Thoughts on the Haggada of Pesach

17 March 2010

Rav Yisrael Ariel in his book The Haggada of the Mikdash explains that after the destruction of the Mikdash by the Romans the haggada of Pesach underwent a significant change. Whereas the main discussion of the seder during the time of the Mikdash was the halachot of the korban pesach, after its destruction the main emphasis of the haggada was the story of leaving Egypt (yetziat mitzrayim). Moreover, he calls the later version, the version which we still use today, the Haggada of the Galut.

Contemplating on the different emphasis, I believe there is an important lesson here. Although the word ‘pesach’ comes from G-d’s skipping over the Jewish homes, it’s obvious that we’re not just celebrating the fact that He killed the Egyptians and He didn’t kill us. More importantly, our taking the lamb in broad daylight (and of course the subsequent killing of the lamb and smearing its blood on the doorposts), regardless of the fact that this would clearly infuriate our Egyptians tormentors who worshipped the lamb, was a mighty show of trust in G-d (bitachon) and strength (gevura). For once we stopped fearing the mighty Egyptians and decided to follow Hashem no matter what, regardless of any consequences that might come about as a result of our bold behavior. Simply stated, this was a true act of mesirat nefesh. This is beautifully pointed out by a few commentators who highlight the fact that we were davka requested to roast the lamb on a fire, in clear view of our Egyptian oppressors, rather than in the comfortable and closed confines of our homes in order to clearly display our trust in G-d. This clear act of mesirut nefesh, our readiness to do whatever G-d requests of us regardless of what the powerful nations of the world might say or do, is the real freedom (herut) that is celebrated on Pesach. Moreover, it was only after we outwardly displayed this powerful inner freedom that G-d finally physically took us out of Egypt.

Thus, the korban pesach which we ate during the time that the Mikdash still existed, represented Jewish strength and might. In addition, it also represented an active display of following G-d in a difficult situation, rather than passively sitting around and waiting for something to happen.

Contrasting this is the current Haggada of the Galut with its emphasis on the story of yetziat mitzrayim. As opposed to the powerful display of bitachon, gevura and mesirut nefesh which is symbolized by the korban pesach, yetziat mitzrayim was purely passive. It wasn’t about us actively doing something to change our situation but it was simply G-d taking us out of Egypt. Moreover, the way we left Egypt was be-chipazon (hastily). Although the sages (chazal) differ as to whether this be-chipazon refers to the Jews leaving quickly out of fright or to the Egyptians quickly chasing us out, either way it was a far cry from the active display of bitachon and mesirut nefesh that was associated with the korban pesach.

The lesson should be clear. Through the grace of G-d we once again have a nation of our own, which means that millions of Jews are no longer living in the galut. If so, we need to stop with the galut mentality of fear and trepidation, passively waiting for something to happen, and start acting confidently, based upon a deep trust in Hashem and recognition of all that He has done for us, and actively doing whatever we can to change the situation.

It’s time to get back to the korban pesach mentality!

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2 Responses to Thoughts on the Haggada of Pesach

  1. jack cohen says:

    GREAT GREAT GREAT!!! your words are wonderful and inspiring and should be required reading for all. The Galut mentality must be removed and replaced with Jewish thoughts, belief and trust in G-D all the time. We must learn from our ancestors how to act, to be brave as they were and not to fear the nations of the world. Just look back to Joseph and how he treated the Egyptians and gave preferred treatement to his family over them. He was not afraid to talk to the king on behalf of his family. He was proud of his father and showed him off to the king. He ran from the palace when his father was ill and dropped all business concerns to deal with his family. Throughout the generations there were great Jewish leaders who helped their brethren at the “expense” of their “country” and not like those who used their Jewish brethren to better the country at the expense of the Jews. Keep up the great writing!!!

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