So, too, the Gaon of Vilna traces the theme of Am Yisrael’s trials and tribulations throughout its long sojourn in galut. The two gediyim bought by the father are the ones purchased by father Yaakov and brought to Yitzchak on the night of Pesach. These were to become the dual korbanot offered on Pesach, which merited Yaakov the blessing of Yitzchak as well as the bechorah. The cat is jealousy, the dog is Pharaoh, the stick is Moshe’s staff, the ox is the Kingdom of Edom, the slaughterer is Mashiach ben Yosef who will be killed by the angel of death.
“Then came the Holy One, blessed be He” who will redeem His people and nation and “raise the banner to gather our exiles.”
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As many interpretations and meanings as interpreters! A review of these various understandings, however, always returns us to the central theme of Chad Gadya, the same theme that makes it clear the song is no child’s ditty. That theme is, quite simply, that God is the Master of the world. No true story begins or ends without God.
Whether we like it or not, whether we want it or not, whether we deign to recognize it or not, God must enter into every story of our individual and collective lives. God is the Master of all. He conducts the affairs of the world in His fashion, and His fashion does not always conform to our own wants or selfish understandings.
As a result, the world often appears chaotic, unfair, inexplicable, and in disarray. We too often forget or ignore that actions have consequences, and that there is no deed that, in the end, does not lead up to God. Each and every action, even one as “simple” and “ordinary” as buying a goat (car! home!) in the marketplace, is part of a chain. Somewhere that chain will lead to God, and then all those involved in the chain that may even drag for thousands of years (galut) must answer before His throne of justice.
Only God can bring together conflicting, seemingly destructive forces into harmony. It is that harmony that is reality. The seeming chaos of life is the mirage.
The final message, then, of the long Seder night is not a silly song about goats or cats or dogs but that there is seder, order, in what may appear to be confusion, chaos and uncertainty.
Reb Avraham Mordechai of Gur taught that a person may look at the saga of our people’s history and conclude that our experience has been a series of random, often cruel, events. However, ultimately Mashiach will come. History has meaning. Life has purpose. God is.
There is seder – order and harmony.
Rabbi Dr. Eliyahu Safran is OU Kosher’s vice president of communications and marketing. He is the author of “Kos Eliyahu: Insights on the Haggadah and Pesach.”