Rabbi Boaz Genut
Former Rosh Kollel in St. Louis
Former Executive Director of Torah Mitzion
Currently Director of the Department of Marriage and Community Affairs at Tzohar
As we approach the annual Pesach Seder, I took some time for myself, as I do each year, to explore the Haggadah, This year I decided to take an overview of the Haggadah, and I want to share with you a piece of the Magid.
The Magid portion is supposed to be the heart of the Haggadah in all aspects. It definitely has the longest text of all other Simanim. But it seems to be that it has no centrality besides that. Just take a quick look into the various Hagadahs’ commentaries and discover that when it comes to the second part of the Magid there is much less there than any other Siman. In my family we share many Divrei Torah and talk a lot about the Haggadah until the four children story, which is the point where the Magid seems to be long, difficult and unwelcoming. I always get the feeling that arriving to this point of the Magid is similar to going on a highway. Until you reach the highway you have many stops signs and traffic lights but once you’re on the highway you press the cruise button towards the next Simanim of the Haggadah. Well, to be honest, there are some delays around the four children and next to the ten plagues – traffic, you know – but in general the driving goes smoothly and without interruptions. Somehow it doesn’t seem to be right. As I said before – “The Magid is supposed to be the heart of the Haggadah”.
Let’s again take an overview of the structure of Magid.
The introduction includes the declaration in which we invite people in and the Ma Nishtan piece in which we encourage the children to question and participate in the Seder.
The verse: ” ָיִם ִצְר ְמ ַרְעֹה בּ ְפ ָיִינוּ ל ָדִים ה ֲב ע ,ה ַיּוֹצִיאֵנוּ ֱ ‘ ו א- ְיָד ָם בּ ִשּׁ לֹהֵינוּ מ טוּיָה ְ נ ַ ִזְרוֹע ָה וּב ֲזָק ח ” (Devarim 6:21) opens officially the relevant issue: the Exodus from Egypt, the house of slavery.
A discussion between sages presenting various opinions trying to define the required frequency of the Mitzva to tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt.
The four children paragraph.
The spiritual journey of the Jewish people from worshiping idles to worshiping G-D – ” ֲבוֹתֵינוּ ָיוּ א ָה ה ָר ֲבוֹדָה ז ְחִלָּה עוֹבְדֵי ע ִתּ מ , ַעֲבֹדָתוֹ ַמָּקוֹם ל ֵרְבָנוּ ה ַכְשָיו ק ְע ו”
The long interpretation on the paragraph: ” ִי אֹבֵד אָבִי ֲרַמּ א , ֶד ֵר ַי ו ְעָט ֵי מ ְת ִמ ָם בּ ָר שׁ ָג ַיּ ָה ו ַיְמ ִצְר מ ,ָדוֹל ְגוֹי גּ ָם ל ִי שׁ ְה ַי ו ,ָב ָר ָצוּם ו ע ” (Devarim 26:5), describing the journey of The Jewish people to Egypt, the suffering there and the process of the redemption through the many plagues.
The conclusion includes the three basic biblical obligations for this night and the obligation we should feel to praise Hashem.
Any discussion about the logic behind the Magid has to start with the following quote: “He should start with disgrace and conclude with praise, discussing from ” יִ ד אָב ֵ י אֹב ֲִרַמּ ” א until he concludes the entire paragraph.” (Mishna Masechet Pesachim 10, 4).
It is very easy to see how the principle of “start with disgrace and conclude with praise” was realized into the Magid text. We find it several times:
ִ י ָ ִצְר ְמ ַרְעֹה בּ ְפ ינ וּ ל ִ ָי ם ה יִ ָד ֲב ע ” is the disgrace versed by the praise of ” נוּ ה ֵ יא ִ ַיּ וֹצ ו ‘ֱ א-ם ָ שִּׁ ינוּ מ ֵלֹה “.
” ינוֵּ ֲבוֹ ת א יוָּ ָה ה ָר ָה ז ֲבוֹ ד ע יְֵד ִלָּה ע וֹב חְִתּ מ ” is the disgrace versed by the praise of ” בֹדָת וֹ ֲ ַע קוֹם ל ָ מַּ ֵרְבָנוּ ה ו ק יָ ַכְש ע ְ ו “.
What about the other part of the principle the Mishan has described – “discussing from ” ִי אֹבֵד אָבִי ֲרַמּ ” א until he concludes the entire paragraph”? Well, it’s there but doesn’t it fall into the category of “start with disgrace and conclude with praise”? What is the disgrace and what is the praise?
What about the other parts of the Magid? The introduction is meant to spark our interest in the Magid. The conclusion is meant to declare that thanks to the story of the Exodus from Egypt we are required to take actions and praise G-D. We need to understand what the extra two paragraphs are meant to do. I refer to the discussion between the sages and the four children story. What do they add?
I want to suggest the following idea, which was inspired by the book “Pesach Dorot” by Rabbi Dr. Yosef Tavori. I want to start with the last question first. The Magid should have concluded right after the verse of ” ָיִם ִצְר ְמ ַרְעֹה בּ ְפ ָיִינוּ ל ָדִים ה ֲב ע ,ה ַיּוֹצִיאֵנוּ ו ‘ ֱ א- ְיָד ָם בּ ִשּׁ לֹהֵינוּ מ ָה י ְטוּ נ ַ ִזְרוֹע ָה וּב ֲזָק ח ” !!! This is the essence of all we need to remember this night! What is the purpose of telling the same idea in details? The answer for that can be found in these two extra paragraphs.
The discussion between the sages is about expanding the obligation of remembering the Exodus from Egypt. All sages agree that there is more than just a basic obligation to do so. The story of the four children is about making the story of the Exodus from Egypt accessible for each child in his or her approach.
These two explain for us why we cannot be satisfied with the verse ָיִינוּ ָדִים ה ֲב עonly. We have to expand it beyond just telling the story of not being in slavery any longer. We have to do so for two reasons: one is the legal obligation (The discussion between the sages) and the second is the educational one (The story of the four children).
So here we are about to deepen our understanding of the Exodus from Egypt. This is exactly what happens next. First we are being taught that it was not just about leaving Egypt, the house of slavery. It is about leaving the worshiping of idols and the beginning of worshiping Hashem. This is the essence of the ” ֲבוֹדָה ֵי ע דְ ְחִלָּה עוֹב ִתּ מ ֲבוֹתֵינוּ ָיוּ א ָה ה ָר ז ,ָתוֹ ַעֲבֹד ַמָּקוֹם ל ֵרְבָנוּ ה ַכְשָיו ק ְע ו ” piece.
The second step is the piece of ” ִי אֹבֵד אָבִי ֲרַמּ א , ָם ָר שׁ ָג ַיּ ָה ו ַיְמ ִצְר ֶד מ ֵר ַי ו ְעָט ֵי מ ְת ִמ בּ ,ָדוֹל ְגוֹי גּ ָם ל ִי שׁ ְה ַי ו ,ָב ָר ָצוּם ו ע ” . What is the additional understanding of the Exodus from Egypt coming out of these paragraphs? Let’s get reminded of the frame work for the Magid: “start with disgrace and conclude with praise”. Could we find it here? Well. the only verse that the Mishna mentions is the one we just quoted: “discussing from ” יִ ד אָב ֵ ִי אֹב ֲרַמּ ” א Until he concludes the entire paragraph.” Perhaps the answer will be found if we’ll explore what is the conclusion of this paragraph in the Torah.:
ה י ֵ נ ְ פ ִ ל ָ תּ ְ רַ אָ מ ְ ו ָ ת י ִ נ ָ ע ְ ו ‘ ֱ א- ָ ך יֶ ֹה ל , י ִ אָ ב ד ֵ א ֹב יִ מּ ַ רֲ א , הָ מ ְ י ַ ר ְ צִ מ ד ֶ ר ֵ יּ ַ ו , םָ שׁ ר ָ ג ָ יּ ַ ו יֵ תְ מִ בּמ ; יִ ה ְ י ַ ו- םָ שׁ , ב ָ ר ָ ו ם וּ צ ָ ע ל וֹ ד ָ גּ י וֹ ג ְ ל . ם י ִ ר ְ צִ מַּ ה וּ נָ א ֹת וּ ע ֵ ר ָ יּ ַ ו , וּ נ וּ נּ ַ ע ְ י ַ ו ; וּ נ י ֵ ל ָ ע וּ נְ תּ ִ יּ ַ ו , הָ שָׁ ה ק ָ ב ֹד ֲ ע . קַ ע ְ צ ִ נּ ַ ו , לֶ א- ה ‘ ֱ א- וּ נ יֵ ב ֹת ֲ א יֵ ֹה ל ; ע ה ַ מְ שׁ ִ יּ ַ ו ‘ תֶ א- וּ נ ֵ ק ֹל , תֶ א א ְ ר ַ יּ ַ ו תֶ א ְ ו וּ נ ֵ י ְ נָ ע- תֶ א ְ ו וּ נ ֵ לָ מֲ ע- וּ נ ֵ צֲ ח ַ ל . ה וּ נֵ א ִ צ וֹ יּ ַ ו ‘ , ם ִ יַ ר ְ צִ מִּ מ , ה ָ י ט וּ ְ נ ַ ר ֹע ְ זִ ב ה וּ ָ ק ָ זֲ ח ד ָ יְ בּ , ֹל ד ָ א גּ ָ מ ֹר ְ ב וּ– ת א ֹת וֹ ְ ב וּ , ם יִ תְ מ ֹפ ְ ב וּ . וּ נֵ אִ ב ְ י ַ ו , לֶ א- ה ֶ זַּ ם ה ק וֹ ָ מַּ ה ; ןֶ תּ ִ יּ ַ ו- תֶ א וּ נ ָ לַזֹּאת ָאָרֶץ ה ה ,ָשׁ ְב ָלָב וּד ַת ח ָב ֶרֶץ ז א.
And thou shalt speak and say before the LORD thy God: ‘A wandering Aramean was my father, and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there, few in number; and he became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous. And the Egyptians dealt ill with us, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard bondage. And we cried unto the LORD, the God of our fathers, and the LORD heard our voice, and saw our affliction, and our toil, and our oppression. And the LORD brought us forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great terribleness, and with signs, and with wonders. And He hath brought us into this place, and hath given us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”
This paragraph includes a detailed description of the suffering we experienced in Egypt and how Hashem rescued us. It might be the best abridged summary of the story but it won’t justify including it in the Haggadah as the third and last step of deeper understanding of the Exodus from Egypt. It seems to me that its frame makes the major difference. Following the model of “start with disgrace and conclude with praise” we may argue that ” ָם ִצְרַ ְימָה ַוָיּגָר שׁ ַוֵיּרֶד מ ” (and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there) is the disgrace versed by the praise of ” ִאֵנוּ ְב ַי ו ,ֶל א-ֶה ַזּ ַמָּקוֹם ה ה ;ֶן ִתּ ַיּ ו-ֶת ָנוּ א ל-ַזֹּאת אָרֶץ ה ָ ה , ָש ְב ָלָב וּד ַת ח ָב ֶרֶץ ז א ” (He hath brought us into this place, and hath given us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey).
Accordingly, the Magid has three cycles of the story of the Exodus from Egypt. The first one is our physical freedom – we were slaves in Egypt and we’re not so any longer. The second one is the spiritual freedom – we were worshiping idols but now we serve Hashem. The third one is the combination between the two – we went out to exile in Egypt but we were saved and were brought back to Eretz Yisrael. Only in Eretz Yisrael the Jewish people will be able to realize both his physical and spiritual freedom and become independent.
In the Haggadah we quote almost the entire paragraph above with various interpretations by the sages. However. the most relevant pasuk seems to be missing. Indeed we mention Eretz Yisrael towards the end of the Dayeinu poem but we could have expected for more than that. Perhaps the reason for that is that we want to exemplify the idea that many of us are still lacking this aspect.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Mevorach