A Student Publication of the Torah Academy of Bergen County
Parshat Tzav/HaGadol & Pesach 12-22 Nissan 5764 April 3-13, 2004 Vol.13 No.28
In This Issue:
Mr. Bryan Kinzbrunner
Rabbi Chaim Jachter
This week’s issue of Kol Torah has been sponsored by Mel and Harriet Saltzman in honor of the engagement of their son, Moshe (TABC, 98), to Tamar Rand.
by Rabbi Yosef Adler
The Mishna in Masechet Pesachim formulates some of the guidelines of the Seder to enable us to perform the Mitzva of telling the story of Yetziat Mitzraim. One instruction states, “Vedoresh Parshat Arami Oved Avi,” that one is to read the Parsha of Mikra Bikurim with its accompanying Midrashic commentary. Our Hagada begins with the phrase, “Tzei Ulemad Mah Bikesh Lavan Ha'arami La'asot”. Two questions emerge. Why begin with the word Tzei, which literally means go out? Learning generally takes place within the home and not outside. This is particularly true during the Seder night when we were told V'ish Lo Tetzei Mifteach Beito, man was not to leave his house in Mitzraim. Rav interprets the phrase “Ein Maftirin Achar Hapesach Afikoman” as “Shelo Y’akru Mechaburah Lechaburah,” that one should not leave his group after consuming the Korban Pesach (Pesachim 119b). Why, then, would we begin the paragraph with the directive Tzei? Second, why do we insert this paragraph immediately following “V'he She'amdah Lavoteinu V'lanu?”
We find the word Tzei used in Parshat Noach following the flood. Hashem instructs Noach, Tzei Min Hatevah, Leave the ark. Why was it necessary for Hashem to instruct Noach to leave the ark? One would have expected that once the water receded Noach would have left the ark even without a command from Hashem. Apparently, Noach contemplated the option of remaining in the ark. Having witnessed an entire world destroyed as a result of moral corruption, Noach doubted whether it was worth investing the effort to rebuild the world. If the world is going to be destroyed a second time, why bother rebuilding it? Hashem had to implore Noach to leave the ark and begin the reconstruction of the world. A similar theme emerges in the context of the Seder. We have just stated “Shelo Echad Bilvad Amad Aleinu Lichloteinu.” Not only did Paroh rise and attempt to destroy us, the Spaniards, the Poles, and the Germans all have tried to eradicate Am Yisrael. Many have regrettably said, Be a Jew at home and a general citizen when interacting with society. Yaakov may have felt this way when he was about to encounter Esav having just escaped the clutches of Lavan. But Yaakov responded, I lived with Lavan, but I kept the 613 Mitzvot. Go out to the world and make a resounding statement that with the assistance of Hashem we will repel each challenge and to remain a vibrant, unique people dedicated to the word of Hashem.
Did WE Leave Egypt?
by Mr. Bryan Kinzbrunner
Pesach is the quintessential family holiday. The Haggadah is designed as a lesson for the parent to teach the child. We are commanded to tell the redemption story. Not only that, but the Haggadah also obligates one to feel as if God redeemed him/her from Egypt (“B’Chol Dor V’Dor Hayyav Adam Lir’ot Et Atzmo K’Ilu Hu Yatza MiMitzrayim”). There is a custom among certain Sephardim to act as if they themselves are leaving from Egypt; one thing they do is carry Matzah on their shoulders. However, for others who do not have these customs, the story we read is the same every year, potentially leaving many somewhat bored. Part of the command of “V’Higadeta L’Bincha” is to tell the story to each person according to his/her level, which we see from the four sons. Nevertheless, how do we make the story come alive, allowing us to truly experience redemption while sitting at a nicely set table in the twenty-first century?
The story of the four sons is perhaps a good starting point. As just mentioned, the story provides a model for how to approach different types of people. The Lubavitcher Rebbe z”l, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, claims that there is a fifth son, one who does not show up. He tries to explain that the Rasha, the wicked son, is not as evil as he first appears, for at least he comes to the Seder. Nevertheless, even the four models leave one scratching one’s head.
First, when looking to find a difference between the Hakham and Rasha, it seems pretty clear that they are polar opposites. However, the texts of their stories are almost grammatically identical! Both the Hakham and Rasha address their questions using the grammatical conjugation for you (“chem”), as in “Etchem” (Hakham) and “Lachem” (Rasha). However, when searching for original Nuschaot, we find that both the Mechilta (Bo 18) and the Talmud Yerushalmi (Pesahim 10:4, 37d) have the word “Otanu” for the Hakham, modifying his words to be inclusive as opposed to the rasha’s, which remain exclusive. (For more information about the texts of the four sons, see Haggadah Shleimah, R. Menachem Kasher, pages 120-123, chapter called Arba’a Banim.) Once we recognize the potential textual difference between the Hakham and Rasha, we can better understand how to approach the people at our table.
In other words, for the ones who include themselves in Jewish experiences, we do not have to treat the redemption as a history lesson but instead can focus on how to fulfill the obligations of Pesach. For the Tam and the She’aino Yodea Lish’ol, the job is simple; we merely incorporate them into the activities by telling them stories. However, when it comes to the Rasha, the answer is strange. After excluding him/herself from the experience of redemption, he/she is called a heretic, and told, “If you were there, God would not redeem you, unlike me, who is worthy of redemption.” The answer to the Rasha’s question seems odd because the only discussion of Jews not leaving Egypt is in a Midrash, quoted by Rashi (Mechilta d’Rabbi Yishmael, Bo 12 s.v. V’haya Ki among other places), regarding the word “Hamushim”. “Hamushim” indicates that only one out of every five (or 50 or 500 as the Midrash indicates) Jews left Egypt alive. Hence, what is the essence of the parent’s answer to the Rasha? Furthermore, is the Rasha’s question so bad? Don’t we all, at times, want to understand how another perceives religious events?
Part of the problem the Rasha faces in explaining why he/she excludes him/herself is the inability to relate to the Egyptian redemption. It is quite difficult to capture the power of the redemption merely from reading the same text year in and year out. The format leaves some people feeling dry or confused. For example, where does “Arami Oved Avi” fit into the story? Yes, we do explain the series of verses that are said when Bikkurim are brought. However, do those explanations really convey the spirit and essence of redemption from Egypt?
Perhaps the answer lies in the answer to the Rasha. If a person excludes him/herself, we, as a people, lose another voice. In other words, the Midrash might be teaching that the loss of Jews in Egypt is tragic in that we lose their voices, their stories. By attempting to scare the Rasha, we are telling him/her, “If you exclude yourself, we will lose your voice, just like the voices of people in Egypt, who for whatever reasons, also excluded themselves.” Pesach is the story of triumph over adversity, and while it contains a set format to explain how God redeems us, one of the most important elements is that the given text is not meant to be the be all and end all of everything we say that night. The stories of our past, triumph and tragedy, need telling.
The experience of redemption is both positive and negative. On the one hand, we, who include ourselves in the story, enhance it by telling our stories or other people’s stories. The negative part of Pesach is the feeling of loss that we, the Jewish people, have experienced throughout our history. We have lost people with stories, stories which could enhance our experiencing redemption. Nevertheless, we should not make our seder into another Tisha B’Av. Instead, we need to remember those who have suffered and continue to suffer for being Jewish. And we also need to remember how we do not suffer, how we are blessed, telling those stories. Pesach is the time for family stories, family reminiscing and of course, (at least this is what happens in my case) family debate, making the ancient redemption from Egypt relevant to our lives.
Freedom to Lean
by Effie Richmond
The Rav ZT”L (cited in Harrirei Kedem), quotes the Rambam in Perek 7 Halachot 6-8 of Hilchot Chametz Umatzah, who says that each person has to portray himself as if he left Mitzrayim. To do this, one eats a meal to express his Cherut, freedom. This is why one reclines while eating Matzah and drinking the four cups of wine in which it seems from the Rambam that the whole Din of Heseiba emerges from the Seuda. In addition, the Rambam says in Halacha 7 that it is fine to lean while eating the Seuda, but he does not need to do so because the main part of the meal is really eating Matzah and drinking four cups of wine. This idea can also be used to explain the Rambam in 8:14 that someone who fell asleep in the middle of the meal cannot continue to eat. The Raavad says that this is because it is considered a Hesech Hadaat for the Mitzvah of Matzah. The Maharal explains that the reason for this ruling is that the Rabbis were Metaken that we have two cups of wine before the meal and two after. Thus, if someone falls asleep he must immediately drink the next two cups of wine, those of Birkat Hamazon and Hallel. If he would continue to eat, it would be considered two separate meals, and the first meal with two cups before it and the second meal would only have two cups after it.
With this in mind, we can understand why the need to lean is unique to Pesach. According to the basic understanding of the four cups of wine and the Matzah, there is no concept of leaning throughout the year because there is no Mitzvah to have those items then. However, based on the Rambam’s understanding that the Mitzvot of the four cups and the Matzah are included in the Mitzvah of having a Seuda, and that the whole reason we have a Seuda is to show our freedom since there is no such need during the rest of the year, there is no need to lean other than on Pesach.
As a senior finishing up school, this is my last issue on the Kol Torah staff. I would like to thank all the readers of Kol Torah for making my dream of being editor-in-chief into a year and a half a reality. Thank you and have a Chag Kasher Visameach.
by Simcha Tropp
This Monday night, we are all going to read and discuss the story of Pesach using the Haggadah as the basis for the discussion. As part of this story, we will learn about fifteen acts of kindness that Hashem did for Bnei Yisrael. These kind acts range from taking us out of Egypt, to giving the Torah, and then to building the Beit Hamikdash once Bnei Yisrael enters Eretz Yisrael. After mentioning each act we then say “Dayenu,” that had this been the only kindness that Hashem had done for us it would have been sufficient. However, how could it have been enough if Hashem only took us out of Mitzrayim, and had not given Bnei Yisrael the Torah or allowed them to build the Beit Hamikdash? Wasn’t the whole purpose of Yetziat Mitzrayim to give us the Torah and build the Beit Hamikdash?
A common answer to this question is given by the Malbim, who says that “Dayenu” really means that even if Hashem only performed this one act it would have been enough to require us to say Hallel. Thus, the real purpose of Dayenu is to prepare us for the recitation of Hallel, and if one of these kindnesses would have merited a recitation of Hallel how much more so should fifteen acts of kindness necessitate Hallel.
The Vilna Gaon writes that the “song” of Dayenu is very similar to the fifteen generations between Avraham Avinu and Shlomo Hamelech, the constructor of the Beit Hamikdash. It is also similar to the fifteen steps in the Beit Hamikdash that led up to the Chatzer Hapinimit, the inner courtyard. In each of these examples there are fifteen steps leading up to an ultimate goal. Similarly, Rav Menachem Leibtag says that the lesson of Dayenu is that we must try to see the importance of each individual step, rather then just viewing the Beit Hamikdash as the only goal.
The Tragedy of Karet
by Uri Carl
In the middle of Parshat Tzav, the Torah states (7:20) that if a person eats from the meat of the Korban Shelamim while Tamei, “Venichreta Hanefesh Hahee Meiamecha,” “This person will be cut off from your nation.” This means that that person will receive the punishment of Karet. But what exactly is this punishment?
There are a number of opinions regarding the exact details of Karet. The Talmud Yerushalmi explains that one who is punished with Karet dies before the age of 50. The Talmud Bavli, however, says that the person will die between 50 and 60. The Ramban resolves the conflict by saying that it all depends on how many sins and merits the person has. If he has more sins than merits, he will live in this world, but will not live in Olam Habah. However, if one’s merits outweigh his sins, he will not live as long in this world, but will live in Olam Habah. Rashi similarly explains that the person will die young. However, he also mentions another important facet of Karet: not only will the sinner himself die, but his children, too, will die prematurely.
I would like to support Rashi with an insight that Rabbi Adler said regarding Mamzerim. A Mamzer is a person whose parents conceived him through forbidden relations, a terrible sin. Because of this, the Mamzer may not marry anyone in Israel except a Mamzeret (a female Mamzer) or a convert. This raises a very troubling question: why would the Mamzer get such a horrific punishment for something he did not even do? It is certainly not his fault that his parents committed the sin of prohibited relations! Rabbi Adler answered that when two people get together, they have such a strong bond that they might easily be willing to suffer a severe punishment for committing such a sin. But if the Torah says that not only they, but also their child, will be punished for their act, they will think twice – parents would never want their child to be so miserable because of what they did. Therefore, there is a punishment for the Mamzer himself.
We can also apply this logic to Rashi’s explanation of Karet. The punishment seems quite logical, because if one’s children are going to suffer for his sin, he might think twice before eating the meat of the Korban Shelamim when Tamei. He would not want his children to die young and not enjoy the pleasures of life for an act that he committed. Thus, according to Rashi, Karet will cause everyone to be cautious before transgressing Karet-deserving act because of the extremely severe consequences.
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