web analytics
March 31, 2015 / 11 Nisan, 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post


The Message Of The Haggadah

YU-031513-Haggadah

It is commonly understood that Maggid means telling the story of Yetzias Mitzrayim. When we take a closer look at the actual text of the Haggadah, though, we find a surprising phenomenon. Directly following a one-paragraph answer to the Mah Nishtanah, we find ourselves meandering through ten paragraphs of various halachic discussions before we finally reach the story of the Exodus.

First we learn who has to perform the mitzvah of Sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim (even great Rabbis), how long we have to spend on it (the longer the better), and whether the obligation extends to every night of the year (it does). Then we learn how we have to fulfill this mitzvah in four different ways for different types of children, and we end by learning exactly when we are commanded to perform this mitzvah – not on Rosh Chodesh, not on the afternoon of Erev Pesach, but on the Seder night. This halacha shiur, replete with explorations of the different halachic opinions and the sources for each conclusion, is interrupted only by the paragraph ברוך המקום ברוך הוא, in which we praise Hashem for giving us the Torah – and make no mention of Yetzias Mitzrayim. We may well wonder why we spend so much time telling our children halachos, some of which do not even pertain to the Seder night, instead of the actual Sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim.

Upon reflection, it seems that this is exactly the deeper message the Haggadah is trying to convey. Don’t rush into the actual mitzvah of Sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim, the Haggadah tells us, until you have learned all the halachos that pertain to it. If we look carefully, we see this message explicit in the answer to the wise son – אף אתה אמור לו כהלכות הפסח; we teach the learned son the laws of Pesach and not only the story of the Exodus. And while the five sages mentioned in the Haggadah spent all night engrossed in the story of the Exodus, the Tosefta (Pesachim 10:12) tells us that Rabban Gamliel and his colleagues stayed up the entire Seder night learning Hilchos Pesach. This is not just an insight, then, but an actual halacha – the mitzvah of סיפו Sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim demands that we learn not only the story, but the halachos of telling the story as well. But now the question becomes even greater. Why should this be so? Why should the minutiae of halacha be considered a part of the story of the Exodus?

Perhaps we can suggest an explanation based on understanding the purpose of Yetzias Mitzrayim. We may have noticed that in Sefer Shemos, Moshe Rabbeinu asks Paroh time and again to let the Jews go, but he never actually asks him to set them free from slavery. Rather, he requests over and over that Paroh allow them to worship Hashem in the Sinai desert. Why didn’t Moshe just tell Paroh the truth, that the Jews wanted freedom?

Many answers have been suggested to this question, but perhaps the simplest answer is that he did tell Paroh the truth. Hashem’s reason for redeeming us from Egypt was not so that we could be free, but so that we could be free to accept the Torah at Har Sinai and serve Hashem. We tell the wicked son בעבור זה עשה ה’ לי בצאתי ממצרים – “because of this Hashem performed the Exodus for me.” Rashi asks the obvious question – because of what did Hashem redeem us? He answers based on the interpretation found in this section of the Haggadahבזמן שיש מצה ומרור מונחים לפניך. Because of the matzah and maror lying on the table, because of the mitzvos that we do, that Hashem knew we would accept on Har Sinai and would perform loyally to this very day, He took us out of Egypt. This is the answer to the wicked son, who wants freedom devoid of obligation, freedom without Torah and mitzvos. We tell him בעבור זה – the reason Hashem miraculously changed the course of history and redeemed us from slavery was not to give us more leisure time or economic mobility, but to grant us the opportunity to become deeper and nobler people, to grow spiritually and connect with the Divine, to realize our full potential as human beings by serving Hashem and performing His mitzvos.

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.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “The Message Of The Haggadah”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
One-third of polled Republicans see President Obama as the biggest imminent threat to the USA.
One-Third of GOP Voters See Obama Worse for US than Assad and Putin
Latest Judaism Stories
Bodenheim-032715

Our ability to teach is only successful if done by example.

Torat-Hakehillah-logo-NEW

Outside of the High Holidays, Pesach is probably the most celebrated biblical holiday for the majority of Jews.

Business-Halacha-logo

“If I notify people, nobody will buy the matzos!” exclaimed Mr. Mandel. “Once the halachic advisory panel ruled leniently, why can’t I sell the matzos regularly?”

The-Shmuz

So what type of praise is it that Aaron followed orders?

Her Children, Her Whim
‘Kesubas Bnin Dichrin’
(Kesubos 52b)

Question: Must one spend great sums of money and invest much effort in making one’s home kosher for Passover? Not all of us have such unlimited funds.

Name Withheld
(Via E-Mail)

Yachatz is not mentioned in the Gemara. What is the foundation for yachatz?

First, the punishment for eating chametz on Pesach is karet, premature death at the Hand of God.

Why is it necessary to invite people to eat from the korban Pesach?

How was I going to get to Manhattan? No cabs were going, we didn’t have a car, and many people who did have cars had no gas.

Did you ever notice that immediately upon being granted our freedom from Egypt, the Jewish people accepted upon themselves the yoke of a new master – Hashem?

Why does Torah make the priests go through a long and seemingly bizarre induction ceremony?

Often people in important positions separate from everyday people & tasks-NOT the Kohen Gadol

You smuggled tefillin into the camp? How can they help? Every day men risked their lives to use them

Rambam: Eating blood’s forbidden because connected to idolatry;Ramban: We’re affected by what we eat

Rambam warns that a festival meal without taking care of the needy isn’t fulfilling simchat yom tov

More Articles from Rabbi Assaf Bednarsh
YU-030714

Sometimes, like the tamei individual who must stay away from the Mikdash, we have our limits and disabilities, and we must remember not to attempt those goals which are beyond our reach.

YU-031513-Haggadah

Hashem’s reason for redeeming us from Egypt was not so that we could be free, but so that we could be free to accept the Torah at Har Sinai and service Hashem.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/holidays/the-message-of-the-haggadah/2013/03/15/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: