Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Pesach Prerequisite

The haggadah begins with the passage "Ha lachma anyah". It starts out with a one line description of the matzah that we eat. "This is the bread of affliction that our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt". Immediately following this, we proceed to extend an invitation to the poor to come join us at our seder. The question has been asked, what is this invitation doing at the start of the haggadah?

I would like to suggest the following explanation:

The Maharal asks, why does kabalas ol malchus shomayim begin with the words Shema yisroel? The point of kabalas ol malchus shomayim is really to proclaim Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad, why do we preface it with the words "Shema yisroel"?

The Maharal explains, the kingdom of any king is only as strong as his nation is. If the people don't accept the monarchy, there is no monarchy. Ain melech b'lo am. The strength of the malchus is proportionate to how unified the nation is in accepting the king. So before we are mekabel the malchus shomayim on ourselves, we proclaim "Shema Yisroel", listen all fellow Jews, as if to say “We are one group, one am yisroel, totally united in accepting You as our King”.

One of the main themes of Pesach in general, and of the haggadah in particular, is the idea of וְלָקַחְתִּי אֶתְכֶם לִי לְעָם, וְהָיִיתִי לָכֶם לֵאלֹהִים . Through the exodus from Egypt we became God's nation. The point of sippur yitziyas mitzrayim is to lead to the realization that we are Am Hashem. But a prerequisite of being an Am Hashem is that we first have to be an Am. A consortium of various splinter groups cannot rightly refer to themselves as an Am.

So before we begin to expound on the various aspects of yetziyas mitzrayim we first invite everyone to our table, thereby proclaiming, now that we are a unified Am, we can begin to discuss being an Am Hashem.

I heard the following vort from my Rosh Yeshiva regarding the above mentioned Maharal:

At the end of the tachnun we say the tefillah of shomer yisrael. In it we ask for Hashem's protection based on three things. 1. ha'omrim shema yisrael 2. hamiyachadim shimcha heshem elokeinu hashem echad 3. hamishalishim b'shalosh kedushas. Now if we examine this list we will see that items 1 and 2 seem to refer to the same thing, namely, kabalas ol malchus shomayim. However, according to the Maharal that we mentioned above it makes a lot of sense. Ha’omrim shema yisroel is not referring to Kabalos ol malchus shomayim. It is referring to the fact that we are a united people.

Labels: , ,