Question: First, why aren’t we obligated to recite Shema on Pesach night? Second, why doesn’t the Haggadah mention Moses, who was instrumental in rescuing us from Egypt and was the greatest Jew of all time?
Answer: Moses is actually mentioned in the Haggadah but only once and it’s a passing reference. R. Yosi HaGallili cites Exodus 14:31, “Va’yar Yisrael et ha’yad ha’gedolah asher asah Hashem b’Mitzrayim va’yir’u ha’am et Hashem va’ya’aminu ba’Shem u’ve’Moshe avdo – Israel saw the great hand that Hashem inflicted upon Egypt, and the people revered Hashem, and they had faith in Hashem and in Moses, His servant.”
Why just this one solitary reference to Moses, though?
My humble suggestion is that it highlights Moses as Hashem’s loyal servant, not as a redeemer. Hashem alone is our redeemer. No man could possibly have done what He did to extricate our people from the bondage of Egypt.
I’m fortunate to have seen a responsum by HaRav Moshe Aharon Rosenthal, zt”l, the late rav of Romema, Israel, published in the rabbinical journal, Hamaor (Nissan-Iyar 5768). Rabbi Rosenthal addresses your exact question. He explains: “Concerning a matter so fundamental to our belief…[the sages who wrote the Haggadah] did not wish to include any creature with the Creator, Blessed is He.”
In the Haggadah, we read, “Ve’avarti b’eretz Mitzrayim balayla hazeh vehikeisi kol bechor b’eretz Mitzrayim me’adam ad behema u’vechol elohei Mitzrayim e’eseh shefatim ani Hashem – I shall go through the land of Egypt on this night and I shall strike every firstborn in the land of Egypt, from man to beast, and against all the gods of Egypt I shall mete out punishment. I am Hashem” (Exodus 12:12).
The ba’al Haggadah expounds, “‘I shall go through the land of Egypt on this night’ – I, and not an angel. ‘I shall strike every firstborn’ – I, and not a seraph [a type of angel]. ‘And against all the gods of Egypt I shall mete out punishment’ – I, and not a messenger.’” The Gra explains that the “messenger” is the shaliach hagadol – the greatest messenger – the one who didn’t wish to accept his shelichut, Moses. The one who punished Egypt was not Moses, but G-d. “I am Hashem, I, and not another.”
Rabbi Rosenthal cites this explanation, as well as the following in the name of the Chafetz Chayim: “Therefore, in all of the Haggadah the name of Moses is not mentioned even once [except in the verse quoted by R. Yosi HaGallili] in spite of the fact that all of the miracles that occurred during Yetziat Mitzrayim were at his hand. It teaches us that Hashem [personally] does the will of those who fear Him. Since Moses was the humblest of all men, his name was not mentioned in relation to all those miracles.”
Rabbi Rosenthal also notes that despite Moses not really appearing in the Haggadah, every father, according to the Rambam (Hilchos Chametz U’Matzah 7:2) must relate the miracles done for us through Moses in his response to the question of the “wise son” of the Haggadah.
Clearly, though, as Rabbi Rosenthal writes, Moses did not see himself as the focus of Sippur Yetziat Mitzrayim. And that would explain his near total absence from the Haggadah text.
(To be continued)