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Beit Midrash שבת ומועדים ליל הסדר


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The Rambam says that one hasn’t fulfilled the mitzvah of having a seder unless he has discussed the miracles that took place in Egypt. Along the same lines the Arizal says the word pesach can be read peh sach (the mouth speaks). It is incumbent on the leader of the seder to discuss the miracles that Hashem performed for us at the seder table. It is also important for the leader of the seder to point out that although at the seder we discuss miracles that are out of the ordinary it is still called a seder which means order. The reason for this is that as Jews we believe nature is only a way Hashem runs the world. Nature is not a force by itself and therefore miracles and natural laws are no different as they are both governed by Hashem. We demonstrate this fact by calling it a seder which shows that the miracles are also in the order of Hashems doinds just like nature is.
Lets look at some of the miracles that took place in Egypt and try to get a fuller understanding of how and why they happened.

Ten Plagues
The most famous of the miracles is the ten plagues. The question regarding the ten plagues is why did Hashem choose these specific ten? Obviously everything happens for a reason so why did Hashem choose these ten plagues to bring upon the Egyptions? The Maharal gives a classic answer and says that the ten plagues mirror reversely the ten sayings of creation. The first of the sayings is in the beginning the last of the plagues is killing of FIRST born, second of the sayings is let there be light and the ninth of the plagues is darkness and so on. The plagues were meant to fix the ten sayings of creation that the Egyptions had perverted.

Splitting of Sea
The splitting of the sea is also a major miracle that Hashem did for the Jewish people. It is important to point out that the sea did not split until Nachshon ben Aminadav of the tribe of Judah walked into the sea and it wasn’t until the water reached his neck that the sea split. This teaches us a very important lesson. As long as we do what we have to do (have emunah and put in self effort) then we don’t need to worry about the outcome, Hashem will take care of the best. This is a classic example of effort and trust.
Just as before we looked for the deeper meaning of the ten plagues lets try to delve deeper into the meaning of crossing the sea. Water in Judaism represents birth. This is the deeper meaning of going to the mikveh. Mikveh is a rebirth. Just as when a baby is in its mothers stomach it is surrounded by water so too when we go to the mikveh we are being reborn. Water always takes the shape of the object that is put in it and becomes one with it thus the coming out of the water represents birth in which the baby is separated from the mother much the same way we are separated from the water as we go to the mikveh. It is interesting to note that water is the only liquid whose density is higher in the liquid phase than the solid phase. Thereby it closely surrounds us in the mikveh. Incidently, the birth of the world is also similar to the mikveh concept and the birth of a baby. It says in Bereishit that the waters gathered and the land was revealed. Now we see that something coming through water represents a new birth. What is the connection of this with the splitting of the sea? For the Jewish people the going through the sea represented the new birth of a nation. Before then we were slaves let alone a nation and now we are redeemed and finally been called a nation represented by the going through the sea. It is also noteworthy to point out that according to the midrash the water split into twelve parts, one for each tribe and the waters surrounded us from the sides all the way to the top. The top was not open to the sky contrary to common belief based on the movie of the Ten Commandments. This is critical because as we said before the birth of the world, the birth of the baby, and the going through the mikveh all required that the object or person be surrounded by water from all sides.

Another important miracle that took place for us on our journey from Egypt to Israel is the miracle of the mann. The mann was the food which the bnai yisrael ate while in the desert for forty years. The question raised here is why did Hashem have to provide us with this kind of food? Why couldn’t he have just provided us with "regular" food? The answer is that food is a very important concept in Judaism. The food that we eat becomes a part of us and for this nation which was going through a purification process it was necessary that the food be on a higher level too. In English we say you are what you eat. This is true in Judaism as well. However in Judaism it is not only true of the physical aspects of the food that is eaten, it is also true of the spiritual things that the physical food represents. As mentioned before, Matzah represents humility, unity, and freedom and by eating it we hope to make it a part of us both physically and spiritually on Pesach. Incidently, this is one of the reasons that we eat the different foods on Rosh Hashana as well. So this year when it comes time to eat the matzah we should have in mind all of the non-physical things that matzah represents and try and make that a part of us. Similarly we should try to refrain and stay away from the things that are represented by chametz (pride, wasting time of inspiration, laziness etc.) and burn them out from our physical, spiritual and intellectual entities as well.
Another thing we should keep in mind about the mann that ties it together with the splitting of the sea is the concept of emuna (faith). As mentioned before the sea split only when Nachshon ben Aminadav had the emuna to walk into the sea. Similarly the mann was given everyday and it was commanded not to save any of it for the next day. The Emuna that Hashem will provide the mann was a major lesson of the mann for the Jewish people. Anyone who held onto extra mann for the next day was only disappointed when he saw that it was spoiled already. It should also be noted that on Friday there was double mann for Shabbat ( this is why we say Hamotzi on two pieces of Challa). This was also a lesson to teach us that we will not lose anything from keeping Shabbat. In fact working on Shabbat is like holding onto extra mann which represents lack of emuna and even lack of belief in Hashem. It says in the gemara that it is determined on rosh hashana how much money a person makes. By working on Shabbat he does not earn more therefore working is a double loss (he is losing rest and disobeying a commandment of the Torah). As a great Rabbi once put it, a person who works extra (working on Shabbat, working beyond that which he needs to live) is like a person who wants to pay extra taxes. Therefore, we must strengthen our emunah and keep only the mann that is ours by keeping the holidays, Shabbat, and give maser (10% of income to tzedaka) so that we will not be holding onto mann which will become spoiled (lose money for hasbeh shalom medical reasons, court cases, accidents etc.).

Staff and Snake
Hashem told Moshe to drop his staff and it turned into a snake. The midrash says that Hashems name was on the staff of Moshe. Hence when one lets go of Hashem then evil (represented by the snake as in Bereishit) comes into the world. However, as long as we hold onto Hashem the staff remains a staff and there is no room for evil. The snake that Moshe saw was not simply a snake it was all the evil in the world and that’s why it says that Moshe became afraid. He thought there was no way to fight so much evil. However, Hashem told him to pick it up and it became a staff again. This also represents the concept of teshuva where one can return the snake( the evil created in the world by his actions) into the staff (G-dliness).
It should also be noted that contrary to common belief the staff of Moshe ate the staffs of the Egyptions. It was not his snake that ate their snakes. In light of the above explanation if it was that his snake ate their snake it would mean that one evil ate another. However, it says in the Torah that his STAFF ate their STAFFS and hence showed that Hashem (Moshe’s staff with his name on it) is one and all their gods (represented by their staffs) are superficial. Another example of why the movie Ten Commandments should not be relied upon! As a side note in the movie Moshe is the only one who hears the voice of G-d wheras it states explicitly in the Torah that everyone heard him. This is the major difference between our religion and every other religion. No other religion can claim that their entire nation witnessed G-d. Also no other religion can claim that they started with the belief of three million people. All the other religions started with the belief of a few people who gradually turned to many. One person’s testimony can be false but for three million peoples testimony to be false is highly unlikely. Another critical point the movie, Ten Commandments, missed!

Lashon Hara and Tzaraat
Before going to Pharoah Hashem gave Moshe three signs. One was that he drop his staff and it turns to a snake, the second was that he should put his staff in water and it become blood and the third was that he should put his hand under his bossom and it became tzarat. The questionis why didn’t Moshe show the last sign to the Egyptions? The answer is that in the pasuk it Hashem says to Moshe that this shall ba a sign for YOU. Right before Hashem gave him these signs Moshe said lashon Hara about the Jewish people and tzaraat as we know comes as a sign upon someone who says lashon hara. It shuld be noted that the staff also turned into a snake which is been the representative of lashon hara for all time. The snake in its nature shows that a loose tongue ( a snake always has its tongue out) is poison. The parshiyot read at the time of pesach talk about tzaraat. Perhaps a reason for this is that on Pesach we are so careful what goes into our mouth and forget to think about what comes out of our mouth. The Rabbis say that speaking is like shooting an arrow once it is shot you cant take it back. Lashon hara has its roots in the depths of the holiday of Pesach as well. As we know the going down to Mitzrayim started with the selling of Yosef and Yosef was sold because he spoke lashon hara about his brothers. Hence we see that the entire time we spent in mitzrayim was a result of speaking lashon hara. On Pesach we eat matzah which as mentioned before represents humbleness and unity. Unity has never and will never go hand in hand with lashon hara. Therefore it is vital on Pesach to burn also the chametz of lashon hara from our character traits.
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