Pesach & Tzav
Hagadah Shel Pesach
Seeing how this is Shabbos HaGadol, which means that Pesach is this
upcoming week, we will deviate from the regular parshah sheet format and
focus on the Seder itself. The Kabbalists point out that, unlike other
Jewish holidays, the spiritual light that flows down from Above during the
first half of the first night of Pesach is a Heavenly gift. Whereas the
rest of the year we must do something to draw the light down, Leil Seder
the light comes down ON ITS OWN regardless of what we do as it does every
year at this time, ever since the first Seder in Egypt while the firstborn
of Egypt were being killed.
That's funny, because the one holiday that has the most amount of ritual,
usually designed to invoke a Heavenly flow of light, is Pesach and
specifically the night of the Seder itself. However, explain the
Mekubalim, that is just to make sure that when the light knocks at our
spiritual doors, we're "home" to answer and receive it.
For, how many mitzvos do we miss each year because of distractions? How
many times do we intend to pray with extra intention only to find our
minds pulled away by issues that are clearly not the priority at that
time? Life is VERY distraction, and the Sitra Achra is an expert at
finding just what he needs to pull us in his direction as opposed to G-d's
Therefore, the Haggadah Shel Pesach was designed to make sure that we are
occupied with and focussed on that which allows us to be as perfect a
receptor for the light of Pesach and redemption. The following has been
designed to act as key somewhat to enhance the Haggadah experience, and
has been adapted from my book, "Redemption to Redemption: The Very Deep &
Intricate Connection Between the Holidays of Purim and Pesach."
The Seder is the implementation of all that has been discussed up until
now. That is, Purim is about reaching into the level of Sod -- Kabbalah --
of achieving such intellectual clarity that even Haman is seen as a
vehicle of G-d to help the Jewish people do teshuvah and choose redemption
At the end of Parashas Beshallach, when Amalek first attacked the Jewish
people, Rashi uses a parable of boy riding in the shoulders of his father
to symbolize the Jewish people riding on the "shoulders" of G-d, above
Nature and evil nations such as Amalek. Putting the boy on the ground
symbolized the Jewish people descending to lower spiritual levels, at
which point the dog -- the symbol of Amalek -- was able to bite the boy.
In other words, Amalek can only attack us when we stoop to his level,
which is the realm of the non-Sod levels of understanding. For,
intellectual confusion is still possible on those levels (the gematria of
Amalek is "suffek," which means "doubt"), and on these levels we must
fight Amalek on his own terms.
This is why, said the Vilna Gaon, that G-d told Moshe to speak b'aznei
Yehoshua after the battle against Amalek. The gematria of b'aznei is Sod,
and thus, revealed the Gaon, the only way to defeat Amalek is b'derech
Sod, through a sublime spiritual perspective on how G-d runs his world,
and why -- at least as much as possible, as much as He allows it. How much
more so is this the case today as we see terrorism growing in ways we
never considered likely, and anti-Semitism returning just when we thought
it was over for good.
Even the word "haggadah" means "mystery"(Nefesh HaChaim 1:13), which
certainly sheds light on what the seemingly simple words of the Haggadah
are trying to convey Seder-Night.
To understand how the Seder is supposed to facilitate our becoming a
better "vessel" to receive the light of the Fifty Gates of Understanding,
and to develop a more essential connection to Da'as Elokim -- G-dly
understanding -- it is important to examine various aspects of the Seder
itself, and the reasons for their inclusion.
After all, a mitzvah is like an envelope with a message inside; possessing
the envelope is essential, but peering inside the envelope is the only way
to fully understand the meaning of both, and how, as a unit, they deliver
their message. The same is true of a mitzvah and its sod, in terms of
their message of spiritual perfection:
One who does not look into the sod (mysteries) of the mitzvos of the
Torah, to understand how they are rooted in the esoteric World Above . . .
will not see how to rectify the various aspects of that World . . .
(Zohar, Terumah 165b)
What this means is, though it is crucial to correctly fulfill the
technical aspects of a mitzvah, knowing the sod of it means to be able
to "aim" the mitzvah to have its desired impact. This is why the Aramaic
word for prayer is also the word for "arrow" (zlosahon), as if to say
there is a "target" for mitzvos, and it is far more effective to know what
to aim for than to "blindly" send the "arrow" off in a general spiritual
direction. The same idea is true for the different sections of the
Haggadah as well.
It is difficult to dispute the fact that the last 5764 years of history
have been anything but Paradise. This has prompted many to ask over the
millennia, "If G-d is so perfect, why is His world not?"
The answer is, it IS perfect, that is, it is perfectly imperfect. We even
bless G-d for this:
Blessed are You, Our G-d, King of the World, Who creates many living
things with their deficiencies.
This is an idea that is implicit in Bris Milah itself, which requires man
to participate in the physical and spiritual completion of his own being.
Man was purposely and purposefully made incomplete, so that he would have
a forum within which to exercise free-will and earn his portion in the
World-to-Come (Derech Hashem 1:3). G-d made man, and the world within
which he lives, but it is man himself who must bring both to fulfillment.
This process of spiritual refinement and purification is synonymous with
making a person and the world a better receptacle for the light of G-d.
The light of G-d is like water that presses against the wall of a dam;
open the channel and the water forces its way through. The concept of
bitul chometz (annihilation of chometz) is the idea of removing spiritual
obstacles (particularly bad character traits) that keep the light of G-d
out, and which hold back Da'as Elokim.
After all, what is bread but bloated matzah? The yeast is an agent to
cause the dough to rise, giving the impression that more is there than
really is. In this sense, the yeast symbolizes the yetzer hara, which
tends to make that which is unimportant important, and vice versa.
We burn the chometz (biur chometz) to indicate that the destruction of
spiritual "germs" must be complete, and that it can only really be
achieved through the Da'as of Torah, which is likened to fire. Fire also
indicates the idea of that which can continuously give to others, without
lessening its own intensity. This is only possible through Torah, because
it is infinite. In fact, the very process of teaching Torah usually
results in the teacher gaining as a result, as the Talmud confirms:
Rebi said: I learned a lot of Torah from my teachers; from my colleagues
more than from them; and from my students, more than from all of them.
The need for bedikas chometz (searching for chometz), which is of
rabbinical origin, indicates the necessity to throw oneself into the
process of character refinement. In a very real sense, bedikas chometz
represents the idea embodied in the 248 Positive Mitzvos, which is to use
Da'as as a motivator and source of inspiration to maximize our godly
Chometz, then, represents a kind of orlah -- a kind of spiritual
interposition. Even though the rest of the year (other than the week of
Pesach), it is permissible to benefit from chometz, the truth is we battle
its effects constantly. Thus, the root of the word milchamah, which
means "war," is the word lechem, which means "bread."
It is as if to say that the real "war" in life is not on the outer
battlefield, but on the inner one, against the yetzer hara. This is
because we need its drives to be effective in life; yet, unbridled, those
very same drives can destroy individuals, nations, and the world. Reigning
in the powers of the yetzer hara is the "tightrope" walk of life.
Removing chometz from our possession and replacing it with matzah has a
similar effect as Bris Milah. It is the removal of the orlah, of all
spiritual barriers that prevent us from channeling our drives in the
direction of the service of G-d. Hence, this represents another reason why
only those who have fulfilled the mitzvah of Bris Milah can eat from the
Korban Pesach -- the Passover Offering.
Matzah is the quintessential symbol of Pesach, and the word itself differs
in spelling from chometz by one letter:
Mem-Tzaddi-HEH -- CHES-Mem-Tzaddi
However, it is a variance that makes all the difference in the world,
since it alludes to the deepest of ideas. For, the transition from the
letter Ches of chometz to the letter Heh of matzah, symbolizes the actual
process of creation, and of redemption from Egypt (Biur HaGRA, Safra
Matzah, which is the product of only flour and water alludes to both the
end result of the refinement process, and the spiritual freedom that
results. It is the symbol of Divine simplicity (Maharal, Haggadah), which
is crucial for G-d being able to "relate" to us, in order to infuse us
with His Da'as, so-to-speak.
It is referred to as "Poor Man's Bread" because it only uses flour and
water. However, as the Talmud states:
Be careful with the poor, for it is from them that Torah will emanate.
The reason for this is simple. Elsewhere, the Talmud reminds us that the
more one is involved in the physical world and in the pursuit of physical
possessions, the more his mind is occupied with the concerns of that
world. However, the poor Torah-Jew, because of his simple lifestyle, has
little else to think about than spirituality.
Matzah is also called, "Lechem Oni" ("Bread of Answers"). It adorns the
Seder table to make us think deeply, to make us re-examine where we have
gone in the course of the previous year, and to measure how close or far
we have become from the ideals of Torah. In so many ways, matzah
symbolizes everything the Jew is supposed to strive to become.
Thus, even though we eat matzah to commemorate the fact that our ancestors
lacked sufficient time for their bread to rise, the truth, it was meant to
be that way. Because of all that matzah symbolizes and teaches us, it was
decreed that the Jewish people should eat matzah on the fifteenth day of
Nissan throughout all the generations. This way, at least once a year, we
are made to confront our raison d'Ítre at the Seder table.
The second verse of the Torah states:
The earth was null and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep,
and the spirit of G-d hovered above the water. (Bereishis 1:2)
Though G-d could have made a perfectly complete world from the start
without passing it through a chaotic stage, Divine wisdom dictated
otherwise. The result was a primordial "soup" called Tohu, or "Null." The
only question is why? Why did G-d introduce the concept of chaos into the
The answer to that question is the subject of the next verse,
G-d said, "Let there be Light!" And there was Light.(Bereishis 1:3)
What this means is the following. The natural state of this perfectly
imperfectly world is chaos, and not order. Hence, the main battle of the
Jew is to bring order -- seder -- to that chaos, just as G-d did by
creating light on the very first day of creation. It is not a physical
struggle, but an intellectual one. It is a battle that is manifested in
the physical world, but one that is fought in the spiritual realm.
To forget this fundamental message is to doom creation to darkness and
destruction, to allow mankind to become swallowed up by the inherent
forces of null and void. And no one knows this better than the Jewish
people; no one has experienced this more than the nation that was redeemed
from Egyptian bondage to prevent this from happening.
This is one of the first and foremost messages of the Seder. When we
remember this, and act upon it by bringing the light of Torah into the
world, then we fulfill the mandate for which we were freed: to create and
maintain seder in creation. Then, we become the "light unto nations" we
were destined to become.
Though it is true that we start each Shabbos and Yom Tov meal with
Kiddush, we do so for a very important reason, especially Seder Night.
Kiddush and Havdalah represent the same concept: separation between holy
and profane. The Talmud points out that Havdalah is a function of wisdom,
for it is only after penetrating to the essence of ideas that we can
truthfully see how they differ from one another (Brochos 33a). Then, and
only then can we properly evaluate the worthiness of a concept, and use it
properly without abuse.
This is why the distinctions raised in the "Four Questions" form the basis
of the introduction to all that will follow the rest of the evening.
Teaching children to notice subtle differences in life, to pay attention
to nuances in learning, and to be "hungry" for questions is central to
their intellectual and spiritual growth.
Furthermore, Kiddush and Havdalah are verbal, which means they epitomize
all that man (and especially the Jew), aspires to achieve. It is the
ultimate use of human intelligence and the power of speech, whereby we use
our mouth as a vehicle to elevate our consciousness and transform the
physical reality. Kiddush and Havdalah embody the message that we were to
have learned from the manna just prior to the attack from Amalek
(Redemption to Redemption, 1:4).
This is the true source of holiness. The separation that leads to holiness
is one that begins in the mind, one which grows out of being a receptacle
for Da'as Elokim. Thus, it is appropriate that Kiddush acts as the
threshold over which we cross into the world of the Fifty Gates of
From Purim we learned about the intrinsic connection between wine and
freedom. Wine, with the help of gematria, alludes to the sod of Torah and
the basis of Jewish wisdom. Here the connection is quite literal, for we
drink one cup of wine at the Seder for each of the four different words
the Torah uses to refer to the redemption from Egypt:
"Therefore say to the Children of Israel, 'I am G-d, and I will bring you
out (vehotzaisy) from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will deliver
you (vehitzalty) out of their service, and I will redeem you (vega'alty)
with an outstretched arm, and with great judgments. I will take you
(valakachty) to Me to be a people ...' " (Shemos 6:6-7)
Vehotzaisy: I will lead you out (of Egypt);
Vehitzalty: I will deliver you (from any type of servitude);
Vega'alty: I will redeem you;
Valakachty: I will take you (as My people). (Shemos Rabbah 6:5)
This also introduces the concept of the number of four into the picture,
and its role in bringing about redemption.
The number four, and multiples of four, are prominent in the Haggadah
(four cups of wine, four sons, etc.) and the history of the Jewish people.
The Jewish people spent four hundred years in a "land not their own" prior
to Yetzias Mitzrayim, and after that they spent forty years wandering the
desert before entering Eretz Yisroel. The Torah was given to Moshe over
There are many concepts associated with the number four. To begin with,
the number itself refers to all four directions over which G-d has
dominion. It also alludes to the Hebrew letter Dalet, which is related to
the word, delet, which means door -- an opening to freedom. There are four
worlds, according to Kabbalah, and they represent the ascension from the
lowest level up toward G-d:
Ain Sof (light of G-d)
The letter Dalet has within it the word dal, which is a poor person
(Shabbos 104a). This is consistent with the theme of the evening as
expressed through the matzah, which is Lechem Oni -- Poor Man's Bread. As
well, the gematria of the world dal is thirty-four, whose Mispar Katan is
the number seven (34 = 3 + 4 = 7) the number of Malchus (kingship). Hence,
the humility inherent in the number four is what ultimately leads to
Malchus, and the fulfillment of creation.
As such, the Dalet also alludes to the ultimate unity: the unification of
G-d's Ineffable Name, and the time that G-d's kingdom will be firmly
established on earth:
On that day, G-d will be One and His Name will be One . . . (Zechariah
This is why in a Sefer Torah the Dalet of the word "Echad" (One) in the
Shema is larger. The Dalet, combined with the first two letters of the
word "Echad" allude to the complete unity of creation. For, the Aleph and
the Ches in gematria total nine, to signify the unity of the first nine
sefiros. The last of the ten sefiros is the Malchus, represented by the
Dalet itself. Thus, in the word Echad is an allusion to the Days of
Moshiach and the unity of that time,
And how is that unity achieved? The first word of the Shema also has one
letter larger than the rest, the Ayin. The letter Ayin, as we now know,
alludes to the perspective that looks beyond the natural, physical reality
to reveal the hidden hand of G-d to the mind's eye. Combined, the enlarged
Ayin and the enlarged Dalet spell the word: eid, which means "witness."
Therefore, the Jew who says the Shema with the above intentions is bearing
witness to the hidden kingship of G-d in this period of history, and to
the revealed kingship in the Time-to-Come. This is called Emunas Yisroel --
the Faith of the Jewish people.
Rebi Akiva asked: Why does the Dalet turn its face toward the heh (in the
Aleph-Bais)? Because all who are poor in This World will be rich in The
World-to-Come, like all of Israel who busy themselves with mitzvos. (Osios
Hah Lachmah Ania is a strange way to start off the evening. Unless, of
course, tzedakah is an identifying trait of the Jewish people.
After living among the Nations-of-the-World for millennia, we have picked
up the appearance and often, the attitudes of our non-Jewish hosts. As a
result, G-d may have difficulty "recognizing" us. By giving tzedakah, we
reveal our innermost self to G-d, thereby gaining His acceptance in order
to receive the light He will emanate that night (Bais HaLevi, Haggadah).
Furthermore, as we learned from Purim and the mitzvah of Matanos
L'Evyonim, every Jew is "a guarantor for his fellow Jew." Situations in
life may vary from person to person, but we all need each other in order
to bring about the completion of G-d's master plan; we all must rise to
the level of k'ish echad b'leiv echad -- the unity of a single being with
a single drive to serve G-d. Tzedakah is a direct way to do that.
Symbolically, washing our hands before eating wet vegetables is a
throwback to Temple times, when the reality of spiritual purity was an
issue. However, the Temple is another key symbol of Da'as, and washing our
hands is an external depiction of what we are supposed to achieve on the
inside. It is the Da'as of the Fifty Gates of Understanding that have the
true "cleansing" power.
Having completed all that is in the Haggadah until this point, we can turn
our attention to the story itself. This is the way the mind and body work;
first we must create the proper atmosphere and catch our attention (a goal
of all the activity Seder-Night), and then it becomes possible to
efficiently transmit the message. Mind and body must work together if they
are to act as the conduit for the light from Above.
The breaking of the matzah has tremendous significance. First of all, it
is this that transforms the matzah into Lechem Oni, since a poor person
does not consume all his food at one time, being concerned that tomorrow
he will have none. Breaking the matzah also symbolizes the breaking of the
Anyone who has a humble spirit is like one who sacrificed all kinds of
sacrifices, as it says, "The sacrifices of G-d are a broken spirit."
(Tehillim 15:19; Sotah 5b)
This results in the kind of humility necessary to receive and maintain
However, the breaking of the middle matzah also results in the creation of
the Afikomen, which is then hidden for the children to find, for which
they are rewarded. The message to all present (not just the children): a
humble spirit is what inspires a person to go in search of truth, which
results in the finding of it, and which will lead to eternal reward. This
is the opposite of kotzer ruach -- the state of complete helplessness the
Jewish people just prior to the redemption -- and its effects, and the
basis of the posuk:
If you want it as you do silver and search after it like buried treasures,
then you will understand fear of G-d; Da'as Elokim you will find. (Mishlei
Like Kiddush, the telling of the story of Yetzias Mitzrayim represents the
usage of our power of speech to speak D'var Hashem, the word of G-d. It is
a central part of the evening, acting as an integral part of the process
to "free" the mouth.
If this mitzvah is done properly, it should lead one's consciousness to
the realm above time, to the world beyond Nature, to the reality and unity
of the Shema. This is what happened to Rebi Eliezer, Rebi Yehoshua, Rebi
Elazar ben Azaryah, Rebi Akiva, and Rebi Tarfon when they sat down to
fulfill the mitzvah in B'nei Brak. One would never have known that these
rabbis lived in the most terrifying and distracting of times, at the
beginning of the Roman exile.
As we know from the midrashim, night symbolizes exile, and morning,
redemption. Thus, when their students came and informed them that the time
had come to recite the morning Shema, it was an allusion also to the
redeeming power of the Haggadah to end bitter exile, and lead us to the
day of which we will say: On that day, G-d will be One, and His Name will
The process to this eternal freedom is the process of drush, of exegesis,
the main intellectual "tool" of the Talmud. This is what Rebi Elazar is
telling us ("I was like a man of seventy . . ."), and this is what the
The people who walk in darkness see the Great Light. (Yeshayahu 9:1):
These are the masters of Talmud who see the "Great Light" because The Holy
One, Blessed is He, illuminates their eyes. (Tanchuma, Noach, 9)
This then leads to one of the central points of the entire evening: the
Four Sons and the all-important concept of chinuch banim (education of
To begin with, the Talmud states:
The wise man is better than the prophet. (Bava Basra 12a)
At first, this strikes us as strange. Who could be better than a prophet,
someone in direct communication with G-d? The answer to this question is,
what the prophet understands through prophecy the Chacham is supposed to
discern through wisdom.
It is the Chacham who represents the fulfillment of the concept of Tzelem-
Elokim, the image of G-d in which man was created:
The term Elohim can be used to describe every intelligent force that is
separated from matter (i.e., spiritual instead of physical) . . . As such,
it is eternal, and thus the term is used regarding G-d and His angels. It
is also applied to judges because of their ability of reason [and power of
discernment] . . . (Sforno, Bereishis 1:26)
This is why, even though he did not stand at Mt. Sinai and receive the
Torah personally, he can still refer to the G-d of his fathers as his G-d
too. For, through wisdom and discernment he can project outside of his
reality. Hence, not only is it true that:
The wise man's eyes are in his head . . . (Koheles 2:14)
But, a wise person is defined as:
. . . One who can see what will transpire. (Tamid 32a)
In other words, the wise man is someone who creates a large enough mental
picture that his perception of reality comes to mirror that of G-d's. It
is the difference between eating from the Aitz HaDa'as Tov v'Rah, and the
Aitz HaChaim, the Tree of Life, or as we call it today, "kol Torah kulo" --
Torah in its entirety. Whereas the Aitz HaDa'as represented the details
of Creation and how it functions, the knowledge of the Aitz HaChaim is all-
encompassing, and provides the intellectual "framework" within which to
place those details:
When one knows a number of things, and understands how they are
categorized and systematically interrelated, then he has a great advantage
over one who has the same knowledge without such distinction. It is very
much like the difference between looking at a well-arranged garden,
planted in rows and patterns, and seeing a wild thicket or forest growing
in confusion. When an individual is confronted by many details (i.e., the
knowledge of the Aitz HaDa'as) and does not know how they relate to one
another or their true place in a general system (i.e., the Aitz HaChaim),
then his inquisitive intellect is given nothing more than a difficult,
unsatisfying burden. He may struggle with it, but he will tire and grow
weary long before he attains any gratification. Each detail will arouse
his curiosity, but not having access to the concept as a whole, he will
become frustrated. The exact opposite is true when one knows something in
relation to its context. Since he sees it within its framework, he can go
on to grasp other concepts associated with it, and success will bring him
pleasure and elation . . . (Derech Hashem, Introduction)
As such, he can even project outside of himself and his "slice" of time,
without the help of prophecy. For this reason, we hold nothing back from
him; we tell him the whole story, without leaving out a single detail.
With such an outlook, and such an attitude, no knowledge can damage him,
since he reaches for the Aitz HaChaim first.
The mistake of Adam was that he didn't wait for . . . Shabbos. But doesn't
the verse explicitly state that the transgression was eating from the Aitz
HaDa'as? Rather, it seems that anyone who merits to achieve the fiftieth
gate in holiness can no longer be damaged by any further knowledge . . .
Shabbos is the "Tree of Life," a tree planted in a place of life, which is
understanding. (Shem M'Shmuel, Bereishis 5671)
Not so the Rasha. The Rasha is very intelligent, but intellectually
abusive. He is the result of what happens to the seichel -- mind -- when
one eats from the Aitz HaDa'as Tov v'Rah before eating from the Aitz
HaChaim. Knowledge that could have drawn him close to G-d and Absolute
Truth instead pushes him away from G-d into his own subjective reality --
just as it had to Adam HaRishon. He will use the very same information the
Chacham used to find G-d, to hide from G-d.
This is what Dovid HaMelech warned:
The beginning of wisdom is the fear of G-d. (Tehillim 111:10)
Fear of G-d can only be the result of the Aitz HaChaim, and as we have
The secrets of G-d to those who fear G-d. (Tehillim 25:14)
Thus, the Rasha's question and excluding nature:
The Evil Son, what does he say? "What is the service to you?" (Shemos
12:26). To you, and not to him, and because he excludes himself from the
rest, he is a denier of Torah . . .
The Rasha refers to the Korban Pesach. In Egypt, the Jewish people had
been mired in idol worship, which included the worship of the lamb, an
Egyptian god. In order to merit redemption, they had to make a spiritual
break from the Egyptian way of life. For this reason, the Midrash
explains, the Jews were commanded to take a lamb and parade it through the
streets with the expressed purpose of slaughtering it to G-d.
However, asks the Evil Son, who worships animals today?
What he is really asking is, "What use is there in continuing the service
of the Pesach-Offering anymore?"
It is a question that he will ask, and has asked throughout the ages, on
many other mitzvos whose Divine reasoning is elusive. However, the
Haggadah answers the Evil Son back in kind, and in no uncertain terms:
break his teeth!
The word shein (tooth) numerically is equal to 350, the gematria of the
word seichel, or intellect. The response to the Evil Son is: abuse your
intellect, lose your intellect. It is one thing to plead ignorance, the
Haggadah warns, but it is something altogether different to have
intelligence and access to the truth, and yet overlook that truth in the
name of human reason. That is not what it means to be a Tzelem-Elokim.
Furthermore, finishes the Haggadah, it is not the basis of being Jewish
either, and it denies the fundamental reason for which G-d turned history
upside down to free our ancestors. "Had you been there and had you thought
like that," we tell the Evil Son, "you would not have been redeemed. You
would have died with the other four-fifths of the Jewish population that
quietly perished in the Plague of Darkness, because they too had possessed
such a dark perspective toward Torah, mitzvos, and redemption."
This is why the Simple Son is paired with the Chacham, and the Aino Yodeah
Lishoel -- the one who does not know how to ask a question, is usually
paired with the Rasha. At least with the simple son, there is humility,
and that is a good starting point for learning.
However, very often people don't bother to consider the possibility of
questions because they believe that reality can only be the way they see
it. That is not a humble opinion, and it leaves people vulnerable to
having to find out the hard way that there is a larger, more all-
encompassing reality beyond their own. Therefore, like we do to the Rasha,
we answer him and say,
"For the sake of this (zeh) G-d took me out of Egypt . . ."
That is, to achieve and maintain the level of intellectual clarity
associated with zeh Keli v'Anveihu -- this is my G-d and I will glorify
Him. As Rashi points out there, G-d was so clear to the Jewish people by
the Red Sea that it was if they could point their fingers at Him.
"You might have thought from Rosh Chodesh . . ."
To understand the importance of Rosh Chodesh to the theme of Pesach, the
Anyone who blesses the new moon is like one who has received the
Shechinah -- Divine Prensence as it says, "HaChodesh HaZeh " (i.e., This
month -- Shemos 12:2), and it says over there, "Zeh Keli v'Anveihu"
(Shemos 16:2) ... (Sanhedrin 42a)
In other words, the Talmud is finding a conceptual connection between
Kiddush HaChodesh (New Moon Sanctification) and revelation, vis-a-vis the
usage of the word zeh in both verses. In this sense, the concept of the
new month represents the goal of all of Torah and the Jewish nation as a
Why? To begin with, the fact that the mitzvah of sanctifying the New Moon
was the first one given to the Jewish people as they prepared to leave
Egypt is very significant. For, this informs every Jew throughout history
that embodied in the mitzvah of Kiddush HaChodesh is the basic concept of
the Jewish nation and the key to Yetzias Mitzrayim.
As the prophet Yeshayahu teaches, the Jewish nation left Egypt with a
mission, a mission that would only begin by receiving the Torah at Mt.
Sinai fifty days later. This mission is encapsulated in the words of the
prophet, "light to nations" (Yeshayahu 42:6).
What does this mission have to do with the moon?
One of the main properties of the moon is that it does not create its own
light; rather, it reflects the light of the sun. Even during the blackness
of night when the sun can no longer be seen, the moon can still gather in
rays of sunlight hidden from us on earth and reflect them earthward for
mankind to find direction in the darkness of night.
We know from Tradition that the Jewish people are compared to the moon.
When the moon is affected, it is a bad sign for the Jewish people. (Succah
And, just as the moon waxes and wanes, so too has the Jewish nation
cyclically grown and been reduced in numbers. However, the most important
comparison of the Jewish people to the moon is not in terms of its
appearance, but rather, in terms of its mission.
Just as the moon reflects the light of the sun, so too are the Jewish
people meant to reflect the light of G-d. The idea of being a "light to
nations" is really that of being a "reflector" to the nations. In other
words, it is the Jewish nation's role to reflect the light of Torah to
every last corner on earth, and to not fulfill this function is
to "eclipse" the world and leave it in darkness and chaos. This results in
periods of historical darkness, and usually worse: terrible anti-Semitism.
Hence, it is quite logical and very meaningful that the first mitzvah to
be given to the Jewish people should be the sanctification of the new moon
once a month. What better way is there to remind the Jewish people of the
purpose for which they were freed from Egypt? What better way is there to
monthly point out to the Jewish people the mission for which they
were "hand-picked" by G-d, than to have them focus their attention on the
new sliver of moon that is fighting to bring light to the darkened sky?
It was the acceptance of this first mitzvah and mission that acted as the
spiritual "threshold" across which each Jew in Egypt had to pass to "earn"
his or her freedom. The Torah sanctions originality. However, the
principles of Torah are fixed, are axioms of Creation, Divine wisdom
beyond human reason and therefore beyond human change.
Our job is not to create them, or even recreate them, but to reflect them.
Our task is to become committed to understanding them as much as we can,
and then perform them to the best of our ability. In this way, the light
of Torah becomes increasingly more apparent, and like the moon, reaches a
crescendo of light, which we are promised will eventually never wane
again, as we say during Kiddush Levanah every month:
May it be Your will . . . to fill the flaw of the moon, that there be no
diminution in it. May the light of the moon be like the light of the sun
and like the light of the seven days of Creation, as it was before it was
diminished . . .
That the word Hallel can also mean "light" (Pesachim 2a) is indication
enough that Hallel should have a prominent place in the Haggadah and Seder
Night. If anything is going to draw down light, it is going to be Hallel,
and this is why it is a part of the prayers on holidays and Rosh Chodesh.
However, Hallel incorporates another very central idea that is very much
related to redemption, as we learn from Adam HaRishon:
He [G-d] said, "Who told you that you were unclothed? Did you eat from the
from the tree that I commanded you not to eat?"
The man said, "The woman you gave to be with me, she gave to me from the
tree, and I ate." (Bereishis 3:11)
Commenting on Adam's response, Rashi says:
Here he denied the good. (Rashi)
Hakores hatov -- recognition of good -- plays a major role in Creation. It
is more than just an issue of saying "thank you" for good received; it is
one of recognizing that all of life flows from G-d, every aspect of it.
That's why Dovid HaMelech was suited to be the primary author of Tehillim,
being someone who was able to trace every aspect of his life back to his
Creator, which he acknowledged in each psalm.
Adam's failure to see the creation of a wife as a "good" thing, one for
which he ought to have been grateful regardless of her involvement in the
sin, expedited his banishment from Gan Aiden. Had he not denied the good,
he would have had no choice but to take responsibility for what he had
done, which would have resulted in the necessary teshuvah to stay in the
Hence, Hallel is a verbalized perspective on life. It is born out of an
attitude of serving G-d with joy, regardless of the existing set of
circumstances. When said with the right understanding and intention, it is
indicative of one's connection to the Supernal Light of Creation, and thus
it is associated with the proclamation of miracles.
What a fitting way to end the Haggadah and the journey to freedom. In a
real sense, Hallel on Seder Night is the climax of the weeks of
preparation that began on Purim. It is the emanation of an Inner Light
that began on High and was channeled through the Bar Da'as -- the Jew who
fashioned himself into a conduit for Da'as Elokim, for the Da'as of the
Nun Sha'arei Binah -- the Fifty Gates of Understanding.
Hallel, like Shirah, is the song of the soul. It is the result of the body
being elevated to the vision of the soul, to a revelation of G-d so
pristine and breath-taking that it has no choice but to step back in awe,
and with gaping mouth, give way to the symphony of a soul united with its
This was Dovid HaMelech's vision, which made him the perfect extension of
G-d's hand in This World and author of Hallel. For this reason, he may
have been the "cornerstone that the builders rejected" (Tehillim 118:22),
but he was G-d's true anointed, and source of Moshiach -- the king who
will herald the final redemption for which we have waited until this very
day. He may have lived for only seventy years, but his legacy lives on
May we merit to see the redemption of the ALL of the Jewish people from
the four corners of the earth. May evil cease to exist and may we merit to
greet Moshiach without any further suffering.
Chag Kosher v'Samayach,
Text Copyright © 2004 Rabbi Pinchas Winston and Torah.org.