Pesach 5777

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The entire idea of the Hagaddah is to tell over to your children the Mesorah of our leaving Mitzrayim to come to a recognition of HaShem. The word Hagaddah actually means to tell. The Seder is the place where the Mesorah is transmitted from generation to generation. But we recognize that each child is different. One of the essentials of Jewish teaching is[1], “Teach the child according to his way, so that when he is older he will not turn away.” Therefore, it is not sufficient to tell us to teach our children in a general way. The Torah has four different Pesukim about how to teach each one of our children. That is why as we begin the Hagaddah we mention the four sons. It is to remind us that as we pass on our tradition, we need to accommodate the teaching to each of our children as they are.

Another major part of the structure of the Hagaddah is the question and answer format. In the Mishnah[2] and paskened in Halacha[3] is that the Hagaddah needs to begin with a question. Even if there is no child present, and all the participants are scholars, they need to ask. Even if one is by himself, he must ask and answer the question. The same is true of Torah in general. Torah is meant to be taught in this manner. That is why the Gemarra says[4] that those who study alone are to be punished by a sword. [Mori V’Rabi Rav Moshe Shapiro ZT”L once was asked in this context about the custom of R Elyashiv ZT”L to study alone. He responded in a tone that showed his distaste at the question, “If you would stand outside and listen as he learnt, you would be sure there were two people there, as he clearly expounded to himself in a way of question and answer.”]

That is why the Torah in four places describes the proper way to answer, and from these Pesukim Chazal derives the four prototypes of children/students. The last one is the one who is unable to ask. Normally we understand that to such a child you explain to him what he has not yet asked. Asking would seem to be perquisite to participation. Based on what we said previously, what can you teach someone who does not know how to ask? A close examination of the Pasuk ascribed to this type of child, and the introduction to how to discuss this with him, will possibly answer this problem.

“And you shall tell your child saying, because of this HaShem acted for me and took me out of Egypt[5].” There are two problems in this Pasuk. In the Hebrew it does not just say in the active voice, “You shall tell”, but in a causative form, to cause someone to say. Why?

The second question, is why does it have to repeat, “saying”? The Pasuk already said that you should tell the child, what is added by the word “saying”?

Both questions can be answered the same way[6]. The goal is not to give him an answer when he does not know how to ask. If so, that is not an answer, but a declaration. The goal is to open him up. It is to teach him how to ask. If someone is not curious about something, it means it is not important to them. If it is important, they will try to understand it. The goal is to cause them to ask. Therefore, the verb is causative, to cause them to cause you to have to tell them. And there is an extra word to teach us that we are not just declaring, but we are answering the questions that he now has.

That can be another level of understanding of another aspect of this child. The Hagaddah uses the feminine voice to tell us who needs to create this process. Numerous explanations are given for this. But based on what we just said, I would like to suggest another possibility.

The entire Lashon HaKodesh is based the dichotomy between masculine and feminine words. There is no neutral gender. The Maharal explains that the entire world is created in a format of Mashpia- to influence and give over sustenance, and Mekabel- to accept the influence and be a vessel to contain it and utilize. After someone has been Mekabel and accepted correctly, then they can be Mashpia on further. This idea can also be expressed by the concept of male and female. The male is Mashpia to the female who is Mekabel. She then takes that Hashpa’a and is Mashpia to a new life.

The Rasha asks questions, so it seems he is taking the Hagaddah seriously, so why is answered so curtly. The reason is because he is not a Mekabel. Before he asks the question he is already not willing to accept the answer. The question is to find a rationale to justify his approach, not to search for an answer within the framework of the Torah. To teach the unasking incurious child to ask, requires someone who is able to accept, and from within that framework understand. That is the function of the female.

The mother opens him up and causes to him to ask questions. But the questions come from a place of being a Mekabel- acceptance. That is the proper way to teach this child to ask. The Jewish people were saved because of faith (in as much as that word is an inexact translation of Emunah). They had the Emunah to begin to be able to ask, but in a way of acceptance. The mother is the one to teach to ask in such a way.

This idea can be seen in Tefila. At the end of Davening (depending on the various Nuschaos) we say אין כאלוקינו- there is none like HaShem. That is a declaration. Then why is the next stanza a question, “Who is like our God?” The answer is that we are obligated to ask and be curious and try to understand, but that only can come after we know that the basis – אין כאלוקינו.

The Sfas Emes says[7] that all of us have within ourselves some aspect of all four of the children. Part of the process of the Seder is to develop within ourselves the curiosity in a correct way, and from the place of acceptance of HaShem reach a deeper understanding of HaShem.

The Meaning of Nissan

The name of HaShem of הוי”ה has twelve possible ways to spell those four letters. (Usually four letters will have twenty-four possibilities, but since there are two Heh, there are twelve.) In the Sefarim those twelve ways are explained in various connections. One of the most well-known is parallel to the twelve months. In many Siddurim, they are printed before Musaf of Rosh Chodesh. Nissan is the first of these and is the Name of HaShem as it is actually written in its correct order as it is written in the Torah. The GR”A writes that the name of the month itself, ניסן, is also a name of HaShem. The letter נ is fifty, the letter ס is sixty. Those are the numbers five and six multiplied by ten. So Nissan is actually the letters of הוי”ה multiplied by ten. The י remains the same since it is already in the realm of the tens. What does this mean?

One could explain it in the following way. If we go back and look at the way ניסן is written it is היו”ה. That is the way that the letters are arranged for the month of Shevat[8]. What is the connection between Nissan and Shevat?

In the Gemarra it says that Kal Yisroel does not have a Mazal[9]. That means that even though HaShem created the world according to a certain order that His influence comes through the agency of Malachim represented by the signs of the stars, we are not part of that system. This is what is said to Avraham in Bris Bein HaBesarim[10], “Leave your astrology.” The Egyptians saw with their astrology that Moshe Rabbeinu could be killed by drowning. But he wasn’t since he is above that  realm.

But the Gemarra also says that “children, life, and livelihood are not dependent on merit but Mazal”. Tosafos[11] point out the contradiction, and answers that even Yisroel has a certain pattern that we are born with, but have the tools of Tefila and connection to HaShem to lift ourselves above it. In certain Sefarim it is written that the month of the Mazal of Yisroel is Shevat.

Shevat is the preparation for Adar and then Nissan. Adar is where after Haman casts lots and used that process to try to destroy the Jewish people, he himself is hoisted on his own gallows. Haman’s lots were to put us in the seemingly random existence of the world. But we overcome it. Nissan is again the ability to overcome the astrology of Egypt. Shevat is the last month where we seem to be in the natural world.

The sign of the month of Shevat is the pitcher of water. That is referred to in Chazal as “The water should flow from a pitcher.” The word Mazal is connected to that word of ‘pouring forth’. When we someone Mazal Tov, we are not saying ‘Good Luck’. We are saying let there be an outpouring of HaShem’s bounty, at this auspicious time. Therefore, the Mazal of Yisroel is this month, where there is an outpouring of good. This is also the month when Moshe began to review the Torah in Sefer Devarim. The Mazal of Klal Yisroel is the time to teach the Torah.

Now we can go back to word Nissan, and its connection to one of the variations of the name of HaShem. Shevat is the lower level where the letters are in the realm of the single digits. There we are living still in a connection to the world of Mazal. It is a Mazal of Yisroel, but a Mazal nonetheless. (The י always remains in the tens since there is always a connection to the higher realm.) Nissan we are uplifted to a higher level. Here we go above the Mazal, and that is the name of HaShem in the name of the month.

This can be seen in one other way. Each variation on the name of HaShem has an acrostic from a Pasuk that spells out that name. The month of Shevat is the Pasuk[12], “And it and its replacement will be holy.” Possibly, we are saying that Shevat, and its higher replacement, are both holy. Even though we are in the seemingly Mazal world of Shevat, there is a replacement that is higher. But both are actually holy.

[1]  משלי פרק כב – (ו) חֲנֹךְ לַנַּעַר עַל פִּי דַרְכּוֹ גַּם כִּי יַזְקִין לֹא יָסוּר מִמֶּנָּה:

[2]  פסחים דף קטז/א  – תנו רבנן חכם בנו שואלו ואם אינו חכם אשתו שואלתו ואם לאו הוא שואל לעצמו ואפילו שני תלמידי חכמים שיודעין בהלכות הפסח שואלין זה לזה:

[3]  אורח חיים – סימן תעג  – (ז) מוזגין לו מיד כוס שני, כדי שישאלו התינוקות למה שותים כוס שני קודם סעודה. ואם אין חכמה בבן, אביו מלמדו. אם אין לו בן, אשתו שואלתו; ואם לאו, הוא שואל את עצמו. ואפילו תלמידי חכמים שואלים זה לזה

[4]  ברכות דף סג/ב  – דאמר רבי יוסי ברבי חנינא מאי דכתיב חרב (על) [אל] הבדים ונואלו חרב על שונאיהם של תלמידי חכמים שיושבים בד בבד ועוסקים בתורה ולא עוד אלא שמטפשים

[5]  שמות פרק יג  – (ח) וְהִגַּדְתָּ לְבִנְךָ בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא לֵאמֹר בַּעֲבוּר זֶה עָשָׂה יְדֹוָד לִי בְּצֵאתִי מִמִּצְרָיִם:

[6] נמצא בהגדת מתיבתא בשם התולדות אדם.

[7]  אמרי אמת – ימים ראשונים של פסח  – אאזז”ל אמר בשם האר”י ז”ל שבמכוון נסמך החכם אצל הרשע שאם לא כן היה הרשע מחריב את העולם, בחינת ד’ בנים נמצאת בכל אדם,

[8]  ספר בני יששכר – מאמרי חדש שבט – מאמר א – מהות החודש:

בו ידובר מהות החדש וצירוף השם הנכבד המאיר ומזלו ושאר ענינים עפ”י ספר יצירה:

א) צירוף השם הנכבד המאיר בזה החדש הוא היו”ה, ויוצא מראשי תיבות הפסוק ה’מר י’מירנו ו’היה ה’וא [ויקרא כז לג], ואי”ה ידובר בזה כמה ענינים:

ב) בספר יצירה [פ”ה י’] המליך אות צ’ בלעיטה וקשר לו כתר וכו’, וצר בו דלי בעולם ושבט בשנה וקורקבן בנפש זכר ונקבה, ע”כ, אמרו התוכניים הראשונים כי מזל דלי הוא מזל ישראל, (הגם דקייל”ן אין מזל לישראל [שבת קנו.], היינו שישראל על ידי מעשיהן בתורה הופכין שפיטת המזל לכל אשר יחפצו, אבל על כל פנים בתולדה יש להן מזל, עיין בגמרא שבת [שם]), והנה יש לומר דלבעבור זה דלי הוא מזלו של ישראל, כי דלי עשוי לשאוב בו מים וזה פעולתו, והנה הוא משמש אל המים, ואין מים אלא תורה [ב”ק יז.] כמד”א [ישעיה נה א] הוי כל צמא לכו למים, להורות על האמור דמזלו של ישראל הוא עבד משמש אל התורה, והגם ששפיטת המזל מחייב באיזה אופן וכו’, הנה על ידי עסק התורה ומצות יתהפך הכל לטוב, ולכל אשר יחפוצו יטו את המזל כיון שמזלן הוא עבד משמש אל התורה,

[9]  שבת דף קנו/א – איתמר רבי חנינא אומר מזל מחכים מזל מעשיר ויש מזל לישראל רבי יוחנן אמר אין מזל לישראל ואזדא רבי יוחנן לטעמיה דאמר רבי יוחנן מניין שאין מזל לישראל שנאמר כה אמר ה’ אל דרך הגוים אל תלמדו ומאותות השמים אל תחתו כי יחתו הגוים מהמה הם יחתו ולא ישראל ואף רב סבר אין מזל לישראל

[10]  רש”י על בראשית פרק טו – (ה) ויוצא אתו החוצה – לפי פשוטו הוציאו מאהלו לחוץ לראות הכוכבים ולפי מדרשו אמר לו צא מאצטגנינות שלך שראית במזלות שאינך עתיד להעמיד בן אברם אין לו בן אבל אברהם יש לו בן וכן שרי לא תלד אבל שרה תלד אני קורא לכם שם אחר וישתנה המזל ד”א הוציאו מחללו של עולם והגביהו למעלה מן הכוכבים וזהו לשון הבטה מלמעלה למטה:

[11]  שבת דף קנו/א תד”ה אין – איתמר רבי חנינא אומר מזל מחכים מזל מעשיר ויש מזל לישראל רבי יוחנן אמר אין מזל לישראל ואזדא רבי יוחנן לטעמיה דאמר רבי יוחנן מניין שאין מזל לישראל שנאמר כה אמר ה’ אל דרך הגוים אל תלמדו ומאותות השמים אל תחתו כי יחתו הגוים מהמה הם יחתו ולא ישראל ואף רב סבר אין מזל לישראל ד

[12]  ויקרא פרק כז  – (י) לֹא יַחֲלִיפֶנּוּ וְלֹא יָמִיר אֹתוֹ טוֹב בְּרָע אוֹ רַע בְּטוֹב וְאִם הָמֵר יָמִיר בְּהֵמָה בִּבְהֵמָה וְהָיָה הוּא וּתְמוּרָתוֹ יִהְיֶה קֹּדֶשׁ:


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