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Parashat Tzav - Shabbat HaGadol - Pesach

This Issue's Halacha Article

Parashat Tzav - Shabbat HaGadol - Pesach

12 Nisan 5767

March 31, 2006

Vol.16 No.26

In This Issue:

The Learning Experience

by Rabbi Darren Blackstein

This Monday night, we will all sit down to our Pesach Sedarim. We will ask questions, have discussions, eat certain foods, and sing certain songs. For many, this is a long-awaited time for distant family members to get together and enjoy Simchat Yom Tov. All too often, however, the Seder falls to time restraints, and we are compelled to sprint through many parts of the Haggadah. There is so much to say about so many topics that eventually we become handcuffed by our own scholarship. It is at this point that the Seder becomes a ceremony that we merely perform by rote. We wind up practicing a ritual whereby we remember the miracles that were done to and for our ancestors many years ago. However, the Haggadah itself is replete with statements that urge us to avoid such feelings.

Near the end of Maggid, we state that in every generation we are obligated to view ourselves as if we are leaving Egypt. The Rambam (Hilchot Chameitz UMatzah 7:6) stresses this by saying that we should view ourselves as if we are leaving "now!" This clearly tells us that the Seder is not merely a ceremony but rather an experience to be felt. Through the recitation and learning of the Haggadah, we transport that ancient experience to the present. We attempt to feel it now! This is accomplished by absorbing ourselves in the Mitzvot of the Seder. We eat what they ate, talk about that which they focused upon, and sing praises to Hashem as they did. All of this is done with such meticulousness in the hope that we can achieve some level of intensity that allows us to feel as they did.

Our Torah portion attests to this game plan as well. At the end of Chapter 7 of Sefer VaYikra, we are given a summary statement concerning the Korbanot that have been mentioned thus far. The Torah tells us (7:37), "Zot HaTorah LaOlah LaMinchah VeLaChatat VeLaAsham VeLaMiluim UlZevach HaShelamim," "This is the law of the elevation offering, the meal offering, and the sin offering, and the guilt offering, and the inauguration offerings, and the peace offering." This Pasuk is referenced on the last page of Masechet Menachot (110a). While discussing the lofty status of a Talmid Chacham, the Gemara cites this verse and its conspicuous use of the phrase, "This is the Torah." Reish Lakish states that this phrase teaches us that anyone who occupies himself with learning Torah is considered as if he had offered all of these sacrifices. This is apparently true even though one's learning at the time may have nothing to do with sacrifices. Rava takes this one step further and states that someone occupied with learning Torah is exempt from offering these sacrifices. Rashi explains that the person's learning will, in effect, be used to achieve atonement. The Gemara concludes with Rabi Yitzchak, who states that this Pasuk teaches us that one who learns about a particular sacrifice is considered as if he offered that sacrifice. Whichever opinion one analyzes, the outstanding conclusion is unavoidable. The learning of Torah has the capacity to capture one's mind and body to the point that he can feel the reality of what he learns. Just as our learning can be considered by Hashem as a Korban, we can consider ourselves, through the Seder, as having just been redeemed.

At the conclusion of one of his Shabbat HaGadol Derashot, Rabbi Yosef Adler quoted a statement of Rav Hai Gaon. Rav Hai explains that that there is no Berachah on Hallel at the Seder because it is more Shirah (song) than it is regular praise. While Hallel is something obligatory, Shirah emerges spontaneously from a person, and therefore a Berachah is out of place. May we all merit to have a Seder where we feel the redemption and concomitant need to sing to Hashem.

Shevii Shel Pesach

by Shai Berman

As children, we were all taught that we celebrate Shevii Shel Pesach (the 7th day of Pesach) because on the 21st of Nissan, Hashem split the Yam Suf, saving Bnei Yisrael and killing the Egyptians. But this cannot possibly be the reason, since we were commanded to observe Shevii Shel Pesach even before Hashem split the sea! The Pasuk in Parashat Bo, right after introducing Makat Bechorot, states, "UVaYom HaRishon Mikra Kodesh, UVaYom HaShevii Mikra Kodesh Yihyeh Lachem," "And the first day shall be a holiday, and the seventh day shall be a holiday for you" (Shemot 12:16). Thus, it is evident that the basis for the celebration of both the first and seventh days of Pesach relates to Hashem saving Bnei Yisrael from Makat Bechorot and taking them out of Egypt. However, it is strange that the celebration of the 21st day of Nissan is not mentioned in Parashat BeShalach and that it is never connected to the miracle at Yam Suf that took place on that day.

The Meshech Chochmah explains that if Hashem had commanded us to observe the 21st day of Nissan as a holiday after He split the sea, it would appear as if Bnei Yisrael were celebrating the downfall of their enemies. This is not, however, why Bnei Yisrael celebrate on this date. This is demonstrated by the fact that we do not recite full Hallel on Shevii Shel Pesach. In fact, the nature of many other holidays throughout the year shows that we do not celebrate the downfall of our enemies. On Chanukah, we celebrate the miracle of the oil and do not celebrate the fact that we destroyed our enemies. (This is the reason mentioned in the Gemara. In fact, the Al HaNissim prayer does refer to the miracle of the victory. See Rabbi Jachter's article available at www.koltorah.org regarding the debate over reciting Hallel on Yom Haatzmaut, which discusses this point.) Purim is celebrated on the 14th of Adar, which is not when Haman was hanged or when Bnei Yisrael killed their enemies; rather, Purim is celebrated because we rested on the 14th. Similarly, Hashem commanded us to observe Shevii Shel Pesach before the miracle at Yam Suf to demonstrate that we are not celebrating the downfall of our enemies.

If we do not celebrate the defeat of the Egyptians on Shevii Shel Pesach, then why did Bnei Yisrael sing Shirah immediately after crossing the sea? Rabbi Tuvia Grossman suggests that even after Bnei Yisrael were physically freed from Egypt, they remained terrified of the Egyptian empire that had enslaved them for so many years. It was only after the miracle at Yam Suf that Bnei Yisrael realized they had not only escaped the people of Egypt - the Mitzrim - but also the empire and culture of Mitzrayim, as the Pasuk states, "VaYar Yisrael Et HaYad HaGedolah Asheir Asah Hashem BeMitzrayim," "And Bnei Yisrael saw the 'strong hand' which Hashem had used against Mitzrayim" (Shemot 14:31), - not BeMitzrim (against Egypt and not against Egyptians). At this point, they sang Shirah.

Anger Management

by Yitzchak Richmond

Rashi, commenting on the plague of Tzefardeiah (frogs), teaches us that the entire Makah started from one big frog. Each time the Egyptians hit the frog, more frogs appeared. The Steipler Gaon poses a very obvious question. Shouldn't the people have realized that when they hit the big frog they were not improving the situation? Why did they continue to beat the frog even after they saw that such action was counterproductive?

The Steipler offers a simple yet and profound explanation. Although common sense would dictate that the Egyptians stop hitting the frog, their anger and frustration clouded their good judgment. Each time they hit the frog the Egyptians became angrier and angrier until finally, as a result of their constant beatings, the whole entire land was swarming with frogs. The Steipler's answer teaches us that when we become angry and express our anger in an aggressive manner, the situation will never get better, and a small issue will explode into bigger problems which will only spread.

Additionally, one could ask why Paroh didn't let the Jews go after the first few plagues. By then, he should have realized that he was fighting a losing battle against Hashem. If someone had as good a record as Moshe, predicting the timing of each plague, it would make sense to listen to him! Paroh was not a fool, so why couldn't he comprehend something that a little child would understand?

The answer is that Paroh had another detrimental quality that clouded his judgment. Paroh was a Baal Gaavah, an arrogant person. Paroh thought of himself as divine. He was the leader of the most powerful ancient civilization. All the intelligence in the world is useless if it is clouded by attributes such as arrogance.

Although Pesach represents our physical redemption from slavery, it also represents our spiritual salvation. Kabbalists emphasize that Chameitz is the representation of our Yeitzer HaRa. When destroying the Chameitz, we should not be preoccupied exclusively with the physical actions but should also focus on the spiritual implications of what we are doing. Rabi Shimon ben Elazar (Pirkei Avot 4:23) tells us not to ask forgiveness from a person who is still angry. Rabi Shimon is teaching us that although after one's friend will have had a little bit of time to analyze the source of his anger he will hopefully realize how trivial it is to harbor hatred and will absolve his friend, nevertheless when he is still angry his judgment will not be clear. If only people will not be so quick to anger, the world will be a much better place.

Which Holiday is it?

by Michael Billet

In just a few days, we will celebrate the holiday of Pesach. There are a few names for this holiday, the most prevalent being Chag HaPesach. Despite Chag HaPesach's popularity, in Tefillah and Birkat HaMazon we recite, "Et Yom Chag HaMatzot HaZeh, Zeman Cheiruteinu" "(Today is) the holiday of Matzot; the time of our freedom." The text includes only the two other names of Pesach, those of Chag HaMatzot and Zeman Cheiruteinu. Why do we fail to mention the name Chag HaPesach in our davening?

The answer is quite simple. Since the Torah refers only to Pesach as Chag HaMatzot and Zeman Cheiruteinu, those are the names we mention in our davening. In addition, Chag HaPesach refers only to the first night of Pesach, when Bnei Yisrael would offer the Korban Pesach in the Beit HaMikdash. When the Seder is finished, Chag HaPesach is technically over, but Chag HaMazot is still in existence, because it lasts the entirety of the holiday. Therefore, we say Chag HaMatzot in our davening throughout Pesach. This answer creates another problem. Why do we call all of Pesach Chag HaPesach if this refers only to the first night?

The Netivot HaMussar derives a profound lesson from the name Chag HaPesach. During Makat Bechorot, Hashem decided to kill the Egyptian firstborns and pass over the houses of the Jews. This is the origin of "Chag HaPesach," "the holiday of passing-over." Did Bnei Yisrael merit being saved by Hashem? Some of the Jews even worshiped Avodah Zara! In fact, Bnei Yisrael didn't merit to be saved, and Hashem did not have to pass over the Jews. This unnecessary passing-over shows the great love that Hashem has for Bnei Yisrael. Therefore, Chag HaPesach isn't just another name for the holiday of Pesach; it is a symbol of the everlasting love Hashem has for Bnei Yisrael. For further discussion of the distinction between Chag HaPesah and Chag HaMatzot, see Rav Menachem Leibtag's discussion at www.tanach.org.

Hide and Seek?

by Dov Rossman

In Masechet Pesachim (109a) the Gemara discusses a Beraita which relates, "Rabi Eliezer Omeir: Chotfin Matzot BeLeilei Pesachim Bishvil Tinokot SheLo Yishnu," "Rabi Eliezer said: One is "choteif" the Matzah on Pesach nights for the benefit of the small children, lest they fall asleep." Rav Shimon Schwab, quoted in Rav Schwab on Prayer, cites Rashi and Rashbam commenting on the Gemara and offers some explanations of what Rabi Eliezer meant by the seemingly ambiguous concept of "Chotfin Matzot."

The first explanation cited by Rav Schwab is, "Magbihin Et HaKe'ara Bishvil Tinokot SheYishalu," "The Seder plate [containing the Matzot] is lifted in order to arouse the children's curiosity so they ask questions." The goal of the Seder night is to have the children ask questions so that the father can answer and retell the story of Yetziat Mitzrayim.

The next reason that Rav Schwab mentions, referred to by Rashi as the primary reason, is that we eat the Matzah before Chatzot (midnight), so that the children will be alert for Mitzvot HaLayla, the Mitzvot of the night, specifically Matzah and Maror. They will then ask questions, to which the father will respond, "Because of this Hashem took me out of Mitzrayim."

Rav Schwab quotes the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 472:1 with Mishnah Berurah 3 and Shaar HaTziyun 2), who writes that nowadays we follow both Minhagim by both lifting the Seder plate and eating quickly so that the children will have opportunities to ask questions. Rav Schwab then cites another explanation, one that we do not actively practice, for the people sitting at the Seder to snatch another person's Matzot from him, also with the goal of stimulating the children to ask questions.

The final Minhag quoted by Rav Schwab to explain of the term "Chotfin Matzot" is the very well known custom of having the children pilfer the Matzah away from the father when he is "not looking" and offering a prize to the children in exchange for the Afikoman's return. Rav Schwab relates that he does not like to refer to it as "stealing the Matzah" because stealing is a sin and is in violation of one of the Aseret HaDibrot. He thus points out that such a practice is not in fact stealing because the Matzah is not being removed from the home. Instead, Rav Schwab refers to the practice as "Hiding the Matzot" since the eating of the Afikoman is actually called Tzafun, literally meaning "hidden."

Although Rav Schwab felt that it was poor Chinuch to label this Minhag "stealing," I have seen such an idea turned into a beneficial game. The leader of the Seder pretends that the Matzot were indeed stolen and that, in order to prevent a Chilul Hashem and allow for the completion of the Seder, there will be a ransom given to whoever "stole" the Matza upon its safe return.

It is clear that no matter what Minhag people have, the goal is to use the Matzah, one of the main Mitzvot HaLayla, as a vehicle to keep the children alert and asking questions in order to be able to answer them with the retelling of Yetziat Mitzrayim, leading to a livelier and more meaningful Seder for everyone involved.

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