Shabat Pesach

April 27th, 2024

19th of Nisan 5784


The Bitter Exile and the Maror

Rabbi David Chananya Pinto

It is stated (Shemot 12:18), "In the first [month], on the fourteenth day of the month in the evening, you shall eat matzot." Chazal say (Mechilta of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai there) and it is also ruled as halachah (Rambam hilchot Chametz U'matzah, perek 6) that it is a positive commandment of the Torah to eat matzah on the eve of the fifteenth of Nissan, because the Torah determines that it is obligatory.

However, with regard to the eating of maror, the Rambam rules (Chametz U'Matzah perek 7) that maror in our times is a Rabbinical commandment. A reason for the difference is because maror is really supposed to be eaten together with the korban Pesach, and since today we do not have a Beit Hamikdash, and we do not bring a korban Pesach, therefore we only make a remembrance for the korban. There are those who question, then why is the eating of the matzah a Torah commandment? Why is it not Rabbinical like maror? After all, it is stated (Shemot 12:8), "And on this night, they shall eat the flesh, roasted over the fire, and matzot; with bitter herbs they shall eat it." Since there is no korban Pesach, and maror is Rabbinical, then also the eating of the matzah should be Rabbinical.

The answer is that since there is an explicit pasuk in the Torah commanding us to eat matzah, the eating of matzah is not contingent upon the korban Pesach. And, like the opinion of the Rambam, it is a mitzvah in itself. My explanation on the matter is that the main part of Pesach is the eating of the matzah, just as the Festival is actually called "The Festival of Matzot." Matzot are eaten throughout the seven days of the Festival, as it is stated (Shemot 12:15), "For a seven-day period shall you eat matzot." And although the main mitzvah of eating matzah is only on the first night, as on Sukkot the main mitzvah is eating a kezayit on the first night of Sukkot, in any case, one must continue eating in the Sukkah throughout the Festival, as it says (Vayikra 23:42), "For a seven day period you shall dwell in booths."

In other words, a person is not obligated to eat all seven days in the sukkah, but if he wants to eat something, he must eat it only in the sukkah. Similarly, on Pesach, a person does not have to eat anything throughout Pesach, but if he wants to eat something, he may eat only matzah and not bread, G-d forbid. Specifically, matzot must be eaten throughout the seven days, because the matzot remind us of the meager bread our ancestors ate in Egypt during their slavery.

Therefore, the Torah commanded that eating chametz is prohibited on Pesach throughout all seven days, and one must eat matzot during the seven days of the Festival. Moreover, the mitzvah of eating matzah is stated explicitly in the Torah several times, and therefore eating matzah is a distinct Torah commandment that applies to all generations.

This is not the case with eating maror, since the korban Pesach was brought only on the fourteenth day of Nissan and not on all the following seven days. It is forbidden to eat it in impurity, it is also eaten on satiety only on the eve of the fifteenth of Nissan, and it is prohibited to leave over for the next day. Since today we do not have the Beit Hamikdash to atone for us, and we are all in a state of impurity because we do not have the ashes of the Red Heifer to purify us, we do not bring the korban Pesach. We do not find that eating maror is practiced throughout all the seven days, but rather it is like the korban Pesach, eaten only on the first night. We are told (Shemot 12:8), "They shall eat the flesh on that night – roasted over the fire – and matzot; with maror they shall eat it." Thus, maror was meant to be eaten together with the korban Pesach. Since today we do not have a korban Pesach, the maror is only a Rabbinical mitzvah.

When the Beit Hamikdash was in existence, Hillel the Elder would make a sandwich of matzah and maror and eat them together, to fulfill the command, "They shall eat it with matzot and maror." It seems that only Hillel practiced this custom.

Why? Because with Divine inspiration, Hillel already saw the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash and knew that Bnei Yisrael would stop eating the korban Pesach. Therefore, Hillel made a remembrance of the Mikdash, by making a sandwich of the matzah and the maror and eating them together, so that everyone should recall that when the Beit Hamikdash was in existence, they would eat the korban Pesach after eating the matzah and the maror.

This helps us remember the absence of the korban Pesach and leads us to pray to Hashem to rebuild the Beit Hamikdash where we will merit eating from the offerings and from the korban Pesach.


Reality or Dream?

Rabbi Chaim Hagadol was noted for his hospitality. Many guests from all over the world ended up staying in his house. The tzaddik would treat each one with kindness and good cheer. He never turned anyone away for lack of place.

Once, Rabbi Yitzchak Shapiro, a shaliach from Eretz Yisrael, came to Rabbi Chaim’s house. He was an outstanding Torah scholar, whose fame had spread far and wide. Rabbi Chaim went out to greet him and received him cordially, as befit his distinction.

Since it was close to Pesach, Rabbi Shapiro naturally remained in Rabbi Chaim’s house to celebrate the festival and joined him at the Leil Haseder. Suddenly, the members of the family noticed tears flowing from Rabbi Shapiro’s eyes. Rivers of tears fell down his cheeks, accompanied by stifled sobs.

Rabbi Chaim tried to comfort him, but the shaliach continued to cry. “Please, tell us why you are crying and I will try to help you,” Rabbi Chaim told him. “Your pain is our pain. We cannot sit joyfully at the Seder table while you are crying.”

Rabbi Shapiro listened, but continued sobbing. Rabbi Chaim tried once again to calm him down, “Rabbi Shapiro, if you are troubled because you need something, I will try to help you. Why should you spend Leil Haseder crying?”

The shaliach calmed down a bit and began to talk, “I left Eretz Yisrael on my own. Every year, I joyously sit with my family members at the Seder table. When I saw the matzot, wine and the Haggadah, I remembered my family. I do not know how they are doing. Are they happy? Are they distressed that I am not with them? Is everything all right in Eretz Yisrael?”

Rabbi Chaim empathized with his agony and comforted him, “Do not worry. The salvation of Hashem comes speedily, like the blink of an eye. Let us go to my study. I wish to show you something.” The two of them entered Rabbi Chaim’s study, and then Rabbi Chaim said, “Just watch.”

The man peered in the darkness and suddenly he saw clearly in front of his eyes the figures of his family members, sitting around the Seder table, rejoicing in the festival.

After he recovered from the wonderful spectacle of seeing his family, who were hundreds of miles away, his happiness was restored. He left the room with Rabbi Chaim in order to continue the Seder. However, Rabbi Chaim first wanted to confirm that Rabbi Shapiro had fully comprehended the implication of his vision.

“When you return, with Hashem’s help, to Eretz Yisrael, ask your family how they felt at the Seder during your absence and verify that everything you saw in my study, the beautifully set table and festive clothing, was real and not a dream.

In addition, Rabbi Chaim requested, “Please try to recall every detail of what you saw, including the seating order of the family members, how the table was set, and what was on the table. And then after confirming with your family how they fared, send me a letter informing me exactly what they told you.”

At the conclusion of the festival, Rabbi Shapiro bade farewell to Rabbi Chaim, thanking him for his outstanding hospitality, which made him feel like a member of the family. He left Morocco and safely arrived home in Eretz Yisrael. After greeting his family, he asked them how they had fared while he was away and how they had felt on Leil Haseder.

They recounted to him that right after he left, they had been downhearted about being alone. However, when Leil Haseder arrived, they suddenly felt uplifted and celebrated the festival with great joy.

Rabbi Shapiro listened to their account, and his heart filled with joy. He hurried to send a letter with a detailed description to Rabbi Chaim Pinto, as he had promised, emphasizing that everything he had seen in his study had not been a dream, but had actually transpired

(Shenot Chaim).


Up in Flames

Every year, Rabbi Hadan would bake matzot for Pesach on the day before Erev Pesach. The Rav would bake the matzot himself, not relying on anyone else. He customarily practiced an additional stringency of bringing his own utensils for the baking of the matzot, since the kashrut of the matzot was his top priority.

As in every year, Rabbi Hadan arranged with the owner of the matzah bakery, called Ben Uchata, that he would come to bake matzot there a day before Erev Pesach.

On the designated day, Rabbi Hadan arrived with the flour, water, rolling pin, and other necessary equipment for baking matzot. However, he noticed to his surprise, that the oven was already occupied by matzot being baked by someone else.

He was very distressed that the owner of the bakery had violated his agreement allowing him to use the bakery on that day. He was even more disturbed by the fact that his extended family, as well as countless poor people, were depending on him to provide them with matzot for the Leil Haseder, which would commence the following evening.

The Rav approached the owner of the bakery and complained to him. However, Ben Uchata answered him indifferently, “Today it’s very busy here. Maybe the honored Rabbi could come back a different day to bake matzot.”

Rabbi Hadan left the bakery without responding. He had not gone far when, all of a sudden, a fire broke out in the bakery, causing it to go up in flames. The oven, utensils, and all the matzot were burned entirely to the ground.

The order of events made it clear to the owner of the bakery that his offensive treatment of the Torah scholar had cost him dearly. He ran after the Rav and begged forgiveness. In addition, he promised him that from that day on he would always keep his word, no matter what. After Rabbi Hadan pardoned the owner of the bakery, the flames immediately subsided, without leaving any trace of damage at all.

According to eye-witnesses, even the matzot in the oven were not burnt. Such is the power of tzaddikim, the servants of Hashem (Shenot Chaim).

"Pesach" is called so because Hashem jumped over the Jewish houses in Egypt and only smote the Egyptians. The name of the festival can also be allusion to remind us that we too must "jump over" our negative traits, likened to chametz, and intensify our good middot, likened to matzah. This will tranform the festival into one of unity and brotherhood among all Am Yisrael.


When Are the Gates of Heaven Open?

The saintly Rebbe of Kosov, zt"l, the author of Ahavat Shalom, would arouse the whole congregation to pray on leil haseder specifically, and during the entire Festival of Pesach in general, for a prosperous livelihood and abundance, saying that sometimes the lack of abundance occurs because a person only prays for his livelihood on Rosh Hashanah. When praying for life, he also asks for sustenance, but he does not ask for it at other times.

The truth is that on Pesach we are judged in respect to our grain (Rosh Hashanah 16a), thus it is the most opportune time to pray for it. Likewise, on the Festival of Shavuot we are judged in respect to fruit, so we should increase our prayers that quality fruit should grow to delight people.

While praying for spiritual profusion, we must also pray for having the equanimity necessary for dealing with the burden of our livelihood and for success in all matters.


The Delay of the Redemption

The Chafetz Chaim devoted a substantial portion of his day to arousing awareness about the prohibition of lashon hara.

He believed that negligence and ignorance concerning proper speech is one of the main reasons for the lengthiness of our Exile. People let their tongues loose without considering whether it is permissible or perhaps constitutes rechilut or lashon hara. He wrote a comprehensive sefer on the subject, since he felt that lack of clarity regarding the laws of speech is one of the main causes for laxity in this matter.


Tidbits of faith and trust penned by Moreinu v‘Rabbeinu Hagaon Hatzaddik Rabbi David Chananya Pinto, shlita

Freedom from the Yetzer Hara

Pesach is the time of true freedom. This stems from the freedom which our fathers merited in Egypt through wondrous miracles, without which we would not be free today. This is because when Hashem performed the miracles for our fathers in Egypt, He made sure those miracles would influence us and continue to affect us with their holiness because of the sanctity of the original festival and the miracles wrought. When a person is aroused to great happiness, without doubt he will experience something of that same elation of being a free man that our fathers experienced when they left Egypt.

This can be compared to a locomotive pulling dozens of cars. The force of the locomotive is what propels the train forward. Only a fool would think that the car at the end goes by itself, without any help or connection to the locomotive.

Once during the meal on the day following Pesach (Isru Chag), I saw one of the guests looking worried. I told him: Why are you worried? Today is Isru Chag, and we are supposed to rejoice. Did you already forget everything I spoke about yesterday, that we must continue to draw from the sanctity of Pesach, which is considered "Poise'ach – passing over," meaning one must forget all his worries and trust only in Hashem?

I also added: Did you forget that Pesach teaches us adherence to mitzvot, which are like the matzot; hard and tough. This implies that it is not easy to keep them properly, and a man must take the trouble to observe them by subjugating himself totally to Hashem. What is the reason that we eat matzot for seven days? This alludes to the seventy years of man in which he must work to serve Hashem without receiving any reward in this world, as it is stated (Kiddushin 39b), "There is no reward for precepts in this world."

The righteous man replied: This is exactly the reason why I am worried. I am lacking the exalted feeling that I experienced throughout Pesach, and that is why I am downhearted.

When I heard this, I quickly told him: This is the interference of the Yetzer Hara, which wants to bring you to despair "for the sake of Heaven." Then your despair will bring you to doubt your faith, until you will fall entirely into the net of the Yetzer Hara, and you will lose all the faith you achieved on this Festival, so that your gain is offset by your loss.

You should know that Hashem knows that the sanctity of Pesach is so awesome and inspiring that one is liable to feel a great letdown at the end of the Festival. For this very reason, Hashem gave us the mitzvah of counting the Omer immediately following the festival of Pesach. In this way we can continue drawing close to Hashem from Pesach until Shavuot, the time when the Torah was given, which was the purpose of the Exodus. So we find that Hashem told Moshe (Shemot 3:12), "When you take the people out of Egypt, you will worship G-d on this mountain."

This can be compared to a person who enters a brightly lit, beautiful entranceway, from which he will move on to an even more magnificent palace where he will ultimately live. Upon seeing the beauty and luxury of the lobby, he is filled with joy. But suddenly all the lights go out, and he is enveloped in fear because of the darkness that fell upon him. However, in the midst of the darkness, he sees a small candle illuminating the way to the magnificent palace. If he will keep walking to the light of the little candle, he will end up in the longed for dwelling.

The message, of course, is that right after Pesach all the inspiration of the Festival discontinues, and the person feels let down. Therefore, Hashem provided us with a way to continue carrying on in the light of the Festival by counting the Omer until the Festival of Shavuot. Ultimately, through the Torah, a person can arrive on his own to achieving the purpose of Creation — fulfilling Hashem's will.


Why Not Abaye and Rava?

The Haggadah mentions the incident of Rabbi Eliezer, Rabbi Yehoshua, Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah, Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Tarfon, who were gathered in Bnei Brak and were recounting the story of the Exodus the entire night.

This incident follows the phrase, "Whoever elaborates upon the events of the Exodus from Egypt is praiseworthy." Thus, the author of the Haggadah goes on to relate a story about the Tana'im who discussed at length the story of the Exodus.

Many are perplexed. What new lesson does this story come to teach us? Did other Tanna'im not also elaborate on the Exodus? For example, the Amora'im Abaye and Rava also elaborated upon it, as well as the Gaonim, Rishonim, and Achronim. Doesn't every Jew discuss the story of the Exodus well into the night? What is special about this particular account?

A wonderful explanation is given by the gaon Maran Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, zt"l (L'avdo Belaivav Shalem):

On Pesach there is a special opportunity to transform oneself from one extreme to the other.

If we examine the story with the Tanna'im, we will see how a Jew can change radically!

The first Tanna mentioned here is Rabbi Eliezer.

Rabbi Eliezer was the son of a wealthy man. Until the age of twenty-eight he did not learn anything, and did not even know Kriyat Shema or how to recite the Blessing after the Meal. Nevertheless, he grew to become "Rabbi Eliezer HaGadol!"

The second Tanna is Rabbi Tarfon.

In Masechet Kallah it is mentioned that Rabbi Tarfon was enormously wealthy, and the owner of many properties and assets, which normally burdens a person greatly. However, despite his great wealth, he did not engage in anything other than Torah, and grew to be Rabbi Tarfon.

The third Tanna — Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananya.

About him the Gemara states (Berachot 28a) that Rabban Gamliel came to visit him and saw that the walls of his house were black. He said to him: "From the walls of your house it is apparent that you are a blacksmith."

The poverty was apparent in his walls. Black walls! Today even the poorest family have painted walls, just maybe they are dirty. But the walls of Rabbi Yehoshua's house were black because of his extreme poverty. Yet, despite his trials of dire poverty, he grew to become Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananya

The fourth Tanna — Rabbi Akiva.

As we all know, until the age of forty, Rabbi Akiva did not read or learn. Everyone mocked him. His wife suggested that he go learn the letters of the aleph-bet in the Talmud Torah. But he told her, "I'm ashamed to learn with small children."

What did his wife do in her great wisdom? She took a donkey that had a dent in its back, laid on it some earth, and planted all kinds of vegetation. She took the donkey with the plants to the street and all were astounded, "Have you ever seen a donkey with a portable garden?"

On the first day, all the neighbors came out to observe the amusing sight. On the second day only half the people came to watch, but on the third day no one came out to look. Thus Rachel taught him:

The same will happen with you when you will go to learn in the Talmud Torah. On the first day everyone will laugh at you, on the second day less, on the third day less, and after a week, they will become accustomed to the situation and not laugh at all."

Now, even a person who begins learning Torah as a young child barely finishes Shas (Talmud). But to know the entire Bavli and Yerushalmi, when at forty he could not read nor write — what chance did he have?

However, Rabbi Akiva — against all odds — grew to enormously lofty heights, until he achieved such greatness, that Moshe Rabbeinu was jealous of him!

The last Tanna — Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya.

In our time, in order to be a member of the Moetzet Gedolei HaTorah, one must be at least seventy-five years old.

And yet, all the leaders of the generation, the holy Tanna'im, the great sages Rabbi Yehoshua, Rabbi Akiva and Rabban Gamliel, were all candidates to be the Nasi (President). But, not one of them was appointed to be the Nasi of the Jewish nation. Whom did they take as a Nasi? A young man who was only eighteen years old — Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah. Against all odds, Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah received the honorable appointment.

This is the lesson that the author of the Haggadah teaches us: Do you want to hear an "incident?"

Learn from all these Tanna'im how you should elaborate on the story of the Exodus. And if you will ask, from where did we acquire the strength to get out from the forty-ninth level of impurity and within fifty days to reach the lofty heights of receiving the Torah? This we can learn from the "incident" of specifically these Tanna'im, whose situation seemed impossible, yet they grew to exalted heights.


Hevrat Pinto • 32, rue du Plateau 75019 Paris - FRANCE • Tél. : +331 42 08 25 40 • Fax : +331 42 06 00 33 • © 2015 • Webmaster : Hanania Soussan