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Posted on June 7, 2002 By Rabbi Yehudah Prero | Series: | Level:

Immediately following the enumeration of the Ten Plagues, the Hagada brings down a disagreement amongst the sages as to the exact number of plagues that occurred. The Vilna Gaon asks why the sages found it necessary to expound the exact number of plagues that occurred, and to dispute regarding how large that number was.

The Vilna Gaon explains that we see in Parshas B’shalach that Hashem promised the Jews a great good: “Kol Hamachala asher samti B’Mitzrayim lo asim alecha” , any affliction brought upon the Egyptians will not be brought upon the Jews. ( A similar statement can be found in Parshas Ekev) . The reason the Sages wanted to know the number of plagues is so that they would be included in “all of the plagues which I brought on Egypt.” Therefore, as Hashem will save us from that which afflicted Egypt, those plagues will not be brought on us. The reason for the increase in number follows the same reasoning: the more plagues that affected Egypt, the less that will affect us.

The Hagada continues with the enumeration of all the kindnesses Hashem bestowed upon us, starting from our departure from Egypt to the building of the Bais HaMikdash, the Holy Temple. Rashi tells us that the reason why we thank Hashem for giving us Shabbos is because Shabbos is a sign between Hashem and the Jews. This sign was given to the Jews before they went to Har Sinai and received the Torah, and therefore shows the closeness that existed between Hashem and the nation of Israel even before the Torah was given.

The Hadaga has now concluded relating the chain of events, the second factor which makes the Mitzvah of telling about our departure from Egypt unique tonight. The Hagada now continues with the third difference – explaining the reasons behind the Mitzvos of the evening.

Part IV:. The Reasons Behind The Mitzvos

The third section of the Hagada begins with an introduction. This introduction stresses the seriousness of our requirement of telling about the Mitzvos. Rabban Gamliel tells us that we must mention the Korbon Pesach, the Matzo, and the Maror. If we do not, we have not fulfilled our obligation of “remembering” our departure from Egypt.

The Kol Bo explains that Rabban Gamliel is telling us that even though a person may have eaten the Korbon Pesach, Matzo, and Maror, he still has not fulfilled his obligation without an Amira V’Hagada, a telling, about these Mitzvos.

The Beis HaLevi wondered what we are accomplishing when we ask what the reason is for the Mitzvos of Pesach, Matzo, and Maror. Why are we trying to explain the Mitzvos of the Torah?

He answers that we must understand that the world was created using the Torah as a blueprint. Because the Torah tells us to do or not to do a certain action, when the proper action is done, it sustains the world’s existence. The world works in accordance with the Torah.

In reality, we are not giving the true reason for the mitzvah, as that is impossible. There is no way that a person could understand or fathom the true reason for the mitzvah which Hashem established, and created the world in accordance with. However, when we are giving the reasons now, we are giving a reason for the mitzvah on our level of understanding, so we can “relate” to the mitzvah on a very superficial level. We must realize that this in no way is the true and absolute reason for the mitzvah.

The first mitzvah the Hagada mentions in that of the Korban Pesach, the Paschal sacrafice. There are eleven seperate mitzvos regarding the Korbon Pesach:

  1. To slaughter the Korbon is its proper time.
  2. Not to slaughter it while any Chametz is in one’s possession.
  3. Not to allow the night to pass without offering up the specified parts of the animal on the altar
  4. To eat the sacrafice with matzo and maror on the eve of the 15th of Nisan.
  5. Not to eat the sacrifice partially roasted or cooked in liquid; it must be totally Tzli Aish, roasted over fire.
  6. Not to remove the meat of the sacrifice from the group of people who joined together to eat that particular animal.
  7. The sacrifice should not be eaten by a Mumar, one who knowing acts against the ways of the Torah.
  8. The sacrifice should not be eaten by a non-Jew, a Toshav V’sachir
  9. The sacrifice should not be eaten by an Arel, one who is uncircumcised.
  10. The bones of the sacrifice should not be broken.
  11. Remnants of the sacrifice should not be left over until morning.

The next mitzvah that the Hagada discusses is that of Matza. The Tiferes Yisroel explains that just as the B’nai Yisroel were redeemed before the actual set time, (as we should have been in Egypt for 400 years, yet we were redeemed after 210 years) similarly, we are commanded to eat matzo, which the B’nai Yisroel ate before its fitting time (meaning that the bread was eaten before it was “bread”).

The third and final mitzvah that the Hagada discusses is that of Maror. The Baruch She’amar is bothered by this mitzvah. Seemingly, the reason behind eating Maror is not comparable to the reasons behind the eating of the Korban Pesach or the eating of the Matzo. The eating of the Korbon Pesach and the matzo are in remembrance of our salvation: Korbon Pesach – because Hashem passed over the houses of the B’nai Yisroel at the time of Macas Bechoros, the final plague ; Matzo – because this symbolizes the speediness of our departure. But Maror does not symbolize salvation, but rather it symbolizes the worry and pain and bitterness of life in Egypt. So, why then do we have this remembrance, and feel thanks because of this, as we say next in the upcoming paragraph of L’ficach?

Truthfully, there is a reason to have feelings of thanks. As we see in Parshas Lech Lecha, the exile was set at 400 years, and the Medrash explains that the hardship and the bitterness of life in Egypt caused the Jew’s freedom 190 years early. Therefore, Hoda’ah, thanks, also applies by the Maror, which quickened our departure from Egypt.

We conclude this section by saying that in every generation, we are required to view ourselves as if we actually left Egypt. Therefore, we are obligated to sing praise to Hashem for taking us out. Rav Y. Z. Soloveitchik explains that there are two types of Hallel – The Hallel which we are required to read on the 18 established days ( such as on Shavuos, Succos, etc); and the Hallel which is said as Shira, songs of praise, which one says when rescued from a tzara, a peril. The difference between the two is that the latter may only be said by the individual who experienced the salvation, while the former is said by all. The Hallel which we are about to say at this point in the Hagada we are saying as Shira. Therefore, we must preface this by saying B’chol dor va’dor…, that we are obligated to view ourselves as if we were saved from Egypt, and if that is the case, …L’fichach anachnu chayavim, we are obligated to say Hallel on our salvation.

The third section of the Hagada, and hence our minimal obligation of telling about our departure from Egypt, has ended. In conclusion, we now express our thanks to Hashem for taking us out of slavery in Egypt, to now serve Him, our sole master.

Part V: Expressions of Thanks and Praise to Hashem

The purpose of this section is explained by the Kol Bo. After we have just finished saying that we feel like we ourselves were redeemed from Egypt, we have an obligation to sing Shira to Hashem, just as our forefathers did.

The Meam Loez explains that once we have arrived at the point of praise, the Hagada then clarifies four points regarding praise: Who is to praise Hashem, as not all are fit to do so; Who are we to praise; When are we to praise; and where is He praised. The answers are shown to us through the selection of Psalms that we say at this point in the Hagada: We say “Halelu avdai Hashem” – only those who cling to Hashem like a slave to his master are worthy to praise Hashem; We must realize that we cannot praise Hashem and his greatness like we would a human king, as we cannot comprehend His greatness. Therefore, we can only praise His name “Halelu as shaim Hashem”; Until the generation of the Jews in Egypt, no person said Hallel or Shira to Hashem, as nobody recognized the ability of Hashem to perform miracles contrary to nature. With Makas Bechoros this ability was demonstrated and therefore we now are able to praise Hashem from now and forever – Yehi shem Hashem Mevorach me’ata v’ad olam ; Hashem rules and has control everywhere and over everything, and therefore we see Hashem has control over all nations, can raise the poor to riches, make the barren have children, etc. – “ram al kol goyim…..mi’kimi me’afar dal…moshivi akeres habayis…”.

We conclude our praise of Hashem with a blessing. In it we make the request that we should be able to eat from the sacrafices, whose blood is placed on the walls of the altar. Reb Y. Z. Soloveitchik asks why we make such an unusual request, one which we do not see elsewhere.

In Zevachim 26b, we learn that if the blood of a sacrifice was not sprinkled on its proper place on the altar, one may not eat the sacrifice, but one does achieve atonement. In regards to normal sacrifices, atonement can be achieved without proper blood sprinkling, and atonement is not affected by the fact that one can not eat the animal. However, by the Korban Pesach, the sacrafice had to be eaten “L’sova”, with satisfaction. This is accomplished by the eating of the Korban Chagiga, also. Both of these sacrifices NEED to be eaten to fulfill their purpose. Therefore, we ask Hashem that we should merit to have the Holy Temple returned to us. As the Holy Temple is absolutely necessary for the bringing of the Korban Pesach, as the altar is needed for the sprinkling of the blood, the ending of our exile is not enough. We need the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, so we can bring the sacrafice in a way we will be able to eat it.

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