TalmuDigest

For the week ending 12 October 2013 / 8 Heshvan 5774

Pesachim 114 - 121

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll
  • The advantage of living economically
  • Order of the blessings in the Pesach kiddush
  • The vegetable dipped at the beginning of the Seder
  • Eating of the matzah and maror (bitter herbs) in the time of the Beit Hamikdash and today
  • Why we dip the maror into charoset and why we wash twice
  • The four questions and who asks them
  • The basic outline of the Haggadah
  • Can the blind say the Haggadah for others
  • Analysis of “Halleluya” and the authorship of the Hallel
  • Getting into the right mood for prophecy, learning Torah and a good dream
  • How much of Hallel is said before the meal
  • Texts of kiddush and prayers on Shabbat and holidays
  • The third cup, birkat hamazon and birkat shir
  • Some reflections on food – the Heavenly benevolence, the difficulty of earning a livelihood and the cause
  • Hallel Hagadol and the Hallel we say – the differences and the choice
  • Two miraculous rescues of righteous from fiery furnaces
  • “Fish food” and praises from our enemies in the past; praises and gifts in the future
  • Odyssey of treasure from to Rome, to Korach and to the righteous
  • Anatomy of Hallel and its blessings
  • Matzah, Maror and Afkkomen
  • Deadline on eating sacrifice and falling asleep in the process
  • Blessing before eating sacrifices and on redemption of first-born

The Boomerang of Environment

  • Pesachim 116a

The social nature of man makes him very vulnerable to the influences of his environment, for good and otherwise. While the usual impact of the environment is conformity with the standards, there is sometimes the boomerang effect of a person’s surroundings turning him in an opposite direction.

This will help us understand more profoundly why our Mishna instructs us to begin the recitation of the Haggadah by mentioning our unsavory past before speaking of our present glory. The Sage Rav explains that we fulfill this by our recalling that “at first our forefathers were idolaters… Terach, the father of Avraham and of Nachor, and they worshiped other gods.”

Why is it necessary to trace our lineage back to Avraham’s idol-worshiping father?

In his classical ethical work “Michtav Mai’Eliyahu”, Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler suggests that we thus wish to point out that the development of the Patriarch Avraham as a giant of faith in monotheism was greatly influenced by his immunity to idolatry resulting from his exposure to the corruption of his environment.

The same approach applies to what the Sage Shmuel suggests as a reference to our humble beginnings: “We were slaves to Pharaoh in .” In preparing His chosen people for the sanctified role of receiving His Torah, G-d did not take them to the holiest of places, but rather to the land that was the quintessence of spiritual corruption. It was there that the environment had a boomerang effect of injecting them with an immunity to a lifestyle opposed to the values which G-d expected of man.

Only after we thus reflect on our beginnings as a people are we able to appreciate what developed from them. From ancestors who worshiped idols we became the nation “whom the Omnipresent has brought to His service”, and from being slaves in corrupt “G-d took us out of there with a strong hand and outstretched arm.”

Beginning with an inglorious past may provide this important lesson in the boomerang effect of environment but its main purpose is to teach us how much we are indebted to G-d for the happy ending of being free men who received His Torah.

What the Sages Say

When we say in Hallel “Let all the nations praise G-d, for His lovingkindness to us is so great” (Tehillim 117:1-2), we call attention to the fact that the nations who tried to harm us recognize what He has done to them for our sake and are compelled to praise Him – how much more are we obligated to sing His praises.

  • Rabbi Yishmael quoting his father, Rabbi Yossi
    Pesachim 118b

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