Pesach & Tzav
The Sandwich of the Future
By Rabbi Yehudah Prero
“A reminder of the Bais HaMikdosh, like Hillel. So Hillel did at the
time the Bais HaMikdosh existed. He used to fold together Matza and Maror
and eat them together, to fulfill that which it says ‘and eat it with
matza and bitter herbs.’”
After eating Matza and Maror separately during the Seder, we have the step
of Korech. For Korech, we make a sandwich of sorts from the matza and the
maror, and prior to eating this sandwich, we recite the above
The Minchas Yitzchok notes that the verse we recite does not appear to
correspond with our actions on this evening. In the pronouncement, we are
recalling a practice that Hillel observed when the Bais HaMikdosh
existed. This practice is based on the literal reading of a verse. One
might assume that the verse quoted concerns the consumption of the Korbon
Pesach, the Paschal offering. However, that is not the case. That verse
states “And they shall eat the meat in that night, roasted with fire, and
unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it (Shmos 12:8).”
The verse quoted in the pronouncement comes from the portion of the Torah
that discusses Pesach Sheni.
What is Pesach Sheni? One who was ritually unclean, ta'mai, was not
allowed to bring and partake of the Korban Pesach. In Bamidbar 9:6-8, we
find that a group of people approached Moshe and Aharon at the time the
first Korbon Pesach was brought after the exodus. They, because of the
fact they were ritually unclean from contact with a corpse, were not able
to bring the offering. This group asked Moshe and Aharon "Why are we being
prevented to bring the offering with the rest of Israel, in the proper
time?' The response from Moshe was " Stand and hear what Hashem has
commanded you." Then, the Torah relates the laws concerning Pesach Sheni,
an opportunity for all those who missed bringing the Korban Pesach in the
proper time through no fault of their own, to bring this offering, and
fulfill this special mitzvah. In regards to this commandment, the Torah
states “The fourteenth day of the second month at evening they shall keep
it, and eat it with matza and bitter herbs.”
Why, when the Hagada discusses Korech, does it link Hillel’s custom to a
verse describing the offering brought on Pesach Sheni, as opposed to the
Korbon Pesach itself?
The Belzer Rebbe answers that the text we recite as part of Korech is
actually not a mere pronouncement – it is more of a request, a prayer. If
we are sitting at a Seder and have made it through the liturgy, practices
and customs of the evening, and arrived at Korech, it means we do not have
a Bais HaMikdosh and we are still in exile. It means yet another year in
which we were not able to bring our own Korbon Pesach has passed. Yet,
missing bringing the Korbon Pesach in its proper time does not mean all is
lost. The Torah allows for a make-up date: Pesach Sheni. At the very time
we recall a practice of one of our great sages from the days of the
existence of the Bais HaMikdosh, a practice we can only perform on this
night as a reminder of the days of old, we recall that we can still
perform the practice, as described in the Torah, this year. How can that
be? If our exile ends, Moshiach comes, we have a Bais HaMikdosh – we still
have the opportunity Pesach Sheni provides! It is for that reason we link
the practice of Hillel to Pesach Sheni: we “pray” that we have the
opportunity to eat this sandwich again, very soon, in the coming month,
when we bring our “make-up” Korbon Pesach on Pesach Sheni.
The Minchas Yitzchok notes that the pronouncement begins with the
statement that this “sandwich” is being consumed as a reminder of the Bais
HaMikdosh. While having such a reminder is appropriate – and there are
indeed other times during the Seder when we recall those days – it seems
unusual that we recall a custom of Hillel specifically for this
recollection. We eat the Afikoman – the matzo after the meal – as a
specific reminder of the Korbon Pesach, and therefore, it would seem, the
Bais HaMikdosh as well. Yet, we have Korech, and we state that it is
specifically Korech that is done as remembrance of the Bais HaMikdosh.
Why is that the case?
The Talmud (Bava Metzia 85b) relates that “Eliyahu used to frequent
Rebbi's academy. One day , it was the New Moon, he was waiting for him,
but he [Eliyahu] failed to come. Rebbi said to him [the next day]: Why did
you delay? He replied: [I had to wait] until I awoke Avraham, washed his
hands, and he prayed and I put him to rest again; likewise to Yitzchak and
Yaakov. “But why not awake them together?” I feared that they would grow
strong in prayer and bring Moshiach before his time.”
The power of the merits of our forefathers, united, is awesomely strong.
It is so strong that it could end our exile.
Mazta, the Shel”a writes, reminds us of Avraham. Both are linked to the
concept of protection and observance of mitzvos. The Torah (Shmos 12:17)
tells us that “matzos” are watched, guarded. Avraham is described
as “VaYishmor mishmarti,” “He protected My charge (Bereshis 26:5).” The
Korbon Pesach reminds us of Yitzchok. Before blessing his sons, Yitzchok
requested of Esav “go now to the flock, and fetch me from there two good
kids of the goats (Bereshis 27:9).” Why did he want two goats? Rashi
explains that one was for the Korbon Pesach. Maror reminds us of Yaakov.
The Medrash (Bereshis Rabba 84:3) tell us that the verse in Iyov (3:26) “I
had no tranquility I had no rest, nor was I quiet; yet trouble came”
refers to Yaakov, who related to Pharaoh the bitterness of his life by
stating that “few and evil have been the days of the years of my life
Korech combines elements that are representative of our forefathers. Not
only are they representative, but we join the elements together, to
further represent the special power that exists when the forefathers are
united. It is because of this allusion that Korech was selected to be the
reminder of the Bais HaMikdosh. It is specifically this practice, one that
was performed in the days of the Bais HaMikdosh and therefore reminiscent
of the days which we miss. The components thereof are also an allusion to
the end of exile for which we long.
Korech is not merely a reminder of days of old. It is a wish for what we
desire from the days to come.
Text Copyright © 2009 by Rabbi Yehudah Prero and Torah.org.
The author has Rabbinic ordination from Mesivta Tifereth Jerusalem, NY.