Why was this specifically said by the seventh day of Pesach, the night that we commemorate the splitting of the sea? The answer is because the Yom Tov has a strong correlation to ochel nefesh. As we learn, “the mezonos (parnosah) of a person is as difficult as the splitting of the sea.”
The Belzer Rebbe, Rav Yissochor Dov, would ask, “Why do we enumerate the “echod mi yodeah” after the seder night? Shouldn’t we say it every single night of the year?
The Rebbe would then answer that, “A wealthy man never reveals the secret of his fortune until he drinks wine, and the secrets emerge. The same applies to us: Only after drinking the four cups of wine do we enumerate our good fortune: One is Hashem, two are the luchos, three are the avos…”
One year, when the Shpoler Zeide asked his son to enumerate the steps of the seder, the little boy said, “Kadeish: on the night of Pesach when the father comes home from shul he puts on his white kittel and makes kiddush immediately.” The little boy then asked the four questions.
“Didn’t your Rebbe say why the father should make kiddush immediately?” the Rebbe asked his son.
“My melamed didn’t say anything else,” the little boy complained.
The Shpoler Zeide taught him the rest of the verse, “The father makes kiddush immediately, so that the little children shouldn’t fall asleep, and can ask the Mah nishtanah.”
The following day, when the melamed came to the Rebbe’s tish, the Shpoler Zeide asked why he didn’t teach the boys the entire “kadeish.” The melamed said, “I didn’t want to make the children memorize such a long thing. Besides, it is not completely correct; even families with no young children make kiddush right away. It makes no difference whether the children are tired or not.”
The Shpoler Zeide was very distressed at hearing these words. “How can you say something like that? Just because you don’t understand the meaning doesn’t mean there is no meaning at all. I will explain it to you: ‘Pesach at night, when the Tatteh, which means our Father, comes home from shul– Hashem comes to visit our homes and sees how we abandon our everyday burdens, and rejoice with His Yom Tov, and He immediately makes ‘kiddush,’ and renews His sacred bond with the Jewish nation. This is done so that the ‘small children should not fall asleep,’ so we shouldn’t fall into apathy in the depths of our pain, and we should ask, ‘mah nishtanah,’ why is this golus longer than all the other times in golus?”
When the Shpoler Zeide said these words, he burst into tears, and all those assembled cried with him. Then he stood up and said with enthusiasm, “Now we have to show our Father that we can dance and celebrate in the midst of our darkness and golus…”
The Kozhnitzer Maggid would say, “The difference between chometz and matzah is not more than a tiny dot, which is missing by the small piece of the “hei” of matzah.
“Likewise, the difference between tov and rah, between good and evil, is not more than a tiny dot. We need great rachmei Shomayim to ensure that the difference should not be erased. Therefore, we are told to search for chometz in all hidden corners and chambers of the heart. If our thoughts while doing a mitzvah are negative, the “matzah” will turn into “chometz.
“However, we learn that in a place where chometz does not enter, we do not need to inspect. One should not check for chometz in a place where one did not put chometz. This means that we should not be busy inspecting our friend’s heart…we must check our own hearts and innermost thoughts for chometz.”
A chosid came to his Rebbe, Rav Yitzchok of Neshchiz, and unburdened his heart: “This year, my shmurah matzos became chometz’dig, and I will be forced to eat regular matzos.”
The Rebbe replied, “Shmurah matzah is only a hidur mitzvah, but simchas Yom Tov is a mitzvah from the Torah. It is better to eat regular matzos with simcha than shmurah matzos with sadness.”
The Chozeh of Lublin interpreted the words, “We remember Yetzias Mitzrayim at night,” to mean the following:
Even when a person finds himself lost in the darkness, surrounded by bitterness and pain, one may not despair of the geulah and Yeshuas Hashem. We must recall the miracles of Yetzias Mitzrayim, how Klal Yisroel was redeemed in one moment. We, too, can see nisim and merit redemption from one moment to the next.
One year on Erev Pesach afternoon, the holy Berditchever, known as the Kedushas Levi, sent his shammas to find a piece of chometz in a Jewish home. “Rebbe, it is after the zman of biur chometz,” said the shammas. “How can I possibly find a piece of chometz?”
The Rebbe didn’t reply. He asked the shammas again to fetch him a piece of chometz at any price. After an hour of knocking on doors and being sent away in humiliation, the shammas returned empty-handed.
Now the Kedushas Levi sent the shammas to the black market to buy a piece of Turkish wool, which was outlawed by the government. He returned a short while later with the fabric, which had cost him a pretty penny.
Elated, the holy Berditchever thanked the shammas and raised his hands heavenward. “Ribono Shel Olam, look at Your beloved nation. The king has outlawed the sale of Turkish wool, and has ordered soldiers to guard the borders to ensure that none of the fabric is brought in, under pain of imprisonment. Nevertheless, it is possible to procure the fabric for the right price.
“On the other hand, You have written in the Torah that we may not eat chometz. There are no guards and no threats of imprisonment. Nevertheless, there is not a crumb of chometz to be found in a single Jewish household! See how loyal we are, and please take us out of golus!”
The Gaon of Vilna spent many years wandering in golus, hiding his identity as he went from one city to the next. One year, he spent Pesach in the city of Zalkova and was invited to the Zalkover rov’s seder. The rov gave his guest permission to make his own seder.
The Vilna Gaon had his own minhogim, according to several Rishonim. The Gaon only took two matzos, and washed netilas yodayim for karpas with a blessing. This distressed the rov, but he didn’t say anything.
The following day, the rov told the Torah scholars in his community about the guest with the strange minhogim. The Torah scholars asked him to test if the guest was really a talmid chochom, or a simpleton who didn’t know any better.
Wanting to test if his guest was a Torah scholar, the rov asked him to say a dvar Torah. The Gaon of Vilna, who wanted to hide his identity, refused. The rov then said a pilpul, and asked the Gaon to repeat it. The Gaon listened to the pilpul, but did not interrupt. Afterwards, he repeated the pilpul in an incisive manner, with great depth and wisdom. Now the rov saw that his guest was not just a simple Yid, but a great talmid chochom.
On Isru Chag, the Gaon left the home of his gracious host. On the table, he wrote a list of all the foods he had eaten over Yom Tov, and left a sum of money to pay for his meals.
The following story occurred one year in Brod:
A man who sold spirits and vodka sold his cellar full of merchandise to his non-Jewish assistant before Pesach, and gave him the key. On Chol Hamoed, he learned that the new owner called his friends to a party, and they were drinking away the merchandise. The merchant realized he was ruined: if his assistant kept up the partying, he would have nothing left at the end of Pesach. He went to Rav Shlomo Kluger to ask for advice.
The Rav told him to place a silver spoon in his assistant’s pocket, and to tell the police that the man stole his silverware. The police investigated the claim, found the spoon, and arrested the man until after Pesach. Needless to say, the partying and drinking came to a halt, and his merchandise was saved.
After Pesach, he withdrew the complaint against the assistance.
The Rav of Bialystock would take care of the Jewish soldiers, ensuring that they had food to eat and a place to stay every Shabbos and Yom Tov.
One year before Pesach, the Rosh Kahal came to complain that the price of food went up, and it was impossible to supply the poor of the city with kosher l’Pesach food.
“If the situation is so difficult,” said the Rav, “perhaps this year we can call the dayanim to give a heter and permit the eating of kitniyos.”
The Rosh Kahal was greatly relieved. “What a wonderful idea,” he said. “I was very worried about the Jewish soldiers, and what they would eat for Pesach. Now that I can give them kitniyos, which are cheaper, my worries are over.”
“Chas vesholom!” said the Rav. “I did not mean that the soldiers should receive that heter. You, I, and all the other baalei batim will eat kitniyos. For the soldiers, only regular kosher l’Pesach food will do, just like every year.”
Rav Ahron Karliner recalled that his saintly father, Rav Asher of Stolin, said one year during the seder, “And here the son should ask. Shoel is from the loshon of sheilah and bakashah. During the seder, one can ask for anything.
“One who serves Hashem can accomplish great things on the seder night,” said the Stoliner Rebbe. “This does not apply only to people of a lofty spiritual level, but to ordinary people as well.”
The Chidushei Harim once related the greatness of Rav Yechezkel Landau, the Noda B’Yehuda, who would open the door on the seder night at Shefoch Chamoschah, and then escort Eliyohu Hanovi down the stairs.
The Chidushei Harim added, “It wasn’t that he saw Eliyohu Hanovi, but he believed with his heart and soul that Eliyohu comes to every Jewish home. That powerful emunah is greater than gilui Eliyohu.”
The Rebbe of Machnivka said, “There are some who say that nowadays we can’t serve Hashem like in days of old, because there are no chasidim of that caliber. Therefore, the ‘baal hagadah’ says ‘mitchilah;’ those who say ‘mitchilah,’ that only the previous generations were able to serve Hashem, are in the category of ‘ovdei avodah zarah.’
“V’achshav, and now, we can serve Hashem just as well, with the tools we were given.”
A chosid once asked the Tzemach Tzaddik, “Why did Hashem have to split the sea? Couldn’t Moshe Rabeinu guide the Jewish people across the sea with their emunah alone, even on an apron, just as the Baal Shem Tov went across the Dniester River with a handkerchief?”
The Rebbe replied, “The Jewish nation could have crossed the sea by relying on their emunah. However, the Egyptians, who did not possess emunah, would not have been willing to travel on a kerchief, and Hashem wanted them to drown in the sea. Thus, the sea was split in order to ensnare the Egyptians.”
The Sefer Kaf Hachaim mentions that one should use goblets from silver, because silver alludes to chesed.
The Neziros Shimshon mentions that one should not drink from a golden goblet, but only from a vessel of glass. In the siddur of Rav Shalom Sharabi it is also mentioned that goblets should be either silver or glass.
The Divrei Chaim of Sanz used only glass goblets for the seder, and the Komarna Rebbe used crystal dishes to adorn his seder table.
The Munkatcher Rebbe used a silver becher for the first of the Arba Kosos, and used a special glass vessel, which he had inherited from his Zeide, the Lancuter Rav, for the other three kosos.
One year, on Pesach night, when the seder table was set with the finest goblets, a thief entered the home of the Bais Halevi. He tiptoed into the dining room, gathered the goblets into a sack and ran out the door. In his hurry to get away, the thief nearly bumped into the Bais Halevi, who was returning home from shul. The Bais Halevi immediately realized what had transpired.
“Nu, you are probably coming to pawn these items instead of a loan,” said the Bais Halevi tactfully. “If so, you can leave them here, and on Chol Hamoed you will, G-d willing, receive the loan.”
The confused thief dropped his bundle and ran.
The Toras Emes explains, “On Pesach night, the Ribono Shel Olam gives His children lofty emotions and the capacity to reach great spiritual heights. This is not only referring to the spiritually elevated; simple people can also reach these heights.
“Therefore, the halachah is that ‘even a pauper shall not eat until he reclines.’ Even a spiritually poor Jewish person should eat with a spirit of ‘cheirus,’ redemption, because on Pesach all of Klal Yisroel are truly free.”
Why do we say Chad Gadya on the seder night?
Rav Eliezer of D’zikhov related that he was once at the seder of the Lubliner Rebbe, along with his father, the Ropshitzer Rebbe. When the Chozeh finished the seder, he asked if anyone knew the reason the baal hagadah wrote the Chad Gadya at the end.
When everyone was silent, the Chozeh explained, “When the heavenly angels see the nachas ruach that Hashem has from the seder of the hagadah, they are very jealous of us, because they can’t say the hagadah. Since we are afraid that they will harm us will their ayin horah, we say ‘Chad Gadya,’ which is a prevention against the Evil Eye.
Rav Eliezer of Dzhikov said, “There are three times of Heavenly mercy, when we can daven for anything. These are: every Motzoei Shabbos during melava malka, on Acharon Shel Pesach, and on Shemini Atzeres.”
This is alluded to in the following parable: A king came to visit a city. During his visit, there was constant music and celebration. No one wanted to bother the king with their private requests. However, on the last day, when the king was about to leave, the townspeople came to plead and beg for whatever they needed. After being treated with great honor during his visit, the king graciously agreed to their requests.
The same thing applies to these three times: During Shabbos and the Yomim Tovim, it is not proper to bother the King with personal requests. Only at the end of these holy days, when the King is about to leave, do we ask for whatever we need. May we merit that all our requests be fulfilled.