This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
The latest article is posted here once a week. You can search the archive for past articles.
Passover (5760 (2))
In the Seder of Pesech, as well as eating Matza and drinking wine, we read aloud a small pamphlet called the Hagadda.
It begins by telling about four sons. One son is described as wise, one wicked, one simple and one silent. Each has a different question.
The wicked son's question is, (loosely translated) "Isn't this a waste of time?"
The simple son asks, "What is this?
The silent one, whether from shyness or ignorance, can't ask at all.
But the wise son asks a very strange question, and the answer he gets is even stranger.
His question is: "What are all these laws, commandments and statutes that G-d commanded you?"
We could expect such a question coming from the evil or the simple son, but how can a wise son not know what the laws etc. of the Passover night are? And if he asks such a foolish question, why is he called the ‘wise' son.
Also… why does he say, "Commanded ‘YOU'? This son is also Jewish and he also is participating in the Seder, why doesn't he say ‘US'?
Very strange, right?
But the answer given in the Hagadda makes even less sense, and doesn't seem to have any connection to the question at all.
We answer him: "Like the laws of the Pesach; don't eat after the Afikomen." (The Afikomen is a piece of Matza set aside at the beginning of the Seder and the last thing eaten in the meal)
He asked a question about the entire Seder, why answer him only one law about the Afikomen?
The Lubavitch Rebbe answers, that the wise son is wiser than we think; in fact he's a bit too wise. And his question is a very deep and difficult one.
This son is actually so wise and perceptive that he actually sees and senses the spiritual uniqueness of this night.
He knows that every Pesach shines something similar to that first Pesach thousands of years ago; G-d Himself appeared and redeemed His People, Therefore he asks:
"Why do we need such a large number and different types of commandments on this night? Let's enjoy the spirituality; Why all the work?"
Therefore he doesn't say ‘US' but rather 'YOU'.
In other words:
"I, for sure, am not doing anything, I already feel the G-dly revelation!
But YOU…… even if YOU don't feel it; don't you believe that G-d is shining tonight? If so, why are you doing all these commandments and working so hard for something you already have!
So what do we answer him? We say,
"No, my friend! Nothing comes for free. It's true that G-d Himself took us all out of Egypt and tonight is specially blessed.
"But do you know how the Jews merited to such a revelation?
"First we had to do EXACTLY what G-d wanted. The Pesach offering had to be sacrificed and eaten exactly like G-d wants, tens of laws down to the last, seemingly insignificant detail; no eating after the Afikomen (back then it was the Pesach goat or sheep).
And without following all these details there would have been no revelation!"
Another way of saying it is: on Pesach we are not just celebrating what we RECEIVED (and what we are receiving).
We are celebrating the fact that we could GIVE something to G-d! That G-d made us active PARTNERS with HIM!!
I want to bring an example from a story I heard from a very dear friend of mine (His name was Azriel Wasserman and he tragically passed away 25 years ago).
In New York City there is a thing called ‘released hour' once a week (I think it was Wednesdays) that any child who wants to, can get released from public school one hour early and hear a class about his religion from a priest or a Rabbi etc.
This friend of mine was a very gifted and devoted teacher and he was one of the volunteers that gave such classes. He loved teaching and his once-a-week pupils loved him.
The Wednesday before Passover he met with his class and he made a ‘practice' Seder for them; Kool-aid and crackers were in the place of wine and Matzot and the kids and he really enjoyed it. (The reader must remember that these children were, for the most part, from totally non-observant homes)
The next time he met with his class was next week in the ‘intermediate days' of the holiday after the Seder night (Passover is seven days long, but only the first and last days are a full holidays), and he noticed that two of the pupils, two little girls, kept falling asleep in class.
He asked them several times if they felt O.K. and after answering each time that it was nothing, they finally hinted that they wanted to speak with him privately after the class.
"Please don't tell anyone what we are telling you now" the older sister begged after all the other children left, "We have to tell you, though. Do you promise that you won't tell?"
While she was speaking, her younger sister was watching her but now both of them, were looking up at him with wide almost pleading eyes.
He stared at them for a few seconds and he nodded and said, "I promise".
The girls looked at each other one more time and the older one began the story, her little sister alternately looking at her and then at the teacher.
"Well…you remember that last week you made for us a practice Seder Pesach, right?
"Well if you remember, my sister asked you why are we doing all this and eating all these different things.
"And you said because that is what G-d wants.
"And also to remind us how G-d is very very good because He took us out of Egypt… Right?"
He was nodding his head in agreement.
"Well, that day we went home and told our mom what you said, and that we want to make a Seder the night of Passover just like you showed us and our mom sort of liked the idea.
"But our dad didn't. Our dad is not Jewish, so when we asked him he got really mad and said no. Then, when I asked him why, he got even madder and said that if we even talk about it again he would really give us a spanking.
"Then he went over to mommy and started really yelling ‘cause he thought that she told us to ask, and he said other really angry things and we got real scared.
"But afterwards my sister and me talked alone, and we decided that if G-d said to do it, we are going to do it. So we figured out a plan. We took money from our piggy bank and on the way back from school we went to the store.
"We bought two bottles of grape juice one day, and the next day we bought a box of matzas and the next day we took some lettuce from the refrigerator. And everything we hid in the basement.
"Then on the night of Passover instead of going to sleep we just pretended to be asleep.
"After mom and dad were really asleep and it was already like one in the morning, we got out of bed, and lit a flashlight, and we snuck down the stairs into the basement. We were really scared because the stairs are creeky, and we were afraid that dad would wake up.
"And in the basement it's really dark and scary, we even saw a rat down there once!
"But we made it down stairs and we took out the matza and the grape juice and everything.
"Then we lit two candles, and turned off the flashlight … and then we made …..
……….a secret Passover Seder!
"We did everything just like you said. We ate the matza and drank the grape juice, everything. And then we snuck back up and went to sleep.
"And nobody knows.
"Then, you know what we did the next night?
"We did the same thing over again!!
"But the next night we weren't so scared, and we even laughed once because my sister made funny faces". They looked at each other and smiled a little.
"That is why we're so tired today" she continued. "But you won't tell anyone will you? If dad finds out he'll break our bones!" They looked at each other and then back at their teacher.
He promised once again, they said good-bye and after they left he closed the door, sat down in the teacher's chair and started to cry.
"I don't know if I have the courage to do the same thing that they did." He told me later, "they really put me in my place."
That is what we celebrate on Passover, not just that HaShem saved and helped us, but even more, that we began to serve Him.
This was the main goal of Moshe, as he repeated over and over to Pharaoh "Let my people go that they serve me."
And this will be the main goal of the Moshiach who will rebuild the Holy Temple and bring all the Jews to the highest level of service possible.
An example of this is the Lubavitch Rebbe whose entire life's work is only to bring all the Jewish people to act, speak, and think Jewish.
And eventually the entire world, billions of non-Jews as well, will realize how much G-d loves them and will fulfill what it says in the end of the Alenu prayer
"The entire world will recognize and know that G-d is the king."
It all depends on us! One more good deed, word or even thought can bring a Happy and Kosher Pesech…….
With Moshiach NOW!
Copyright © 1999-2018 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.