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Thought for the Day: Dipping at the Seder -- Freedom From External and Internal Tyranny

My grandson (2.x years old) is not among the better nappers.  They tried a new tactic at day care yesterday... wrapping him tightly in his blanket to help him "stay down and relax."  Uh huh.  It turns out that he has really been paying attention to all the stories about y'tzi'as mitzrayim.  He turned to the unsuspecting (and, I am sure, frustrated) teacher and declared (defiantly, I am sure): "Let my people go!"

The main function of the seder is to relay to the children, in a question and answer format, the miracles down for us by HaShem to extricate us from bondage.  As soon as the children are able to understand slavery and freedom, the father obligated by Torah law to pass this masora onto his children.  One of the vehicles Chazal have given us is the four questions.  The Mishna Brura calls "Foul!" on those parents who keep the kids at the table long enough to ask the questions, but then hussle them off to bed without answering their question.  The more recent poskim add that one needs to take particular care to explain the significance of the dipping.  Matzah, maror, and reclining all have an obvious connection to our freedom from slavery.  Dipping, however, takes some thought.

The first dipping, karpas in salt water (or vinegar), it not something that we associate with freedom.  In the day, slaves ate whatever food was given them when it was given to them.  Freedom includes the ability to plan one's own schedule.  Scheduling and planning a meal, including the luxury to linger at the table are hallmarks of freedom.  Eating a food by dipping it into a sauce exemplifies that, since that is by nature something that can't be rushed.  A person should take the time at the seder to note that to his children and guests.  We are not only free, we have nothing better to do now than to linger at our sumptuous and festive meal.

The second dipping is the maror in the charoses.  The Mishna Brura (475, sk 13) says that dipping is to deaden the venom of the maror.  What does that have to do with freedom, you might ask.  I have an answer; it's a bit of a chiddush, but I like it (it's mine, after all).  The Dirshu Mishna Brura (paragraph 21) addresses why Chazal didn't always require us to dip maror in something to deaden its venom.  The Rosh answers because tonight Chazal obligated everyone to eat maror.  (Hmm... I thought; how does that help?  "shluchei mitzvah eino nizek"/those performing a mitzvah will not come to harm!)  R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach explains the Rosh to mean that some people don't eat maror all year because they find it harmful, but tonight everyone needs to eat, so Chazal said to dip it in charoses to dull it's effects.  (Aha!  As Chazal also say, "hezek mazu'i shahni"/likely harm is different.  In other words, if the nature of the situation is to be harmful, then being involved in a mitzvah will not necessarily help.)

Now my Chidush.  That means that because some Jews find straight maror harmful, all Jews are obligated to dip it into charoses.  And that dipping is even one of the stars of the seder.  Meaning that the majority has no right to impose obligations that are not beneficial for everyone.  Kol Yisrael areivim zeh la'zeh and we each need to take responsibility for every Jew's well being.

The so-called "tyranny of the majority" was known to Chazal and they used the seder to express our freedom from that internal enemy as well as from our external enemies.


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