Pesach, the holiday that celebrates the liberation of the Jewish nation from
slavery in Egypt, begins this year at sunset on Wednesday, March 31, 1999. The
Seder is a special service unique to Pesach, and is conducted on the first
(and second, outside of Israel) night(s) of Pesach. The Seder centers around
the step of Maggid, in which we read the Hagadah, the story of our redemption
and related passages, praises, and prayers.
During our recitation of the Hagadah, we discuss the Four Sons: The Wise son,
the Wicked Son, the Simple Son, and the One Who Does Not Know How To Ask. Each
of these sons poses the father a challenge. The father must properly respond
to the challenge the child poses, and assure that his son properly appreciates
the significance of the redemption of the Jewish people. We find that the Wise
Son poses a rather straightforward question. He asks about what is occurring
on Pesach: "What is the meaning of the testimonies, statutes, and laws which
Hashem, G-d, has commanded you?"
The answer does not appear to address the question. The response, the Hagadah
tells us, is "Explain to him the laws of the Pesach offering: that no desert
may be eaten after the Pesach sacrifice." How is teaching the laws of the
Pesach offering, and specifically, a law concerning its consumption,
responsive to the Wise Son's query?
Rabbenu Bachya, in his introduction to his masterpiece Chovos HaLevavos,
explains his purpose for writing this book on proper conduct. He writes that
his work is intended for those who trust in Hashem and believe in His Torah.
It is to teach these individuals the foundations of faith and the duties of
the heart that he authored his book. He explicitly states that his work was
not intended to counter points of argument raised by heretics or hypocrites.
Rather, he wants to reveal the roots of the Jewish faith which are deeply
rooted in our intellect and the foundations of our Torah which are buried deep
within our souls. He explains his goal by means of a parable:
There was an astrologer who was known for his ability to divine the location
of buried treasure. On one occasion, he entered the courtyard of a beloved
friend of his, and sensed that booty was located underfoot. This astrologer
began digging, and located blackened coins. Although at first glance these
coins did not appear to be of any worth, the astrologer realized that the
coins were black due to tarnish and rust, and that there truly was a fortune
about to be revealed. To convince the homeowner that his discovery was
something to take notice of, he ordered that vinegar and salt be brought to
him. He began soaking the coin in this mixture, and sure enough, the coin
began to gleam a bright silver once again. He then told the homeowner to do
the same to the remainder of the trove, so that the magnitude of the discovery
would be revealed.
The Wise Son sincerely wants to know about the laws about Pesach. He truly
wants to appreciate the significance of the holiday and the events it
commemorates. He asks, "What is all of this? What does it mean?" The father's
response is intended to merely start the discovery process. The Wise Son's
understanding is clouded, and the father wants to clarify the matter. But this
cannot be done all at once. The Father begins by revealing one precious
nugget: The Pesach sacrifice is so unique that nothing can be eaten after it.
Of course, this is not the entire answer to the Wise Son's question. Just as
one coin had to be cleaned off to show the homeowner that a treasure was under
his very nose, so too does the Father begin with one small but insightful
piece of information to demonstrate to his son that Pesach is very special.
After the initial revelation, the discovery process can continue, with more
and more treasures of priceless value being unearthed as time progresses.
Rabbenu Bachya taught Mussar, ethical teachings, by revealing what appeared to
be hidden. The Father of the Hagadah is to teach his Wise Son in this fashion.
So too, are we to teach others about Pesach. We should attempt to dispel any
mystery or confusion about the departure from Egypt and the celebration of
Pesach. As with any task, there is a square one from where we all begin. It is
that "first step" that the Hagadah relates is the response to the Wise Son's
query. And it is that first step that we all must take on Pesach so that we
and all with us truly feel like we, ourselves, were liberated from slavery in
MAZEL TOV to Aryeh and Mindy Winter upon their recent marriage, and to their
families, the Winters of St. Louis and the Harris' of Telz-Stone. And...
MAZEL TOV to Ira and Chevi Ebbin upon their recent marriage, and to their
families, the Shurins and the Ebbins of Brooklyn. And...
MAZEL TOV to Rabbi and Mrs. Yankie Klein upon the birth of their daughter
Rachel, and to the proud grandparents, R' and Mrs. Joseph Klein and R' and
Mrs. Yosef Feit.
Welcome to the fifth volume of YomTov. I would like to thank all of the
readers who have, over the years, provided me with input, encouragement, and
ideas. It is greatly appreciated. That being said, I must apologize to all who
recently sent me e-mail. Due to a software problem, I have lost all of the e-
mail I received in the past month or so, much of which I had not replied to.
If you remember what you wrote, please re-send it to email@example.com.
Stay tuned for more Pesach posts, and if you want to access the Pesach
archives, head on over to http://www.torah.org/learning/yomtov and click on