Volume 28, Issue 6
INSIGHTS from the SEDRA
Insights from the Sedra is a project of the Scholar’s Kollel of Great Neck. It aims to provide several questions and answers about the Sedra, culled from various commentaries, including the following: Baal Haturim, Darash Moshe, Vedebarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky, Torah Treasures by Dov Furer, Wellsprings of Torah by Alexander Friedman, and Kol Dodi by Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, Great Torah Lights by Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Goodman, Something To Say by Dov Wasserman, The Vilna Gaon, Growth Through Torah by Zelig Pliskin and The Call of the Torah.
הא לחמא עניא די אכלו אבהתנא בארעא דמצרים
“This is poor man’s bread that our forefathers ate in Egypt…” (Haggadah Shel Pesach)
The word “oni” – עני – has the numerical value of 136, as does the word “kol” – קול – voice. The name of the festival is “Pesach” – which can be read as two words “peh sach” – the mouth that talks and relates. As slaves, the Jews were unable to open their mouths to pray to Hashem, and when they were freed, they were able to speak freely. Thus, tonight when the matzah is on the table, we demonstrate our freedom by opening our mouths to speak loudly and joyously about the miraculous Exodus that Hashem brought about. Through סח – sach – talking – about the Exodus, we will merit חס – chas – mercy – Hashem with His great mercy will send the redeemer. (Shelah)
“As for one who does not know how to ask…” (Haggadah Shel Pesach)
QUESTION: Is “the one who does not know how to ask” really an absolute illiterate?
ANSWER: The popular portrayal of him as a young immature child is inaccurate. Were it true, he would not have been placed at the end to be spoken to after all the other children. He would have definitely fallen asleep by this time. Moreover, how could he be expected to understand the balance of the Haggadah, which is, after all, directed to him?
Obviously, “the one who does not know how to ask” is an intelligent person who unfortunately, knows very little about Torah and Yiddishkeit. He sits quietly throughout the Seder and does not ask anything, afraid that his question may be totally out of place. Therefore, the Haggadah instructs: First deal with your children, and then spend the evening teaching the highly intelligent and secularly learned guest at your table who is currently a “She’eino yodei’a lishol” – one who does not know how to formulate questions in Torah matters although he is eager to hear and learn. (Ki Yishalcha Bincha)
שלא אחד בלבד עמד עלינו לכלותנו אלא שבכל דור ודור עומדים עלינו לכלותינו
“For not only one has risen up against us to destroy us, but in every generation they rise up against us to annihilate us…” (Haggadah Shel Pesach)
QUESTION: What misconception does the Haggadah desire to dispel by stating “not only one?” It could have omitted this and just said, “In every generation they rise up…and Hashem saves us?”
ANSWER: There are many Jews who have the illusion that the nations of the world are our friends, and the only problem, for instance, in Persia was that there lived a wicked man called Haman, and the only problem during the Holocaust was that there was a wicked man Hitler ימ”ש. Therefore, the Haggadah says, strike the erroneous thought from your mind. Be aware that it is not only one wicked person who is permeated with hatred to the Jews and rises up against us. (Vedebarta Bam)
והקדוש ברוך הוא מצילנו מידם
“And the Holy one, blessed be he, saves us from their hand…” (Haggadah Shel Pesach)
QUESTION: The word “miyadam” – “from their hand” – seems superfluous. “And G-d saves us” would be sufficient?
ANSWER: Not only does Hashem perform miracles which rescue us from annihilation, but He causes our oppressors to assist in our salvation. In Egypt, Pharaoh ordered the drowning of the Jewish children and the enslavement of the Jewish people, anticipating that the Jewish people would remain there forever. Little did he know that his own daughter had saved Moshe (who would ultimately redeem the Jews) and raised him in his palace. In the days of Achashveirosh, when Haman planned the destruction of the Jewish people, it was he who advised the killing of Vashti, thus making it possible for Esther to become queen. Hence, Hashem’s method of saving us is “miyadam” – through the work of their hands. (Gevul Binyamin)
Alternatively, Hashem’s salvation is extremely great. Not only does He save us when our enemies plot against us, but even if we are already in their hands and it seems as though we are conquered, miraculously He releases us from their grasp. (R’ Kalonymus Kalman Shapira)
ולבן בקש לעקור את הכל
“But Lavan wanted to uproot everyone…” (Haggadah Shel Pesach)
QUESTION: Where doe we find that this was Lavan’s intention?
ANSWER: According to halacha (Gittin 64a) if one sends a shaliach – representative – to betroth a wife for him, and the representative dies before returning, the sender is forbidden to marry any woman out of concern that she may be a relative to the one the shaliach chose. Eliezer was sent as a representative to betroth a wife for Yitzchak. During the meal Lavan put poison in Eliezer’s food and miraculously Betuel ended up eating it. Had his vile plan been realized, Eliezer would have died and Yitzchak would have been unable to marry anyone, making it impossible for Yaakov to be born and found the Jewish nation. (Ki Yishalcha Bincha)