by by HaRav Shimshon Pincus, zt"l
Understanding Leil HaSeder
The Leil HaSeder is a very special night. There is a
saying of tzaddikim that the Leil HaSeder gives
a seder for the entire year. If we experience the
Leil HaSeder properly, it's a wonderful experience. It
can make a revolution within us and in our attachment to
The first part of this lecture was printed in our Pesach
edition 5762, last year. HaRav Pincus explained that Pesach
was and is the birth of the Jewish people, every year. There
are three partners in man: the father who gives the "white"
(bones) parts of the body, the mother who gives the "red"
(blood and meat), and Hakodosh Boruch Hu Who gives the
soul. On Pesach the matzoh, which gives basic
emunoh, is the white part. The arba cosos of
red wine give the excitement (hislahavus) about
Hashem, and the sippur yetzias Mitzrayim is the soul
added by Hashem. On Pesach, Hashem also opens for us a
supernatural way to understand concepts above our heads, like
the chipozone in Egypt.
There is another interesting aspect of the Leil HaSeder
that at first appears to be just a side dish. On Leil
HaSeder we eat carpas, vegetables. This looks
inappropriate for a yom tov table. We have bread,
which happens to be very special bread, we have meat, we have
wine, and all of a sudden we have carpas, a piece of
celery or a potato.
Today it is very fashionable to have vegetables on the table,
but really it is not an achiloh chashuvoh. In the
Beis Hamikdosh for instance there is no mention of
vegetables. There is only bread or wine or meat. Vegetables
are an expression of katnus, of simplicity. The
gemora explains that the carpas is "kedei
sheyish'alu hatinokos" -- so the children should ask: Why
are we eating vegetables? We haven't even eaten the matzoh
There are two levels of appreciation of Hashem: katnus
and gadlus. Katnus refers to the basics of the
appreciation of Hashem that are so obvious and simple that
every child can understand them.
A child understands, in his simplicity, that a table was made
by a carpenter, that a car was made by an engineer, that an
airplane has a pilot who runs it. It is all very obvious.
Today there is a certain darkness in the world that mixes us
all up. But still, with a basic, simple perception, even a
child can recognize in the world its plan and purpose and
beauty that bespeak a Creator. For example a machine that
they call an "eye," a camera with 40 billion parts that is so
complicated and so beautiful with such color and such focus
and such life, can only come from a Creator. Any child that
has some degree of sechel can recognize that there is
a Hashem in this word, and this simple recognition of the
metzius of Hashem is katnus.
Gadlus refers to a deeper understanding that is above
the sechel, and beyond the simple understanding of a
child. For instance, we talk about the principle of yichud
Hashem, ein od milevado -- that everything comes from
Hashem. A child can understand that his father will give him
bread, his mother gives him butter, and that they go out to
work and Hashem gives them parnossoh. But that he is
completely dependent upon Hashem and that everyone else makes
no difference -- "Ovi ve'imi azovuni, vaHashem
ya'asfeini"(Tehillim 27:10) This means that if your
father and mother throw you out into the street, you won't be
lacking anything, because if Hashem wants you to have it
you'll have it anyway, and if Hashem doesn't want you to have
it, you won't have it. This is an understanding that is very
deep and very contradictory to everything you see in the
world all the time.
When you start thinking about the greatness of Hashem -- how
Hashem is connected to us, how Hashem loves us, and Hashem
wants us and cares about us and is in pain when we are in
pain -- all these things are way above the comprehension of
humanity and thus are concepts of gadlus.
Therefore, when we are building the Odom and the intellectual
capacity which attaches him to Hashem, we need to involve
both the katnus and the gadlus. The
katnus is expressed through eating vegetables and
involving the children in the seder, which includes
not only the children around the table, but also the
katnus within each of us, the basic simple
understanding that we have through our eyes and ears and our
simple minds. The gadlus is the deep understandings
which make us a great people. The gadlus is
represented by the matzos that instill emunah.
This is not just the simple yedi'a of carpas,
but also a complete trust in Hashem that comes from a
deeper understanding of Hashem. All this is in addition to
the excitement of the Arba Cosos and the sippur
Now we note that the carpas seems to be out of place.
The normal way to build a personality is to start off with
the basics and then go on to the greatness. So really the
carpas should be before the Kiddush which is
one of the Arba Cosos and an expression of the
greatness -- "Asher bochar bonu mikol om, veromemonu mikol
This paradox is the explanation in Kabbalistic writings of
the question asked at the seder: "Mah nishtanoh halayloh
hazeh, mikol haleilos." There is something unusual about
this night, and it is that the carpas comes after the
The answer to the question is: "Avodim hoyinu lePar'oh
beMitzrayim" -- we were slaves to Pharaoh. We were not
just visitors or workers, but we were actually slaves of
Pharaoh. He actually owned us which means we were in a sense
part of the household of Pharaoh in Mitzrayim. Thus there was
a terrible danger that we might get lost in Mitzrayim and
become detached completely from Hashem.
It was because of this danger that Hashem took us out
bechipozone -- hastily and out of order. If Hashem had
built us in the proper order, starting with the fundamentals
and then on to the greatness, we would have been lost. So
Hashem acted bechipozone which gave this night its
special character both spiritually and physically.
Chazal tell us that the night then was mei'ir keshemesh
batzohorayim -- the night was like midday. There was a
gilui Shechinah and HaKodosh Boruch Hu bestowed
upon the Jewish people an understanding, way above their
capacities. After that night came Sefiras HaOmer which
was the building up of the Jewish people step-by-step in an
orderly fashion starting at the beginning.
Since yetzias Mitzrayim was bechipozone, in our
Pesach Seder we also go bechipozone, which is
why we eat carpas only after the first Cos.
However we don't wait for the carpas until after
the entire seder. Once we drink the first Cos
and there is an explosion in our minds and we start
seeing the real beauty, that is already enough and it is
important to eat the carpas right away, that is, to
firmly fix in our minds with simple clarity the belief in the
reality of Hashem, of Ma'amad Har Sinai, and of
This is a useful lesson for those just starting out. Some
people say, "Let me first get the basics." That's not always
the way to do it. You often have to go bechipozone.
You have to first jump in and start doing all the mitzvos as
if you understand everything. Only then -- albeit without
delay - - insert the basic, simple knowledge of Hashem, and
how honest and how correct everything about Yiddishkeit
So therefore we start by drinking the first Cos and
then right away we eat the carpas.
The Centrality of the Morror
Another very important step in the seder is the
The ke'oroh, the seder plate, is a set of ten
items: the three matzos on top and then two triangles
and the plate itself.
The first triangle is made up of the zero'a
(representing Korbon Pesach), the beitzoh
(representing the Korbon Chagigah), and then in the
middle is the morror. The second triangle has the
charoses on the right, the carpas on the left,
and in the middle the second morror. The tenth item is
the ke'oroh itself which embraces all of them and
makes them all into a single unit.
The concepts of right and left and middle are really very
great ideas. Right is chesed, which is the strength
and the power in our world corresponding to Avrohom. If you
add up the good parts of the world and the bad parts of the
world -- how much a person is well, how much a person is
sick, how much a person is full of enjoyment, how much a
person is full of sorrow - - even though you may not
otherwise notice, you will find that the enjoyment of this
world is trillions of times more than the pain of this world.
The left is the ideas of restriction and definition,
corresponding to Yitzchok, and the middle represents the
beauty, the middoh of emes, of Torah -- and of
Yaakov among the three Ovos.
Why is the morror at the center of the ke'oroh
and why does it appear twice, at the center of both the
top and bottom triangles?
The answer is based on the fact that the morror of the
seder is not like the morror of Tisha B'Av. The
morror of Tisha B'Av is a morror of din,
of punishment. The morror of the seder
really represents the beauty of the morror.
The gematria of morror is the same as of
movess, of death. Chazal explain the posuk
(Bereishis 1:31): "Vayar Elokim es kol asher osoh, vehinei
tov me'od" -- "tov," zu mal'ach tov; "me'od"-- zu mal'ach
hamoves. "Tov" -- yetzer hatov; "me'od" -- yetzer hora.
Hashem saw all that He had done and behold it is very good.
"Good" is the good angel; "very" is the angel of death.
"Good" is the yetzer hatov; "very" is the yetzer
Since we defined the essence of humanity as its connection to
Hashem, then the most important ingredient in our life is
movess, death. If there were no death, then we would
live in a world that is completely detached from Hashem, for
there would be no reason to attach ourselves to Him. If I
find my enjoyment in this world, and I am basically a good
person and I do good things, and Hashem sends me good agents
to give me happiness and enjoyment, then I don't really need
to connect to Hashem.
If it were not for death, our Torah learning would be very
weak: "Why should I learn masechta Yevomos now, if I
can just as well learn it 100 million years from now? What's
the rush? I might as well enjoy myself and someday I'll
But now that there's death, I'm in a hurry. I have to connect
to Hashem. Time is short, and everything we all do is with
the knowledge of the final moment of reconnection of our
neshomoh with Hashem at the time of movess.
So really the beauty of the world is movess in its two
forms: the movess which is death, and the
movess which is pain.
That is why there are two types of morror on the
ke'oroh. The top morror is called simply
morror, the most bitter, since it refers to the most
bitter moment of death (mar hamovess). The bottom
morror is called chazeres, something that
Pain also attaches us to Hashem. If there were no pain in
this world, we would long ago have forgotten Hashem. As
Shlomoh Hamelech states (Mishlei 30:9), "Pen
esba," Lest I become full and satisfied,
"vekichashti," I deny, "ve'omarti mi Hashem,"
and I say: Who is Hashem?
The moment that we're in pain, we run to Hashem, because He
is the Source of all happiness and of all good feelings and
So the two morrors are the center of the seder.
But we have a problem with this, because morror
and death sting even if they are beautiful, and we don't
want to die, we want to live. So we take the morror and we
dip it into charoses, which is made up of two words,
"chas" and "rus." "Chas" has the gematria
of chaim (68).
The gemora says we dip the morror into
charoses because the morror has capo,
which means acid. The morror burns and the
charoses sweetens the morror. We dip the
morror into chaim so that it should be only a
remembrance of the real morror -- zichron yom
hamovess -- and it should be sweetened and it should be
There is also another word, "Rus." I think the reason
is because the gemora states she was called "Rus"
because her descendant was Dovid Hamelech who sated
HaKodosh Boruch Hu with shiros and
tishbochos. What makes this a beautiful world, a world
of chaim, is singing to Hashem.
The reason why the remembrance of the morror of
Mitzrayim is so central to the seder is that if we had
been happy and felt good in Mitzrayim, we would still be
there. The reason we went out of Mitzrayim is because of the
morror: "Vayei'onchu venei Yisroel min ho'avodoh"
(Shemos 2:23). It was most important that in Mitzrayim
there was a shibud, that we were in pain in Mitzrayim.
As a result, we called to Hashem and Hashem answered us and
took us out, and brought us to this closeness.
So too in our humanity that we are building this evening --
this wonderful Leil HaSeder -- the morror is
the center of everything. Therefore we place the morror
on the ke'oroh at the center. And we dip it into
charoses, so that we remember that even in the hard
moments we should be full of life, be full of shiroh,
and full of "Rus." And we remember Rus herself who
went through so many hardships in her life. She was a king's
daughter and she gave away everything and lost her husband
and became poor and gathered grains in the field like a
pauper. But she didn't complain and kept singing shiroh
to Hashem and thus found the real happiness of life.
End of Part II
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