Short Haggadah Bites To Uplift Your Seder Table
SoulCasts.org from Rabbi Josh Zebberman of Chabad of the Tri-Valley presents a series of Short Haggadah Bites for your Seder Table.
1. Passive Faith vs. Proactive Faith
The 3 matzahs represent the 3 facets of Jewish community; Kohen כהן, Levi לוי , Yisrael ישראל.
The first 3 letters of כהן לוי ישראל spells כלי – vessel. Matza which is traditionally the “bread of faith” inspires us to be an open vessel to something larger than our own selves.
Alternatively, the first 3 letters of ישראל לוי כהן in the reverse order spells ילך progress. We must not just be open to faith, we must actively progress in our faith.
(Likutei Taamim U’minhagim Haggadah shel Pesach)
2. How to be a Good Host
הָא לַחְמָא עַנְיָא דִּי אֲכָלוּ אַבְהָתָנָא בְאַרְעָא דְמִצְרָיִם. כָּל דִכְפִין יֵיתֵי וְיֵיכֹל, כָּל דִצְרִיךְ יֵיתֵי וְיִפְסַח
This is the bread of destitution that our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. Anyone who is famished should come and eat, anyone who is in need should come and partake of the Pesach sacrifice.
Why would we invite people to partake in the seder at this point when we already began rather than make this proclamation earlier at Shul?
In the event that we have guests that are less financially fortunate, we announce that we are all equally partaking in the “poor man’s bread” that our ancestors ate.
3. What Real Freedom Means
הָשַּׁתָּא הָכָא, לְשָׁנָה הַבָּאָה בְּאַרְעָא דְיִשְׂרָאֵל. הָשַּׁתָּא עַבְדֵי, לְשָׁנָה הַבָּאָה בְּנֵי חוֹרִין.
Now we are here, next year we will be in the land of Israel; this year we are slaves, next year we will be free people.
What is the reason for the hagada’s redundancy, first stating that “Now we are here, next year we will be in the land of Israel” and then again “this year we are slaves, next year we will be free people”?
This serves as a reminder that freedom is not solely defined by our geographical location (“in the land of Israel”), we also need to be internally “free people”.
(Toras Menachem 1962)
Lets remember what our job is
כָּל דִכְפִין יֵיתֵי וְיֵיכֹל, כָּל דִצְרִיךְ יֵיתֵי וְיִפְסַח
Anyone who is famished should come and eat, anyone who is in need should come and partake of the Pesach sacrifice.
Let’s not lose sight of our goal; the purpose of the invitation for “Anyone who is famished should come and eat” is so they can “ partake of the Pesach sacrifice”.
If we stay focused and engage our guests spiritually (in the Pesach sacrifice) and not just materially to “come and eat”, then indeed “next year we will be in the land of Israel…next year we will be free people.”
(Toras Menachem 1954)
4. Appreciate the Good in Life
שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אֵין אָנוּ מַטְבִּילִין אֲפִילוּ פַּעַם אֶחָת – הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה שְׁתֵּי פְעָמִים.
On all [other] nights, we don’t dip [our food], even one time; tonight [we dip it] twice.
In truth we also dip twice on the evening of Rosh Hashanah; We dip the challah into the honey and then the apple into the honey!?
However, when life is sweet like honey it is natural to not ask questions and appreciate the source, when life is bitter we tend to ask why. This serves as a reminder to recognise that everything is from Hashem.
(Reb Mendel Weiss of Borough Park)
5. Living a life of substance
שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ אוֹכְלִין בֵּין יוֹשְׁבִין וּבֵין מְסֻבִּין – הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה כֻּלָּנוּ מְסֻבִּין.
On [all] other nights, we eat either sitting or reclining; tonight we all recline.
Night can euphemistically refer to exile. What makes this “night” – dark exile different from all others?
The word מְסֻבִּין – recline can also be read as מְ-סֻבִּין “from husks”.
During this exile we tend to be superficial, like the husks of grain (klipa), thus neglecting the grain itself, what truly matters in life.
6. Debt-Free Freedom
וְאִלּוּ לֹא הוֹצִיא הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא אֶת אֲבוֹתֵינוּ מִמִּצְרָיִם, הֲרֵי אָנוּ וּבָנֵינוּ וּבְנֵי בָנֵינוּ מְשֻׁעְבָּדִים הָיִינוּ לְפַרְעֹה בְּמִצְרָיִם.
And if the Holy One, blessed be He, had not taken our ancestors from Egypt, behold we and our children and our children’s children would [all] be enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt.
How would we still be enslaved to Pharaoh were G-d not to redeem us; a) Pharaoh would not have been alive today, and b) the redemption was predetermined by G-d and promised to Avraham?
Were G-d not to redeem us, but rather Paroha redeemed us, we would have forever felt indebted to him. Give credit where credit is due.
7. An inspired Davening
מַעֲשֶׂה בְּרַבִּי אֱלִיעֶזֶר וְרַבִּי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ וְרַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן־עֲזַרְיָה וְרַבִּי עֲקִיבָא וְרַבִּי טַרְפוֹן שֶׁהָיוּ מְסֻבִּין בִּבְנֵי־בְרַק וְהָיוּ מְסַפְּרִים בִּיצִיאַת מִצְרַיִם כָּל־אוֹתוֹ הַלַּיְלָה, עַד שֶׁבָּאוּ תַלְמִידֵיהֶם וְאָמְרוּ לָהֶם רַבּוֹתֵינוּ הִגִּיעַ זְמַן קְרִיאַת שְׁמַע שֶׁל שַׁחֲרִית.
It happened once [on Pesach] that Rabbi Eliezer, Rabbi Yehoshua, Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah, Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Tarfon were reclining in Bnei Brak and were telling the story of the exodus from Egypt that whole night, until their students came and said to them, “The time of [reciting] the morning Shema has arrived.”
Why would these students assume that their Rabbis, who were prominent sages, would not be conscientious of when the Shema needs to be recited?
The Hebrew phrase for “telling the story of the exodus from Egypt that whole night” – מְסַפְּרִים בִּיצִיאַת מִצְרַיִם כָּל־אוֹתוֹ הַלַּיְלָה alternatively translates as being illuminated/enlightened by the exodus from Egypt that whole night.
As a reaction, their students declared, “The time of [reciting] the morning Shema has arrived!”, as if to say, now we can recite the Shema and declare G-d’s sovereignty genuinely!
(R’ Henech of Alexander)
8. Answer the Person, Not Just the Question
כְּנֶגֶד אַרְבָּעָה בָנִים דִּבְּרָה תוֹרָה: אֶחָד חָכָם, וְאֶחָד רָשָׁע, וְאֶחָד תָּם, וְאֶחָד שֶׁאֵינוֹ יוֹדֵעַ לִשְׁאוֹל.
Corresponding to four sons did the Torah speak; one [who is] wise, one [who is] evil, one who is innocent and one who doesn’t know to ask.
Each child gets their individualized response. While the Torah does communicate the same values to each child, the response is tailored.
In addition to focusing on answering questions, we must give attention to whom we are answering.
(Toras Menachem 1962)
9. Don’t let Your Questions Stop You
חָכָם מָה הוּא אוֹמֵר? מָה הָעֵדוֹת וְהַחֻקִּים וְהַמִּשְׁפָּטִים אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה ה’ אֱלֹהֵינוּ אֶתְכֶם. וְאַף אַתָּה אֱמוֹר לוֹ כְּהִלְכוֹת הַפֶּסַח: אֵין מַפְטִירִין אַחַר הַפֶּסַח אֲפִיקוֹמָן:
What does the wise [son] say? “‘What are these testimonies, statutes and judgments that the Lord our God commanded you?’ (Deuteronomy 6:20)” And accordingly you will say to him, as per the laws of the Pesach sacrifice, “We may not eat an afikoman [a dessert or other foods eaten after the meal] after [we are finished eating] the Pesach sacrifice
The wise son asks about the various types of Mitzvos; testimonial laws, statutes, and civil law, yet his question is not addressed. He is just instructed to follow the laws of the Pesach sacrifice.
Rabbi Shimon Sofer relays how in his youth he had questions relating to his faith that planted disturbing doubt in his mind. He came to his father Rabbi Moshe Sofer (known as the famed Chasam Sofer of Pressburg) and desperately conveyed his questions and concerns.
Rabbi Moshe Sofer listened to his son, but did not respond. Several days later He summoned his son and gave an explanation that clarified everything, not only answering the question, but deeming it irrelevant.
Rabbi Moshe Sofer explained to his son that he was trying to impart to him a powerful lesson; have faith that even the most difficult questions have answers, even if you aren’t yet aware of it.
10. There’s a Bigger Picture
רָשָׁע מָה הוּא אוֹמֵר? מָה הָעֲבוֹדָה הַזּאֹת לָכֶם. לָכֶם – וְלֹא לוֹ. וּלְפִי שֶׁהוֹצִיא אֶת עַצְמוֹ מִן הַכְּלָל כָּפַר בְּעִקָּר
What does the wicked [son] say? “‘What is this worship to you?’ (Exodus 12:26)” ‘To you’ and not ‘to him.’ And since he excluded himself from the collective, he denied a principle [of the Jewish faith]
What did the wicked son ask that was so wrong?
He is so caught up debating the details of Jewish practice and commandments and neglected the commander – G-d. He missed the point.
The Hebrew term וּלְפִי שֶׁהוֹצִיא אֶת עַצְמוֹ מִן הַכְּלָל translated here as “And since he excluded himself from the collective…” can literally be translated as, “and since he excluded himself from the general point…” he therefore “denied a principle [of the Jewish faith”
(Sefer Hasichos 1943)
11. Don’t Tolerate Lies
וְאַף אַתָּה הַקְהֵה אֶת שִׁנָּיו וֶאֱמוֹר לוֹ: “בַּעֲבוּר זֶה עָשָׂה ה’ לִי בְּצֵאתִי מִמִּצְרָיִם”.
And accordingly, you will blunt his teeth and say to him, “‘For the sake of this, did the Lord do [this] for me in my going out of Egypt’ (Exodus 13:8).”
How is it appropriate or effective to blunt his teeth?
There’s an entire discussion in the Talmud (Shabbos, Perek HaBoneh) about the significance of the Hebrew letters, their shapes,a nd juxtapositions. The Talmud there explains that the letter ש (shin) stands for שקר – lies.
The Hebrew term here used for “his teeth” is שִׁנָּיו which can also be understood as “his (letter) shin” , which stands for שקר – lies. We are instructed to hit the wicked person’s שקר – lies, which are causing him confusion.
Accordingly, the Talmud (Sota) says that a person would only sin if they were overcome by a delusional spirit.
12. Rise above nature
וְהִיא שֶׁעָמְדָה לַאֲבוֹתֵינוּ וְלָנוּ. שֶׁלֹּא אֶחָד בִּלְבָד עָמַד עָלֵינוּ לְכַלּוֹתֵנוּ, אֶלָּא שֶׁבְּכָל דּוֹר וָדוֹר עוֹמְדִים עָלֵינוּ לְכַלוֹתֵנוּ, וְהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מַצִּילֵנוּ מִיָּדָם.
And it is this that has stood for our ancestors and for us; since it is not [only] one [person or nation] that has stood [against] us to destroy us, but rather in each generation, they stand [against] us to destroy us, but the Holy One, blessed be He, rescues us from their hand.
What is the “this” that has “stood for our ancestors and us” referring to?
In the Arizal’s nusach of the Haggadah, the instructions “Lift up the cup” appear right before this paragraph.
The Hebrew word for cup – כוס has the same numerical value as the word הטבע – nature. כוס can also mean “cover”.
When we lift up our nature, as signified by the cup, which tends to cover up our true strengths and values, “this is what stood for our ancestors and us”.
(Sefer Hasichos 1943)
13. We’re All United
בִּמְתֵי מְעָט. כְּמָה שֶּׁנֶּאֱמַר: בְּשִׁבְעִים נֶפֶשׁ יָרְדוּ אֲבוֹתֶיךָ מִצְרָיְמָה, וְעַתָּה שָׂמְךָ ה’ אֱלֹהֶיךָ כְּכוֹכְבֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם לָרֹב.
“As a small number” – as it is stated (Deuteronomy 10:22), “With seventy souls did your ancestors come down to Egypt, and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars of the sky.”
The Hebrew term used for “With seventy souls…” – בְּשִׁבְעִים נֶפֶשׁ which literally translates as “soul” in the singular form. As if to say that when we went down to Egypt, we were united as one.
14. When it Comes to Punishments, Keep ‘em Short and Sweet
רַבִּי יְהוּדָה הָיָה נוֹתֵן בָּהֶם סִמָּנִים: דְּצַ”ךְ עַדַ”שׁ בְּאַחַ”ב
Rabbi Yehuda was accustomed to giving [the plagues] mnemonics: Detsakh [the Hebrew initials of the first three plagues], Adash [the Hebrew initials of the second three plagues], Beachav [the Hebrew initials of the last four plagues].
Rabbi Yehuda did not want to spend too much time articulating speech in relation to punishment and negativity, so he made an acronym to shorten it.