Rabbi Eli Teitelbaum is a Rebbi at the Yeshiva and Mesivta Torah Temimah, Director of Camp Sídei Chemed International, Israel and Executive Director of the Torah Communications Network, producers of Dail-A-Daf, Dial-A-Shiur, Shiur Yomi and Mishnah-On-The-Phone.
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Pesach is that extraordinary Yom Tov on which all the others are based. After all, donít they all revert back to Yetzias Mitzraim ? Pesach night is that very unique time when we discuss the story of Yetzias Mitzrayim (redemption from Egypt), which led to the birth of our nationhood. We try our utmost to elicit questions from all participants in the hope of stimulating within them a desire to comprehend the meaning of Yetzias Mitzrayim to its very last detail. Itís the one special night when we strive to clarify and explain to our children and students the very essence of our emunah (faith) and the great miraculous ways in which Hashem took us out of Mitzrayim and made us into His nation.
In fact, the word Pesach itself also stands for opening. For itís the night that we must open our childrenís minds to the point where there are no more questions or doubts as to the basic tenets of our emunah. We must totally remove any question from their minds and hearts until they are completely immersed in the proper service of Hashem.
Even the Aseres Hadibros themselves starts with "I am Hashem who took you out of Mitzraim" rather than "Who Created heaven and earth". This shows us the great importance given to yetzias Mitzrayim. The purpose of questions is, of course, to shed light and bring clarity to a difficult subject.
Over the many years of teaching I realize that I owe the greatest debt of thanks to my dear and treasured students who never failed to keep me on my toes with their wise and clever queries. There is nothing more enjoyable than having students that are ihbgf ktua (ask to the point) . For itís their many tough questions that help clarify issues even to the Rebbi himself. This is certainly what our chachomim (sages) had in mind when they said that one learns more from his students than even from oneís own Rebbi. Itís their questions that have propelled me into taking pen in hand and putting down the answers that came to mind. Many of the answers came to me during the interesting discussions we shared. Unfortunately I never kept records and therefore donít remember the names of the students who asked many of these simplistic but brilliant questions. I thank them all the same, for itís their thought-provoking questions that stimulated me to think as well. I must admit, however, that many of their questions have stumped me, and I was not ashamed to say, I donít know.
One must realize that many of their questions can probably be found in the Meforshim, and a variety of answers can be found in all four different parts of Torah, be it píshat, remez, drush and sod. However, Iíve tried my best to answer them in the simplest manner possible in order to show them that their questions can be answered even on the very basic level.
I greatly appreciate my readersí comments and certainly would like to hear your answers to these questions.
THE FESTIVAL OF MATZOS
The Yom Tov of Pesach has many names. Itís called Pesach (a) in tribute to Hashem having mercy upon us and passing over our houses, and (b) because of the korbon Pesach which was one of the Mitzvos which was responsible for us being able to leave. Itís also called zíman cheirusainu - the time of our freedom. Yet the Torah always calls it Chag HaMatzos - the Yom Tov of Matzos. Whenever we find Pesach mentioned in the Torah it is always in reference to the korbon Pesach, not the name of the Yom Tov. This seems quite strange.
1) The most appropriate name for the Yom Tov should have been zíman cheirusainu - the Yom Tov of our freedom. The eating of the Matzos was only one small detail in the process of our freedom. Why give it the main billing? If you want to name the Yom Tov after a food we eat, why not call it Chag HaPesach, the way we do? Why Chag HaMatzos?
2) Why do we play up the seemingly unimportant detail of what we ate on the way out of Mitzrayim? Why is the food we ate upon our release such an important factor in our freedom that the entire Yom Tov is named after it? Had everyone eaten ice cream or pizza on the way out of Mitzrayim, would we be required to eat it nowadays as well?
3) Even if we assume that the reason weeat Matzoh is in commemoration of the food we ate on our way out of Mitzrayim (líhavdil ) like the goyim eat turkey on Thanksgiving), why eliminate all Chometz? Why does chometz suddenly become all that bad that not only canít we eat it, but we canít even possess the smallest speck of it? We canít even lock it up in some closet under guard of lock and key. It may absolutely not be in our possession. Nowhere does it say that the Jews on their way out of Mitzrayim possessed absolutely no chometz. Chances are they did. In fact, we find that those people who celebrate Pesach Sheni (because they were tomei are permitted to have all the chometz they want on Pesach Sheni.
4) If chometz is so bad (it represents the yetzer hora), then why are we permitted to eat it all year long?
5) Why was a korbon mincha never allowed to become chometz and anyone that was chometz was never allowed to be put on the mizbeach (altar), even if it wasnít Pesach? Can there be something wrong with chometz that Hashem never ever wants us to put it on the mizbayach?
6) Why does Hashem give us specific instructions to make the shtei halechem brought on Shavuos chometz, and thereby unable to be put on the mizbayach. (We give it to the Kohanim.) If chometz is so bad on Pesach, why does it suddenly become the in thing on Shavuos? (One could ask the same about the lachmei todah which were partly chometz).
7) When we begin saying the Haggadah, we refer to the Matzoh as the "poor manís bread eaten while we were in Mitzrayim." "This is the bread of affliction which our forefathers ate in the land of Egypt." Yet we all know that the Matzoh is eaten because that is what the Yidden ate in the process of leaving Mitzrayim "for there was no time for the dough of our ancestors to become leavened" - and not because of what we ate in Mitzrayim itself.
8) Shouldnít we be required to eat the Matzoh as a commemoration of the Matzoh our fathers ate the night of the geulah (redemption) itself? Why do we eat it in commemoration of what first happened the next morning? Or why not for both reasons?
9) The ingredients of chometz and Matzoh are exactly the same. They are both made from flour and water. Then, why does the poor man eat the plain Matzoh. For the same money he can bake it into good delicious fluffy chometz? Itís not going to cost him a single penny extra, so why not enjoy it for the same money?
10) Doesnít it seem kind of strange: The Yidden have already suffered two hundred and ten years in Mitzrayim. They are now leaving, heading toward a desert where they cannot possibly find any food. Why not give them just a little more time to prepare some good sandwiches for the trip? If they were there for so long, whatís so terrible if they took another few hours? Whatís the great hurry? Whats the big rush? They had waited this long. They could wait just a little longer. Would those few extra hours mean that all the Jews would have fallen into the bottom stage of tumoh (the fiftieth shaar hatumoh) from which there was no way out? Itís hard to imagine that they had lasted so long and they couldnít take it a few hours longer?
11) We find that the future redemption will be very similar to yetzias Mitzrayim. As it says, "like the days that you went out of Egypt I will show you wonders". Yet in Sefer Yeshayahu we find that it says "you will not go out in haste" - exactly the opposite of yetzias Mitzrayim. If haste is so important in leaving the golus Mitzrayim, why shouldnít it be as important in the final geula?
I guess we have asked enough questions, so letís now get on to the answers.
Indeed, Chometz and Matzoh have the same identical ingredients. In fact, they may be only a single second apart. One moment itís Matzoh, and Poof! The next moment itís transformed into chometz. One second can make the entire difference. Matzoh can turn to chometz, but chometz canít turn back to Matzoh. Itís too late! The damage is already done. One cannot go back in time. Chometz can never turn back into matzoh.
Interestingly enough, we even see this in the very letters of the words themselves. The only difference between them is the ches and thehey. The difference between a ches and hey is only one tiny drop of ink. Attach the little leg of the hey to its roof, and it turns into a ches. Matzoh turns to chometz. It takes a fraction of a second extra to write the word chometz than the wordmatzoh.
The only difference between Matzoh and chometz is the element of time. There is no other difference. But time makes a load of difference! One second can make a world of difference.
The Gemorah (Taanis) tells us a story about the great tzaddik Nochum Ish Gam Zu. He was once riding on a donkey, when he was approached by a poor man asking for something to eat. Surely said Reb Nochum Ish Gam Zu, With the greatest of pleasure! But let me first unload my donkey." This way he could probably feed the poor man properly. Perhaps the tastier food was at the bottom! Certainly the great tzaddik had the best of intentions! Yet, as he was in the process of unloading the donkey the poor man died. That poor man couldnít wait that one extra second. He was starved to death! To him that one extra second made the difference between life and death.
A poor man barely scrapes together the few pennies he needs to buy water and flour. He canít afford the sky rocketing price of ready-made food. He mixes it together quickly and puts it in the oven. He canít afford the luxury of waiting till it rises as the rich man does. Heís starved. Every second counts. He doesnít have the time to wait till it rises. If he doesnít bake it quickly, it may be too late!
The Jews in Mitzrayim were in a similar predicament. The moment the time of the geulah came they had to get out as quickly as possible. Every second of delay could mean one more person sinking into the depths of the Egyptian tumoh from where there was no way out.
Every second of delay may have meant one more person lost from Klal Yisroel forever. Four-fifths of Klal Yisroel were killed during the makkoh of choshech (Plague of Darkness) because they were too far gone. (In fact, some say only one of 500 left Mitzrayim.) They were beyond help. They were beyond rescue. They were lost forever.
Hashem could not bring the geulah earlier by even one second. He had specified the exact precise moment of the Geulah. Those that could not hold out till then were forever lost to Klal Yisroel.
But the very moment the golus was over, Hashem would not wait even one extra second. Every second may have meant more lives being lost. The geulah would have to be accomplished as fast as possible. There was no time even to make some delicious chometz sandwiches. One more life could be lost. Who knows if that one might not have been one of our own great great .... grandfathers? Our chazal tell us that "rescuing even one Jewish soul is like upholding our entire world." Donít ever underestimate the greatness and preciousness of a single Jewish life. Just think of the eventual generations that one person may bring.
Shaul Hamelech lost his kingdom because he didnít realize the danger of allowing even one Amoleki to live. We still suffer today, thousands of years later because of this one seemingly little mistake.
Matzoh is made quickly. Chometz needs time. And therefore chometz symbolizes the yetzer hora. His entire tactic is time. Why do the mitzvah now? Why not delay it for later? Itís going to be much better if we take our time and make the proper preparations. Letís unload the donkey and spread everything out properly. Set the table with nice linens, dishes and fancy spreads and then weíll invite the poor man to eat a proper meal. We forget that when weíre playing with a life or death situation, we have no time. The poor man may die in the interim. If we donít get out of Mitzrayim quickly enough, one more person will become a statistic and fall into the tumoh of Mitzraim.
The yetzer hora always uses the tactic of You have plenty of time. Whatís the hurry? to lead us astray. He tries to convince us how much better it would be if we did the exact same thing later. After all, chometz tastes much, much better than Matzoh. Why not wait a bit and enjoy it properly?
But just think back. How many mitzvos have we lost because we waited too long? Weíll daven mincha a little later. Suddenly we look at our watch. Itís too late! Weíll play now and learn later. Later weíre already much too tired, so there is no later. Heís always telling us later, tomorrow. And we fall for his bag of tricks.
"Tomorrow" can mean a considerable amount of time later. It doesnít always necessarily mean literally tomorrow.Chazal explain that the word mochor (tomorrow) in the Torah, can also mean after a long time.
Throughout our life the yetzer hora plays the same tricks, and uses the same tactics, and we never really catch on. First get educated. Then open a business and make lots of money. Then later youíll have plenty of time for learning, and youíll be able to give plenty of tzedakah. Sounds good, doesnít it! The yetzer horaís not such a bad guy after all. Look at the brilliant ideas he comes up with. Only one problem. Itís all theoretical. It never works practically. It sounds like a great idea, but itís an illusion. It looks real, sounds real, but itís a mirage. The Rambam warns us of his seemingly clever theories. (See hilchos Talmud Torah perek 3- "Should you say that first Iíll gather money and then Iíll go back to learning, or Iíll buy what I need and then Iíll find time to learn - if this thought ever enters your heart, then you will never merit wearing the crown of Torah".)
All those that have tried to prove the Rambam wrong have failed. The Rambam knew exactly what heís talking about. He had a deep insight into the yetzer horaís tactics. Wait! Take your time. Not now, later. Tomorrow. Tomorrow. And tomorrow.
How many times have we fallen for his bait? Your mother or father asks you to do something now. You answer, soon, later, tomorrow. In the meantime the Mitzvah gets swept under the carpet, soon to be forgotten completely.
Something you enjoy very much you donít put off for later. If you love it, then youíll do it right away. If you keep delaying it, thatís proof that you donít like it so much. Hashem doesnít want chometz on His mizbayach. If you really like Him and want to bring Him a present, why are you taking your time? You should be doing it quickly. Hashem doesnít want your presents unless you bring it with a full heart. If you do it slowly or keep putting it off, you probably are doing it half-heartedly. Kohanim must do their avodah quickly, for this is a sign that they enjoy what they are doing. (The word tzav - command - is a language that means speed.)
When the recess bell rings, you donít walk slowly to the playing field . You run. Maybe weíll have recess soon, later, tomorrow. No sir! Nothing can stand in your way.
I once read a story about Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev. He was in such a hurry to fulfill the mitzvah of Esrog and Lulav on Sukkos morning that in his excitement he didnít realize that there was a glass window in the way. By mistake he broke it. Thatís called true enthusiasm for a Mitzvah.
Our Chazal teach us "When a mitzvah comes in your direction, never delay it!" It must be done quickly with great speed, like Matzoh. Donít fall prey to the yetzer horaís delaying tactics. Heís the chometz. He has plenty of time. Theyíre meant to get you to forget about the Mitzvah completely. A few extra seconds can mean missing the Mitzvah entirely. Thatís what happened to the great tzaddik Nochum Ish Gam Zu. He had the best of intentions, but that didnít do the poor man any good! He died!
Chazal tell us that "the yeast in the dough tries to hold us back from performing the Mitzvah". Throughout oneís life the yetzer hora always tells a man, Donít worry. Whatís the hurry? You still have plenty of time. What the rush! Youíre still so young. Youíve got so many years ahead of you. Youíll have plenty of time to do the Mitzvos later. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. It comes and goes, comes and goes, and before you turn around the years slip by slowly but surely. The person doesnít realize the emergency till itís too late. The yetzer hora stands there laughing. Heís done it again. He won once more. The same trick works over and over again. People just never learn. And thatís the lesson of Matzoh. When we are in danger of falling victim to the yetzer hora, then we must be quick, hurry, speed. Donít delay for even one second. Grab the Mitzvah as quickly as possible, while you still can.
Even the very words ,umn and ,umn are spelled the same. They both must be done quickly. And thatís the first Rashi in parshas Tzav-Be quick!-When commanded to do something you must hurry! Everything in life can be replaced. A broken house can be rebuilt. A broken tree can be replanted. But time can never be replaced. Once itís gone, itís gone forever. No scientist has yet been able to invent a machine that takes you back in time. Time moves forward only. Matzoh can turn into chometz, but chometz can never turn back into Matzoh.
Only on Shavuos the time of the giving of our Torah, should we take all the time we want. We can learn and learn and learn and never stop. (If that disgusting one meets you, then pull him into the bais hamedrash.) Take the yetzer hora along with you into the bais hamedrash. Now tell him youíve got all the time in the world. (Now chometz is fine.) Youíre in absolutely no hurry. All of a sudden heíll change his tune. Quick, weíd better move on. Weíve got many other things to do. Ah! Ah! Now you play chometz - take all the time in the world. Youíre in no hurry at all. And if he still tells you to be quick - that there are so many other important things to take care of, then advise him of the v,hnv ouh (the day of death). Soon chas vísholom, maybe the last. Youíre right. You donít have time. It may soon be too late!
How does dough turn into bread? The invisible yeast cells floating about in the air attack the piece of dough causing chemical changes that make the piece of dough fluff up. These small yeast cells are everywhere. They may be invisible to the eye but they are all about us nevertheless. They symbolize the Yetzer hora that seems invisible yet is all around us. They give the bread its fluffy appearance, making it seem a lot larger than it really is. It looks big from the outside, but itís really only full of air. This symbolizes the baal gaavoh - the haughty person who makes himself a lot bigger than he really is. If we act very quickly the yeast doesnít have a chance to multiply and cause problems. If we do the Mitzvah quickly the yetzer hora wonít have a chance to stop us.
However, we find that the novi Yeshayahu tells us that the future geulah will be totally different. There the posuk says "There will be no need for haste or speed. There will be no need to rush out quickly. There will be plenty of time." Thatís because in the future, Hashem will destroy the tumoh completely. Therefore, there will be absolutely no worry that a Jew chas vísholom might fall into the tumoh anymore. Therefore, thereís absolutely no need to hurry. We can take our time. By the Golus Mitzrayim, Hashem took us out from the tumoh, but the tumoh still existed. But, by the final geulah, Hashem will destroy the tumoh forever.
Matzos represent speed. We thank Hashem for having taken us out with great speed, for otherwise some of us might not be around today. And thatís why it says that "a person is required to see himself as if he went out of Egypt"
In order to get out of Mitzrayim we want no part of chometz, which represents the yetzer hora and taking of time. We donít even allow one tiny drop into our house. We donít want it in our possession. Our lives are in danger. We donít have one second to waste.
And so the entire Yom Tov is called Chag HaMatzos - which expresses the importance of speed. We eat the Matzos not because we ate them in Mitzrayim. That wouldnít have been reason enough. We eat them to show our thanks and gratitude to Hashem for having taken us out with such speed. So we could have eaten delicious chometz! Who cares? We were able to save lives, which was far more important! When our lives are in danger we had better move quickly. Thereís no time to delay. Grab the mitzvos as quickly as possible!
In Ha lachma anyah we say;
"Kol dichfin yasei uyachal, kol ditzric yasei víyifsach".
The kashes (questions) are probably as old as the Haggadah itself, and the many answers could probably fill volumes. But thatís the greatness of Torah. It allows for a limitless amount of explanations. So let me add my own thoughts to the many other excellent pshotim (explanations) available. The three simplest questions that arise here are:
All who are hungry let them come and eat; all who are needy let them come and celebrate.
I) The two phrases seem to be repetitious. Isnít come and eat the very same thing as come and celebrate?Now that Iíve asked the four kashas, please realize that the questions are certainly not original, so I take no credit for them. Yet, let me add my simple answer to the rest of the collection of answers to these particular questions.
2) We no longer have a korbon Pesach, so why celebrate by partaking of the korbon Pesach?
3) Why is this particular paragraph of the Haggadah written in Aramaic, rather than in loshon hakodesh (Hebrew), as is the rest of the Haggadah.
The fact that this particular paragraph was added later, after we were exiled into the Aramaic lands, still fails to answer the question. It could surely have been translated so that it matches the rest of the Haggadah. Or if the people only understood Aramaic, why wasnít the entire Haggadah translated into Aramaic? (Artscroll did it into English!)
Since itís Pesach night, why not add a fourth question, as is most customary.
4) Whatís the difference between anybody who is hungry and anyone who is needy? Donít they essentially both mean the same thing?
When we see our unfortunate brothers standing outside, not knowing what Pesach is all about, we must begin by inviting them in to eat. Donít tell him about mitzvos. Donít tell him about Torah. Donít tell him about Yiddishkeit. Just invite him in for a good delicious meal. Thatís it.
The Gemorah (Sanhedrin) says "Great is the drink for it brings one close". Inviting a person in, and just simply offering him a delicious meal, especially when we give him a quadruple of fine wine along with it, is a fantastic way to build up a warm relationship. Little do we realize the power of a good meal. Politicians and businessmen will tell you that some of their best deals were made over a hearty lunch. They understand that if you want to be very convincing itís always easy to do it over the dinner table. No wonder Esther decided to talk to Achashveirosh over a good drink. She realized it would be much more effective. In fact, that party actually took place on the first day of Pesach.
In Tanach (Melcahim I) we find one of the most unusual stories ever. A false prophet invites a real prophet into his house for a hearty meal. Because of this one very great act of hospitality, the false prophet suddenly becomes a real novi. From this very unusual story, the gemorah proves the unbelievable power of hospitality - offering people something to eat. (For more details of this strange story, see Melochim 1, Perek 13.)
Only after he has enjoyed the meal, do you turn to religious matters. Then you may introduce him to what Pesach is all about. Tell him an interesting story. Do it slowly. First you must make sure to speak in his language and invite him in to enjoy a good meal. Once you get him there, the rest is rather easy. After two cups heíll be much more relaxed and willing to listen.
In fact, Hashem too did not just throw the Torah upon us the moment we left Mitzrayim. First He fed us mon. Then He gave us water. He surrounded us with His protection. He showed us His great kindness. Then, and only then, was He ready to give us the Torah. It had to be a slow process. On each of the forty nine days we would be drawn just a little closer. You have to proceed gradually. Even the best of foods must be eaten slowly, otherwise, if you eat it too quickly, you may become sick. With kiruv (bringing one closer), we must be very careful not to overdo it from the start. Go gradually. In fact, this idea can be found in the following Medrash: "The Holy One blessed be He says, I am not so. I entered into My world and spread out carpets, I lit candles and spread out the waters, etc."
This also answers the fourth question. When inviting someone into the house, weíre not interested whether he needs our help or not. Anyone and everyone is invited. We have a very open house, anybody who is hungry is welcome to a free meal. No questions asked. However, itís only to those in need, that we must explain about Pesach. "víyifsach" of course does not mean the korbon Pesach, but rather the Yom Tov of Pesach.
Why is it written in Aramaic? Because you must speak his language in order to invite him in. Once heís there weíll explain it all to him our way. Over a good delicious meal, with a couple of glasses of good wine, Iím sure heíll be an interested listener.
A close friend of mine, by the name of Moshe S., had a neighbor that was a mechalel Shabbos. Yet, Moshe S. always made it a point to invite him into the house at every opportunity. He never ever even spoke to him about becoming religious. It was just a friendly chat. Simply because they were neighbors. It was always pleasure, never any business. This continued for many years. It was simply a social relationship. They would discuss everything and anything, but never religion.
One day Mosheís neighbor come over to him with a very serious face, and said that heíd like to discuss something with him in private. Of course, Moshe as always - welcomed him into his private study and sat back to hear what it was his neighbor wanted to discuss. He nearly fell off his chair when his neighbor told him that he and his wife had decided they wanted to change their lives. They wanted to become baalei teshuva and wanted someone who could teach them a little more about religion. Of course, Moshe helped them make a new beginning. Today his children are chosheva Talmidei Chachomim and his grandchildren are among the top students of a prominent Yeshiva. And all this as a result of what? Simply inviting a person to share in a good meal.
This is the true meaning of the Gemorah "Great is the drink for it brings one close". This is the method and approach we should use on the night of Pesach as well. First we just simply invite them in for a good meal and only later we begin to talk to him about the Yom Tov of Pesach/
A renowned thinker once said that he owes his great genius to his mother. Whenever he arrived home from school she would never ask him, What did you learn in school today? but rather, What good question did you ask in school today?
Questions breed greater thought. A child that doesnít ask questions may sometimes show apathy. It may show that heís not interested or concerned. It may mean that he couldnít care less. If someone is concerned and really wants to know then he will ask questions. Questions stimulate the mind toward greater knowledge.
In Torah, one can never know everything. The Torah represents G-dís wisdom which is infinite. One can never learn enough. Questions enhance a personís knowledge. It keeps him growing.
It is the very many questions that fill the Talmud that help us uncover their true meanings and help us find proper answers.
Questions make us probe more deeply. Questions make us search for better answers. Yiddishkeit does not shun questions. It encourages them. We are never satisfied with what we already know. We want to know more. We want to understand it better. The search never ends. For the Torah itself is endless. One can never comprehend Hashem himself. It is impossible! Yet our questions help make our knowledge of Him better and better, and brings us closer and closer-. Isnít this the entire purpose of the great miracles He made in Mitzrayim "Let all know that they are your creation" (Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur davening).
Our faith is built on questions. Yet, if we are to find the truth, we must learn to ask the proper questions. We must be careful to formulate the question as the chochom does! We must attempt to seek the meaning of the Eidos chukim and mishpatim. For the more we understand them, the greater will be our fear and love for Hashem.
As our knowledge increases, so does our appreciation of our Creator. The better we understand the miracles He has done for us in Mitzrayim, the more our appreciation grows. For the better the question, the better the answer. We must continually search deeper and deeper. This way our appreciation for Hashem will grow greater and stronger. "The more a person dicusses the story of Yetizas Mitzrayim, the more praiseowrthy he is".
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