DIVREI TORAH ON THE HAGGADAH
ALL FOR ME
We read in the Haggadah that "In every generation a person is required to see himself as if he left Egypt." TheNetziv, in his commentary Imrei Shefer, offers an interesting and unique approach to this phrase. He compares this line to the words of the Mishna in Sanhedrin 37a, which says that a person is required to say "For me the world was created." Removing that statement from in context in the Mishna, Netziv explains that the purpose of a person making such a statement is that if a person feels that all of creation was made for him, he will come to a greater love and appreciation of Hashem, and thus will focus himself even more than before on carrying out Hashem's will in the world. The same can be said with regard to the Exodus of Egypt. The entire purpose of the Exodus was so that Hashem could bring the Jews to Mount Sinai and there give them the Torah (see Shemot 3:12). Thus, if a person feels that the Exodus was done for him, that will entail a realization of the fact that the Torah was given specifically and directly to him, and will thus cause him to elevate himself in the learning of Torah and performance of the mitzvot.
WHO KNOWS ONE?
Perhaps the most neglected section of the Haggadah in terms of Divrei Torah is Nirtzah, generally thought of as a series of songs that include a few praises of Hashem and mention some basic Jewish ideas. We would like to offer an insight into "Echad Mi Yodei'ah" - "Who Knows One?" - as put forth by Rav Yaakov of Lissa, the other of the Netivot HaMishpat, in his commentary Ma'aseh Nissim.
Rav Yaakov claims that the thirteen things listed in this song are things that specifically separate the Jews from the other nations of the world. As such, they are to be seen as goodnesses that God has done for the Jews, and it was for the purpose of doing these things, and thus publicizing the glory of Hashem, that the Jews were brought down to Egypt. As such, this song is said in question-and-answer form, as it reflects a public declaration of the greatness of Hashem.
After declaring that Hashem is one, we go on to mention the two tablets that the commandments were inscribed upon. As the giving of the Torah was the entire purpose of the Exodus, they are a direct result of our having been in Egypt. We then repeat that Hashem is one, since the giving of the two tablets entailed a public display of Hashem's glory and might.
Our Forefathers and Foremothers are then mentioned, as they are considered to be uniquely ours, with the blessing of Hashem being passed down through them to the Jews, and not to any of their other children (see virtually all of Sefer Bereishit for more on this idea). They were the merit through which we were able to receive the two tablets, and thus we once again count down to the beginning.
Five and six mention the Written and the Oral Torah, which, as we have already noted, were the main reasons that we went down to Egypt and ultimately emerged from there.
Number seven is the fact that Hashem gave Shabbat to the Jews, something that he did not give to any other nations. By doing so, He separated the Jews and made them holy among all of the nations (to the point that a non-Jew who observes Shabbat properly incurs the death penalty). As this commandment was, according to the Sages, given at Marah before the giving of the Torah (see commentaries to Shemot 15:25), it served as well as one of the things by which the Jews merited the giving of the Torah, which we again count down to.
While the act of circumcision is one performed by many peoples and cultures, only the Jews have a "Brit Mila" - a covenant that is connected to this action. In fact, the term "mahul" - circumcised one - refers in the gemara only to Jews and not to anyone who has undergone such a procedure. Since Avraham accepted this commandment upon himself and his household, he merited that his descendants received the Torah and were distinguished by Hashem in all of the ways that we have already mentioned.
What about number nine? What is it about pregnancy and birth that is unique to the Jews? The Ma'aseh Nissim says that the term "leida" (birth) applies only to the descendants of Yaakov (based on Bamidbar 1:18), and that the true bond between father and son does not apply to the wicked in the world. Since we are the only nation considered to have an inherent ancestry and heritage, thus we thank Hashem for it, and once again list the other items.
The Ten Commandments are mentioned separately, even though we have already referred to the two tablets as well as the Written and Oral Laws, since we as a nation heard these commandments directly from the mouth of Hashem. As a result, the Jews' belief in Hashem and in prophecy in general was strengthened and they were able to maintain a firmer grasp on the entire Torah.
Why do we refer to stars in number eleven? The Akeidat Yitzchak notes that the actions of man have the power to influence that which goes on in the heavens. If man does well, then all goes well above, and if man fails to do well, then the celestial bodies fall into a state of confusion. Since the Torah is the ultimate guide to how man must act, following it will ensure peace in the heavens. Thus, the Jews are endowed with the unique capacity to positively affect both the lower and the upper worlds, by way of everything that we have mentioned in the song up to this point.
Building off of that point, the Jewish people function at their fullest only when they exist as a unified group of twelve tribes. This is highlighted by Yaakov's statement (Bereishit 42:38) that if the brothers would lose Binyamin, Yaakov himself would descend to the netherworld. This statement is explained by some commentaries as referring to the fact that his sons could only form a nation if all twelve were present and accounted for. Thus, one of Hashem's goodnesses is his forming of the nation in its full capacity, thus giving them the power, through the Torah, to influence both the lower and upper worlds, and thus to proclaim his Lordship over everything.
Finally, we come to Hashem's thirteen attributes of mercy. Without these, the nation would never have survived the sin of the golden calf or that of the spies. However, these attributes have guaranteed the existence of our nation, thus allowing us to exist as the symbol of Hashem's providence in the world. Thus, we count back all the way to one for one last time, tying together all thirteen elements of the song as a single plan to publicize the glory of Hashem.
GETTING A HEAD START
When telling the story of the Exodus, we say "Yachol Me-Rosh Chodesh" - suggesting that perhaps the commandment to tell the story could have taken effect not beginning on the night of the fifteenth of Nissan, but even from the first of the month. Why would we ask such a question? Do we suggest that one could take the lulav from the first day of Tishrei?
Rav Yoseif Dov Soloveitchik offers an explanation for this intriguing question, based on the words ofRambam. In Hil. Chametz U'Matzah 7:1, Rambam states that we have a commandment to tell over the story of the Exodus on the night of the fifteenth due to the verse of "zachor" - remember the day that you left Egypt. However, Rambam then goes a step further, stating that this is just like the "zachor" that we find by the commandment to keep the Shabbat. Why does Rambam do this? We certainly could figure out the meaning of the word without the extra verse!
Rav Soloveitchik suggests that this may provide the beginning of an answer to our question. By Shabbat, we begin thinking about and planning for it from the very beginning of the week. Our Song of the Day every day numbers each day as one more day closer to Shabbat, and the gemara is replete with stories of the Sages who would focus their entire week on preparing for the holy day. Perhaps the same might be true about Pesach - perhaps we should begin telling the story from the earliest feasible time, which would be not the beginning of the week, but the beginning of the month. While this explanation sees the Haggadah as speaking is response to or in accordance with the words of Rambam, it still leaves open the question of why either the composer of the Haggadah or Rambam himself see this as a connection. I leave this problem to our readership and look forward to any answers that people may have.
Back toChabura-Net's Home Page