פסח and קמח be’gematria both equal 148. What’s the significance? In essence Pesach is all about how you view and make use of the properties of bread. The flour must be contained to maintain humility but also be a tool of zeal to perform with passion. One’s whole experience of Pesach is ultimately defined by Kemach.
To the outside world, preparing Thanksgiving dinner for family and a few guests can be amazingly stressful. It’s once a year, with so many expectations and so many traditions, including all the shopping, cooking, and cleaning up afterwards. Okay–you’re probably laughing right now, thinking, “that’s just a regular Shabbos dinner we do every week!” Pesach is in a category all its own-cleaning the whole house, kashering everything, shopping, cooking and paying many more expenses can cause some legitimate stress. People can become on edge from the many demands.
Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein relates the following story about a tense week before Pesach. Yisroel Goldbaum bought an expensive diamond-studded ring for his wife Esther, as a present for the upcoming Yom Tov of Pesach. Esther was deeply touched and felt so special.
A week before Pesach, she noticed the ring wasn’t on her finger. She searched thoroughly and again came up empty handed. Naturally, she was very upset and began to cry. Learning that the ring was missing, Yisroel also got very upset and said, “How could you be so careless That was a very expensive ring.”
The tension increased over the next few days as the ring still had not turned up. Noam, their teenage son, saw what was happening and wanted to help. He went to the same jeweler where his father had purchased the ring and asked to purchase an identical ring, explaining the circumstances. The jeweler was impressed with Noam and agreed to sell it for a reduced price, with Noam paying $100 a month until it would be paid off in about two years.
That evening was bedikas chometz and Noam placed the ring on the kitchen windowsill. “Yisroel–come quick! I found the ring,” called out Mrs. Goldbaum. It was a Pesach miracle-courtesy of Noam. Mr. Goldbaum apologized to his wife for his criticism, and all the tension that had prevailed, disappeared.
It’s easy to “lose it” when we’re stressed. One might erroneously think Hashem wants us to be tense with all the preparations Pesach requires, but the truth is quite the contrary. Harmony in the home is the deeper mandate for Pesach, as is indicated in the special name given to the Shabbos before Pesach, Shabbos Hagadol. The Tur (R Yaakov Baal Haturim) explains the reason this Shabbos is called Shabbos Hagadol is because Hashem instructed the Jews to take sheep–the Egyptian deity–on the 10th of Nissan (which was Shabbos that year), tie it to their bedposts and on the 14th of Nissan, slaughter it as a korban Pesach to be eaten that evening. This was considered a great (“gadol“) miracle, as the Egyptians saw what was going on and did not attack or even protest!
Rav Avrohom Schorr brings an incredible explanation of the emphasis on tying the sheep to the bedpost, from the Sefer Beis Yitzchak. Many religions serve their deities in a shrine or temple, where they practice their religion, but day-to-day life is up to them. Hashem was giving the Bnei Yisroel an important message: You are now becoming the Jewish nation, where serving Hashem is not reserved for the synagogue or study hall. It’s the way we must live and interact every day–in the street, in our homes and in our bedrooms. Seeing the sheep each day when they went to sleep and woke up, the Jews absorbed this message of daily service to Hashem.
Hashem places a lot of emphasis on the home with regard to the mitzvos of Pesach. The korban Pesach is to be taken “seh leavos seh labayis” – by each family, each home In fact, we learn a halacha from here that the korban Pesach has to be eaten entirely inside one’s house; we cannot eat it partially in one house and the remainder in a different one. Similarly, cleaning and searching for chametz takes place in our home.
There are challenges when families get together in a home, especially for an extended time. Parents and children, in-laws, siblings, extended relatives-it’s a complicated mix! Perhaps the emphasis on harmony in the home is because Pesach is a unique opportunity for the father to convey his feelings of faith and belief in Hashem in conducting the Seder.
Everyone should remember that Hashem places us in a particular family because He knows what’s best for us. It’s our responsibility to work positively on our relationship with family, with both our speech and our actions. May we utilize this powerful time period and search for ways to promote tranquility in our homes and families, like Noam, who put himself into debt to replace his mother’s lost diamond ring and re-establish harmony in his home. May this Pesach reflect true harmony in our homes and herald in the ultimate redemption!
Tonight R’ Bamberger spoke about the topic of bitachon (faith in Divine Providence). Tonight’s vaad was based on the Ramban’s commentary on Chumash.
The Ramban explains that there are different levels of belief in G-d. On the simplest level, belief in G-d is associated with belief in a Creator. Any intelligent person would agree that the theory of evolution can’t account for the complexity of the world that we live in. Indeed, anyone who ever studied anatomy can’t help but be overwhelmed by the miraculous nature of every faculty that we have. However, true belief in G-d requires that a person recognize the Divine Providence in the world. Relating the account of the Exodus from Egypt is supposed to ingrain within a person the idea that G-d directly controls the events that happen in this world.
The openly miraculous events of the Exodus proved for all time that G-d controls every aspect of Creation. After this clear demonstration of His power, G-d never had to overturn the world every time someone doubted His existence. Thus, the agnostics in the world are refuted by the account of the Exodus from Egypt.
If G-d’s Providence is so clear, why do some people still doubt whether G-d actually controls the world? Some people begin to falter in their faith when they go through physical or emotional suffering. Other people falter when they stumble in various sins. The Ramban’s message to those people is that they should ingrain within themselves the account of the Exodus from Egypt in order to combat their heretical thoughts.
Since our conception of G-d is so closely connected with the events of the Exodus, the holiday of Pesach (Passover) keeps the Jewish people together as a nation. Indeed, even the most secular Jews keep Pesach on some level. It should also be emphasized that the seder night is a time for fathers to transmit to their children the story of the Exodus. Primarily, the seder is not a time for children to demonstrate what they learned in yeshivah throughout the year.
*Maror In These Times
The Rambam (Hilkhot Hamez u-Mazzah 7:11) says that eating maror on its own is not a mizvah min haTorah, but rather it is dependent on the eating of the korban Pesah, because there’s one mizvah to eat the korban Pesah with mazzah and maror. These days it’s a mere mitzvah mi-divrei sofrim to eat the maror on its own on the night of the Seder even without the korban Pesah. The Rambam (Hilkhot Korban Pesah, 8:1) enunciates the same idea that maror without the korban Pesah is not a mizvah mi-de-oraita as he says, the eating of the korban Pesah on the 15th is a Positive commandment as the Torah says, “Eat this meat on this night roasted, and with matzos and maror it should be eaten.” However, mazzah and maror are not necessary for the fulfillment if they could not be found, for it is the eating of the meat of the Pesah alone that brings fulfillment of the commandment. The Rambam concludes that eating maror without the Pesah is not a mizvah mi-de-oraita for it only says that maror and mazzah you shall eat together.
Rabbi Genack asks on the Rambam that when he mentions maror in Hilkhot Hamez u-Mazzah, he does not bring it until the end of chapter 7, that discusses topics relating to sipur Yezi’at Mizrayim such as arba kosot and the eating of the haroset. Logically, however it should have been mentioned at the end of chapter 6, after he discusses the mizvah of the eating of the mazzah.
It must be that according to the Rambam the eating of maror in these times is not a mizvah onto itself in terms of eating maror but rather mederabanan it’s a part of sipur Yezi’at Mizrayim, similar to the arba kosot of wine which is a fulfillment as well of sipur Yezi’at Mizrayim.
(Rabbi Genack then brings a proof to this suggestion).
The Rosh (Arvei Pesahim Chapter 25) writes that maror needs a ka-zayit because we say in the nusach of the bracha “al achilat maror” and an eating cannot be less than a ka-zayit. The Shagat Aryeh (Chapter 100) asks on this Rosh that the reason maror mi-de-oraita, should need a ka-zayit is because it is hukush to mazzah. Rabbi Genack further asks on the Rosh, why in fact was a nusach of akhilah attached to maror at all? The bracha should be “al mizvah’s maror” and then an eating of a ka-zayit wouldn’t be required.
Rabbi Genack wants to explain in the Rosh that mi-de-oraita, surely a ka-zayit is required, however regarding the mizvah derabanan of maror (in our days) that’s not dependent on the eating of the korban Pesah, it may be said that there is no mizvah of akhilah because it is a kiyum of sipur Yezi’at Mizrayim alone similar to haroset that doesn’t need a shiur of ka-zayit, since its sole purpose is to be a remembrance to the bricks and mortar. This explains the Rosh when he says from the fact that a bracha is necessary we see that even though maror is a kiyum of sipur Yezi’at Mizrayim, nevertheless the rabbis required a shiur of akhilah because through the akhilah the mizvah of sipur is fulfilled. So the requirement of the ka-zayit is not because of the bracha, it’s only that the bracha shows that even though maror is mederabanan it requires a shiur of akhilah, and therefore even in a case where a bracha is not said like by Korekh, nevertheless a ka-zayit of maror is required.
(Rabbi Genack provides another way to interpret the Rosh as well.)
*Sefer Gan Shoshanim Chelek Beit/ Sefer Chazun Nachum – Siman 27 page 72
Rav Avraham Genachawski zt”l
*Korekh and Sefekos Medarabanan
(Rav Avraham discusses Korekh under the umbrella of sefekot mederabanan, namely when we say safek derabanana lekula, does that mean if you are not sure whether you made a bracha we are mekal and there’s a petur legamrei deeming a new blessing a bracha levatala or that we are unsure whether there is a petur or a chiyuv and based on that we are mekal and say there is a petur. Numerous differences emerge. (In the first footnote of Bar Almugim, Rav Avraham brings a proof from an inference Rabbi Genack makes on the Rambam that it’s a petur legamrei.)
The halakhah says that if one didn’t recline when he ate mazzah, he must do it over (and recline). The Maharsham (Section 6 Siman 38) asks that this seems unnecessary; for let the reclining by Korekh be enough for reclining is only mederabanan. The answer would be that in these days whether reclining is in fact meakev is an argument. The Ravya says that in these days reclining is not necessary and therefore even if one didn’t recline by mazzah he would be yotze. Therefore if one did recline by Korekh, mazzah as a reshut would be mevatel the maror.
This answer, however, is not sufficient because if we look at the opinion of the Mechaber who doesn’t take the Ravya’s opinion into consideration, the question resurfaces. The Mechaber says that if one didn’t recline for the second or third cup he must drink again and recline and the Mechaber is not concerned about adding onto the arba kosot. Therefore, in our said case if one didn’t recline during the eating of mazzah, let him do it by Korekh and be yotze his maror and mazzah (both according to the opinions of Hillel and the Rabbanan).
However, it’s not so simple that one would be yotze in this scenario. Because even according to those who argue on the Ravya it would be a safek and with a safek we go lekula, and then the mazzah as a reshut would be mevatel the maror.
Now Rav Avraham proposes that this exact point might enter the question of sefekot mederabanan, whether it’s a petur legamrei or there’s a safek chiyuv; safek petur and we go lekula. For if it’s a petur legamri then it will be a reshut and mevatel the other, but if it’s a safek derababnan is in a state of talia, then it can be judged as half lechiyuv and half le’petur thus remaining a safek and it wouldn’t be mevatel the other be’torat vadai, but only be’torat safek and then we would say there would be a kiyum of mazzah and maror.
So the fundamental question of the Mahrsham is answered based on the Ravya, but not according to the Mechaber, and there’s no proof from this case to answer whether a safek derabanan lekula is talia or a haphkaha legamrei.
(Rav Avraham brings one last point from the Tshuvos of Rabbi Shlomo Eiger that seems to mirror the question of the Maharsham.)
*Sefer Bar Almugim – Siman 1 Page 42
*A verified Ladder
The story is told that one day in Yerushalayim there was a noise of loud crying coming from an above ground apartment. Many people on the sidewalk heard the crying. Rav Avraham was walking by at the time. Upon hearing the crying, he immediately started asking people to borrow a ladder for the apartment was above ground level. After a long search he finally retuned with a ladder and climbed to the window where the crying was coming from. It turned out the parents of these children went out for a walk and the kids were alone, awake and crying. From the window Rav Avraham spoke to the children and calmed them down and remained until the parents returned. Later Rav Avraham would deny the story until a picture surfaced. He said one of the lessons from this story is that one should never think they are alone. G-d is always watching and is always there to give comfort.
*A Touch of Chizuk – Stories of Strength – to Lift, Build and Encourage (Artscroll Series), By Rabbi Yechiel Spero – Page 138
Rav Eliyahu Moshe Levine zt”l
*Kiddush and Zechirat Yezi’at Mizrayim
The Magen Avraham (Siman 271 Seif Aleph) says that we are yotze Kiddush mi-de-oraita by Arvit of tefillah Shabbat. The Minchat Chinuch (Mizvah 31) asks on this Magen Avraham that this doesn’t seem feasible because there’s no mention in tefillah Arvit of Yezi’at Mizrayim and Rav Acha bar Yaakov (Pesahim 117b) learns through a gezera shava that you must mention Yezi’at Mizrayimin in Kiddush, so it would seem that min haTorah Yezi’at Mizrayim must be mentioned.
Rav Levine answers that the gezera shava is really an asmachta alone and the real reason the chachamim placed Yezi’at Mizrayim in the Kiddush of Shabbat is based on a Tur in Orach Chaim (Siman 271) in the name of the Rambam that says we mention Yezi’at Mizrayim in Kiddush as it is a direct proof to Maase Bereshit; for the miracles of Egypt were seen by human eyes as opposed to the miracles of creation which were not, and therefore should one need testimony that G-d created the world, he may look upon the miracles of Egypt as substantiation.
The nafka mina now is that if one were mesupek whether he mentioned Yezi’at Mizrayim in Kiddush he would not have to go back as it is only mederabanan.
Rav Nachum Genachawski zt”l was very fond of this peshat and almost without fail told me this every Shabbat I went to him.
Rabbi Yonason Sacks, Rav of Agudas Yisroel Bircas Yaakov in Passaic, NJ and Rosh Hayeshiva of Beis Medrash L’Talmud at Lander college for Men (LCM) noted one Shabbat in discussing this matter that in mizvos of amera (such as Kiddush) it could be that the nusach is not meakav.
*Sefer Yad Eliyahu – Siman 6 Page 19
Rabbi Yaakov Nagen/Genack
*Hamez and Mazzah
For over two centuries the Jews were waiting to be redeemed from their bondage and when the day came, they were ordered to leave “immediately” at that exact moment for if they tarried one more second, the opportunity would pass and the Egyptians would overcome them and the moment would yuchmatz (be elongated and lost).
The lesson of the story of Egypt is not to push off the moment but act with immediacy. Immediate change is perhaps the greatest challenge we face. We are often caught up in the day to day conundrums of life and any change, however small, seems overwhelming. This over-occupation with our lives and failure to engage in change often results in lost opportunities.
Hamez speaks to this idea of the weakness of man to act. Bnei Yisrael left Mizrayim in haste but there were those that wanted to leave with bread, with full provisions, but by taking this approach they were left alone in Mizrayim and the gates of freedom closed upon them.
The rabbis have compared hamez to the yetzer hara. Often we imagine the yetzer hara as an evil force that is overtly pushing us to sin. However, this doesn’t match the Talmud’s comparison here, for hamez is something that enhances, that tastes good.
The Talmud (Berakhot 17a) comments on the tefillah, “Master of the universe, it is known before you that we want to perform your will, and who prevents this? The leaven in the bread.” Rashi explains the leaven in the bread to be the yetzer hara that holds our heart back. The way of the yetzer hara is not to convince us to do bad things but instead to choose the easier route thus stripping from us the desire to effectuate real change, leaving us in a predicament of the status quo or less (to hold back and lehachmitz).
(Rabbi Nagan relates this idea to Shir Hashirim and discusses two more points.)
*Awaking to a New Day: Stories and Insights from Life – Parsha Bo – Page 119
Notes from the Editor
I once called Rav Avraham before Pesah and asked if he could share a d’var Torah. He told me that if you take the words hamez and mazzah as they are spelled in the Torah, they practically share the same letters except that the hey of mazzah and chet of hamez have a slight difference. The hey (ה) doesn’t quite connect to the top whereas the chet (ח) fully connects. Therefore the difference between hamez and mazzah is a miniscule protrusion of space. He said that in life the difference between living a life of hamez or mazzah is comparable to the minuscule opening that exists between the letters; teaching that through miniscule action one can transform his existence.
As a chiddush relating to this time of year, I once thought that a drash could be offered on the words of Shlomo, “Ein chadash takhat ha-shemesh, There is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). In essence, based on drash, it may be said that the meaning is “Ein chadash” it is not “chadash” (new grain) under the sun (in the season of the sun) for then it would be “yashan.” By then the 16th of Nissan passed and the korban omer would be a matir (assuming we are talking about wheat from before that year’s 16th of Nissan for otherwise the issur of “chadash” can materialize at any moment on this post 16th grain).