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December 2, 2015 / 20 Kislev, 5776
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The Message Of The Haggadah


We learn in Pirkei Avos (6:2) that אין לך בן חורין אלא מי שעוסק בתלמוד תורה – the greatest freedom can be found in the structure provided by the Torah. Freedom can be squandered on the shallow pursuit of ephemeral gratification, or harnessed and channeled in the direction of spiritual growth in order to bring meaning into our lives and achieve true greatness. Hashem gave us the halachos of the Torah to help structure our lives so that we can utilize our freedom properly and realize our deepest goals.

We can now understand the message of this section of the Haggadah. If we only told our children the story of Yetzias Mitzrayim, we would miss the point of the story. We must first tell them that we’re doing a mitzvah tonight, and fulfilling all of the relevant halachos. We preface the narrative with Hilchos Pesach in order to convey the crucial message that our freedom only reaches its fruition when we use it to do mitzvos and serve Hashem. Perhaps this is why we call the Pesach experience a “Seder,” meaning order or structure, and we are careful to announce at each turn that we are following the structure, “kadesh,” then “urchatz,” all the way to “nirtzah.” It is the seder, the halachic structure of the Torah lifestyle, that transforms freedom from emancipation into redemption, from emptiness into fulfillment, and from chaos into glorious opportunity.

About the Author: Rabbi Assaf Bednarsh is the Ruth Buchbinder Mitzner Chair in Talmud and Jewish Law at Yeshiva University-affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary.

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