The Hagadah is a stimulating collection of stories, drashos and songs, some of which we are more familiar with and some less. The Hagadah in general has always been something that I enjoy working on. Much of what we read in it is taken for granted but in reality has a lot of depth for its’ position in the Hagadah as well as its’ own meaning.
One example is the paragraph found close to the beginning of Magid. “מַעֲשֶׂה בְּרַבִּי אֱלִיעֶזֶר וְרַבִּי יְהוֹשֻעַ וְרַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן עֲזַרְיָה וְרַבְּי עֲקִיבָא וְרַבִּי טַרְפוֹן שֶהָיוּ מְסֻבִּין בִּבְנֵי בְרַק, וְהָיוּ מְסַפְּרִים בִּיצִיאַת מִצְרַיִם כָּל אוֹתוֹ הַלַּיְלָה עַד שֶׁבָּאוּ תַלְמִידֵיהֶם וְאָמְרוּ לָהֶם: רַבּוֹתֵינוּ, הִגִּיעַ זְמַן קְרִיאַת שְׁמַע שֶׁל שַׁחֲרִית”. Five of the greatest rabbis of the generation all spent the Seder together in Bnei Brak, the hometown of Rabbi Akiva, one of the rabbis in the story. The Leil Shimurim asks that since Rabbi Akiva was not the greatest rabbi at this Seder, why did they all come to his town as apposed to one of the other Rabbi’s cities? Furthermore, one of the rabbis at the Seder, Rabbi Eliezer, was of the opinion that you had to spend every holiday with your family in your own house so what was he doing in Bnei Brak with Rabbi Akiva?
To answer, he brings the famous Gemarah at the end of Maseches Makkos (24a-b) where Rabban Gamliel, Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah, Rabbi Yehoshua and Rabbi Akiva were walking by the ruins of the Beis Hamikdash when they saw a fox running out of the ruins. All the rabbis started crying except for Rabbi Akiva who began to laugh. When asked to explain apparently strange behavior, he replied that there was a prophecy which connected the prophecies of Uriah HaKohen and Zechariah HaNavi. Seeing how these two men lived in two completely different eras, what could be the connection between them? Rabbi Akiva explained, “אלא תלה הכתוב נבואתו של זכריה בנבואתו של אוריה באוריה כתיב (מיכה ג, יב) לכן בגללכם ציון שדה תחרש [וגו'] בזכריה כתיב (זכריה ח, ד) עוד ישבו זקנים וזקנות ברחובות ירושלם עד שלא נתקיימה נבואתו של אוריה הייתי מתיירא שלא תתקיים נבואתו של זכריה עכשיו שנתקיימה נבואתו של אוריה בידוע שנבואתו של זכריה מתקיימת” “The pasuk is making the prophecy of Zechariah dependent on the prophecy of Uriah. (Uriah’s prophecy has to do with the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash while Zechariah’s has to do with the future redemption.) …Until Uriah’s prophecy was fulfilled, I could not know for sure that Zechariah’s would be as well. Now that I see that Uriah’s has been fulfilled, I know that so will Zechariah’s.” (Makkos 24b). With this explanation, the other Rabbis declared that they had been consoled over the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash.
This was Rabbi Akiva’s special middah, even in the darkest moments, he had the ability to see the light of cheirus, freedom, right around the corner. Even when the ruins of the Beis Hamikdash still sat smoldering on the Temple Mount while wild animals ran amongst them, he was able to visualize the future when the Beis Hamikdash would again stand tall in all its’ glory. This same perspective was needed when Bnei Yisrael were in Mitzrayim. No slave had ever escaped from Mitzrayim and by the time the Plagues began, the entire nation had been enslaved for over 200 years; from every logical standpoint, there was no way they could escape from Mitzrayim. Perhaps we can say that this ability to see cheirus is the attribute of the entire holiday of Pesach.
For this reason, explains the Leil Shimurim, these great Rabbis all gathered by Rabbi Akiva. Rabbi Akiva’s words by the ruins of the Beis Hamikdash had greatly consoled them over the destruction. And in order to show him the proper appreciation, they came to visit him in his city, on his holiday, the holiday which requires you to see cheirus, Rabbi Akiva’s middah.
Let us take this to heart and concentrate this Pesach on seeing the potential for our own personal cheirus, whatever level it might be on or whatever issue it might be for, ultimately culminating in cheirus from this galus and the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash. Then we may truly understand and unleash what Pesach is all about. May this be the chag that we achieve complete cheirus.
L’Shana Haba’a B’Yerushalayim!
Chag Kosher V’Sameach!
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