Pesach, Matzah and Maror - From a Crisis to Growth and Redemption

Parasha in the everyday life- Pesach- Shabbat Chol Hamoed - Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald 5780

On Seder night, we mention the Mishnah:

בְּכָל דּוֹר וָדוֹר חַיָּב אָדָם לִרְאוֹת אֶת עַצְמוֹ כְאִלּוּ הוּא יָצָא מִמִּצְרַיִם

“In every generation a man is obligated to regard himself as though he personally had gone forth from Egypt” (Mishnah Pesachim 10:5).

Each year we need to find out what the exodus from Egypt means to us, to our special, personal and general situation. The upcoming Seder night will be different and unique in relation to all the 'Sedarim' we knew.

Passover is the 'holiday of liberty' and for this reason we eat matzah, and when the Temple was still existent also from the Passover offering, both of which express freedom. But why do we also eat bitter herbs -Maror? Why should we mention the bitter and tragic taste of exile after we have been allowed to leave it?!

At the beginning of the Mishnah we mentioned:

רַבָּן גַּמְלִיאֵל הָיָה אוֹמֵר, כָּל שֶׁלֹּא אָמַר שְׁלֹשָׁה דְבָרִים אֵלּוּ בְּפֶסַח, לֹא יָצָא יְדֵי חוֹבָתוֹ, וְאֵלּוּ הֵן, פֶּסַח, מַצָּה, וּמָרוֹר.  פֶּסַח, עַל שׁוּם שֶׁפָּסַח הַמָּקוֹם עַל בָּתֵּי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ בְמִצְרַיִם. מַצָּה, עַל שׁוּם שֶׁנִּגְאֲלוּ אֲבוֹתֵינוּ בְמִצְרַיִם. מָרוֹר, עַל שׁוּם שֶׁמֵּרְרוּ הַמִּצְרִים אֶת חַיֵּי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ בְמִצְרָיִם.

“Rabban Gamliel used to say: whoever does not make mention of these three things on Pesah does not fulfill his duty. And these are they: the pesah, matzah, and bitter herbs. The pesah because the Omnipresent passed over the houses of our fathers in Egypt. The matzah because our fathers were redeemed from Egypt. The bitter herb because the Egyptians embittered the lives of our fathers in Egypt.

From his words we learn that this remembrance is a must! And those who did not say did not fulfill their duty on the Seder!

The Rishonim asked whether 'he did not fulfill his duty' at all! Or did he not fulfill his duty 'properly', but in retrospect did fulfill his duty? (HaMeiri Psachim 116, Ritba Sukah 28:1, Rambam, Zebach Pesach-L’Abarbanel on the Haggadah and more).

And they also questioned what mitzvah were they referring to when it said did not fulfill his duty. Was it the duty of the ‘Biblical commandment’-Mideorayta of eating the Passover sacrifice, matzah, and maror? Or did he not fulfill the ‘Biblical commandment’-Mideorayta of telling the story of the Exodus from Egypt if he did not "say" what the meaning is of Pesach, matzah and maror, since they are the essence of the "story". Hence, the minimum required for the mitzvah is the statement of Rabban Gamliel.

To the opinion of 'not fulfilling his duty’ by eating, a question is raised: "We did not find in the rest of the commandments that a question is asked about them: For what? In the rest of the Mitzvot is enough to say the Bracha to fulfill the mitzva!" (From the Chidushei Agadot on Pesachimמהרש"א  שמואל איידלס).

Although the Tosafot have already answered the question.

From the Pasuk: וַאֲמַרְתֶּ֡ם זֶֽבַח־פֶּ֨סַח ה֜וּא

 “you shall say, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice” We learn that it is a unique mitzvah that must "be said" and also learn from this inference about matzah and the bitter herbs (ibid).

Why does this uniqueness exist precisely on the Seder night?

The interpretation of Rabbenu Manoah (a Maimonides commentator) may be significant to us on this year’s Seder night: "whoever does not make mention of these three things...” Meaning that you have to say it and explain it. Because all the commandments have a reason. And knowing the reason of the mitzvot is a big part (to keep them), etc.

In all the commandments it is important to know the reason, and the reason of the commandments on Passover even more! Because when you remember, the person will be awakened to believe with complete belief that in that redemption Hashem revealed to all Israel and to everyone else. (During the Seder we deal with the foundations of faith. Mentioning the Passover, Matzah, and the bitter herbs reinforces this faith). ( Sefer HaMenucha on Mishneh Torah Leavened and Unleavened Bread 7:5)

He later referred to the religious meaning of the Maror: And we say afterwards: “In every generation a man is obligated to regard himself as though he personally had gone forth… etc. and in this remembrance there will always be “Fear of Heaven” as it was in Israel and never let his heart out of it. And if he kept his time very confidently, in the hope that Hashem would be Israel’s Savior in times of trouble, and just as the Egyptian exile was a reason to benefit from later, so all the troubles of this exile are a reason for Israel to be saved forever" (ibid).

Eating the bitter herbs for generations is meant to take in the consciousness that, thru the process of bondage and suffering, a process of redemption and change is undergoing underneath the ground. In "real-time" it cannot be seen, but when the underground process ripens, it bursts into reality. Therefore, the Maror is an integral part of the Seder and there is no Passover and Matza without the Maror!

The Prime Minister quoted to the nation (in the name of the Rabbi) the explanation statement of Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook zt’’l to the Pasuk:

וְעֵֽת־צָרָ֥ה הִיא֙ לְיַֽעֲקֹ֔ב וּמִמֶּ֖נָּה יִוָּשֵֽׁעַ׃

It is a time of trouble for Jacob, but he shall be delivered from it.” (Yirmiyahu 30:7)

-It is not the intention that the trouble will end and there will be a salvation, but that the process of the trouble is what creates the salvation.

We pray for a speedy end to the world corona epidemic and the hardship and suffering it entails. But on the eve of the Seder, the insight grows sharper; during which a dramatic change in the world order is made. And we pray that it may be for the better. And

כִּימֵ֥י צֵאתְךָ֖ מֵאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרָ֑יִם אַרְאֶ֖נּוּ נִפְלָאֽוֹת׃

“I will show him wondrous deeds as in the days when You sallied forth from the land of Egypt. " (Micah 7:15).

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