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9 Nissan 5764 - March 31, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
Pesach: Points to Ponder

by HaRav Chaim Charlap

Sweating Over Baking Matzos -- An Effective Remedy

The Shulchan Oruch (Orach Chaim 460:2) states that the Rosh would attend personally to the baking of matzos. He would stand over their preparation, spur on those who worked the dough, and assist with the rolling of the matzoh. The Shulchan Oruch concludes: "This is how everyone should act. He should apply himself personally to the mitzvah."

The Mishnah Berurah (ibid. 5) explains that a mitzvah is better fulfilled if one performs it himself rather than through an agent (Kiddushin 41a).

The Mishnah Berurah (ibid. 7) quotes the Arizal that one should exert himself over the preparation of the matzos until he is hot and perspiring. This is an effective remedy for a serious sin. Similarly, the Shaarei Teshuvoh (ibid. 250:2) quotes the Arizal that the perspiration incurred while preparing for Shabbos is an effective remedy for erasing sins. He adds that the perspiration is equivalent to the shedding of tears.

Tosafos (Niddah 61a) quote the Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 42:8) as to why Og Melech Haboshon was named "Og." When he came to visit Avrohom Ovinu to inform him of the capture of Lot (Bereishis 42:8), it was Pesach (Shemos Rabbah 43:3). He found Avrohom preparing matzos for Pesach. Matzos are called "ugos" (unleavened cakes, Shemos 12:39). Therefore he was nicknamed "Og."

At first glance, it seems strange that he should be nicknamed "Og" merely because he watched Avrohom preparing matzos. However it seems from the Midrash that watching Avrohom Ovinu preparing the matzos for Pesach had a lasting spiritual impact on Og.

Why Doesn't a Female First-Born Fast on Erev Pesach?

The Shulchan Oruch (ibid. 470:1) states: "The first- born fast on Erev Pesach. There are those who are of the opinion that even a female first-born should fast." However, the Ramo (ibid.) rules that it is not the custom for females to fast on Erev Pesach.

The Mishnah Berurah (ibid. 2) explains that the reason the first-born fast on Erev Pesach is in remembrance of the miracle when the first-born of Israel were saved from being struck when all the Egyptian first-born died. The Midrash (Shemos Rabbah 18:3) states that the Egyptian female first- born also died in the plague in Egypt, except for Batya, the daughter of Pharaoh, who was spared in the merit of saving Moshe. The verse states: "and Hashem struck all the first- born in Egypt" (Shemos 12:29). Accordingly, it is appropriate that even a female first-born should fast on erev Pesach, for they too were saved from the plague in Egypt. Nevertheless, the Ramo rules that it is not the custom for females to fast on Erev Pesach.

The Mishnah Berurah (ibid. 4) quotes the Gaon of Vilna who explains that the Torah did not give a female first-born a special status in any respect.

Why Don't We Complete Hallel the Entire Pesach?

The Shulchan Oruch (ibid. 490:4) states that during the days of chol hamoed and on the two final days of Pesach, we do not recite the complete Hallel, just as on Rosh Chodesh. The gemora in Erchin (10b) asks: What is the difference between the yom tov of Succos when we say the complete Hallel all seven days, and the yom tov of Pesach when we only complete Hallel the first day?

The gemora answers: The days of Succos are differentiated from one another in respect of their Korbonos, whereas the days of Pesach are not differentiated in respect of their Korbonos. The number of Korbonos brought on Succos changed from day to day, diminishing by one, whereas on Pesach the number remained the same.

The Mishnah Berurah (ibid. 17) cites the Midrash, which gives a different reason. On the seventh day of Pesach, the Egyptians drowned in the Red Sea. The gemora in Megilloh (10b) states that the angels wanted to recite a song of praise when the Egyptians drowned. However, Hashem stopped them and exclaimed: "My handiwork is drowning in the sea and you recite a song of praise?"

Hashem does not rejoice at the downfall of the wicked. It is Hashem's desire that the wicked repent rather than remain in their evil ways and be destroyed. Hallel is also classified as a song. Therefore we do not complete the Hallel on the final days of Pesach. It is noteworthy that the Mishnah Berurah does not mention the reason of the gemora in Erchin.

The reason given by the Midrash only explains why we don't say the complete Hallel on the final day of Pesach, since the Egyptians drowned on that day. However, it still remains to be explained why we don't complete the Hallel during the previous days of chol hamoed.

The Mishnah Berurah (ibid.) quotes the Levush who explains that once Hallel is not completed on the seventh day of Pesach which is yom tov, it follows that one should also not complete the Hallel on chol hamoed, so that chol hamoed should not have superiority over the final days of yom tov.

The Cup of Eliyohu Hanovi

The Mishnah Berurah (ibid. 480:10) states that it is the custom to pour an extra cup of wine that is called the cup of the Prophet Eliyohu. This cup is to indicate that we have faith that just as Hashem redeemed us from Egypt, he will again redeem us and send us Eliyohu to inform us of the redemption.

The Maharil (Haggodoh Shel Pesach) states that this cup should be large and respectable, for it is the cup of redemption. (See also Siddur Yaavetz.)

Chazal tell us: "In the month of Nisan we were redeemed from Egypt, and in the month of Nisan we will again be redeemed." Therefore on the night of Pesach, we pour an extra cup of wine to indicate that on this night we await to be redeemed.

The Chok Yaakov (ibid.) states that for this reason there is a custom not to lock the doors on the night of Pesach, for we are waiting to be redeemed on this night and when Eliyahu arrives we want to be able to greet him quickly. However, the Chok Yaakov concludes that this is not the common practice, since the danger of thieves is great.

Similarly, the Ramo (ibid.) states that when reciting the prayer, "Pour your wrath," we open the door to remember that it is a night when we are protected, and by virtue of this, the Moshiach will arrive and pour his wrath over the enemies of the Jews.

The Vilna Gaon cites a different reason for the cup of Eliyohu. The Rishonim in Pesochim (108a) dispute if there is a requirement to have a fifth cup. The Daas Zekeinim (Shemos 12:8) states that the fifth cup corresponds to the fifth term of Geulah -- "Veheiveisi." We therefore pour a fifth cup and call it the cup of Eliyohu, referring to the fact that when Eliyohu comes, he will resolve all our unresolved inquiries including whether or not we are obligated to have a fifth cup.

According to this reason, there is no need for this cup to be larger or more respectable than the other cups.

May we be zocheh to the coming of Moshiach this Pesach.

HaRav Chaim Charlap is rosh yeshivas Bais Zvul. This is adapted from his sefer Ohr Chaim on yomim tovim.

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