Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pesach Divrei Torah

Seven Divrei Torah for Pesach:

I apologize that I don’t have sources for all of these Divrei Torah. They come from things that I read in various Haggadahs and heard from various teachers. Enjoy!

A speaker I heard once told this Dvar Torah in the name of the AriZal. He says that the purpose of the Simanei HaSeder (Kadesh, Urchatz etc.) is to describe the path of Avodas Hashem.

Kadesh- We start off by stating the goal: to reach Kedusha, holiness.
Urchatz- The first step to holiness is we must "wash ourselves"- we must get rid of all of the bad actions we are doing.
Karpas- When we first start serving G-d, all we have is a little taste of how good it is.
Yachatz- Next, we break the matza = we try to break our bad character traits.
Maggid- After that, the next step is to learn Torah.
Rachtza- Now we wash our hands WITH a bracha. We cleanse ourselves again, this time with intention.
Motzei Matza- We finally get to start eating. Now we start to see the results here of our actions.
Marror- After that, sometimes things get really hard and it's not easy, or exciting. This represents the hard times we go through in serving G-d and keeping Torah.
Korech- It's bad and good together- it's the next step, when things still aren't so great, but they are getting better.
Shulchan Orech- Part of a keeping Torah is being patient and waiting. After this whole LONG Seder, finally we have the meal. Sometimes it's hard to wait so long, but it's worth it.
Tzafun- We realize that there is so much that is hidden from us; so much we don't know or understand.
Barech and Hallel- We Thank G-d and praise G-d for everything He has done for us.
Nirtza- This talks about the future- Mashiach etc.

An important part of the Seder night is Tefilla, prayer. A Gemara in Psachim, says that Matza is called "Lechem Oni" (literally a poor man's bread) because "sheh onin alav dvarim harbeh"- that Hashem answers our prayers. Note that the root of "oni" and of the Hebrew word for answer "ana" are similar. All of our prayers are answered and that's why it's called Lechem Oni. In addition, Pesach = Peh Sach, a mouth that speaks, talks. I once heard that in some Haggadas, right after Ha Lachma Anya, and right before Mah Nishtana, it says "Kan HaBen Shoel," which means, "here the son asks," but it could also be referring to Bnei Yisrael, the children of Hashem. Here we have the chance to ask for something from Hashem.

The four sons: The Rasha/wicked son asks: מה העבודה הזאת לכם What is this work that you are doing? What is wrong with his question? The chacham’s question is not so far off!
He sees it as work and it is work, it’s not easy. But he builds it up- it’s work it’s too hard, it’s impossible, you should just give up. That’s why he’s the rasha. Not because he sins, everyone sins at some point, no one is perfect, but he says “its impossible; I shouldn’t even bother trying.” And this idea is completely against what we believe. We do NOT believe that it’s all or nothing. (See my post on that topic) G-d asks a lot from us, and although we strive for perfection, G-d knows we are not perfect, he didn’t create angels. All we are supposed to do is try. The Rasha/wicked son doesn’t even try. That’s why the opposite of the wicked son is not called “the Tzadik,” “the righteous son” it’s the Chacham- the son who is learned, who always asks, who tries to learn more. At the end of the day he is admired not for accomplishing, but because of his constant quest for growth and for striving to be better and not saying “It’s too hard so I might as well not do any of it.” Every little thing we do is precious to G-d. Pirkei Avot says- you don’t know which things are big to G-d and which things are small.

Also on the four sons: Why is it in that order? You would think it would go in order of greatness- the חכם/wise son being first and the רשע/wicked son being last. Why is it not that way? Because they each have something to learn from each other. The חכם must not become arrogant and say, “look at me! I’m so smart and good and wise!” He must realize that he is right next to the wicked son on the list- if he is not careful, then he will become wicked. Being good isn’t a point you reach and don’t have to worry about ever losing that status, it’s something you must constantly work on. The wicked son must also learn his lesson that he is right next to the wise son on the list- he is so close to being righteous, it’s not that far away, not something he can’t hope to achieve.

לא על ידי מלאך ולא על ידי שליח. G-d redeemed the Jews himself, not through an angel or a messenger. We are supposed to emulate G-d. What we can learn through this is that Every single person has a unique purpose in this world. We all have to ask ourselves, “Why did G-d put me here on this world?” And the answer is to do a specific task that cannot be done by anyone else in the world. We are put in our generation, in this year for a reason, put in this place, this family for a reason. And our task can’t be done by anyone else- not by an angel, not by a messenger, we each have unique talents and abilities that G-d gave us specially to use to fulfill our unique task in this world. (Breslov idea)

On a similar note, Rav Kook asks: If we went from being slaves to Pharoh to being Ovdei Hashem = servants to servants, how did we really achieve cheirut, freedom? He answers that everyone has things that are unique to them, their abilities and their specific potential. When they are forced to do something against their nature, that isn’t made for them, that is slavery. But when they do want they are supposed to do, what they are meant to do, and can be themselves fully, then they are free. The Jewish people are inherently supposed to be servants of Hashem. He has made them for this purpose. By being ovdei Hashem we are fulfilling are purpose and so it is true freedom.

In the Haggadah we read about ברית בין הבתרים, how Hashem promises Avraham that his children will be slaves, but ultimately redeemed. Isn’t this a strange promise? I promise that your children will be slaves. Oh, great, how comforting!! Why did Hashem make this promise to Abraham that his children will be slaves? Why was this experience necessary for us in order to become a nation? There are many answers to this question, and here are a bunch that I have complied:
• Unity: The Torah was given to us as a nation, we had to be numerous, because when people come together, that is SO powerful. The Jewish people are described as one person with one heart. Additionally, if the Torah was given to just one person then perhaps we would say “oh it’s only for him to keep, it was not given to me.” The Torah was give to lots of different people, are there are many of different ways to connect to G-d.
• G-d wanted us to experience difficulties and hardships so we would learn how to deal with them. Imagine that a child never got sick, and then she grows up and is 30 years old and gets sick. She wouldn’t know what to do with it. Life isn’t easy, and G-d wanted to prepare us for that.
• Another point, which is mentioned other plaches in the Tora, is that we needed this experience so we would know what it was like to be strangers, and so we would learn how to treat others. If someone is mean to you, then you learn that it’s bad to be mean and you need to be nice to other people. This is a very important message that G-d wanted us to learn.
• There are a lot of reasons for struggles. That’s how we grow. An interesting thing about a seed- we bury it in the dirt, only through burying it can it ultimately grow. Additionally, one reason we have struggles is to help others who have the same struggle. The Jewish people can say to other slaves, “Hey, we were slaves once, and look! G-d saved us. Hang in there, things will turn out Ok for you too.” If we do badly in a class and then work hard and in the end we do well, then when someone else is struggling, we too can say “I was also failing out of chemistry, let me help you, cause I know what that’s like.” G-d also gives us struggles so that we will call out to Him in prayer and through the prayer we change ourselves and become deserving of the thing we are asking for. G-d gives us struggles in life for so many reasons, but the struggle is designed specifically for us, to help us work on the things we need to work on.
• “No situation is so desperate that it cannot be turned to good”- Rebbe Nachman. That is something to learn from the Exodus from Egypt. No matter how bad things get, they can always turn around.

I hope this Pesach we will each be able to get the most out of our seder, absorb the numerous messages within the Haggadah, and that we should each receive personal redemption for all of our personal challenges and difficulties. May Hashem send our national redemption with the coming of Mashiach, bimiheira biyamenu. I wish you all a meaningful, uplifting, inspirational, wonderful, happy Pesach, and a Chag Kasher V’Sameach!!



  1. "May Hashem send our national redemption with the coming of Mashiach, bimiheira biyamenu. I wish you all a meaningful, uplifting, inspirational, wonderful, happy Pesach, and a Chag Kasher V’Sameach!!"
    I enjoyed this post SO much. Thank you for sharing! As far as I recall, I never heard any of those insights, and they're so incredible. This Chag (and every Chag) has such depth, such meaning...that is so relevant to our lives.
    #5 has the biggest impact on me because it's very easy to judge others...but we all must remember that no avera is too far away. And no mitzvah is too far away either, so there's always hope!!

    Shabbat Shalom :)

  2. i actually used a few of your pieces at my family's seder. thanks a lot


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