Reciting the Haggadah

QUESTION: The Arizal writes that the Haggadah should be recited with a loud voice and great joy. Why?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Pesachim 36a) explains that the reason the Torah (Devarim 16:3) refers to matzah as “lechem oni” — “bread of affliction” — is that it is “lechem she’onim alav devarim harbeh” — “bread upon which we declare many things.” Rashi explains this to mean that one recites the Haggadah and the Hallel while the matzot are on the table.

The word “oni” (עוני) has the numerical value of 136, as does the word “kol” (קול) — “voice.” The name of the festival is Pesach — which can be read as two words “peh sach” (פה-סח) — “the mouth that talks and relates.” As slaves the Jews were unable to open their mouths to pray to Hashem, and when they were freed they were able to speak freely. Thus, tonight when the matzah is on the table, we demonstrate our freedom by opening our mouths to speak loudly and joyously about the miraculous Exodus that Hashem brought about.

Through sach (ס"ח) — talking — about the Exodus, we will merit chas (ח"ס) — mercy: Hashem with His great mercy will send the redeemer — Mashiach.

(של"ה, פרי עץ חיים)

"הא לחמא עניא"
“This is the bread of affliction.”

QUESTION: Why is the opening statement of the Haggadah said in Aramaic?

ANSWER: When a Jew prays, there are angels in heaven who become his representatives to bring his prayers before Hashem. The Gemara (Shabbat 12b) says that angels do not understand Aramaic, and therefore a person should not use it to request his needs. However, when he is sick, he may pray in Aramaic because the Shechinah — Divine Presence — is over his bed. Thus, he can talk directly to Hashem without the angels’ assistance.

The Zohar (Shemot 40b) says that Hashem comes personally on Pesach night to listen to His children relating the story of the Exodus. Thus, by making our opening statement in Aramaic, we are proclaiming that tonight Hashem is personally with us, and we will speak directly to Him and not through any angels.

(הגש"פ חזון עובדיה בשם אמת ליעקב)

Alternatively, this paragraph was composed when the Jews sojourned in Babylon and at that time all spoke Aramaic. In order that everybody, including the common folk, should understand, it was said in Aramaic.

The phrase, “Next year we will be free” is in Hebrew, so that the Babylonians would not understand it and suspect the Jews of plotting against the government. This is not inconsistent with the fact that the rest of the Haggadah — even the Mah Nishtanah, the questions asked by the children — is in Hebrew; for those other parts of the Haggadah had been in use already in the time of the Beit Hamikdash (when everybody spoke Hebrew), as mentioned in the Mishnah.

(כל בו, הגש"פ עם לקוטי טעמים ומנהגים)

"לחמא עניא"
“Bread of affliction.”

QUESTION: In the Torah (Devarim 16:3) matzah is called “lechem oni” — “bread of affliction.” Why?

ANSWER: According to the Gemara (Pesachim 36a) the word “oni” is phonetically related to the word “oneh” (עונה), which means to answer or declare. Thus, it is “lechem she’onin alav devarim harbeh” — “bread upon which we declare many things.” Rashi explains this to mean that one recites the Haggadah and the Hallel while the matzot are on the table.

Another interpretation for “onin alav devarim harbeh” — is the following: the Haggadah expounds on the Biblical passages (Devarim 26:5-8) which start with the words, “Arami oveid avi” — “An Aramean tried to destroy my father.” These passages are a part of the declaration one makes when bringing Bikkurim — first fruits — to the Beit Hamikdash. As an introduction to this declaration, the Torah says, “Ve’anita” — “You shall proclaim loudly.”

Hence, the matzah is a bread over which “onin devarim harbeh” — “much is said” — namely elaborating over the declaration in the parshah of Bikkurim, which is preceded with the word “ve’anita,” which is related to the word “onin” — “declare, proclaim.”

(אור שמח חמץ ומצה פ"ז הל' ד')

Alternatively, matzah is bread of affliction because as slaves the Jews were constantly rushed by their supervisors to slave labor. Thus, during the years of slavery they did not have time to let their dough rise, and consequently were forced to survive on matzot.

Also, the Egyptian masters preferred that their slaves eat matzah because it is inexpensive to produce, and very filling.

(ספורנו, אבודרהם)

According to Rabbi Akiva (Pesachim 36a) the word “oni” (עני) is written in the Torah without a vav,” and thus can also be read as “ani” — “poor.” A poor man makes his bread in the least expensive way. Matzah is made only of flour and water with nothing else added to it. Thus, we are stating, “This is lachma anya — bread of poverty” i.e. poor man’s bread — which was eaten by the Jews as they slaved in Egypt and could not aspire to tastier food.

* * *

Incidentally, the words “lachma anya” (לחמא עניא) have the numerical value of two hundred and ten, which represents the years the Jewish people spent in Egypt.


"כל דכפין ייתי וייכול כל דצריך ייתי ויפסח"
“Whoever is hungry, let him come and eat. Whoever is in need let him come and join in celebrating the Pesach Festival.”

QUESTION: This announcement should have been made when inviting guests to the home, not when they are all seated at the table?

ANSWER: According to halachah (Pesachim 70a), the Pesach-offering had to be eaten al hasova — to reach satiation, i.e. like dessert, at the end of the meal. One should not be completely sated nor should he be very hungry before eating the Pesach-offering. This halachah also applies to the afikoman, which is eaten nowadays in lieu of the Pesach-offering.

The head of the household is addressing the members of his family, as well as all the guests. He tells them “Tonight we will have to eat the afikoman, which is in place of the Pesach-offering. Therefore, kol dichfin — whoever is hungry — yeitei veyeichol — let him come and eat — in order not to eat the afikoman on an empty stomach.” To those present who are not hungry the host proclaims, “kol ditzrich — whoever is in need — i.e. who only needs a little bit of food to conclude the meal and be fully sated — yeitei veyifsach — let him join us in the eating of the afikoman.”

(הגש"פ חסד לאברהם לר' אברהם דוב בעריש ז"ל פלאהם)

There was once a very wealthy man who was quite a miser. Very rarely did he give any charity or allow a poor man into his house. On Pesach night his son heard him proclaim, “Kol dichfin” — “Whoever is hungry let him come and eat.” In amazement he asked his father,Mah Nishtanah?” — “Why is this night different than all other nights? — I never see you ask a poor man into the house. Why are you making such a generous invitation now?” The father responded, “Do not worry, my son, ‘Avadim hayinu leParo beMitzrayim’ — ‘We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt’ — and just as Pharaoh made promises but did not carry them out (see Bereishit 44:18, Rashi), I also do the same.”

(קול אומר קרא)

"כל דכפין ייתי וייכול...לשנה הבאה בני חורין"
“Whoever is hungry, let him come and eat... next year free men.”

QUESTION: What is the connection between the meal and the redemption?

ANSWER: According to the Gemara (Gittin 55b) the destruction of Jerusalem came about through a meal, as detailed in the incident of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza.

A certain man had a friend named Kamtza and an enemy named Bar Kamtza. He once threw a party and said to his servant, “Go and bring Kamtza.” The man went and brought Bar Kamtza. When the host saw him he said, “What are you doing here? Get out.” Trying to avoid the humiliation of being told to leave, Bar Kamtza said, “Since I am here, let me stay, and I will pay you for whatever I eat and drink.” The host would not allow this. “Then let me give you half the cost of the party” he asked. “No” said the host. “Then let me pay for the whole party,” he pleaded. The man still said, “No,” and he took him by the hand and put him out. Bar Kamtza then said, “Since the Rabbis were sitting there and did not stop him, this shows that they agreed with him. I will go and inform against them to the government.” The ultimate outcome was the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash and exile.

Thus, we are saying, “Unlike that meal which brought about the exile, tonight everybody is graciously invited, and hopefully in merit of our brotherly love, we will be redeemed.”

"הא לחמא עניא די אכלו אבהתנא בארעא דמצרים כל דכפין ייתי וייכל...השתא הכא לשנה הבאה בארעא דישראל"
“This is the bread of affliction that our fathers ate in the land of Egypt. Whoever is hungry, let him come and eat... This year [we are] here; next year, in the land of Israel.”

QUESTION: What is the connection between the three passages; Hei lachma...” — “This is the bread...” — “kol dichfin...” — “whoever is hungry...” and “hashata hacha...” — “this year here...”?

ANSWER: One can well imagine the despair of the poor man who is not with his family at his own Seder table. The host who graciously invites him reads the downhearted expressions on the face of his guest. To relieve his distraught state and make him feel at ease, the host proclaims, “This is the bread of affliction our fathers ate in the land of Egypt. Do not feel uncomfortable; our parents experienced deprivation and had to rely on this meager food. In the end they were redeemed and left with great wealth. Eat to your hearts content, and hopefully next year we will merit to be in the land of Israel, where each person will be in his own castle, celebrating together with his family.”

(הגש"פ אשל ברמה מר' אברהם ז"ל ליכטשטיין)

"לשנה הבאה בני חורין"
“Next year free men.”

QUESTION: “B’nei chorin” literally means “Children of Chorin”; who are the “Chorin”?

ANSWER: In addition to being enslaved in Egypt, the Jewish people suffered persecution and subjugation under four kingdoms: Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece, and Rome. They were redeemed from Egypt through Moshe, from Babylon through Ezra the Scribe, from Media-Persia through Mordechai, from Greece through Matityahu the Kohen, and we will speedily be redeemed from Rome through Mashiach. The last letters of the names of the redeemers (משיח, משה רבינו, עזרא הסופר, מרדכי, מתתיהו כהן) spell the word חורין — “free.” We are expressing the wish that by next year we will be “b’nei chorin” — a people reclaimed by our redeemers — i.e. entirely free from all exiles.

(הגש"פ מוצל מאש - בית אהרן - בפי' פאר אהרן)

"מה נשתנה"
“Why is this night different?”

QUESTION: In what order should the four questions be asked?

ANSWER: In many communities the first question focuses on the matzah, which is a Biblical requirement. The second is about the maror,which is a Rabbinical requirement, and then the questions about dipping and reclining follow. In the Nusach Ari Haggadah the order starts with the question concerning dipping. This is in accordance with the Rambam’s Haggadah (Chameitz U’matzah, ch. 8), Rabbi Sa’adya Ga’on, Rabbeinu Yitzchak Alfasi, Rabbeinu Asher, and also the Jerusalem Talmud (Pesachim 10:4).

Seemingly, the order should be matzah first, then maror, for in the present era eating matzah has the status of a Biblical command, and eating maror is only 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? However, when he sees them paying close attention to details which are seemingly minor, he realizes how all-encompassing a Jew’s commitment to Yiddishkeit must be.

(לקוטי שיחות ח"א ע' 244)

"מה נשתנה"
“Why is this night different?”

QUESTION: On Shabbat and on Yom Tov we usually only drink one cup of wine (i.e. for Kiddush). On Pesach we drink four. Why doesn’t the child ask about this as well during the Mah Nishtanah?

ANSWER: The child asks about the unusual things that he sees. On the table he sees matzah, maror, salt water, charoset, and on the chairs he sees pillows for reclining. His inquisitive mind, thus, immediately prompts him to ask about those items. On the other hand, though he sees wine on the table initially, he only sees the drinking of four cups over the course of the Seder.

(ברכת חיים על מועדים מר' חיים יעקב ז"ל צוקרמן)

"הלילה הזה שתי פעמים"
“On this night we dip twice.”

QUESTION: Why necessarily two times?

ANSWER: The descent of the Jewish people to Egypt began with Yosef’s visit to his brothers when they were in the fields. At that time, they stripped him of his shirt and sold him to the Ishmalites, who ultimately brought him to Egypt. To convince Yaakov that he was devoured by a wild beast, they slaughtered a kid goat and dipped the shirt in the blood (Bereishit 37:31).

At the conclusion of the Egyptian bondage, Hashem gave the laws of the Pesach-offering and instructed, “You shall take a bundle of hyssop and dip it into the blood and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with some of the blood” (Shemot 12:22). Since the Egyptian bondage started and concluded with dipping, tonight we dip twice.

(הגש"פ עם פי' ילקוט שמעוני, ועי' דעת זקנים מבעלי התוס’, שמות י"ב:ח)

"בכל הלילות אין אנו מטבילין אפילו פעם אחת הלילה הזה שתי פעמים"
“On all nights we do not dip even once, but tonight we dip twice.”

QUESTION: Tonight we actually dip three times, not twice: Karpas in salt water,maror in charoset, and chazeret (for koreich) in charoset?

ANSWER: The reason for having maror and chazeret on the Seder plate is that there is a question if maror should be eaten plain or in a matzah sandwich (koreich). Hence, since it is an unresolved matter, we eat it both ways in order to be sure that we have fulfilled the mitzvah of eating maror. Therefore, the dipping of the maror and koreich are counted as one, and together with karpas dipped in salt water, tonight we dip two times.

(ט"ז סי' תע"ה סק"ו)

We say, “all nights we do not dip even once,” although at the beginning of any meal where bread is eaten it is dipped in salt? (See Shulchan Aruch HaRav 167:8).

The reason for dipping tonight is to express that we are free people and conduct ourselves in the manner of the affluent. Only dipping into sauces and liquids is a sign of comfort and indulgence, and not dipping into salt.

"חמץ או מצה"
“Chameitz or matzah.”

QUESTION: What lesson do the words “chameitz” and “matzah” impart?

ANSWER: The words “chameitz” (חמץ) and “matzah” (מצה) are spelled with similar letters: Each has a “mem” and a “tzaddik.” The only difference is that one has a “hei” and the other has a “chet,” which only differs slightly in appearance from a “hei.” (The “hei” has a small opening between the left “foot” and the “roof,” and the “chet” is closed on all three sides.) This alludes to the halachah that “chameitz bemashehu,” even the minutest amount of chameitz mixed in food makes it forbidden to be eaten on Pesach.

* * *

The minutest amount of chameitz is forbidden because matzah represents redemption, and the Jews baked matzah upon leaving Egypt because “lo yachlu lehitmahemei’ha” — “they were unable to delay” — their departure from Egypt even by the smallest interval of time.

(הגש"פ מוצל מאש – בית אהרן – בפי' פאר אהרן מר' אברהם אהרן ז"ל פריעדמאן, טשאפ, רוסיא, תש"ב)

"מה נשתנה הלילה הזה"
“Why is this night different?”

QUESTION: Where is there an allusion in the Torah to specifically these four questions?

ANSWER: The words “Tevilah, umatzah, umaror, vehaseivah” (טבילה ומצה, ומרור, והסיבה) — “Dipping, and matzah, and bitter herbs, and reclining” — have the numerical value of seven hundred and thirty seven, which is exactly the numerical value of the words “Vehayah ki yishalcha bincha machor” (והיה כי ישאלך בנך מחר) — “When your son will ask you tomorrow” (Shemot 13:14).

(הגש"פ מוצל מאש, בית אהרן, בפי' פאר אהרן)

עבדים היינו לפרעה במצרים ויוציאנו ה' אלקינו משם ביד חזקה ובזרוע נטויה""
“We were slaves to Pharoah in Egypt, and G‑d took us out from there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm”

QUESTION: After the child asks the four questions, the Haggadah is recited starting with “Avadim hayinu.” Where in the Haggadah is the answer to the four questions?

ANSWER: An answer to a young child’s question has to be concise and clear. Otherwise, he will remain with his query and become more perplexed. The opening statement “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt and Hashem took us out from there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm” briefly answers all the four questions. The father is telling his child that the four things he is asking about are done to remind us: 1) We were slaves. 2) Hashem freed us.

Consequently, the dipping of the food exemplifies comfort and indulgence, and it is thus a symbol of freedom. On the other hand, it can be viewed as a symbol of bondage, since the word karpas, when reversed, can be read ס' פרך (the letter samach has the numerical value of 60) and alludes to the sixty myriads of Jews (600,000), who were enslaved in perach — hard labor. The salt water recalls the bitter tears of bondage while the charoset resembles the mixture that was used to make the bricks.

We eat matzah because it was the food eaten in Egypt throughout the years of slavery and also because it commemorates the fact that when we were freed, we did not have enough time to let the dough rise and instead quickly baked matzah. Maror reminds us of the embitterment of our lives through the slavery, and we sit reclining like free people. The purpose of the remainder of the Haggadah is to relate the narrative of the Exodus of Egypt.


"עבדים היינו...ואלו לא הוציא הקדוש ברוך הוא את אבותינו ממצרים הרי אנו ובנינו..."
“We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt...If the Holy One blessed be He had not taken our fathers out of Egypt, then we and our children...”

QUESTION: Since it starts “Avadim hayinu” — “We were slaves” — it should have concluded, “If we were not redeemed, we and our children and grandchildren would have remained in Egypt.” Why the mention of “avoteinu” — “our fathers”?

ANSWER: The Jews were originally supposed to be in Egypt 400 years. In actuality, they were there only 210 years. To make up the additional 190 years, Hashem counted the Egyptian Exile as though it started at the birth of Yitzchak, and according to some opinions it is predated to the Brit bein Habitarim — Covenant Between the Portions — which He made with our father Avraham (Shemot 12:40, Rashi).

In this proclamation, “avoteinu” — “our fathers” — refers to Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov. Were it not for the fact that Hashem dated the galut back to them, we would have been short many years, and thus, we, our children, and grandchildren would have remained in Egypt to complete the 400 years.

(שי לחגים ומועדים מר' שלמה יהלומי בשם קרן ישועה מר' יהושע זצ"ל שאפירא מריבטיץ)

This answers the question concerning why it says “avoteinu” — “our fathers” — though the Gemara (Berachot 16b) says, “Ein korin avot ela leshelosha” — “The title of avot — ‘fathers’ — is only used in reference to three [Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov].” Since “avoteinu” here refers to the period during the lifetime of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov, which was counted into the four hundred years of Egyptian bondage, the term “avoteinu” — “our fathers” — is appropriate.

(בשיחת ליל פסח תשכ"ג הקשה כ"ק אדמו"ר הקושיא ועי"ש תירוצו, ובספר פה אחד על הגש"פ מהחיד"א, כתב, "דהיינו דוקא לומר אבות סתם אמנם לומר אבינו או אבותינו לית לן בה.")

"ואלו לא הוציא הקדוש ברוך הוא את אבותינו ממצרים הרי אנו ובנינו ובני בנינו משעבדים היינו לפרעה במצרים"
“If the Holy One blessed be He had not taken our fathers out of Egypt, then we, our children and our children’s children would have remained enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt.”

QUESTION: Since it starts with “Avadim hayinu” — “We were slaves” — it should have concluded “avadim hayinu” — “we would have remained enslaved” — instead of varying the expression and saying “meshubadim hayinu.” Why the inconsistency?

ANSWER: The word “meshubadim” can also mean “indebted” or “obligated.” If the Jews would have remained in Egypt the entire 400 year period and then Pharaoh would have set them free, many Jews might have felt an everlasting indebtedness to Pharaoh. Regardless of the difficult enslavement they experienced, they would have thanked him for being “generous” and freeing them. Now that it was Hashem who took us out, against Pharaoh’s will, we only owe praise to Him, and we have absolutely no indebtedness or obligations to Pharaoh.

(אמרי שפר עה"ת - ר' שלמה ז"ל קלוגער)

"הרי אנו ובנינו ובני בנינו משעבדים היינו לפרעה במצרים"
“Then we, our children and our children’s children would have remained enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt.”

QUESTION: Why does it list specifically three generations instead of saying, “kulanu” — “all of us”?

ANSWER: According to the original decree, the Jews were to be in Egypt for four hundred years. However, they were there only two hundred and ten years. King David says that the average human lifespan is seventy years (see Psalms 90:10). The people of the generation that left Egypt were twenty years old. Thus, had the redemption not taken place, they would have been in Egypt for another fifty years plus the seventy-year lifespan of their children and the seventy-year of their grandchildren, which totals one hundred and ninety.

(אונזער אלטען אוצר בשם ר' שאול ז"ל מאמסטרדם)

"מצוה עלינו לספר ביציאת מצרים"
“We would still be obligated to discuss the Exodus from Egypt.”

QUESTION: What is the uniqueness of this mitzvah on Pesach? Isn’t there a daily mitzvah to remember the Exodus from Egypt throughout the year?

ANSWER: 1) The daily obligation can be fulfilled by mental remembrance and meditation, while that of the night of Pesach must be verbalized, as it is said, “You shall tell your child.” 2) Every day it is sufficient to just mention the Exodus, while on Pesach there must be an elaborate recounting of the Exodus. 3) Tonight it is done in the form of responding to the child or someone else.

(הגש"פ עם לקוטי טעמים ומנהגים)

"וכל המרבה לספר ביציאת מצרים הרי זה משבח"
“Everyone who discusses the Exodus from Egypt at length is praiseworthy.”

QUESTION: What is the benefit of going into great length in retelling the story of the Exodus?

ANSWER: Hashem said to Moshe, “You will then be able to tell your children and grandchildren My miraculous signs that I have performed among them, vidatem — and you will know — that I am G‑d” (Shemot 10:2). Since the Torah is telling us to relate to our children and grandchildren what happened in Egypt, should it not have said “veyeide’u” — “and thus they will know”?

Parents are obligated to teach their children about Hashem and enhance and strengthen their children’s faith in Him. Their efforts carry a two-fold reward: 1) Ultimately, their work will bear fruit, and they will merit to have children who will be attached to Hashem. 2) Through teaching and talking to the children, vidatem — you (the parents) will know — you, too, will experience an enhancement and strengthening of your faith.

Thus, the one who elaborates about the Exodus becomes a “meshubach” — a person with enhanced spirituality — because of his increased insight into G‑dliness.

(שפת אמת)

"וכל המרבה לספר ביציאת מצרים הרי זה משבח"
“Everyone who discusses the Exodus from Egypt at length is praiseworthy.”

QUESTION: The Torah (Shemot 13:8) commands “vehegadeta lebincha” — “and you shall tell to your son” — and the liturgical work that relates the Exodus is called the “Haggadah.” Why doesn’t it say “vechol hamarbeh lehagid”?

ANSWER: The word “lesapeir” — “to tell” — resembles the word for “sapphire” — “sapir. The Haggadah is telling us that just as the sapphire is a brilliant stone, by retelling the story of the Exodus we “brighten up” the darkness of the galut exile.

To support the theory that it is necessary for all to elaborate concerning the redemption from Egyptian bondage, the Haggadah relates about the Rabbis who were “mesaperim” — “relating” — the story of the Exodus all that night [of Pesach].” In view of the above, it can be explained that “mesaperim” — they illuminated — the darkness (night) of the galut, and for them the time of exile shone like the brightness of the sapphire.

(הגדה של פסח צוף אמרים מר' משה חיים ז"ל קליינמאן)

"וכל המרבה לספר ביציאת מצרים"
“And everyone who discusses the Exodus from Egypt at length is praiseworthy.”

QUESTION: The word “vechol” — “and everyone” — is superfluous. It could have said“vehamarbeh” — “and he who elaborates”?

ANSWER: The word “chol” (כל) is an acronym for Kohanim (כהנים) and Levi’im .(לוים)The Haggadah is teaching that even theKohanim and Levi’im who were not enslaved — and for that matter, even converts — should engage in elaborate discussion of the redemption from Egypt. The Haggadah supports this with the fact that Rabbi Akiva, who was the son of a convert; Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah and Rabbi Tarphon, who wereKohanim; and Rabbi Yehoshua and Rabbi Eliezer, who were Levi’im, spent the entire night discussing the Exodus.

(שמחת הרגל להחיד"א)

"וכל המרבה לספר ביציאת מצרים הרי זה משבח"
“And everyone who discusses the Exodus from Egypt at length is praiseworthy.”

QUESTION: Instead of saying that the person is “meshubach” — “praiseworthy” — it should have said he performed the mitzvah “behidur” — in a splendid manner?

ANSWER: When one witnesses an unusual event, he often recounts it to his friends. As time passes on, there is a decline in his enthusiasm, until he finally no longer repeats what he saw. However, when a person or his family experiences a miracle, he talks about it his entire life. In addition, he conveys it to his children and his descendents continue to relate the episode which occurred to their ancestor.

The Haggadah is teaching that if in contemporary times one still discusses the Exodus at length, he is meshubach — of prime quality and pedigree. It is an indication that he is a descendant from those who were in Egypt and not a member of a family who converted to Judaism at a later date.

(מעשה ידי יוצר לר"ש ז"ל קלוגער)

"מעשה ברבי אליעזר ורבי יהושע ורבי אלעזר בן עזריה ורבי עקיבא ורבי טרפון"
“It happened that Rabbi Eliezer, Rabbi Yehoshua, Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah, Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Tarphon were reclining [at a Seder] in B’nei Berak.”

QUESTION: Why are the names of the Rabbis mentioned in this order?

ANSWER: Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua were the teachers of Rabbi Akiva. Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah is mentioned before Rabbi Akiva because he came from a prominent family and was a nasi — leader of the generation. Rabbi Akiva is mentioned before Rabbi Tarphon because the occurrence took place in B’nei Berak, where Rabbi Akiva was the Chief Rabbi (Sanhedrin 32:2). Even though Rabbi Tarphon was also Rabbi Akiva’s teacher, Rabbi Akiva later became his colleague (Ketubot 84:2), and he is therefore mentioned last.

(הגש"פ עם לקוטי טעמים ומנהגים)

Alternatively, according to the Gemara (Berachot 46b) when there are three persons reclining, the custom is that the senior person occupies the middle position. The one next to him in rank reclines above him (or on his right), and the third one below him (or on his left). Hence, Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah, the head of the Jewish community, was considered the most venerable and was in the middle. To his right were Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua, the teachers of Rabbi Akiva. To his left were Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Tarphon, who were younger. Thus, the Haggadah is relating the order of their reclining around Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah.

(הגש"פ עם לקוטי טעמים ומנהגים בשם מאיר עין)

"שהיו מסובים בבני ברק"
“They were reclining in B’nei Berak.”

QUESTION: Why is it important to know in which city they gathered?

ANSWER: In the Gemara (Pesachim 120b) Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah rules that the Pesach-offering must be eaten before midnight. Hence, the mitzvah of elaborating on the redemption from Egyptian bondage would not apply after midnight, since it is obligatory only at the time “when [Pesach] matzah and maror actually lie before you.” If so, why was he “discussing the Exodus from Egypt all that night”?

According to the Gemara (Sanhedrin 32b) Rabbi Akiva was the chief Rabbi of B’nei Berak. His opinion is that the Pesach-offering may be eaten the entire night and, thus, discussing the Exodus should be the entire night. Therefore, since he was in Rabbi Akiva’s city, Rabbi Elazar discussed the redemption from Egyptian bondage the entire night in deference to him.

(שם משמואל - סאכאטשאב)

Perhaps this explains the seemingly extra words, “kol oto halaylah” — “all of that entire night.” The emphasis is that only on that entire night did they all discuss the Exodus since they were in B’nei Berak where Rabbi Akiva’s authority prevailed. In other years, however, when they celebrated elsewhere, not all discussed the Exodus the entire night.

"עד שבאו תלמידיהם ואמרו להם רבותינו הגיע זמן קריאת שמע של שחרית"
“Until their students came and told them: ‘Our Masters! The time has come for reciting the morning Shema!”

QUESTION: It would have sufficed to state, “The time of reciting the Shema has arrived.” The words “shel shacharit — “of the morning” — appear to be superfluous?

ANSWER: According to halachah, the Shema must be read in the evening and again in the morning. The time for reciting the evening Shema is between tzeit hakochavim — nightfall — and alot hashachar — the rising of the morning star. The time to recite the morning Shema starts at neitz hachamah — sunrise. In case of emergency, one can read the evening Shema up to sunrise, and the morning Shema from the rise of the morning star and on (see Rambam, Keriat Shema 1:10, 12).

The students emphasized that the time for reciting the morning Shema had arrived to indicate that it was already after sunrise. It was the time of day when evening Shema can no longer be said under any circumstances and only the morning Shema may be recited.

(מקראי קודש מהגר"ח ז"ל אבולעפייא)

"אמר רבי אלעזר בן עזריה הרי אני כבן שבעים שנה"
“Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah said: ‘I am like a 70 year-old man.’”

QUESTION: Why did Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah say, “I am like a 70 year-old man”?

ANSWER: Once there was a dispute over a halachic issue between Rabbi Yehoshua and the nasi, Rabban Gamliel. The Rabbis were upset with the way Rabban Gamliel handled matters and decided to demote him and appoint Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah as nasi. Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah was hesitant to accept the position because he was only 18 years old and his beard was black. Overnight, a miracle occurred and his beard became filled with 18 streaks of white hair. Thus, he said, “I am like a 70 year-old man.”

(מסכת ברכות כ"ז ע"ב)

* * *

Alternatively, his neshamah was a reincarnation of the neshamah of the prophet Shmuel. Since Shmuel lived only 52 years (Mo’eid Kattan 28a), and Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah was now 18 years old, he said, “I am like a man of 70 years old.”

(אר"י ז"ל)

"הרי אני כבן שבעים שנה ולא זכיתי שתאמר יציאת מצרים בלילות"
“I am like a seventy-year old man, yet I did not succeed in proving that the Exodus from Egypt must be mentioned at night.”

QUESTION: What did being like a man of 70 years old have to do with his wanting to prove that the redemption from Egypt should be mentioned in the evening prayers?

ANSWER: There are two types of miracles. One is clearly supernatural while the other is something highly unlikely in the normal course of events, but not contrary to the laws of nature. In the Gemara (Shabbat 53b) there is a dispute: when Hashem performs a supernatural miracle (for instance, a poor widower is made able to nurse his son), does it indicate the greatness of the recipient of the miracle or some defect, since the natural order instituted at the time of creation was distorted on his behalf? (He did not merit that the gates of income be opened for him to earn a livelihood in a normal way — Rashi).

The miracles the Jews witnessed in Egypt on the first day of Pesach were of both categories. The slaying of all the firstborns during the night and melting the idols were supernatural miracles. The Jews’ march to freedom in the morning was not supernatural because after being smitten with so many plagues, the Egyptians were anxious for them to leave. In fact, the Egyptians’ stubbornness till then was only due to Hashem’s making them stubborn, but once He returned them to their normal state of mind, it is only natural that they should want to be rid of the Jews as soon as possible.

The opinion that the redemption should be mentioned in the evening prayers holds that a supernatural miracle proves the praiseworthiness of the person benefited. Thus, the Exodus should be mentioned to recall the supernatural miracle which occurred during the night that led to the redemption. The Sages, however, hold that it proves the opposite, and therefore the Exodus should be recalled only during the day, when the redemption actually took place.

The occurrence of the eighteen streaks of white hair in the beard of Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria, who was only eighteen years old, is supernatural. Consequently, he personally preferred that the Exodus be mentioned at night, since otherwise it might indicate that a supernatural miracle demonstrates some shortcoming of the person benefited.

(יריעות שלמה – ר' שלמה ז"ל קלוגער)

"ולא זכיתי שתאמר יציאת מצרים בלילות"
“Yet I did not succeed in proving that the Exodus from Egypt must be mentioned at night.”

QUESTION: Why was he so interested in proving that the Exodus of Egypt should be mentioned at night?

ANSWER: The issue in dispute between Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah and the Rabbis was whether the portion in the Torah which discusses the mitzvah of tzitzit, and which also mentions the Exodus of Egypt (Bamidbar 15:37-41), should be recited together with the evening Shema. In the Torah this portion is followed by Korach’s insurrection against Moshe. According to the Midrash, the juxtaposition of these two is because during his dispute, Korach also mocked the mitzvah of tzitzit with the derisive question, “Does an all techeilet — blue wool — garment require a single techeilet thread in its tzitzit?” Through this challenge, he sought to prove that there were illogical laws in the Torah which were the product of Moshe's imagination.

When Korach led his insurgence against Moshe, he relied upon the fact that the prophet Shmuel would be among his descendants and assumed that he would be spared in his merit (see Bamidbar 16;7 Rashi). Since Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah was a reincarnation of the prophet Shmuel, Korach was thus also his ancestor. In order to rectify Korach’s offence concerning the mitzvah of tzitzit, he made an extra effort that the Exodus of Egypt, which is mentioned in the parshah of tzitzit, should be mentioned at night.

(הגש"פ מוצל מאש - בית אהרן בפי' חכמת אהרן)

"עד שדרשה בן זומא"
“Until Ben Zoma explained it.”

QUESTION: What assistance did Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah receive from Ben Zoma’s explanation?

ANSWER: At this time, though he appeared to be 70, Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah was actually only eighteen years old. For quite some time, he endeavored to obtain the approval of the Rabbis to mention the Exodus from Egypt at night and was unsuccessful. Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah attributed his lack of success to the fact that he was very young.

Ben Zoma says, “Who is wise? He who learns from every person.” (Pirkei Avot 1:4) When Ben Zoma’s teachings became popular and accepted, the Sages changed their attitude towards Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah, and regardless of his age, they listened attentively to what he had to say.

(שער בת רבים פ' האזינו בשם נחלת עזריאל)

"כל ימי חייך להביא לימות המשיח"
“‘All the days of your life’ indicates the inclusion [literally — to bring] of the days of Mashiach.”

QUESTION: When something is learned from an extra word in a pasuk, the expression is usually “lerabot” — “to add.” Why, is the term “lehavi” — “to bring” — used here?

ANSWER: The Haggadah intentionally uses this expression to convey a very important lesson: The goal of every Jew “kol yemei chayecha” — “all the days of your life” — [should be] “lehavi limot haMashiach” — “to bring about the days of Mashiach.” This is accomplished through learning Torah and doing mitzvot.

(ספר השיחות תש"ג)

"לימות המשיח"
“The days of Mashiach

QUESTION: Who is the Mashiach?

ANSWER: In the Gemara (Sanhedrin 98b) there are four opinions regarding the identity of Mashiach. Some say his name is Shiloh (שילה), others say Yinon (ינון), a third opinion is Chaninah (חנינה), and a fourth view is Menachem (מנחם). The first letter of each one of these four names spells “Mashiach” (משיח).

Jewry eagerly awaits the revelation of the redeemer who will lead us out of galut. Not knowing definitely what his name will be, we call him “Mashiach,” an acronym of the four possible names for the redeemer.

(הגש"פ צוף אמרים)

"ברוך המקום"
“Blessed is the Omnipresent.”

QUESTION: Why is Hashem referred to as “HaMakom” — “the Place”?

ANSWER: To dispel the myth that the world is an entity in itself, Hashem is referred to as “HaMakom” — “the Place” — to emphasize that the world is contained in Him and not He in the world. He is not limited by space and therefore present everywhere.

(מדרש רבה בראשית ס"ח:ט)

Alternatively, according to Kabbalists, Hashem is referred to as “Makom” — “Place” — because His Holy four letter Name, the Tetragrammaton (י-ה-ו-ה) has the numerical value of one hundred and eighty-six, the same as “makom” (מקום), according to gematria beribu’a – numerology involving “squares.”

The numerical value of yud when squared (10 x 10) is one hundred. The square of “hei” is twenty-five (5 x 5). The square of vav is thirty-six (6 x 6), and the square of the final “hei” is twenty-five (5 x 5). Thus, 100 + 25 + 36 + 25 = 186.

(לקוטי שיחות חכ"א ע' 301)

"ברוך המקום ברוך הוא ברוך שנתן תורה לעמו ישראל ברוך הוא כנגד ארבעה בנים"
“Blessed is the Omnipresent, blessed be He! Blessed is He who gave the Torah to His people Israel, blessed be He! The Torah speaks of four children.”

QUESTION: What is the connection between the four “Baruchs” and the four sons?

ANSWER: Each of the four sons has his unique understanding and way of seeing Hashem’s influence in the world:

1) The Chacham, with his great wisdom, sees Hashem as “Baruch HaMakom” — the One Who causes the existence of the world.

2) The Rasha knows about Hashem, but views Him as a G‑d Who is removed from the world, and therefore he blatantly violates Hashem’s will and thinks that he can get away from Him. He uses the term “Hu,” in the third person (which is usually used to refer to someone not present), to indicate his disbelief in individual Divine providence and to assert that Hashem is not personally involved with the world.

3) The Tam is a sincere person who studies Torah and is growing up to become a Chacham (see Avudraham) just as Yaakov is referred to as Ish tam yosheiv ohalim” — “a plain man of integrity dwelling in tents [of Torah]” (Bereishit 25:27). He sees Hashem’s greatness through his study of Torah and therefore proclaims, “Baruch shenatan Torah le’amo Yisrael” — “Blessed is He who gave the Torah to His people, Israel.”

4) The She’eino Yodei’a Lishol views Hashem as something abstract and therefore speaks of Him as “Baruch Hu” in the third person. Since he is illiterate in Torah knowledge and does not comprehend the greatness and glory of Hashem, Divinity is something totally alien and foreign to him.

(הגש"פ אשל ברמה מר' אברהם ז"ל ליכטשטיין)

* * *

Some explain that these four “Baruchs” are not said by the same person, but the leader of the Seder would proclaim “Baruch HaMakom” — “Blessed is the Omnipresent” — and the participants in the Seder would respond, “baruch Hu” — “blessed be He.” Then the leader would continue, “baruch shenatan Torah le’amo Yisrael” — “blessed is He Who gave the Torah to His people, Israel” — and again the participants would respond “baruch Hu” — “blessed be He.”

Accordingly, later on (p. 106) when the Haggadah says, “Baruch shomer havtachato LeYisrael baruch Hu” — “Blessed is He Who keeps His promise to Israel, blessed be He” — it was a declaration made by the leader of the Seder and a response from the participants.


"כנגד ארבעה בנים דברה תורה"
“The Torah speaks of four sons.”

QUESTION: What is the common denominator among the four sons?

ANSWER: They are all present at the Pesach Seder table and their attendance expresses some interest and concern. Unfortunately, today we often encounter a fifth son, one to whom “Pesach” is a meaningless word and the Seder an unknown event. We must reach out with dedication and warmth to such sons long before Pesach and make every effort to bring about their presence at the Seder table.

(לקוטי שיחות ח"א ע' 252)

"אחד חכם ואחד רשע ואחד תם ואחד שאינו יודע לשאול"
“One wise, and one wicked, and one simple and one does not know how to ask.”

QUESTION: Why is the word echad — “one” — repeated before each of the four sons?

ANSWER: Generally, the term “echad” expresses the oneness of Hashem. The Haggadah is teaching that every Jew, regardless of what he openly declares about Hashem or the Torah, still has a “spark” of “echad” — Hashem — in him. Therefore, it is proper and necessary to spend time with him and bring him closer to Hashem.

(ספר השיחות תש"ג)

Alternatively, in a certain Yeshivah there was once a teacher who had a very difficult child in his class. Exasperated and disillusioned, he went into the principal’s office and told him, “You must take this child out of my class immediately. I can no longer deal with him.” After asking the teacher to sit down and relax, the principal said to him, “Did you realize that if this child is out of your class, you no longer have a job?” The teacher, somewhat puzzled, asked, “Why? There are still another fifteen children in the class besides him.” To this the principal responded, “What I meant is the following: Think of him as the only student in your class. If expelling him would also mean the end of your position in our school due to the lack of students, would you still want him taken out?” The teacher reconsidered and decided to give the child another chance.

The Haggadah is teaching parents and educators to treat every child as if he were “echad” — their only one. The undivided attention and extra care usually given to an only child is something which every child deserves and which accomplishes wonders.

"אחד חכם ואחד רשע"
“One wise, and one wicked.”

QUESTION: The Torah does not categorize the children. How does the Haggadah know which portion refers to the Chacham and which to the Rasha?

ANSWER: A very important ingredient in observing Torah and mitzvot is Kabbalat Ol — submitting to the yoke of Hashem. A Jew must fulfill the mitzvot of the Torah whether he understands their significance or not. The wise person fulfills Hashem’s commandments and afterwards studies and tries to understand as much as possible. The wicked refuse to accept what Hashem says as long as they themselves cannot find a rationale for it.

When the Torah talks of the sons, concerning two it says, “Ki yishalcha bincha machar” — “When your son asks you tomorrow” (Shemot 13:14 and Devarim 6:20). Concerning another one the Torah says, “And it shall be when your children say to you, ‘What is this service to you’ ” (Shemot 12:26), without mentioning the word “machar” — “tomorrow.” A son who listens to his father and fulfills his instructions promptly and only machar — afterwards — seeks an explanation is either a wise son — Chacham — or a Tam — simple, but sincere. The one who, when instructed, obstinately refuses to act unless he comprehends the significance and who will not wait until tomorrow is a Rasha — a wicked person.

(פון אונזער אלטען אוצר בשם אמרי יעקב)

"אחד חכם ואחד רשע"
“One wise, and one wicked.”

QUESTION: 1) Why is the Chacham placed next to the Rasha? 2) Why ve’echad” with a “vav”?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Sanhedrin 44a) says that even a Jew who sinned is still a Jew. This is due to the spark of G‑dliness in every Jewish person’s innermost being. In some it is obvious and revealed, while in others it is concealed, but regardless of the situation, it always remains intact. Putting the Rasha next to the Chacham is a message that the Chacham must do everything in his power to bring to surface the “pintele Yid — “spark of G‑dliness” — that is concealed in the Rasha.

The added “vav” teaches that the Chacham should encourage the Rasha to become “attached” to him. While doing this he should be careful that the relationship should provide an opportunity for him to influence the Rasha and not, G‑d forbid, the reverse.

(הגש"פ לקוטי טעמים, מנהגים וביאורים)

Alternatively, placing the Chacham — wise son — next to the Rasha — wicked son — conveys an encouraging message to the Rasha. It is meant to teach him that he, too, has the potential to be a Chacham.

Simultaneously, it is also a word of caution to the wise son to not be overly proud of his accomplishments, for there is only a slight distance between himself and his brother. If he does not continue to advance in Torah and Yiddishkeit, he may, G‑d forbid, slip back and that difference may disappear.

(לקוטי שיחות ח"א ע' 250, וח"ג ע' 1016)

"חכם מה הוא אומר..."
“The wise son, what does he say...”

QUESTION: Instead of “mah hu omeir” — “what does he say” — it should have said “mah hu sho’eil” — “What does he ask”?

ANSWER: The Haggadah is teaching us that the character of a person and his intelligence can often be recognized by the style and tone of his speech. Hence, a Chacham — a wise person — mah hu — what he is — omeir — he says — i.e. from a person’s way of talking it can be seen what he is. Likewise, a Rasha — a wicked person — mah hu — what he is — omeir — he says — i.e. from what he says and how he says it one can see that he is a Rasha.

(הגש"פ עם ליקוט טעמים ןמנהגים בשם אדמו"ר מהריי"ץ)

"אמור לו כהלכות הפסח אין מפטירין אחר הפסח אפיקומן"
“You should reply to him the laws of Pesach, [up to] ‘one may not eat any dessert after the Pesach-offering.’”

QUESTION: 1) “Kehilchot hapesach” literally means “like the halachot of Pesach.” It should have said [reply to him] “kol hilchot hapesach” — “all the laws of Pesach”? 2) It should have written ad ein maftirin”“up to ‘one is not to eat’”?

ANSWER: It was forbidden to eat any food after eating the Pesach lamb so that the taste of the meat would remain distinct. The same applies today to the afikoman which is in lieu of the Pesach-offering. The Haggadah is instructing the father that when his son the Chacham asks about the testimonies, statutes and laws, “af atah emor lo” — his answer should be “kehilchot hapesach” — just like the laws of Pesach. Just as there is a law that “ein maftirin” — nothing is eaten after the pesach lamb/afikoman in order that the taste remain clear — likewise, your answer should be clear and succinct so that afterwards the Chacham should be left with a clear understanding and no doubts or ambiguities.

(הגש"פ מוצל מאש - בית אהרן בפי' אגודת אזוב בשם ר' שלום זצ"ל מבעלז)

רשע מה הוא אומר
“The wicked son, what does he say?”

QUESTION: The reference to the Rasha in the Torah is the pasuk “And it shall come to pass when your children will say to you, ‘What is this service to you?’ ” (Shemot 12:26) What in the pasuk indicates that the son is wicked?

ANSWER: Children must respect and honor their parents. They should seek their guidance and follow their instruction. A good child does not tell his parents his decision and expect them to listen to him.

Since the Torah mentions a child who “will say to you,” i.e. one who tells the parent his opinion, the Haggadah deduces that we are not dealing with a good child, but unfortunately the opposite.

(הדרש והעיון)

"מה העבודה הזאת לכם"
“What is this service to you?”

QUESTION: Why is the Chacham so highly praised over the Rasha? He also says, “What are the testimonies, etc., that G‑d, our G‑d commanded “etchem” — “you” — and not “otanu” — “us”?

ANSWER: A major difference is that the Chacham says, “G‑d our G‑d,” which shows that he recognizes that there is a Supreme Authority which also governs him. On the other hand, the Rasha makes no mention of Hashem, which indicates that he does not recognize Him and wants nothing to do with Him.

* * *

Perhaps, King Shlomo alludes to this explanation when he says, “I perceived that wisdom excels foolishness as light excels darkness” (Ecclesiastes 2:13). With this analogy he means the following: Concerning the first day of creation the Torah says, “And G‑d called to the light day and to the darkness He called night” (Bereishit 1:5). The Midrash (Rabbah 1:6) asks why doesn’t it say, “And to the darkness G‑d called night” the same as it says about the light? The Midrash answers, Hashem does not link His Name with evil, but only with good.

Hence, King Shlomo is saying that the wisdom of the Chacham of the Haggadah excels over the foolishness of the wicked in the Haggadah (and there is no greater fool than a Rasha — wicked person), the same way that light excels over darkness. Light is associated with Hashem and darkness is not, similarly, the Chacham associates himself with Hashem and the Rasha does not.

(הגש"פ עם פי' ילקוט שמעוני)

"ולפי שהוציא את עצמו מן הכלל כפר בעקר"
“By excluding himself from the community he has denied that which is fundamental.”

QUESTION: How does excluding “et atzmo” — “himself” — prove that he is a Rasha? Perhaps he is modest and reluctant to talk about himself.

ANSWER: The Gemara (Gittin 56b) relates that the wicked Titus was one of the generals assigned to lead the Roman armies to conquer Jerusalem and destroy the Beit Hamikdash. When he entered the Sanctuary, he stuck a sword into the Parochet — curtain, in front of the Holy of Holies — and miraculously, blood began to flow from it. The Gemara says “kesavar harag et Atzmo” — “He imagined that he had killed ‘et Atzmo’ — ‘Hashem.’ ”

Consequently, in this passage too, the words “et Atzmo” refer to Hashem. Since he excludes Hashem from his statement, the Haggadah places him in the relevant category.

(פון אונזער אלטען אוצר בשם ר' יוסף בער ז"ל סאלאווייטשיק מבריסק)

"ואף אתה הקהה את שניו"
“You too, blunt his teeth.”

QUESTION: Why does the Haggadah instruct us to do something to his teeth particularly?

ANSWER: The word “Rasha” (רשע) has the numerical value of 570. The word Tzaddik (צדיק) has the numerical value of 204. The numerical difference between “Rasha” and “Tzaddik” is 366. The word “shinav” (שניו) adds up to 366. The Haggadah teaches us to work diligently to remove every part of “shinav” (366) from the Rasha and convert him into a Tzaddik.

(ברכת חיים על מועדים מר' חיים יעקב ז"ל צוקרמן)

"ואף אתה הקהה את שניו"
“You, too, blunt his teeth.”

QUESTION: The words “Ve’af atah” — “You too [blunt his teeth]” — are extra. It should have just said, “blunt his teeth”?

ANSWER: The Midrash says, that in Egypt when the Jews were told to prepare a Pesach-offering and that everyone should register with a group in order to be able to eat of it, there were some wicked people who ridiculed the whole idea and mocked the ones who were planning to make a Pesach-offering. On the night of Pesach Hashem performed a miracle and an aroma emanated from Gan Eden which permeated the Pesach-offering as it was being roasted. The scornful attitude of the wicked instantly melted away and their teeth became blunt, and they begged for an opportunity to partake of the aromatic and delicious Pesach-offering.

Tonight, when the wicked son comes with his attitude and makes a mockery of all the avodah — work — connected with the Pesach-offering and the Yom Tov in general, the Haggadah instructs, “Ve’af atah” — “You too” — give him the same treatment his predecessors were given in Egypt when they thought that they were smarter than everyone else. Just as their teeth became blunt while everyone else enjoyed eating the luscious Pesach-offering, do the same again tonight: give him an answer which will “blunt his teeth.”

(הגש"פ מרבה לספר מר' ידידי' טיאה ווייל ז"ל, קארלסרוא, תקנ"א, ועי' מד"ר שיר השירים א:י"ב)

"ואמר לו בעבור זה עשה ה' לי בצאתי ממצרים. לי ולא לו אלו היה שם לא היה נגאל"
“And say to him: ‘It is because of this that G‑d did for me when I went out of Egypt.’ ‘For me’—but not for him. Had he been there, he would not have been redeemed.’”

QUESTION: In Hebrew third person is used to address a venerable person. To the wicked Rasha one should say “li velo lecha” — “to me and not to you” — “ilu hayita sham” — “had you been there” — “lo hayita nig’al”“you would not have been redeemed”?

ANSWER: Among the children at the father’s table there is a Chacham — wise son — and a Rasha — wicked son. The father and the Chacham are enjoying a conversation regarding many facets of Torah. The wicked son, uninterested and impatient, barges in with his audacious comment, “Of what purpose is this work to you?” The Haggadah is instructing the father not to pay attention to his rude son and his comments, but “ve’emor lo” — to continue talking to him, i.e. the Chacham, and to tell him that he too should not respond. Rather, he should know that this is what Hashem did for “me and not for him” (the wicked son) — had he been in Egypt, he would not have been redeemed.

To answer, argue, or reason with the wicked is to no avail. King Shlomo says, “Do not answer a fool according to his foolishness” (Proverbs 26:4).


"אלו היה שם לא היה נגאל"
“Had he been there, he would not have been redeemed.”

QUESTION: With such a harsh response the father will lose his son entirely. Why not attempt to bring him closer to the Torah through a friendly approach?

ANSWER: The Jews received the Torah only after they left Egypt. The father is, in fact, telling his son the following: “In Egypt where we did not yet have the Torah, for people like you who were there, there was no hope. Today, however, we do have the Torah. Study Torah and you will see the beauty of Yiddishkeit and definitely resolve to change your ways.”

Incidentally, as an introduction to the four sons, we bless Hashem for giving the Torah to the Jewish people, and then mention that the Torah speaks of four sons. The fact that Torah discusses four sons indicates that through Torah there is hope for every person, regardless of his status.

(לקוטי שיחות ח"א ע' 252)

“The simple son.”

QUESTION: Who is the Tam?

ANSWER: A Chassid of the Mezeritcher Maggid once traveled to be with his Rebbe for Pesach. The winter had been severe, and the roads were bad. When he reached a small village near Mezeritch, the sun was setting and it was impossible to go on before Yom Tov.

The local innkeeper invited the distressedChassid for Pesach and promised him a beautiful kosher Seder. The innkeeper and his sons said the Haggadah with tremendous hislahavut — enthusiasm. The sons asked the questions, and their father answered with great joy.

When they got to the “Four Sons” they said, “Chacham, what does he say?; Rasha, what does he say?” — all with a special emphasis unlike that of the rest of the Haggadah. When they came to “Tam, what does he say?” they became very sad, saying it with choked voices and with tears. And when they came to the answer, “With a strong hand Hashem took us out of Egypt,” they read it with great happiness.

The Chassid could not understand their strange Haggadah reading, which made it seem that they did not know where to be sad and where to be happy. The same thing happened on the second night, with the same tears, and the same joy.

When he came to the Maggid, he told how sad he was not to be at the Maggid’s Seder, and his great wonder at the innkeeper’s Seder. The Maggid calmed him and said it was worth being away forPesach to sit with the innkeeper and his sons, “They are great tzaddikim and know the true intentions of the Haggadah.” The Maggid continued:

The Haggadah complains bitterly about the foolishness of man’s ways. People pay attention to the Chacham — what does he say? They pay attention to the Rasha — what does hesay? But they pay no attention to hear: “Tam” — “there” [in Aramaic Tam means “there” (see Beitzah 4b)] — i.e. in Heaven, what does He say? And if He will ask, “What you have accomplished, what have you done about your actions that have pushed off your redemption,” what will you say?

As depressing as this may be, immediately we are comforted and gladdened by the answer: “Hashem took us out of Egypt with a strong hand.” Hashem took the Jews out by force whether they were ready or deserving to be redeemed or not. He simply showed tremendous mercy and redeemed them forcefully. And thus, we too can hope that Hashem will have mercy on us and redeem us.

(התורה והעולם - ויקרא - מהרב ניסן ז"ל טעלושקין)

"תם מה הוא אומר מה זאת"
The simple son, what does he say? “What is this?”

QUESTION: Regarding the Tam, the Torah says, “When your child asks you ‘machar’ — ‘tomorrow’ — what is this?” (Shemot 13:4) The word “machar” — “tomorrow” — seems superfluous?

ANSWER: Rashi explains, “Sometimes the word ‘machar’ (tomorrow) means ‘achshav’ — ‘now’ — and sometimes it means ‘le’achar zeman’ — ‘in a time to come.’ ”

Rashi is not just offering an explanation of the term “machar,” but also teaching an important lesson about rearing children. The term “machar” is not just a relative period of time, but a description of two types of “bincha” (children).

There is a child who is “achshav” — “now.” He lives in the same spirit that you do and is a Torah observing Jew as yourself. There is also another child, who is “achar zeman” — “of a later time.” He considers his Torah-observant father an “old timer” and considers himself a progressive denizen of a different spiritual era.

The Torah is instructing every father, “Even if you have a child who presently does not agree with your Torah way of thinking, you must bear in mind that he is ‘bincha’‘your child.’ Moreover, you as a father have to help him and give him the answers which will make him ‘achshav’ — a Torah observant Jew like yourself.”

(לקוטי שיחות ח"ו ע' 268)

"ושאינו יודע לשאול"
“The son who does not know how to ask.”

QUESTION: Is “the one who does not know how to ask” really an absolute illiterate?

ANSWER: The popular portrayal of him as a young immature child is inaccurate. Were it true, he would not have been placed at the end to be spoken to after all other children since he would have definitely fallen asleep by this time. Moreover, how could he be expected to understand the balance of the Haggadah, which is, after all, directed to him?

Obviously, “the one who does not know how to ask” is an intelligent person who unfortunately, knows very little about Torah and Yiddishkeit. Afraid that his question may be totally out of place, he sits quietly throughout the Seder and does not ask anything. Therefore, the Haggadah instructs: First deal with your children, and then spend the evening teaching the highly intelligent and secularly learned guest at your table who is currently a “She’eino Yodei’a Lishol” — one who does not know how to formulate questions in Torah matters although he is eager to hear and learn.

"את פתח לו"
“You must initiate him.”

QUESTION: Since the Haggadah instructs the father to teach his son, it should have said “atah” in the masculine instead of “at” which is feminine?

ANSWER: “The one who does not know how to ask” is actually a very intelligent person who unfortunately knows very little about Yiddishkeit. The Haggadah instructs us not to give him a watered-down version of the Torah, but instead “at (את) petach lo” — tell him everything from א to ת (beginning to end) about Torah and Yiddishkeit.

(ברוך שאמר לר' ברוך הלוי ז"ל עפשטיין)

Alternatively, in Yeshivot the older students are taught by Rebbes. The kindergarten is commonly taught by female teachers, and the Rosh Yeshivah is not expected to lower himself to teach the small children. Similarly, many may claim that it is below their dignity to deal directly with someone who knows nothing about Yiddishkeit and teach him the rudiments. Hence, the Haggadah instructs that it is incumbent upon each of us become like the kindergarten teacher who warmly and enthusiastically teaches and deals with the beginners.

"שנאמר והגדת לבנך ביום ההוא לאמר בעבור זה עשה ה' לי בצאתי ממצרים""
“You must initiate him, as it is said: ‘You shall tell your son on that day, saying, ‘It is because of this that G‑d did for me when I went out of Egypt.’ ”

QUESTION: The word “leimor” — “saying” — is superfluous?

ANSWER: The “She’eino Yodei’ah Lishol” is sitting at the Seder and does not know what he should say, so the Haggadah instructs that “at petach lo” — “you must initiate him.” However, it is not sufficient that you just tell him, but it must reach the point of “leimor” — “saying” — i.e. he, too, will become an active participant in the Pesach celebration, and he will say to others, “I am celebrating tonight because of what Hashem did for me when I went out of Egypt.”

(פנים יפות פ' בא)

"יכול מראש חדש"
”One may think [that the obligation to discussthe Exodus begins] from the first day of the month.”

QUESTION: Why would we think that the discussion of the Exodus should be from the first of the month or on Erev Pesach?

ANSWER: Since it was on Rosh Chodesh that Moshe told the Jews in Egypt about the mitzvah of the Pesach-offering, one would think that the discussion of the Exodus should always commence on Rosh Chodesh, and since the actual offering took place on Erev Pesach, one would think that the discussion of the Exodus should at least commence at that time. However, the phrase “ba’avur zeh” — “because of this” — rejects these two initial considerations and instructs that it should be done “when the matzah and maror are placed before you,” i.e. at the Seder.

* * *

QUESTION: Since the teaching of the phrase “ba’avur zeh” — “because of this” — supersedes the teaching of “bayom hahu” — “on that day” — why does it say “bayom hahu” altogether?

ANSWER: The words “ba’avur zeh” can also be explained to refer to the Pesach-offering, and infers that the discussion of the Exodis starts while it is still day. Hence, one of the two expressions is superfluous. Consequently, since the Torah does write both expressions [bayom hahu and ba’avur zeh], we must say that “ba’avur zeh” does not mean the same thing as “bayom hahu,” but refers to the night.

(הגש"פ עם לקוטי טעמים ומנהגים)

"יכול מראש חדש"
”One may think [that the obligation to discussthe Exodus begins] from the first day of the month.”

QUESTION: What is the connection between this verse and the She’eino Yodei’a Lishol?

ANSWER: This verse is not a part of the response to the She’eino Yodei’a Lishol. Rather, since the pasuk, “Vehigadeta lebincha” was quoted in regard to the She’eino Yodei’a Lishol, the Haggadah proceeds to offer a Rabbinic interpretation of it. Thus, it is in the Haggadah parenthetically.


"יכול מראש חדש...בעבור זה לא אמרתי אלא בשעה שיש מצה ומרור מנחים לפניך"
“One may think [that the obligation to discuss the Exodus begins] from the first day of the month... The expression ‘because of this’ implies that [the obligation only begins] when matzah and maror are placed before you.”

QUESTION: What is wrong with starting the discussion of the Exodus even without matzah and maror on the table?

ANSWER: The Haggadah imparts an extremely important lesson about the education of children. It is not sufficient to merely instruct your child about Torah and mitzvot. You must first show your own commitment, and then you can endeavor to convince them. You cannot just say to your child, “Go to shul or take a sefer and learn.” You must be a living example for the child to emulate. Thus, the appropriate way to discuss the Exodus is not academically, but when he sees that matzah and maror are placed in front of you.

* * *

A non-observant father once sent his child to a Hebrew school. As the child’s Bar-Mitzvah was approaching, he took his son to the Hebrew book store and asked the salesman for a Bar-Mitzvah set. The salesman opened the box and the boy saw in it a pair of tefillin and a tallit. Having no knowledge of these strange items, he asked his father with a puzzled expression on his face, “What are these?” The father told him, “My son, this is what every Jew must have once he becomes Bar-Mitzvah.” The young boy looked up to his father inquisitively and asked, “So Father, when are you becoming Bar-Mitzvah?”

"מתחלה עובדי עבודה זרה היו אבותינו ועכשו קרבנו המקום לעבודתו"
“In the beginning our fathers worshipped idols but now the Omnipresent has brought us close to His service”

QUESTION: The words “mitechilah” — “in the beginning” — and “ve’achshav” — “but now” — are superfluous. It should have just said our parents served idols and Hashem has brought us close to His service?

ANSWER: In the early 1930’s an non-observant Jew traveling on a train was informed by the conductor that a famous Rabbi known as the Chafeitz Chaim” was in the last car. Eager to see him, the gentleman hastened to this car. The Chafeitz Chaim was engrossed in a sefer and did not pay any attention to his observer. Upon lifting his eyes, he noticed the man and asked if there was any way he could help him. The gentleman apologetically said, “I only came to see what you look like.” With a pleasant smile, the Chafeitz Chaim questioned, “And what did you see?” The man responded, “Frankly, I am very disappointed. I expected to see a well groomed person, dressed in the most modern style, and you are garbed in the old style. You do not meet my expectations in any way.”

The Chafeitz Chaim looked up at him and replied, “If anything, it is I who is in accordance with the latest style and you are the one who is not with the times.” The gentlemen arrogantly said, “Rabbi, on what grounds do you make your statement? My wardrobe is of the latest style — yours is antiquated!” The Chafeitz Chaim responded, “In the Haggadah we read, ‘mitechilah’ — ‘In the beginning our fathers served idols.’ This was the ancient style. However, ‘ve’achshav’ — the present style — is being close to Hashem’s service. The religious Jew who is serving Hashem with all his heart and soul is the one who is truly in accordance with the latest style.”

"מתחלה עובדי עבודה זרה היו אבותינו ועכשו קרבנו המקום לעבדתו"
“In the beginning our fathers worshipped idols; but now the Omnipresent has brought us close to His service.”

QUESTION: Why do we begin by mentioning negative aspects of Jewish history?

ANSWER: As explained before (p. 100), the She’eino Yodei’a Lishol is a highly intelligent person who unfortunately lacks a Torah background and, thus, is not in the position to formulate a question intellectually. The Seder is one of his first exposures to the Torah way of life. He is told that it is never too late to embrace Torah and mitzvot, and regardless of his past, he can always start anew. He should not feel uncomfortable because our ancestors, too, originally had no connection to Torah and mitzvot, but ultimately accepted it and reached great heights.

In addition, many people have difficulty returning to Yiddishkeit because it means leaving their friends and society. The Haggadah’s message is that Avraham was brought up in a home of one of the major idol merchants and in an environment steeped in paganism. Nevertheless, he detached himself from everyone and conducted his life in the path which he considered right and just.

(ברכת חיים בשם אוהב ישראל)

"וארבה את זרעו ואתן לו את יצחק"
“I multiplied his seed and I gave him Yitzchak.”

QUESTION: Why does it say “va’arbeh” — “I multiplied” — when Yitzchak was his only child?

ANSWER: The word “arbeh” (ארבה) has the numerical value of 208, which is the same numerical value as the name “Yitzchak” (יצחק). Although Yitzchak was an only son, he gave his father Avraham as much nachas as another parent would have had from many children.

(לקוטי שיחות ח"א ע' 110)

"ואתן לו את יצחק"
“And I gave him Yitzchak.”

QUESTION: Hashem instructed Avraham to call his son “Yitzchak” “because of the laughter” (Bereishit 17:19, Rashi). Why was the future tense (“he will laugh”) used for his name?

ANSWER: Avraham and Sarah had undertaken the difficult task of changing the course of the world by educating people about Torah and G‑dliness, and they were very successful at it. However, they had also encountered great difficulties, and Avraham was even cast into the burning furnace by King Nimrod.

As Avraham and Sarah aged and remained childless, those who previously feared them began to laugh and rejoice. “Soon Avraham and Sarah will die,” they thought to themselves, “and without a child to continue their work, they will be gone and forgotten, and so will the ideas and ideals they propagated.”

Avraham was concerned about this and prayed to Hashem for a child who would continue his work. Hashem promised him, “Your wife will bear you a son. Name him ‘Yitzchak’ because he will follow in your footsteps, and ‘he will laugh’ at all those who think that the teachings of Avraham and Sarah will be forgotten.”

"ברוך שומר הבטחתו"
“Blessed is He Who keeps His promise.”

QUESTION: Why bless the Divine for keeping His promise? Even mortal man must do so!

ANSWER: Hashem told Avraham, “I will give all the land that you see to you and to your descendants forever” (Bereishit 13:15). He also told him, “Your offspring shall be aliens in a land which does not belong to them. They will serve them and they shall oppress them...and afterwards they shall leave with great wealth” (ibid. 15:13,14). At the time of these promises Avraham had no children. Afterwards Yishmael and Yitzchak were born. We thank Hashem for fulfilling His promise through Yitzchak and not through Yishmael. Thanks to this, we became the recipients of Torah and Eretz Yisrael.

(ברוך שאמר)

"שהקדוש ברוך הוא חשב את הקץ לעשות"
“For the Holy One, blessed be He, calculated the end [of the bondage], in order to do.”

QUESTION: What calculation did Hashem make?

ANSWER: The Jews were destined to be enslaved for 400 years. In actuality, however, they left Egypt after being there only 210 years. The reason for the reduction of years was that Hashem took into consideration the avodat perech — extra hard labor — which the Egyptians forced the Jews to perform which was equivalent to 400 years of normal slavery. The word keitz (קץ) has the numerical value of 190. We praise Hashem for calculating the “keitz” — 190 years as “la’asot” — actual work.

The Haggadah then continues to tell us that the 400 years originated from, “Kemah she’amar le’Avraham” — “As He told Avraham” — that “Your children will be strangers in a land which does not belong to them and they shall serve them and be treated harshly for 400 years, and afterwards they shall come out with great wealth.”

(סי' קול יעקב)

* * *

Alternatively, though in actuality the Jews were in Egypt for only 210 years, the 400 years Hashem refers to are counted from the birth of Yitzchak. Yitzchak was born on Pesach (see Bereishit 18:10, Rashi) and exactly 400 years later to the day, Hashem took the Jews out of Egypt. We thank Him for “chisheiv et hakeitz” — calculating the destined time of 400 years to the exact day — “la’asot” — in order to do “kemah she’amar l’Avraham” — “as He promised Avraham” — that afterwards they would come out with great wealth.

Unlike the former explanation, here the word “la’asot” — “to do” — is not the conclusion of the initial phrase “chisheiv et hakeitz,” but the start of the succeeding one.

(שמחת הרגל להחיד"א)

* * *

That the 400 years of the Egyptian exile started with the birth of Yitzchak is alluded to in the pasuk, “He remembered His covenant forever... that He made with Avraham and His vow to Yitzchak” (Psalms 105:8-9). The name “Yitzchak” which is normally spelled with a tzaddik (יצחק), is spelled here with a“sin” (ישחק). The numerical difference between tzaddik (90) and “sin” (300) equals 210. In merit of reducing the numerical value of his name by 210, the Jews were in Egypt only for 210 years and the other 190 will be made up by dating back the promise, “Your children will be strangers,” to the birth of Yitzchak.

(עיון יעקב, בכורות ה' ע"ב בשם מדרש דברי הימים, ועי' פני דוד להחיד"א ס"פ וישב דמתרץ מדוע לפי"ז היו במצרים רד"ו שנה ולא ק"צ שנה)

"ויאמר לאברם ידע תדע כי גר יהיה זרעך בארץ לא להם"
“He said to Avram, ‘Your children will be strangers in a land which does not belong to them.’ ”

QUESTION: The words “be’eretz lo lahem” — “in a land which does not belong to them” — seem extra. Obviously, a stranger is not in his own land?

ANSWER: When Yosef came before Pharaoh, he predicted that there would be seven years of abundance and seven years of famine. He advised Pharaoh to save up food for the seven years of famine. When the famine came as predicted, the people of Egypt came to Yosef to buy food, and when they ran out of money, Yosef took their cattle in lieu of money. When they ran out of cattle, he took their land.

Afterwards, Yosef relocated the people to different cities from one end of Egypt to the other. He did this so that the Egyptians would be strangers in the places where they lived and be unable to embarrass his brothers by calling them strangers or refugees (see Bereishit 47:21 Rashi).

Hashem told Avraham, “Your children will be in the exile of Egypt for 400 years and be strangers in the land. However, it will be tolerable, because it will be eretz lo lahem — a land which does not belong to them — to the Egyptians. Thus, they will not feel less comfortable than their Egyptian neighbors.”

(מדרש שמואל על אבות פ"ב: ט"ו, ר"ט אומר היום קצר וכו')

* * *

Alternatively, Hashem was telling Avraham that the reason “your children will be strangers in a land” is “lo lahem” — “not for their own sake” — i.e. to cleanse them of their sins. Rather, the purpose was to elevate the nitzotzot — sparks of G‑dliness — in Egypt.

(אדמו"ר מוריי"ץ בסה"ש תרצ"ז ע' 220)

"ועבדום וענו אתם"
“They will enslave them, and oppress them.”

QUESTION: Why was it decreed that “ve’enu otam” — “they will oppress them” — in addition to being enslaved?

ANSWER: The words “ve’enu otam” literally mean, “they will impoverish them.” Hashem was telling Avraham that when the Jews leave Egypt they would make them, i.e. the Egyptians, poor.

The primary purpose of the Egyptian exile was to enable the Jews to elevate the nitzotzot — sparks of G‑dliness — enclothed in the material substance of the Egyptians. At the departure, the Jews “took out” (elevated) all these spiritual sparks. On the pasuk “Vayenatzlu et Mitzraim” — “they emptied Egypt” (Shemot 12:36), the Gemara (Berachot 9b) says that they transformed Egypt into the equivalent of a [bird] trap containing no grain and the depth of the sea without any fish.

(אדמו"ר מוהריי"ץ בסה"ש תרצ"ז ע' 220, ועי' תורת מנחם ליל ב' דחה"פ תשח"י)

"ועבדום וענו אתם ארבע מאות שנה"
“They will enslave them, and oppress them for four hundred years.”

QUESTION: When Hashem promised Avraham that he would inherit Eretz Yisrael, he asked, “bamah eida” — “Whereby shall I know [that I am to inherit it]. (Bereishit 15:8) For questioning this his children were enslaved by Pharoah for 210 years, which due to the extremely difficult labor were equivalent to 400 years of normal slavery (see Nedarim 32a). What is the significance of the number 400?

ANSWER: There is a system of letter-substitution, known as At-bash ("א-ת, ב-ש") In At-bash the "א" interchanges with the "ת", the "ב" with the "ש", etc. According to this system, the"ה" interchanges with the "צ" and the "מ" interchanges with the "י". Thus, the letters of the word “bamah” — “whereby” (במה) — which Avraham used to inquire about the worthiness of his children to inherit Eretz Yisrael, interchange with the letters ".ש-י-צ" The total numerical value of the letters "ש- י- צ" is exactly 400.

(שפתי כהן עה"ת)

"ועבדום וענו אתם ארבע מאות שנה"
“They will enslave them, and oppress them for four hundred years.”

QUESTION: When the famine was felt in the land of Canaan, Yaakov asked his children to go down to Egypt and purchase food. Seeing their reluctance, he said to them, “Lamah titra’u”(למה תתראו) — “Why are you afraid [to go down to Egypt]” (see Targum Yonatan ben Uziel). Behold, I have heard, “Ki yeish shever bemitzraim” (כי יש שבר במצרים)— “There are provisions in Egypt.” “Redu shamah” (רדו שמה) — “Go down there” (Bereishit 42:1-2).

Why were they reluctant, and how did Yaakov persuade them?

ANSWER: They were well aware that Hashem told Avraham that his children would be enslaved in a strange land for four hundred years. Thus, they did not want to leave Canaan, out of fear that with their departure the exile of four hundred years would commence.

Therefore, Yaakov said to them, “Lamah titra’u” — “Why are you afraid?” Grammatically he should have said, “Lamah tire’u”(למה תראו). Through adding the extra ,"ת" which has the numerical value of four hundred, he meant to say to them, “Lamah — Why — taf tire’u (ת' תראו) — are you afraid of the four hundred years? I saw prophetically, ki yeish — there will be — shever — a break — i.e. a reduction in the amount of years to be — bemitzraim — in Egypt. Redu shamah — the exile there will be only a total of two hundred and ten years (which is the numerical value of the word 'רדו').”

(קרבן פסח על הגש"פ מהרב גדלי' ז"ל סילווערסטאן)

"דן אנכי"
“I will judge.”

QUESTION: Since it was willed and decreed by Hashem that they be enslaved for 400 years, why were the Egyptians punished?

ANSWER: True, Hashem said that the Jews would be enslaved and oppressed, but never did He ordain that they be subjected to avodat perach — extremely hard labor. Nor did He say that the Jewish male babies should be killed. For exceeding their prerogatives and making the Jews suffer much more than was destined, they deserved punishment.

(רמב"ן, בראשית ט"ו:י"ד. ועי' ראב"ד הל' תשובה פ"ו:ב)

"וגם את הגוי אשר יעבדו דן אנכי ואחרי כן יצאו ברכוש גדול"
“And also the nation, that they shall serve, I will judge; and afterwards they shall leave with great wealth.”

QUESTION: In halachah there is a rule: “Kam leih bederabah mineih” — When one is due two punishments (e.g. death and a fine), we do not inflict both, but mete out the severest penalty. Why were the Egyptians punished by losing their lives as well as their money?

ANSWER: The rule of “Kam leih bederabah mineih” applies only in cases which are ruled by our courts (Beit Din). If one commits a crime for which one is liable to the death penalty when done intentionally, he is exempt from monetary payments even in an instance where he does it beshogeig — unintentionally (Rambam, Geneivah 3:1-2). However, this does not apply when the entire matter is being ruled by Heavenly court. Hashem, reserves the right to punish individuals as He sees fit. Therefore, Hashem emphasized Dan Anochi — “I personally will judge and punish them.” Hence, the Egyptians justly pay money and suffer for their iniquity.

(פרשת דרכים, דרך מצרים דרוש חמישי)

Alternatively, this rule applies only when the two punishments are for the same act, e.g. stabbing someone to death on Shabbat and damaging his clothes in the process. In such a case, the murderer is put to death but does not have to pay for the damaged clothing.

However, the Egyptians received punishments for separate acts. They deserved the ten plagues as punishment for torturing the Jews (avodat perech), and they deserved to drown as punishment for drowning the Jewish children. They lost their wealth due to their failure to compensate the enslaved Jewish people for their work. Thus, it is not considered a case of double punishment.

(שארית מנחם מר' מ"מ זצ"ל, וישווא ויזניץ)

"ואחרי כן יצאו ברכש גדול"
“And afterwards they shall leave with great wealth.”

QUESTION: Why didn’t Avraham say to Hashem, “No thank you, keep the wealth and do not make my children suffer galut — exile”?

ANSWER: In addition to their simple meaning, the words “ve’acharei chein yeitze’u birechush gadol” also refer to 1) Torah, 2) redemption and 3) the Messianic era.

1) The words “yeitze’u birechush” ( (יצאו ברכש— “leave with wealth” — have the numerical value of 629, which is the same numerical value as “zehu Torah” — “This is Torah” (זהו תורה).

2) The "ו" in v’acharei chein”“and afterwards” — seems extra. It would be sufficient to say “acharei chein” — “afterwards.”

Our father Yaakov was very concerned about the Jewish people being in galut. Therefore, he took the letter vav from Eliyahu’s name as a pledge that he will come and announce the redemption of his children (Rashi, Vayikra, 26:42).

During the “B’rit Bein Habetarim” — “Covenant Between the Portions” — that Hashem made with Avraham, Avraham was informed of all the different exiles the Jewish people would experience (Bereishit Rabbah 44:17). At that time, Hashem promised him that, in addition to being redeemed from Egypt, v’acharei chein”“and afterwards” — there will be an ultimate redemption heralded by Eliyahu thanks to the "ו" Yaakov will take from his name as a pledge.

3) The words “birechush gadol” (ברכש גדול) add up to 565 (עם הכולל — counting the statement itself as a total of one), which is also the same numerical value as “zeh bizeman Melech Hamashiach” (זה בזמן מלך המשיח) — “This — great wealth — will be in the era of King Mashiach.

Avraham did not argue with Hashem because Torah, redemption, and Mashiach are worth much more than all the difficult trials and tribulations of galut.

(שפתי כהן, עה"ת)

"והיא שעמדה"
“This is what has stood.”

QUESTION: Why do we raise the cup of wine when reciting this passage?

ANSWER: Throughout history many have endeavored to cause us to assimilate in order to detach us from Hashem and Torah and thus destroy us spiritually.

In order to avoid intermarriage and assimilation our Sages instituted certain ordinances. Since wine drinking brings people together and promotes intimacy, sharing wine with non-Jews is prohibited, and we are not to drink any wine which was handled by a non-Jew (Shabbat 17b). Thus, with the lifting of the cup of wine we are proclaiming that thanks to adhering to the law concerning “this” — wine — i.e. the command not to mingle with non-Jews by drinking wine — we have maintained our identity and averted their every effort to destroy us.

(הגש"פ עם פי' קרבן פסח מהרב גדלי' ז"ל סילווערסטאן)

"והיא שעמדה לאבותינו"
“And this is what has stood by our fathers and us.”

QUESTION: What does the word “Vehi” — “And this” — refer to?

ANSWER: The word “vehi” (והיא) is an acronym for:

ו = The six sections of Mishnah

ה = The five Chumashim

י = The ten commandments

א = Hashem, the only One, Blessed be He

In the merit of learning Torah, observing mitzvot, and believing in Hashem, we have outlived all nations who have tried to destroy us.


Alternatively, “Vehi” refers to the“havtachah” — “assurance” — that Hashem gave to Avraham that He will ultimately redeem the Jewish people. Our absolute faith and reliance that Hashem will fulfill His promise speedily in our time and take us out of exile has helped us survive throughout the millennia.

(מחזור ויטרי)

Alternatively, the words “Vehi she’amdah” — “And this is what stood” — is a continuation to the last words of the previous phrase, “[And afterwards they shall leave] with great wealth.” The Haggadah is saying that throughout the years we have lived among many peoples who wanted to annihilate us, and what has stood for us has been our great wealth. Through it we have been able to bribe money-hungry oppressors and assure our existence. If this did not work, then instead of afflicting us bodily they would suffice with confiscating our wealth and expelling us from their lands. So at least we went unharmed and the future of our people was preserved.

(פון אונזער אלטען אוצר)

"שלא אחד בלבד עמד עלינו לכלתנו"
“For not only one has risen against us to annihilate us.”

QUESTION: Instead of “not only one,” it should have said “harbeih amdu aleinu lechaloteinu” — “many have risen against us to annihilate us”?

ANSWER: As long as Hashem keeps a watchful eye over the Jewish people, we will remain in existence regardless of the efforts of alien nations to annihilate us. What stood by our fathers was that fortunately “shelo echad bilvad” — the One and Only was not the one who sought our annihilation, G‑d forbid. For this we are grateful and rejoice.

(צוף אמרים בשם מהר"א זצ"ל מקודינאב)

Alternatively, the phrase “not only one” can also be explained as a message to Klal Yisrael: the greatest threat is not our external enemies, but primarily “shelo echad bilvad” — the fact that we are not united as one. Lack of unity and rampant internal discord “amad aleinu lechaloteinu” — pose the greatest danger of annihilation.

(ליקוטי יהודה בשם שפת אמת)

"שלא אחד בלבד עמד עלינו לכלותנו אלא שבכל דור ודור עומדים עלינו לכלותינו"
“For not only one has risen up against us to annihilate us, but in every generation they rise up against us to annihilate us.”

QUESTION: What misconception does the Haggadah seek to dispel by stating “not only one.” It could have omitted this, simply stating, “In every generation they rise up...and Hashem saves us”?

ANSWER: There are many Jews who imagine that the nations of the world are our friends. They think that the only problem in Persia, for instance, was that there lived a wicked man called Haman and that the only problem during the holocaust was that there was a wicked man called Hitler ימ"ש.

Therefore the Haggadah says, “Strike this erroneous thought from your mind. Be aware that it is not that only one [wicked person] who is permeated with hatred for the Jews rises up against us, and then induces the innocent masses to follow him. Rather, in every generation “they” — the entire people — rise up against us to annihilate us. Anti-Semitism exists everywhere, but people generally lack the courage to display it openly until a brazen individual stands at the forefront and brings this concealed hatred to the surface.”

"והקדוש ברוך הוא מצילנו מידם"
“And the Holy One, blessed be He, saves us from their hand.”

QUESTION: The word “miyadam” — “from their hand” — seems superfluous. “And G‑d saves us” would be sufficient?

ANSWER: Not only does Hashem perform miracles which rescue us from annihilation, but He causes our oppressors to assist in our salvation.

In Egypt, Pharaoh ordered the drowning of the Jewish children and the enslavement of the Jewish people, anticipating that the Jews would remain there forever. Little did he know that his own daughter had saved Moshe (who would ultimately redeem the Jews) and had raised him in his palace. In the days of Achashveirosh, when Haman planned the destruction of the Jewish people, it was he who advised the killing of Vashti, thus making it possible for Esther to become Queen. Hence, Hashem’s method of saving us is “miyadam” — through the work of their hands.

(הגש"פ מגדל עדר החדש בפי' גבול בנימין)

Alternatively, Hashem’s salvation is extremely great. Not only does He save us when our enemies plot against us, but even if we are already in their hands and it seems as though our doom is sealed, miraculously He releases us from their grasp.

(שי לחגים ולמועדים בשם ר' קלונימוס-קלמן האדמו"ר מפיאסצנא, ה.י.ד., בגיטו ורשה, תש"א)

"צא ולמד"
“Go out and learn.”

QUESTION: Why does the piece following “Vehi she’amdah” — “This is what has stood” — start with the words “Tzei ulemad” — “Go out and learn”?

ANSWER: As previously stated (p. 114), “Vehi she’amdah” — “This is what has stood” — refers to the cup of wine — the fact that we did not mix with the gentile world. The Haggadah illustrates this principle by citing the relationship of Lavan and Yaakov, as if to say “From this ‘tzai ulemad’ — go out and learn how true it is.” Yaakov lived with Lavan and married into his family, yet Lavan, being a gentile, hated Yaakov the Jew to the extent that he wanted to destroy everything he possessed. This is a proof to the sad truth that joining with the nations of the world will not change their attitude towards the Jew nor benefit him.

(הגש"פ עם פי' חגיגת הפסח מהרב גדלי' ז"ל סילווערסטאן)

Alternatively, Pinchas was assigned by Moshe to head the war against Midyan. When Bilaam noticed him, he performed sorcery and flew up into the skies. Immediately Pinchas uttered His Holy name and flew after him. When he caught him, he held onto his head and wanted to kill him by the sword. When Bilaam pleaded for his life, and promised that never again would he curse the Jews, Pinchas said to him, “You are Lavan the Aramean who wanted to destroy our father Yaakov; then you went down to Egypt and advised Pharoah to annihilate his children. When they left Egypt, you invited the wicked Amalek to attack them. Later you endeavored to curse them, and when your curses were of no avail, you advised [Balak] to cause the Jews to commit adultery, because of which 24,000 were killed. It is impossible to let you live anymore,” and he killed him.

(תרגום יונתן בן עוזיאל במדבר ל"א:ח)

Thus, from this we can learn that “it was not only one that wanted to destroy us,” rather in every generation there is an attempt to destroy the Jewish people and fortunately Hashem saves us.


"צא ולמד"
“Go out and learn.”

QUESTION: It should have said “bo ulemad”“come and learn”?

ANSWER: When a student is home, there are many distractions which make it difficult for him to study properly. To really succeed in learning a prerequisite is “tzei” — “go out” — i.e. leave your home, leave your environment, leave the amenities to which you are accustomed, and immerse yourself in the study of Torah.

(ר' אהרן זצ"ל מקארלין)

"מה בקש לבן הארמי לעשות ליעקב אבינו. שפרעה לא גזר אלא על הזכרים ולבן בקש לעקור את הכל"
“...what Lavan the Aramean wanted to do to our father Yaakov. Pharaoh decreed only against the males,but Lavan wanted to uproot everyone.”

QUESTION: Tonight we are celebrating our redemption from Egyptian bondage. Why do we minimize the evil intentions of Pharoah in contrast to Lavan?

ANSWER: On the contrary, with this we are emphasizing Hashem’s unlimited love for the Jewish people and the tremendous debt we owe Him. Hashem promised that however much we would forsake the Torah and despite our being in the land of our enemies, He would not reject us nor permit our obliteration (see Vayikra 26:44). While this is true, it does not exclude, G‑d forbid, partial elimination. Consequently, when Lavan sought to uproot everything, it was incumbent on Hashem to thwart his plans. Since Pharoah, however, decreed only against the males, and thus planned only a partial destruction of the Jewish people, Hashem’s promise did not obligate Him to intervene. Nevertheless, in Egypt Hashem showed His great love for the Jewish people and prevented even a partial destruction.

(הגש"פ עם פי' קהלת משה מר' ראובן ז"ל מרגליות בשם ר' חיים זצ"ל מאטיניא ועי' הגש"פ חזון עובדיה)

"ולבן בקש לעקור את הכל"
“But Lavan wanted to uproot everyone.”

QUESTION: Where do we find that this was Lavan’s intention?

ANSWER: According to halachah (Gittin 64a) if one sends a shaliach — representative — to betroth a wife for him, and the representative dies before returning, the sender is forbidden to marry any woman out of concern that she may be a relative to the one the shaliach chose. Eliezer was sent as a representative to betroth a wife for Yitzchak. During the meal Lavan put poison in Eliezer’s food and miraculously Betuel ended up eating it. Had his vile plan been realized, Eliezer would have died and Yitzchak would have been unable to marry anyone, making it impossible for Yaakov to be born. Thus, there would have been no Jewish nation.

(פון אונזער אלטען אוצר ועי' בהגש"פ חזון עובדיה, ע' רפ"ג)

* * *

Alternatively, when Yaakov and his family fled the house of Lavan, Lavan and his contingency chased after them intending to kill him. Fortunately, Hashem interceded and instructed him not to harm Yaakov. In their dialogue, Lavan said to Yaakov, “The daughters are my daughters, the children are my children, the flock is my flock, and all that you see is mine” (Bereishit 31:43). With this he was alluding that he was not happy with the way Yaakov was bringing up his family, and he told him “Regardless of the way you conduct your life, I want you to know that the children belong to me, and they should be brought up according to the standards of contemporary society.” Likewise, with his claim “The flock is my flock and all that you see is mine” he meant, “the world — business — is mine and your Torah laws are incompatible with it. To succeed one must forsake Torah ethics and conduct business according to my approach.”

If Lavan had had his way, he would have estranged Yaakov’s family from Torah and mitzvot, which ultimately would have led to their complete annihilation both spiritually and physically as members of the Jewish people.

(לקוטי שיחות ח"ג)

"ארמי אבד אבי וירד מצרימה"
“An Aramean [Lavan] sought to destroy my father [Yaakov]. And he went down to Egypt.”

QUESTION: How did Lavan’s evil intentions cause Yaakov to go down to Egypt?

ANSWER: When Yaakov came to Lavan’s home, he clearly stated that he would work for him seven years so that he could marry Rachel, his younger daughter. Lavan fooled him and gave him Leah instead. After seven days of celebration for his marriage with Leah, he was given Rachel as wife and had to work an additional seven years.

Leah was the first to bear children, and afterwards Rachel gave birth to Yosef. Yaakov’s preferential treatment of Yosef evoked the brothers’ envy, and consequently they sold him, bringing about his slavery in Egypt. Eventually Yoseph rose to the position of viceroy to Pharoah and this set the stage for Yaakov’s descent to Egypt.

Had Lavan dealt honestly with Yaakov, giving him Rachel immediately, he would not have married Leah at all. Rachel would have been the mother of all his children, and Yosef would have been the firstborn. Hence, his younger siblings would have had great respect for him, and no jealousy whatsoever would have prevailed.

(תורת משה)

"ארמי אבד אבי"
“An Aramean [Lavan] sought to destroy my father [Yaakov].”

QUESTION: Why does it say “Arami oveid avi” — “An Aramean [sought to] destroys my father” — in present tense, and not “destroyed my father” — in past tense?

ANSWER: The pasuk is in present tense to indicate that this is not a matter of history. Rather, the nations oppression of the Jewish people is ongoing and constant.

"וירד מצרימה"
“And he went down to Egypt.”

QUESTION: It should have said “leMitzraim”?

ANSWER: The word “Mitzraimah” (מצרימה) has the numerical value of three hundred and eighty-five, which is the same numerical value as the word Shechinah (שכינה) — “Divine Presence.” This alludes to Hashem’s promise to Yaakov Anochi eireid imcha Mitzraimah” — “I shall descend with you to Egypt” (Bereishit 46:4).

(הגש"פ מוצל מאש - בית אהרן - בפי' פאר אהרן)

"אנוס על פי הדבור"
“Compelled by Divine decree.”

QUESTION: The literal translation of “dibur” is “word.” What word compelled the Egyptian bondage?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Nedarim 32a) says that when Hashem promised Avraham that he would inherit Eretz Yisrael, he asked, “bamah eida” — “whereby shall I know [that I am to inherit it] (Bereishit 15:8). For questioning His promise, Avraham was punished that his children were enslaved by the Egyptians for 210 years. Thus, the word which compelled the Jews to go to Egypt was the word “bamah” (במה).

(שארית מנחם מר' מנחם מענדל זצ"ל האגער, וישווא וויזניץ)

"ויאמרו אל פרעה לגור בארץ באנו כי אין מרעה לצאן אשר לעבדיך כי כבד הרעב בארץ כנען"
“And they said to Pharaoh: ‘We have come to sojourn in the land; for there is no grazing for your servants’ flocks, for the famine is severe in the land of Canaan.’ ”

QUESTION: Why did they not tell him that they came to Egypt because they had no food to eat themselves?

ANSWER: The brothers wanted to convey to Pharaoh how severe the famine was in Canaan. They told him: “Grass is usually reserved for the flock. People consume fruits and vegetables. The situation is so critical in Canaan that people are eating grass and there is no grazing left for the animals.”

(רבינו בחיי)

"ועתה ישבו נא עבדיך בארץ גשן"
“Now, please let your servants dwell in the land of Goshen.”

QUESTION: Why did the brothers make a request for Goshen specifically?

ANSWER: When Avraham came to Egypt, Pharoah took Sarah not just as a concubine, but for a wife. Therefore, he gave her a ketubah stating that in the event she would survive him, all his possessions and everything he owned would be hers for the remainder of her life. In addition, he unconditionally gave her the land of Goshen to be hers forever. Since the land belonged to our matriarch Sarah, the brothers expressed the wish to live there.

(פרקי דרבי אליעזר פכ"ו)

* * *

Incidentally, the episode of Pharoah and Sarah took place on the night of Pesach. The Torah (Bereishit 12:17) relates that Hashem afflicted Pharoah along with his household with “nega’im gedolim” — “severe plagues.” These plagues were ten in number, alluding that in years to come his descendants, too, would be struck with ten plagues for causing the Jewish people to suffer.

In the words “nega’im gedolim”(נגעים גדלים) the usual “vav” in the word “gedolim” (גדולים) is eliminated, leaving a total of ten letters and alluding to the ten plagues administered by the angel.

(ביאור הרד"ל על פרקי דר"א)

"בשבעים נפש ירדו אבתיך מצרימה"
“With seventy souls your fathers went down to Egypt.”

QUESTION: Since “shivim” is plural, it should have said “nefashot”?

ANSWER: The Midrash Rabbah (Vayikra 4:6) relates that Rabbi Yehoshua ben Korcha once explained to a heathen the difference between the Jewish nation and the nations of the world is that “In the case of Eisav six souls are mentioned in Torah, and yet the word used of them in Torah is ‘nefashot’ — ‘souls’— in the plural, as it is written, ‘And Eisav took his wives, and his sons, and his daughters, and all the souls of his house’ (Bereishit 36:4).

In Yaakov’s family, on the other hand, there were seventy souls, and yet the word used for them in Torah is nefesh — ‘soul’ — in the singular, as it is written, ‘And all the nefesh who emerged from the loins of Yaakov’ were seventy Nefesh (Shemot 1:5). The reason is that Eisav and his family worshipped many different deities while all in Yaakov’s family worshipped only one G‑d.”

Based on this, it could be said that with the expression nefesh — soul — in singular, the pasuk is indicating that the source of the Jewish people’s strength, which helped them endure the Egyptian bondage, was the fact that they were “nefesh” — united as one among themselves — and they all worshipped the One and Only — Hashem.

(ויקרא רבה ד:ו - עי' מתנת כהונה)

* * *

Alternatively, the Hebrew word “nefesh” (נפש) has the numerical value of 430. It alludes to the four hundred and thirty years of the Egyptian bondage and the sojourning of Avraham and his offspring, the time which elapsed after Hashem told him of the decree at the Brit beinHabetarim — the Covenant Between the Parts (see Shemot 12:41, Rashi).

"ועתה שמך ה' אלקיך ככוכבי השמים לרב"
“And now G‑d, your G‑d, has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven.”

QUESTION: In what ways are the Jewish people like stars?

ANSWER: From earth, the stars appear very small. However, in heaven, the stars are actually immense. Hashem assured Avraham that although on earth the nations of the world consider the Jewish people “very small” (of minor significance), in reality, up in heaven they are of primary importance.

(דברי שאול)

* * *

The stars twinkle in the high heavens. By their light, even one who walks in the darkness of night will not stumble. Every Jew, man or woman, possess enough moral and spiritual light to influence friends and acquaintances and bring them out of the darkness into the light.

(היום יום, ה' חשון)

* * *

When one stands on the ground and looks up to the sky, the stars appear to be minute specks. In reality the stars are larger than the earth. As we approach them, we can begin to appreciate their size and beauty.

The same is true of a Jew. Although, he may superficially appear to be insignificant, as one becomes closer and gets to know more about him, one can perceive the great and beautiful “Pintele Yid” (spark of Judaism) within him.


"ובני ישראל פרו וישרצו"
“And the Children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly.”

QUESTION: According to the Midrash Rabbah (Shemot 1:8) they bore six children at each birth (Rashi). Why did Hashem cause such an unusual phenomenon?

ANSWER: According to the Yalkut, the Jews were enslaved in Egypt for a total of one hour. This enigmatic statement is explained as follows:

In Psalms (90:4) it is stated, “A thousand years in your eyes are like the day that has passed and a watch of the night.” According to an opinion in the Gemara (Berachot 3a), the night is divided into four watches (each consisting of three hours). Thus, one day and one watch — which equal fifteen hours — are one thousand years in Hashem’s eyes. Consequently, to Hashem, 66 years and 8 months are one hour (1000 years ÷ 15 = 66 years and 8 months). Hence, the Midrash is saying that the entire Egyptian bondage lasted sixty six years and eight months.

Hashem had told Avraham that his descendants would be slaves in Egypt for a total of four hundred years. In order to lessen the years of slavery, He increased the birthrate by six fold. Thus, six times the normal population working for sixty six years and eight months is exactly equal to four hundred years of slavery (66 years and 8 months x 6 = 400 years).

(פרדס יוסף בשם ר' מאיר יחיאל הלוי זצ"ל מאסטראווצא)

"ובני ישראל פרו וישרצו...ותמלא הארץ אתם"
“The Children of Israel were fruitful and increased abundantly... and the land became filled with them.”

QUESTION: The Midrash (Shir Hashirim 1.15:3) relates that Rebbi, Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi, once noticed while delivering a lecture that the congregation had become drowsy. In order to rouse them he said: “One woman in Egypt brought forth six hundred thousand children in one birth.” A disciple named Rabbi Yishmael son of Rabbi Yose said to him: “Who can that have been?” He replied: “This was Yocheved, who bore Moshe, who was counted as equal to six hundred thousand of Israel.”

Why did he use this particular unbelievable story to awaken them when they drowsed off during his lecture?

ANSWER: The episode related in the Midrash can be seen as a metaphor for a certain period of Jewish history. The destruction of the second Beit Hamikdash took place in the year 3828, and Rebbi was born approximately 50 years afterwards, becoming the leader of the fourth generation after the destruction. The Roman government oppressed the Jews bitterly, and the Jews were losing hope for the coming of Mashiach and the ultimate redemption. Rebbi noticed that while he was propagating Torah, the community was “falling asleep” in their faith, i.e. thinking that there would never, G‑d forbid, be a ge’ulah — redemption — and that the galut is eternal.

In an effort to dispel this kind of thinking, Rebbi told his listeners that in Egypt a woman gave birth to 600,000 children. The message to his generation was “Do not despair! Our fathers in Egypt thought that they were doomed to be slaves forever and there was no hope to be redeemed. Suddenly, however, Yocheved gave birth to Moshe, who ultimately took out all the 600,000 enslaved Jews from Egypt and brought them to Sinai for the giving of the Torah — the greatest event in Jewish history. We, too, must never give up hope. The salvation of G‑d can come in the wink of an eye — immediately and unexpectedly.”

(מצאתי בכתבי אבי הרב שמואל פסח ז"ל באגאמילסקי)

"רבבה כצמח השדה נתתיך"
“I made you as numerous as the plants of the field.”

QUESTION: Usually, to describe the large number of the Jewish people, the Torah compares them to dust of the earth or the stars of the heaven (see Bereishit 13:16 and 15:5). Why here are they compared to the grass of the field?

ANSWER: The nature of grass is that the more it is cut, the stronger it grows back. One of the miracles experienced in Egypt was that “As much as they would afflict it (the Jewish people), so it would increase and so it would spread out” (Shemot 1:12). In other words, Hashem instilled in the Jews the quality of grass, which grows stronger the more it is cut down.


"וירעו אתנו המצרים"
“The Egyptians treated us badly.”

QUESTION: Instead of “vayarei’u otanu” — which literally means “they made us bad” — it should have said “vayarei’u lanu” — “they treated us badly”?

ANSWER: The Jewish people are distinguished by their character traits. They are known to be merciful, bashful, and kind (Yevamot 79a). Under Egyptian bondage, the Jews were exposed to inhumane treatment, causing them to lose their refined character and ultimately transforming them into corrupt people. Thus, through affliction and hard labor — “vayarei’u otanu hamitzrim” — the Egyptians made us bad people.


Alternatively, the word “vayarei’u” (וירעו) is from the same root as “rei’a” (רֵעַ) — which means friend. The Haggadah is saying that first vayarei’u otanu — they became friendly with us — and with “peh rach” — “soft talk” — they induced us to help in the development of Egypt and in fact, even paid wages for the labor (see Pesachim 39a, Rashi). Afterwards they made us suffer by enslaving us “befarech” — “with vigor.”

(הגש"פ קבוץ חכמים מהרב עבדאל סומך ז"ל מבגדאד)

Due to this, the herb that is used for maror is one which is soft and sweet when it begins growing, but in the end it is hard and bitter.

(פסחים ל"ט א' רש"י, ושו"ע הרב סי' תע"ג סעי' ל"א)

"הבה נתחכמה לו"
“Come, let us act cunningly with them.”

QUESTION: Instead of “lo” — which literally means “to him” — in singular, it should have said “lahem” — “to them” — in plural?

ANSWER: The Egyptian bondage started after the death of all of Yaakov’s sons. Levi outlived them all and passed away at the age of 137 (Shemot 6:16). Since Levi was 43 when the brothers arrived in Egypt (ibid. 2:2, Ibn Ezra), he lived in Egypt proper 94 years. Deducting this from the 210 years the Jews were in Egypt, it can be derived that the actual enslavement was 116 years. Since Moshe was 80 years old when he took the Jews out of Egypt, he was born 36 years after the death of Levi.

According to the Midrash (ibid. 1:20) from the beginning of the enslavement and up till the day Moshe was cast into the river, the Egyptians were thinking of ways to decimate the Jewish people. The word “lo” (לו) — “to him” — has the numerical value of 36, and thus, the Torah is saying that they plotted cunningly “lo” — for 36 years.

(פרדס יוסף, שמות)

"והיה כי תקראנה מלחמה ונוסף גם הוא אל שונאינו ונלחם בנו ועלה מן הארץ"
“If there be a war, they may join our enemies and wage war against us and leave the land.”

QUESTION: Instead of fearing that the Jews would join the enemy, they should have worried that the Jews would multiply and eventually revolt against them and leave the land?

ANSWER: Pharaoh and his advisors knew that the Jews on their own would not wage war because fighting was against their nature. Even if they would have attempted it, they would have been easily defeated because, “Hayadayim yedei Eisav” — the use of physical strength is the character trait of Eisav and not that of the Children of Israel (see Gittin 57b).

On the other hand, they knew that the Jews are very intelligent and that any country in which they settle benefits immensely from their brain-power. Therefore, they were concerned that in the event of a war against them, the Jews would join their enemies, and the combination of “Jewish heads” and non-Jewish strength would definitely make the enemy victorious and allow the Jews to leave the land.

(עיטורי תורה, שמות)

“And they made us suffer.”

QUESTION: As an introduction to the enslavement of the Jewish people in Egypt, the Torah states, “A new king arose over Egypt who did not know Yosef” (Shemot 1:8). How could even a new ruler be ignorant of Yosef and his great services to Egypt?

ANSWER: Yosef was indeed one of the most popular figures and well known by everybody for his accomplishments on behalf of the Egyptian people. The Torah does not mean that the new king did not know of the existence of such a person as Yosef in Egyptian history, but that he did not pay attention to the lessons that can be learned from Yosef.

It was destined by Hashem that Yosef become a ruler in Egypt. The attempts of his brothers to hurt him and Potifar’s endeavors to eliminate him through incarceration turned out to his good and benefit, and as a result of these events Yosef rose to glory. Had the new king carefully studied the story of Yosef, he would have realized that “Many thoughts are in man’s heart, but it is the counsel of Hashem that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21). He then would not have tried to harm and annihilate the Jewish people, for Hashem promised that he would ultimately come to their rescue and redeem them.

(אמרי אש)

"וישימו עליו שרי מסים"
“They set taskmasters over him.”

QUESTION: In lieu of “alav” — “over him” — in the singular, it should have said “aleihem” — “over them” — in the plural?

ANSWER: According to the Gemara (Sotah 11a) “alav” — “over him” — refers to Pharaoh. In the beginning, the Jews refused to permit the Egyptians to enslave them, arguing that it was beneath their dignity to do such arduous labor. In order to trick the Jews into working, Pharaoh too, began to work. The Egyptians told the Jews, “You have no excuse not to work. If it is not below King Pharaoh’s dignity to do work, you can surely do so.”

* * *

There is no limit to how low the nations of the world will stoop in order to oppress the Jews. For instance, it is incumbent upon a king to conduct himself majestically at all times in order to maintain the respect and reverence due to his position. Nevertheless, when it came to torturing the Jews, the people abandoned their respect for the King and put him to work. The king, too, did not care about maintaining his stature and self-esteem, and consented to engage in menial labor.

"וימררו את חייהם"
“And they embittered their lives.”

QUESTION: Why in the Torah (Shemot 1:13) do the words “va-yemararu et chayeihem” haveacantillation(“trope”) of kadma ve’azla?

ANSWER: When Hashem spoke to Avraham, He told him that the Jewish people would be in Egypt for a period of 400 years. Actually, they lived in Egypt only 210 years. One reason for the Jews’ departure 190 years early is that the Egyptians made them work extremely hard. Therefore, in 210 years they had endured the equivalent of 400 years of normal suffering.

The trope of kadma ve’azla expresses this thought: The word “kadma” means to rise early, and the word “azla” means to leave. The Torah is telling us that they rose and left Egypt earlier than the appointed 400 years because “vayemararu et chayeihem” — “they made their lives extremely bitter” — to the extent that 210 years were the equivalent of 400 years.

It is interesting to note that the numerical value of the words “kadma ve’azla” (קדמא ואזלא) is 190, the number of years deducted from the original 400.

(קול אליהו - זכרון ישראל מר' ישראל ז"ל קעסלער)

"ונצעק אל ה' אלקי אבותינו וישמע ה' את קולינו"
“And we cried out to G‑d, the G‑d of our fathers, and G‑d heard our voice.”

QUESTION: Why in regard to our crying out does it say “G‑d, the G‑d of our fathers” while in regard to His hearing it says only, “And G‑d heard,” without mentioning “the G‑d of our fathers”?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Berachot 10b) says, “If a person asks in his prayers that they be answered because of his own merit, the fulfillment of his prayers is made in the merit of others. But if he prays to be helped in the merit of others (his forbears or Hashem’s mercy), the fulfillment of his prayers is made dependent upon his merit.”

When the Jews in Egypt turned to Hashem, they considered themselves very insignificant and, thus, prayed to be helped in the merit of their fathers. However, Hashem recognized their greatness and responded to their plea in their own merit.

(הגש"פ עם פי' ילקוט שמעוני)

"וימת מלך מצרים ויאנחו בני ישראל מן העבדה ויזעקו ותעל שועתם אל האלקים מן העבדה"
“And the king of Egypt died, and the Jewish people groaned from the work, and their cry went up to G‑d from the work.”

QUESTION: Instead of “min ha’avodah — “from the work” — it should read “al ha’avodah — “because of the work”? Moreover, why didn’t the Jews cry before the king died?

ANSWER: The Egyptians knew very well that if the Jews would have cried to Hashem, He would have answered their prayers and free them from slavery. Therefore, they made the Jews work extremely hard, and whenever a supervisor would notice a Jew crying, he would beat him and yell, “There is no time for crying; get back to your work!”

When Pharaoh died, all of Egypt sadly attended his funeral. The Egyptians, not wanting productivity to suffer, did not let their slaves attend. During the funeral, while working, the Jews cried bitterly about their enslavement. The supervisors were unable to stop them because they claimed they were mourning their wonderful “dearly departed” king.

Hashem heard the cries of the “pretend-mourners,” which came to Him min ha’avodahfrom the work — and He knew that they were not lamenting the king’s death, but their slavery.

(שער בת רבים)

"ואת עמלינו אלו הבנים שנאמר כל הבן הילוד היאורה תשליכוהו"
“‘And our difficult labor,’ this refers to the children as it is said, ‘Every boy that is born you shall throw into the river.’”

QUESTION: How is it proven from this pasuk that they worked hard?

ANSWER: Unlike all other instances of verses introduced by the words “kemah shene’emar” — “as it is said” — in the Haggadah, this one is not a proof to the preceding statement (that amaleinu refers to the children). It merely wants to show that there was an agonizing problem concerning their children.

From the fact that no proof is needed that “amaleinu” — “difficult labor” — means children we can learn that the Haggadah considers it obvious that to raise or educate children properly, parents or teachers must work laboriously. It is not something that just happens by osmosis, but through sweat and toil. If parents make the requisite effort, then their parenting will be crowned with success and they will be rewarded with much Yiddish nachas.

(הגש"פ עם לקוטי טעמים, מנהגים וביאורים)

"כל הבן הילוד היארה תשליכוהו"
“Every boy that is born, you shall throw into the river.”

QUESTION: “Every boy” includes the Egyptian male infants (Shemot 1:22, Rashi). What did Pharoah have against the Egyptian male infants?

ANSWER: The Jewish midwives Shifra and Puah did not obey Pharaoh’s original order to kill the Jewish children. Pharaoh summoned them and asked, “The Jews have a rule — dinah demalchuta dinah’ — ‘the law of the government is binding’ — why are you not obeying my order?” The midwives told Pharaoh that this principle applies only to a law for all the residents of the land. However, since “the Hebrew women are unlike the Egyptian women” — i.e. the law pertains only to the Hebrew women and not the Egyptian (ibid. 1:19) — they were not obligated to observe it (see Choshen Mishpat 369:8).

Pharaoh, who was eager for the death of the Jewish boys, then issued a decree that all newborn boys, including the Egyptian, be killed. Thus, the Jews would have to obey since “the law of the government is binding.”

(פנינים יקרים על שמות בשם שב שמעתתא מקצוה"ח)

"וכל הבת תחיון"
“And every daughter you shall keep alive.”

QUESTION: Pharaoh’s sole concern was for all the boys to be cast into the river, while the fate of the girls did not seem to interest him. Why did he add, “Every daughter you shall keep alive”?

ANSWER: The word “techayun” literally means “you shall give them life — i.e. you shall be the actual source of their life.” Pharaoh ordered the Egyptians to cast Jewish children into the river to cause their physical death. The same Egyptians were also told by Pharaoh that those children who would remain physically alive (i.e., the girls) were to be given life by them, that is, assimilated and totally raised in the Egyptian way of life in order to exterminate their Jewish souls.

This explains the difference in the command to the Jewish midwives and the Egyptians respectively: The Jewish midwives were simply told to leave the girls alone, “If it be a girl vechayah — let her live” (1:16). Pharaoh hoped that by telling them to let the girls live, it would be easier for him to persuade them to carry out his order to kill the boys. However, to the Egyptians he said “techayun,” not just to let the Jewish girls live, but to “give them life,” i.e. to make sure to assimilate them into Egyptian culture.

The Torah cites both decrees together in the same pasuk to indicate that “Every daughter you shall keep alive” (i.e. give them life), is a decree equivalent in its harshness and even surpassing the decree regarding the boys, “Every son that is born you shall cast into the river.” To destroy the soul is equal to the killing the body, and indeed even worse — for spiritual death far surpasses physical death.

(לקוטי שיחות ח"א)

"ואת לחצנו זה הדחק כמה שנאמר וגם ראיתי את הלחץ אשר מצרים לוחצים אתם"
“‘And our oppression’ this refers to the pressure, as it is said, ‘I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them.’”

QUESTION: What exactly was the pressure they had to contend with?

ANSWER: When Yaakov and his family arrived in Egypt, they asked for permission to live in Goshen. Considering the size of their family at that time, the land was spacious and comfortable. In the course of years, not only did the families enlarge, but they were giving birth to sextuplets. Though they needed more space and pleaded for it, the Egyptians denied their requests and forced them to live in their old, cramped living quarters.

(רבינו בחיי)

"וירא את ענינו...ואת עמלנו...ואת לחצנו"
“And He saw our suffering...our labor...and our oppression.”

QUESTION: “Anyeinu” refers to “perishut derech eretz” — “disruption of family life.” “Amaleinu” refers to “banim” — “the children” — and “lachatzeinu” refers to “dechak” — “the pressure.” Why did Hashem resolve to redeem the Jewish people from Egyptian bondage because of these three things in particular?

ANSWER: Originally Hashem had told Avraham that his children would be in Egyptian servitude for four hundred years. In reality, however, they were there for only two hundred and ten years. Since Hashem does not change His mind, the early departure must have been due to the Jews’ accomplishing in only 210 years what is normally achieved in 400 years. Here are some possible explanations for this productivity: 1) They worked day and night. 2) They were blessed with very large families so that there was extra manpower. 3) The Egyptians worked them so hard that they accomplished the equivalent of four hundred years of slavery in this short period.

This passage is referring to the above-mentioned: when Hashem saw the suffering caused by “perishut derech eretz” — the disruption of family life because of working nights — and “amaleinu” — the many children that were born and slaved — and “lachatzeinu” — the unusual oppression they suffered — He decided the time was up for them to be in Egypt.

(של"ה, חנוכת התורה)

והכתי כל בכור בארץ מצרים אני ולא שרף
“I will slay every firstborn in the land of Egypt,I and not a seraph.”

QUESTION: Moshe told the Jewish people that “Hashem will pass through to smite Egypt...and He will not permit the destroyer to enter your homes to smite” (Shemot 12:23). Since Hashem Himself and not an agent carried out the plague of killing the firstborn, who is “the destroyer”?

ANSWER: A few million Jews lived in Egypt. In such a populace, it is statistically normal that some people die each day. If the Malach Hamavet (Angel of Death) had killed a Jew during the night of the plague of the firstborn, Pharaoh would not have agreed that a miracle had taken place. He would have claimed that there had been an epidemic which claimed Egyptians and Jews alike. Therefore, Moshe told them that on that night Hashem will not permit “the destroyer” (Malach Hamavet) to kill a single Jew.


"אני ולא מלאך...אני ולא שרף...אני ולא השליח"
“I and not an angel...I and not a seraph... I and not the messenger.”

QUESTION: Since it says “malach” and “saraf,” it should say “shaliach” and not hashaliach”?

ANSWER: The first letters of the words “malach” (מלאך), “saraf” (שרף), and “hashaliach” (השליח) spell the name Moshe (משה). The Haggadah is emphasizing that what happened in Egypt on the night of the redemption — the smiting of the firstborn and the melting down of their idols — was all the work of Hashem Himself and not to be mistakenly regarded as the action of a human being — Moshe.

"ביד חזקה זה הדבר"
“With a strong hand — this refers to the pestilence.”

QUESTION: Why does the plague of dever — pestilence — particularly emphasize the “strong hand”?

ANSWER: Witnessing the plagues, the magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is a finger of G‑d” (Shemot 8:15). Dever — pestilence — was the fifth of the ten plagues. Since a hand has five fingers, the Egyptians now felt the “Yad hachazakah” — “strong hand.”

(הגש"פ מעשה נסים מר' יעקב ז"ל מליסא)

"ככל אשר עשה לכם ה' אלקיכם במצרים לעיניך"
“Like all that G‑d, your G‑d, did for you in Egyptbefore your eyes.”

QUESTION: Since it says “lachem” — “for you” — in plural, it should have said “le’eineichem” — “your eyes” — in plural?

ANSWER: Pharoah stubbornly refused to free the Jewish people because he claimed that they were supposed to be enslaved by him for four hundred years and that one hundred and ninety years remained. The word “le’einecha” (לעיניך) — “before your eyes” — has the numerical value of one hundred and ninety. Thepasuk is thus saying “No god ever tried to take for himself a nation from the midst of another nation, like your G‑d did for you in Egypt, and thereby spare you ‘le’einecha’ — one hundred and ninety years of enslavement.”

(הגש"פ קבוץ חכמים מרב עבדאל סומך ז"ל מבגדאד)

"ובאתות זה המטה"
“And with signs — this refers to the staff.”

QUESTION: From where did Moshe get the “mateh” — “staff”?

ANSWER: This staff was one of the ten things which were created on erev Shabbat at twilight (Pirkei Avot, 5:6). There were Hebrew letters engraved on it which were an acronym for the ten plagues. It was given to Adam when he was inGan Eden, and he passed it on to Chanoch. Chanoch gave it to Noach, who in turn gave it to Avraham. Avraham passed it along to Yitzchak, and Yitzchak gave it to Yaakov, who brought it with him to Egypt and gave it to Yosef. When Yosef died, it was put in Pharoah’s palace. Yitro, who was one of Pharoah’s three advisers, saw it and desired it very much. He took it and planted it in his garden. No one was able to remove it from there until Moshe came and stretched out his hand and took it. When Yitro saw this he was convinced that Moshe would be the one to redeem the Jewish people from Egypt, and he gave him his daughter Tziporah as a wife.

(פרקי דר' אליעזר פ"מ)

"ובאתות זה המטה"
“And with signs, this refers to the staff.”

QUESTION: According to the Midrash Rabbah (Shemot 8:3), the staff weighed forty se’ah. What is the significance of this particular weight?

ANSWER: In describing the Jews’ suffering in Egypt, the Torah says, “Vayitnu aleinu avodah kashah” — “They placed hard work upon us” (Devarim 26:6). Superficially, it should simply have said “vaya’avidu otanu kashah” — “they made us work very hard”?

The Gemara (Sotah 34a) says that an average person can lift a weight of forty se’ah. The weight which one can raise upon his shoulder is one-third of the weight he can carry when others help him to set the burden upon his shoulder. Consequently, the average person can carry one hundred and twenty se’ah when others help him assume the burden. With the words “vayitnu aleinu” — “they placed upon us” — the Torah is emphasizing that they increased the weight of our workload threefold.

According to the Gemara (Mo’eid Kattan 18a) Pharaoh was only one amah tall. Since the average person is three amot tall (see Shabbat 92a), Pharaoh could lift one-third of forty se’ah by himself and carry a load of forty se’ah with assistance. Because he tripled the workload of the Jewish people, he was punished through a staff of forty se’ah, which is three times his personal workload.

(הגש"פ מוצל מאש - בית אהרן - בברכות בחשבון)

"ואת המטה הזה תקח בידך אשר תעשה בו את האתת"
“Take this staff in your hand with which you shallperform the signs.”

QUESTION: The word “asher” seems superfluous. It could have just said “veta’aseh bo et ha’otot” — “and perform with it the signs”?

ANSWER: The word “asher” (אשר) has the numerical value of 501, which is also the numerical value of the letters דצ"ך עד"ש באח"ב, which serve as an acronym for the ten plagues. Thus, Hashem was alluding that in addition to Moshe’s using the staff to show “signs” that Hashem sent him, the Egyptians would receive 10 plagues, whose acronym adds up to 501, and some of which would be inflicted upon them through this staff.

* * *

Hashem struck Pharoah and the Egyptians with these plagues because His ways are measure for measure. When Moshe presented to Pharoah Hashem’s request that he free the Jews, Pharoah arrogantly said, “Who is G‑d asher eshma bekolo’ — 'אשר אשמע בקולו' — that I should heed His voice” (Shemot 5:2). Because Pharoah in his defiance said the word “asher” (אשר), which is superfluous (he could have just said “she’eshma” — “that I should listen”) and numerically equivalent to five hundred and one, he was taught to heed Hashem through receiving the plagues whose acrostic has the numerical value of five hundred and one.

When Hashem gave the Jews the Torah, His first words were “I am G‑d your G‑d Asher hotzeiticha — Who took you out — of the land of Egypt” (Shemot 20:2). There, too, the word asher is superfluous. He could have said “shehotzeiticha.” His message was that “I am G‑d your G‑d Who, through asher — the plagues whose acrostic adds up to 501 — took you out of Egypt.”

(שמחת הרגל להחיד"א, ועי' לקוטי דבורים ע' תכ"ד והגהות מיימוניות סוף הל' חו"מ ובהגש"פ ילקוט שמעוני)

* * *

According to the Midrash Rabbah (Shemot 5:6), on the staff were the acronyms דצ"ך עד"ש באח"ב (DeTzaCh, ADaSH, BeACHaB) which have the numerical value of five hundred and one. According to Rabbi Yose, in addition to the plagues delivered in Egypt there were an additional fifty plagues at the sea. According to Rabbi Eliezer there were an additional two hundred, and according to Rabbi Akiva there were an additional two hundred and fifty. The total number of the plagues of all three opinions is five hundred. These acronyms are thus an allusion to the five hundred plagues received at the ocean, and the extra one is to emphasize that they were all the work of the One and Only One — Hashem.

(הגש"פ עם פי' ילקוט שמעוני, בשם יבין שמועה מהרשב"ץ)

"דם ואש ותמרות עשן"
“Blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.”

QUESTION: Why do we pour off from the cup when reciting these three, the ten plagues and the three acronyms?

ANSWER: There is an opinion in the Jerusalem Talmud (Pesachim 10:1, see also Midrash Rabbah, Bereishit 88:5) that the four cups we drink at the Seder are an allusion to the four cups of wrath which Hashem will ultimately make the nations of the world drink. Pouring off drops from the cup symbolizes that what the Egyptians received is only a drop in comparison to what awaits the nations of the world in the future.

(הגש"פ עם פי' באר מרים מהרב ראובן ז"ל מרגליות)

Alternatively, the removal of the wine from the cup symbolizes the fact that after each plague the Egyptians lost a small portion of their resistance and strength.


"אלו עשר מכות...ואלו הן"
“These are the ten plagues ... they are”

QUESTION: Why is it necessary to list the names of the ten plagues?

ANSWER: According to the Arizal, there are 3280 avenging angels in heaven whose mission is to strike the wicked and punish them in Geihinom, and these angels also struck the wicked Pharoah and the Egyptians. An allusion to this is the verse, “lehakot b’egrof resha” — “to strike with a wicked fist” (Isaiah 58:4). The word “resha” (רֶשַע) — can also be read as “Rasha” (רָשָע) — “wicked person,” and the word “egrof” (אגרף) — is an abbreviation for "ג' אלפים" — “three thousand” and "ר, פ" — “two hundred and eighty.” The prophet is thus saying that through the three thousand two hundred and eighty angels, the wicked are smitten.

The total numerical value of the spelling of the names of the ten plagues adds up to three thousand, two hundred, and eighty, alluding to the number of wicked angels who struck Pharoah and the Egyptians. (Though “kinim” [כנים] — “lice” — is written in the Haggadah with a "י", the first time it is mentioned in the Torah [Shemot 8:12] it is spelled without a "י").

(ר' שמשון זצ"ל מאוסטרפליא)

דם, צפרדע, כנים
Blood, Frogs, Lice

QUESTION: The first three plagues were brought by Aharon. Moshe did not smite the waters or the earth because he personally benefited from the waters when he was cast into the river and he benefited from the earth when he killed the Egyptian and buried him in the sand. (Shemot 7:19, Rashi)

Why would these reasons preclude Moshe from initiating the plagues so many years later?

ANSWER: From this we can learn a very important lesson in hakarat hatov — showing gratitude — often, when someone does a favor, we forget it in the course of time. Hashem, by instructing Aharon to bring these plagues, was conveying a lesson that one should remain thankful for a lifetime. Though the favor Moshe received from the water had happened 80 years earlier and Moshe had benefited from the earth approximately 70 years earlier, he was told to be appreciative and not hurt them in any way.

If this is true in regard to water and earth, which are inanimate, how much more so must this apply to a human being who does a favor.


QUESTION: Regarding the plague of blood it is stated that “the fish in the river died” (Shemot 7:21). Isn’t this statement superfluous since fish can only live in water?

ANSWER: The plague of blood might have happened in one of two ways: 1) All the waters became blood, turning back into water only when a Jew filled a glass. 2) There was no change in the water except that when an Egyptian filled a glass, it would become blood.

It was the latter that actually occurred. Consequently, the Egyptians received a double punishment: The fresh water turned into blood when used, and the fish died in the fresh water, making the water stink terribly.

It is necessary to explain it in this way because we are told that the Egyptians were compelled to purchase water from the Jews, who thus profited from the situation (Midrash Rabbah 9:9). If all the waters had been transformed to blood, the Jews would have been unable to charge the Egyptians for drinkable water, because it is forbidden to derive benefit from a miracle. (See Ta’anit 24a.)

(פרדס יוסף)


QUESTION: Regarding the plague of frogs the Torah says, “The frog-infestation ascended and covered the land of Egypt. The magicians did the same and they brought up the frogs upon the land of Egypt” (Shemot 8:2-3). Why does the Torah repeat that the frogs were upon the land of Egypt?

ANSWER: At that time, there was a dispute between Egypt and its neighbors regarding their borders. The dispute was settled by the plague of the frogs who only “covered the land of Egypt,” and did not go any further. The Egyptian magicians attempted to please Pharoah and endeavored to get the frogs to spread out further. However, the additional frogs made by their sorcery remained “upon the land of Egypt” and did not go any further than the frogs which were already brought by Aharon.

(מדרש רבה י:ב)

Wild beasts

QUESTION: Regarding the wild beasts the Torah states that “The houses of Egypt shall be filled with the swarm of wild beasts and even the ground upon which they are” (Shemot 8:17). To which ground is this referring?

ANSWER: Among the animals of the world there is an extremely rare one found in the wild jungles of Africa and known as the “adnei hasadeh.” It has the face of a person, long hands that reach to its knees, and a very unusual relationship to its habitat.

It is always connected to the ground through a string that comes out of its navel. Although it is very dangerous and kills anyone that comes within its reach, there is one way to capture it: by shooting arrows at the string. As soon as it becomes detached from the ground, it screams bitterly and dies immediately.

Hashem brought upon the Egyptians a mixture of all animals from the entire world, including the strange and vicious “adnei hasadeh.” To keep them alive until they reached Egypt, they were brought together with the ground to which they were connected. Therefore, Moshe told Pharaoh, “The homes of the Egyptians shall be filled with the mixture of wild animals and also ‘adnei hasadeh’ will come, together with the ground upon which they are [attached].”

(פנים יפות, ועי' כלאים פ"ח מ"ה ברע"ב ותפארת ישראל)


QUESTION: When Pharoah asked Moshe to end the plague of hail, he responded, “When I go out of the city, I will spread my hands and pray to G‑d” (Shemot 9:29). Why did Moshe insist on praying outside of the city only during the plague of hail, which was the seventh plague?

ANSWER: When Moshe warned Pharoah of the coming plague of hail, he told him that the Egyptians should take in all the cattle from the fields because any man or animal in the fields would die. The Egyptians who took the warning seriously brought their cattle into their houses. Others, who did not regard Hashem’s words, left their servants and cattle out in the fields, where they were killed (Shemot 9:19-21).

Egypt worshipped the sheep. Therefore, during all other plagues, Moshe was willing to pray in the city since the sheep were out in the fields as usual. However, the city was filled with sheep during the plague of hail, and Moshe went out of the city to pray because he did not want to pray in a place filled with idols.

(ר' יהונתן ז"ל אייבשיץ)


QUESTION: Regarding the locusts the Torah states, “The locust swarm ascended over the entire land of Egypt, and it rested in the entire border of Egypt” (Shemot 10:14). Why does the Torah repeat “in the entire border of Egypt” after saying that the locusts “ascended over the entire land of Egypt”?

ANSWER: The Jews of Egypt lived in the city of Goshen and were not affected by the plague of hail (Shemot 9:26) that struck “all the herbs of the field and smashed every tree of the field” (9:25). The locusts were meant to “consume the remainder [of vegetation] that was left by the hail and all the trees that grow from the field” (10:5).

Knowing that very shortly the Jewish people would be leaving Egypt, Hashem sent the locusts. They covered Egypt from border to border — including Goshen — in order to ensure that the Egyptians would have no benefit from the produce of the Jewish fields.

(ילקוט מעם לועז – שמות, הגש"פ מגדל עדר החדש בפי' כנפי נשרים)


QUESTION: According to Rashi (Shemot 10:22), “For three days no man could see another, and during the succeeding three days the darkness was so thick that if an Egyptian was sitting, he was unable to stand up, and if he was standing, he was unable to sit down.”

Every plague lasted seven days (except the plague of the firstborn). Why did the plague of darkness last only six days?

ANSWER: When the Jews left Egypt and traveled in the desert, clouds of glory accompanied them. During the day the clouds would clear a path in the desert, and at night a pillar of fire illuminated the camp. When the Egyptians pursued the Jews, the Torah says, “There was a cloud of darkness [for the Egyptians] and the night was illuminated [for the Jews through a pillar of fire]” (14:20). Thus, Hashem reserved the remaining seventh day of darkness to punish the Egyptians when they chased after the Jewish people.

(מדרש רבה שמות י"ד, ג')

"רבי יהודה היה נותן בהם סימנים דצ"ך עד"ש באח"ב"
“Rabbi Yehudah referred to them by the acronyms: DeTzaCh, ADaSh, BeACHaB.

QUESTION: The Haggadah lists the ten plagues, and afterwards we are told that Rabbi Yehudah referred to them by acronyms: ".דצ"ך, עד"ש, באח"ב"

Rabbi Yehudah was one of the great Sages of the Talmud. What genius is there in making an acrostic out of the first letters of the ten plagues?

ANSWER: In Psalms (136:10), Hashem is praised for “lemakeih Mitzraim bivchoreihem” — “striking the Egyptians through their firstborn.” It does not say that Hashem struck the firstborn of Egypt, but rather that He struck the Egyptians through their firstborn. This is explained in the Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni) as follows:

Upon hearing that they would be victims of the last plague, the firstborn demanded from Pharaoh and their parents, the immediate release of the Jews. When their plea was refused, a civil war broke out and the desperate firstborn attacked and killed their parents and fellow Egyptians. Thus, the tenth plague dealt a double blow to Egypt, killing both firstborn and non-firstborn.

In the Haggadah, the ten plagues are listed as “dam, tzefardei’a...makat bechorot” — “blood, frogs...plague of the firstborn.” The word “makat” is not mentioned for any of the plagues except for “bechorot” — why?

It can be explained that Rabbi Yehudah argues with the author of the Haggadah as to what was the major part of the double-blow plague. According to the author of the Haggadah, the main part was “makat” — the smiting of the Egyptians by bechorot — their own angry and violent firstborn.

Rabbi Yehudah’s third acronym is "באח"ב". The final "ב" stands for bechorot.” He did not make the acronym ",באח"מ" which would have meant Makat bechorot,” because in his opinion the major part of the plague was “bechorot”Hashem’s slaying of the firstborn and not the smiting of the Egyptians by their own firstborn.

(הגש"פ צוף אמרים בשם יסוד התורה)

Years ago, blood libels were unfortunately prevalent. Around Pesach time the Catholics would accuse the Jewish people of killing a gentile child in order to mix his blood into the matzot. Once, a debate took place in which a priest claimed that in fact, this vicious act is alluded to in the Haggadah. The priest went on to say that the letters "דצ"ך עד"ש באח"ב" are an acronym of;

“Dam tzerichim kulanu (דַם צְרִיכִים כּוּלָנוּ) — We all need blood —

al devar sheharagnu (עַל דְבַר שֶׁהָרַגְנוּ) — because we killed —

ben Ei-l chai bashamayim (בֶּן אֵחַי בַּשָׁמַיִם) — the ‘son’ of the living G‑d in heaven.”

The Rabbi representing the Jews immediately told the priest that he had misinterpreted the code in the Haggadah. On the contrary, the words are a hint to

“Dovrim tzorereinu kazav (דוֹבְרִים צוֹרְרֵינוּ כָּזָב) — Our enemies talk falsehood —

alilat dam sheker (עַלִילַת דַם שֶׁקר) — blood libels are false —

b’nei Avraham chalilah bezot (בְּנֵי אַבְרָהָם חָלִילָה בְּזאֹת) — the children of Avraham would never do such a thing.”

(פון אונזער אלטען אוצר)

"דצ"ך. עד"ש. באח"ב"
DeTzaCh (blood, frogs, lice); ADaSh (beasts, pestilence, boils); BeAChaB (hail, locust, darkness, firstborn).”

QUESTION: Why did Rabbi Yehudah group them in this way?

ANSWER: The third of each set shares an aspect in common with the third plagues of the other two sets. Firstly, all the plagues were preceded by a warning except these three: “kinim” — “lice” — “shechin” — “boils” — and “choshech” — “darkness” — for which there was no warning.

In addition, in each of these three there was a minor occurrence of the other two (for instance, there were minor plagues of boils and lice during the plague of darkness) although the main plague predominated. When one writes the name of these three makot, one beneath the other, a square is formed. Besides the names of the plagues, which can be read in the normal way, they can also be read vertically. This indicates their being intermingled.

ח ש כ

ש ח ן

כ נ ם

(הגהות מיימוניות, רמב"ם הל' חמץ ומצה נוסח ההגדה, בשם ריב"א)

"רבי יוסי הגלילי אומר...במצרים לקו עשר מכות. ועל הים לקו חמשים מכות"
“Rabbi Yossi the Gallilean said... ‘In Egypt they were struck by ten plagues, and at the sea they were struck by fifty plagues.’ ”

QUESTION: The Haggadah cites three opinions concerning how many plagues the Egyptians received in Egypt and how many at the sea.

Why is the number of plagues significant?

ANSWER: Hashem promised the Jewish people that if they will hearken diligently to His voice, then “Any of the diseases that I placed upon Egypt, I will not bring upon you, for I am G‑d your Healer” (Shemot 15:26). Thus, a greater number of plagues is to our benefit because it means fewer ways for us to suffer.

(קול אליהו)

"ויאמרו החרטמים אל פרעה אצבע אלקים היא"
“And the magicians said to Pharaoh, ‘This is the finger of G‑d.’ ”

QUESTION: Why, after the plague of lice, did the magicians finally concede “This is the finger of G‑d?”

ANSWER: The wicked Titus burned the Beit Hamikdash and blasphemed Hashem. While returning to his city, his boat was threatened by strong waves. Arrogantly he stated, “The power of the Jewish G‑d is only over the water. Throughout history He has used water as a means of punishment. If He is really mighty, let Him meet me on dry land, and we shall see who will conquer.” A voice emanating from heaven said, “Wicked one, son of the wicked, I have a small creature in my world called a ‘yatush’ (a gnat) — come on dry land and we will see who is stronger!” Titus presumptuously came on dry land, and a yatush entered his nose and bore through his brain until he died (Gittin 56b).

The first two plagues to hit Egypt were blood and frogs, which originated from the water. The magicians consoled Pharaoh, “Don’t worry, it appears that their G‑d is not omnipotent: His strength is limited to water.” Therefore, Hashem struck them with the plague of lice, extremely minute creatures which come from the earth. Upon seeing this, the magicians were forced to concede, “This is the finger of G‑d, and He is indeed omnipotent.”

(שער בת רבים - בשם ראשית בכורים)

"וירא ישראל את היד הגדלה אשר עשה ה' במצרים...ויאמינו בה' ובמשה עבדו"
“And Israel saw the big hand which G‑d wielded against Egypt...and they believed in G‑d and in Moshe His servant.”

QUESTION: What “big hand” did they see that caused them to believe in Moshe?

ANSWER: Pharaoh ordered the drowning of newborn Jewish boys. When Moshe was born, his mother managed to keep his birth a secret for three months. Afterwards, she put him in a box and placed it at the river’s edge.

Pharaoh’s daughter came to bathe and noticed the box. The Torah (Shemot 2:5) relates that she sent “amatah” — “her handmaiden — to fetch the box. Rashi explains that “amatah” can also mean “her hand” so that the Torah is saying that when she stretched out her hand, it miraculously elongated and she was able to reach the box. When the Jewish people saw — i.e. learned about — the “big hand” which Hashem made many years ago in Egypt to save Moshe, they recognized his stature and had faith in Hashem and in Moshe, His servant.

(ילקוט האורים מר' משה אורי ז"ל קעללער בשם ספר לב ארי' עה"ת)

"כמה מעלות טובות למקום עלינו"
“How many levels of favors has the Omnipresent bestowed upon us.”

QUESTION: Grammatically it should have said “meihaMakom lanu” — “from the Omnipresent”?

ANSWER: Hashem’s love for the Jewish people is like the love of a father for his only son and even greater. Just as a father loves to help and do favors for his child, so much more is Hashem happy when He has an opportunity to extend his goodness to the Jewish people. Therefore we say laMakom” — “to the Omnipresent” — for He derives enjoyment through bestowing good things, “aleinu” — “upon us.”

(קדושת לוי)

"אלו הרג את בכוריהם ולא נתן לנו את ממונם"
“If He had slain their firstborn, and not givenus their wealth.”

QUESTION: Why did Hashem instruct that the borrowing of their wealth take place after the smiting of the first born?

ANSWER: The intention of plaguing the Egyptians was to force them to free the Jewish people. Hashem was very careful to prevent the Egyptians from deriving any personal gain from the plagues. Therefore, when they attempted to preserve the locusts for food, miraculously they flew away and disappeared from Egypt (Shemot 10:19, Rashi).

According to Egyptian laws of inheritance, all children were equal heirs of a father’s estate. Thus, in a family with four children, the estate would be divided equally among the four. If one died during the father’s lifetime, then the estate would be divided in three ways. Consequently, in Egypt when the firstborn were smitten, the survivors stood to profit. (Likewise, if there were no firstborn in the house, the head of the household was smitten and his survivors also stood to profit through inheritance.)

In order to avoid this from happening, immediately after the plague, Hashem instructed the Jews to borrow valuables from the Egyptians. Simultaneously, He gave the Jews favor in the eyes of the Egyptians (ibid. 12:36), and He gave the Egyptians the intuition to lend the Jews the exact amount they stood to gain through the death of the firstborn (or head of household) in each family. Thus after He killed the firstborns, He gave us “mamonam” — their wealth — i.e. the money which belonged to the firstborn.

(יריעות שלמה על הגש"פ לר' שלמה ז"ל קלוגער)

"אלו הרג את בכוריהם ולא נתן לנו את ממונם, דינו אלו נתן לנו את ממונם ולא קרע לנו את הים, דינו"
“If He had slain their firstborn, and not given us their wealth, it would have sufficed us. If He had given us their wealth, and not split the sea for us, it would have sufficed us.”

QUESTION: The wealth obtained in Egypt after the killing of the first born was borrowed, so what wealth did He give us between the killing of the firstborn and the splitting of the sea?

ANSWER: In the days of Yosef a famine struck Egypt and the surrounding countries. From all over they came to Egypt to purchase food. “Yosef gathered all the money that was to be found in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan through selling provisions, and he brought it into Pharaoh’s palace (Bereishit 47:14). Pharaoh instructed him to hide all the money in the idol of Tzefon. (“Tzefon” means “hidden,” and the idol was named after its use as a hiding place.)

According to the Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni, Shemot 230), Hashem’s promise of, “And afterwards they shall leave with great wealth,” (Bereishit 15:13) does not refer to the gold and silver which they borrowed from the Egyptians; they were entitled to this as compensation for their slavery.

After the Jews left Egypt, Hashem told Moshe that they should turn back and encamp in front of Ba’al Tzefon (Shemot 14:2). Here they uncovered the vast hidden treasures, and thus the promise of “And afterwards they shall leave with great wealth” was realized. Consequently, the wealth referred to here came from a different source and was given to them outright.

(הגש"פ מוצל מאש - בית אהרן - בפי' רוח חדשה)

"אלו נתן לנו את ממונם ולא קרע לנו את הים"
“If He had given us their wealth and not split the sea for us.”

QUESTION: Hashem did not give the Jewish people their wealth; He told them to ask for it as a loan?

ANSWER: The reason Hashem originally told the Jewish people to borrow gold, silver, and valuables from the Egyptians was to deceive them into thinking that the Jews would return after three days. Realizing that they were not returning, the Egyptians chased after the Jews to retrieve their money, and then Hashem drowned them in the sea as punishment for their decree to drown the Jewish children. Thus, we are proclaiming, “If He had given us their wealth and not told us to merely borrow it, (thus they would not have chased after us, and the sea would not be split in order to drown them) — it would have sufficed us.”

(הגש"פ עם פי' ילקוט שמעוני)

"ולא שקע צרינו בתוכו"
“And had not drowned our oppressors in it.”

QUESTION: Instead of “shika” which means causing to drown through a direct act, it should have said “nishka’u” — “they drowned”?

ANSWER: According to the Midrash, the pasuk “You broke the heads of sea giants on the water” (Psalms 74:13) refers to an event that took place when Hashem split the sea. The Egyptians were very accomplished in sorcery. When the waters of the sea began to close in on them, some used their arcane knowledge and came out alive from the sea. Hashem then sent the angel Michael, who seized them by their hair and threw them back into the sea. Thus, “shika tzareinu” — He drowned our oppressors in the sea.

(ילקוט מעם לועז על הגש"פ)

"אלו שקע צרינו בתוכו ולא ספק צרכינו במדבר ארבעים שנה דיינו"
“If He had drowned our oppressors in it, but had not provided for our needs in the wilderness for forty years, it would have sufficed us.”

QUESTION: What is the connection between these two?

ANSWER: Prior to leaving Egypt the Jews borrowed the Egyptians’ wealth. At this point it was only borrowed and did not belong to them, and in fact, the Egyptians pursued them to retrieve it. It ultimately became theirs when the Egyptians were drowned in the sea. Thus, we are proclaiming, “If He had drowned our oppressors in it, it would have sufficed us, and He would not have needed to provide our sustenance miraculously for forty years. For with this great wealth we could have easily purchased food in the wilderness, even at enormous cost.”

(הגש"פ מוצל מאש - בית אהרן - בפי' רוח חדשה)

"אלו האכילנו את המן ולא נתן לנו את השבת"
“If He had fed us the manna, and had not given us the Shabbat.”

QUESTION: 1) The Jews were already commanded to observe Shabbat while in Marah (Shemot 15:25, Rashi), and afterwards they began to receive the manna. So it should have said the reverse: “If he had given us the Shabbat and not fed us the manna”?

2) What is the connection between manna and Shabbat?

ANSWER: The Torah (Shemot 16:22) relates that on Shabbat the the manna did not descend, and on Friday the Jews gathered “lechem mishneh” — “a double portion.” Rashi quotes a Midrash to read “lechem meshuneh” (לחם מְשֻׁנֶה) — “different bread.” On Shabbat the manna tasted better and smelled better. Thus the Haggadah is saying, “If he had fed us the manna in the same form throughout the entire week and not given us the Shabbat — a special Shabbat manna which tasted even better — dayeinu — it would have sufficed us.”

(הגש"פ עם פי' קהלת משה בשם ר' פנחס זצ"ל מקאריץ)

Alternatively, this follows the opinion that the precept of Shabbat was given in Alush (Jerusalem Talmud Beitzah 2:1).

Alternatively, this follows the commentators who say that the precept was indeed given in Marah, but Moshe forgot to instruct the people until they came to Alush.

(הגש"פ עם לקוטי טעמים ומנהגים)

"אלו קרבנו לפני הר סיני ולא נתן לנו את התורה דינו"
“If He had brought us before Mount Sinai and had not given us the Torah, it would have sufficed us.”

QUESTION: What benefit would have come from just being brought before Mount Sinai and not being given the Torah?

ANSWER: When the Jews encamped at Mount Sinai, the Torah tells us “Vayichan sham Yisrael neged hahar” — “Israel encamped there opposite the mountain” (Shemot 19:2). It says “vayichan” in the singular, and not “vayachanu” in the plural, to emphasize that they were united like one person with one heart (Rashi). The unparalleled unity and ahavat Yisrael which prevailed at Mount Sinai would have sufficed, even if it were not followed by the giving of the Torah.

(הגדה של פסח צוף אמרים)

Alternatively, The Torah consists of 613 mitzvot. The word Torah (תורה) has the numerical value of 611 to indicate that the first two commandments were uttered by Hashem Himself and the rest of the Torah was given through Moshe (Makkot 23b). Thus, we proclaim, “If He had brought us before Mount Sinai only to hear the first two commandments directly from Hashem and not given us the Torah, i.e. the other 611 mitzvot, it would have sufficed us.”

(הגש"פ ברכת השיר)

Alternatively, the Gemara (Shabbat 146a) says that when the serpent seduced Chavah to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, they also had marital relations, and he cast impurity into her which she then passed on to future generations. When the Jews stood at Mount Sinai to receive the Torah, their impurity was removed and they were returned to their original uncontaminated state as at the time of creation. (The souls of all Jews were present at Mount Sinai including those of converts.) The impurity of the idolaters, however, who did not stand at Mount Sinai, was not removed and it thus persists to this day.

Hence, Hashem’s deed of bringing us to Mount Sinai to receive the Torah was of great benefit to us even without the giving of the Torah.

(יבין שמועה מהרשב"ץ, שו"ת הראב"ד סי' י"א)

"אלו נתן לנו את התורה ולא הכניסנו לארץ ישראל דיינו"
“If He had given us the Torah and not brought us intoEretz Yisrael — it would have sufficed us.”

QUESTION: Why don’t we say the reverse — “If He had brought us into Eretz Yisrael and not given us the Torah, it would have sufficed us”?

ANSWER: Hashem gave the Torah in the wilderness prior to the entry of the Jews into Eretz Yisrael to emphasize the Torah’s superiority over land. The nations of the world who refused to accept the Torah became extinct with the loss of their lands. The Jews, however, exist forever, even without a land, as long as they keep the Torah.

Jews and Torah are inseparable, which is not the case with Jews and Eretz Yisrael. We can suffice with a Torah even without having Eretz Yisrael, but Eretz Yisrael in itself, without Torah, is of no value to the Jews.

(מצאתי בכתבי זקני הרב צבי הכהן ז"ל קאפלאן)

"והאכילנו את המן"
“And fed us the manna.”

QUESTION: In the wilderness, all the needs of the Jewish people were provided by Hashem. Food came from heaven, and their clothing grew with them. How was one able to fulfill the mitzvah of tzedakah (helping those in need)?

ANSWER: When the Jews ate the manna, they were able to enjoy the taste of any food they imagined (Yoma 75a). Since many poor people had never tasted expensive foods, the tzedakah of a rich person was to recommend to a poor person what to have in mind while eating so that his palate would enjoy hitherto untasted delicacies.

(פון אונזער אלטען אוצר, דברים)

"רבן גמליאל היה אומר כל שלא אמר שלשה דברים אלו בפסח לא יצא ידי חובתו ואלו הן: פסח. מצה. ומרור"
“Rabbi Gamliel used to say: “Whoever has not explained the following three things on Pesach, has not fulfilled his obligation, namely: Pesach, matzah and maror.”

QUESTION: What obligation is Rabban Gamliel referring to?

ANSWER: According to many opinions one who has not explained the reason for these three things adequately has not properly fulfilled the mitzvah of sipur yetziat Mitzrayim — relating the Exodus from Egypt.

That is, whoever does not explain these three mitzvot “has not fulfilled his obligation” in an ideal manner, though the basic Biblical obligation would have been discharged even by a mere mention.

(אברבנאל, וכן מוכח מהרמב"ם שהביא דברי רבן גמליאל בפ"ז מהל' חו"מ ומיירי שם במצות סיפור יציאת מצרים, ועי' ר"ן פסחים קט"ז)

Some hold that Rabban Gamliel is referring to the mitzvot of eating pesach, matzah and maror, and instructing that an explanation of each mitzvah must precede the eating for the mitzvah to be fulfilled properly.

(אבודרהם, כל בו, מהרש"א פסחים קט"ז ע"ב)

"פסח מצה ומרור"
Pesach, Matzah and Maror.”

QUESTION: In the Rambam (Chameitz Umatzah 8:4) the order is pesach, maror, matzah. Why in our Haggadah do we discuss matzah before maror?

ANSWER: The Rambam follows chronological order; therefore, maror is mentioned before matzah because it represents the period when “mareru et chayeihem” — their lives were embittered through Egyptian bondage. This is followed by matzah, which alludes to the redemption from Egypt.

The prevalent custom is to mention matzah first, however, because it is eaten before the maror, and also because in contemporary times matzah is a Biblical obligation while maror is only miderabanan — a Rabbinic ordinance.

(הגש"פ חזון עובדיה, ועי' צל"ח עמ"ס פסחים קט"ז ע"ב)

"אשר פסח על בתי בני ישראל במצרים בנגפו את מצרים ואת בתינו הציל"
“Because He passed over the houses of the Children of Israel in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians with a plague, and He saved our houses.”

QUESTION: The words “ve’et bateinu hitzil” — “and He saved our houses” — are superfluous since it already says that He skipped over the Jewish homes when He struck the Egyptians?

ANSWER: According to the Midrash Rabbah (Shemot 18:2), when the Egyptians were warned of the oncoming plague of the killing of the firstborn, some thought they would outsmart Hashem by putting their firstborn in Jewish homes. This was of no avail because there, too, the Egyptian firstborn were killed. Thus, the pasuk is saying that this is a Pesach-offering to Hashem because 1) He passed over the houses of the Jews when He struck the Egyptian homes, and 2) “Et bateinu hitzil” — our household, i.e. the Jewish firstborn, were saved when He would enter a Jewish house to kill an Egyptian firstborn.

(הגש"פ מגדל עדר החדש בפי' דובר שלום)

"בכל דור ודור חייב אדם לראות את עצמו כאלו הוא יצא ממצרים"
“In every generation a person is obligated to regard himself as if he had gone out of Egypt.”

QUESTION: Since it says, “ke’ilu hu yatza mimitzrayim” — “as if he had gone out of Egypt.” The words “et atzmo” — “himself” — are superfluous.

ANSWER: Though Hashem had told Avraham that the Jews would be in Egypt for 400 years, in reality they were there for 210. According to the Zohar, the missing years are made up by Hashem, who was there in Egypt together with the Jewish people, as He said to Yaakov, “I shall descend with you to Egypt and I shall also surely bring you up” (Bereishit 46:4). The words “et atzmo” — “himself” — refer to Hashem (see p. 95). Hence, the Haggadah is saying that in every generation one is obligated to regard “et Atzmo” — Hashem — as if He had come out of Egypt.

(צבי לצדיק)

"לפיכך אנחנו חיבים להודות להלל"
“Therefore, we are obliged to thank, to praise.”

QUESTION: For what reason is there an introduction explaining why it is proper to say Hallel this night?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Arachin 10b) says that Hallel is not said over a miracle which took place outside of Eretz Yisrael. If so, the Gemara asks, why do we say Hallel on Pesach? The Gemara answers that this rule took effect only in regard to miracles that occurred after the Jews entered Eretz Yisrael, but if the miracle occurred prior, it was appropriate to say Hallel even though it occurred outside of Eretz Yisrael.

This passage of the Haggadah is offering another reason why it is appropriate to recite Hallel for the Exodus, though it occurred outside of Eretz Yisrael.

The Maharsha (ibid.) explains that the difference between a miracle which occurs in Eretz Yisrael and one which occurs in any other land is that the former is performed through Hashem Himself while the latter is through an angel.

Previously the Haggadah states clearly that the miraculous redemption from Egypt was entirely through Hashem and no one else. Consequently, we say “lefichach” — “therefore” — it is proper to offer praise to the One who personally performed miracles on our behalf, even though the miracles were outside of Eretz Yisrael.

(הגש"פ קבוץ חכמים מרב עבדאל סומך ז"ל מבגדאד)

“Praise G‑d.”

QUESTION: Hallel is usually recited standing and with a berachah. Why tonight do we omit the berachah and recite it sitting?

ANSWER: Theberachah is omitted because the Hallel is divided into two parts, separated by the festive meal. The reason for this is that the first two chapters of Hallel are related to the Exodus from Egypt, the splitting of the sea, and the giving of the Torah, which are events of the past. Therefore, after these two Psalms, we recite the blessing for the redemption and eat the matzah in commemoration of the Exodus. The later Psalms refer to future events (the resurrection of the dead and the “birth pangs” of Mashiach, see Pesachim 118a).

It is recited while sitting because we do things on Pesach in a manner which demonstrates freedom.

(הגש"פ עם לקוטי טעמים ומנהגים)

* * *

Alternatively, the Gemara (Pesachim 36a) explains the reason why matzah is called “lechem oni” is because it is “lechem she’onin alav devarim harbeh” — “Bread upon which one declares many things.” Rashi explains that “the many things declared are the Haggadah and complete Hallel. Thus, the Hallel recited at the Seder is not similar to all the others, which are recited primarily to thank Hashem for miracles, but rather it relates to the fulfillment of the mitzvah of eating lechem oni — matzah.

In addition, the Hallel recited tonight is unique. It is a part of the fulfillment of the mitzvah of sipur yetziat mitzraim — relating of the Exodus — and praising Hashem for the favor He did us (see Rambam, Sefer Hamitzvot 157 (Me’erie, Pesachim 95a)). Consequently, the laws which apply to the Hallel recited on the eighteen occasions discussed by theGemara (Arachin 10a) do not apply tonight.

(אורות הפסח מהרב שלמה הלוי ווארמאן סי' מ"ב, מ"ג) ובזה מובן מדוע הרמב"ם כתב אודות אמירת הלל בתוך הסדר בהל' חו"מ פ"ח הל' ה' ואילו בפ"ג מהלכות חנוכה כ' הלכות הלל ומנה הי"ח ימים שגומרין בהן את ההלל ולא הזכיר ההלל שאומרים בהגש"פ.

"ממזרח שמש עד מבואו מהלל שם ה'"
“From the rising of the sun to its setting, G‑d’s name is praised.”

QUESTION: Instead of “From the rising of the sun to its setting,” it could have simply said, “The entire day”?

ANSWER: The rising of the sun is an allusion to periods of affluence and success when everything is “shining” for the individual. On the other hand, the setting of the sun alludes to periods of darkness when, G‑d forbid, the opposite prevails. King David is saying that in whatever situation a person may find himself, regardless of whether things are shining for him or the opposite, Hashem should be praised.

(שי לחגים ומועדים)

"הים ראה וינוס"
“The sea saw and fled.”

QUESTION: According to the Midrash (Shochar Tov 114) when the sea saw Yosef’s coffin, it fled. What exactly was it that influenced the sea?

ANSWER: The Midrash Rabbah (Shemot 21:6) says that when the Jews approached the sea, it refused to split for them, saying, “I am older than man; you all should honor me and not expect me to split for you.” (Oceans and seas were created on the third day of creation, and man was created on the sixth day.)

However, seeing the coffin of Yosef, the sea agreed to split for the following reason:

Though Yosef was one of the youngest of Yaakov’s sons, the brothers gave him all the honors befitting a firstborn. They were convinced that he was fit to be their king because of the high level of kedushah — holiness — he maintained while living in Egypt. Even when he became the viceroy to Pharaoh, he remained a tzaddik. Seeing Yosef’s coffin, the sea realized that qualitative years are superior to quantitative ones. Therefore, though the sea was older, it deferred to the Jews’ lofty spiritual qualities and divided its waters to accommodate them as they were en route to receiving the Torah.

(הדרש והעיון, שמות מאמר קכ"ד)

"הים ראה וינס הירדן יסב לאחור"
“The sea saw and fled, the Jordan turned backward.”

QUESTION: There is a Midrash Peli’ah (wondrous Midrash) that asks, “What did the sea see?” The Midrash answers, “It saw the Bereita (Talmudic statement) of Rabbi Yishmael.”

What did the sea learn from Rabbi Yishmael?

ANSWER: Rabbi Yishmael says, “Through thirteen rules the Torah is elucidated.” One is kal vachomer — a conclusion inferred from a lenient law to a strict one and vice versa (Sifra, Introduction). Originally, the sea was reluctant to go against its nature and split. However, when it realized that later on in history the Jordan river would split for Yehoshua when he would lead the Jews into Eretz Yisrael (Joshua 3:16), the sea used a kal vachomer, saying, “If the Jordan will split for the student, then how much more should I agree to split for Moshe, the teacher.”

This fits in very well with the words “Hayam ra’ah vayanos — the sea saw and fled [because] hayardein — the Jordan — yisov — will turn backwards (future tense).”

(שער בת רבים פ' ואתחנן)

Alternatively, according to halachah if one chases after a person intending to kill him, all bystanders are obligated to rescue the one being chased, even if it is necessary to kill the pursuer. TheGemara (Sanhedrin 73a) bases this halachah on a teaching of Rabbi Yishmael regarding a na’arah me'orasah (betrothed girl).

When the sea saw the Egyptians chasing the Jewish people, it was hesitant to split so that the Jews could be saved and then return to its full strength to drown the Egyptians. Why should the Jews receive better treatment than the Egyptians? However, when it realized that the Egyptians pursued the Jews intending to kill them, it “saw the teaching of Rabbi Yishmael” and concluded that it was obligated to save the Jews and kill the Egyptians.

"ונאכל שם מן הזבחים ומן הפסחים (במוצאי שבת מן הפסחים ומן הזבחים)"
“There we shall eat of the sacrifices and Pesach-offerings (when Pesach falls on the conclusion of Shabbat: of the Pesach-offerings and of the sacrifices).”

QUESTION: Why is the order changed on “motza’ei Shabbat” — “the conclusion of the Shabbat”?

ANSWER: In the time of the Beit Hamikdash on Erev Pesach, a karban Chagigah — Festival-offering — was offered in addition to the karban PesachPesach-offering. At the Seder they would partake first of the festival-offering so that the Pesach-offering would be eaten “al hasovah” — to reach satiation — i.e. like desert at the end of the meal. Thus, the order of first “sacrifices” and then “Pesach-offerings.”

When Pesach fell on motza’ei Shabbat, the Pesach-offering was offered even though it was Shabbat, and the Chagigah was not offered till the next day — Sunday. Therefore onmotza’ei Shabbat we reverse the order and mention the Pesach-offering first and then the sacrifices, i.e. the Chagigah, which will be offered the next day.

According to others, there is no difference in the text, even if the Seder is on motza’ei Shabbat, because we are expressing the wish that Hashem redeem us so that we will have the opportunity next year to be in Jerusalem and eat there of the sacrifices which will be brought in the Beit Hamikdash. Even if according to our pre-calculated calendar, next year Pesach will fall on motza’ei Shabbat, nevertheless, when the Beit Hamikdash will be rebuilt we will return to establishing the calendar based on the testimony of witnesses, and it is possible that Pesach will not fall on Shabbat.

(שו"ע הרב סי' תע"ג, סמ"ט)

"ונודה לך שיר חדש"
“And we shall give thanks to You with a new song.”

QUESTION: Why does it say “shir chadash — “a new song” — in masculine, and not the common shirah chadashah” in feminine?

ANSWER: The word “shirah” in feminine, suggests that just as a woman conceives and gives birth again and again, always experiencing the pangs of childbirth, so too, all miracles — and their songs — are followed by new trials and tribulations and new deliverances. In the Messianic age, however, there will no longer be any troubles. At that time, therefore, they will recite a “shir” — “song” (in masculine) — which suggests that just as a man does not suffer birth pangs, so too the Jewish people will not suffer anymore. In other words, the ultimate miracle and redemption will be complete and ever-lasting.

(פסחים דף קט"ז ע"ב תוד"ה ונאמר)