Of the commandments that are particular to the Seder night, the broadest, and perhaps most perplexing, is that of Sippur Yetziat Mitzrayim, the injunction to tell over the story of the Exodus from Egypt. Our fulfillment of this commandment is most manifest in our recitation of the Magid section of the Haggadah, but clearly it does not stop there. Even within that section we are told the story of the five Rabbis who stayed up all night in Bnei-Brak recounting the wonders of the Exodus, until their students came to call them for the morning prayers.

Our goal herein will be twofold. First, we must answer a major question concerning the mere existence on the mitzva of Sippur Yetziat Mitzrayim: We know that there is a commandment to remember the Exodus every day, a commandment that we generally fulfill by reciting the third paragraph of the Shema. If this is so, then what is added by this special commandment on Pesach? Is one merely an expansion of the other? Are they separate commandments? If they are distinct, what distinguishes them and are they perhaps still connected in any way?

Our second issue will be to use our understanding of this commandment to try to make some sense of the structure of Magid. While we are all very familiar with all of the various paragraphs that we recite, we must consider the fact that Magid is essentially a hodgepodge of unrelated selections from Rabbinic literature. For now, we will offer just two examples. First, Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria's statement about trying to institute the mentioning of the Exodus at nights is not a statement that is in any way related to Pesach. Rather, it is a mishna in Berachot that speaks about the recitation of the Shema. Second, one of the central elements of Magid is the recounting of Jewish history beginning with Lavan's deceit of Yaakov (or possibly with Avraham - there is a big debate who "Arami Oveid Avi" refers to). Again, we must ask why that is directly relevant to the story of the Jews in Egypt and their eventual salvation. While we may be able to connect it, that does not explain its prominence in the Seder. We will return to these issues, along with several others, in the latter portions of this Chabura.


Let us begin now with our analysis of the first question posed. Rambam (Sefer HaMitzvot Aseh #157, Hil. Chametz U'Matzah 7) lists Sippur Yetziat Mitzrayim as its own commandment, although his sources are not so clear. In the Sefer HaMitzvot, he claims that this mitzva is based on the verse of "And you shall tell it to your sons (V'Higadeta L'vincha) on that day..." (Shemot 13:8), while in the Yad HaChazakah itself he lists both that verse and the verse of "Remember (Zachor) the day that you left Egypt..." (Shemot 13:3). In the latter locale, he uses Zachor to inform us of the existence of such a commandment, and V'Higadeta L'vincha to tell us that it must be fulfilled on the night of the fifteenth of Nissan. The Minchat Chinuch (#21) notes that Rambam uses both verses as complementary to each other, and thus both are needed.

We must now revisit our question. If we already have a commandment to mention the Exodus every day (and every night), what is added to this commandment on the night of the fifteenth? Is it merely a numbers game, i.e. by saying the Shema on that night we will fulfill two commandments instead of one, or is there something more substantial going on?

Rav Chaim Soloveitchik ("Grach") offers three distinctions between the two mitzvot. First he notes that the daily commandment to remember the Exodus can be done alone, while the specific commandment of Sippur must ideally be done with others (Rabbeinu Manoach encourages a person who would otherwise be alone to try to find other people to have Seder with so that he may fulfill this aspect). This element is accented by the fact that a person who is alone cannot simply read the story to himself, but must use the same question-and-answer format that would be used if others would be present (Ritva even says that a person who is alone must say the Ma Nishtana to himself). Second, Rav Chaim notes that, as per the mishna in Pesachim 116a, when telling the story on the night of Pesach we must begin with the shameful portions and conclude with praise. While the precise referents of this phrase will be dealt with as we proceed, it is certainly an element that is not necessary on any other day. Finally, Rav Chaim claims that the commandment on the first night of Pesach includes a requirement to discuss the reasons behind the various laws of Pesach, such as matza and maror. While our execution of this is clearest by our recitation of the mishna of Rabban Gamliel, we will see that this aspect plays a very large role in the whole of this mitzva.

There are a few other distinctions between Zeicher and Sippur that are offered. Rav Chaim's son, Rav Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik ("Griz") notes that not only does one have to discuss the reasons for the mitzvot while recounting the Exodus during the Seder, but he also must actually be involved in the performance of those mitzvot. This becomes an issue with regard to the latest time for fulfilling the mitzva of Sippur. If it is completely tied up in the performance of the mitzvot, then perhaps it is bound by midnight, as one may not eat matza after midnight. If, however, its connection to the actual performance of the mitzvot is loosened, then perhaps it can still be fulfilled throughout the entire night and into the morning (Shibbolei HaLeket notes that the five Rabbis could have continued discussing the Exodus all day if not for the fact that Shema is time bound and its time would have passed had they continued their discussions).

Finally, a distinction brought by Rav Chaim's grandson, Rav Yoseif Dov Soloveitchik ("The Rov"). In addition to those ideas already cited, he also notes the fact that the daily commandment to remember the Exodus has no connection to saying Hallel in praise of God for redeeming us. On the other hand, the mitzva of Sippur on the first night of Pesach entails a requirement to say Hallel. Thus, the mishna in Pesachim 116b discusses how much of Hallel must be appended to the end of Magid (we include the last two paragraphs at that point).

This view may provide us with another reason why no blessing is said on Hallel at the Seder. While many Rishonim (Ritzba, Maharam MiRutenberg, Rav Hai Gaon, Rav Tzemach Gaon, Rav Amram Gaon) actually advocated saying two blessing on Hallel at the Seder - one by Magid and one when we recite it after the meal, our custom is to follow Ra'avyah, Ritz Giat, Rosh, and the Tur, who follow Tosafot Rid and do not say a blessing on it at all, as it is all one unit and there is a huge time lapse in between the beginning and the end of its recitation. However, this idea of The Rov may offer a further explanation, one highlighted by the Derisha. He explains that saying Hallel at the Seder is a fulfillment of the need to see oneself as if they just came out of Egypt (as per Rambam's formulation that one has to actually imagine that it is happening to him right now). Just as the Jews said Hallel when they were redeemed, so too do we have to say it in our moment of (virtual ) redemption. Taking these two views together, it seems to me that there is no reason to make a blessing on Hallel, as it is not its own mitzva - it is merely a segment of the commandment to tell over the story of the Exodus.

This is all good and well, but there is at least one Rishon who maintains a connection between the daily mitzva of remembering the Exodus and the special mitzva on the first night of Pesach of recounting the entire story in full detail. In answer to the question of why there is no blessing made on the reading of the Haggadah (as there seemingly should be), Rif answers that we do, in a way, fulfill the need to make such a blessing. How so? Since the text of kiddush includes the phrase "Zeicher l'yetziat Mitzrayim" (a remembrance of the Exodus from Egypt), that counts as enough of a connection between the commandment to tell the story and some form of a blessing (which kiddush is) to fulfill this need (Rashba says that there is no blessing because the mitzva of Sippur has no fixed time limit). What is notable about the view of Rif is that this line in kiddush occurs in every kiddush during the year and addresses the daily commandment, and not the one for the first night of Pesach. Nevertheless, he maintains that while they may be very distinct in many aspects, there is still enough of a connection to allow for kiddush to cover the commandment of Sippur Yetziat Mitzrayim.


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