Beit Midrash

  • Shabbat and Holidays
  • The Seder Night
To dedicate this lesson

Appreciate the small things too!


Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon

At the beginning of Seder Night we eat karpas. The amount of karpas we eat is very small. However, following a day in which we did not eat much at all, even such a small amount is significant, and one is able to appreciate even this small portion!

The prophet Elisha (II Kings 4) was asked to help the wife of one of the prophets whose husband had died, and who was unable to pay her debts to her creditor, who now wanted to seize her two children as slaves:

Now a woman, of the wives of the disciples of the prophets, cried out to Elisha, saying, "Your servant, my husband, has died, and you know that your servant did fear the Lord; and the creditor has come to take my two children for himself as slaves." And Elisha said to her, "What shall I do for you? Tell me what you have in the house." And she said, "Your maidservant has nothing at all in the house except a jug of oil."

Elisha asks the woman what she has in her house. Why is that important? Why does he not help her immediately? Furthermore, the Zohar states that if the woman had said that she had nothing at home, the miracle would not have happened. Why?

The Zohar explains that the prophet required a small amount of oil, because even a miracle needs to be ignited. What is the significance of this idea? One answer is that the Holy One, Blessed be He, does not want to perform miracles by producing something from nothing, and He prefers to maintain, to the greatest extent possible, the normal course of the world. That is why miracles take place only through objects that already exist. Alternatively, we can explain that God demands that a person must exert at least a small amount of effort, and only afterwards does He add His blessing.

We can offer yet another explanation. In order for God to extend His blessing, a person must recognize the good things that he already has. A person needs a jug of oil, small as it may be, for which he can be thankful. If a person does not succeed in seeing the good that he has, it is impossible to grant him an additional blessing, as he would be unable to appreciate it.

We live in a world of great wealth and abundance, thank God. However, sometimes even the most lavish meals are not enough to satisfy us. The Seder night is one of education. Each participant is challenged: do you want to be a free man? Know that there is absolutely nothing to which you are entitled. You need to work for everything, not just receive gifts, and, as a result, you will appreciate everything you receive! One who is unable to appreciate and be thankful for small things will not be entitled to receive anything, and certainly not great blessings.

The Seder night begins with the eating of karpas – a simple portion of vegetable. As is our custom today, this is a sprig that is even smaller than the size of an olive. However, after a full day of eating little and preparing a great deal, even such a small bit of vegetable has significance. We must learn to appreciate a sprig of karpas, even though it is such a small piece. Nothing we receive in the world is self–evident – we have to be thankful for everything!
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