Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Pesach Torah

Breaking Teeth

The Hagaddah says that for the wicked son (the rasha, spelled: Reish, Shin Ayin, remember this), a punishment of breaking his teeth (teeth, translated: shinayim) is in order. An obvious question: if we want this child to understand and appreciate Judaism, isn't there a better way to do so? You would think maybe an explanation is in order, or possibly even a potch. But to break his teeth?! That sounds a bit extreme.

Says the Belzer Rebbe: the rasha isn't completely wicked. He's only wicked externally. We can see this if we look at the outside letters of the word Rasha, Reish and Ayin, which spells Ra, or evil. But, what's left on the inside? The hebrew letter Shin. Shin, says the Rebbe, has 3 legs, one for each of the Avos: Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov. This Shin symbolizes the Pintele Yid (spark of a Jew) that we all have, even the most evil among us. Our job, ends the Rebbe, when faced with the Rasha is not to break his Shinayim (teeth), but to break away his Shin (the letter) from the other two letters (Reish and Ayin). We break apart the Pintele Yid from the Ra (evil) and hope that it, when standing alone, can flourish in a new environment.

Kadesh Urchatz

The U in Urchatz (really a Vav in Hebrew, meaning "and") seems to be connecting these first two steps in the Seder. No other steps are combined with this Vav - this must be coming to teach us something. However, these two things seem to be out of order (yes, yes, I know that we ALWAYS make Kiddush before we wash, but that is just halachically - if we look at the seder from merely a halachic standpoint, we're missing the boat). There is a concept of "Sur Mayrah v'Asay Tov" (literally, remove the bad, and then do good). This concept teaches us that if one is a bad person and wants to become better, first he must remove the bad in his life and then, and only then, should he do the good. Regarding Kadesh (Kiddush) and Urchatz (washing), Kadesh symbolizes the "Asay Tov" (making Kiddush is doing something positive), while the Urchatz symbolizes the "Sur Mayrah" (because we wash to remove the bad from our hands). Therefore, these two things are seemingly out of order - we should wash, remove the bad, and then make Kiddush, and do the good. Why is it like that?

The answer is because, even know we have the concept of "Sur Mayrah v'Asay Tov", this was not how our redemption from Egypt happened. There, we were at the depths of impurity - certainly not righteous Jews. Nevertheless, G-d redeemed us from Egypt. We see then, that
G-d removed us from Egypt before we were clean. According to our concept of "Sur Mayrah...", G-d should have waited until we had removed all impurity before he did his good deed of taking us out. Because G-d was the man and took us out even though we weren't pure, and the the Asay Tov before the Sur Mayrah, we make Kiddush before we wash.


The first section of the Haggadah, "Ha Lachma Anya", is written in Aramaic. This is unlike the rest of the Haggadah which is written in Hebrew. If the rest is in Hebrew, why is this section in Aramaic - what is it coming to teach us?

Historically, there have been other parts of our Jewish vocabulary that have emerged from Aramaic, most notably: the Jewish months (ie Tammuz, Sivan, etc.) Why did we take these from Aramaic? After the destruction of the first Temple, we sat in exile in Babylonia (where we spoke Aramaic and had Aramaic month names). Now, Hashem originally didn't want to build another temple until the end of time (ie, the 3rd one which we are now awaiting), but changed his mind had decided the 2nd one would do. However, this Temple lacked certain things which the 1st one had - for example: the Aron. Those coming from Bavel to Yerushalayim for the 2nd Temple period realized that this Temple was going to be lacking and decided to hold on to the Jewish month names - to teach their children that even know we are offering Karbanos on the Temple and all is good, it could still be better. Even though they had a Temple, they needed to be reminded by the Aramaic months that they could have more - they need to work for it.

So too, by our seder. The Aramaic paragraph (which is interestingly enough, the first paragraph) teaches us that even though we're celebrating being freed/redeemed from Egypt, we can still do better. It's important to remember that which happened in the past, but not at the expense of doing what it takes to ensure the best possible future for Klal Yisrael.

Connection between "Ha Lachma..." and Inviting others...

The paragraph starts out, "This is the bread of affliction, which our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt.", and is immediately followed by the phrase, "Let all who are hungry come and eat. Let all who are in need, come and celebrate Passover." What is the connection between the "bread of afflication" and inviting poor people over?

The gemara in Sanhedrin answers the question of why Hashem only created 1 man to start the world, and not many men. The answer, says the gemara, is that Hashem wanted to avoid any unnecessary arguments. If we all descended from 10 people, and not 1, it would inevitably happen that people would kvetch, "My Av was the best, better than the other 9." So, to minimize this, we all came from one person - we all have a common bond.

So why invite people at this part of the Seder? Why not do it earlier? We wait because this "bread of affliction" is another common bond, much like Adam haRishon. It didn't matter what type of Jew we were coming out of Egypt, we all had to eat the Matza (bread of affliction). Therefore, this is an appropriate time to invite the poor. We say to them, "it doesn't matter how much money you have, whether you're the one receiving the maiser money or giving it, we share a common bond, namely, this bread of affliction (Matza).

More to be added later....


Anonymous Peninah's mom said...

an idea for the rasha, from my father in law, Alav Hashalom..we used to call it "the pill story"...hakheh et shinav...when you have no teeth, you can only eat things which are either mushy or in pill form...the rasha doesn't want to work too hard to digest Judaism..he wants it easy..like in pill form...

9:10 PM, April 11, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for the Pesach divrei torah - the men were all impressed that I had something to say - and an original thought too. It was also cute at the second seder my 6 year old wouldn't let me get away without repeating my varts and says "Ma - ask why urchatz is the only one with the vav?". So my kids learnt too - thanks

9:04 PM, April 22, 2006

Blogger AlanLaz said...


Thanks for the comments. It's always more fun to actually know who's in my fan club though...

9:00 AM, April 23, 2006


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