. To save the Children of Israel from these plagues, the Almighty raised the Israelites above the angels. The Makot could not affect them because they were above the level of the Malachim. However, G-d himself performed Makot Bechorot. As we say in the Haggadah: "V'eavarti be'eretz Mitzraim ani velo Malach..." - "I passed through the land of Egypt, I and not an Angel". Presumably, their being elevated above the Malachim would not help by Makat Bechorot.

    So how were they saved? The Maharal teaches: G-d elevated the Israelites way above the level of the angels; he actually raised them parallel to the Master of the Universe. The bnei Yisrael became "chelek Elokim mimala kevyachol" - "united with Hashem, and they were saved on this exalted level". The Yom Tov-Holiday is called Pesach because, when G-d skipped over the children of Yisrael's home, it meant they weren't only higher than the angels, but they got attached to G-d. G-d brought them to the pinnacle of spirituality by rescuing them from death of the first born.

    This phenomenon occurs every year at the Seder. We are raised up to G-d. During that time, Pesach night, G-d showed a tremendous amount of kindness and mercy towards us. Our time with the Master of the Universe has not changed. For this reason, we can deduce, on a deeper level, why miracles can occur on this night. We are so close to G-d, our prayers are readily answered and our life can turn around for the better instantly.

    For this reason, many communities do not recite the customary Shalom Aleichem prayer Friday night, if Pesach Seder falls out on Shabbat. On this night, we are on such a lofty level for it is just us and G-d. The angels cannot participate for they have not reached the spiritual exclusiveness we the Jewish people have. This can only occur on Pesach on the Seder night .

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