Based on a Vaad by Rav Elya Brudny
Rosh Yeshiva, Mirrer Yeshiva
Member, Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah of Agudas Yisroel of America
By C. Neuhoff
We are familiar with the Mishnah, quoted in the Haggadah, which states, “Chayov adam liros es atzmo k’ilu hu yotzah miMitzrayim.” The Mishnah then continues, “Lefichoch anachnu chayovim lehodos…” The Maharam Chalava in Pesachim asks what the connection is between the obligation to view ourselves as if we just left and the obligation of hodaah, expressed at the Seder via the brocha of asher ge’alanu. Why do we need to say chayov adam liros as a prerequisite to the brocha?
To answer this question, he explains that the brocha of asher ge’alanu in which we express our gratitude for all the nissim is classified as a brocha of she’asah li neis bamakom hazeh, which we should make on Leil Pesach to commemorate the great nissim we experienced. However, this brocha is only made by a direct beneficiary of the neis or their immediate descendants. The halacha is that we don’t make a brocha on a neis that occurred to an ancestor of three generations prior. It is for this reason that we begin by stating, “Chayov adam liros es atzmo ke’ilu hu yotzah miMitzrayim,” which makes us into the direct beneficiaries. Now that we ourselves experienced it, we are able to make the birkas haro’eh of asher ge’alanu.
An obvious question is posed by many, namely that the Mishnah explicitly states that on a neis that occurred for the entire Klal Yisroel, one may make a birkas haro’eh forever. The three-generation limitation is only for a private neis. Therefore, Pesach, which is apparently a public neis, should not require us to make it into a personal and contemporary neis in order to make the brocha of asher ge’alanu.
In order to this answer this question, we need to say that the Maharam Chalava views the hoda’ah on the neis that we express Leil Pesach as a private neis, not a public one. Each one of us is commemorating what happened to them as an individual and we therefore can only make the brocha of haroeh neis if it is in accordance with the halachos of a neis yochid. Yes, the next day we say Hallel, which commemorates the nissim that happened to the entire Klal Yisroel, but Leil HaSeder is different.
This chiddush of the Maharam Chalava that Leil Pesach is our individual expression of hoda’ah is also explicit in the Seforno in Parshas Bo. The Seforno has a unique understanding of the question of the ben harasha: “Vehayah ki yomru aleichem beneichem ma ha’avodah hazos lochem.” The Seforno explains that the rasha is bothered by three oddities of the Korban Pesach. First, all korbanos are typically brought on Yom Tov itself, so why is this brought on a yom chol? Second, the korban tomid shel bein ha’arbayim is supposed to be the final korban of the day, so why is the Pesach brought after it? Third, all korbanos tzibbur are regularly brought as one korban for all of Klal Yisroel, yet here it is an obligation on every Jewish home to bring their own korban. Why?
The response to the questions of the ben harasha is the next posuk: “Va’amertem zevach pesach hu laHashem asher posach al botei Bnei Yisroel biMitzrayim binagpo es Mitzrayim v’ees boteinu hitzil.” The Seforno explains how this posuk answers all three questions. It is telling us that unlike other Yomim Tovim, when we commemorate yeshuos that occurred for all of Klal Yisroel (Kabbolas HaTorah, Yetzias Mitzrayim, Ananei Hakavod), here we are commemorating the asher posach, an event that happened many times over to each and every individual house. This individual selection to each home occurred at midnight. This was a separate miracle from the grand Yetzias Mitzrayim that occurred in the morning, and it is therefore commemorated separately. Because halacha precludes bringing korbanos at night (beyom tzavoso), we need to bring the korban as close as possible to the moment of the neis. It is for this reason that we bring it during a yom chol and after the tomid shel bein ha’arbayim, because this is the time closest to chatzos halaylah that we are able to bring this korban. This also answers the third question. Indeed, it is a private korban for a private salvation that each and every one of us experienced. Yes, it is public in the sense that we all bring the korbanos at the same time and together with others, but in essence it is a private korban.
From this Seforno, we can derive a tremendous insight. The question of the ben harasha is not one of derision, yet he is referred to as a rasha for failing to understand a fundamental aspect of Pesach: It is about us individually and how we received a very specific privilege to part of the am hanivchar. Because he failed to internalize this, he deserves the response of “ve’af atah hakheh es shinov” and we tell him, “Li velo lo.” If one fails to grasp personal relevance on the night of Pesach, then we say, “Ilu hayah shom lo hayah nigol.”
The above is a fundamental message, one that we all need to ask ourselves. Do we fully internalize the significance of what the Pesach Seder is? This is the night when each one of us individually thanks Hashem for the privilege to be a part of the am hanivchar. We all have to say our own private haggadah and thank Hashem that we can sit at a table as free people and serve Him freely. We can be makpid on a type of kezayis and a level of shemurah matzah, but if we fail to experience gratitude for what we have been blessed with at Seder, then are we different from the ben harasha, r”l?
We say, “Kama maalos tovos laMakom aleinu.” It is something that we should apply to ourselves. Do we understand how many hurdles the Ribono Shel Olam has helped us overcome until this auspicious night? It is all Hashgocha for our neshamos to be born at that specific time, for us to go to the schools that we went to, for all the milestones that we went through in life until we reach our current situation of being shomrei Torah umitzvos.
Our parents and grandparents were survivors, either from the physical holocaust or from the spiritual holocaust in this country. We are living in a country where the percentages that are lost to intermarriage and assimilation are staggering. How many of us went to elementary or high school with others who are not part of the olam haTorah today? We should appreciate the zechus that Hashem inspired us to be lomdei Torah. Everything that we have should not be taken for granted. This is the night to really contemplate and declare, “Mah oshiv laShem kol tagmulohi alai.”
I heard the following from my rosh yeshiva, Rav Shneur Kotler, in the name of the Amudei Ohr. During sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim, it is proper to discuss personal things that happened to you that have brought you to where you are now at the time of the Seder. Many Holocaust survivors do this on Leil Pesach, and if we contemplate this, we would realize that we are all survivors. We are living in Sedom, in the most depraved world that existed. We are exposed to the worst influences and yet we survive and remain bnei Torah and ovdei Hashem in a strong way. Leil Pesach is a unique opportunity to recognize how fortunate we are to have remained true to Hashem.
The Maharam Chalava and Seforno teach us an important yesod. The Seder is individual; it is a hoda’ah protis. The ultimate point when we express these feelings of hakoras hatov is to become meshubad to the Ribono Shel Olam, but the first step is to appreciate what Hashem did for us. And this is why the name of the Yom Tov is Pesach. May we be zoche to a chag kosher vesomeiach. B’Nissan nigalu uv’Nissan asidin lehiga’el.