The recital of the Haggadah of Pesach concludes with either the recital of Yishtabach or Yehalelucha (see Shulchan Aruch Harav 580:1).

Some (Ashkenazi) communities have a custom to recite certain piyutim — liturgical hymns — after the completion of the Haggadah (see Magen Avraham 580:2, ibid. 580:3). For their convenience these are included in this Haggadah as a supplement together with commentary.

"חסל סדר פסח...פדוים לציון ברנה"
“The Pesach Seder has been completed... bringing them redeemed to Zion in joyous song”

QUESTION: Who composed this statement?

ANSWER: In some communities on Shabbat Hagadol certain Yotzrot — liturgical prayers — are said in the Shacharit. One is Elokei haruchot lechol basar — “G‑d Who knows the spirit of all beings” — which contains many of the halachot — laws — related to Pesach, and concludes with “Chasal sidur Pesach” and the sentence which follows it in the Haggadah.

It was composed by Rabbeinu Yosef ben Shmuel Tov Elem. He was a great Torah scholar who lived in France around 4800. Some say that he was one of Rashi’s teachers.

(הגש"פ מר' שבח ז"ל קנעביל)

"חסל סדר פסח"
“The Pesach Seder has been completed.”

QUESTION: Since the rest of the statement is in Lashon Hakodesh — Hebrew — why is the first word, “chasal” — “has been completed” — in Aramaic?

ANSWER: When the letters of the word “chasal” are written out in full, i.e. חי"ת - סמ"ך - למ"ד — their numerical value is six hundred and twelve, which is also the numerical value of the word brit (ברית) — “circumcision.”

In the Torah (Shemot 12:48) it is written, “No uncircumcised male may eat of it [the Pesach-offering].” Thus, with the word “chasal” we are alluding that all the males present are halachically eligible to be participants. (See p. 194.)

(הגש"פ עם פי' ילקוט שמעוני בשם ריח דודאים)

"ובכן ויהי בחצי הלילה. אז רוב נסים..."
“It came to pass at midnight. Then most of the miracles...”

QUESTION: Who composed this hymn?

ANSWER: The author was Rabbi Yannai, who was one of the early composers of liturgical hymns and the teacher of the renown liturgical poet Rabbi Elazar Hakalir. It is also recited in some communities on Shabbat Hagadol during the Shacharit prayer.

(הגש"פ מר' שבח ז"ל קנעביל)

"ובכן ויהי בחצי הלילה"
“It came to pass at midnight.”

QUESTION: In this poem we mention many miracles and salvations that Hashem has performed for the Jewish people throughout history on the night of Pesach. What is the significance of their occurrence in the middle of the night?

ANSWER: The light of day symbolizes times of glory and success, and the darkness of night symbolizes times of exile and tribulation. People usually sleep during the dark hours and are deeply asleep at midnight. The poet is stressing that Hashem watches over His beloved people at all times. However, at times it is revealed and obvious, and at times not. Metaphorically, when it is dark (in the time of galut) and the Jewish people are in the depth of their sleep and see no relief for their misery and suffering, unexpectedly Hashem reveals Himself, and in a miraculous way the darkness of the night is converted to light and the Jewish people see a new horizon.

* * *

Incidentally, the words “bachatzi halayelah” (בחצי הלילה) — “at midnight” — have the numerical value of 190. The refrain of the poem emphasizes Hashem’s redeeming us from Egypt one hundred and ninety years earlier than it was originally destined to happen.

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

"גר צדק נצחתו כנחלק לו לילה"
“To the righteous convert [Avraham] You granted victory when divided was the night. And it came to pass at midnight”

QUESTION: What is the connection between the miracle performed for Avraham in the middle of the night and the miracle performed for his descendants in Egypt in the middle of the night?

ANSWER: Regarding Avraham’s pursuit of the enemy kings the Torah says, “Vayeichaleik aleihem laylah” — “He deployed against them at night” (Bereishit 14:15). Rashi in the name of the Midrash explains “vayeichaleik” to mean “He divided” — [the night]. During the first half of the night He performed a miracle for Avraham, and He reserved the second half for His miraculous revelation in Egypt.

This night is referred to in the Torah (Shemot 12:42) as “leil shimurim,” a night of protection [for the Jewish people throughout the generations]. It says “shimurim” — “protections” — in plural, because this night was designated as one of protection and salvation throughout the generations.

(אברבנאל, תפארת שלמה, ועי' מסכת ר"ה י"א ע"ב שלילה זה משומר מששת ימי בראשית לגאולה)

"קרב יום אשר הוא לא יום ולא לילה"
“Bring near the day that is neither day nor night.”

QUESTION: If it is neither day nor night, what is it?

ANSWER: Originally, when Hashem created the world, the light was extremely powerful. Not wanting the wicked to benefit from it, He hid it for the future to be used by the righteous (Chagigah 12a). The prophet says that in the days of Mashiach, “The light of the moon will be like the (present) light of the sun, and the light of the sun will [then be] seven times as strong, like the light of seven days” [of creation] — (Isaiah 30:26 — see Rashi).

Thus, we are beseeching Hashem to hasten the arrival of the day “that is neither day” — not like our present day, but many times brighter — “nor night” — whose night, too, will not be as dark as the present night, but much brighter, like the day at present.

(כתנות אור פ' בא מר' מאיר ז"ל מק"ק אייזן שטאט פיורדא תקכ"ו, מח"ס שו"ת פנים מאירות)

"אומץ גבורתיך..."
“The power of Your might...”

QUESTION: Who composed this hymn?

ANSWER: The author was the very famous liturgical poet Rabbi Elazar Hakalir who lived inEretz Yisrael in the city of Kiryat Sefer. He is mentioned by Rashi and Tosafot in the Babylonian Talmud (see Yoma 67a, Rosh Hashanah 27a).

There are different opinions as to when he lived. Some say that he was the Tanaic sage Rabbi Elazar the son of Rabbi Shimon (bar Yochai). There is also an opinion that he was Rabbi Elazar ben Arach. The most popular opinion is that he lived in the tenth century during the era of the Ga’onim.

(עי' שו"ע אדמוה"ז סי' ס"ח:ב, הגש"פ מר' שבח ז"ל קנעביל, ועי' שו"ת תשובה מאהבה מר' אלעזר נ' דוד ז"ל פלעקלס - מפראג, סי' א)

"עוד היום בנב לעמוד"
“While it was yet day, he wanted to be standing in Nov.”

QUESTION: Why was Sancherev so anxious to be in Nov that day (Erev Pesach)?

ANSWER: When David was fleeing from King Shaul, he came to the priestly city of Novand persuaded the Kohanim there to give him a supply of food and ammunition. When Shaul learned of their aiding David, he had them all killed. The heavenly court then held the entire Jewish community responsible for this murder, and the Jews thus became vulnerable to attack and defeat.

Many years later Sancherev, the Assyrian king, thought to exploit the Jews’ loss of heavenly protection in his lust to conquer Jerusalem. His astrologers told him that they saw the day before Pesach as the last opportunity to take advantage of the Jews’ culpability for the annihilation of Nov. Therefore, they advised him that if he would go that day and attack Jerusalem, he would be victorious.

Determined to reach Jerusalem that very same day, he traveled with his troops in one day a distance that normally takes ten, and arrived in Nov, from where he was able to see Jerusalem. When he gazed at Jerusalem, it appeared small to him, and he arrogantly exclaimed, “Is this the city of Jerusalem, for which I utilized all my armies and conquered all the countries between here and my native Assyria?” He then contemptuously shook his head and waved his hand at the Temple Mount in Zion.

His soldiers wanted to immediately attack the city, but Sancherev told them, “You are tired, so let us wait till tomorrow, and we shall destroy it.” They went to sleep, and during the night an angel came and killed 185,000 men. When the survivors arose in the morning, they saw their camp filled with corpses.

Through delaying his attack by one day, Sancherev allowed the Jews’ culpability for the sin of Nov to expire, and his campaign against Jerusalem ended in utter defeat.

(מסכת סנהדרין דף צ"ה ע"א)

"אדיר במלוכה בחור כהלכה...דגול במלוכה הדור כהלכה"
“Mighty in Kingship, truly distinguished... Pre-eminent in Kingship, truly glorious.”

QUESTION: Bachur literally means “a young man” and “hadur” is usually associated with an elderly person (see Vayikra 19:32). How are these terms relative to Hashem?

ANSWER: Hashem appears in different forms. At Kriat Yam Suf — the splitting of the sea — He appeared as a young powerful warrior. At the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai, He appeared in the form of a merciful sage (Yalkut Shimoni Shemot 246).

According to the Arizal, the different forms of revelation depend on the mission to be accomplished. Kriat Yam Suf was against the laws of nature: Water, which normally flows continuously, stood as a pillar. To emphasize that Hashem governs nature, He appeared as a powerful, conquering warrior. The giving of the Torah was not an act contrary to nature, and therefore he appeared as a merciful sage.

In this hymn one phrase relates to His taking us out of Egypt and the splitting of the sea, and the following phrase refers to the giving of the Torah. This pattern repeats itself throughout the eight phrases of the hymn.

Thus, the poet is saying that at Kriat Yam Suf Hashem demonstrated His mighty Kingship when He appeared as bachur kahalachah” — a young man in the prime of his strength. And the pre-eminence of His Kingship was evident when at the giving of the Torah, He appeared “hadur kahalachah” — like a majestic sage — among the myriads of holy angels.

(הגש"פ מעשה נסים לר' יעקב ז"ל מליסא)

"במהרה במהרה בימינו בקרוב"
“Quickly, quickly, in our days soon.”

QUESTION: Why is the word “bimeheirah” — “quickly” — repeated?

ANSWER: Hashem told the Jewish people that “When you will beget children and grandchildren, venoshantem — and you will have been a long time — in the land, you will grow corrupt ... avod toveidun maheir — you will surely perish quickly — from the land which you are crossing the Jordan to possess” (Devarim 4:25, 26).

The Gemara (Sanhedrin 38a) says that the word “venoshantem” (ונושנתם) — “and you will have been a long time” — has the numerical value of 852 and that it alludes to the number of years the Jews would be in the land before the prophecy of destruction would take place. Since the prophecy is that the Jews would “surely perish maheir — quickly” — the Gemara concludes that in Hashem’s measuring of time, “meheirah” — “quickly” — means 852 years. In reality, Hashem compassionately exiled the Jews two years before the dread prophecy of destruction was set to go into effect (after they had occupied the land for 850 years).

Thus, when we pray that Hashem rebuild His house “meheirah” — “quickly” — we emphasize that the “quickly” we are referring to is not His “quickly” — 852 years — but “bimeheirah beyameinu” — quickly according to our understanding of time, so that it will be very soon, in our days.

(פון אונזער אלטען אוצר)

"א-ל בנה, א-ל בנה, בנה ביתך בקרוב"
“Al-mighty build, Al-mighty build, build Your house soon.”

QUESTION: There seems to be a contradiction. “Ei-l b’neih” means that He should build immediately, and “B’neih beitecha bekarov” — “build Your house soon” — means not necessarily immediately, but soon?

ANSWER: In the Gemara (Rosh Hashanah 11a) Rabbi Yehoshua states that just as the redemption from Egypt was in the month of Nissan, so too, the final redemption will be in Nissan. Rabbi Eliezer opines that the final redemption will be in Tishrei.

Our prayers are geared according to both opinions. Since we are now celebrating Pesach, which is in the month of Nissan. We pray “Ei-l b’neh” — “Al-mighty build Your house immediately.” However, if the final redemption is destined to take place in Tishrei, then “build Your house soon” — we cannot wait any longer.

(הגש"פ תוספות בנימין לר' בנימין אליהו ז"ל מזאלשין)

* * *

QUESTION: Since the construction of the Beit Hamikdash does not supersede Yom Tov, and it also can be only during the day (Rambam, Beit Habechirah 1:12), why do we pray for the immediate rebuilding (even tonight)?

ANSWER: These laws only apply when the Beit Hamikdash is constructed by human hands. Our prayer is “Al-mighty — You — build.” Thus, none of these restrictions are relative to Him.

(הגש"פ נפתלי שבע רצון מר' נפתלי הירץ ז"ל גינזבורג, ועי' רש"י בר"ה דף ל' ע"א דבנין השלישי בידי שמים הוא ויכול להיות גם בשבת ויו"ט ובלילה)

"וצונו על ספירת העומר"
“Commanded us about the counting of the Omer

QUESTION: Why do we count Sefirah between Pesach and Shavuot?

ANSWER: The ultimate purpose of leaving Egypt was to receive the Torah on Mount Sinai. Every Jew is required to occupy himself as much as possible with the study of Torah, but unfortunately people do not appreciate the value of time and frequently waste time that could be used for Torah study. Counting Sefirah before Shavuot is a preparation for kabbalat haTorah, and it emphasizes the importance of time and its value. It serves as a reminder that we should use every free moment for the study of Torah.

(לקוטי שיחות ח"ז ע' 280)

The famous Chassidic Rebbe, Rabbi Avraham Mordechai of Ger (known as the “Imrei Emet”) once said that the reason for the custom of giving a chatan a golden watch is to teach him that every minute is “wrapped in gold” and should not be wasted.

(שמעתי מהרב אליהו משה ז"ל ליס)

Another lesson we learn from Sefirah is the following: When counting Sefirah, we recite a berachah every night, yet when an entire day goes by and a person forgets to count, he can no longer recite the berachah on the following days. This teaches us that although each day is an independent entity, it also makes a unique contribution to all other days. Thus, the counting of Sefirah before Shavuot emphasizes the importance of each day and that one wasted day of Torah learning also affects the future.

"ברוך אתה ה' ... וצונו על ספירת העומר"
“Blessed are You ... and commanded us about the counting of the omer

QUESTION: Since Sefirah is a mitzvah which is not performed throughout the entire year, why don’t we recite the berachah of Shehecheyanu when we begin counting?

We cannot answer by saying that in our times Sefirat HaOmer is only Rabbinic, since we do recite Shehecheyanu on the reading of the Megillah, which is also Rabbinic.

ANSWER: The Torah (Vayikra 23:15) connects the mitzvah of Sefirah to the Omer-offering on Pesach. Since we no longer have a Beit Hamikdash and cannot bring the Omer-offering, when we count Sefirah we are saddened and recite a special prayer: “May the Merciful One restore for us the service of the Beit Hamikdash to its place.” Since a “Shehecheyanu” is only recited when one is in a happy and joyous mood, we do not recite it at the beginning of the Sefirah.

(כל בו, ועי' ילקוט יצחק מר' יצחק ז"ל זאלער על פ' אמור)

"היום יום אחד לעומר"
“Today is the first day of the Omer

QUESTION: In the Diaspora we celebrate two days of Yom Tov because in the times of the Beit Hamikdash it was not immediately known if the previous month consisted of 29 days or 30 days. If so, on the first night when we start counting the omer, why don’t we say, “Today is the first day, today is the second day,” and on the next night why don’t we say, “Today is the second day, today is the third day” etc.?

ANSWER: The purpose of counting is for clarification and verification. A person with an undetermined amount of money counts it to determine the exact amount. If after counting he is still in doubt, he counts it again until he verifies the exact amount. Since the mitzvah is to count the Omer, counting and remaining with a doubt as to the exact number of days would be contradictory to the entire concept of counting, and it would be improper to make a berachah for such an activity.

* * *

With this explanation we can also understand ahalachah in Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 489:1), which superficially is enigmatic. The Magen Avraham writes that if one recites the Omer counting in Hebrew and does not know the meaning of what he is saying, he has not fulfilled the mitzvah. Why is counting the Omer different than other prayers or blessings which one may say in Hebrew, even if he does not know the meaning of the words?

In light of the above — that the purpose of counting is for clarification and verification and valueless otherwise — if one recites the counting without knowing the meaning, the purpose of counting is not accomplished.

(שו"ת דבר אברהם ח"א סי' ל"ד, ועי' לקוטי שיחות ח"ז ע' 296)

אחד מי יודע"
“Who knows one?”

QUESTION: What is the intent of this hymn?

ANSWER: This poem, composed in question and answer format, gives thirteen reasons that we merited to be redeemed from Egyptian bondage. The leader of the Seder asks the questions, and the participants respond, and through its challenging style, all remain alert till the conclusion of the Seder.

The name of the author is unknown, but in a Siddur of 1406 is stated that this and the Chad Gadya were found written on a parchment in the Beit Medrash of Rabbi Eliezer Rokeach of Worms (1176-1238).

(מבוא להגש"פ מהר"מ ז"ל כשר)

"אחד מי יודע...שלש עשר מי יודע"
“Who knows one...Who knows thirteen?”

QUESTION: Why do we go from one to thirteen and not higher?

ANSWER: The true Echad — One and Only — is Hashem, and the word “echad” (אחד) has the numerical value of thirteen. Hence, by commencing with His Oneness and concluding with thirteen, which is also an allusion to His Oneness, we are proclaiming that He is the One and Only from beginning to end.

* * *

In each stanza we repeat that which was previously enumerated. Thus, the overall total of all the items mentioned throughout the poem is ninety-one. The number ninety-one has great mystical significance. It is the combined numerical value of Hashem’s holy four letter Name י-ה-ו-ה — the Tetragrammaton — and also the Name א-ד-נ-י. The Tetragrammaton emphasizes that he transcends past, present, and future, and the Name A-donai accentuates that He is the Master of the universe and above the limitations of time.

It is also the numerical value of amein (אמן) — which is an acronym for אמלך נאמן — A-mighty, trustworthy King (see Shulchan Aruch Harav 124:12).

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

"אחד מי יודע...שלשה עשר מי יודע"
“Who knows one...Who knows thirteen?”

QUESTION: The relevance of some of the items to the redemption from Egypt begs explanation, for instance “Echad mi yodea... Echad hu Elokeinu” — “Who knows one...One is our G‑d....”

True, Hashem is the One and only, but how did this merit us the redemption?

ANSWER: When Moshe and Aharon came to Egypt to meet with the Jewish people and discuss their mission, the Torah states, “And the people believed...and they bowed their heads and prostrated themselves” (Shemot 4:31). In merit of their emunah — faith — in Hashem, the One and only G‑d in the heavens and on the earth, they merited the redemption.

"שבעה ימי שבתא"
“Seven are the days of the week.”

QUESTION: If this refers to the fact that the Jewish people observed Shabbat even in Egypt, why mention the seven days of the week?

ANSWER: Not only did they merit to be redeemed because they rested on Shabbat; during the entire week they also anticipated and longed for the Shabbat day.

"שמונה ימי מילה"
“Eight days of circumcision.”

QUESTION: A brit — circumcision — is performed on the eighth day and not on a daily basis for eight days?

ANSWER: Regardless of Pharoah’s decree to kill the Jewish male babies, the parents held onto them for eight days so that they could be circumcised before being killed. For the dedication and eagerness they demonstrated for eight days to perform the mitzvah of circumcision, they merited redemption.

"תשעה ירחי לידה"
“Nine months of pregnancy.”

QUESTION: Nine months of pregnancy is a law of nature for a Jew and non-Jew alike?

ANSWER: TheGemara (Sotah 11b) states, “In the merit of the righteous women, our fathers were redeemed.” Though the Egyptians endeavored to disrupt family life by making the Jewish men work nights, and decreed that the newborns should be killed, the Jewish women encouraged their husbands to procreate and happily endured the difficulties of pregnancy for nine months.

"אחד עשר כוכביא"
“Eleven are the stars.”

QUESTION: How did this bring about the redemption?

ANSWER: In Yosef’s second dream eleven stars bowed to him (Bereishit 37:9). This alluded to his brothers coming down to Egypt. Of stars it is said, “To all of them [Hashem] assigns names” (Psalms 147:4). The Midrash (Shir Hashirim 4:12) says that the eleven stars, i.e. brothers, went down to Egypt with Hebrew names and went up from it with the same Hebrew names. For maintaining their identity and not adopting Egyptian names, the Jews merited redemption.

"שנים עשר שבטיא"
“Twelve are the tribes.”

QUESTION: How did this cause the redemption?

ANSWER: When a census of each tribe was taken in the wilderness, the nations reviled the Jews, saying, “How can the Jews trace their genealogy according to their tribes? If the Egyptian controlled their bodies, surely they had the power to violate their wives!” To this Hashem replied, in effect, that He added the letters hei and yud from His own Name as a prefix and suffix respectively to their family names to attest to their chastity in Egypt (Bamidbar 26:5, Rashi) (as in “Hachanochi” החנוכי — the Chanochites). Thus, thanks to the twelve tribes not being affected by the immorality that prevailed in Egypt, they merited the redemption.

"שלשה עשר מדיא"
“Thirteen attributes of mercy”

In conclusion we state that the redemption from Egypt occurred thanks to His thirteen attributes of mercy, and hopefully very quickly He will have mercy on us again and send Mashiach, who will take us out of the current exile, lead us to our Holy land, and rebuild the Beit Hamikdash.

(הפירושים הנ"ל מיוסדים על הגש"פ אפוד בד מר' בנימין דוד ז"ל ראבינאוויץ ווארשא תרל"ב, הגש"פ זכרון נפלאות מר' אליעזר בן זאב וואלף הכהן ז"ל מסכאטשאב, ווארשא תר"מ, הגש"פ עטרת ישועה מר' חיים ז"ל טויביש, דראהאביטש תרנ"ו)

"חד גדיא חד גדיא דזבין אבא בתרי זוזי"

“An only kid, an only kid, which father bought for two zuzim.”

QUESTION: Who is the “kid,” and what are the “two zuzim”?

ANSWER: This song is not merely a simple folksong. It is an allegory which conveys an important message.

The kid is an allusion to the Jewish people, and the father is Hashem. In Aramaic currency a shekel equals four zuzim, and two zuzim are a half-shekel; (Shemot 30:12, Rashi). Thus, the two zuzim are a reference to the half-shekel, which was given as kofer nefesh — atonement for the soul (ibid. 30:12-16). Through the giving of the half-shekel, Hashem acquired the Jewish people and it was used for the making of the Mishkan — Sanctuary — in which He dwelt among them.

(הגש"פ מגדל עדר החדש בפי' מגן דוד)

Alternatively, the two zuzim are the twoluchot — Tablets. Just as the chatan gives the kallah a ring under the chupah and thereby acquires her to be betrothed to him, likewise, under the suspended mountain (chupah), Hashem, the chatan, acquired the kallah (K’lal Yisrael) through the giving of the Tablets.

(כסא דוד להחיד"א)

Alternatively, the “kid” represents the Beit Hamikdash, and the two coins represent the two golden pieces King David collected from each of the tribes to purchase the Temple Mount from Aravnah the Jebusite (see II Samuel 24 — Zevachim 116b, Tosafot).

(הגש"פ - מעשה נסים)

According to these interpretations the poem then goes on to enumerate allegorically the trials and suffering we have encountered throughout our history as we have been subjugated by various nations. The poem ends with our ultimate redemption by Hashem.

(הגש"פ - מעשה נסים)

* * *

Alternatively, the “kid” is a reference to Yosef. After the brothers sold him, they slaughtered a young goat and dipped his tunic in its blood in order to convince Yaakov that he was devoured and remove any suspicion from themselves. His sale was an outcome of the jealousy which was aroused by his father’s making him a tunic of fine wool, which according to the Gemara (Shabbat 10b) weighed the equivalent of two sela (Aramaic currency).

Accordingly, the poem allegorically discusses the experience of the Jewish people in Egypt (starting with the sale of Yosef) and other events throughout Jewish history until the time when Hashem will slaughter Satan and the kingdom will be Hashem’s.

(הגש"פ ברכת השיר להרא"ל ז"ל צונץ)

* * *

Incidentally, in mispar katan — single numericals (not counting tens and hundreds) — Yosef (יוסף) adds up to 21, as does Chad Gadya (חד גדיא).

(הגש"פ ברכת השיר להרא"ל ז"ל צונץ)

"חד גדיא דזבין אבא ... ואתא הקדוש ברוך הוא"
“An only kid which father bought ... the Holy One Blessed be He came...”

QUESTION: To whom is this being told?

ANSWER: TheChad Gadya narrative is a dialogue between a Jew and an Egyptian. Prior to leaving Egypt the Jews were instructed about the Pesach-offering. When the Egyptians saw the Jews preparing the animals and learnt that they were planning to slaughter them and celebrate with the meat, they were horrified. “How can you do this? This is the god we worship!” they exclaimed.

The song begins with a Jew’s response. He teases his former Egyptian slave master, saying, “An inexpensive goatling that father buys for two zuzim is your god? Even a cat is stronger than it.” The Egyptian is dumbfounded and says, “You are right; perhaps I should begin worshipping the cat?” The Jew responds, “You are so foolish; don’t you know that the dog bit the cat, and it is afraid of him?” “If so,” says the Egyptian, “perhaps I should make the dog my god.” The dialogue continues on until the Jew tells the Egyptian that the Holy One Blessed be He is the one true G‑d whom all humanity should worship.

(הגש"פ מהר' טעבעלה ז"ל באנדי, פרנקפורט תרנ"ח ובמד"ר בראשית ל"ח י"ג יש ויכוח כעי"ז בין אברהם ונמרוד)

"חד גדיא...ואתא הקדוש ברוך הוא"
“An only kid...The Holy One Blessed be He came....”

QUESTION: In the Chad Gadya narrative who was right and who was wrong?

ANSWER: Rabbi Yehonatan Eibeshitz (1690-1764) was a renowned child prodigy. At a very young age he was asked the following: On the surface it appears that the cat was wrong in devouring the innocent kid. Thus, the dog was right for biting him, and the stick that hit him was wrong. Further, the fire was right in burning the stick, and the water that extinguished the fire was wrong. Consequently, the ox was right when he drank the water, and the shochet — slaughterer — was wrong for killing him. If so, the angel was right when he killed the schochet and Hashem was wrong?! How could it be?

The young genius responded the cat had indeed done a terribly wrong thing. A cat has no right to harm an innocent kid. However, regardless of whether it was right or not, it was in no way the dog’s business, and he had no right to take the law into his own hands and mete out justice. This is a matter for the authorities and not for a bystander. Thus, the stick was right for beating him, and the fire was wrong. The water was right and the ox wrong. Consequently, the schochet was right and the angel was wrong. Thus, the ultimate judge, Hashem, was right.

* * *

The message of the hymn is that no one has any right to harm the Chad Gadya — the Jewish people. Even when they are exiled, the “angels of death” — nations of the world — do not oppress the Jews in the interest of justice or virtue, but rather, motivated by hatred and enmity. In the end of days, Hashem will take us out of exile and mete out punishment to all the nations who tortured His beloved kid.

* * *

The hymn starts and concludes with the words“Chad Gadya” — an only kid — to emphasize that from beginning to end, we were, are, and will be His only kid — chosen people.

"שיר השירים אשר לשלמה"
“The song that excels all songs [lit. ‘which is Shlomo’s’ i.e. he authored it] dedicated to Hashem, the King to Whom peace belongs.” (1:1)

QUESTION: Rashi quotes Rabbi Akiva that “All the songs [in the Torah] are holy, but Shir Hashirim — the Song of Songs — is the holy of holies.” Why is it even holier than the Az Yashir, which Moshe and the Jews sang when they crossed the sea and witnessed the great miracles?

ANSWER: During the period of courtship, the prospective chatan and kallah eagerly await two very important events. The first is eirusin — betrothal — and the second is nissuin — marriage — the happiest moment in one’s life. The redemption from Egyptian bondage and the giving of the Torah soon thereafter were the eirusin — betrothal — between Hashem, the chatan, and K’lal Yisrael, the kallah.

The wealth of the Egyptians which the Jews were given upon their departure from Egypt, together with the even greater wealth they acquired at the sea, was the money Hashem used to commence the “eirusin” (see 1:11 Rashi). It was conditional upon their acceptance of the Torah, which was the culmination of the eirusin (see Devarim 33:4, Pesachim 49b, Sefer Igra Debei Hiluli p. 34).

The nissuin — marriage — will take place in the glorious period of the Messianic Era when all Israel will enjoy Olam Haba — the World to Come.

The Jews sang the Az Yashir to express their gratitude to Hashem for the betrothal, but in Shir Hashirim a yearning is expressed for the forthcoming nissuin — marriage — at which time there will be unparalleled love between Hashem and the Jewish people (see Berachot 34b).

Upon completing the Seder some read theShir Hashirim since it talks of yetziat mitzrayim, and the splendor of the World to Come. In it we also beseech Hashem to hasten the time of the ultimate redemption so that we will be able to experience this exalted period.

(פתיחה לשיר השירים מר' יעקב ז"ל מליסא, ועי' בפירושו צרור המור)

"הנך יפה עיניך יונים"
“You are beautiful, your eyes are as doves.” (1:15)

QUESTION: Rashi quotes the Gemara (Taanit 24a), “If a kallah — bride — has ugly eyes, her entire body should be examined, but if her eyes are beautiful, there is no need to investigate any further.”

Why is so much emphasis placed on the eyes?

ANSWER: Our Sages are not referring to the physical eyes, but speaking allegorically. Good and ugly “eyes” are an allusion to a person’s outlook and perspective. When seeking a partner in life, one should explore her priorities. How does she view the spiritual and the material? If a bride’s eyes — outlook — are beautiful, i.e. in accordance with Torah guidelines, one can unhesitatingly take her for a wife and there is no need to inquire or probe any further.

(עי' כלי יקר בראשית כ"ד: י"ד, בענין כלה שעיניה יפות)

"כשושנה בין החוחים כן רעיתי בין הבנות"
“As a rose among the thorns is My beloved among the daughters [nations]” (2:2)

QUESTION: In what way are the Jewish people analogous to a rose?

ANSWER: When a rose is among thorns, a north wind goes forth and bends her toward the south and a thorn pricks her, then a south wind goes forth and bends her toward the north and a thorn pricks her; yet, for all that, her core is directed upwards. The same is true with the Jewish people. Although they are oppressed and tortured from all sides by the nations, their hearts are directed towards their Father in Heaven.

(מדרש רבה ויקרא כג:ה)

* * *

Once, while the Ramban (Nachmanides) and a priest were taking a stroll together in a garden, the priest said, “You Jews must be a terrible people; otherwise, why do all the nations of the world torture and despise you?” The Ramban took him to a section in the garden where there were beautiful rose bushes in the midst of thorns, and said to him, “Does the fact that these roses are pricked by the thorns and bitten by insects depict the superiority of the thorns and the insects, and the inadequacy of the rose? Of course not; it is merely that the refined and tender rose is incapable of standing up to the strong and vicious thorns. Likewise, their persecuting us is no proof of their superiority and our inadequacy. They are coarse and rough, and we are physically weak and delicate.”

(פון אונזער אלטען אוצר)

"נפת תטפנה שפתותיך כלה, דבש וחלב תחת לשונך"
“The sweetness of Torah drops from your lips, like honey and milk it lies under your tongue.” (4:11)

QUESTION: What is the significance of comparing Torah to honey and milk?

ANSWER: Honey is made by the bee, which is a forbidden creature, and milk is a byproduct of blood (see Bechorot 6b).

Thus, both milk and honey originate from a source which is tamei — contaminated — although after the product is developed it is tahor —halachically pure for human consumption.

Torah is compared to milk and honey because of its power to elevate and purify even one who has fallen into a state of spiritual contamination.

(עוללות אפרים)

"ברח דודי ודמה לך לצבי או לעפר האילים על הרי בשמים"
“Flee my Beloved, be like a gazelle or a young hart [in Your swiftness to redeem us from this exile and rest Your Presence] upon the mountain of spices [Mount Moriah and the Beit Hamikdash].” (9:14)

QUESTION: What is the intent of asking Hashem to be like a gazelle?

ANSWER: Unlike all other animals, when a deer sleeps, it only closes one eye and keeps the other one open. Also, while running, it always turns its head to look back. Thus, we are beseeching Hashem that even if our behavior is such that He wants, so to speak, to sleep and close His eyes and not look after us, or if He wants to run away from us, G‑d forbid, He should always keep one eye open and turn His head and look back, i.e. see our affliction and redeem us.