The real fifth question
Many of you have learned because many of us have taught that the text of the Haggadah eliminates Moses from the narrative to emphasize God’s role in the redemption of the Jewish people. Indeed God is the hero of the story. “In every generation they stand up against us to destroy us-and the Holy Blessed One saves us from their hand!” “’God brought us out of
by an angel, not by an archangel, and not by a messenger. It was God alone, in His glory, and by
With the above quotes, the rabbis emphasized God’s role in order to exclude other supernatural beings that the pagans believed in. Although God wrought miracles in the
to free the Israelite slaves, this
fact does not preclude human participation in the drama of the Exodus. The
Haggadah itself subtly teaches us that human participation was a necessary
component in the story of the Exodus.
Allow me to illuminate several examples from the Haggadah to demonstrate
how important human participation truly was. land of Egypt
We find Moses mentioned in the Haggadah twice, once directly by name and once he was alluded to. “’Signs’-This is the staff. It is written, “Take this staff in your hands (Moses), and with it perform the signs.’ (Exodus )” “At the Red Sea it is written, ‘
saw the great hand that God had directed against Egypt. The people feared God and in his servant
Moses.’ Exodus 14:31” The first quote introduces Moses to Pharaoh for the very
first time and the second quote is when he leaves Pharaoh on the shore of the Red Sea. These two
verses found in the Haggadah serve as bookends which highlight the importance of Moses throughout the
entire story. Let’s face it. The staff that ate the magician’s staffs when
they were all turned into snakes just didn’t walk into Pharaoh’s court all by
itself. Moses brought this staff with
him when told Pharaoh, “Let my people go!”
The second quote alludes to Moses standing over the Red
Sea with his staff outstretched over the waters to part them. As
you can see, the Haggadah doesn’t think Moses was chop liver.
Speaking of the
episode, according to the Midrash the water didn’t part until Nachshon ben
Aminadav from the tribe of Judah
took a leap of faith and jumped into the water.
Only after he jumped in, did the water split. Once again showing how important human
participation was in the saving of the Jewish people.
The Talmud in Sotah 12a teaches us that if it wasn’t for the righteous Jewish women of that generation, the Israelites wouldn’t have been redeemed out of the
. The apple, nut, and wine mixture, Charoset, alludes to one example of
these righteous women. Of course, the Charoset symbolizes the mortar the
Jewish people used to build the pyramids.
Nevertheless, the Charoset hints
to another Midrash. Pharaoh used back breaking
labor as an effective birth control method. At the end of the day the Jewish men were too exhausted
to do anything else. The Jewish women
realized this would be disastrous because there would be no future generations
to come into this world. When the men
broke for lunch, the women went to the apple orchards where the men were
resting, brought them lunch, and seduced them. Without these women subverting
Pharaoh’s schemes, Moses, Aaron, Miriam, would never have been born. The apples in the Charoset remind us of these righteous women! land
Finally, the Haggadah has a strange verse from Ezekiel “I made you as the plants of the field. You became many and grew, and became mature. Your breasts were full, your hair was grown, but you were naked and bare. (Ezekiel 16:7) I passed by you and saw you covered with blood, and I said to you, ‘By your blood you shall live!’ and I said to you, ‘By your blood you shall live! (Ezekiel 16:6) Why are we talking about a naked person covered with blood? The Zohar, the book of Jewish mysticism, explains why this verse is quoted in the Haggadah. God does not manifest providence-rewarding virtue or punishing evil until He witness human actions. “Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘If so, why blood?...(Rabbi Yossi) replied, ‘There were two bloods: one of circumcision and one of the Paschal Lamb. Of circumcision, Compassion (the sefirah of Hesed); of the Paschal Lamb, Judgment (the sefirah of Din). Before the Israelites left they had to circumcise all the males and offer up the Paschal Lamb. The midrashic interpretation is apparently based on the repetition of the exclamation “In your blood live” In other words, the Israelites were naked of commandments and thereby they weren’t worthy of redemption until they did something. Without the bloods of circumcision and Paschal Lamb they would not have been redeemed. Only after they observed these two mitzvot would God make the Exodus happened.
God is great, but without our ancestors’ active participation in the events leading up to the Exodus “then even we, our children and our children’s children would still be slaves in
Egypt.” What was true for our ancestors is true for
us today. If we want to see a redeemed
world, we have to act as God’s partners. Only when we do our share, will the
Holy One be aroused and manifest His providence. So the real fifth question isn’t “When do we
eat?”, but rather “What am I doing to bring redemption closer?” Answer that question correctly and we shall
no longer need to say “Next Year In Jerusalem.”
Hag Pesach Samayach!