Rabbi Yonatan Rosensweig
Former Rosh Kollel in Melborune (2006-2009)
Currently Community Rabbi in Beit Shemesh


The Double Redemption of Pesach

In every one of the chagim we are instructed by the Torah to bring a sacrifice to the Beit Hamikdash. This applies to all the chagim, but with regards to Pesach we find that a special emphasis is put on eating the Korbon Pesach in a group, and there is a controversy in the gemara regarding the question of whether indeed one can bring a korbon pesach by himself. When we sit around the table on Erev Pesach, the first words of the Haggadah are words of invitation to those who don’t have where to eat and where to be, and though this it is a mitzvah to have the needy at your table during every chag – it is never as emphasized as it is on Pesach.

Quite ironically, it is on Pesach where many communities stay apart from each other, even within the community. So many chumras have developed around Pesach, from Kitniot to Kashering to Hecsherim on products that many refrain from eating at other peoples’ houses, sometimes even within families (I personally know the son of a chassidish rebbe in Israel who won’t eat at his brother’s house and vice versa). We have to get past all this. Though chumras on Pesach have always been acceptable, they are only the outer reflection of our holiday and do not symbolize its inner meaning. Pesach is truly about togetherness and our forging as one nation.

However, what does it mean to be a nation? On Pesach we were delivered from the hands of the Egyptians, and one might make the mistake of thinking that the Chag is primarily or even only about that physical redemption. However, the Haggadah shows us there is much more to it than that.

“כל המרבה הרי זה משובח” we say at the beginning of Maggid; Any one who adds is praiseworthy. It is important, we say, not only to say the words of the Maggid themselves but expand and expound on those things that we learn. This is something which the sages took very seriously as we see from the story of Rabbi Akiva and the rest of the rabbis who were at his house in Bnei-Brak. Yet, if you read Rashi’s commentary on the haggadah you will notice that there is one place where Rashi brings a version that was prevalent in some Haggadahs, and Rashi dismisses it because – as he says – it is not connected to the Haggadah. So not everything can be put in, according to Rashi. Whatever isn’t really connected should not be said.

In light of this information, we might be surprised to find at the end of Maggid several passages – specifically Dayeinu – which talk about Hashem bringing us to Har Sinai to accept the Torah, Hashem bringing us to Israel and Hashem building us the Beit Hamikdash. These, though important milestones in our development as a people, have nothing much to do with the redemption from Egypt, supposedly. Why, then, are they mentioned?

Naturally, our exposition must bring us to the conclusion that they are connected to the redemption, and that the story of the redemption would not be complete without them. Let us turn to the gemara to understand this point. The gemara brings a controversy between Rav and Shmuel; Rav says that the Haggadah starts from “Mitkhila…” – that our forefathers were idolaters in Egypt and Hashem elevated us to serve Him – while Shmuel says that the Haggadah starts with “Avadim Hayinu…” which is basically the story of our redemption from Egypt. The Rav, Rav Soloveitchik zt”l, explains that while the simple reading of the story supports Shmuel’s view – that Yetziat Mitzrayim is the story of our physical redemption – Rav adds another dimension to the story by speaking of our spiritual redemption. Bnei Israel did not only leave Egypt so that the bodily slavery would come to an end; Hashem released them so that they would stand in front of him on Har Sinai, receive the Torah and fulfill its laws, come to Israel, live there as a nation, and finally build the Beit Hamikdash as a house of worship to Hashem.

This is a very important point for us to understand and internalize: our physical redemption on Pesach cannot be separated and differentiated from the spiritual redemption we went through. The physical exodus would not have been worthwhile if a spiritual exodus would not have followed immediately. Freedom of the body demands a specified spiritual direction, so that the newly found freedom is not misused. So it was, then, that the moment Bnei Israel found themselves as a community, free to make its own choices, they also found themselves as a community that is bound by Hashem to a specific spiritual path.