שביבי אש
חג הפסח

הגדה של פסח

עבדים היינו לפרעה במצרים. ויוציאנו ד' אלוקינו משם ביד הזקה ובזרוע נטויה. ואלו לא הוציא הקב"ה את אבותינו ממצרים, הרי אנו וכו':

We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt. And the Lord our G-d brought us out from there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. And if the Holy One, blessed be He, had not brought our ancestors out of Egypt, then we and our children and our grandchildren would still be enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt

Many have asked how we know that if the Eternal had not redeemed us we would have remained slaves to Pharaoh forever. And it appears to our master that although it was decreed at the Covenant Between the Pieces (ברית בין הבתרים) that they be enslaved and afflicted and bear the unbearable Egyptian burden, it was not decreed that they become like slaves who had lost any feeling for freedom and liberty and who, preferring to serve their masters, had no desire to be liberated. As we wrote in poroshat Ki Tavo on the verse (Deuteronomy 28:68): "and there you shall offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but none shall buy you" (והתמכרתם שם לאויבך לעבדים ולשפהות ואין קונה), this meant that anyone who would buy them would see that he had been mistaken, because they had not sunk to the level of slaves to have lost every elevated aptitude and faculty. However, our ancestors in Egypt were not wise and they lowered their heads to the ground, reaching the lowest level, that of a slave, utterly losing every advantage, every talent, and every lofty and honorable quality. They did not realize that they had lost all honor and that the crown, the majesty, the splendor, and the glory of any human being - his freedom - was missing. So low had they sunk that they would not listen to Moses and did not want to leave Egypt. Even after leaving, they repented of what they had done, and they said (Numbers 14:4) "let us appoint a chief, and let us return to Egypt" (נתנה ראש ונשובה מצרימה) and (Exodus 14:12) "for it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than to die in the wilderness" (טוב לנו עבוד את מצרים ממותנו במדבר) and (Numbers 11:5) "we remember the fish, which we ate in Egypt for nothing" (זכרנו את הדגה אשר נאכל במצרים חנם) and many other statements like these.

The philosophers (החכמים נבוני דבר) have observed that whenever any right is forcibly taken from an individual, the individual will still retain some hope of eventually recovering that right. However, when a person surrenders and abandons his rights willingly, the person abandons all hope and will never recover what has been discarded. This is what is meant by "we were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt." We sank to the level of a slave who is no longer even sensible of what he has lost and what he lacks. This went beyond what the Eternal had decreed which was only: "and they shall serve them" (ועבדום). That decree meant only that they should feel the servitude and the subjugation that would oppress them. But they should have longed for their salvation so that they might be liberated from the bondage of their souls.

The author of the Haggadah then brings a proof that our ancestors did not wish to be liberated: "And the Eternal our G-d brought us out from there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm" (ויוציאנו ה' אלקינו משם ביד חזקה ובזרוע נטויה). "An outstretched arm," because our ancestors, having grown accustomed to the hard work and unable even to imagine anything better than their servitude, no longer wanted to leave. Only the Eternal, with a strong hand, could take them out of Egypt. So if the Holy One Blessed Be He had not taken us out of Egypt, we and our children and our children's children would still be slaves until this day, because our ancestors voluntarily and willingly gave themselves up to be slaves without even recognizing what they, as slaves, were lacking.

ואפילו כלנו חכמים כלנו נבונים כלנו זקנים כלנו יודעים את התורה.

Therefore, although we were all wise, all of us knowledgeable, all of us elders, and all of us understanding the law.

The question arises why the "elders" are listed along with the "knowledgeable" (נבונים) and the "all of us understanding the law" (כלנו יודעים את התורה). For must not the "elders" (זקנים) that are mentioned here be understood to refer to the aged rather than to the "wise" (חכמים) who have already been listed? And a further question is: who are the "wise" and the "knowledgeable" (נבונים) that are listed here? They cannot be referring to torah scholars, for "those who are understanding of the law" (יודעים את התורה) are mentioned immediately afterwards. And if they simply refer to all those who have general knowledge and wisdom, what is the point of telling us that the obligation to recount the story of the exodus from Egypt devolves upon them? If they are not, in fact, torah scholars (who would be presumed already to be fully conversant with the story of the exodus), then their obligation should be no different from that of the rest of the people who are obligated to recount the story of the exodus.

And it appears to our master that we already know that the tribe of Levi, who were the "חכמים" and the "נבונים," were not forced to perform hard labor (עבודת הפרך) with mortar and bricks in Egypt. Nor, because of their weakness, did the aged (זקנים) perform hard labor. Thus, the author of the Haggadah listed first those categories that were exempt from servitude and therefore performed no hard labor to teach us that even those categories of people who performed no hard labor are still obligated to recount the story of the exodus from Egypt. The author of the Haggadah then mentions the torah scholars to teach us not to think that since they already know the torah and know well everything that happened to us in Egypt, they, like everyone else, are obligated to recount the story of the Exodus.

כנגד ארבעה בנים דברה תורה וכו'.

The torah speaks about four different categories of children.

It may be asked why the Haggadah places the wicked son after the wise son but ahead of the simple son and the one incapable of asking. Is he not the worst one of all? It is also amazing that after the question "what is this service unto you?" asked by the son who is designated as wicked, the Torah says (Exodus 12:27): "the people bowed the head and worshiped" (ויקוד העם וישתחוו). Rashi comments that the they did so in gratitude for the good news that they would have further offspring. But how is it possible that they would rejoice on hearing of the arrival of a wicked son?

It appears to our master that just as it is not possible for the world to exist without both males and females, neither is it possible for the world to exist without both the righteous and the wicked. G-d created the one in relation to the other. For where there are shadows is there not light? And in the place of justice must there not be evil? Moreover, the perfection of the righteous will never be eliminated nor the folly of evil cease. However, from the manner of the wicked and their conduct we can infer the manner of the righteous and their conduct. For in a generation in which the wicked recognize in their souls the great loss that they have incurred by turning back from the service of G-d and how heavy is their sin for high-handedly transgressing the commandments of the Eternal, they will then seek to assuage their wounded spirit and to ease their minds by asking fallacious questions based on false opinions. They will pose questions and raise difficulties to our G-d to throw off from upon themselves the burden of their guilt and to relieve themselves of the yoke upon their necks. From these ingenious wicked ones we can easily judge the righteous. The wicked are a sign that the righteous desire the Torah of the Eternal and they study it day and night. And their wisdom resonates in the houses of worship and the houses of study for the sake of Torah, so that the whole land is filled with knowledge. The wicked must therefore seek to hide behind false doctrines.

However, in a generation in which the wicked, unaware that they are sinning against their own souls, shamelessly throw the Torah and the commandments behind them, feel no need to excuse or justify their conduct or to offer wayward doctrines in their own defense. In such a generation, it is clear that the righteous and holy ones have been weak in upholding the Torah. Their skill has departed from them and they study the Torah indolently without passion, not seeking or searching.

The four sons of the Haggadah therefore belong to and are the products of two different generations. In one era the wise son, desperate to know all the details of the commandments and all its derivations, asks "what are the testimonies, and the statutes and the laws?" (מה העדות והחקים והמשפטים). And in fact we answer him accordingly, for we tell him "concerning the laws of the Pesah: we do not partake of dessert after the Pesah" (ואומרין לו כהלכות הפסח אין מפטירין אחר הפסח אפיקומן). The commentators explain that this means that if your son is wise do not withhold what is good from him, but rather teach him all the laws of Pesah until the conclusion, which is that one may not partake of dessert after the Pesah, a law found at the end of the tractate of Pesahim (the last Mishnah discussing only rabbinic enactments). In such an era, the wicked will ask heretical questions, such as "what is this service unto you?" in order to find comfort for their impure souls for having despised the commandments of the Eternal and having defied His will. But if the righteous, like simple persons, ask only "what is this?" and are not desperate to master the entire contents of the Torah, and if their souls are not consumed by the desire to learn all the statutes of the Torah in all their detail and complexity, being satisfied with the mere general knowledge of "what is this?", then the wicked of that generation will totally disregard the commandments of the Eternal and will not even know that they are sinning. They will therefore not even feel the need to ask deceitful questions to put their own minds at ease. That is why when the Children of Israel were informed that in a future generation the wicked would ask "what is this service unto you?" they gave thanks to the Eternal for the good news that they would have truly righteous offspring, because if there were not truly righteous offspring, the wicked would not have asked such a question.

רבן גמליאל היה אומר בל שלא אמר שלשה דברים אלו בפסח לא יצא ידי חובתו וכו' שנאמר (שמות יב, כז) ואמרתם זבח פסח.

See Tosaphot who wrote (פסחים קטז ע"ב ד"ה ואמרתם). The Scripture means an oral statement, so that one must say "this Pesah sacrifice that we are eating." And matzah and maror are compared to the Pesah sacrifice, so one must say "this matzah" and "this maror."

From their words it appears that in the Mishnah the proof text (Exodus 12:27) "that you shall say, It is the sacrifice of the Lord's Passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt" ( ואמרתם זבח פסח אשר פסח על בתי בני ישראל במצרים) immediately follows the words "and they are these" (ואלו הן). Thus, according to the Tosaphot, Rabban Gamliel derives the obligation to say "this pesah" from this verse and then derives the obligation to say "this matzah" and "this maror" by comparison (הקש) to pesah. Thus, contrary to the author of the Haggadah, the proof text "ואמרתם זבח פסח" is sufficient for all three, because pesah is mentioned explicitly and the other two are deduced from pesah. However, the author of the Haggadah believed that the verse "ואמרתם זבח פסח" was a proof text only for the obligation to say "this pesah." He therefore brought the proof text after writing: "This Pesah which our fathers ate in the Temple days, what was the reason for it? . . . as it is written.." The author of the Haggadah therefore required another proof text for matzah and for maror.

However, the words of the Tosaphot are correct and reasonable because the text of the Mishnah published in the Mishnayot does not bring any proof texts, while in the text of the Mishnah published in the Gemara these proof texts are written within parentheses. So the canonical text corresponds to the opinion of the Tosaphot that Rabban Gamliel brought the verse "ואמרתם" as a proof text for his main proposition that anyone who did not say these three things did not fulfill his obligation, not as the explanation for why the pesah is eaten. And some copyist who misunderstood how Rabban Gamliel derived his law from this verse must have inserted the verse "ואמרתם" below as a proof text for why the pesah is brought, and was then required to add other verses for matzah and maror. However, the correct reading accords with the opinion of the Tosaphot that immediately after "ואלו הן פסח מצה ומרור" one should insert the proof text, "שנאמר ואמרתם זבח פסח."

One may add a further proof to the words of Tosaphot to prove this derivation from this verse, for the verse "ואמרתם" is the answer that is written in the Torah to the question of the wicked son: "מה העבודה הזאת לכם" (what is this service unto you?). And to this question, the Torah says: "ואמרתם זבח פסח." The author of the Haggadah in fact ignores this answer and provides a different one (Exodus 13:8): "because of that which the Lord did for me when I went forth from Egypt" (בעבור זה עשה ה' לי בצאתי ממצרים ). For me, but not for him (לי ולא לו). And our master has previously elaborated on why it does not say "ואמרתם לו" (and you shall say to him) as it says in reference to the other sons, e.g., "והגדת לבנך" (you shall tell your son), "ואמרת אליו" (you shalt say to him). And from this difference in wording our master concluded that it is improper to respond to the wicked son with a curse, but only to respond by putting his teeth on edge by saying: "for me, but not for him." (And our master explained there how this answer is relevant to the son who is incapable of asking.) At any rate, the verse "ואמרתם זבח פסח" is not an answer to any questioner, in which case to whom should it be said if not to one's own son? Rabban Gamliel therefore properly deduces that even for one who has no son to question him, it is obligatory to say "this pesah." And as the Tosaphot wrote, R. Gamliel compared matzah and maror to pesah, so one is also obligated to say "this matzah" and "this maror."