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Maggid: Reciting the Haggadah

Maggid: Reciting the Haggadah

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It is not the prevailing Lubavitch custom to lift up the Seder plate at this time. It is, however, customary to partially uncover the matzos. The Haggadah should be recited loudly and clearly, and with joy.

הא Behold the bread of affliction eaten by our ancestors in the land of Egypt. Whoever is hungry, let him come and eat. Whoever is needy, let him come and join in the observance of Pesach. This year we are here; next year,1 may we be in Eretz Yisrael. This year, we are slaves; next year,* may we be free men.

The Haggadah should be recited loudly and clearly, and with joy

In the spiritual realms, the Divine Presence rejoices on Pesach. This happiness should be reflected in our hearts (the Rebbe).2

It was at the passage Hei lachma anya that the Rebbeim of their respective generations would begin offering explanations during the Seder (Ibid.).3

Behold the bread of affliction

In his Shulchan Aruch, the Alter Rebbe notes:4

Those who are meticulous take care to say K’ha lachma or Ha k’lachma (“This is like the bread of affliction”), since [the matzah we are eating] is not the actual bread our forefathers ate.

In his edition of the Haggadah, however, the Alter Rebbe chooses the wording, Hei lachma anya (“Behold the bread of affliction”). This emphasizes the experiential nature of the Seder. We should feel as if we ourselves are being liberated from slavery. Therefore, the matzah before us should be considered as “the [actual] bread of affliction that our forefathers ate in the land of Egypt.”

The matzah itself encourages such an experience. Eating “the bread of affliction,” i.e., internalizing the quality of selflessness represented by matzah, lifts a person above the limits of time and makes possible a present-day experience of liberation (Ibid.).5

Whoever is hungry, let him come and eat

Issuing such an invitation is also an outgrowth of the selflessness mentioned above. We all have natural limits to our tolerance of others. Nevertheless, when a person has internalized the quality of matzah and experiences a personal exodus from Egypt, he will be prepared to invite “all who are hungry” — any individual, regardless of who he is — to his Pesach table (Ibid.).

This approach also grants a person a foretaste of the fulfillment of the prayer...

Next year in Eretz Yisrael

The uniqueness of Eretz Yisrael is that it is the resting place of the Divine Presence.6 Similarly, this selfless approach makes a person a fit receptacle for the Divine Presence, allowing it to be manifest within his life (Ibid.).

Eaten by our ancestors

The Aramaic phrase di achalu avhasana can also be interpreted as meaning “which ate our ancestors.” In Kabbalistic terminology avos, “ancestors,” refers to our intellectual faculties. The tribulations of exile dissipate our intellectual potential; we have difficulty in focusing and concentrating on spiritual concepts (the Previous Rebbe).7

This year we are here; next year, may we be in Eretz Yisrael. This year, we are slaves; next year, may we be free men

Mentioning Eretz Yisrael and our ultimate freedom at the beginning of the Haggadah suggests that the purpose of the Seder is not only to relive the exodus from Egypt, but to prepare for the Redemption (the Rebbe).8

In a different light, it can be explained that the fact that the Haggadah mentions these concepts in two separate clauses indicates that one can live in Eretz Yisrael and yet be enslaved (Ibid.).9
The Seder plate is moved slightly to the side and the second cup of wine is filled with the intent of motivating the children to ask questions.

The youngest child capable of doing so asks the Four Questions. Our custom is to preface these questions with the following Yiddish phrase: Tatte, ich vel bei dir fregen fir kashaos (“Father, I’m going to ask you four questions”). For mystical reasons, this phrase is recited even if the child’s father is no longer living. The passage is then both read and paraphrased, as follows:

“מה נשתנה הלילה הזה מכל הלילות — ‘Why is this night of Pesach different than any other night of the year?’ The first question is: שבכל הלילות אין אנו מטבילין...שתי פעמים — ‘On all other nights of the year we do not dip...we do so twice: the first time we dip karpas in salt-water, and the second time we dip maror in charoses!’ The second question is:....”

In many families, it is customary that all the children recite the Four Questions in this manner. After the last child finishes reciting the questions, the prevailing Lubavitch custom is that the person leading the Seder repeats the Four Questions in an undertone,
10 complete with their introduction and Yiddish translation.

מה נשתנה Why is this night different from all other nights?

On all other nights, we are not accustomed to dip even once. On this night, we dip twice.

On all other nights, we eat chametz or matzah. On this night, only matzah.

On all other nights, we eat any type of vegetables. On this night, we eat maror.

On all other nights, we eat either sitting upright or reclining. On this night, we all recline.

After the questions are concluded, the Seder plate is returned to its place, the matzos are partially uncovered, and the recitation of the Haggadah continues:

“Father, I’m going to ask you four questions.”

The Rebbeim would recite this preface even after the passing of their fathers. On one hand, it appeared that they were addressing their own father. (For that reason the Tzemach Tzedek would say “Zeide...” instead of “Tatte...”, since the Alter Rebbe raised him.) At the same time, the intent is that the questions be directed to G‑d, Father of us all. Just as a cherished son turns to his father with questions, so too, on Pesach, the entire Jewish nation turns to our Father with childish simplicity. This arouses great love, as it is written:11 “For Israel is a youth, and [therefore] I love him” (the Previous Rebbe; the Rebbe).12

Why is this night

I.e., the present exile, and the Redemption which will follow it...

Different from all other nights?

All the previous cycles of exile and redemption which our people have undergone.

On all other nights, we are not accustomed to dip even once

Dipping refers to the washing away of impurity. The other exiles did not wash away our impurity totally, as evidenced by the fact that our nation again fell into error and was exiled.

On this night, we dip twice

The present exile has a twofold effect, leading to the cleansing of the body and the revelation of the power of the soul. There will never be another exile after this.

On all other nights, we eat chametz or matzah

After all previous redemptions, our divine service involved chametz, the self-orientation of our animal souls, as well as matzah, the selfless expression of the G‑dly soul.

On this night, only matzah

For in the Future Redemption, “the spirit of impurity will be removed from the earth.”13 Self-orientation will cease and we will be left with only the service of the G‑dly soul.

On all other nights, we eat either sitting upright or reclining

Eating serves as a physical analogy for the state in which we enjoy spiritual pleasure. There are, however, different levels of pleasure. Eating while reclining alludes to pleasure so great that it overcomes a person and prevents him from continuing in his usual pattern of divine service. In previous redemptions, this level was not realized. But...

On this night, we all recline

In the Future Redemption, this dimension of pleasure will be the heritage of every Jew (the Rebbe Rashab).14

To dip

טיבול, Hebrew for “dipping,” shares the same letters as ביטול,15 “selflessness.” The first stage of a Jew’s service is selflessness. This will lead to “reclining,” the ultimate expression of freedom (the Rebbe).16

On all other nights, we are not required to dip even once...

According to Lubavitch custom, the first question a child asks concerns the dipping.17 Seemingly, the order should be matzah first, then maror, for in the present era, eating matzah has the status of a Torah command, and eating maror that of a Rabbinic injunction. Dipping, by contrast, is merely a custom.

Nevertheless, the dipping is given primacy because it is the careful adherence to Jewish custom which makes the most powerful impression on a child. When he sees that his parents observe matters of obvious importance, the impact is not as great — what alternative do they have? When, however, he sees them paying close attention to details which are of seemingly minor importance, he realizes how all-encompassing one’s commitment to Yiddishkeit must be (Ibid.).18

We all recline

Reclining refers to a state in which a person’s head and feet are on the same level, i.e., he is lifted into a selfless experience which totally transcends his understanding (Ibid.).19

עבדים We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, but G‑d, our L‑rd, brought us out from there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. Had the Holy One, blessed be He, not taken our ancestors out of Egypt, then we, our children, and our grandchildren, would still be enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt.

Therefore, even if we were all wise, all men of understanding, all well-versed in Torah, we would still be commanded to tell about the exodus from Egypt. Whoever tells about it at length is worthy of being praised.

We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt

The Zohar20 speaks of a counterpart of Pharaoh in the realm of holiness, a level at whichבו איתפריעו כל נהורין, “All G‑dly lights are revealed without restraint.” The purpose of our people’s labor in Egypt was to bring about this unbridled revelation (the Previous Rebbe).21

Pharaoh in Egypt

The name Pharaoh, פרעה, shares the same Hebrew letters as the word הערף,22 “the back of the neck.” In an allegorical sense, exile involves turning one’s back. Just as two people standing back to back may be close to each other but unaware of each other’s presence, so too, in exile, we are not fully conscious that G‑d remains present in every element of existence (the Rebbe Rashab).23

G‑d, our L‑rd, brought us out from there

The redemption from Egypt came as an act of Divine beneficence, and not as a result of divine service by the Jewish people. To compensate for this lack of service, there were subsequent exiles in which redemption depended — and depends — on the Jews’ efforts (the Rebbe).24

With a strong hand

A “strong hand” is needed to break through barriers and obstructions. On Pesach, G‑d breaks through any obstructions that may limit the expression of a Jew’s G‑dly nature, even the limits present in the lofty spiritual realms (Ibid.).25

In this light, it is explained that the Divine attribute of stern justice protested against the proposed redemption from Egypt, claiming that the Jews had not completed the work of refinement necessary to “earn” the exodus. Despite this objection, G‑d redeemed us with “a strong hand,” ignoring the challenge. Nevertheless, this deficiency in the Jews’ divine service led to the subsequent exiles experienced by our people(Ibid.).26

We, our children, and our grandchildren, would still be enslaved

The exile in Egypt was originally intended to complete the task of refining the world, preparing it for the ultimate Redemption. Had G‑d not altered His original conception and recalculated the end of our exile, our enslavement to Pharaoh would have continued until the completion of that spiritual mission (Ibid.).

Even if we were all wise, all men of understanding,... we would still be commanded to tell...

To exemplify this principle, the Haggadah relates that...

מעשה Once Rabbi Eliezer, Rabbi Yehoshua, Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah, Rabbi Akiva, and Rabbi Tarfon were dining together [at the Seder] in Bnei Brak. They discussed the exodus from Egypt throughout the night, until their students came and told them: “Teachers, the time for reciting the morning Shema has arrived.”

Once Rabbi Eliezer, Rabbi Yehoshua, Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah, Rabbi Akiva, and Rabbi Tarfon

This gathering shows that even individuals whose ancestors were not slaves in Egypt are obligated to recount this story. For Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua were Leviim,27 while Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah28 and Rabbi Tarfon29 were Kohanim, and the tribe of Levi was not enslaved.30 And Rabbi Akiva was a descendant31 of converts32 (the Rebbe).33

Whoever tells about it at length is worthy to be praised

There is a halachic dimension to this statement: The mitzvah is not merely to know about the exodus, but to speak about it and expound on the narrative (Ibid.).34

The Hebrew wording also allows for an extended interpretation. Lesaper, meaning “to tell,” shares a root with the verb meaning “to shine.”35 The goal of the Pesach Seder is that every individual should shine with the light of redemption (the Previous Rebbe).36

They discussed the exodus from Egypt throughout the night

Even in the “night” of exile, they experienced a foretaste of the sweetness of redemption (Ibid.).37

Until their students came and told them: “Teachers, the time for reciting the morning Shema has arrived.”

The Shema proclaims the oneness of G‑d. In particular, the morning Shema refers to a state in which that oneness shines in overt revelation. The students were thus telling their teachers: “You have achieved your objective. G‑d’s oneness is shining for us” (Ibid.).38

The teachers had not yet felt this light themselves. Nevertheless, their efforts had a reciprocal effect. Because they were able to generate light for their students, they were enabled to sense the dawn themselves (the Rebbe).39

אמר Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah said: I am like a 70-year-old man. Nevertheless, I had not merited [to understand the source for our obligation] to recall the departure from Egypt at night until Ben Zoma interpreted the verse:40 “In order that you remember the day you left Egypt all the days of your life” as follows:

[The phrase] “the days of your life” refers to the days; [adding the word] “all” includes the nights as well. The Sages interpreted [the phrase] “the days of your life” as referring to the present world, and “all the days of your life” as including the Era of Mashiach.

I am like a 70-year-old man

Our Rabbis explained that Rabbi Elazar was only eighteen41 at the time, yet he was “like a 70-year-old man,” i.e., he had the maturity and wisdom of someone that age. Moreover, a miracle had occurred and his countenance mirrored his spiritual state.

The sages of the Kabbalah42 amplify this explanation, stating that when Rabbi Elazar’s previous incarnations are counted, he had indeed lived 70 years. This provides a lesson for each of us: the good we performed in previous incarnations enhances our divine service in this life (Ibid.).43
I had not merited [to understand the source for our obligation] to recall the departure from Egypt at night “Night” refers to exile. Recalling the redemptions of the past during the “night” of the current exile stimulates the impetus for redemption in the future (the Alter Rebbe).44

Expanding on this theme, it can be explained that Rabbi Elazar was speaking on the experiential level, stating that he had not personally tasted redemption in the darkness of exile. For during the day, i.e., when G‑dly revelation is apparent, it is easier to experience redemption. At night, in exile, the challenge is more difficult.

Rabbi Elazar was aware of the limitations of his spiritual level. He did not seek to fool others, or himself. Such honesty is a fundamental requirement for spiritual progress (the Previous Rebbe, the Rebbe).45

“All the days of your life” as including as well the Era of Mashiach

Lehavi, translated as “including,” literally means “to bring.” When we lift the phrase kol yemei chayecha lehavi liyemos HaMashiach out of the Talmudic passage which is its source, it can be interpreted as a directive. All the days of your life should be permeated by a single intention: to bring about the coming of the Era of Mashiach (the Previous Rebbe).46

ברוך Blessed be the Omnipresent, blessed be He. Blessed be He who has given His Torah to His nation, Israel; blessed be He.

The Torah speaks of four sons: one wise, one wicked, one simple, and one who does not know how to ask.

Blessed be the Omnipresent.... Blessed be He who has given His Torah to His nation, Israel

These two clauses point to two dimensions of G‑d. The name “the Omnipresent” refers to the all-pervading presence of G‑d, for “He is the place of the world”;47 it is within His space, as it were, that creation took place.

The latter clause, praising G‑d as the Giver of the Torah, refers to the dimension of G‑dliness which transcends the material realm, for “the Torah preceded the world”48 (Ibid.).49

The Torah speaks of four sons

All four sons, even the wicked and the one who does not know how to ask, have something in common: they all attend the Pesach Seder. Today, we often encounter a fifth son, one to whom Pesach is a meaningless word and a Seder an unknown happening. To reach out to such sons, we must begin far before Pesach. But with sincere effort, they too can be brought to the Seder table (the Rebbe).50

One wise, one wicked, one simple, and one who does not know how to ask

אחד, the essential oneness of our G‑dly souls, remains present in all Jews. Even sons who are wicked or do not know how to ask possess oneness within their hearts (the Previous Rebbe).51

חכם The wise son, what does he say? “What are the testimonies, statutes and laws that G‑d, our L‑rd, has commanded you?”52

You should reply to him, [teaching him] the laws of Pesach [until their conclusion]: One may not eat any dessert after the Paschal sacrifice.

What does he say?

The Hebrew expression מה הוא אומר can also be rendered as “what he is, he says.” What a person says expresses who he is (the Previous Rebbe).53

“What are the testimonies, statutes and laws”

The wise son’s question is: Why are there different types of mitzvos? Seemingly, our divine service should be simple and singlehearted, reflecting G‑d’s transcendent unity.

In particular,the terms “testimonies, statutes and laws” refer to three types of mitzvos. “Testimonies” (edus) refer to mitzvos which commemorate events in our national history. “Statutes” (chukim) refer to mitzvos which, like shaatnez or the burning of the Red Heifer, would not be postulated by reason. And “laws” (mishpatim) refer to mitzvos that reason would dictate.

Our response to the redemption of Pesach should be unbounded obedience to G‑d, a fealty which rises above even the superrational commitment expressed through observing chukim. Surely, the edus and the mishpatim do not adequately reflect this level.Why then, asks the wise son, are these different types of mitzvos necessary? What is their purpose?

You should reply... [teaching him] the laws of Pesach

G‑d desired that our unbounded commitment be filtered through the medium of our intellect so that it would be internalized within our lives. This is the intent of the laws of Pesach, and of the Torah and its mitzvos as a whole: to provide a structure that will enable G‑d’s infinite oneness to permeate existence. To fulfill this purpose, there are different types of mitzvos, each relating to different dimensions of our personalities (the Rebbe).54

רשע The wicked son, what does he say? “What is this service to you?”55 [By saying] “to you,” [he implies] “but not to himself.” Since he excludes himself from our people at large, he denies the foundation of our faith. Therefore you should make his teeth blunt, and tell him: “It is because of this that G‑d acted on my behalf when I went out of Egypt.”56 [By saying] “on my behalf,” [you imply] “but not on his.” Had he been there, he would not have been redeemed.

The wicked son

The AriZal57 explains that the four sons parallel the four cups of wine. The wicked son would therefore parallel the second cup, the one over which the main body of the Haggadah is recited. From this, we can infer that our greatest efforts must be directed to reaching out to the wicked son and involving him in our heritage (the Rebbe).58

The Haggadah mentions the wicked son directly after the wise son. There are three points we can learn from this.

Firstly, this order encourages the wicked son, teaching him that he also has the potential to become wise should he so desire.Secondly, it shows the wise son where he should concentrate his efforts. He should work with his wicked brother, and inspire him to reveal his potential. It is the wise son who is given this responsibility, for it is his more-developed potential that will inspire the wicked to change.

>Lastly, it is a word of caution for the wise son, teaching him that he should not be overly proud, for there is only a slight distance between himself and his brother. If he does not continue to advance, that difference could disappear (Ibid.).59

“What is this service to you?”

This prooftext — in contrast to the prooftexts cited with regard to the wise son or the simple son — begins using a plural form: “When your children shall ask you.” Unlike the others, the wicked do not speak in a single voice; there is no unity among them (Ibid.).60

Had he been there, he would not have been redeemed

This implies a restriction. There, in Egypt, he would not have been redeemed, for all the Jews who did not merit redemption died during the plague of darkness.61 The redemption from Egypt was intended to influence the inner dimensions of the Jewish people. A person who rebelled against G‑d and rejected His influence was thus not fit to share in this redemption (the Alter Rebbe).62

This restriction applies only with regard to the exodus from Egypt. In the future Redemption, by contrast, all Jews will be redeemed. At the time of the Giving of the Torah, G‑dliness became part of every Jew’s inner being. From that time onward, there is no possibility of a Jew being consigned to oblivion. “On that day, the great shofar will be sounded, and those who were lost in Ashur, and dispersed in Egypt will come63 ”; every member of our people will share in Mashiach’s coming (Ibid.).64

תם The simple son, what does he say? “What is this?”

You should tell him: “With a strong hand, G‑d brought us out from Egypt, from the house of bondage.”65

ושאינו The son who does not know how to ask, you must begin for him, as it is written: “You shall tell your son on that day: ‘It is because of this that G‑d acted on my behalf when I went out of Egypt.’ ”66

The son who does not know how to ask

One year, the Rebbe Rashab praised greatly the son who does not know how to ask, explaining that this refers to a person who, despite the many challenges which life presents, has no questions. Instead, he appreciates the G‑dliness in everything he encounters (the Previous Rebbe).67

“You shall tell your son on that day: ‘It is because of this...

Notwithstanding the above interpretation, the fact that the same answer is given to the son who does not ask as to the wicked son can be understood as underscoring a connection between the two. Indeed, the wicked son has an advantage. Although he protests and balks, he shows an interest. The son who does not ask remains entirely apathetic; nothing provokes his interest. This is the most difficult challenge to overcome (the Rebbe).68

Alternatively, it can be explained that “the ones who do not know how to ask” — those who don’t understand the proper way of asking questions — are the ones who sneer “What is this service to you?” Those whose questions stem from a genuine desire to expand their knowledge speak in a different tone entirely (Ibid.).69

יכול Does [the obligation to relate the narrative of Pesach begin] on the first of Nissan? The Torah teaches:70 “[You shall tell your son] on that day,” [i.e., on the day of the exodus]. From the phrase “on that day,” one might infer “while it is still day.” [Hence,] the Torah adds “it is because of this.” [“This” refers to visible symbols of redemption.] Thus, [the obligation only begins] when matzah and maror are placed before you.

“It is because of this”... when matzah and maror are placed before you

זה (“this”) refers to the direct revelation of G‑dliness. This revelation is dependent on the presence of matzah and maror. The actual performance of these — and all the other — mitzvos is the medium which reveals G‑dly light (the Alter Rebbe).71

[The obligation only begins] when matzah and maror are placed before you

What is most important is the physical act of eating matzah and maror. These tangible symbols evoke the spiritual service of redemption (the Previous Rebbe, the Rebbe).72

One point must, however, be clarified. Although one could place matzah and maror on the table on the first of Nissan, their effectiveness as motivators comes only on Pesach night. For this is the night on which the Torah commands that these mitzvos be observed. And it is the Torah’s commandment which empowers them to stir our hearts (the Previous Rebbe).73

מתחילה In the beginning, our ancestors worshipped idols, but now G‑d has drawn us close to His service, as it is written:74 “And Yehoshua told the people: ‘So says G‑d, the L‑rd of Israel: “Your ancestors had always lived beyond the [Euphrates] River — Terach, the father of Avraham and Nachor — and they served other gods.

In the beginning, our ancestors worshipped idols

Our Sages75 explain that our nation’s humble beginnings are mentioned in accordance with the maxim: “Begin with shame and end with praise.” Every beginning has its birthpains. These should not cause a person to lose heart; from Terach and his pagan environment, Avraham emerged. When a person contemplates this sequence, he should be encouraged to proceed in his divine service (the Previous Rebbe).76

Now G‑d has drawn us close to His service

Although it was Avraham who was drawn close by G‑d, the relationship G‑d initiated with him still affects us today. Hence the word “now” (the Rebbe).77

G‑d has drawn us close to His service

Mankind at large must struggle to develop a connection with G‑d through knowledge and understanding. The Jewish people, by contrast, has been drawn close by G‑d. He has opened a unique channel — the Torah and its mitzvos — by which we can relate to Him to a much greater degree than would be possible through our own independent initiatives (Ibid.).78

Your ancestors had always lived beyond the River

In the mystic teachings of Chassidus, the word “River” serves as a simile for the attribute of Binah (“understanding”). Our ancestors, i.e., the roots of the Jewish people, are “beyond the River,” above the level of intellect (the Alter Rebbe).79

From these transcendent heights...

ואקח And I took your Patriarch Avraham from beyond that river and led him through the land of Canaan. I multiplied his descendants and I gave him Yitzchak. To Yitzchak I gave Yaakov and Esau. I gave Mount Seir to Esau as an inheritance, and Yaakov and his children went down to Egypt.” ’ ”

I took your Patriarch Avraham... and led him

teaching and guiding him, showing him how to reveal these lofty spiritual levels within our limited material world (Ibid.).80

I multiplied his descendants and I gave him Yitzchak

Although Yitzchak was only one son, of him it is justified to say that “I multiplied his descendants.” Avraham is identified with the quality of Chesed (kindness), and Yitzchak with Gevurah (might). When the two work in synergy, the might of Yitzchak brings the kindness of Avraham into many different manifestations (the Alter Rebbe).81

“I gave Mount Seir to Esau”

Esau was given Mount Seir as a gift; no divine service was required of him. This pattern does not apply to Yaakov and his descendants. Whatever is granted to them must be earned through divine service, and for that reason...

“Yaakov and his children went down to Egypt.”

To earn the right to the inheritance of Eretz Yisrael (the Previous Rebbe).82

ברוך Blessed be He who keeps His promise to Israel, blessed be He. The Holy One, blessed be He, calculated the end [of our exile] in order to fulfill His pledge to Avraham, [made] in the covenant beyn habesarim,83 as it is written:84 “And He said to Avram: ‘Know with certainty that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not their own. [Those people] will enslave them and oppress them for 400 years. Ultimately, I will judge the nation which they shall serve. Afterwards, they shall depart with great wealth.’ ”

The Holy One, blessed be He, calculated the end [of our exile]

G‑d derives unbounded pleasure from the divine service of the Jewish people in exile. Therefore, it is conceivable that He would allow the exile to continue without end. Nevertheless, in His kindness He “calculated the end of the exile,” setting a limit to its length (the Previous Rebbe).85

[Those people] will... oppress them

In a non-literal sense, וענו (“they will oppress them”) can be interpreted to mean “they [Israel] will make them [the Egyptians] poor,” i.e., the purpose of the exile in Egypt was to elevate the sparks of G‑dliness enclothed in the material substance of the land. After the Jews elevated these sparks, Egypt was spiritually impoverished. The Jews, by contrast, departed...

With great wealth

With these sparks of G‑dliness which they had elevated (Ibid.).86

We find that the acquisition of the wealth of Egypt was one of the goals of the exile. Therefore, before the Jews left, G‑d commanded Moshe:87 “Please speak to the people... and have each man borrow from his neighbor silver and golden utensils.” Our Sages explain88 that G‑d’s intent was “So that the righteous man (Avraham) would not say: the promise that ‘[those people] will enslave them and oppress them for 400 years’ was kept, but the promise that ‘afterwards, they shall depart with great wealth,’ was not kept.”

Why was gathering the wealth of Egypt so important? Because this activity reflects the purpose of creation. The intent of creation is to establish a dwelling for G‑d in our material world.89 This is accomplished through the divine service of the Jewish people in refining the material aspects of existence and thereby revealing the G‑dly energy enclothed within. The acquisition of the wealth of Egypt was vital, because it reflects the culmination of that service.

This contains a lesson for us in the present age. For the present exile, like the exile in Egypt, is also intended to elevate the material substance of our world. As such, we should not confine ourselves merely to spiritual activities. Instead, we should seek to enclothe that spirituality in our day-to-day experience, thus elevating the world and preparing it for the Future Redemption (the Rebbe).90

In the year 5662 (1902), harsh decrees were issued against the Jews of Russia. Shortly before Pesach, they were nullified in a miraculous manner. At the Seder that year, the Rebbe Rashab commented: “ ‘Great wealth’ means the revelation of G‑d’s greatness (Ibid.).”91

I will judge the nation which they shall serve

G‑d judges the nations, not only because of their own improper conduct, but also to make the Jewish people conscious that all nations are subservient to Him. The Jews should rely on G‑d rather than trust earthly powers alone. When the Jews err and attach undue importance to the power of other nations, the nations themselves will suffer Divine retribution (Ibid.).92
We cover the matzah, raise our cups and recite the following paragraph:

והיא It is this [promise] that has stood by our ancestors and us. More than one [enemy] has risen up against us to destroy us. Rather, in every generation they rise against us to annihilate us. The Holy One, blessed be He, however, saves us from their hand.

It is this [promise] that has stood by our ancestors and us

“This” refers to the mitzvah of faith in G‑d. Our faith in G‑d and trust in His promises serve as an everlasting resource protecting us from powerful opposing forces both in the spiritual realms and here on earth (the Mitteler Rebbe).93

Rather, in every generation, they rise against us to annihilate us

The purpose of the Jews’ enslavement in Egypt was to refine the material substance of the world. The Jews did not complete this task in Egypt and therefore evil remained within the world. Time and again, this evil is turned against the Jews themselves (the Rebbe).94

The Holy One, blessed be He, however, saves us from their hand

This passage reflects the paradoxical relationship between G‑d and the Jewish people during the era of exile. On one hand, the fact that the gentile nations continually arise to destroy us shows how the Jews are limited by the natural order. Nevertheless, the fact that G‑d always saves us demonstrates a unique providence that transcends nature (the Rebbe Rashab).95
We put down our cups and uncover the matzah.

צא Go out and learn what Laban attempted to do to our father, Yaakov. Pharaoh decreed only against the males, but Laban attempted to uproot everything, as it is written:96 “An Aramean sought to destroy my father. He descended to Egypt and sojourned there with a small number of people. There he became a nation, great, powerful, and populous.”

Go out and learn

Parenthetically, the Haggadahteaches that to learn, one must “go out” — leave one’s previous patterns of thought (the Previous Rebbe).97

Laban attempted to uproot everything

The meaning is not that Laban desired to kill Yaakov’s children. This is unlikely, for they were his own grandchildren. Rather, what Laban wanted to do was educate his grandchildren according to his own way of thinking, with the intent that they adopt his lifestyle. This would “uproot everything” (Ibid.).98

וירדHe descended to Egypt — Compelled by [G‑d’s] decree.

And sojourned there — This teaches that our patriarch, Yaakov, did not go down to Egypt with the intention of settling there, but merely to sojourn there, as it is written:99 “And they (Yaakov’s sons) told Pharaoh: ‘We have come to sojourn in this land, for there is no pasture for the flocks of your servants, since there is a severe famine in the land of Canaan. Now, please, let your servants dwell in the land of Goshen.’ ”

Compelled by [G‑d’s] decree

Yaakov was not physically compelled to descend to Egypt; the compulsion was internal. He understood that G‑d’s intent was that he and his descendants refine the G‑dliness enclothed in the physical substance of Egypt. Knowing that this was G‑d’s intent, and that G‑d would accompany the Jews into exile, Yaakov made the descent (the Rebbe).100

This, however, creates a paradox. If Yaakov realized that G‑d had decreed his descent to Egypt, why was he “compelled” to descend? Why didn’t he descend with joy at the chance to fulfill G‑d’s will?

The answer is that he did. And simultaneously, he had hesitations, for he sensed the drastic nature of the descent and knew the spiritual danger he and his descendants would confront.

This approach / avoidance conflict is a positive quality. On one hand, a person must be willing to carry out G‑d’s will. On the other hand, every day we pray,101 “Do not bring us to a trial.” For it is only when a person fears a spiritual challenge, and his willingness to face it stems only from his commitment to G‑d’s purpose, that he will have the strength to prevail (the Rebbe Rashab, the Rebbe).102

במתיWith a small number of people — As it is written:103 “Your ancestors went down to Egypt with 70 individuals. Now G‑d has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven.”

There he became a nation — This teaches that [the Jews] were a discrete entity there.

Great, powerful — As it is written:104 “And the children of Israel were fruitful, became prolific, multiplied, and became very, very powerful. The land became full with them.”

And populous — As it is written:105 “I passed over you and saw you weltering in your own blood and I said to you: ‘Through your blood, you will live.’ And I said to you: ‘Through your blood you will live.’ I made you as numerous as the plants of the field. You grew and developed, becoming very beautiful, your breasts became firm and your hair began to sprout; but you were naked and bare.”

70 individuals

The Hebrew term translated as “individuals,” נפש, is singular. Although we are speaking about 70 individuals, they shared bonds of inner unity so powerful that the singular form is appropriate106 (the Alter Rebbe).107

Our Sages speak of the world as comprising 70 nations.108 The divine service of the 70 individuals who descended to Egypt was intended to refine and elevate these nations and endow them with an awareness of G‑d.

Among those 70 vital individuals was Yocheved, an infant born as the Jews entered Egypt.109 This shows the power which every Jewish girl and boy possesses. Even at a very young age, each individual has the potential to influence the entire world (the Rebbe).110

Weltering in your own blood

This refers to the blood of the Paschal sacrifice and the blood of circumcision. Our Sages explain111 that before the exodus the Jews were “naked of mitzvos,” lacking virtue. To endow them with the merit for redemption, G‑d gave them two mitzvos of a comprehensive nature: the Paschal sacrifice nullified their connection with the Egyptians and their false deities, and circumcision established “a covenant in their flesh” between them and G‑d (the Rebbe).112

I made you as numerous as the plants of the field

The phrase hints at the key to Israel’s growth. Before a plant grows, the shell of its seed must decompose entirely. This motif applies for our people as a whole, and for every individual. The coarse “shell” of self must be worn away in order to allow our inner potential for growth to be expressed (the Alter Rebbe).113

You were naked

The verse is an analogy. Although the Jews had acquired many positive qualities, as implied by the phrase: “grew and developed, becoming very beautiful...,” they were still considered to be “naked.” Why? Because these positive qualities had been granted to them by G‑d and were not earned through their own achievements (the Maggid of Mezeritch).114

וירעו “And the Egyptians acted wickedly toward us and made us suffer. They imposed harsh labor upon us.”115

And the Egyptians acted wickedly toward us — As it is written:116 “Come, let us deal cleverly with them lest they multiply. Then, if there should be a war, they might join our enemies and drive [us] from the land.”

And made us suffer — As it is written:117 “They placed taskmasters over them to oppress them with burdens. And they built Pisom and Raamses as storage cities for Pharaoh.”

They imposed harsh labor upon us — As it is written:118 “And the Egyptians made the children of Israel do back-breaking labor. They embittered their lives with harsh labor, with mortar and bricks, as well as with all kinds of work in the field; the entire toil which they made them perform was rigorous.”

And the Egyptians acted wickedly toward us

The Hebrew word וירעו can also be interpreted to mean “they fraternized with us.” One of the difficulties of our exile in Egypt was the familiarity the Egyptians imposed upon us (the Previous Rebbe).119

Alternatively, the phrase can also mean “And the Egyptians made us bad.”120 Even the self-oriented dimensions of a Jew’s nature are far from wicked. A Jew can become wicked only through association with Egyptians, i.e., secular societies that sway him from his true self (the Rebbe).121

And they built Pisom and Raamses as storage cities for Pharaoh

A Jew is always building. Either he is building a Beis HaMikdash for G‑d, or a storage city for Pharaoh. The choice is his (the Rebbe.).122

They embittered their lives

A Jew’s true life is his divine service, and this is what the Egyptians made bitter. The Jews cried out to G‑d over their distance from Him, and this evoked His mercy (the Alter Rebbe).123

With harsh labor

Our Sages explain124 that the Egyptians tried to break the Jews’ spirit. For that reason, they gave men’s work to women, and women’s work to men. Even though women’s work was physically less demanding, it was difficult for the men because it ran contrary to their nature.

There are parallels to this concept in our divine service. Firstly, in a negative sense, there are those who ignore their own nature, and try to carry out forms of divine service which are not appropriate for them. For example, a wealthy man may devote his time to Torah study instead of concentrating on the distribution of charity. Conversely, a Torah scholar may commit himself to communal affairs and ignore his studies.

These are grievous mistakes. Although every person must balance his divine service, he must know himself, and know what tasks are demanded of him. These should constitute his primary field of endeavor.

Simultaneously, there is such a thing as a positive deviation from one’s nature: serving G‑d with a commitment that extends beyond one’s natural limits. Manifesting this positive counterpart of the “harsh labor” endured by our people in Egypt will hasten the end of our present exile (the Rebbe).125

With mortar and bricks

In Torah Or,126 the Alter Rebbe quotes the Zohar,127 which states that chomer (“mortar”) is a mystical allusion to kal vachomer, one of the rules of Biblical exegesis. Leveinim (“bricks”) alludes to libun hilchesa, the clarification of Torah law. This teaches that we can exchange the laborsome toil required in exile for laborsome toil in Torah study (Ibid.).128

With regard to the laws of ritual purity, bricks are considered new entities,129 totally different than the mortar and straw from which they are made. By forcing Jews to make bricks, Pharaoh wanted to tap our nation’s potential for initiative, so that the new developments the Jews brought about would be in the worldly sphere and not a part of their divine service (Ibid.).130

ונצעק “We cried out to G‑d, the L‑rd of our fathers. G‑d heard our voice. He saw our suffering, our difficult labor, and our distress.”131

We cried out to G‑d, the L‑rd of our fathers — As it is written:132 “And it came to pass after those many days, that the king of Egypt died. The children of Israel groaned because of the toil, and they cried out. Their pleas rose up before G‑d, because of their toil.”

We cried out to G‑d

When a Jew is broken and cries out to G‑d, G‑d responds. For the shattering of the ego is a fundamental step in one’s preparation for redemption (the Rebbe).133

The Jews were grieving over their physical sufferings. Although this was their prime concern, their outcry was sufficient to awaken G‑d’s mercy. For G‑d regards every Jew as His only son. And when a son cries for whatever reason, his father naturally does whatever he can to comfort him (the Rebbe Rashab, the Rebbe).134

Just as the Jews’ crying out in teshuvah motivated G‑d to send Moshe to redeem them, a cry of teshuvah will motivate G‑d to send Mashiach to bring the Future Redemption (the Previous Rebbe).135

We cried out

The Tzemach Tzedek would generally refrain from using practical Kabbalah, nor would he attempt to answer questions in Torah via a dream quest. Once, however, shortly after his marriage, he was puzzled by the fact that the term for “cried out” used in the prooftext (ויזעקו) is different from the term in the original verse (ונצעק).

On this occasion, he decided to clarify the issue through a dream quest. From heaven, he was answered that the Zohar136 equates the two terms (Ibid.).137

וישמעG‑d heard our voice — As it is written:138 “G‑d heard our cries and G‑d remembered His covenant with Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov.”

ויראHe saw our suffering — This refers to the disruption of family life, as it is written:139 “G‑d saw the children of Israel and G‑d took note.”

ואתOur difficult labor — This refers to the children, as it is written:140 “Every boy who is born must be cast into the river, but every girl shall be allowed to live.”

And our distress — This refers to the oppression, as it is written:141 “I have also seen how the Egyptians are oppressing them.”

Our difficult labor — This refers to the children

Raising children is “difficult labor.” Educating children and inculcating them with Torah ideals requires thought, effort and patience. Nevertheless, making this investment in our children’s future will endow them with the strength to endure the challenges of exile and, like the children who emerged from Egypt,they will be the ones whorecognize G‑d first at the time of Redemption (the Rebbe).142

“Every boy who is born must be cast into the river, but every girl shall be allowed to live.”

Both of these clauses can be interpreted figuratively, and connected to Jewish education. The Nile was the Egyptians’ god, and the foundation of their culture. “Casting” Jewish boys into this “river” can also refer to immersing them in the Egyptian lifestyle and values.

Similarly, תחיון, translated as “shall be allowed to live,” can also be rendered as “you shall make alive,” i.e., Pharaoh instructed his people to imprint the Jewish girls with an Egyptian conception of life. This is the challenge of exile: not to be swayed by the prevailing values of gentile society, and instead to raise our children with a genuinely Jewish set of ideals and principles (the Rebbe).143

When was the decree to cast Jewish children into the river nullified? When Moshe’s basket was placed in the river by his mother. After she did this, Pharaoh’s counselors told him: “The savior of the Jews has been thrown into the water.”144 Only when Moshe was brought into the same dire situation as the other Jews, confronting the Egyptians’ false deity directly, was the murderous decree nullified (Ibid.).145

ויוציאנו ”G‑d brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm, with great visions, signs and wonders.”146

G‑d brought us out of Egypt — Not through the medium of an angel, nor through the medium of a seraph, nor through the medium of any agent. Instead, [it was] the Holy One, blessed be He; He, Himself, in His glory, as it is written:147 “I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night and I will slay every firstborn in the land of Egypt, from man to beast. I will execute judgments against all the gods of Egypt. I am G‑d.”

“I will pass through the land of Egypt,” — I and not an angel;

“I will slay every firstborn,” — I and not a seraph;

“I will execute judgments against all the gods of Egypt,” — I and not an agent;

“I am G‑d,” — I and no other.

I and not an angel

Not only couldn’t the angels have redeemed the Jews, but had they descended into Egypt, they would have been destroyed by the impurity of the environment. Only G‑d’s essence could descend into such impurity and still bring about the Jews’ redemption (the Maggid of Mezeritch).148

Alternatively, it can be explained that G‑d could have smitten the Egyptians through various agents. Nevertheless, because of His great love for us, He carried out the deed Himself.149 This example should be emulated. When trying to help another Jew, a person must invest all his energies in the endeavor, sparing no pains (the Rebbe).150

בידWith a mighty hand — This refers to the epidemic among the livestock, as it is written:151 “Behold, the hand of G‑d will be against your cattle in the field, against the horses, the donkeys and the camels, the oxen and the sheep, with a very severe plague.”

With an outstretched arm — This refers to the sword, as it is written:152 “With his drawn sword in his hand, stretched out over Jerusalem.”

With great visions — This refers to the revelation of the Divine Presence, as it is written:153 “Has G‑d ever performed miracles, coming to take one nation out of the midst of another nation with miracles, signs, wonders, war, a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and with terrifying events, as all G‑d did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?”

Signs — This refers to the staff, as it is written:154 “Take this staff in your hand, with which you will perform the signs.”

And wonders — This refers to the blood, as it is written:155 “I will reveal wonders in heaven and in the earth:

When reciting each of the three word above, we customarily pour out a small amount of wine from our cups. Some remove the wine by dipping a finger into the cup and wiping the wine on the rim of the plate. This is not the Lubavitch practice.

Kabbalistic instructions:
156 One’s intent should be that the cup be identified with the Sefirah of Malchus. Through the influence of Binah, the anger associated with the wine it contains is “poured off” into a broken vessel, representative of kelipah, which is called “cursed.”

Blood, fire, and columns of smoke.”

With great visions — This refers to the revelation of the Divine Presence

The next passage associates this phrase with the plagues.Why is the revelation of the Divine Presence connected with the plagues? Shouldn’t the revelation of the Divine Presence involve kindness and generosity?

To explain with an allegory: A king who is all goodness will never execute harsh judgments. Nonetheless, if someone harms his son, his wrath will be aroused. Similarly, G‑d is full of kindness, but because the Egyptians oppressed the Jews, His children, He revealed Himself with burning fury (the Maggid of Mezeritch).157

We... pour out a small amount of wine from our cups

The Hebrew word for “cup,” כוס, is numerically equivalent to the word הטבע, “nature.” Within nature, there are positive potentials that can be used for holiness, and undesirable qualities which must be discarded. Differentiating between these two categories is not easy. To accomplish this successfully, we must manifest control — over ourselves, and then over our natural environment. In allusion to this, rather than dipping our finger in the cup, we take the cup — nature — in hand, demonstrating our mastery (the Previous Rebbe).158

דבר Another interpretation [of the above verse]. [Each phrase is associated with two plagues:]

With a mighty hand: two;

With an outstretched arm: two;

With great visions: two;

Signs: two;

And wonders: two.

אלו These are the ten plagues which the Holy One, blessed be He, brought upon the Egyptians in Egypt: They are:

Similarly, when reciting each of the ten plagues, and the acronyms which follow, a small amount of wine is spilled out with the intention mentioned above. The cup is not refilled until after these acronyms are recited.

דם Blood, frogs, lice, wild beasts, epidemic, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, slaying of the firstborn.

רבי Rabbi Yehudah coined abbreviations for them: detzach, adash, b’achav.

The cups are refilled. The wine remaining in the cups is “wine of joy,” and should not be spilled out.

Blood, frogs

These two plagues are opposite in nature. “Blood” is warm, having its source in the Element of Fire, while frogs are cold, having their source in the Element of Water.

The plagues were intended not only to punish the Egyptians, but to inspire the Jews in their divine service. Therefore, the first plague is one of warmth. For the first stage in coming close to G‑d is feeling warmth — the fire of one’s divine service. Afterwards, one must cool off one’s involvement in worldly matters. Instead of being excited about such things, one should have the presence of mind to sit back and decide what is necessary and beneficial.

One might ask: Seemingly, the approach should be “turn away from evil and do good,”159 i.e., one should begin by removing undesirable qualities, and only then is it possible to add good.

This is true when a person begins on his own initiative. But the redemption from Egypt — and similarly the step forward in divine service we take every Pesach — comes about because of a revelation from above. Therefore, it is possible to begin with a revelation of light, confident that the light itself will dispel darkness (the Rebbe).160

Frogs

Frogs appear to serve no purpose in our world. They do not perform any constructive activity. Moreover, unlike snakes and scorpions, which clearly serve a negative purpose, frogs seem to have no function whatsoever. This plague, in which frogs went against their nature and swarmed into the Egyptians’ homes — and even into their ovens, thus giving up their lives — clearly showed that even frogs exist to serve G‑d’s purpose.

This was part of the intent of the plagues: that Egypt — and the world at large — should “know that I am G‑d.”161 The conduct of the frogs shows that every element of being to serve Him (Ibid.).162

רבי Rabbi Yossi the Gallilean declared: Which source teaches that the Egyptians were struck by ten plagues in Egypt and by 50 plagues at the [Red] Sea?

Concerning [the plagues of] Egypt, it is written:163 “The magicians told Pharaoh: ‘This is the finger of G‑d.’ ” [With regard to the devastation of the Egyptians] at the sea, it is written:164 “When Israel saw the great hand which G‑d wielded against the Egyptians, the people feared G‑d. They believed in G‑d and in Moshe, His servant.”

With how many plagues were they struck by “the finger”? Ten. Thus, it follows that they were struck by ten plagues in Egypt and 50 at the sea.

When Israel saw the great hand which G‑d wielded... They believed in G‑d

All Jews have natural reservoirs of belief, but the expression of this potential is hindered by our self-concern and our preoccupation with worldly activities. When the Jews stood in awe, marveling at the great revelations, their negative tendencies were temporarily stunned and there was nothing to prevent their inner faith from surfacing (the Previous Rebbe).165

רבי Rabbi Eliezer declared: Which source teaches that every plague that the Holy One, blessed be He, wrought against the Egyptians consisted of four plagues? It is written:166 “He unleashed upon them His burning anger: wrath, fury, trouble, and troops of messengers of evil.”

“Wrath” [refers to] one plague; “fury” to a second; “trouble” to a third; and “troops of messengers of evil” to a fourth. Thus, we may conclude that they were struck by 40 plagues in Egypt and by 200 at the sea.

רבי Rabbi Akiva declared: Which source teaches that every plague that the Holy One, blessed be He, wrought against the Egyptians consisted of five plagues? It is written: “He unleashed upon them His burning anger, wrath, fury, trouble, and troops of messengers of evil.”

“His burning anger” [refers to] one plague; “wrath” to a second; “fury” to a third; “trouble” to a fourth; and “troops of messengers of evil” to a fifth. Thus, we may conclude that they were struck by 50 plagues in Egypt and by 250 at the sea.

Each plague... wrought against the Egyptians consisted of four plagues.... Each plague... wrought against the Egyptians consisted of five plagues....

The difference between these two opinions runs far deeper than a difference in approach to Biblical exegesis. All existence is structured in sets of four (and thus there are four elements: Fire, Air, Water, and Earth). Rabbi Eliezer states that each of the plagues involved all the elements of existence, and thus was four-fold in nature. Rabbi Akiva states that the plagues involved not only the four elements, but also the very essence of material existence. Thus every plague was five-fold in nature (the Rebbe).167

כמה How many favors has G‑d granted us!

No interruptions should be made when reciting the fourteen lines which conclude Dayeinu — “It would have sufficed us.”

אלו If He had brought us out of Egypt, but had not executed judgments upon the Egyptians, it would have sufficed us.

If He had executed judgments against them, but not against their gods, it would have sufficed us.

If He had executed judgments against their gods, but had not slain their firstborn, it would have sufficed us.

If He had slain their firstborn, but had not given us their wealth, it would have sufficed us.

If He had given us their wealth, but had not split the sea for us, it would have sufficed us.

If He had split the sea for us, but had not led us through on dry land, it would have sufficed us.

If He had led us through on dry land, but had not drowned our foes in it, it would have sufficed us.

If He had drowned our foes in it, but had not provided for our needs in the desert for 40 years, it would have sufficed us.

If He had provided for our needs in the desert for 40 years, but had not sustained us with the manna, it would have sufficed us.

If He had sustained us with the manna, but had not given us the Sabbath, it would have sufficed us.

If He had given us the Sabbath, but had not brought us to Mount Sinai, it would have sufficed us.

If He had brought us to Mount Sinai, but had not given us the Torah, it would have sufficed us.

If He had given us the Torah, but had not brought us into Eretz Yisrael, it would have sufficed us.

If He had brought us into Eretz Yisrael, but had not built the Beis HaMikdash for us, it would have sufficed us.

How many favors has G‑d granted us!

The Hebrew word maalos, translated as “favors,” can also mean “attributes” or “qualities.” Thus the phrase can be rendered: “How many positive attributes does G‑d possess for us!”

This alludes to a fundamental mystical truth. G‑d transcends all attributes. The sole reason He possesses attributes is “for us,” so that they become manifest in our world. Not only do these attributes exist exclusively for us, but moreover, they are brought about through our divine service (the Tzemach Tzedek).168

It would have sufficed us

The Previous Rebbe would not interrupt the recitation of the passage dayeinu — “it would have sufficed us.” If he wanted to explain a phrase, he would do so either before or afterwards.

His practice teaches a more general lesson. Every bar of the passage represents a different stage in the sequence from the exodus from Egypt to the building of the Beis HaMikdash, and alludes to the attainment of a corresponding level in our divine service. While reciting, one should not stop, i.e., when one is in the midst of a process of spiritual growth, it is improper to pause and savor one’s accomplishments. Instead, one must proceed until the culmination of the process. Only then can one look back and say Dayeinu(the Rebbe).169

על How much more so [do we owe thanks] to G‑d for His repeated and manifold favors!

He brought us out of Egypt;

He executed judgments against the Egyptians;

He executed judgments against their gods;

He slew their firstborn;

He gave us their wealth;

He split the sea for us;

He led us through on dry land;

He drowned our foes in it;

He provided for our needs in the desert for 40 years;

He sustained us with the manna;

He gave us the Sabbath;

He brought us to Mount Sinai;

He gave us the Torah;

He brought us into Eretz Yisrael;

He built the Beis HaMikdash for us to atone for all our sins.

His repeated and manifold favors

“Repeated and manifold” is a free translation. The literal meaning of the words כפולה ומכפלת is “doubled and redoubled,” i.e., “fourfold.” This phrase reflects the structure of the Seder, which is built around the drinking of four cups of wine and which features four sons (Ibid.).170

He built the Beis HaMikdash for us, to atone for all our sins

Our Sages state171 that G‑d gave Avraham a choice: either to enter Gehinnom or to have his descendants subjugated by other nations. This implies that just as Gehinnom is not intended as a punishment, but to enable souls to purge themselves of evil and gain atonement, so too the purpose of our exile in Egypt was for us to undergo a process of atonement and refinement.
This task of refinement was not completed in Egypt. In His kindness, G‑d nevertheless redeemed the Jews. Moreover, through the sacrificial worship in the Beis HaMikdash, He gave us the opportunity to consummate the Divine service left incomplete (the Rebbe).172

רבן Rabban Gamliel would say: Whoever does not discuss the following three things on Pesach has not fulfilled his obligation: They are Pesach(the Paschal sacrifice), matzah (the unleavened bread), and maror (the bitter herbs).

Rabban Gamliel would say: Whoever does not discuss the following three things on Pesach:...Pesach, matzah, and maror

These three mitzvos reflect the purpose of the entire Seder. The obligation to eat matzah stems from the Torah. Thus it alludes to our duty to observe the Torah in its totality. In the present age, eating maror is a Rabbinic ordinance, alluding to the need to “place a fence around the Torah,”173 by upholding the safeguards instituted by our Sages. The Paschal sacrifice refers to our worship in the Beis HaMikdash, emphasizing that our observance must not be merely dry ritual, but instead should serve as a medium for the revelation of G‑d’s Presence (the Rebbe).174
When reciting the following passage, one should not point to the zeroa (shankbone) on the Seder plate.

פסח The Paschal sacrifice that our ancestors would eat during the time of the Beis HaMikdash — what is its reason?

Because the Holy One, blessed be He, passed over the houses of our ancestors in Egypt, as it is written:175 “You shall say, ‘It is a Paschal sacrifice for G‑d because He passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, striking the Egyptians and saving our homes.’ The people bowed and prostrated themselves.”

What is its reason?

The Hebrew phraseal shum mah has an extended, non-literal meaning. Mah refers to the quality of bittul, selflessness. In this context, al shum mah can thus be rendered “for the sake of bittul.” All three practices share a common goal: to inspire a commitment to divine service imbued with humility (the Alter Rebbe).176

Passed over the houses of our ancestors

G‑d has brought into being a manifold sequence of spiritual worlds which limit and confine His light so that it can be contained within our material world. Nevertheless, on Pesach night, He “passed over” all these limits, and granted our ancestors the opportunity of appreciating Him as He truly is (Ibid.).177
While we recite the following paragraph, it is the prevailing Lubavitch custom to hold the middle and lower matzos and their covering until the second time the phrase al shum (“Because”) is recited.

מצה This matzah we eat — what is its reason?

Because the dough of our ancestors did not have time to rise before the King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, revealed Himself to them and redeemed them, as it is written:178 “They baked cakes of matzah from the dough that they had brought out of Egypt, because it had not risen. For they had been driven out of Egypt and could not delay; nor had they prepared any [other] provisions for themselves.”

Because the dough of our ancestors did not have time to rise

The text of the Haggadah differs from that of the Mishnah179 which is its source. The Mishnah states merely “Because our ancestors were redeemed from Egypt.” The answer in the Haggadah stresses that there was a second miracle: the exodus took place without delay. Had the Jews remained in Egypt a moment longer, they would never have been redeemed180 (the Rebbe).181
The Jews were commanded to eat matzah before the exodus, as it is written:182 “In the evening, you shall eat matzos.” While still in Egypt, they were thus granted a foretaste of the celebration of their future redemption (the Rebbe).183

Before the King of kings... revealed Himself to them

Chametz, leaven, refers to pride and egocentricity. When the Jews saw the revelation of G‑d’s essence, all excuses for pride vanished. The nation was totally absorbed in the revelation of G‑d. And this was reflected in the dough they carried with them. Although there was ample time for it to rise, it remained flat, echoing the humility they experienced (the Alter Rebbe).184
While reciting the following paragraph, it is the prevailing Lubavitch custom to rest one’s hands on the maror, as well as on the maror to be used for the korech — until the second time the phrase al shum (“Because”) is mentioned.

מרור This maror we eat — what is its reason?

Because the Egyptians embittered the lives of our ancestors in Egypt, as it is written:185 “They embittered their lives with harsh labor, with mortar and with bricks, as well as with all kinds of work in the field; the entire toil which they made them perform was rigorous.”

בכל In every generation, a person is obligated to regard himself as if he had left Egypt, as implied by the verse:186 “And you shall tell your son on that day, saying: ‘It is because of this that G‑d acted on my behalf when I went out of Egypt.’ ”

It was not only our ancestors whom the Holy One, blessed be He, redeemed from Egypt; He redeemed us as well, as implied by the verse:187 “He brought us out from there, so that He might bring us to the land He swore to our fathers, and give it to us.”

In every generation,

and more precisely, every day...

a person is obligated to regard himself as if he had left Egypt

I.e., one’s inner G‑dly nature should experience a departure from the constraints of material existence. This experience should be repeated every day, for the same motif can be applied on myriad levels. Every day, a person must break through a more sophisticated level of confinement (the Alter Rebbe).188
No individual can say: “There is no need for me to leave Egypt.” Regardless of the level he has reached, there is always need for further progress, because the Divine potential which each of us possesses is truly infinite.
This same concept applies to those at the other end of the spectrum. No individual should despair of “leaving Egypt.” Before the exodus, the Jews had fallen to the 49th of the 50 levels of impurity.189 Nevertheless, they were redeemed and proceeded to receive the Torah and make the journey to Eretz Yisrael. So too, no matter what a person’s present level, he always possesses the potential for advancement (the Rebbe).190
The matzos are covered and the cup is raised.

לפיכך Therefore, we are obliged to thank, praise, laud, glorify, exalt, adore, bless, extol, and acclaim the One who wrought all these miracles for our fathers and for us. He took us out from slavery to freedom, from sorrow to joy, from mourning to festivity, from deep darkness to great light, and from servitude to redemption. Therefore, let us say before Him: Halleluyah!

The cup is put down.

הללויה Halleluyah! Servants of G‑d, offer praise. Praise the name of G‑d. May G‑d’s name be blessed from now until eternity. From the rising of the sun until its setting, G‑d’s name is praised. G‑d is exalted above all nations; His glory is over the heavens. Who is like G‑d, our L‑rd, who dwells on high, yet lowers Himself to look down on the heaven and earth? He raises the poor from the dust; He lifts the needy from the dunghill, to seat them with nobles, with the nobles of His people. He restores the barren woman, [making her] a household, a joyful mother of children, Halleluyah!191

Halleluyah! Servants of G‑d

This psalm begins the Hallel. Although the Hallel is generally recited while standing, an exception is made at the Seder. Reciting the prayers while seated highlights the feeling offreedom experienced this night (the Alter Rebbe).192

G‑d is exalted above all nations

The pagans maintain that G‑dis elevated above the plane of material existence, but that...

His glory is over the heavens

Spiritual beings can appreciate Him. Therefore, goes their arguement, these spiritual beings should be worshipped. This is how the worship of false deities began.193

The Jews, by contrast, state...

Who is like G‑d, our L‑rd, who dwells on high

G‑d’s transcendence is totally above human comprehension. Just as He cannot be contained by material existence, so too He surpasses the limits of spiritualreality. And...

Yet [He] lowers Himself to look down on the heaven and earth

The material and the spiritual are equally distant for Him. Just as He manifests Himself in spiritual light, His Presence can be revealed in material existence (Ibid.).194

בצאת When Israel went out of Egypt, the House of Yaakov from a people of a foreign language, Judah became His holy one, Israel His dominion. The sea saw and fled; the Jordan turned backward. The mountains skipped like rams, the hills like young lambs. What is with you, O sea, that you flee? Jordan, [why] do you turn backward? Mountains, why do you skip like rams; hills, [why] like young lambs? [We do so] before the Master, the Creator of the earth, before the G‑d of Yaakov; the One who turns the rock into a pool of water, the flint-stone into a stream of water.195

When Israel went out of Egypt...

There is a difference of opinion among our Sages196 as to whether this psalm should be recited at this point in the Seder, or after the Seder meal.The School of Shammai maintains197 that it should not be recited until afterwards, since the Jews did not leave Egypt until after midnight. Postponing its recitation causes it to be read at the time “when Israel went out of Egypt.” The School of Hillel, by contrast, maintains that since the Jews did not actually leave Egypt until the next day, there is no point in delaying the recitation of the passage until after midnight. It should instead, they argue, be included in the first part of the Haggadah.

What is the rationale of the School of Shammai? Pharaoh granted the Jews permission to leave Egypt at night. Since the potential for the exodus was already granted, the School of Shammai maintains it is appropriate to say “When Israel went out of Egypt.” The School of Hillel differs, arguing that what is important is not the potential for exodus, but the Jews’ actual departure, and this did not take place until the following morning.

This difference of opinion points to a more fundamental difference in approach between the School of Hillel and the School of Shammai. The School of Hillel focuses on actuality (the poal, in thelanguage of Talmudic debate), while the School of Shammai focuses on potential (the koach, in the language of Talmudic debate).

For example, with regard to Chanukah,198 the School of Shammai maintains that eight candles should be lit on the first night, for the first night contains the potential for the subsequent seven. The School of Hillel, by contrast, maintains that since this is only the first night of the holiday, only one candle should be lit.

There is much room to expand on these concepts within the context of Talmudic discussion. On Pesach night, however, what is most significant is to know that the Halachah follows the School of Hillel. The potential for redemption is not sufficient; redemption must become manifest in actual fact (the Rebbe).199
The cup of wine is raised and held until the conclusion of the blessing over the wine.

ברוך Blessed are You, G‑d, our L‑rd, King of the universe, who redeemed us and redeemed our ancestors from Egypt, and who has enabled us to reach this night so that we may eat matzah and maror upon it. So too, G‑d, our L‑rd and L‑rd of our fathers, enable us to reach other holidays and festivals that will come to us in peace, celebrating in the rebuilding of Your city and rejoicing in Your service. There we shall eat of the sacrifices and of the Paschal offerings

{when Pesach falls on Saturday night:

of the Paschal offerings and the sacrifices}

whose blood shall be sprinkled on the wall of Your altar, to be graciously accepted. Then we shall give thanks to You with a new song for our redemption and for the deliverance of our souls. Blessed are You, G‑d, who redeemed Israel.

After reciting the blessing to follow, we drink the second cup while reclining on the left side.

ברוך Blessed are You, G‑d, our L‑rd, King of the universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine.

Footnotes
1.
The phrase Leshanah habaah (“next year”), which appears here twice, literally means “the coming year.” The first time this phrase appears, the Rebbe Rashab used to stress the second syllable (habaah): the second time, he used to stress the third syllable (habaah). The latter form more clearly implies the present tense (cf. Rashi on Bereishis 29:6) — i.e., the year that is coming now.
2.
Sichos Leil Sheni shel Chag HaPesach, 5712.
3.
Sichos Leil Sheni shel Chag HaPesach, 5719.
4.
Shulchan Aruch HaRav 473:37.
5.
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. VII p. 259.
6.
Mechilta, Shmos 12:1.
7.
Sefer HaSichos 5703, p. 66.
8.
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. III, p. 1016.
9.
Sefer HaSichos 5703, p. 54.
10.
The practice of the person leading the Seder repeating the Four Questions appears to have its source in the Rambam’s rulings in Hilchos Chametz Umatzah. In ch. 7, halachos 1-3, the Rambam speaks of a person’s children asking questions, but in ch. 8 halachah 2, he states that the questions should he asked by the person leading the Seder (Sichos Yud-Alef Nissan, 5743).
11.
Hosea 11:1.
12.
Sefer HaSichos 5704, p. 87, Sichos Leil Sheni shel Chag HaPesach, 5712.
13.
Zachariah 13:2.
14.
As quoted in Sefer HaSichos 5697, p. 224.
15.
Siddur Im Dach, p. 159d.
16.
Sichos Chag HaPesach, 5748.
17.
Although in many communities, the first question focuses on the matzah, the custom of beginning with the dipping is found in the Haggados of Rav Saadia Gaon and the Rambam, and in the codes of Rabbeinu Yitzchak Alfasi and Rabbeinu Asher.
18.
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. I, p. 244.
19.
Sichos Leil Sheni shel Chag HaPesach, 5712.
20.
I, 210a; Likkutei Torah, Shir HaShirim 6d.
21.
Sefer HaSichos 5703, p. 70ff.
22.
Likkutei Torah LehaAriZal, beginning of Parshas Veyeishev; Torah Or, p. 58d.
23.
Sefer HaMamaarim 5672, Vol. II, p. 857.
24.
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XVII, p. 88ff.
25.
Sichos Leil Sheni shel Chag HaPesach, 5714.
26.
Likkutei Sichos, loc. cit.
27.
Erchin 11b.
28.
Menachos 53a; Yerushalmi, Maaser Sheni 5:3.
29.
Kiddushin 71a.
30.
Shmos Rabbah 5:15; Rashi, Shmos 5:4.
31.
Seder HaDoros, Erech R. Akiva.
32.
Simchas HaRegel (Chidah).
33.
Haggadah Shel Pesach Im Likkutei Taamim.
34.
Sichos Leil Sheni shel Chag HaPesach, 5721.
35.
Siddur HaAriZal, Pardes 8:2; Likkutei Torah, Emor 37b.
36.
Sefer HaSichos 5704, p. 88.
37.
Sefer HaSichos 5703, p. 71.
38.
Sefer HaSichos 5704, p. 88ff.
39.
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. II, p. 539.
40.
Deuteronomy 16:3.
41.
Berachos 12b. According to the Jerusalem Talmud, Berachos 4:1, Rabbi Elazar was only sixteen.
42.
Siddur HaAriZal.
43.
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. I, p. 246.
44.
Torah Or, Shmos 50d.
45.
Sefer HaSichos 5703, p. 71, Likkutei Sichos, Vol. III. p. 1016.
46.
Sefer HaSichos 5703, p. 73.
47.
Bereishis Rabbah 68:9.
48.
Midrash Tehillim 90:4, Bereishis Rabbah 88:2.
49.
Sefer HaSichos 5704, p. 89.
50.
Communal Letter, 11 Nissan, 5717; Likkutei Sichos, Vol. I, p. 252.
51.
Sefer HaSichos 5703, p. 74.
52.
Deuteronomy 6:20.
53.
As quoted in Haggadah Shel Pesach Im Likkutei Taamim.
54.
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. III, p. 961ff.
55.
Exodus 12:26.
56.
Exodus 13:8.
57.
Pri Etz Chaim, Shaar Chag HaMatzos, ch. 7.
58.
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. I, p. 248.
59.
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. I, p. 250; Vol. III, p. 1016.
60.
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XVII, p. 323.
61.
Shmos Rabbah 14:3.
62.
Likkutei Torah, Tzav 12c-d; Likkutei Sichos, Vol. I, p. 252.
63.
Isaiah 27:13.
64.
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XI, p. 2.
65.
Exodus 13:14.
66.
Exodus 13:8.
67.
Sefer HaSichos 5698, p. 262.
68.
Sichos Motzaei Shabbos Parshas Tzav, 5743.
69.
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XVII, p. 323.
70.
Exodus 13:8.
71.
Likkutei Torah, Parshas Tzav p. 13a.
72.
Sefer HaSichos 5704, p. 90 Sichos Leil Sheni shel Chag HaPesach, 5718.
73.
Sefer HaSichos 5703, p. 54.
74.
Joshua 24:2-4.
75.
Pesachim 116a.
76.
Sefer HaSichos 5704, p. 90.
77.
Haggadah Shel Pesach Im Likkutei Taamim.
78.
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXV, p. 78ff.
79.
Likkutei Torah, Bechukosai 46c.
80.
The maamar, VaYomer Yehoshua, Leil Sheni shel Chag HaPesach, 5720.
81.
Siddur Im Dach, p. 247a-b.
82.
Sefer HaSichos 5699, p. 323.
83.
Literally, “between the halves.” It was customary for two people establishing a covenant to slaughter an animal, cut it in half, arrange the halves opposite each other and pass between them together. When G‑d wanted to establish a covenant with Avraham, He had him slaughter animals and arrange them in this manner. Afterwards, Avraham and a manifestation of heavenly fire passed through the halves.
84.
Genesis 15:13-14.
85.
Sefer HaMaamarim 5708, p. 151.
86.
Sefer HaSichos 5697, p. 220.
87.
Exodus 11:2.
88.
Berachos 9a quoted in Rashi’s commentary to the above verse.
89.
Midrash Tanchuma, Parshas Bechukosai, sec. 3.
90.
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. III, p. 823.
91.
Sefer HaSichos 5699, p. 323.
92.
Sefer HaSichos 5703, p. 55.
93.
Shaar HaEmunah 7b.
94.
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XVII, p. 89.
95.
Sefer HaMaamarim 5672, Vol. II, p. 861.
96.
Deuteronomy 26:5.
97.
Sefer HaSichos 5704, p. 91.
98.
Ibid.
99.
Genesis 47:4.
100.
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. II, p. 542.
101.
Siddur Tehillat HaShem, p. 9.
102.
Sefer HaMaamarim 5672, Vol. I, p. 483, Likkutei Sichos, Vol. IV, p. 1219.
103.
Deuteronomy 10:22.
104.
Exodus 1:7.
105.
Ezekiel 16:6-7.
106.
Vayikra Rabbah 5:6; Rashi, Bereishis 46:26.
107.
Likkutei Torah, Chukas 60b; Or HaTorah, Bamidbar, p. 19.
108.
Zohar II, 5b, 16b; Rashi, Bereishis 35:11.
109.
Bava Basra 123b.
110.
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XX, p. 218ff.
111.
Mechilta (and Rashi) commenting on Exodus 12:6.
112.
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XVI, p. 117.
113.
Likkutei Torah, Pekudei 4d.
114.
Likkutei Amarim of the Maggid,p. 29a.
115.
Deuteronomy 26:6.
116.
Exodus 1:10.
117.
Exodus 1:11.
118.
Exodus 1:13-14.
119.
Sefer HaSichos 5699, p. 324.
120.
Shaloh, p. 162a.
121.
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XVII, p. 89.
122.
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. VI, p. 13ff.
123.
Torah Or, Shmos p. 51b.
124.
Sotah 11b.
125.
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. III, p. 851, Sichos Leil Sheni shel Chag HaPesach, 5720.
126.
Torah Or, Shmos 49a.
127.
III, 153a, in the Raya Mehemna.
128.
Sichos Leil Sheni shel Chag HaPesach, 5719.
129.
See Tosafos, Pesachim 30b, Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Keilim 1:6.
130.
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. VI, p. 13ff.
131.
Deuteronomy 26:7.
132.
Exodus 2:23.
133.
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXI, p. 47.
134.
Sefer HaMaamarim 5672, Vol. III, p. 1327; Sichos Shabbos Parshas Bo, 5751.
135.
Sefer HaMaamarim — Yiddish, p. 197.
136.
Vol. II, p. 20a.
137.
Sefer HaSichos 5699, p. 321.
138.
Exodus 2:24.
139.
Exodus 2:25.
140.
Exodus 1:22.
141.
Exodus 3:9.
142.
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. I, p. 113.
143.
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. I, p. 111ff.
144.
Shmos Rabbah 1:21.
145.
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XVI, p. 13ff.
146.
Deuteronomy 26:8.
147.
Exodus 12:12.
148.
Likkutei Amarim p. 19c.
149.
See Tanya, ch. 46.
150.
Sichos Leil Sheni shel Chag HaPesach, 5717.
151.
Exodus 9:3.
152.
I Chronicles 21:16.
153.
Deuteronomy 4:34.
154.
Exodus 4:17.
155.
Joel 3:3.
156.
Generally, the Alter Rebbe did not include Kabbalistic interpretations in his text. Thus the fact that he did so in this instance is worthy of notice.
157.
Likkutei Amarim p. 29b.
158.
Sefer HaSichos 5704, p. 92.
159.
Psalms 34:15.
160.
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. I, p. 122.
161.
Exodus 7:5.
162.
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXI, p. 42ff.
163.
Exodus 8:15.
164.
Exodus 14:31.
165.
Sefer HaMaamarim — Kuntreisim, Vol. III, p. 60, 70.
166.
Psalms 78:49.
167.
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XVI, p. 87.
168.
As quoted in Sefer HaSichos 5698, p. 266; Likkutei Sichos, Vol. III, p. 1016; Sefer HaMaamarim 5718, p. 417.
169.
Sichos Leil Sheni shel Chag HaPesach, 5716.
170.
Sichos Leil Sheni shel Chag HaPesach, 5721.
171.
Bereishis Rabbah, ch. 44.
172.
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XVII, p. 91.
173.
Pirkei Avos 1:1.
174.
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. II, p. 542.
175.
Exodus 12:27.
176.
Likkutei Torah, Pekudei, p. 6d.
177.
Likkutei Torah, Shir HaShirim 15b.
178.
Exodus 12:39.
179.
Pesachim 116b.
180.
Siddur HaAriZal; Tzror HaMor.
181.
Haggadah Shel Pesach Im Likkutei Taamim.
182.
Exodus 12:18.
183.
Haggadah Shel Pesach Im Likkutei Taamim.
184.
Likkutei Torah, Tzav, p. 12c.
185.
Exodus 1:14.
186.
Exodus 13:8.
187.
Deuteronomy 6:23
188.
Tanya, ch. 47.
189.
Zohar Chadash 31a.
190.
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. II, p. 348ff.
191.
Psalm 113.
192.
Shulchan Aruch HaRav 473:47-48.
193.
See Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Avodah Zarah, ch. 1.
194.
Likkutei Torah, Shir HaShirim 36b.
195.
Psalm 114.
196.
Pesachim, ch. 10, mishnah 6.
197.
See the Jerusalem Talmud commenting on this mishnah.
198.
See Shabbos 21b.
199.
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. VI, p. 69ff.
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