(We interrupt our series on tefillah to speak about Pesach.)
At the end of Maggid, the Haggadah informs us of one of the mission statements of the Seder. “B’chol dor v’dor chi’yev adom liros es atsmo ki’ilu hu yatza miMitzrayim – In every generation, a person is required to view himself as if he exited Egypt.” The emphasis on ‘every generation’ is meant to convey that even if he is living in a generation of persecution, such as in a basement during the Inquisition, in the midst of the Polish uprisings, or even in a barrack in Auschwitz.
This begs the question: How can he experience a feeling of emancipation in the midst of such turmoil and distress? The Ohr HaChaim HaKodesh cites the verse, “Keil motzi’um miMitzrayim – The Almighty who takes us out of Egypt.” He points out that the verse does not speak in the past tense, but rather that Hashem is constantly, every year, taking us out of Mitzrayim. He explains that the word Mitzrayim also means constraints, restrictions and distresses, as in the verse, “Min hameitzar karasi Ka-h – From distress I called to Hashem.” The Ohr HaChaim elaborates that every night at the Seder there is a power for a Jew to be released from his problems.
Rav Elimeilech Biderman, shlit”a, cites from his predecessors that the word ‘MaZaL,’ which means fate, is also an acronym of Zeicher Le’yetizas Mitzrayim, remembering the Exodus from Egypt for the night of the Seder is mesugal, has a special strength to change one’s fate for the better. The Haggadah Boruch Yomeiru elaborates that in Hebrew a year is called shana, which also means ‘to repeat,’ as in l’shanos. This is because every year on their specific day, events of the past repeat themselves. Thus, Adam haRishon was judged on Rosh Hashana and every year since we are judged on Rosh Hashana. On Yom Kippur we were forgiven for the sin of the golden calf, and from then onward Yom Kippur became a day of forgiveness. So too, on the night of the Seder, we were released from the sufferings of Egypt and every year it is repeated – on this night one can be released from their sufferings.
He adds that the night of the Seder is called Leil Shimurim. While one meaning of this is that it is a ‘night of protection,’ and therefore some people abstain from locking their doors on Seder night (only in a good neighborhood), there is another meaning to this verse. The word shamar also means to look forward to, as in the verse, “V’aviv shamar es hadavar – And his father [Yaakov] looked forward to the fulfillment [of Yosef’s dreams].”
We are taught, “B’Nissan niga’el ub’Nisan asidin liga’el – In Nissan we were redeemed and in Nissan we are destined to be redeemed.” Throughout the ages, it was a night of hope to be released from stress. It was on the night of the Seder that Avraham was rescued from the four mighty kings. It was on this night that the Jewish people were saved from Sancherev and his 400 battalions. It was also on this night that Achashveirosh had difficulty in sleeping and the seeds of Haman’s downfall were sown. Once again, we see that the night of the Seder is ripe for all kinds of redemptions.
We wear a kittel at the Seder. One of the reasons we are dressed in white is that on this night we have the power like the Kohen Gadol who was dressed in white when he entered the Kadosh Kadoshim on Yom Kippur. How powerful might the powers of the Kohen Gadol be at this moment? Rav Yehuda haChosid, zt”l, zy”a, questions why a Kohin Gadol is banned from marrying a widow. He explains that it is a precaution lest the Kohen Gadol have a desire for a married woman and, when in the Holy of Holies, it might pass through his mind that her husband should die so he could marry her. In order to forestall this, the Kohen Gadol is forbidden to marry a widow in either case, to put her out of his mind. We see that the Kohen Gadol had enormous prayer powers when he entered the Holy of Holies. So too, on the night of the Seder, our prayer potentials are enormous.
In the merit of our Seder preparations, may Hashem indeed listen to our prayers and bless us with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.
(To be continued)
Transcribed and edited by Shelley Zeitlin.