is what we call it while Hashem calls it
Chag Hamatzos (in the Torah)? The
Berditchever Rebbe famously explained:
Pesach is what Hashem did for us. Chag
Hamatzos is our great leap of faith for the
love of God. For the other is the essence
of any relationship. Our tefillin
say Shema Yisrael and His "tefillin"
say mi k'amcha Yisrael (who is like
Thy nation, O' Israel?). On Pesach night, we
sing Shir Hashirim. I am for my Beloved and
He is for me. At the risk of sounding corny
... Ever told God you love Him lately? Ever
looked to see His manifest love in your
life. Pesach may be a good time to try.
- As we start the seder, the traditional
Eastern Eurpean beginning of Kadesh was "Kadesh:
When Father comes home from synagogue on
Passover night, he must immediately recite
the Kiddush, so that the little
children will not fall asleep and they will
ask the Four Questions beginning with Ma
The Shpoler Zeide so movingly taught:
When our Father
- in Heaven sees from Above
that all the Jews have gone to synagogue and
poured out their souls in prayer and songs
of thanksgiving -- even though they are all
exhausted from the heavy work of preparing
for Passover -- then ...
He must recite Kiddush right away
the Creator must renew his betrothal, his
Kiddushin, of which the word Kidush
shares the same root, to Jewry right away.
He must redeem us from exile right away.
So that the little children will not fall
- the Jews are God's children "For is it not
written in Jeremiah: 'Is not Ephraim my
beloved son, a precious child?' Hashem
must act quickly so that His children
will not fall too deeply into the slumber of
exile. He must act right away so that we
will not despair, Heaven forbid, of never
So that they will ask the Four Questions
beginning with Ma Nishtana
- God must act while we still have the
strength to ask Ma Nishtana? - Why is
this night -- why is this bitter exile
-- different from all other nights?
Why has this dark exile been so prolonged?
Why does it not end?"
- Taz, classic commentator on Shulchan Aruch
proves from here that we must wash for wet
veggies or fruit all year round - just like
we wash for bread.
[Why is this night different than all
others?]. Vilna Gaon even made a bracha! For
those that don't follow this, there's what
to rely on. So why is this night different?
Magen Avraham says it's in order to evoke
the question. [This would explain why some
have the custom of only the Seder-master
washing - it's even stranger!] Netziv offers
a 3rd approach. Magen Avraham is
correct - but on this night there is an
obligation to wash. For in the time of the
Beis HaMikdash, we will certainly need to
wash once again. On Pesach night, we herald
back [and forth] to Temple times [thus the
shankbone]. That's also why we wear a kittel.
Karpas - Yachatz
[we break the matzah] ... the quickest piece
of Seder. It takes longer to say it than do
it. Why the ceremony? A partial answer based
on the gemara:
On seder night we highlight lechem oni,
the bread of the affliction, the poor man's
bread. Poor people do not eat whole loaves.
They"ll take whatever you give them (just
ask a student who left his lunch at home).
In talmudic lexicon, darko shel
ani b'perusah - the way of the poor
is with a piece. Poor people (and Jews
on Sunday) eat leftovers. This explanation
however, is not enough - because then we
would simply bring the broken piece to the
seder. Why the breaking ceremony?
a. Some say: we want to express our
poverty - so we davka break it at the seder.
Rambam says break it before eating, while
Shulchan Aruch records the practice before
maggid. Rambam seems more logical.
Why do we follow the Shulchan Aruch? Kol Bo
explains that the Ha Lachma Anya ("This is
the poor man's bread..") which immediately
follows yachatz is a classic show and
tell, because all good stories need props to
pull in the listener.
b. Others pull out the ubiquitously Pesach
in order that the kids should ask
c. Ba'alei Hatosafos and Orchos
Chaim teach that it alludes to the
splitting of the sea. Thus the Moroccans
till today have the custom at Yachatz to
says: thus the Holy One Blessed Be He
split the sea for us into twelve pathways.
d. An unbelievably penetrating insight by
Rav Meir Goldvicht adds a whole new world.
Karpas, according to Rabbeinu Manoach
alludes to the sale of Yosef.
It's a long story, but here's the short
version. Pasim, the name of Yosef's
special coat (that signified his status) is
connected to the word karpas in the
Megillah. Rashi [Bereishis, 37:3] in
defining Yosef's coat explains that the word
karpas denotes a special type of
wool. The original custom of dunking the
vegetable into red wine fills in the
picture. In sum, we have the multicolored
coat dipped into the blood - beckoning the
sale of Yosef. Why bring this up now?
Because as we ponder leaving Egypt, we must
remember how we got in. It is the question
we barely speak of, because the shameful
answer is through the terrible disunity
within klal Yisrael. Thus we break the
matzah, a rupture symbolizing unity torn
asunder. We then hide the bigger piece for
afikoman and look for it at the at
the end of the seder. At some point, we find
the afikoma. The ultimate way to redemption,
both personal and national is through the
search for a way towards unity. The geulah
will beckon the ten tribes. After the
afikoman we call in Eliyahu, the ultimate
unifier of the generations - present at bris,
seder and redemption. It is interesting that
the seder often brings together a lot of
different types of people. Perhaps it is a
test for redemption, for ultimate geulah
That which can't become chametz can
not be used for matzah (as a general
rule). Yet, once each item achieves its
respective status it is impossible for
either to ever be the other. No matter how
much water you add to matzah - it will never
become chametz and no matter how hard you
try to crush the chametz - it can never
become matzah. At some point, the effect of
our life decisions become irreversible.
Thankfully, every year we can make matzah
again; A Jew never gives up hope.
The Haggadah is so called because of the
mitzvah of Maggid - the central mitzvah of
Its source: Exodus [13:8]: v'higadeta
l'hvincha bayom hahu leimor and you
shall express to your child on that night
saying. One ponders why the Torah uses
the verb haggadah and not dibbur, but either
way it is this verse that forms the crux of
the night. Now note that we employ this
verse for the shv'ach son, the weak
child that does not even know [how, when] to
ask a question. He is the Torah's primary
target for seder night - for elitism qua
elitism is not a Jewish thing! All of our
children need be addressed. The goal is to
stimulate questions. One stage prior we must
address their hearts - wherein reside their
unasked observations/question. At p'tach
lo - softly open them up. I suspect that
if we show them the proper respect and love,
they will quickly move up the ladder to be
the chacham No Jew is without
questions. Our goal is to awaken the heart,
to make it safe and exciting enough to make
it worth their while.
We wash then eat the Matzah and then the
Maror - even though we experienced the maror
(servitude) first?! Sometimes a worm in
chrain (horseradish) doesn't know how
bad he has it (until he tastes the honey)! A
nation anesthetized to servitude can not
pine for freedom. A people that finally
taste freedom can only then begin to fathom
how bad it was. For those of us afraid to
make the leap (whatever it may be) - because
its not so bad - how do you know?
Korech - Will come Monday, iy"h
Tzafun - Will come Monday, iy"h
Barech - Will come Monday, iy"h
we can not say Hallel at night! Thus says
the mishna. Hallel is said mimizrach
shemesh ad mevo'o from sunrise to
sunset. So what gives? R. Hai Gaon famously
explains that this is not formalistic
kria hallel - this is spontaneous
shira hallel. We have just left
Mitzrayim and are tasting freedom. Look at
those pictures of the camps on liberation
day. One can not tell a volcano when to
erupt. Shulchan Aruch and Ramo teach that
Pesach and Tisha B'av are intertwined.
That's why we have the egg on the seder
plate - as a reminder of mourning. On Tisha
B'av, there is no limit to our mourning. We
are like a bride who lost her groom under
the chupa [cf. kinah of eli tziyon].
Spontaneity in either direction transcends
limits. Halacha understands this. Our
paradoxical challenge: to become spontaneous
[even if it appears programmed] .
Nirtzah - Echad Mi Yodeia Who Knows one
the song saved for almost the end. If the
hagaddah is a mountain, then the seder ends
with the chad gadya climax and the
penultimate song which cherishes Jewish
numbers. The reverse numbering reminds us of
the ultimate centrality of serving God in
our lives. Consider that every number is
Jewish - from the 13 attributes of mercy
that Hashem revealed to Moshe in the Golden
Calf aftermath to the 8 days of milah
to the 5 books of Moses.. with one
exception. Who knows 9? You mean goyim don't
have children after 9 months, so what gives?
The old joke about Judaism's view that the
fetus is only viable when it graduates
medical school couldn't be farther from the
truth. A friend of mine likes to say we
start educating our children twenty years
before they are born. Minimally in utero is
the time that the mother [and occasionally
the father] begins to worry about the
childs's spirituality. Rivkah, upon hearing
that she may be bearing a spiritual deviant
is beside herself. The prayer and tears that
for our children's yiddishe neshama is the
unique contribution of Jewish mothering.
It's over - or not!A
halachic irony: People stay up the whole
Shavuot night even as the minhag is not
mentioned in Shulchan Aruch while post Seder
slumber is de rigueur when directs us to
stay up the whole night - until we have
been overtaken by sleep (ad
sheyachtifenu sheina). Perhaps, after
all the pre-pesach work, the latter
qualification may only be a matter of
seconds, but at least one has to take out a
sefer (book). Why do many not do this?
Perhaps we are sleeping already. Rav Gedalya
Schorr teaches that the sleep of exile is so
deep. (even R. Akiva had to wake up his
talmidim). On Pesach night we read Shir
HaShirim. In it we say Ani Yesheina
v'libi Er. I am asleep but my heart is
wake. The Jew only appears to be sleeping
May God redeem us quickly; our hearts
pulsate with ahavas Hashem. Let us not
remind ourselves that we dare not fall into
the dark slumber of despair!
A freilichen, a kasheren, a zeisen Pesach -
L'shana Haba'ah b'yerushalayim - Good
Sponsor or Dedicate Reflections, please
It's a reminder for
the Kohein. Cf. Shulchan Aruch O.C.
This notion of connecting of Karpas
to Mechiras Yosef, while novel is
well sourced. See Yerios Shlomo [R.
Shlomo Kluger brought down in R.
Yaakov Emden siddur], Rabbeinu
Manoach [on Rambam chametz u'matzah,
8:2] , Ben Ish Chai [parshas tzav] .
Most remarkable is the custom of the
Jews of Gerba to stop in the middle
of maggid to tell the story of
Some even claim that Rabban Gamliel
who states that one who has not
mentioned Pesach Matzah Marror has
not fulfilled his obligation is
referring not to the maggid
obligation - but rather to the
mitzvah of pesach, matzah and marror.
Remarkably, even the objects of the
korban pesach , matzah and marror
require a haggadah - the implication
being that they are props in the big
story of yetzias mitzrayim - a
story that must be expressed in its
full glory tonight.