The Haggadah under review is titled, Haggadah Shel Pesach: Machat Shel Yad, and is composed by Rabbi Yitzchok Frankel, rabbi of the Agudath Israel of the Five Towns. This work is the first in the Machat Shel Yad series written in Hebrew. Nevertheless, this work is user friendly and meant in my opinion to be learned, not just casually read. In fact, it is my opinion that this work should be a prime resource for studying the Haggadah text seriously and with intent for use on the Seder nights, and especially on Shabbos Hagadol itself.
Rabbi Frankel was a student and a musmach of HaRav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, and is a well known rabbi, and teacher in both our community and beyond. He is especially well known for his public talks and illuminating series of lectures on Talmud, the Daf Yomi, Jewish law and Hashkafah. Much of these disciplines will be found within the context of his detailed commentary on the Haggadah under review this week. As a result, given the complicated nature of the rabbi’s methodology, this result will basically give you but a small hint as to the details that involve this work.
One example can be gleaned from the section titled, “Shibolei Haleket,” of the commentary of the same name. Rabbi Frankel teaches us that this commentary explains that the passage opening the Haggadah narrative, “Avadim Hayinu answers our fourth question asked in the Mah Nishtana, the question regarding Haseibah [reclining]. He, the commentary’s author, states that the initial three of the Mah Nishtana questions are answered further during Maggid with Rabban Gamliel’s quote regarding Pesach, Matza, and Marror.”
Rabbi Frankel goes into much detail as to both the construct and logic of the holy text and of its application to the ritual for the evening’s seder liturgy. Even the very physicality of the seder participant is given narrative space so as to give the participant the rational for the physical choreography of the seder night’s ‘program’. As you read on you will begin to appreciate the rabbi’s method of teaching and learning. It is an analysis that literally feeds you the commentary, line-by-line, concept-by-concept, teaching you concepts that you may not have given much attention to prior to your reading this particular work.
As a result, you will, by night’s end, find your seder experience that more enriching and spiritually rewarding.
In addition to this basic work, Rabbi Frankel’s prior commentary of the same title, in English, on the book of Exodus contains a short, yet very worthwhile segment on the Haggadah that is worth your attention especially as a supplement at the seder table. I strongly urge the author to consider expanding this chapter into a full Haggadah text for use both as a learning text and at the seder itself. Rabbi Frankel accurately combines the teachings of the methods of p’shat, drush, philosophy as well as hashkafah thus bringing together a truly genuine comprehensive presentment of the Pesach story.
For Your Further Study:
Rabbi Moshe Krieger of Jerusalem’s Yeshiva Birchas Torah has written Gedolei Yisroel on the Parashah, which presents a valuable resource of teachings, with themes related to the Pesach holiday, that when applied will serve you well in understanding the major basic theological and moral lessons of the Exodus experience.
Such rabbinical giants as Rav Yisrael Salanter, the Chazon Ish, Rabbeinu Yona, Rav Aharon Kotler, the Brisker Rav, the Chasam Sofer, the Rambam, Dayan Fischer, and many others richly inhabit the sacred pages of this valued work. They all, in Rabbi Krieger’s words, will surely go a long way toward helping you “to internalize the lessons of the Exodus.”
Most meaningful to me personally was the teachings presented by Rabbi Krieger in Parashas Bo entitled “Our Personal Exodus” citing the learning of Rav Reuven Fine, Rosh Yeshiva of Torah Vodaas, who goes into some detail as to the value that mitzvos represent to us in our daily lives.
Do consider the following awesome teaching:
“So many mitzvos have an element of recalling Yetzi’as Mitzrayim, such as mezuzah, tefillin, tzitzis, Kri’as Shema, and Pesach, of course. More than simply acting as reminders, these mitzvos possess an intrinsic spiritual power to infuse the one who properly fulfills them with emunah in the Exodus.”
This teaching is just a sample and a brief hint as to what you will find in this modest work by this most modest of teachers, Rabbi Moshe Krieger of Birchas Torah in the Old City in Jerusalem on Rechov Ohr Hachayim.
And last, but not least, is the work Inside Time: A Chassidic Perspective on the Jewish Calendar, volume three, that is filled with a hundred pages of some of the most elegant and eloquent teachings themed to the Pesach holiday. Authored and compiled by Yanki Tauber of Woodmere, N.Y., you will find his style and method riveting with each page read.
A version of this article originanly appeared in The Jewish Star.