חג הפסח

הגדה של פסח

עבדים היינו לפרעה במצרים. ויוציאנו ד’ אלוקינו משם ביד הזקה ובזרוע נטויה. ואלו לא הוציא הקב”ה את אבותינו ממצרים, הרי אנו ובנינו ובני בנינו משעבדים היינו לפרעה במצרים

We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt. And the Lord our God brought us out from there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. And if the Holy One, blessed be He, had not brought our ancestors out of Egypt, then we and our children and our grandchildren would still be enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt

Many have wondered how we could know that if the Eternal had not redeemed us we would have remained slaves to Pharaoh forever. Our master explained that although it was decreed at the ברית בין הבתרים (the covenant between the pieces) that we be enslaved and afflicted and bear the unbearable Egyptian burden, it was not decreed that we become slaves who would lose all desire for freedom and liberty, preferring instead to serve their masters, and not to be liberated. As we wrote in seder Ki Tavo on the verse (Deuteronomy 28:68): “והתמכרתם שם לאויבך לעבדים ולשפחות ואין קונה” (and there you shall offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but none shall buy you), this meant that anyone who would buy them as slaves would realize that they had been mistaken, because they had not sunk to the level of slaves and had not lost every elevated aptitude and faculty. However, our ancestors in Egypt were not wise, instead degrading themselves, reaching the lowest level — of a slave — utterly losing every asset, every talent, and every lofty and honorable quality. They did not realize that they had lost all honor, and that the crown, the majesty, the splendor, and the glory of any human being — his freedom — was lacking. So low had they sunk that they did not listen to Moses and did not want to leave Egypt. Even after leaving Egypt, they regretted doing so, saying (Numbers 14:4) “נתנה ראש ונשובה מצרימה” (let us appoint a chief, and return to Egypt) and (Exodus 14:12) “טוב לנו עבוד את מצרים ממותנו במדבר”  (it would have been better to serve the Egyptians, than die in the wilderness) and (Numbers 11:5) “זכרנו את הדגה אשר נאכל במצרים חנם” (we recall the fish, which we ate in Egypt for nothing) and many other statements like these.

The philosophers (החכמים נבוני דבר) have observed that when any right is taken away from a person by force, the person will retain a hope of eventually recovering that right. However, when one willingly surrenders and abandons his rights, one abandons hope of recovering what has been discarded. So what is meant by “עבדים היינו לפרעה במצרים” (we were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt) is that we had sunk to the level of a slave who is no longer sensible of what he has lost and what he is lacking. This self-degradation went beyond what the Eternal had decreed which was only “ועבדום” (and they shall serve them). That decree meant that they should feel their oppressive servitude and subjugation and that they would still long for salvation and liberation from bondage.

The author of the Haggadah then offers a proof that our ancestors did not wish to be liberated: “ויוציאנו ה’ אלקינו משם ביד חזקה ובזרוע נטויה” (And the Eternal our God brought us out of there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm). Our ancestors, having grown accustomed to hard labor, and unable even to imagine anything better than their servitude, no longer wanted to leave Egypt. The Eternal could only take them out of Egypt with a strong hand, because they would not otherwise have left. If the Holy One Blessed Be He had not taken us out of Egypt, then we and our children and our grandchildren would still be slaves to this day, because our ancestors voluntarily and willingly resigned themselves to slavery without recognizing what they, as slaves, were lacking. (שביבי אש)

ואפילו כלנו חכמים כלנו נבונים כלנו זקנים כלנו יודעים את התורה

Therefore, although we were all wise, all of us knowledgeable, all of us elders, and all of us understanding the law.

The question arises why the “זקנים” (elders) are listed along with the “נבונים” (knowledgeable) and then “כלנו יודעים את התורה” (all of us understanding the law). For must not the זקנים mentioned here be understood to refer to the aged rather than to the “חכמים” (wise) who were already listed? A further question is: who are the חכמים and the נבונים mentioned here? And if  “חכמים” refers to all those who have general knowledge and wisdom, why are we told that the obligation to recount the story of the Exodus from Egypt devolves upon them? If they are not, in fact, Torah scholars (who presumably are already fully conversant with the story of the Exodus), then why is their obligation any different from that of the rest of the people obligated to recount the story of the Exodus?

Our master explained we already know that the tribe of Levi, who were the חכמים and the נבונים, were not forced to perform hard labor with mortar and bricks in Egypt. Nor, because of their weakness, did the “זקנים” (aged) perform hard labor. Thus, the author of the Haggadah first listed the categories that were exempt from servitude and therefore performed no hard labor, thereby teaching us that even the categories of people who performed no hard labor are still obligated to recount the story of the Exodus from Egypt. The author of the Haggadah then mentions the Torah scholars to teach us not to think that inasmuch as they already know the Torah and already know exactly what happened to us in Egypt, they, like everyone else, are obligated to recount the story of the Exodus. (שביבי אש)

כנגד ארבעה בנים דברה תורה

The Torah speaks about four different categories of children.

It may be asked why the Haggadah mentions the wicked son after the wise son, but ahead of the simple son and the one incapable of asking? Isn’t the wicked son the worst of all? It is also astonishing that after the question “מה העבודה הזאת לכם” (what is this service unto you?) asked by the son designated as wicked, the Torah says (Exodus 12:27): “ויקוד העם וישתחוו” (the people bowed their heads and worshiped), and Rashi’s comment on that passage is that they bowed and worshipped in gratitude for the good news of their future offspring. But how is it possible that they would rejoice on hearing the news of a wicked son?

Our master explains that just as it is impossible for the world to exist without both males and females, it is impossible for the world to exist without both the righteous and the wicked, God having created one in opposition to the other. For where there are shadows, is there not light? And if there is justice, must there not also be evil? Neither the perfection of the righteous nor the folly of evil will ever cease. However, from the manner and conduct of the wicked we can infer the manner and conduct of the righteous. For in a generation in which the wicked recognize in their souls the great loss they incur by turning back from the service of God and how grievous is their sin in high-handedly transgressing the commandments of the Eternal, the wicked will try to assuage their wounded spirit and to ease their minds by asking fallacious questions based on false premises. They will pose questions and raise difficulties to our God to lighten the burden of their guilt and to lift its yoke from upon their necks. From such ingenious wicked ones we can evaluate the righteous ones. Wicked ones like these are evidence that the righteous desire the Torah of the Eternal, which they study day and night. The wisdom of the righteous resonating in the houses of worship and the houses of study, the entire earth is filled with knowledge so that the wicked must hide behind false doctrines.

However, in a generation in which the wicked, unaware of the damage their sins cause to their own souls, shamelessly leave the Torah and the commandments behind, feeling no need to excuse or justify their conduct or even to offer wayward doctrines in their own defense, the righteous and holy ones have evidently been weak in upholding the Torah. Their skill having departed from them, they study the Torah indolently without passion, neither seeking nor searching.

The four sons of the Haggadah therefore belong to, and are the products of, two different generations. In one, the wise son, desperate to know all the details of the commandments and all its derivations, asks “מה העדות והחקים והמשפטים” (what are the testimonies, and the statutes and the laws?). And we answer him accordingly, telling him “כהלכות הפסח אין מפטירין אחר הפסח אפיקומן” (concerning the laws of the Pascal Lamb: we partake of no dessert after the Pascal Lamb). The commentators explain that this means that if your son is wise, teach him all the laws of Passover from beginning to end, the end being not to partake of dessert after eating the Pascal Lam, a law found at the end of the tractate of Pesahim. In such an era, the wicked will ask heretical questions, such as “what is this service unto you?” in order to ease their consciences for having despised the commandments of the Eternal and defying His will.

But if the righteous, like simple persons, ask only “מה זאת” (what is this?) and are not desperate to master the entire Torah, and if their souls are not consumed by the desire to learn all its statutes in all their detail and complexity, being satisfied with merely knowing “what is this?”, then the wicked of that generation will totally ignore the commandments of the Eternal and without even knowing that they are sinning. Nor will they even feel the need to ask deceitful questions to ease their minds. That is why when the Children of Israel were informed that in the future the wicked would ask “what is this service unto you?” they gave thanks to the Eternal for the good news that their offspring would truly be righteous, because if their offspring were not truly righteous, the wicked would not have been driven to ask such a challenging question. (שביבי אש)

רבן גמליאל היה אומר בל שלא אמר שלשה דברים אלו בפסח לא יצא ידי חובתו ואלו הן: שנאמר “ואמרתם זבח פסח” (שמות י”ב, כ”ז

Rabban Gamliel used to say, whoever does not say these three things on Passover . . . for it is written (Exodus 12:27) “and you shall say a Pascal Sacrifice.”

See Tosaphot (פסחים קט”ז ע”ב ד”ה ואמרתם) who wrote that the Scripture means an oral statement, so that one must say ”פסח זה שאנו אוכלים” (this Pascal sacrifice that we are eating). Matzah and maror are likened to the Pascal sacrifice, so one must say “מצה זה” (this matzah) and “מרור זה” (this maror).

From the words of the Tosaphot it appears that, in the Mishnah, the proof text (Exodus 12:27) “ואמרתם זבח פסח אשר פסח על בתי בני ישראל במצרים” (you shall say: it is the sacrifice of the Pascal Lamb, for the Lord passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt) follows immediately the words “ואלו הן” (and they are these). Thus, according to the Tosaphot, Rabban Gamliel derives the obligation to say “this Pascal Lamb” from this verse, and then derives the obligation to say “this matzah” and “this maror” by comparison (הקש) to the Pascal Lamb. Thus, contrary to the author of the Haggadah, the proof text “ואמרתם זבח פסח” is sufficient for all three, because Pascal sacrifice is mentioned explicitly and the other two are deduced from it. However, the author of the Haggadah believed that the verse “ואמרתם זבח פסח” was a proof text only for the obligation to say “פסח זה”. He therefore brought the proof text after writing: “פסח זה שאכלו אבותנו בזמן שבית המקדש היה קיים על שום מה? . . .שנאמר” (This Pascal Lamb, which our fathers ate in the Temple days, what was the reason for it? . . . as it is written). The author of the Haggadah therefore required another proof text for matzah and for maror.

However, the words of the Tosaphot are correct and reasonable because the Mishnah as published in our editions of the Mishnah brings no proof text, while in the Mishnah published in the Gemara these proof texts are written within parentheses. So, the canonical Mishnaic text corresponds to the opinion of the Tosaphot that Rabban Gamliel brought the verse “ואמרתם” as a proof text for his main proposition that anyone who does not say these three things does not fulfill his obligation, not as the explanation for why the Pascal Lamb is eaten. It was because some copyist misunderstood how Rabban Gamliel deduced his law from this verse that the verse “ואמרתם” was inserted after his statement as a proof text for why the Pascal Lamb is brought, and was then required to add other verses as corresponding proof texts for matzah and maror. However, the correct reading accords with the opinion of the Tosaphot that immediately after “ואלו הן: פסח מצה ומרור” one should insert the proof text “שנאמר ואמרתם זבח פסח”.

A further proof confirming the Tosaphot is that the verse “ואמרתם זבח פסח” is the answer given by the Torah to the question of the wicked son: “מה העבודה הזאת לכם” (what is this service unto you?). The Haggadah actually ignores this answer and provides another one (Exodus 13:8): “בעבור זה עשה ה’ לי בצאתי ממצרים” (because of that which the Lord did for me when I went forth from Egypt) from which the Haggadah infers “לי ולא לו” (for me, but not for him).

Our master has elaborated elsewhere on why it does not say “ואמרתם לו” (and you shall say to him) as it says in reference to the other sons, e.g., “והגדת לבנך” (you shall tell your son), “ואמרת אלי”  (you shalt say to him). From this textual difference our master concludes that it is improper to respond to the wicked son with a curse, but only to respond by putting his teeth on edge, by saying in the third, not the second, person: “לי ולא לו” (for me, but not for him). (And our master explained there how this answer relates to the son incapable of asking.) The verse “ואמרתם זבח פסח” is therefore not an answer to any questioner. If it is not, then to whom is the statement addressed if not to one’s own son? Rabban Gamliel therefore infers that even for one who has no son to question him, it is obligatory to say “פסח זה”. Since R. Gamliel compared both matzah and maror to the Pascal Lamb, one is therefore also obligated to say “מצה זה” and “מרור זה”.

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