Rabbi Dovid Saks
Last days of Passover 5772: Freedom in a Flash
We are all familiar with the four questions asked at the Seder that begin with the words, “Mah Nishtanah – Why is this night different than other nights of the year.”
What is puzzling is that the Hagaddah does not answer all the questions. It explains why Matzah is eaten and not leavened bread, and it also addresses why we eat Morror – bitter herbs, but the other two questions, “Why do we dip twice?” and, “Why do we eat in a reclining position?” are not answered.
The Shem Mishmuel explains that the introductory words of, Mah Nishtanah means: - why are we changing our regular routine and habits at our Seder? Noticing these changes in our normal routine is the central theme of the subsequent four questions asked by the son.
The Hagaddah immediately answers that we are to relate to our children, that we were enslaved and were on the lowest possible level in Egypt. Then G-d miraculously uplifted us and propelled us into a state of freedom.
This statement answers all the questions, because we are relating that just as G-d instantaneously altered our status from slaves into a free people by changing all forces and laws of nature on our behalf, so too, we conduct our Seder with many changes in our regular pattern of dining, to display that we too, are conducting ourselves in a manner of change emphasizing that we recognize that we came into a nation through a transformation of the normal laws of nature.
As the Seder progresses and we refer to the awful servitude that our ancestors were subject to, and we recite the 10 plagues, we recognize that each of the plagues came about through G-d changing and altering a particular power in order to convince the Pharoh to release the Jews from servitude.
G-d changed the patterns of nature for us; and we therefore change our patterns to absorb the message.
Based on this, we can explain that the entire process of cleaning one’s home, changing over one’s kitchen and altering one’s eating pattern for Passover is also an exercise mirroring the change that G-d brought about for us while He took us as a nation.
As we advance to the final phase of the holiday which commemorates the splitting of the Red Sea and the Jews’ final salvation from Pharoh and the Egyptians, we further reflect on the changes that G-d brought about for the Jews.
The revelation of G-d and the miracles that He performed at the Red Sea reached the zenith and at this point the Jews attained a pure level of belief in G-d.
Pause for a moment and consider the splitting of the Red Sea.
Our Sages tell us that the sea split forming twelve paths separated by vertical standing walls of water for each of the tribes to travel through. The waters were held suspended on top of them as well. Additionally, all the bodies of water in the world split. Thus, everyone witnessed the miracle.
G-d had made a condition with the waters during creation that they oblige and split for the Jewish nation seven days after they leave Egypt.
When the nation witnessed all this change that G-d did on their behalf, they recognized how special they were in G-d’s eyes and were thus willing to adapt change in their lives by accepting the Mitzvos of the Torah at Mount Sinai six weeks later.
Finally, says the Shem Mishmuel, the lesson of the quick flash of transformation and change G-d afforded the Jews from the state of slavery to freedom, serves to inspire us that built into each of us is the capacity to promote transformation to raise ourselves to higher levels of spirituality and be granted G-d’s assistance and inspiration throughout our quest and journey.
Wishing you a joyous, peaceful,
and inspirational Pesach!
Rabbi Dovid and Malki Saks