Pesach/The Sedar Nights
Dedicated Leilui Nishmat In Loving Memory of My Aunt Rose Zetuney by
Her Nephew Alan Fallas
Pesach/The Sedar Nights
This Friday night begins the holiday of Pesach when we as Jews are commanded from the Torah to celebrate our freedom from slavery in Egypt over 3300 years ago and for expressing our gratitude and dedication to Hashem for saving us and giving us the Torah, the greatest gift a nation could ever receive!
The first mention of this obligation is in Parashat Shemot perek (12:26) where it says..."And it shall be when your children say to you, what is this service to you? You shall say, it is a Pesach feast offering to Hashem, Who passed over the homes of the children of Israel when He killed the first born of the Egyptians, but He saved our households!" The parasha continues again and says in (13;14), "And it shall be when your son will ask you at some future time, what is this? You shall say to him, 'With a strong hand Hashem removed us from Egypt from the house of bondage."
Linking the Generations…
We will all gather with our families to celebrate the Pesach Sedar meal. The word 'Seder' means order and the word 'Hagadah' means to tell over. We have an obligation from the Torah to tell over to our children the story of the Exodus from Egypt and how Hashem saved us from the hands of Pharoah. There are 4 times that the Torah tells of this obligation that represent the 4 ways that Hashem saved us and the 4 cups of wine that we drink on the Seder night. The gamatria for the Hebrew word for cup is “KOS” =86. Originally as a nation, we were supposed to be in Egypt for 430 years but with each time we raise the cup of wine, we are celebrating the fact that we are deducting one time of 86 years with each cup of wine which equals a total of 344 years, so in the end as a nation we really only spent 86 of the 430 years in hard labor while we were enslaved in Egypt.
The Torah brings up the four progressive stages of our redemption from Pharoah and Egypt that correspond to the four cups of wine that we are obligated to drink on the Sedar nights. These four expressions from the Torah as explained by Rav Bahya are:
1) "Vehotzeti"- "I shall take you out," Hashem will remove the Jewish people from the burdens of Slavery even before they were allowed to leave.
2) "Vehitzalti"- “I shall rescue you.” Hashem will take the Jewish people out of Egypt.
3) "Vegaalti"- "I shall redeem you" which alludes to the splitting of the Red Sea, when Hashem's outstretched arm literally saved B'nei Yisrael while crushing Egypts army in front of a demoralized Pharoah.
4) "Velakahti"- "I shall take you". Hashem took the Jews as His people when He gave them the Torah at Har Sinai. That was the ultimate climax to our redemption and the purpose of the Exodus!
The Hagadah has 1,820 words in it and describes how Hashem alone came down and not a malach (angel) to save us from the hands of the Egyptians. Hashem's name also appears in our Torah 1,820 times where as Moshe’s name is not even mentioned once because on this night the spotlight belongs to Hashem. The main part of the Seder night is called 'Magid' which is from the same word as 'Hagadah' which both mean, "To Tell Over". So the Seder night is a process that we practice one time each and every year that link the Generations! As Jews we have been following this practice from our fathers who learned from their fathers and so on going back over 3,300 years.
Before the eighth plague of Locusts, that Hashem sent to the Egyptians, Pharoah finally told Moshe to..."Go and serve Hashem" but without the children, thereby creating a division between father and son. Pharoah intentionally tried to disconnect the generations where the sons will not carry on their fathers beliefs. Once that connection from the fathers observance of Torah and Mitzvot was severed it would be quite simple to integrate the sons into the corrupt Egyptian culture so that they will intermarry and eventually the name of Israel and the Jewish nation, 'Has ve Shalom' would be lost. This was the ongoing practice of the nations throughout the ages with the Persians, the Greeks and the Romans, through the Spanish Inquisition and the Holocaust. This practice has been repeated with the destructive objective of causing the Jewish Nation to become extinct. We read in the Hagadah..."Ve he Sheamdah lavotenu velanu! Which means, "He (Hashem) stood firm for our fathers and for us." Ve he Sheamda continues..."In every generation from that time on there were those who would try and annihilate us, but the Holy one, Blessed is He, saved us from their hand!" It goes on to say, going all the way back to Laban, Yaakov's father-in-law who tried to cheat and destroy Yaakov and his family.
The Four Sons…
The Hagadah presents Four Sons who represent four different types of Jews. The four sons are Chacham (wise), Rasha (wicked), Tam (simple) and “V’she-eno' Yodea' Lish-al” (and he who does not know how to ask). The first letter of each one, put together, spells Herut, or freedom, which is the central theme of the holiday and another name for Pesach: Hag Herut. The four sons remind us that we have an obligation to teach our children each in their own way and at their appropriate level.
The Chacham is opposite the Son who doesn't know how to ask and the Tam is opposite the Rasha...why? Also, no matter what they're all your sons and even the Rasha can make Teshuvah! Why do we say echad Chacham and achad Rasha etc.....? This is to show that we have an obligation to teach our children in their own way that they will understand at their level. The order of the 4 sons from the Torah is Chacham is in devarim 6;20..."If your child asks you tomorrow, saying, what are the testimonies and the decrees and the ordinances that Hashem, our G-d commanded you?" Rasha is in shemot 12;26..."And it shall be that when your children say to you, 'what is this service to you?" Tam is in shemot 13;14..."And it shall be when your son will ask you at some future time, 'What is this?” And to that son that doesn't know how to ask is in shemot 13;8..."And you shall tell your son on that day, saying 'It is because of this that Hashem acted on my behalf when I left Egypt.”
Emunah in Hashem
From Rabbi David Sutton’s pamphlet on Pesach, he explains that the main focus of the Seder night is to strengthen our Emunah in Hashem. The source of all our Emunah is Yetziat Mitzrayim as it’s stated in the Ten Commandments...”I am Hashem, who took you out of Mitzrayim”. The Ro’sh says that if a person doesn’t believe in Yetziat Mitzrayim, then that person doesn’t believe in Hashem!
Some of the lessons of Yetziat Mitzrayim that we can internalize today are that Hashem can create something from nothing as he did when he sent the Ten Plagues to destroy Egypt throughout Pharaoh’s stubbornness to let B’nei Yisrael go. Hashems involvement in each one of our lives is on an individual basis and it’s our job to recognize Him from the open miracles to the Hashgacha peratit that we all experience in our daily lives. Hashem doesn't perform such open miracles as he did with Yetziat Mitzrayim anymore because He proved himself once to the world...that is to say that Hashems “Diploma” is hanging on the wall, lehavdil as a famous doctors diplomas and credentials hang on the walls of his office to show his high level of expertise in his field of medicine.
Emunah is not something intellectual rather it must become Instinctive and when a challenging situation arises in your life, your reaction must be to have complete Emunah and Trust in Hashem! The goal of the Seder night is to believe that each and every one of us were just saved from the bondage of Egypt by Hashem and now we are on our way to receive the Torah at Har Sinai! One way to do this as Rabbi Diamond has taught us many times before is by thinking back to a time in our lives when we were young and immature and we look back to where we came from. Maybe we started our career working for someone as a stock boy and now we’re the CEO of a multi-million dollar company! Or maybe we started out as a young bride and built a magnificent family with hundreds of descendants, looking back as a very elderly woman. How did any of these things happen? Only one answer...it was all from Hashem!!!
From this exercise we must learn to have Hakarat Hatov (gratitude) to Hashem in everything that we have or ever had in our lives because if not for Hashem, we would have nothing! Last is that we must look forward to the Geulah to bring us and all of Klal Yisrael to the days of the Mashiach where we along with the rest of the world will recognize Hashem as the only one true G-d and the Jewish Nation as His people forever! Amen!
Do We Really Feel Redemption Today?
During the rest of the year we can eat hametz which is flour and water thats left alone to rise. This, as opposed to Matzah that we eat on Pesach that's also flower and water but must be watched and hands on, which exemplifies how Hashem is "Hands on" guiding us every moment of our lives! A question that we must ask ourselves is..."Do we really feel the redemption that our ancestors experienced so many years ago, living as we do in the lap of luxury with every imaginable convenience?" As I stated earlier, for us to recapture that feeling, we must think back to when we were young, and remember how Hashem carried us along every step of the way. We have to be thankful for everything we went through in our lives and feel confident that Hashem will continue to guide us for the rest of our lives.
There’s an amazing story in Rabbi David Ashear’s latest “Living Emunah 4” book told by Rabbi Yitzchak Shlomo Unger of' Bnei Brak, which shows how much Hashem loves us when we go above and beyond our limits to follow the Torah and fulfill the mitzvot Hashem gave us!
One morning, one of Rabbi Unger’s congregants, whom we'll call Yosef, came to him all shaken up about a dream he had that night and related the following: Thirty years earlier, Yosef had been in a labor camp in Auschwitz. Toward the end of the war, Moshe was assigned to his barracks, who appeared to be very pious, the son of an illustrious Rabbi, who was following in his father's footsteps. Moshe had just been separated from his wife and children, who were taken to the gas chambers. Despite what he went through, he clung to Hashem, using his spare moments to learn and pray, and gave chizuk in Emunah to the other inmates. As the Yom Tov of Pesach was approaching, Moshe turned to Yosef' and said, "I managed to save up enough flour to bake two k'zeisot--- measures of matzah. If you go bake them, I'll give you one k'zayit, and we'll each do the mitzvah properly."
Yosef accepted and he managed to bake the matzot, but before he could make it back to the barracks, a Nazi caught him and started to viciously beat him. The matzah fell out of his jacket. The Nazi saw it, smashed it, and struck him again more forcefully. When the brute was finally done, Yosef was bloody and sore. He gathered up whatever fragments he could and managed to salvage one k’zayit worth of matzah. The question now arose. Who should eat it? Moshe, who owned the flour, or Yosef, who look the beating for baking the matzah? The men came to the agreement that Moshe, who owned the flour, would eat the k’zayit, but Yosef, who took the beating, would get the reward in Heaven for it. The next day, Moshe sang Hallel as they labored. He sang a little too loudly for one of the Nazis, who got angry and killed him on the spot.
Yosef managed to survive the war and rebuilt his life, eventually getting married and having children and grandchildren. Now, 30 years after the war ended, he had a strange dream in which he saw his friend Moshe, his face was shining. "Remember when I ate the matzah in the labor camp and gave you the reward.?" he said. "Please, give that reward back to me, I need it. Yosef replied in the dream, "I risked my life for that matzah. I took a beating for it. Why should I give it up'?"
And with that, Moshe left his dream...
In the morning, Yosef remembered the dream and was very disturbed. That's when he came to Rabbi Unger and told him what happened. He asked the Rabbi if he should give up the reward. Rabbi Unger said, "I don't know how to answer this question, but I will send you to the Rebbe of Machnovka, who will be able to help you."
Yosef presented his dilemma to the Rebbe, and the Rebbe told him, "It is only proper that you give him the reward." Yosef then asked, "Why is that proper? I suffered for it." The Rebbe replied, "Your friend Moshe can no longer do mitzvot, nor can his children, who also perished in the war. You, baruch Hashem, are alive, with a family. You can still fulfill mitzvot. You will also receive the rewards for all your children doing mitzvot, as well as their children, until the end of time. You can still put on tefillin; you can pray; you can make berachot; you can keep Shabbat and you can eat a k'zayit of matzah. Your potential is endless.
"Moshe, on the other hand, can't do anything. He doesn't have people doing mitzvot for him. Isn't it proper that you should at least give him the mitzvah that he did?"
Yosef agreed. The Rebbe then told him, "I want you to go to my shul late tonight, when nobody's there. Stand in front of the aron kodesh. Think about all you went through to bake that matzah, and the beating that you took. And only then, wholeheartedly, say that you give all that up to Moshe.” Yosef did as he was told, and that night a beaming Moshe came to him in a dream and thanked him for what he had done.
The next morning, Yosef went to the Rebbe and told him what happened. The Rebbe replied, "I want you to learn a lesson from this. Moshe was a very pious man, the son of a great tzaddik. He grew up religious and spent all his time in avodat Hashem, even in the labor camp. After he lost his wife and children, he still kept his cmunah and never stopped learning and praying. He died while saying Hallel, al kiddush Hashem. Chazal (pesachim 50a) tell us that anyone who dies al kiddush Hashem is elevated to a place in Gan Eden that no one else could reach. And still, after all that, years later, he is still yearning to go higher in Gan Eden. And for that, he needed the merit of this difficult mitzvah."
We can't imagine what mitzvot do for us. And when we do them in the face of difficulties, they become infinitely greater. How fortunate are we that we have opportunities to fulfill mitzvot all the time!
May we all have uplifting Seder nights, and May we be able to convey the story of our redemption to our children and grandchildren so that they may grow up and convey it to their children in order to link the generations. May we also learn from the story the importance of our mitzvot and how much they help to elevate the Neshamot of our ancestors in Olam Habah as we look forward to the coming of the Mashiach in our days! Amen!
To everyone a Chag Kasher Ve Sameach and Shabbat Shalom!
Rabbi Amram Sananes as written by Jack Rahmey
Eliyahu Ben Rachel Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher
Sarah Bat Chanah Esther Bat Sarah
Shulamit Bat Helaina Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana
Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther Rafael Ben Miriam
Rav Haim Ben Rivka Moshe Ben Mazal
Yitzchak Ben Adele Avraham Ben Mazal
Chanah Bat Esthe Ovadia Ben Esther
Moshe Ben Garaz Rahamim Ben Mazal
Avraham Ben Garaz Avraham Ben Mazal
Yaakov Ben Rachel Avraham Ben Kami
Meir Ben Latifa Moshe Ben Yael
Malka Bat Garaz Mordechai Ben Rachel
Yaakov Ben Leah Saadia Ben Miriam
Chacham Shaul Rachamim Ben Mazal
Natan Ben Rachel
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