Appetizers for the Passover Holiday
Excerpted and Translated from the the Teachings of Rabbi Gershon Steinberg ztz"l
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben Chaim ztz"l
The Influence of the Seder Night
It is told in the Gemara about Rabbi Yehuda bar Ila'i, that he would have a headache from drinking the four cups of wine on the night of the Seder, from Passover until Shavuot; and this was something to wonder at, that every time he would have a headache, at exactly the same season from Passover until Shavuot. They explained this from a Mussar (ethical) point of view, that the meaning of this is that the influence of the night of the Seder needs to extend until Shavuout because that is its end-point and purpose, for the main reason that the children of Israel went out from Egypt was so that afterwards they would receive the Torah (from Rabbi Yehuda Tzadka).
The Four Questions (from the Passover Haggadah)
In asking "Mah Nishtana" (the four questions), the main point of the son's question is -- why we do acts which are diametrically opposed to one another? We eat Matzah, which is a reminder of slavery (as the Ibn Ezra wrote that one time he was held captive in the land of India, and they gave him to eat Matzah, and said to him that Matzah is satisfying even if one eats only a little bit), and also Maror (bitter herbs) is also a symbol of slavery. On the other hand, we perform the act of dipping some foods, and also we recline while eating, and these are symbolic of freedom. And upon this the father answers, "We were slaves, etc.", for on this very night we were also slaves and also freed. Until midnight we were still slaves, and from midnight and onwards we were free people, and therefore on the night of the Seder we do things which are diametrically opposed like that.
"How many levels of goodness TO the Omnipresent are upon us." (from the Passover Haggadah)
It should have been written, "FROM the Omnipresent are upon us", and not "TO the Omnipresent", as if the intention was that He received a benefit. And the explanation is, that everything that the Holy One Blessed Be He does for the people of Israel, He is also doing it for Himself, and if there is something which is good for the children of Israel, it is also good for Him. This is similar to what we find by Rabbi Yishmael who entered within (the Sanctuary of the Temple) and the Holy One Blessed Be He requested "Bless me", and Rabbi Yishmael said to Him, "May Your Mercy overcome Your anger at us". Wasn't that a blessing to Israel and not to the Holy One Blessed Be He? However, the explanation is that a blessing to Israel is in its very essence a blessing to the Holy One Blessed Be He.
"Matzot shall be eaten in a holy place" (Vayikra 6:9)
It is written in the Torah Portion of Tzav, "Matzot shall be eaten in a holy place" (Vayikra 6:9) This is a hint to the Matzot that are eaten on the night of Passover, that they should be in a holy place. That is to say, that one should sanctify his mouth, for that is the place of eating the Matzot. This is also hinted at by the word "Pharoah", which in Hebrew has the same letters as Peh-Ra (an evil mouth), and the rectification for this is Pesach, which in Hebrew is similar to the Hebrew words Peh-Sach (a mouth which speaks). One should speak only words which are good and holy, for everyone who increases speaking about them (i.e., the miracles of Passover) is praiseworthy. And the opposite is also the case; someone who doesn't speak good words, G-d forbid, is not praiseworthy.
Why are we stringent on Pesach about the slightest bit of Chametz?
Why are we stringent on Pesach about the slightest bit (of Chametz)? To hint that if the congregation of Israel had remained in Egypt the slightest bit more time, they would have entered the 50th gate of impurity.
Everyone who is careful about avoiding the slightest bit of Chametz on Pesach is promised that he won't sin all year. (Ba'er Heitev Siman 447)
"In the beginning our forefathers were idol worshipers" (from the Passover Haggadah)
Why does the Haggadah begin with a disgrace and end with praise? To show us that even if a person is found at the lowest level, G-d forbid, he is still able to elevate himself to high levels.
"For His kindness overcame us" (from the Hallel in the Passover Haggadah)
At times a person doesn't know that what that happens to him is really a kindness for him, but rather he just thinks that it is detrimental for him. And that is the meaning of saying that His kindness "overcame" us, that is to say, the person receives the kindnesses of the Holy One Blessed Be He with self-restraint and effort, even though he doesn't want to. And also, it is necessary to interpret what we mean when we say in the first blessing of the Shemoneh Esrei prayer, that Hashem is "a giver of good kindnesses" -- is there such a thing as kindnesses which are not good? No, it is just that there are kindnesses that appear to a person as if they are not kindnesses, and for that reason we request that it should also be recognizable by us that the kindnesses are good.
May we merit to eat from the Zevachim and the Pesachim (the Passover offerings) speedily in our days.
Two Torah scrolls are taken out:1) Moshchu V'kchu (from the Torah Portion of "Bo")2) for the Maftir, "Uv'chodesh Harishon (from the Torah Portion of "Pinchas")The Haftorah is "B'ait Hahi" (Yehoshua 5)
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach.
May you have a light-filled, happy and Kosher Shabbat and Yom Tov.
In Nissan we were redeemed, and in Nissan we are to be redeemed in the future. (Rosh Hashanah 11a)
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben R' Chaim ztz"l, Nilkach L'Bait Olamo Yud Gimmel Tishrei 5772