Monday, April 14, 2014

Dvar Torah for Pesach 5774/2014

       There is no question that the highlight of the holiday of Pesach is the Seder, and the highlight of the Seder is the section of Maggid, where we tell over the story of Yetzias Mitzrayim through stories, drashos, and songs. The Hagadah is unique in many aspects, yet we still take many of its components at face value without searching for a deeper understanding. For this reason, I like to focus the Divrei Torah for Pesach on different sections of the Hagadah and try to get a better understanding of those parts. This year, I would like to discuss the introductory paragraph to Maggid, “Ha Lachma Anya”.
       “Ha Lachma Anya” reads, “הָא לַחְמָא עַנְיָא דִי אֲכָלוּ אַבְהָתָנָא בְּאַרְעָא דְמִצְרָיִם. כָּל דִכְפִין יֵיתֵי וְיֵיכֹל, כָּל דִצְרִיךְ יֵיתֵי וְיִפְסַח. הָשַׁתָּא הָכָא, לְשָׁנָה הַבָּאָה בְּאַרְעָא דְיִשְׂרָאֵל. הָשַׁתָּא עַבְדֵי, לְשָׁנָה הַבָּאָה בְּנֵי חוֹרִין“This is the poor-man’s bread that our forefathers ate in the land of Egypt. Whoever is hungry may come and eat. Anyone who needs may come and eat the Pesach with us. Now we are here, next year we will be in the Land of Israel. This year we are slaves, next year we will be free men.” This paragraph appears to be an invitation to anyone who wants to come to our Seder and partake in our Korban Pesach (at the time when it was applicable), join our discussion of Yetzias Mitzrayim, or simply just to eat, to come and join us.
      Two questions came to me while reading this. First, if this is an invitation, why are we inviting people now after we have already made Kiddush and begun the Seder, shouldn’t we invite them before we begin? Secondly, and more obviously, this is really not much of an invitation. By the time we extend this invitation, everyone hopefully has a Seder to attend, and if someone did show up at our door, I can’t imagine that we would let them in!
       (As a side point to further strengthen this question, the paragraph mentions that we are inviting anyone to join us in the Korban Pesach. When the Beis Hamikdash stood and we had a Korban Pesach, you could not just join a group whenever you wanted, the group had to be formed before the korban was brought on the mizbe’ach! So by this point in the process, a person couldn’t join our Seder if they wanted to partake in our korban Pesach!)
       In the classic Jewish tradition, I would like to begin my answer with another question. “Ha Lachma Anya” begins by showing everyone a piece of Matzah and then inviting them to the Seder. What’s the big draw we are using to bring everyone to the Seder, a piece of Matzah. So essentially we are inviting everyone to a Matzah party! What type of meal is that? No one would accept an invitation to a meal where the food the host was showcasing was a giant, dry cracker! What is the connection between the Matzah and extending an open invitation to the Seder?
       The commentaries on the Hagadah all discuss the doubling of each sentence in “Ha Lachma Anya”, this year we’re slaves, next year we’ll be free, etc. Even though the first line where we showcase the Matzah does not seem to be included in this pattern, in fact it is. We might think we are still in Galus, we are still eating poor man’s bread, that we have nothing to show from the fact that we left Mitzrayim. But in fact, that is not true at all! All the shefa and brachah and kedushah that we have from the mitzvah of Korban Pesach (and the other mitzvos that followed it) comes from the fact that we left Mitzrayim! When we left Mitzrayim and became the nation of Hashem, Hashem infused us with a kedushah that is everlasting and that we constantly replenish with the constant remembrance of leaving Mitzrayim, which the main focus of comes on Seder night. All this is represented by the Matzah we hold up to show everyone. The Matzah that bridged our years of slavery with our newfound freedom and kedushah.    
       So when we give this invitation at the beginning of the Seder, we aren’t inviting people from the outside, though they are certainly welcome, we are inviting the people who are there with us! We are urging everyone present to be a part of the Seder; to share a Torah thought, a meal, a song, to accept the kedushah that comes with us having left Mitzrayim. It’s not an invitation as much as a pep talk for what’s to come. That’s why this invitation is given even when we don’t expect anyone to come and that’s why it’s placed here as opposed to before Kiddush. It’s not simply about inviting everyone to a meal and a celebration, it’s about inviting people to the Seder, inviting them to leave Mitzrayim with us and join us on the journey to becoming the Am Hashem and all that it entails.
       The Hagadah tells us that each person is obligated to imagine themselves as if they came out of Mitzrayim just this year. How is this possible? One way to begin is to understand what Yetzias Mitzrayim meant for us and how it is all represented by the Matzah we hold up at the beginning of Maggid when we say “Ha Lachma Anya”.

Chag Kosher V’Sameach!

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