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7 Nissan 5762 - March 20, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
Understanding Leil HaSeder

by HaRav Shimshon Pincus, zt'l

HaRav Shimson Pincus zt"l was killed, along with his wife and daughter, in a tragic car accident one year ago on the 13th of Nisan. In addition to being the rov of the kehilla of Ofakim, Israel, HaRav Pincus lectured and participated in seminars throughout the world. The following article is taken from a taped lecture "Leil HaSeder" that he delivered in the U.S. before Pesach two years ago.

The Leil haSeder is a very special night. There is a saying by tzaddikim that the Leil haSeder gives you a seder for the entire year. If we experience the Leil haSeder properly, it's a wonderful experience and it can make a revolution within us and in our attachment to Hashem.

What is the main issue of Pesach?

The main issue of everything is Hashem and His world. HaKodosh Boruch Hu created a world and the main part of the world is the humanity in the world. On Rosh Hashonoh we say, "Zeh hayom techillas ma'asechoh -- zikoron leyom rishon" (This is the first day of creation). Really Rosh Hashonoh -- the first of Tishrei -- was the sixth day of Creation; Heaven and Earth were created on the 25th of Elul. However, Rosh Hashonoh was the creation of man, and man is really the center of everything. If you have a world without humanity, it's really not a world, it's nothing -- it's like decorating a wedding hall without any chosson and kallah. Thus we say about the day that man was created that it is the first day of Creation.

The creation of the Odom in the basic physical way was on Rosh Hashonoh, but the creation of Odom in the spiritual way was Pesach: "HaChodesh hazeh lochem rosh chodoshim--rishon hu lochem lechodshei hashonoh." (Shemos 12:2) The real Odom is Am Yisroel and the birth of this Odom was on Pesach.

Until then, the Jewish people were in Mitzrayim and it wasn't just an exile of a people within a people, like the later exiles in Bovel, Rome, or today. As the posuk says: "Goy bekerev goy" (Devorim 4:34). "Kerev" is like krovayim -- in other words the Jewish people were like in a pregnancy within Mitzrayim. In a pregnancy "uber yerech imo," the fetus is like one of the limbs of the mother. The Jewish people were not a separate people in Mitzrayim. Even though the Jewish people were noticeable because they did not change their names, clothing, and language, they were not a real people yet.

The birth of the Jewish people was on Pesach. And that's why Leil haSeder and Pesach as a whole is a very delicate time and an extremely exciting time. Just like in a hospital you have a lot of machinery, on the Leil Haseder we have matzos, carpas, moror, arba cosos and charoses because this is the night of the birth.

"Leil shimurim" (Shemos 12:42) means that Hashem was waiting for this night, because this was the night that Hashem finally had the object of Creation. And the same thing happens every single Leil Pesach, as the posuk continues: "Shimurim lekol bnei Yisroel ledorosom" -- for all generations this is the night that the Jewish people as a whole and everyone of us in particular becomes reborn, when we can become new people and make major changes.

When an Odom is born in the physical sense, Hashem does everything. But this night we are partners with what is happening, so we need to understand what is happening, and what we are trying to build.

Let's start with the structure of the Odom. The gemora learns (Niddah 31a): "Sheloshoh shutfin yesh be'Odom: HaKodosh Boruch Hu, ve'oviv, ve'imo." There are three main partners in the Odom: the father gives the child the "white" parts, which are the skeleton and the skin, the mother gives the "red" parts, the blood, the hair, and the black of the eyes, and HaKodosh Boruch Hu gives the neshomoh.

Corresponding to these three elements the Leil haSeder has three major mitzvos: matzoh, arba cosos and sippur yetzias Mitzrayim. Matzoh is from flour and flour is white, so this is the portion of the father. Wine by nature is red (lechatchilah we use red wine) and that is the part of the mother. The spiritual part is Hashem's part, which is the sippur yetzias Mitzrayim.

The skeleton which is the structure of the man. Without bones there is just a lump of meat. The height and the structure of the body is its bones and skin. Chazal say that a baby cannot know its abba or ima until it eats a kezayis of grain. The gemora says this is referring to the Eitz Hada'as which was wheat. Just like a child recognizes his father and mother from his bread, our recognition of Hashem comes from eating matzoh, which is called "nahamo demehemnusa" -- bread of emunah. We are baalei emunah because this quality is renewed every year on the Leil haSeder when we eat matzoh.

Basic emunah is the fundamental structure of the person. A person without emunah is also like a lump of meat. He has no connection to what can truly be called "humanity."

So matzoh represents the father's contribution, the structure -- which is emunah. And when we eat matzoh on Leil haSeder it makes an explosion of emunah into us.

Blood is a symbol of burning, exciting life. That is the idea of the arba cosos: a shiroh to Hashem. When we do the mitzvos of the night it should be with hislahavus, with a flame. The Odom we are creating should be a living entity and the real concept of living means bubbling with excitement about Hashem.

Then there is Hashem's part. Even with basic emunah and even with excitement about the emunah -- it's much more. "Ve'afilu kulonu chachomim, kulonu nevonim, kulonu zekeinim, kulonu yod'im es haTorah, mitzvoh oleinu lesapeir beyetzi'as Mitzrayim" -- to go deeper into it and to understand it better and to get more understanding and excitement. That is Hashem's part, which is the neshomoh that we add to this Odom.

Let us try to understand the matzohs a little deeper. When we talk about Odom, about humanity, what exactly do we mean? In science they call Odom an intelligent animal. We don't believe that. An Odom is a completely different creation. We live in a world where there is a Shomayim and Oretz; Elokim is in the Shomayim and we are in the Oretz. (Hashem is all over, but Hashem is expressed as being in the Shomayim way above us and detached from us.) The true definition of Odom is a creature with the talent and capacity to connect Shomayim and Oretz, which means to connect with Hashem.

The posuk says: "Vayehi ho'Odom lenefesh chayoh" (Bereishis 2:7), which the Targum interprets as: "Leruach memalelo," a spirit that was able to speak. Dibur is an expression of chibur, of connection, and memalelo means to be able to talk to Hashem, to connect to Hashem. When a person is connecting to Hashem, then he is performing as an Odom. When he's not connecting to Hashem he is like any other beheimoh, even if he is a great mathematician. He is not a ruach memalelo, a speaker with Hashem.

When are you connected with Hashem? When you talk to Hashem and you know that Hashem is listening and Hashem knows that you know that He is listening. This connection comes from the sechel because the act of talking doesn't mean anything if you don't know to whom you are talking. You might just be talking to the wall. Odom is a being who possesses a sechel that is able to generate a connection to Hashem. The basis of this connection is called emunah, which means trusting Hashem and being connected to Hashem.

This is matzoh: "Lema'an tizkor es yom tzeischo mei'eretz mitzrayim kol yemei chayecho," (Devorim 16:3). The reason that we ate matzoh in Mitzrayim was because Mitzrayim really was a seminar to teach us emunah -- lema'an teida ki ani Hashem bekerev ho'oretz (Shemos 8:18). Mitzrayim was a place with a tremendous amount of gilui Shechinoh.

This also explains why the matzoh is d'oraysa, while the arba cosos are a derabbonan. The basic emunah is the basic structure of the Odom itself, and d'oraysa is commanded by Hashem Himself. The arba cosos which are the excitement cannot be a d'oraysa, since excitement has to come from within us and to be generated from inside. Hence they are derabbonan, meaning something that the Jewish people generated, something we are excited about.

We eat the matzohs -- motzi, matzoh, korech and afikomen -- and then we are done, but the arba cosos span the Seder from beginning to end. Why? Because matzoh is the structure, and once the structure is there, it's standing. The arba cosos are the excitement and there is not just one specific point in the Leil haSeder or in one's life where he has to get excited. Throughout his life he is supposed to be excited about Hashem, and that's why every part of the seder has to be with a cos -- kiddush with excitement, the Haggadah with excitement, bircas hamozone with excitement, Hallel with excitement -- the whole Seder with excitement from beginning to the end.

Unfortunately, there is a common mistake to think that becoming excited is just for tzaddikim but not for us because we have no real connection to the Leil haSeder because, we think, we are very small and very detached. Never is this mistake so wrong as on Leil haSeder (though it can damage our performance of many other mitzvos).

The truth is that the Leil haSeder is really above all of us, and even above great tzadikkim. Why? Before yetzias Mitzrayim, the Jewish people were sunk in the 49 Shaarei Tumah (the tumah was not immorality, because in this the Jewish people then were 100 percent pure; rather the issue then was avodah zora and the appreciation of the Oneness of Hashem) and they were not ready for the light that Hashem opened up to them on the Leil haSeder. However, because of the danger that they might become so attached to Mitzrayim that they would not be able to get out, HaKodosh Boruch Hu took them out bechipozone, and opened up their hearts and minds to an appreciation and to a closeness that was way above their capacities.

And this is what happens to us every year. The night of the seder and the first day of Pesach has this same element of bechipozone, which enables us to understand and appreciate concepts that are way above our heads. After the first day of Pesach we stop saying (full) Hallel, because things start to take on a more normal tone and the beauty and greatness that we received as a present from Hashem fade away. But it all leaves an impression.

After Pesach we rebuild the Odom, but now step-by-step until Shavuous, when we declare: "Atoh hor'eiso loda'as ki Hashem hu ho'Elokim, ein od milevado" -- which is the epitome of the real Odom.

What Hashem does for us on Pesach is to open up in a completely unnatural, miraculous way, the beauties of Matan Torah, even though it's way ahead of us and we haven't gone yet through the Sefiras HaOmer. That is what happened during the first Pesach and that is what happens every year -- and everyone can take advantage of this special seyata deShmaya of Leil Pesach.

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