V'HI SHE-AMDAH

The Netziv offers an enlightening insight on the placement of the paragraph "v'hi she-amdah" in our haggadah. This paragraph describes how in every generation enemies rise up to destroy the Jewish people, and every generation Hashem saves them from harm. This paragraph comes right after the mentioning of how Lavan HaArami tried to destroy the Jewish people even before they began. The Netziv asks what the connection is between the two? Granted, Lavan fits into the description of one who tried to destroy the Jews, but why is he any different than anyone else, and why should he be "privileged" with being the one who follows our declaration that we always have enemies and Hashem always saves us?

The Netziv answers that in actuality this paragraph refers not to Lavan, who comes afterwards, but rather to what comes before, namely the mentioning of the Brit Bein HaBetarim between Hashem and Avraham. In that covenant, Avraham is told that his children will be "geirim," sojourners in a land that is not there. This is exactly what Yaakov later told Pharaoh I come to sojourn in the land. Yaakov had no intention of staying in Egypt any longer than the famine would last. This idea is encapsulated in Moshe's final blessing to the Jewish people, when he speaks of "betach badad ein Yaakov" that Yaakov's intended legacy was that the Jews should be "badad," alone and separate from the nations that surrounded them.

Only after Yaakov passed away did things begin to go sour. Shemot Rabba tells us that the Jews ceased circumcising their sons so as to blend in more with their Egyptian hosts, and only then did the Egyptians actually turn against the Jews. This pattern is one that has been repeated countless times throughout Jewish history. As the gemara in Sanhedrin 104b notes, Hashem intended for the Jews to be "betach badad ein Yaakov," and instead they tried to assimilate and wound up being "[eichah] yashvah badad" a nation that was forced to sit by itself, destroyed and in mourning. Trying to become more like the surrounding society has only resulted in further hostilities against us in every age and in every place.

[ed note - Perhaps this can be connected to the fact that no non-Jew is allowed to partake of the Pesach sacrifice, and, by extension, of the Pesach seder. Our survival throughout the ages, which we celebrate on Pesach, is ultimately due to the fact that we remain separate from the other nations.]


  

L'SHANAH HA-BA'AH BIYERUSHALAYIM

The Yerushalmi in Berachot notes that the salvation of the Jews will happen little by little, like the rising of the sun which does not come up all at once but rather gradually makes it ascent. The students of the Vilna Gaon (G"RA) asked him why this has to be so? Why could Hashem not make the redemption happen in one big sound-and-light show? Certainly He is capable of such a feat!

The G"RA replied that this fact that the redemption will come gradually has nothing to do with Hashem and everything to do with us. If the redemption were to happen suddenly and totally, we would be unable to withstand the attribute of justice that would have free reign. Since an immediate redemption would not be due to our merits, our faults would be laid bare and no one would survive. At the same time, we would also not be prepared for the tremendous light of Hashem's glory that would accompany the redemption.

The G"RA also noted that the gemara in Ta'anit says that anyone who mourns for Yerushalayim will merit seeing its joy. What is interesting is that the gemara there speaks in the present tense, as if the individual who mourns is right now witnessing the joy of the rebuilt city. The G"RA noted that, as Rashi writes about Yoseif, a dead person is forgotten, while a person who is still alive is never forgotten. Thus, a person who mourns for Yerushalayim, by doing so bears witness to the fact that the city and all that it stands for is not dead. So long as a person can still actively mourn for Yerushalayim, it remains a vital part of the Jewish spirit, and thus it can be said that even now we are rejoicing, as Yerushalayim has not left us entirely.

 


 SHEMA AND THE HAGGADAH

The mishna of Rabi Elazar ben Azariah is a curious addition to the haggadah. On one level, its inclusion in our Pesach seder is simply a technical one we are speaking about the commandment of remembering the Exodus from Egypt, and thus we include a mishna that discusses our more general obligation to speak about the Exodus. However, as has been noted by many people over the generations, the daily mitzva to mention the Exodus is not the same as the once a year mitzva of telling the story in all of its details. This being so, why bother bringing in Rabi Elazar ben Azariah here?

I would like to suggest that there is a deeper message included here. The paragraph before the mishna of Rabi Elazar ben Azariah is the story of the five sages who stayed up all night one Pesach recounting the story of the Exodus. The story ends with their students telling them that the time of the morning Shema has come, and thus they must adjourn in order to pray. This language of the story is curious why did the students say that the "time of the morning Shema" had come, and not simply that daybreak had come or the time of prayers had come?

As we know, there are three parts to the Shema, each with its own theme. The third paragraph is that which discusses the Exodus from Egypt, and it is with the daily recital of that paragraph that we fulfill our daily requirement to remember the Exodus. This may only highlight our question more why would the students interrupt the Rabbis' discussion about the Exodus in order for them to mention the Exodus again? Why not leave them to continue what they were doing?

I believe that this peculiar language of the students, as well as the mishna of Rabi Elazar ben Azariah, points to a very important idea in Judaism in general. While there is a very special commandment to remember the Exodus on the night of Pesach and to discuss every intricacy and detail of every law of Pesach, there is also the more mundane daily commandment to remember that Hashem saved us form our Egyptian oppressors. While the experience of Pesach is one of the high points in the Jewish calendar, if the enthusiasm that accompanies Pesach cannot be translated into a daily recognition of all that Hashem has done for us, then it is merely a passing fancy nothing more than an excuse for families to get together and schools to have vacations. Not even the Pesach seder can override the "simple" daily requirement to recite the Shema both in the morning and in the evening (as per Rabi Elazar ben Azariah). Pesach is not a major media event. It is one of the highest forms of expression of praise and gratitude that we give to Hashem. However, failure to make these feelings a regular part of our lives undermines the entire message of Pesach.


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