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Volume 33, Issue 3
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, Vedibarta 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 Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, The Vilna Gaon, Growth Through Torah by Zelig Pliskin and The Call of the Torah.
QUESTION: Must we actually talk in order to fulfill the mitzvah of “retelling” the Exodus?
ANSWER: In explaining why no blessing is prescribed before beginning the reading of the Haggadah, the Be’er Miriam offers a unique approach. His opinion is that one can fulfill the obligation to recount the Exodus by way of thought, without actually speaking. Therefore, no benediction is called for since we only pronounce blessings over actions. While disagreeing with the basic premise, Maharal insists that although the spoken word is necessary to meet the requirement of the mitzvah, understanding is equally essential, and is, in fact, the chief ingredient in its performance. “Retelling” the story of the Exodus from Egypt means retelling with comprehension. Since the primary element here is thought, not action or speech, we do not make a blessing.
QUESTION: On this night, we dip twice. Why necessarily two times?
ANSWER: The descent of the Jewish people to Egypt began with Yosef’s visit to his brothers when they were in the fields. At that time, they stripped him of his shirt and sold him to the Ishmaelites, who ultimately brought him to Egypt. To convince Yaakov that he was devoured by a wild beat, they slaughtered a kid goat and dipped the shirt in the blood (Breishit 12:22).
At the conclusion of the Egyptian bondage, Hashem gave the laws of the Pesach-offering and instructed, “You shall take a bundle of hyssop and dip it into the blood and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with some of the blood (Shemot 12:22). Since the Egyptian bondage started and concluded with a dipping, tonight we dip twice. (Ki Yishalcha Bincha)
B’chol dor v’dor
QUESTION: How can they say that “In every generation they rise up against us”? Haven’t there been periods when we lived in peace and security among the nations?
ANSWER: The Chida explains this statement in a unique fashion. There are two ways, he says, in which the nations of the world present a challenge to destroy us, physically, and/or spiritually. The other more insidious method is for them to embrace us as equals and shower us
with the favor of uniform rights and privileges. In such situations, we run the risk of joining their mundane and corrupt existence and forfeiting our distinct identity as a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Shemot 19:6). This danger is as great as, perhaps even greater than, persecution. Thus, the Haggadah is making a point of G-d’s safeguarding us from both types of calamity. (Chida)
QUESTION: Why are all the plagues called by a single word (blood, frogs, etc., as opposed to “plague of blood,” “plague of frogs,” etc.), while the last plague is given the fuller title “plague of the firstborn”?
ANSWER: The simplest explanation for this is that with each of the first nine plagues the kind of destruction wrought by the plague is made quite clear with a one-word description. If the last plague were called just “firstborn,” however, it would not be descriptive of any kind of disaster or destruction at all. (Malbim)
Baruch She’amar suggests another reason, however. He cites the midrash which describes how the firstborn stood up in revolt when they learned the anticipated nature of the tenth plague. They demanded of Pharaoh that the Jews be let go immediately, so that they might be spared, and when they met with resistance, they killed many of their countrymen. It is possible that this is what the Haggadah is referring to when it speaks of the “plague (or “smiting”) of the firstborn” – the smiting that was carried out by the firstborn on other Egyptians.
QUESTION: Hallel is usually recited standing and with a beracha. Why tonight do we omit the beracha and recite it sitting?
ANSWER: The beracha is omitted because the Hallel is divided into two parts, separated by the festive meal. The reason for this is that the first two chapters of Hallel are related to the Exodus from Egypt, the splitting of the sea, and the giving of the Torah, which are events in the past. Thus, after these two Psalms, we recite the blessing for the redemption and eat the matzah in commemoration of the Exodus. The later Psalms refer to the future events (the resurrection of the dead and the “birth pangs” of Mashiach, see Pesachim 118a). It is recited while sitting, because we do things on Pesach in a manner which demonstrates freedom. (Likutei Te’amim U’Minhagim)
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