Thursday, March 29, 2018



                    During his youth, Rabbi Yisroel Gustman zt’l[1] was a student of Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grozdenski zt’l. On a number of occasions, Rabbi Gustman had the privilege of accompanying his Rebbe on walks through the forest. During their walks they would converse about Torah issues.
                   One time during such a walk, Rabbi Chaim Ozer suddenly stopped and pointed to a blade of grass. He instructed Rav Gustman to study it carefully. He then explained that a person with no other food can survive for long periods of time by eating that type of grass. On a second occasion while they were walking, Rabbi Chaim Ozer pointed to a second tree and again noted said that one can survive for a long time by only eating the leaves from that tree.
                    It was very uncharacteristic for Rav Chaim Ozer to interrupt their Talmudic discussion for any reason, certainly for botanical knowledge.
A few years later, during the second World War, Rabbi Gustman joined a band of partisans who hid in the forest all day, and emerged at night to shoot at the Nazis. At certain points, he and his comrades had no food, and were only able to survive by eating those edible grasses and leaves that Rav Chaim Ozer had showed him.
                    Many years later someone walked by the home of Rabbi Gustman in Yerushalayim and saw the elderly respected Rabbi watering, planting, and seeding the garden in front of his home. When asked why he was so busy with his garden, Rabbi Gustman replied that it was his way of expressing hakaras hatov (appreciation) to the plants for protecting him during the war years.

                    . The majestic Seder table Seder has an air of regal beauty. But all of the exterior beauty pales in comparison to the main focus of the night, the unique mitzvah of ‘Sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim - to recount the story of the exodus.’ About this beloved mitzvah, the Haggadah itself proclaims, וכל המרבה לספר ביציאת מצרים הרי זה משובח - Whoever elaborates about the story of the exodus is praiseworthy.”     
                    Maharal[2] takes issue with the concept of elaborating on the story of the exodus and praising G-d ceaselessly on Seder night. The Gemara[3] relates that a man was once praying and lauding G-d with many lavish expressions, “The Great One, the Strong One, the Awesome One, the Courageous One, etc.” When the man completed his prayers, Rabbi Chaninah who was standing nearby asked him, “Have you finished relating the praises of your Master? It is a disgrace for a mortal to try to begin to relate the praises of G-d. This is analogous to a billionaire who is praised for being a wealthy millionaire, for what we know of G-d’s greatness doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the extent of His praises. It is only permitted for us to state the praises we say in our prayers because the Sages have instructed us to say those specific ones. But to say anything more is improper and, in fact, will have an adverse effect.” 
                    If so, how can it be permitted, and even praiseworthy, to embellish the praises of G-d on Seder night?
                    Maharal explains that the mitzvah of Sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim on Seder night is not merely to praise G-d for the miracles, but rather to express personal gratitude for the exodus.
At the conclusion of Maggid we state: “One is obligated to view himself as if he is going out of Egypt”. The exodus is not a tale of the past, but is an experience we relive each year. Therefore, it behooves us to elaborate on the myriad miracles and salvation that occurred. If someone does a tremendous kindness for another, there is no limit to the appreciation he can express. On Pesach, G-d not only redeemed us from physical bondage, but He also saved us from spiritual bondage. Seder night marks not only the end of our exile in Egypt but also the commencement of our quest to develop our national identity as the Chosen Nation.
Unlike any other time of year, when it is forbidden to praise G-d in our own way, on Seder night the ‘floodgates of praise’ are unleashed and our mouths incessantly speak, laud, praise, and thank G-d in our own way, because everyone has their own unique connection and reasons to be thankful for the redemption.

One would think that the Haggadah should include the text of the first few parshios in Chumash Shemos that describe in vivid detail the whole story of Klal Yisroel’s descent into exile, the bitter servitude, and the ultimate redemption. One would think that the core of the Haggadah would be the recitation of these parshios with their many commentaries, especially focusing on the Ten Plagues.
But this is not the case. In fact, at the heart of ‘Maggid’ we quote the verses that the Torah commands a farmer to recite when bringing his bekurim (first fruits) to the Bais Hamikdash[4]. It is specifically these verses that we expand upon and speak about. What is the connection between bekurim and Sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim?
The mitzvah of bekurim is to be an expression of gratitude. A farmer toils throughout the summer months in his field, plowing, seeding, reaping, pruning, etc. One can only imagine his immense joy when he sees the first ‘fruits of his labor’ sprouting forth. He feels a tremendous sense of accomplishment and pride from those fruits.[5] Yet the farmer takes those fruits directly to the Bais Hamikdash symbolizing his understanding that he owes all of his accomplishments to G-d. The bekurim were brought up to Yerushalayim in expensive baskets as the farmer walked with a whole entourage. Bands played music and wherever the procession went people would stop to sing and dance with the farmer and praise G-d for all the good He constantly grants. 
    The offering of bekurim was an inspirational event that infused all - especially the farmer - with a joyous reverence for G-d. The climax of the offering was when the farmer arrived in the Bais Hamikdash and, after the Kohain ritually waved the bikurim, the farmer stated the verses of gratitude to G-d commencing with Lavan’s efforts to destroy our forefather Yaakov, continuing with the whole ordeal of our exile and redemption, and concluding with our being granted Eretz Yisroel as our holy homeland so that now he had the opportunity to work the land and produce its holy fruits.
Therefore, it is apropos that the crux of Sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim is our repetition and elaboration on the verses said by one who brings his bekurim because both Sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim and bekurim are expressions of uninhibited gratitude to G-d.

During bentching (Barech) on Seder night, it is customary to recite a unique prayer:הרחמן הוא ינחילנו ליום שכולו טוב ליום שכולו ארוך ליום שצדיקים יושבים ועטרותיהם בראשיהם ונהנים מזיו השכינה ויהיה חלקנו עמהם - May the merciful One cause us to inherit a day of complete goodness, a day which is unending, a day when the righteous sit with their crowns on their heads and bask in the splendor of the Shechinah, and may our portions be among them.”
What is the meaning behind this prayer?
Immediately following the Torah’s commanding about the bekurim the pasuk states that G-d has commanded all these mitzvos, “To make you supreme over all the nations that He has made, for renown, and for splendor, and so that You will be a holy nation to Hashem, your G-d, as He spoke.”[6]
Ba’al HaTurim comments: “This is to say, that when Klal Yisroel praise and laud G-d it is for them the greatest of splendor, as Chazal say that in the future G-d will place on the head of every tzaddik the crown that the Tzaddik himself constructed with his prayers…”
Praising G-d merits the adornment of a crown in the next world. Therefore, on Seder night when we are praising G-d without restraint, we pray that the righteous be worthy of those crowns and that we too should merit them through our Sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim on this night.[7] 
This concept is clearly enumerated in the Rambam’s Sefer Hamitzvos: “The 157th mitzvah is our commandment to recount the exodus from Egypt on the fifteenth night of Nisan at the beginning of the night, according to the expression of the speaker. The more one adds and expounds on retelling all that G-d did for us and how He exacted revenge from the Egyptians for oppressing and enslaving us and the more one praises Him for all that He has done for us in His infinite kindness, the better. This is the explanation of what we say in the Haggadah, “Whoever elaborates on the story of the exodus is praiseworthy.”  
In Mishnah Torah[8] the Rambam adds, “…The mitzvah is to expound on the verses of ‘Arami oved avi’ (i.e. the verses stated by one who brings bekurim) and anyone who adds and lengthens his discussion in expounding these verses is praiseworthy.”

With this in mind we can understand why Hallel is divided into two distinct sections during the Seder. The first section comprising the first two paragraphs is recited at the conclusion of Maggid, while the remaining majority is recited following bentching.
The first two chapters of Hallel describe the trek of a downtrodden nation suddenly raised to newfound freedom. These opening verses describe in beautiful detail the grace and beauty that can be found in praising G-d.
The remainder of Hallel however, seems like an anomaly. It does not merely contain praise, hymnal singing or thanksgiving. Rather, it contains petitions beautifully interwoven with heartfelt thanksgiving. The remainder of Hallel describes a free people delivered and liberated, yet vulnerable and defenseless. “Not for our sake Hashem…but for Your sake give glory…”, “Please Hashem for I am Your servant…”, “Sorrow and despair have overtaken me, and I call out to G-d”, “Please G-d, save please!”
Why is this Hallel at all?
In truth, the second section of Hallel is as vital as the first. If G-d saved us and had given us all we need to be independently secure in the future, we wouldn’t need to pray to Him anymore. Therefore, after stating that there is nothing greater than praising G-d and mentioning his miraculous salvation, we proclaim that despite all He has done for us until now, we continue to need Him during every moment of our lives. That proclamation that we still need G-d is, in fact, the ultimate expression of praise to G-d.
The mitzvah of Sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim was exclusively dedicated to praising G-d and expressing our gratitude to Him. Therefore, the opening verses of Hallel that are solely expressions of praise are part and parcel of Sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim.
The remainder of Hallel which contain a combination of praise and supplication is only recited over the fourth cup of wine, which symbolizes Klal Yisroel’s sojourns beyond the redemption from Egypt.
The night of Pesach must fill us with an appreciation not only of the miracles of the exodus for which we continue to be grateful today but also for the daily miracles we experience constantly. For our lives, which are committed to Your power and for our souls that are entrusted to You.”

“A day when the righteous sit with their crowns on their heads”
“Whoever elaborates about the story of the exodus is praiseworthy!”

Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW
Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead
Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – Heichal HaTorah
Principal – Ohr Naftoli- New Windsor

[1] (1908-1991); Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Netzach Yisrael. Before the war he was the youngest dayan in the court of Rav Chaim Ozer Grozdenski zt’l
[2] Gevuros Hashem chapter 1
[3] Berochos 33b
[4] Devorim (26:5-8)
[5] It is analogous to the first dollar one earns in a new business that people often hang on their wall.
[6] Devorim 26:19
[7] Heard from my Rebbe, Rabbi Yitzchok Heimowitz
[8] Chometz Umatzah 7:4


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