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Pesach Special!

By popular request—I am providing you with some Seder tidbits for each section of the meal. Hopefully some of these will resonate and you will use them—in line with the famous words: “everyone who adds to the story of the Liberation from Egypt is praiseworthy.” These are arranged by sections:

Kadesh:

Why, if we thank Hashem for taking us out of Egypt on this night, do we not also bless Hashem for performing the accompanying miracles for "us" as we do on other occasions?

As part of Kaddesh, we do recite the blessing of She'he'cheyanu, "Who has 'brought' us to this time," as we do on all holidays. Reb Amram Gaon explained that we do not say the blessing of She'Asa Nisim , "who performed miracles" as we do on Chanukah and Purim because on the night of Pesach we have the Haggadah, in which we relate the miracles that occurred to us from the time of our bondage to the time of our redemption. This telling over of the miracles make a blessing for them unnecessary. Only on Purim, when we do not have Kiddush, a sanctification of the holiday, and a Haggadah, containing a recitation of all the miracles, do we say this special blessing.

Urchatz, Karpas, Yachatz

The next three steps of the Seder - Urchatz, Karpas and Yachatz - all share a common goal: to inspire the children to ask questions so that they will stay awake for the answer which will be discussed in the step that follows - Maggid.

Yachatz: Breaking the Matza and Hiding some for the Afikoman

The Vilna Gaon gives a reason why we hide the piece of Matzah that will be used for the Afikoman and remove it from the table until after the meal. He says that the reason is very similar to the one given for why we cover the Challah when we say Kiddush, that being to prevent the "embarrassment" of the Challah which is being passed over in favor of the wine. {Normally, bread is considered the most distinguished food, and the blessing before consuming it comes before the blessing before consuming anything else. On Shabbat, we need to make Kiddush over wine before we begin the meal. Therefore, we cover the Challah bread, so it will not be "ashamed" that a blessing is being made on another food before it.} Similarly, when we later make the Brachot on different pieces of Matzah, we cover and remove the Afikoman from the table, to prevent it from embarrassment as it is being looked over, as it is not eaten until after the meal.

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Maggid: Telling the Story

Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik, before beginning his Seder, used to explain the Mitzvah of Maggid by asking the following question: It appears (from the Gemora in Brachot 12b) that there is a Mitzvah of remembering our departure from Egypt every day. Therefore, it would seem that there is no less of an obligation on this Seder night than any other day. What makes the Mitzvah of remembering our departure from Egypt different on the Seder night?

Reb Chaim would answer that there are three elements that distinguish the Mitzvah of "Zechirat Yetziat Mitzrayim" - remembering our departure from Egypt, on Pesach from any other day. (These differences can be inferred from Rambam - Mishnah Torah, Hilchot Chametz U'Matzah, Chap. 7.) They are: A) the obligation to tell others; B) the obligation to relate the chain of events; and C) the obligation to explain the reasons behind the Mitzvot. This is explained as follows:

A) On every other day during the year, a simple Zechira, or "reminding one's self" about the departure suffices. However, on the Seder night, not only is there a Mitzvah to remind one's self, but there is also a Mitzvah to tell others, in a question and answer format (See Shemot 13:8, 14). Furthermore, we see in the Gemora (Pesachim 117a ) that if a person has no one to relate the story of our departure to, he should tell it to himself as if he was telling others. Remembering alone does not suffice on this night, as it does the rest of the year. B) On the Seder night, there is an obligation to tell about and explain the chain of events beginning with our descent to Egypt and ending with our redemption. C) We do many Mitzvot on this night in commemoration of our experience in Egypt. On the Seder night, we are obligated to explain the reasons behind these Mitzvot. This is clearly seen from the passage of "Rabban Gamliel Omer - Kol shelo amar shlosha devarim b'Pesach, lo yatza y'dei chovaso..." - "Rabban Gamliel said 'All who do not say about three things on Pesach do not discharge their obligation...." These three elements are what distinguishes the Mitzvah of remembering our departure from Egypt on this night from any other day during the year.

Rachtza, Motzi, Matzah

The Chasam Sofer points out that the prohibition of eating Chametz on Pesach differs from many other prohibitions. By Chametz, there is no minimal size that must be consumed in order for one to have transgressed the prohibition, as is the case by other prohibitions. Rather, any amount consumed, no matter how small, will result in transgressing the prohibition. The reason for this difference lies with a feeling we are supposed to have on Pesach. We have said in Maggid that we are supposed to feel as if we, ourselves, were in Egypt and then redeemed. In Egypt, the Jews had not yet received the Torah; they had to keep all laws like a Ben Noah, a gentile, would. The concept of measurements in Jewish law was not introduced until after the Torah was received. If we are to truly be like the Jews in Egypt, we cannot eat any amount of Chametz, as that would have been the standard in Egypt.

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Shulchan Orech

The Ma'ainah Shel Torah says in the name of the Admor M'Gur that one may wonder how we can split the Hallel we say into two parts (one part at the end of Maggid, and one part as the step of Hallel), with a meal in the middle. Isn't the meal considered a "hefsek", an unpermitted interruption? The answer lies in how we conduct ourselves during this meal. As our eating of the meal is to be made into a spiritual as well as a physical experience, the meal can be considered further praise to Hashem. Hence, there is no interruption in our "saying" of Hallel. Jack Lipinsky says: how do we make a meal spiritual? By making it a time of celebrating the fraternity of those around the table, not rushing through a meal that took hours to prepare, praising those who prepared it, and enjoying the special feeling of bonding with those around us on a night when—like true free people—we do not have to rush or worry about time.

Tzafun

The splitting of the Matzah, and the time of each piece's use, have important significance. The Chasam Sofer tells us that each piece alludes to half of the Seder. The half that we ate already alludes to the first half of the Seder. In the first half of the Seder, we thanked Hashem for our redemption from Egypt. However, we are still in exile now, and further redemption is needed. In the second half of the Seder, we ask Hashem for this redemption. The piece of Matzah we eat now symbolizes this. Just as this piece of Matzah was hidden away, so is the date of our final redemption.

Barech

When there are three or more men over the age of thirteen who participated in the same meal, they are obligated to say Birkat HaMazon, Grace after Meals with Zimun, a special invitation to say Birckat HaMazon. Rashi explains that this means that all are invited to together say a blessing to Hashem. On this, both the Abudraham and the Kol Bo say that the reason we have this invitation and unified blessing is to increase the praise and greatness of Hashem. We announce together, after we have finished our meal, how we praise Hashem, and to thank him for the abundance of goodness he has bestowed upon us.

Hallel

The Maharal explains that Hallel and Nirtza are not two distinct steps of the Seder. Rather, it is one step, known as Hallel Nirtza. He explains that those who say Nirtza is a step of itself explain the meaning of the step as being "if one conducted his Seder this way, it is desired (Nirtza) before Hashem. However, if this were the meaning of Nirtza, it would not be explaining what we are doing in this step, but rather it would be referring to what we did in all previous steps. This is unlike the title of every other step, which refers to what we do in that step. Therefore, the true name of the step is Hallel Nirtza, referring to the second time we are saying Hallel tonight. The first time we said Hallel tonight, it was a plain Hallel. We were thanking Hashem for all the miracles of Egypt. Now, we are praying to Hashem that we should have a complete redemption. We request in this Hallel that it should be pleasing (Nirtza) before Hashem to perform wonders and miracles for us as well. Hence, this is a Hallel Nirtza. (a truly pleasing Hallel).

Nirtza

After we make the blessing on the fourth cup of wine, we arrive at the "song" part of Hallel Nirtza, or what is commonly referred to as the step of Nirtza. The first song that we sing as part of this final step in the Seder discusses events that happened at midnight and events that happened on Pesach. Jack Lipinsky says: most of this section is made up of songs because music lingers in the ears from one year to the next.These citations, with the exception of mine, are selected from http://www.shemayisrael.com/yomtov/pesach/haggadah2.htm

 
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Shulchan Orech

The Ma'ainah Shel Torah says in the name of the Admor M'Gur that one may wonder how we can split the Hallel we say into two parts (one part at the end of Maggid, and one part as the step of Hallel), with a meal in the middle. Isn't the meal considered a "hefsek", an unpermitted interruption? The answer lies in how we conduct ourselves during this meal. As our eating of the meal is to be made into a spiritual as well as a physical experience, the meal can be considered further praise to Hashem. Hence, there is no interruption in our "saying" of Hallel. Jack Lipinsky says: how do we make a meal spiritual? By making it a time of celebrating the fraternity of those around the table, not rushing through a meal that took hours to prepare, praising those who prepared it, and enjoying the special feeling of bonding with those around us on a night when—like true free people—we do not have to rush or worry about time.

Tzafun

The splitting of the Matzah, and the time of each piece's use, have important significance. The Chasam Sofer tells us that each piece alludes to half of the Seder. The half that we ate already alludes to the first half of the Seder. In the first half of the Seder, we thanked Hashem for our redemption from Egypt. However, we are still in exile now, and further redemption is needed. In the second half of the Seder, we ask Hashem for this redemption. The piece of Matzah we eat now symbolizes this. Just as this piece of Matzah was hidden away, so is the date of our final redemption.

Barech

When there are three or more men over the age of thirteen who participated in the same meal, they are obligated to say Birkat HaMazon, Grace after Meals with Zimun, a special invitation to say Birckat HaMazon. Rashi explains that this means that all are invited to together say a blessing to Hashem. On this, both the Abudraham and the Kol Bo say that the reason we have this invitation and unified blessing is to increase the praise and greatness of Hashem. We announce together, after we have finished our meal, how we praise Hashem, and to thank him for the abundance of goodness he has bestowed upon us.

Hallel

The Maharal explains that Hallel and Nirtza are not two distinct steps of the Seder. Rather, it is one step, known as Hallel Nirtza. He explains that those who say Nirtza is a step of itself explain the meaning of the step as being "if one conducted his Seder this way, it is desired (Nirtza) before Hashem. However, if this were the meaning of Nirtza, it would not be explaining what we are doing in this step, but rather it would be referring to what we did in all previous steps. This is unlike the title of every other step, which refers to what we do in that step. Therefore, the true name of the step is Hallel Nirtza, referring to the second time we are saying Hallel tonight. The first time we said Hallel tonight, it was a plain Hallel. We were thanking Hashem for all the miracles of Egypt. Now, we are praying to Hashem that we should have a complete redemption. We request in this Hallel that it should be pleasing (Nirtza) before Hashem to perform wonders and miracles for us as well. Hence, this is a Hallel Nirtza. (a truly pleasing Hallel).

Nirtza

After we make the blessing on the fourth cup of wine, we arrive at the "song" part of Hallel Nirtza, or what is commonly referred to as the step of Nirtza. The first song that we sing as part of this final step in the Seder discusses events that happened at midnight and events that happened on Pesach. Jack Lipinsky says: most of this section is made up of songs because music lingers in the ears from one year to the next.These citations, with the exception of mine, are selected from http://www.shemayisrael.com/yomtov/pesach/haggadah2.htm

 
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The first word of the Book of Vayikra is famously written with a miniature aleph at the end. Aleph is the first letter of both the Hebrew word “ani”—“I”, and the “imperial I” –“Anochi”—the first word of the 10 Commandments. A number of our commentators see this as an allusion to Moses’ famous trait of modesty. A modest person miniaturizes their “I”—their ego. The implication here is that G-d calls out to Moses because of Moses’ modesty. Those who diminish their egos are more receptive of the One Voice.

This deceptively simple explanation goes to the heart of what truly religious people of all faiths need to do to rebuild this world and to still the voices railing against the apparent fanaticism of religion.

Two of my recent experiences underscore this. Last week my Grade 8 class visited the Islamic Foundation School of Toronto, who had come to our school in January. It was lovely to see how warmly we were greeted not just by our hosts in Grade 8 but even by those who came to worship for afternoon prayers at the mosque. We listened to an incredible speech from the Imam who spoke about terrorism and 911 very bluntly: “the Koran calls the murder of any person murder. The perpetrators of 911 were not Muslim heroes—they were murderers.” Given to whom he spoke—this is very brave rhetoric. And there is more. When I watched our students playing basketball together and exchanging email address (some are already Facebook friends), I realized that this was the only vision of a multicultural Canada that could succeed: a country in which there is universal acceptance of the importance of everyone’s ancestral religion, culture, and heritage blended with what is distinctly Canadian—be that hockey or Yorkdale shopping excursions. Naïve utopia? I think not. Did anyone even 30 years ago think that Germany and France would bulwark a common economic union given their history of bitter conflict?

In a dvar Torah today, Rabbi Frydman-Kohl observed that Pope Francis’ motto is said to be “serve in humility.” He was therefore in the same line of thought as Moses. He asked the students to pray for the Pope, pray that he would have a vision that would allow him to see both his Church, its followers, and the needs of non-Catholics who hope that the Church will continue to be sensitive to them and continue dialoguing with other faiths.

The common denominator of these experiences is modesty: the Imam’s ability to lower his ego, despite living in an age of Islamic fundamentalism and triumphalism, and seek fraternity beyond Islam’s borders in his adopted homeland. Hopefully, Francis, Jesuit that he is, will champion not only modesty of habit but the same modesty the Imam embraced. Hopefully, he will be able to draw back estranged Catholics into the fold, and remember that John Paul did much to narrow the divide between Catholics and Jews. As for us, with Pesach so near, we recall that matza symbolizes simplicity and returning to the essence of life. Let us learn to look beyond ourselves to the One who made us all.

 


 
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