מה נשתנה הלילה הזה מכל הלילות שבכל הלילות אנו אוכלין חמץ ומצה הלילה הזה כולו מצה
The Rema rules (471:2) that matzo with which one may carry out his obligation to eat matzo on the night of the Seder (the 15th of Nissan) may not be consumed on the day before the Seder (the 14th of Nissan). The Magen Avrohom (471:6) infers from his wording that the prohibition is only on the 14th of Nissan, but it would be permissible to consume this matzo on the day of the 13th. The Chok Yaakov understands that the Magen Avrohom only allows the matzo to be eaten on the day of the 13th, but maintains that it becomes forbidden on the night before the Seder (the night of the 14th). The Chok Yaakov proceeds to disagree, quoting the Ran who explicitly argues and a number of other sources which would also appear to support his position.
Rav Chaim Soloveitchik offers a novel support to the position of the Chok Yaakov, who permits the consumption of matzo on the night of the 14th, from the well-known “Four Questions.” The first question asks why on all other nights we are permitted to eat chometz and matzo, but on this night we may only eat matzo. From the fact that the child asking mentions that on all previous nights we were able to eat both chometz and matzo, we may conclude that on the previous evening – the night of the 14th – which is certainly included in his reference to “all other nights,” we may indeed consume not just chometz but also matzo!
הבה נתחכמה לו (שמות 1:10)
The Gemora in Sotah (11a) records that three of Paroh’s advisors were consulted regarding his worries against the Jews. Bilaam who suggested the wicked plan was killed, Iyov who remained silent was punished with tremendous afflictions, and Yisro who disagreed with the plan and fled was rewarded with descendants who were righteous Torah scholars and judges. Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz questions why Bilaam, who presumably deserved the most severe punishment for his active role, got off relatively easily with an instant death, while Iyov was forced to suffer tortuous pains throughout his life?
He answers that this question represents a fundamental error, as Rashi writes (Kiddushin 80b) that being alive is the greatest present and kindness that Hashem could ever give us, regardless of what difficulties may transpire on a person. In fact, Dovid Hamelech – who was no stranger to suffering – expressed this idea explicitly (Tehillim 118:18): יסר יסרני ק-ה ולמות לא נתני – Hashem afflicted me greatly, but at least He didn’t give me over to death. Therefore, the unimaginable and excruciating pain and agony of Iyov is still considered infinitely preferable to the quick, relatively painless death of Bilaam due to the sheer fact that he remained alive. As we all suffer various difficulties and setbacks throughout our lives, it would behoove us to recall and focus on this lesson, perhaps every time we recite the aforementioned verse during Hallel, that we must be eternally grateful to Hashem for the wonderful gift we call life!
ויבן ערי מסכנות לפרעה את פתם ואת רעמסס (שמות 1:11)
The Gemora in Sotah (11a) explains that the names of the cities Pisom and Raamses allude to the fact that the earth there was completely unsuitable for building, and whatever the Jewish slaves would build would be swallowed up by the unstable ground. Rav Pam questions why Paroh, who had an entire nation available to him as slaves, didn’t choose to have them work in a more appropriate location where they would be able to build for him beautiful palaces and buildings which would bring honor and glory to his kingdom.
He suggests that no matter how overwhelmingly difficult one’s task may be, he is still able to feel good about his accomplishments as long as he sees a purpose in his efforts, regardless of whether he will ultimately benefit in any way from the finished product. If Paroh had put them to work building splendid edifices, even though they would never be allowed to set foot in them, they would still feel a sense of purpose in their suffering and would take pride in the finished product. The diabolical Paroh was willing to forego all potential benefits to himself and his kingdom from having them work under more suitable conditions in order to afflict them with crushing harshness.
Rav C. once had a son born very prematurely and severely underweight. The doctors and nurses in the hospital went above and beyond the call of duty, putting in tremendous efforts over the course of two months until the baby was finally healthy and strong enough to return home with his grateful parents. Rav C. searched far and wide for an appropriate gift demonstrating his gratitude toward the medical staff, but couldn’t find anything suitable. In frustration, he turned to his Rebbe, Rav Elya Svei, who suggested that the doctors didn’t need any more fountain pens or paperweights. Rather, he suggested that each year on the baby’s birthday, Rav C. should bring his son to the hospital to show the doctors and nurses the fruits of their efforts. So many times medical professionals put in tremendous energy, fighting what they know to be an uphill battle, only to become dejected when they lose more often than not. The best gift of gratitude would be to strengthen them by reminding them that their efforts truly do make a difference and are eternally remembered and appreciated.
While most of us hopefully haven’t had such extensive interactions with the hospital staff, we have all benefited greatly from the Herculean time and energy invested in our education and upbringing by our parents and teachers, and it behooves us to give them the sense of satisfaction and accomplishment they deserve by letting them know what a difference they made in our lives and how appreciated they are.
(21:6 והיה לכם למשמרת (שמות
הי' ר' מתיא בן חרש אומר הרי הוא אומר (יחזקאל טז) ואעבור עליך ואראך והנה עתך עת דודים
הגיעה שבועה שנשבעתי לאברהם שאגאל את בניו ולא היו בידם מצות להתעסק בהם כדי שיגאלו
שנא' (שם) ואת ערום ועריה ונתן להם שתי מצות דם פסח ודם מילה (רש"י)
Hashem wished to redeem the Jewish people from
With this introduction, we can now understand that Hashem had a dilemma, in that He wished to give the Jews mitzvos to perform in order to reward them, yet He knew that there is no reward in this world for the performance of a positive commandment. Therefore, he specifically gave them the mitzvos of circumcision and Korban Pesach, which are unique in that they are the only two positive commandments which are punishable in this world – by kares – and therefore by performing them, the Jews could indeed be rewarded in this world!
(12:18 (שמות בראשן בארבעה עשר יום לחדש בערב תאכלו מצת
A literal reading of our verse would seem to require that one eat matzo on the night of the 14th of Nissan, which is difficult to understand because we know that Pesach begins on the night of the 15th, and there are even those who are careful not to eat any matzo already from the night before Pesach begins.
The Hafla’ah answers that before the Torah was given at
וספרתם לכם ממחרת השבת מיום הביאכם את עמר התנופה שבע שבתות תמימת תהיינה (ויקרא 23:15)
Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein relates that a sickly centenarian once approached him shortly before Pesach with an interesting halachic question. The law is that one who forgets or for any reason is unable to count even one night of Sefiras HaOmer is unable to continue counting on successive nights with a blessing, as the nightly counting over the course of the 7 weeks is considered to be one extended mitzvah. According to many opinions, the blessings which he recited until then are retroactively considered to have been in vain. The man’s doctors had told him that based on his poor medical condition, he would surely die before Shavuos, 7 weeks later. He therefore wanted to know whether he was permitted to recite the nightly blessing when beginning to count Sefiras HaOmer, as the laws of nature seemed to indicate that he would be prevented from successfully completing the mitzvah, thus invalidating his blessings.
Rav Zilberstein responded that when a clever child has a tremendous craving for a sweet which his mother refuses to give him, he will simply recite its appropriate blessing שהכל נהיה בדברו, essentially forcing his mother to give him some in order that his blessing not be in vain. Similarly, he advised the man that specifically be beginning to count with the recital of the accompanying blessing, he could in effect “force” the Heavenly Court to allow him to remain alive – against the doctor’s prognosis – until after Shavuos in order to complete the mitzvah. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, to note that the man died the week after Shavuos!
Pesach Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) The Gemora in Taanis (4b) rules that we shouldn’t begin to pray for rain until two weeks after the conclusion of Sukkos in order to allow sufficient time for those who ascended to the Beis HaMikdash for Sukkos to return home without getting wet. If so, why don’t we similarly stop praying for rain two weeks before Pesach to allow people to ascend in dry travel conditions?
2) Why don’t we recite the שהחיינו blessing, which is customarily said when doing mitzvos which occur only at infrequent intervals, when performing the mitzvah of checking our houses for chometz on the night before Pesach begins? (Shalmei Mo’ed)
3) In the song אחד מי יודע – Who Knows One – which is sung at the end of the Seder, we refer to שני לוחות הברית (the two Tables of the Covenant), חמשה חומשי תורה (the five books of the Torah), and עשרה דבריא (the Ten Commandments). Why do we make a separate reference to the Tablets, when their contents are presumably synonymous with the Ten Commandments and also subsumed in the reference to the five books of the Torah? (M’orei HaMo’adim pg. 54)
4) Even though Rashi (12:15) writes that eating matzah is only obligatory on the first night of Pesach and optional for the remainder of the holiday, the Vilna Gaon and others are of the opinion that one who nevertheless consumes matzah for the duration of Pesach is considered to be performing a Biblical commandment. This would seem to be analogous to the laws of Sukkos, in which eating bread in the sukkah is obligatory only on the first night of the holiday and optional for the duration of Sukkos. However, we find that one who chooses to consume bread in the sukkah is performing a mitzvah and therefore makes a blessing over it, so why doesn’t one also make a blessing when he voluntarily eats matzah during the remaining days of Pesach? (Baal Ha’Maor Pesachim 26b-27a in the
5) There are four blessings which – outside of
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