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 The Order of the Questions The Wise Son


Hei Lachma Anya

Publisher's Foreword

The Haggadah teaches us that every one of us is "obligated to regard himself as if he had left Egypt." For the exodus is not a story of the past, but rather an ongoing initiative leading us toward the ultimate Redemption.

In a similar vein, the Rebbe's teachings are of timeless relevance.

The sichah to follow, a record of the Rebbe's talks at his Seder more than 30 years ago, presents us with a motif of spiritual growth enabling us to progress forward, pointed to our ultimate goal, the coming of Mashiach.

May the "holiday of Redemption" be marked by the fulfillment of the prophecy, "As in the days of your exodus from Egypt, I will show [the people] wonders." [Michah 7:15] And then we will again spend Pesach at the Rebbe's Seder table, for "those who repose in the dust will arise and sing." [Yeshayahu 26:19]

Sichos In English
2 Nissan, 5755

"This is the Bread of Affliction.... Next Year, May We Be Free Men."

Hay Lachma Anya, "This is the bread of affliction" is the opening passage of the Haggadah. We do not, however, recite this passage at the beginning of the Seder, before Kiddush, but instead, directly afterwards.

It marks the beginning of the Haggadah, [1] which is the story of the exodus from Egypt. [2]

For this reason:

  1. This passage is recited directly after the heading Maggid (the recitation), and
  2. during the recitation of this passage, we lift up the Seder plate, [3] or according to Lubavitch custom, we uncover the matzos, the reason being that the story of the exodus must be told in the presence of the matzos. [4]

From this, it is clear that the reason which we recite this passage at the beginning of the Seder is not only to invite guests to share our Seder table.

Indeed, were this the only intent, the declaration should have been made earlier, directly after coming home from shul, or even while in shul, where many people are present, and it is possible for them to hear the invitation.

Instead, this passage serves as the beginning of the story of the exodus. [5] Therefore it would be inappropriate for it to be recited before the section of the Haggadah entitled Maggid.

A question, however, arises:

Why is the passage Hay Lachma Anya placed in the section of Maggid? How is it part of the recitation of the story of Pesach?

Moreover, why is placed at the very beginning of that section, an indication that it summarizes the story, when seemingly it tells nothing about the exodus. [6]

Also, the content of the passage itself is problematic.

Seemingly it contains three separate bars which have no connection one to the other.

The first bar states that the matzos on the table are "the bread of affliction which our ancestors ate in the Land of Egypt."

The second serves as an invitation to others to join in our Pesach celebration.

And the third, a wish that although, "this year, we are here" and "slaves," "next year," we will be "in Jerusalem" and "free men."

Sequence Within the Passage

There are commentaries who explain the connection between the first two bars of the passage as follows:

The Talmud [7] states that when a person hires Jewish workers, he must provide them with food while they work. Since all Jews are "descendants of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov," they are fit to be regarded as "the sons of kings," [8] or as "kings" [9] themselves.

Therefore even if the employer would give his employees "a feast fit for Shlomo at the height of his reign," he would not fulfill his responsibility to them. Accordingly, the only option the employer has is to make an agreement with his employee at the outset that he is giving him ordinary fare.

Similar concepts apply with regard to inviting guests to the Seder.

Since the invited guests are like "the sons of kings" or "kings themselves," the most sumptuous feast would not be sufficient for them.

Therefore, before issuing the invitation, the host clarifies that what he is serving is "the bread of affliction." This will constitute the body of the meal that will be served.

This explanation is, however, insufficient for it does not explain why the matzah is referred to as "the bread of affliction which our ancestors ate in the Land of Egypt." Why the latter phrase?

An explanation is also offered for the connection between the invitation to the guests and the bar to follow: "This year... next year...."

Our Sages state: [10] "Tzedakah is great because it brings the Redemption near." Therefore, we express our hope that the merit of inviting guests to the Pesach seder will bring near the Redemption and then "next year," we will celebrate the seder in "Eretz Yisrael" and as "free men."

This explanation, however, is also inadequate, for it does not account for the fact that the two contrasts found in the third bar are mentioned in separated sentences: "This year, we are here, next year, may we be in the land of Israel. This year, we are slaves, next year may we be free men." According to the above explanation, both of these points could have been mentioned in the same sentence: "This year we are here and slaves; next year may we be free men, in the land of Israel."

At G-d's Seder Table

The above difficulties can be resolved based on our Sages' interpretation of the verse: [11] "He tells His words to Yaakov, His statutes and judgments to Yisrael."

Our Sages explain [12] that this implies that "what G-d Himself performs, He tells the Jews to perform," and also what He commands the Jewish people, He Himself performs.

This implies that on Pesach night, G-d also recites the passage "This is the bread of affliction," for the concepts of exile and redemption are also relevant to G-d. For when the Jews are in exile, G-d is also in exile as it were, as it says: [13] "In their affliction, He is also afflicted." And when the Jews will be redeemed, G-d will also be redeemed and thus the prophet quotes G-d as proclaiming: "My salvation will come soon." [14]

What is exile? That the entity in exile is constrained and its qualities are hidden. Its existence remains intact, as it was before it was exiled, but it is denied expression.

These concepts apply with regard to G-d's "exile."

Even in the time of exile, every created being is brought into existence and maintained by a G-dly life-force at every moment. And yet, that G-dly life-force is not perceived at all. It is constrained and hidden.

Why is G-d in exile, as it where? Because of the exile of the Jewish people.

This is the intent of the first bar of the passage Hay Lachma Anya.

Anya literally means "poverty," and in a ultimate sense, poverty is an expression of a lack of knowledge, as our Sages commented, [15] "a poor mean [is lacking] solely in knowledge."

The term "our ancestors" refers to the supernal intellectual faculties.

They are described as "ancestors" for they are the source which generate the supernal emotions. [16] Thus the phrase "This is the bread of poverty which our ancestors ate" can be rendered "Our lack of knowledge dissipated the supernal intellectual faculties," [17] causing there to be a dearth of awareness of G-dliness in this material realm.

This pattern was seen in the Egyptian exile (which is the source for all the subsequent exiles; indeed all the subsequent exiles are also called by the name, Egypt). [18]

Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, stated: [19] "I do not know G-d," i.e., he did not want to know about G-dliness at all. And he was supported by his countrymen; all the people around him agreed with his approach.

The Redemption of the Divine Presence comes about through the redemption of the Jewish people.

This is indicated by the second bar: G-d invites the Jewish people: "Whoever is hungry, let him come and eat." Despite the darkness of the exile, G-d promises that whoever hungers for the knowledge of G-d [20] will have his hunger satisfied.

Moreover, G-d will not give only "what the person lacks." [21]

Initially, He will satisfy the person's hunger, and will not confer upon him wealth. Nevertheless, as soon as the Jews' lacks are met, they will reach a higher level of understanding, and they will desire spiritual wealth. The satisfaction of this desire is alluded to in the statement: "Whoever is needy come and partake of the Pesach offering."

The Pesach offering is to be eaten when one is satisfied; [22] one's hunger has been sated, and yet one seeks more. This is an approach of wealth: to receive in a stately and impressive manner, not merely meeting one's needs.

Afterwards, the third bar focuses on the goal and the outcome of holding the Pesach feast, the wealth of knowledge which will accrue to the Jews. Although "this year, we are here, next year, we [will] be in Eretz Yisrael."

(When we say "next year, we [will] be in Eretz Yisrael," the intent is not that we will have to wait until next year for this to happen. Instead, the intent is that the Redemption will take place immediately, and so inevitably, next year, the Seder will be conducted in Eretz Yisrael.)

Eretz Yisrael has a figurative as well as a literal meaning.

The word eretz meaning "land" shares a connection with the word ratzon meaning "will."

Thus our Sages say: [23] "Why was [Eretz Yisrael] called eretz? Because it desired to fulfill the will of its Creator?" Yisrael is an acronym for the Hebrew words meaning: "There are 600,000 letters in the Torah." [24] Thus Eretz Yisrael refers to a desire for the Torah.

This will be the outcome of the Jews' participation in the Seder and gaining the wealth of knowledge it brings. Moreover, this wealth of knowledge will lead to actual material wealth, for all material entities are derived from their spiritual source. And as a result, the Jews will attain Eretz Yisrael, their desire will be for the Torah.

Our Sages say: [25] "The daughters of Israel are becoming; it is poverty which makes them unattractive."

The genuine desire of every Jew is good. [26] It is merely poverty - poverty in a material sense and a dearth of knowledge, in an expanded sense - that obscures that desire. [27] And when poverty, in both a material and spiritual sense, is removed, the inherent Jewish beauty will be revealed, as it is written: [28] "You are entirely beautiful, My beloved. There is no blemish in you."

"A blemish" refers to a lack in the observance of the 248 positive commandments which parallel the 248 limbs of the body [29] or the observance of the 365 negative commandments which parallel the body's 365 sinews. [30]

Attaining Eretz Yisrael in this manner will lead to "next year, we [will] be free men."

When every Jew's desire is focused in the Torah and its mitzvos, we will become free, redeemed from exile by Mashiach (for he will come in "a generation which is entirely worthy" [31]).

This will mark the beginning of the Redemption. As the Rambam writes: [32]

A king will arise from the House of David who delves deeply into the study of the Torah and... observes its mitzvos... [He will] build the [Beis Ha]Mikdash and [then] gather in the dispersed remnant of Israel.

At that time, we will all proceed to Eretz Yisrael in the actual sense in the true and ultimate Redemption, led by Mashiach. May this take place soon.

From Redemption Past to Redemption Present

Based on the above, we can appreciate why this passage is placed at the beginning of the narrative of the exodus from Egypt.

This passage capsulizes the story of the exodus in its totality.

As mentioned previously, Egypt is the source for all subsequent exiles, and the exodus, the source for all subsequent redemptions, including the ultimate redemption.

Indeed, the exodus and the ultimate Redemption share certain similarities as indicated by the prophecy: [33] "As in the days of your exodus from Egypt, I will show [the people] wonders." And the purpose of telling the story of the exodus is to stir the faith of the Jewish people, and in particular, their faith in the coming of Mashiach.

(Therefore, the Haggadah is recited in the presence of matzah, "the bread of faith.") [34]

This faith will bring about the coming of the actual redemption, following the paradigm of the exodus when: "In the merit of [their] faith, our ancestors were redeemed from Egypt." [35]

This is particularly true in light of our present situation when the darkness of exile becomes greater from day to day, echoing the prophecies of the Talmud. [36] In such circumstances, it is possible for a person to despair, and therefore, we announce at the beginning of the Haggadah, that despite the darkness of the exile, G-d invites every Jew, even the hungry and the needy, to place his requests before Him, and promises that person that he will both "eat," satisfy his needs, and "celebrate the Pesach," be granted a wealth of knowledge. This will lead to the time when we will all come to "Eretz Yisrael" as "free men." May this take place soon.

(Adapted from Sichos Leil Sheni Shel Chag HaPesach, 5720)

Footnotes:

  1. (Back to text) Note the Rambam who in his Mishneh Torah, in Hilchos Chametz U'Matzah 8:1-2 states that "The order of the performance of these mitzvos is... Kiddush...," while in his text of the Haggadah which comes at the conclusion of those halachos, he begins with "This is the bread of affliction."

  2. (Back to text) The name Haggadah is taken from the phrase (Shmos 13:14): "And you shall tell your son...," Alternatively, just as the Jerusalem Talmud interprets the phrase (Devarim 26:3): Higaditi HaYom, as "I gave praise today," so too, the name Haggadah is also an expression of praise and thanksgiving for G-d who took us out of Egypt. Rav Saadia Gaon also translates the term in this manner in Arabic (Rav David Avudraham).

  3. (Back to text) Rosh, the conclusion of tractate Pesachim; Shulchan Aruch HaRav 473:36.

  4. (Back to text) Shulchan Aruch HaRav, loc. cit., and law 20.

  5. (Back to text) For this reason, the Rebbeim, would begin explaining the Haggadah at the Seder, an expression of the mitzvah of telling the story of the exodus, from the passage Hay Lachma Anya (Sichos Leil Beis D'Chag HaPesach, 5718).

  6. (Back to text) The Rambam, by contrast, prefaces this passage with the words "With haste, we left Egypt," capsulizing the story of the exodus.

  7. (Back to text) Bava Metzia 83a.

  8. (Back to text) Shabbos 67a; Zohar, Vol. I, p. 27b.

  9. (Back to text) Berachos 9b; the introduction to the Tikkunei Zohar (p. 1a); see also Shabbos 59b which refers to "the belt of kings."

  10. (Back to text) Bava Basra 10a.

  11. (Back to text) Tehillim 147:19.

  12. (Back to text) Shmos Rabbah 30:9, the Jerusalem Talmud, Rosh HaShanah 1:3.

    In particular, there are two phases in this pattern:

    1. first, an arousal from above that precedes the arousal from below, as intimated by the wording of the blessing which praises G-d for "sanctifying us with His commandments and commanding us"; and
    2. an arousal from above that is motivated by the arousal from below, as our Sages (Tanna D'Bei Eliyahu Rabbah, beginning ch. 18) comment: "Whenever someone reads Torah law, the Holy One, blessed be He, reads opposite him," and similarly, wearing tzitzit on this earthly plane arouses tzitzis in the spiritual realms, i.e., additional G-dly light.

    Both these phases are hinted at in the wording used above. See also Torah Or, Bior l'maamar Ki Imcha Makor HaChayim.

  13. (Back to text) Yeshayahu 63:9.

  14. (Back to text) Yeshayahu 56:1

    Our Sages (Megillah 29a) state: "The Divine Presence was exiled with them..., and will return with them." The verses cited are, however, more comprehensive, implying that not only did the Divine Presence accompany the Jews into exile, it is in exile itself, and is in need of "salvation," as it were.

    This is also implied by Hoshanah prayers recited on Sukkos (Siddur Tehillat HaShem, p. 328): "As You delivered a nation and its G-d." See also II Shmuel 7:23 which states: "You redeemed from Egypt a people and its G-d."

  15. (Back to text) Nedarim 41a.

  16. (Back to text) See Tanya, ch. 3.

  17. (Back to text) Note similar interpretation from the Previous Rebbe, Sefer HaSichos 5703, p. 66.

  18. (Back to text) Vayikra Rabbah 13:5.

  19. (Back to text) Shmos 5:2.

  20. (Back to text) Cf. Amos 8:11.

  21. (Back to text) Cf. Devarim 15:8; see Kesubos 67b.

  22. (Back to text) Pesachim 70a; Shulchan Aruch HaRav 477:1.

  23. (Back to text) Bereishis Rabbah 5:8.

  24. (Back to text) Megaleh Amukos, ofen 186; cited also in Yalkut Reuveini, the beginning of Parshas Bereishis, Yalkut Chadash, erech Torag, sec. 178, et al. Others have also cited the Zohar Chodash commenting on Rus 4:7: "This is the established practice in Israel."

    Although there are more than 600,000 Jews, this is the number of "root souls," and every one of these roots subdivides. See Tanya, ch. 37.

  25. (Back to text) Nedarim 66a.

  26. (Back to text) See Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Gerushin, the conclusion of ch. 2.

  27. (Back to text) Note Eruvin 41b which mentions "oppressive of poverty" as one of the factors which "causes a person to go against the will of His Creator." See the Chidushei HaMarsha to this passage.

  28. (Back to text) Shir HaShirim 4:7. See the reference to this verse in Likkutei Torah, Devarim 45c.

  29. (Back to text) Makkos 23b; Zohar, Vol. I, p. 170b.

  30. (Back to text) Zohar, op. cit.

  31. (Back to text) Sanhedrin 98a.

  32. (Back to text) Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Melachim 11:4. Note the letter of the Rebbe Rashab (Kovetz Michtavim, Vol. I, epistle 9), which emphasizes the precision in the Rambam's description of the stages of the Redemption.

  33. (Back to text) Michah 7:15.

  34. (Back to text) Zohar, Vol. II, p. 183b; see also Zohar, Vol. II, 41a; Likkutei Torah, Vayikra 13d, and the maamar entitled Kimei Tzeisecho, 5708, sec. 12.

  35. (Back to text) Mechilta, Shmos 14:31.

  36. (Back to text) See Sotah 48a.
 The Order of the Questions The Wise Son



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