Why Are We Reading This? by Mr. Baruch Speiser


It is most noteworthy that the Mitzva that is discussed in the most detail in the Chumash is that of Tzaraat.  No other commandment receives the glorious attention to detail as does this section of the “mystical leprosy” that is listed in this Parasha and its predecessor.  It appears odd; for all the Torah desires to teach us, it devotes almost one hundred and fifty Pesukim to a set of Mitzvot that are currently impossible to keep.  Why did Hashem not save the many details of the Metzora for the Torah Shebal Pe?  It seems to the average student that the Torah should have devoted much more of its attention to a Mitzva that seems to be more central to the core Torah theology, such as the intricate details of Shabbat (which indeed are presented only in the Torah Shebal Pe).  In contrast to the laws of the Metzora, only three or four of the Avot Melacha are even mentioned in the Torah Shebichtav. 

This phenomenon may be startling, but a better and similar question can be posed if one considers the textual structure of the Haggada.  The method used to describe the exodus from Egypt during Maggid seems difficult.  Instead of reading the words of the Torah in Sefer Shemot that describe the enslavement and redemption of our people, the core section of Maggid focuses on the exegesis of the passage recited during Mikra Bikurim.  Rather than start from the story of Yosef and read through Matan Torah, we devote our time to explaining Pesukim from Arami Oved Avi, a passage not even presented in the Torah until forty years after the Exodus when our ancestors where on the verge of arriving in the land of Canaan.  

It is within this framework of queries that we might begin to see an answer.  If one understands the division of the Torah, a possible answer emerges.  This is because the Torah Shebichtav is not an exhaustive “Book of Laws.”  The word “Torah” means “a teaching,” or more precisely, a lesson.  The Torah Shebichtav is not usually preoccupied with the details of laws.  For example, the Chumash should explain all the details of how precisely to perform the rather important commandment of Shechita. While the Chumash clearly requires the performance of this ritual for the Bait Hamikdash, as well as everyday life, it is rather spectacular that the Torah Shebichtav devotes no more than a breath’s worth of information about Shechita and saves it for the Torah Shebal Pe.  The Torah Shebichtav is primarily concerned with lessons of morality and a general picture of how to conduct a Jewish life.  As Shechita is a humane way to tend to our needs, the general presentation of this Mitzva teaches us the need to respect life of all kinds.  This is why the Torah Shebichtav incorporates the stories of Sefer Bereishit, as Maasei Avot Siman Libanim.

With this in mind, we are presented with a seeming contradiction of terms.  Our Parsha, which should be concerned with morals, is dictating laws; and our Haggada, which should be recounting the narrative of the Exodus, is expounding the story akin to the way laws are extracted from verses.

This is not a contradiction, however.  In fact, it only supports our theory even more.  Our Parasha is certainly concerned with moral.  One merely needs to note the punishment that Miriam received to see that the Chumash is deeply concerned with the violation of the laws of Lashon Hara.  The Chumash emphasizes these laws with extreme detail.  Even though one may not see the consequences of his or her actions in today’s times, the notion that the Torah devotes more time discussing our punishment than any other Mitzva in the entire Chumash should do nothing less than make us think twice before we parse our lips to speak. 

From the opposite angle, the Haggada is doing exactly what it is supposed to do.  The commandment of Sipur Yetziat Mitzrayim is “Vehigadita Levincha,” “And you should recount the story to your children.”  What does this mean?  Certainly it cannot mean to read over the narrative, otherwise the commandment would be, “Vikarata Levincha,” “to read it to your children.” If so, the deed would be performed similarly to that of Zechirat Amalek, which is read from the Sefer Torah with a minyan. This is not the case, nor the objective.  The objective is to tell the story in our own words in order to recap the story, and be grateful for that which Hashem did for us.  It is for this reason that we read Mikra Bikkurim, the recital of thanks and praise for all of the good that our Creator has done for us.  The recital of the Haggadda must be more than a recital – it must be extracted, pulled out from the ancient text and into our own lives.  It must be derived and framed within our own perspective; so logically the narrative text of the Chumash will not suffice.

We see that our Parsha is highly relevant in our preparation for the upcoming Chag.  We should strive to take its lesson and implement it in our Sedarim, utilizing its message as a way to make our Sedarim introspective and meaningful.

Cycle of Life by Moshe Zharnest

The Missing Korban By Chanan Strassman