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Thought for the Day: It Is a Mitzvah To *SAY OVER* the Hagada, Not to Recite It

I never recite anything in public without the text in front of me.  When I am called to the Torah, for example, unless I know I will find a "cheat sheet" of brachos there, I bring my siddur.  This is not because I am religious or particularly scrupulous; it is because I am scared.  In 6th grade the teacher had us memorize a six stanza poem (something about cowboys, as I remember) for Monday.  On the preceding Friday he told us that anyone who recited the poem by heart that day would automatically receive a 1/2 grade higher.  A girl in the class went first and was cheerfully told, "On Monday, that would have been an A-."  My confidence was boosted, so I volunteered.  I recited the first stanza and froze; I couldn't remember which of two stanzas was next, so I just froze.  The teacher sardonically told me, "On Monday, that would have been a D-."  As I recall, I hid under my desk, no one else tried that Friday, and even on Monday the teacher didn't ask anyone.  Thus began my fear of public recitation of texts by heart and of girls.

What I learned from that experience was that the only way to reliably recite a text is to "just do, don't think.; thinking gets your word train derailed.  I was reminded of all that when I heard a shiur from R' Yisroel Belsky about the dangers of reciting the Hagadah.  The mitzvah is "סיפור יציאת מצרים"/retelling of the exodus from Eqypt; not a recital of the text of the Hagadah.  Ever had this happen at a seder?
All the children, one at a time -- younger children standing on a chair -- ask the four questions, usually in Hebrew, often then in English.  Nowadays also often in Yiddish and sometimes in Ladino.  Much kvelling of nachas from all the aunts, uncles, and grandparents.  The children then go to play games while the rest of the assembly is told: "Ok, now we all read the hagada to ourselves till we get to page 823."  A quick kiddush, motzi, maror (with much drama), eating till stuffed, followed by another, "Ok, now we all read the Hagadahtill page 2,387."  At the really religious s'darim, everyone has fun with how fast they can sing Who Knows One and Chad Gadya.
The point of the seder is to make the events of יציאת מצרים real and therefore automatically exciting and engaging to all -- including, but not limited to -- the children.  Of course we have a text; i.e., the Hagadah.  Without a text, it is impossible to frame the discussion.  But the text is just that, a scaffolding on which to build the seder.  One interesting observation R' Belsky made was to consider that we, as observers of history, see cause and effect.  HaShem, as the Author of history, arranges causes to give the effect that was originally intended.  That's the main message of matzah.  Matzah has to be baked in less than 18 minutes from kneading the water with the flour till out of the oven.  The generation that left Egypt managed that during the exodus.  In other words, within 18 minutes, the Jews kneaded the flour with water, then left, then baked -- the leaving process had to occur in seconds!  Wrapping your mind around that and then looking at the events of the Hagadah as being put in place to accomplish that task should lead to very engaging seder night discussion.

The redemption of the future will take place similarly to that redemption 3300 years ago.  We have time, therefore, till even just a few minutes before ma'ariv on seder night to still be celebrating Pesach in Yerushalayim this year.  כן, יהי רצון


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