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









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Opinion & Comment
Understanding Leil HaSeder

HaRav Shimshon Pincus zt"l was killed, along with his wife and daughter, in a tragic car accident on the 12th of Nisan, 5761. In addition to being the rov of the kehilla of Ofakim, Israel, HaRav Pincus lectured and participated in seminars throughout the world. The following article is taken from a taped lecture "Leil HaSeder" that he delivered in the U.S. before Pesach 5760.

Introduction and Summary

The Leil HaSeder is a very special night. There is a saying by tzaddikim that the Leil HaSeder gives you a seder -- an organizing principle -- for the entire year. If we experience the Leil HaSeder properly, it is a wonderful experience and it can make a revolution within us and in our attachment to Hashem.

The first part of the talk was printed in our Pesach edition, 5762. HaRav Pincus explained that Pesach was and is the birth of the Jewish people, every year. There are three partners in all people: the father who gives the "white" (bones) parts of the body, the mother who gives the "red" (flesh and blood), 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 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.

The second part of the lecture was published in our edition of Pesach 5763, last year. It covered two components of the Seder: carpas and morror. Carpas refers to katnus, the simple perception and grasp of the basic fact of Hashem as the Designer behind the world. This is in contrast to the gadlus perception, which refers to the fact that we are utterly dependent on Hashem and there is nothing else besides Him. Pesach is constructed bechipozone, hastily and out of order, so that we start with the more mature excitement of the first cose and only then eat the carpas, ingesting the basic ideas of Hashem.

HaRav Pincus also explained morror which represents death and pain, both parts of the world necessary to push us to have a connection to Hashem. On Pesach we dip the morror into charroses which has life in it, so that it is only a remembrance of the day of death and that it will itself be chaim!

Part III

Before we go back to the beginning and fill in the remaining steps of the Seder, let me put in a few words about before the beginning. Since we are building a building over here that we call humanity, the crux of which is our connection to Hashem, we require a certain preparation.

Just as when you are going to build a physical building in our world, the first thing is that you have to clean the building lot, because when there is a vacant lot the neighbors come around and make it a dump and it may be full of garbage. So there has to be a preparation of cleanliness.

For our "building," we have the wonderful days before Pesach. Before Pesach we are busy with being meva'eir the chometz, because we cannot really build a connection to HaKodosh Boruch Hu if our personalities are full of garbage. Whether it's problems in our personalities like loshon hora or ka'as, or the kind of garbage that comes into our homes through our walls - - through the telephone wire, through the Internet, through the radio, or a newspaper -- whatever it is, our lives are full of garbage.

Erev Pesach, when we are preparing for this connection, this birth, we have to make it our business to see that we are going to do bi'ur chometz. You cannot sit at the Seder table when all the chometz is still around. When there is bread all around, it just doesn't make sense to hold a Seder.

So the radio may be closed, the Internet closed, the newspapers closed, and you are sitting at a table with a perfectly white tablecloth -- but it is not enough. Chometz is bal yeiro'eh, ubal yeimotzei (Shemos 12:19 and 13:7) which means that it is not enough if it is not on the table. It means that it must be burned [destroyed through fire,] and that is extremely important.

Also there is a very wonderful siyata deShmaya in the days before Pesach to clean the house. This means not only cleaning the physical house our bodies live in, but also to cleaning every corner of our personalities, of our life, in preparation for this wonderful night. The moment you really do this cleaning, the beauty of the Leil HaSeder that we all strive for will come to us as an explosion from Hashem.


Let us start off the rest of our explanation of the Seder with the Kiddush, which will explain the kind of relationship we are trying to build with Hashem.

There are two kinds of connections that people can have between themselves. One connection is a connection of friendship, which can be for commercial reasons, for social reasons, with my neighbor across the street, with friends, a chavrusa or whatever. The second kind of connection is the connection of family, the epitome of which is marriage.

One way to describe the difference is with numbers. A person would give a hundred dollars to his best friend as a present, and maybe even a thousand dollars. But a person gives his family hundreds of thousands of dollars.

A rich man will give a present to his best friend of a thousand dollars, but when he makes a chasunah for his daughter, the flowers alone will cost ten thousand dollars. I'm not trying to say that's the way to do things, but I am reporting what is done.

The difference between the connection of the rest of humanity to Hashem and the connection of us to Hashem is this: The connection of the rest of humanity is like that between friends, like what we would a priori understand the connection between a Creator and his creations to be.

The connection of Am Yisroel to Hashem is described in Shir haShirim (which we read this night) in terms of family: "Imi, achosi, bitti, and finally ra'ayosi." This connection between Hashem and the Jewish people of love, of intimacy and of a marital relationship is gadlus, something that is way above the capacity of our seichel.

For example: A person and a microbe both live in the same world but there is no shidduch and if the microbe has a headache you're not going to have a sleepless night. The difference between us and Hashem is unimaginable. It is as if we are trillions of worlds apart. And yet Hashem loves us and is connected to us. If we stand in front of Hashem as a creature, we're nothing. But if we stand in front of Hashem with love, we're equal partners with everything.

It's very much like a marriage, and a marriage that is bland is no marriage. If there's no excitement, if there's no liveliness, it's not a marriage. That is why the first words of the Seder, even before we eat the carpas, are, ". . . asher bochar bonu mikol om" and "veromemonu mikol loshon, vekideshonu bemitzvosov." Because HaKodosh Boruch Hu took us out of Mitzrayim not just so that we would recognize him, but He took us out for Matan Torah, for a marriage. Even though at the Leil HaSeder we still have to count seven weeks up to that marriage, tonight is the beginning.

So we take the first cose and we go crazy! We pick it up and we start singing. We are not singing because there is a Creator of the world -- we'll talk about that later. And we are not singing because of the knowledge of Hashem's greatness. We are rejoicing because the Creator is close to us (bochar bonu) and loves us and took us out of Mitzrayim (veromemonu mikol loshon).

We finish by saying mekadeish Yisroel -- alluding to kiddushin, marriage -- vehazmanim indicating that now is the special time, whether we feel we're worthy of it or not.

Then we make the brochoh of Shehecheyonu, saying that Hashem kept us alive with love and brought us to the Seder for this wonderful day, to be reborn in this marriage.


Then carpas, as if to say: "Wait a second! We went crazy already, but let's review the basics." This is implied by what it says about the reason for carpas: "sheyish'alu hatinokos." Then the tinokos can come out and start asking the questions, because when we really have to understand something it is only through questions that we can succeed in doing so. If you are afraid to ask, you'll never get there.


Then we talk about yetzias Mitzrayim. We talk about both issues, the katnus and the gadlus, understanding everything that's happening and also understanding the reality of Hashem and the reality of our relationship to Hashem.

Motzi, Matzoh, Morror

After we finish yetzias Mitzrayim then we are ready to instill the emunah. This is the real connection of gadlus, of trusting Hashem, and it is when we really build ourselves as a structure. This is the matzoh.

Then, to guarantee that this emunah will always prevail and that it will not be just a fleeting moment of ecstasy, there's the morror. This is to remind us that we are here on a very fragile basis, and one day we're going to go back.

Shulchan Oreich

Just like the matzoh and the arba cosos are a pair, the first two cosos are also a pair. The first cose is like the matzoh -- it builds the reality, the emunah. The second cose is the excitement: "go'eil Yisroel," "asher ge'olonu vego'al es avoseinu miMitzrayim . . . vehigi'onu halayloh hazeh le'echol bo matzoh umorror." And then you are ready to eat the seuda.

The second half of the Seder does not have the heights of the first half, because the first part is where we built everything. The second half of the Seder is called da'as. When you ate the matzos, drank the cosos, ate the morror, and ate the seuda, you became full of reality and full of good ideas. Many times a person has knowledge that just remains in his mind but it does not become integrated into everyday life. The second half of the Seder takes the results of the first half of the Seder and integrates them into everyday life. This is done primarily through two steps: bircas hamozone and Hallel.


At first glance, bircas hamozone should not be part of the special Seder at all. We just happened to have eaten matzoh and so there is bircas hamozone. But obviously it does become part of the Seder because we see that there are arba cosos and one of them is the cup of bircas hamozone.

The explanation is that bircas hamozone is really part of the Geuloh. This insight I heard from a cassette from HaRav Uziel Milevsky zt"l who says something very beautiful:

In the practical world, the most exaggerated slavery that we have nowadays is parnossoh. Everyone is a slave to making a living. "I'd love to stay in shul more; I'd love to learn more; I'd love to do this -- but I have to work." The food of our lives, the food that we eat, enslaves us to this world.

The appreciation of the truth that parnossoh comes from Hashem, is really a most important ingredient of the issue of cheirus. If you don't know how to say that HaKodosh Boruch Hu is hazon es ho'olom, that it is He Who brings prosperity to the world -- "kulo, betuvo, bechein, bechessed, uverachamim. Hu nosain lechem lechol bosor" -- then you really never left Mitzrayim and you are still a slave.

Since the idea of the third and fourth cose is to take what we have learned and to integrate it into our everyday life, we start with bircas hamozone. We pick up the third cose and we sing to Hashem and we say: You took us out of Mitzrayim, which is an expression of meitzar, of narrowness and oppression, and you brought us to a beautiful wide world, a world of freedom. The real freedom is that we know that this whole world is really run by Hashem and that every penny that we make and every piece of bread that we have comes from Hashem. And if we can pick up this cose and sing this song, then we are really a free people.


After you finish the bircas hamozone, comes the Hallel, which is also this same idea. When you praise Hashem and you sing and you are happy, then it means that it is real for you.

We generally have a lot of reasons to be happy in our lives, but we're not happy. So why aren't we happy? Because we don't live the reality of those ideas that we have learned. If we can say Hallel and we can sing to Hashem, then we really are free people, because then all the things that look negative in our eyes, all the depressions and all the trials of this world, don't bog us down. By singing to Hashem and looking at the beautiful world, we come to realize that the world is not a dark world and not a world of pain.

If life means you are here to be comfortable, then if you don't have the right marriage and you don't have the right family that you wanted, and you don't have the right parnossoh that you wanted -- to some people it even means that they don't have the right car that they wanted -- then the world is dark.

If life means attachment to Hashem, then nothing and nobody can stop us from attaching to Hashem. Then life is a song, life is beauty, and we can say, "Hodu LaHashem ki tov, ki le'olom Chasdo" -- Hashem is tov, because his kindness never stops. He is always there with us. There may be clouds, but clouds bring rain and thus they are only an expression of more and more tov, and more and more brochoh. Everything is an expression of brochoh in this world, if you know how to look at it from the right perspective.

Nirtzoh, Shir Hashirim

Then at the end of the Seder, we say Shir HaShirim. Saying Shir HaShirim, to my knowledge, is not brought down in Chazal but is a minhag that the Jewish people took upon themselves.

Since the central idea of Odom that we built in the Seder is attachment to Hashem, and we have just finished the Seder which concludes with zemiros such as Chad Gadyo and Vayehi Bachatzi Halayloh that embrace the history of the whole world and what will be in the future, out of excitement we jump up and give Hashem a kiss by saying, "Shir haShirim asher liShlomo. Yishokeini mineshikos Pihu. (1:2)

And this siyata deShmaya carries us throughout the first day of Pesach. Tonight we say Hallel and tomorrow we are going to say Hallel again, and the whole day of Pesach is a day of siyata deShmaya. To waste the day, with small talk or whatever, is a big waste. It is a wonderful day: the Heavens are open!


Many of us, as time goes on, feel that Pesach did not do any of this -- and that is a big mistake.

Pesach is a change. If you did the Seder -- whether with less excitement or with more excitement, whether with less understanding or more understanding -- you made a change. But the more you understand it, and the more you look to feel the change, the more and more to'eles there will be in it for you.

We have to try to continue the cleanliness and the preparations we made for Pesach, the biyur chometz, for the whole year.

We live in a world where everyone is looking for fun, for entertainment, for experiences, for games. Everything is one idea: enjoyment of life.

But this, even without aveiros, is the exact opposite of the whole central idea of Torah. The whole idea of Torah is that there is a Hashem, there is a Creator, and that we are married to Him, that we find beauty by Him, that we sing to Him, and that we find enjoyment by Him. That is why the epitome of the Seder is Shir HaShirim: "Chiko mamtakim vechulo machmadim, zeh dodi vezeh rei'i." (5:16) That is the important idea, the one from which everything else starts.

HaKodosh Boruch Hu should help us to be zocheh to really absorb from the Seder everything that there is to absorb.

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