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The Passover Hagadah

Urchatz, Karpas, Yachatz

by Rabbi Yehudah Prero

The next three steps of the Seder all share a common goal: to inspire the children to ask questions.

Question: How is the step of Karpas ( and Urchatz, which is essentially a "Halachik" preparation of our hands for performing Karaps, and therefore, really a "part" of Karpas) supposed to inspire children to ask questions?

Answer: The Maharal of Prague explains that there is disagreement as to how the step of Karpas is to accomplish this. The fact all agree on is that it is unusual for a person to dip food on two different occasions during one sitting for a meal. The item of contention is which of the two dippings we do tonight is "unusual" : the one before the main meal has begun, or the one during the course of the meal? { We know that during the Seder, we dip the Karpas in salt water before the meal (Shulcah Aruch) has begun, and the Maror in Charoses after we have already eaten the Matzo, which is considered during the meal.} If the dipping before the meal is unusual, when the child sees it he will then be inspired to ask "Why are we doing something out of the norm; We never do this by our meals at any other time during the year?". If the dipping during the meal is unusual, the child will ask the question then.

The Maharal feels that dipping during the meal must be the unusual one. Otherwise one could just dip before the meal, and accomplish the goal of piquing the child's curiosity. Another dipping would be superfluous. Yet, the Ma Nishtana contains the observation that what makes this night different is the two dippings. It must be the second of the two which is unusual and therefore inspires the child to ask. Therefore, we must dip as normal before the meal, so when during the meal we dip the Marror, the child will ask why we are doing so, to which we respond "Because of the special mitzvah of eating Marror which we have on this night, beacuse we were slaves in Egypt...."

Yachatz Our breaking of the middle Matzo by Yachatz and placing it aside is another unusual action. Again, we perform this unusual action to pique the child's curiosity, to inspire the child to ask questions now and throughout the next section of Maggid, and to keep the child awake throughout the Seder, in anticipation of finding out what is done with this Matzo which we hide away.

Question: Why do we hide this second piece of Matzo? If the goal of our breaking the Matzo was merely to pique the curiosity of the children etc., wouldn't breaking the Matzo and leaving both pieces untouched on the table until later be enough of a diversion from our normal course to accomplish the same goal?

Answer: The Vilna Gaon (a.k.a. the G"ra), gives a reason why we hide the piece of Matzo that will be used for the Afikoman and remove it from the table until after the meal. He says that the reason is very similar to the one given for why we cover the Challah when we say Kiddush, that being to prevent the "embarasment" of the Challah which is being passed over in favor of the wine. {Normally, bread is considered the most distinguished food, and the blessing on it comes before anything else. On Shabbos, we need to make Kiddush over wine before we begin the meal. Therefore, we cover the Challah bread, so it will not be "ashamed" that a blessing is being made on another food before it.} Similarly, when we later make the Brachot on different pieces of Matzo, we cover and remove the Afikoman from the table, to prevent it from embarrassment as it is being looked over, as it is not eaten until after the meal.

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For questions, comments, and topic requests, please write to Rabbi Yehudah Prero.



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