Due to the growing difficulties in establishing the beginning
of the month through the sighting of the new moon by
witnesses, Hillel Hasheini established the rules for
computing the calendar thus avoiding the need to rely on
witnesses. In so doing, certain fundamental patterns became
invariant, such as that the day of the week upon which the
first day of Passover falls coincides with that of the Ninth
This observation is not a coincidence borne out of a spurious
interaction between the multiple factors upon which the
calendar is calculated, but rather hints to a deep
correlation between the most tragic day of the Jewish year
— the Ninth of Av — and Passover which is the
most regal of the festival cycle. This association implies
that Passover achieves through its magnificence and nobility
that which the Ninth of Av motivates through its harsh
bitterness. That is to say, the fundamental substrata of
these two days are alternate approaches to an identical goal.
The development of this idea is the topic of this essay.
Identity through Mourning
A Greek philosopher approached the prophet Jeremiah whilst he
was engrossed in mourning over the destruction of the Temple,
and posed to him the following two questions. First, why do
you grieve over the destruction of stones and timber? Second,
it is not the way of the wise to lament something which was.
Remorse over the past is both fruitless and foolish.
Jeremiah inquired of the gentile scholar "In your discipline
as a philosopher do you have any questions which remain
unresolved?" The philosopher proceeded to expound several
perplexing and confounding paradoxes. The prophet instantly
resolved all the anomalies in a clear and lucid manner. The
philosopher was astounded at Jeremiah's brilliance and
perspicuity of thought. He beseeched Jeremiah to reveal the
source of his exceptional wisdom. Jeremiah responded: "From
these very stones which I lament over." Regarding the second
question Jeremiah refrained from passing comment.
By tradition, it is known that Jeremiah did inform his
students regarding the answer to the second question. While
the Temple was extant even the proletariat felt its
influence. The Temple's efficacy was not only that it caused
Klal Yisroel to excel in intellectual profundity, but
rather that it also projected a world unrestrained by space
and time. A world in which Hashem's Divinity ruled supreme
— unchallenged by any authority, physical or
Entering the Temple catapulted an individual into an
environment in which his emunah became palpable. After
the Temple's destruction its influence went into concealment,
only to be experienced by those who mourn its demise.
The Kelm Yeshiva, founded by HaRav Simcha Zissel, became the
flagship of all future yeshivas until the present day. Rav
Yeruchom, the successor to his mentor R' Simcha Zissel,
transmitted the scholarship and discipline of Kelm to the
future generations. That Rav Yeruchom should be ascribed the
accolade of being the singular transmitter of R' Simcha
Zissel's scholarship is exceptional; for Rav Yeruchom's study
period under the tutelage of R' Simcha Zissel was but a
single year, while others who had basked in the radiance of
R' Simcha Zissel for decades have been forgotten in the
passage of time.
Rav Yeruchom in his latter years wrote in respect of this
phenomenon, that since R' Simcha Zissel's death he never
forgot a single nuance, word, or thought that he had learned
or observed in the months he merited to study at R' Simcha
Zissel's side. This extraordinary longevity and lucidity of
memory he ascribed to the intense mourning with which he
lamented his mentor's passing, the effect of which was to
forge a deep bond with the deceased, so much so that he
became the vehicle through which the Torah of the past could
During the harshest years of the First World War, it was
impossible to acquire — even for the greatest rabbonim
— an esrog for Succos. One year it became known
throughout Hungarian Jewry that the Ahavas Yisroel, the Rov
of Vishnitz, had acquired an esrog for the festival.
One of his congregants, a daring devotee of the Rov, had
smuggled the four species in from Greece.
During the weeks prior to Succos, throngs of Hungarian Jews
started to migrate to the town of Vishnitz. Jews of all walks
of life, wealthy and poor alike, full of majestic dignity,
queued throughout the night of Yom Tov, awaiting the advent
of the dawn, in anticipation of that fleeting moment during
which they would take the lulav bundle and pronounce
With factory-like precision, throughout the day of Yom Tov
each person took the four species, pronounced the
blessing and then passed on the precious lulav bundle
to the next in line. As the sun sank beneath the horizon
signaling the end of the halachic day, several people still
remained in line, not as of yet having merited the mitzvah.
The private assistant of the Rov announced that the time of
the mitzvah had passed; whereupon those remaining in the
queue broke out into bitter, heart-rending wailing.
When this was reported to the Rov he responded,
"Halevai — I wish my portion would be like
When this story was recounted to one of Jewry's current day
rabbonim, his response was, "When a person is denied a
mitzvah, only then does one truly see the value that the
individual concerned ascribed to it."
When one examines the array of foods arranged on the
Seder plate, one observes that there is both
morror and chazeres. Both are forms of bitter
herbs. However the chazeres is neither mentioned nor
used throughout the Seder. Since the Seder
foods all convey a symbolism relevant to the evening, what
symbolism is expressed by the chazeres? Furthermore,
what is the actual difference between these two forms of
`bitterness' in the macrocosm of life?
At the prelude to the Seder evening the Haggadah
records four questions;
"Why is this night different from all other nights? On all
other nights we may eat Chometz and Matzoh; on this night
only Matzoh. On all other nights we may eat any kind of
vegetables; on this night morror. On all other nights
we are not required to dip even once; on this night we are
required to do so twice. On all other nights we may eat
sitting or reclining; on this night we all recline."
The commentators explain that matzos represent
servitude, morror the intense bitterness of our
enslavement, dipping denotes our salvation, while reclining
signifies emancipation. Of the four questions, the first two
refer to the period of servitude while the latter two refer
to Klal Yisroel's liberation.
As such, the third question regarding dipping poses a
difficulty, for the two occasions during the order of the
evening that one dips vegetables are at karpas and
morror. The word karpas is an anagram for "six
hundred thousand at hard work." The liquid used for dipping
is saltwater symbolic of the tears that Klal Yisroel
shed during their years of persecution. The second time
one dips is for morror. The morror denotes the
intense bitterness Klal Yisroel experienced under the
tyranny of Egyptian rule, while the food the morror is
dipped into, the charoses, signifies the mortar used
to cement the bricks.
Hence, how is it that the dipping denotes salvation when both
the foods that are dipped and that which they are dipped into
connote Klal Yisroel's persecution?
The charoses presents something of an enigma, for its
sweet taste implies a symbolism contrary to that indicated by
its consistency and color. Taste by definition is concealed
within the essence of the food, while its appearance creates
the initial impression. Taste is indicative of the
fundamental nature of the food, while its appearance is only
a superficial representation.
The ingredients from which charoses is made —
apples, nuts and so on — were not chosen arbitrarily
but are specifically used because throughout the Bible these
fruits are used as analogies to express Klal Yisroel's
beauty before Hashem. Hence charoses really expresses
a dichotomy between its superficial form and its essence. The
former expresses suffering while the latter expresses
Hashem's delight in Klal Yisroel. These two issues are
integrally linked, for it is through suffering that Klal
Yisroel becomes endeared to Hashem.
We live in a world replete with human suffering, where
governments and dictators alike revel with delight at the
persecution they inflict on their own people. It is a world
where the proletariat gloat over the misfortunes of
No wonder that we tend to evaluate Divine justice with the
same perverted attitude. However, Divine justice is not an
expression of revenge against a renegade people or a form of
schadenfreudian pleasure, but rather a means of
rehabilitation. Every incremental moment of anguish and
distress is orchestrated from on High and as such cleanses
the essence of our fundamental being — the Nefesh.
Consequently, the oppression of the Jewish people in
Egypt was in fact the cause of their redemption.
Based on this, one can resolve the observations made above.
The two forms of bitter herbs, morror and
chazeres are symbolic of two perspectives of
suffering. Chazeres, which is placed at the extremity
of the Seder plate, represents a superficial human view that
suffering is without cause or reason, and as such has no
specific purpose. Hence the chazeres is neither
mentioned nor used throughout the Seder.
However, the correct perspective is that the intensity of the
Golus is the root cause of the Redemption. Hence the
morror is placed in the center of the plate, symbolic
of the fact that all the events symbolized throughout the
Seder night grew out from a single point: the
bitterness of the servitude.
In the twilight moments before Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz passed
away, the Steipler visited him. Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz' last
days were full of acute pain. The Steipler's visit encouraged
and strengthened Rav Chaim's spirit. During the conversation,
the Steipler said to Rav Chaim (in reference to his intense
pain): "You are extremely wealthy." Rav Chaim responded,
"This is a wealth that one only appreciates in hindsight."
He accepted the Steipler's words that even minimal suffering
in this world has a powerful cleansing effect regarding the
next world — and all the more so a person who was
overwhelmed by agony. Rav Chaim meant to reply that after his
passing he would fully appreciate the Steipler's words.
The objective of the Seder night is to reach a point
that the participants feel they have been liberated. The
commentators explain this means the elevation of one's
emunah to the point that one feels totally dependent
on Hashem and not bound by any other authority. The means to
achieve this illustrious stature is through deep
contemplation throughout the evening of our gratitude to
Hashem for all that he has endowed us with. For true
gratitude can only be experienced when one feels that his
benefactor provided something he lacked.
A young newlywed inquired of HaRav Shach if it would be
appropriate for him to make a "kleiner" Kiddush in
honor of his newborn daughter. HaRav Shach, full of
astonishment, responded in an animated voice, "A small
Kiddush? If you had waited fourteen years for this
daughter instead of fourteen months, would you make a small
Kiddush? You should express your gratitude to Hashem
in a fashion fitting for one who was spared fourteen years of
Only when a person is deprived of a basic faculty does he
appreciate the gift of life's intricacies which we all enjoy
When a person feels dependency on Hashem, faith is a natural
progression. This is the shared identity between the Ninth of
Av and Passover, both days that offer cardinal lessons in
making emunah a reality.
The tragedy of the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash
was that Klal Yisroel was expelled into a world in
which they could mistakenly believe that their destiny was a
result of their own endeavor. Klal Yisroel became
severed from a world were emunah was tangible and
On both the days of Passover and the Ninth of Av, one is
expected to rouse oneself from a state of quiescent belief
into a realm of tangible emunah. On the Ninth of Av
this is achieved through mourning the bygone era of the
Temple, and on Passover through contemplating our gratitude