Haggadah 01

Rabbi Triebitz will be giving a few shiurim on the haggadah shel Pesach. this is the first shiur.

This series of shiurim will focus on a rationalist approach to the compilation/format of the Pesach hagada. Leaving aside the many complicated and lengthy drashot of rishonim and aharonim, which intend to link various sections of the hagada mystically, Rabbi Triebitz sets out to explain the overall shita (position) of the Baal Hagada (author of Hagada – one of the gaonim) from associated Talmudic passages, how this shita is actively incorporated into the formatting of the hagada’s nusach (word choice/order), and the related logical reasons behind the structure of the hagada in several places.

Shiur 1. Mitzva of Sipur Yitziat Mitzrayim and structure of the Hagadah illuminated with 2 girsa (text) changes advocated by Rabbi Triebitz.

The central mitzvah of the hagadah is the sipur yitziat mitzrayim – the process of telling over the story of the Exodus from Egypt on seder night – a positive Torah mitzvah, written explicitly in the Torah and as the Rambam codifies in Mishne Torah hilchot chametz u’matzah chapter 7. A machloket exists in the Talmud Bavli (Pesachim 116a) between Rav and Shmuel over the language of the mishna, which describes the performance of this mitzvah: matchil beegnut umsayaim beshevach – Begin with disgrace and conclude with praise. The Talmud reports, Rav says disgrace refers to us reciting that “Our forefathers were idolators.” Shmuel says, disgrace refers to saying, “we were slaves.”

In addition, after concluding with praise, the mishnah also reports that we then darshan (explicate with rabbinical exegesis) the verse in Parshath Ki Tavo, “arami oved avi” (my father was a wandering Aramean) until the conclusion of that parsha. These three basic requirements, to begin with disgrace, conclude with praise, and then darshan the verses from Ki Tavo, summarize the basic outline of the hagadah and what chazal required for fulfilling the mitzvah of sipur yitziat mitzrayim on the night of Pesach.

We are left with questions: Did the Baal Hagadah pasken by Rav or Shmuel? How is Rav’s opinion related to the Exodus? Why are there so many additional sections added to the nusach of the hagadah besides these 3 requirements? For example, after the “manishtana,” we have the verse quoted, “We were slaves to Pharoah in Egypt and Hashem our God took us out of there with a strong arm and outstretched hand.” We appear to fulfill the requirements of Shmuel to accomplish beginning with disgrace with this verse. However what follows is a diyuk (derived implication) in the verse and further explanation, a Tosefta quoting the story of 5 Tanaim in Bnei Brak, a mishna from Brachoth dealing with kriat shema, then a blessing of sorts – “Baruch Hamakom” – followed by the four sons. And finally, after the four sons, the hagadah appears to then recount the basic story again in accordance with the shita of Rav! Why did we include the position of both Shmuel and Rav and why do they appear as such, spaced throughout the hagadah?

Rabbi Triebitz explains a few critical points that make these issues and others very clear to us. The Baal Hagadah paskened according to both opinions (Rav and Shmuel), with Shmuel appearing first as more directly related to the story of Exodus. However, the Baal Hagadah makes a diyuk in the Shmuel-associated pasuk “Avadim hayinu” – We were slaves – with a three point explanation of the verse concluding with the chiddush of the baal hagadah which is not found in Chazal. Namely, the more engrossed one is in telling the sipur of yitziat mitzrayim, the more meritorious it is (Haray zeh meshubah).

Because this crucial point was a chiddush of the Baal Hagadah not said explicitly by chazal, the Baal Hagadah then inserts his proof – The Tosephta of the 5 tannaim in Bnei Brak telling the sipur yetziat mitzrayim until the next morning’s zman kriath shema.

This basic fact illuminated by the Baal Hagadah, that to extend the telling of the story of Exodus is praiseworthy, explains why the baal hagadah brings Rav’s opinion later on after we have already satisfied the halachic requirements according to Shmuel’s opinion, and this explains what the Baal Hagadah accomplishes by paskening according to both. According to the Baal Hagadah, Rav’s position is not a contradiction to Shmuel’s, and while we perhaps satisfy the halachic requirement with Shmuel’s as the more pashut/simple explanation, to include Rav too is “Harei zeh meshubach,” and also touches on essential aspects of the Exodus which we would be remiss to leave out. Thus Shmuel and Rav each describe one half of a dual perspective which as a whole constitutes our essential understanding of the Exodus.

Rabbi Triebitz explains in this shiur several other matters which are clarified by this point, including the pshat (understanding of the words) in our mishna which requires us to explicate the verses of “arami oved avi,” why we make the “Baruch Hamakom” blessing as a “birchat HaTorah” and why specifically we say it immediately before the section of the 4 sons, why we bring the 4 sons and elaborate on each one.

Rabbi Treibitz also explains a few girsa (textual) changes he recommends. One is in accordance with the nusach of Rambam’s hagada as found in Mishne Torah. Rabbi Triebitz recommends a second girsa change of the text of the hagada, regarding the 4 sons, to make sense of the responses to each of the 4 sons’ questions in a most obvious and enlightening way – responses which on the surface seemed to contradict the direct responses given by the Torah itself. We leave off with an explanation of the answer to the wise son, and we will pick up in shiur #2 with the other 3 sons starting with the wicked son.

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