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The Passover Hagadah

Maggid - Part 1: Beginning with Matza

by Rabbi Yehudah Prero

Question: Why do we begin the step of Maggid talking about Matzo (In "Ha Lachma Anya?")

Answer: In order to understand the answer to our question, we have to look at what we are saying carefully. The Hagadah begins with a declaration about the Matzo which we have before us. "This is the bread of affliction..." the Hagadah tells us, "that our forefathers ate in the land of Egypt". This passage is somewhat puzzling. If one looks in the Torah, the only mention of Matzo that will be found is in conjunction with our departure from Egypt. The reason why that Matzo was eaten was because our departure from Egypt was in such haste, that our dough did not have enough time to rise. So, what is this Matzo "that our forefathers ate in the land of Egypt"?

The Vilna Gaon answers that our forefathers most definitely ate Matzo during the time of their bondage in Egypt. However, the Torah only mentions Matzo in conjunction with our departure, which was a Simcha, a joyous occasion. Matzo, and particularly that which we are referring to now, symbolizes as well the hardship we, as slaves, suffered in Egypt.

It is clear that Matzo has a dual symbolism, representing both slavery and freedom. These two themes of slavery and freedom, although contradictory, appear throughout the course of the Seder. We begin Maggid by mentioning the Matzo, which epitomizes the contradictory themes of the evening, thereby setting a certain tone for the evening.

After we make the declaration about Matzo and its dual symbolism, we extend an invitation to all those who are in need of food or a Korbon Pesach. The Ya'avetz, Rav Yaakov Emden, writes that the invitation that we are extending to all those who are in need of food is directed towards non-Jews. This must be the case, Rav Emden says, as there is a custom to take care of the sustenance of the Jewish needy before Pesach (Maos Chittim/Kimcha D'Pischa). We extend this invitation to the non-Jews not because they have any mitzvah relating to Pesach. We do this in accordance with the Gemora in Gittin -" Mefarn'sin Aniyay Acu"m Im Aniyay Yisroel Mipnei Darchei Shalom," that we are to sustain the non-Jewish poor with the Jewish poor in order for there to be peace (between the Jews and non-Jews).

Once we have provided sustenance for our own poor before Pesach, we offer assistance to the non-Jewish poor. At the same time, we invite all Jews who are unable to perform the MITZVA of Pesach by themselves to come join us at our Seder.

The Vilna Gaon adds that it is due to this very fact, that we are inviting the poor, that we conclude this paragraph with "Hoshata Hacha, L'shana Ha'ba'ah...." Our poor brethren are not self reliant, and are depending on us for their meal. This may cause the poor and needy to feel bad about their situation on this night of celebration. We therefore try to comfort them by showing how we are all equal, in reality. Right now, "hoshata hacha, hoshata avdei" - we are all here and we are all slaves. Next year, we will all be in Jerusalem as free men.

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For questions, comments, and topic requests, please write to Rabbi Yehudah Prero.


 


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