Skip to main content

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

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Sometimes a Food Loses Its Identity When It Loses Its Bracha; Sometimes It Doesn't

Let's start with a question: Why are We Allowed to Drink Coffee and Whiskey Made by Non-Jews?  Before you ask,"Why would I think that I shouldn't be able to drink whiskey and coffee made by non-Jews?", I'll tell you. Simple, we all know that Chazal made a decree -- known as בישול עכו''ם/bishul akim -- that particular foods cooked by non-Jews are forbidden.  There are basically two criteria that determines if a dish falls into this category:
Is not consumed raw.Fit for a royal banquet. Cooked carrots, therefore, are not a problem since they can be eaten raw (I actually prefer them that way).  Baked beans are find because the are not prestigious enough.  (For great synopsis of the laws, see the article on the Star-K site, FOOD FIT FOR A KING, by Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, shlita.)  There are lots of cool questions and details (baked potatoes are prestigious, does that make even potato chips and issue?) which are for another time.  Clearly, though, both coffee an…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…