Pesach 5779: Matzos for All
Nissan 5779: Chag Ha’Matzos, Chag ha’Pesach, Zman Cheiroseinu, Chag Ha’Aviv – the festival of matzah, the holiday of Pesach, the time of our freedom, and the yomtov celebrated in the spring season. Once again, Pesach is here.
R’ Soloveitchik zt’l powerfully and evocatively reminisced, “Let me start on a personal note. In my experiential memory, two nights stand out as singular, as endowed with unique and fascinating quality, exalted in their holiness and shining with a dazzling beauty: the night of the Seder and the night of Kol Nidrei. As a child I was fascinated, indeed entranced, by these two clear, moonlit nights, both wrapped in grandeur and majesty. I used to feel stimulated, aroused, inspired: illuminating vision heightened my senses, which were sharpened and liberated from all inhibitions. A strange silence, stillness, peace, quiet, and serenity enveloped me. I used to surrender to a stream of inflowing joy and ecstasy.
“In a word, as a young child I vividly sensed the presence of Gd…I can still hear the solemn, sad, nostalgic melody…which I heard most probably at the age of five, when my grandfather (R’ Chaim Brisker zt’l) recited the Kiddush on a Seder night that happened to coincide with the end of Shabbos. I still remember the finale of the blessing ‘ha’mavdil bein Kodesh l’kodesh’ (Who distinguishes between holy and holy). That melody faded into a melody of silence.
“As a child I used to brood for hours over the notion of ha’mavdil bein Kodesh l’kodesh – two sanctities, one of Shabos and one of the holiday. I liked both, I cherished every spark of holiness; I hated the everyday, the gray, the routine, the workday dreariness. I always saw in my frail young mother, with her pale face, deeply set eyes, and aristocratic, gentle features, the personification of Shabos, of the Princess” (Festival of Freedom, p.1-2).
As we busily prepare for the yomtov – whether we are home or away – this week we will share a Pesach dvar Torah, in lieu of a parsha insight.
R’ Hershel Schachter teaches, “On seder night, there is an additional kiyum of tzedaka – as a fulfillment of the mitzvah of matzah itself. The Vilna Gaon notes the shift from active to passive voice in the pasukim (verses) (which command us to eat matzah): שִׁבְעַת יָמִים, תֹּאכַל מַצֹּת (Shemos 13:6) and then מַצּוֹת, יֵאָכֵל, אֵת, שִׁבְעַת הַיָּמִים (ibid, v.7). He explains that in the latter pasuk, the Torah commands that we see to it that matzos ‘shall be eaten’ by others who cannot afford them.
“The Vilna Gaon further notes that in the first pasuk, which deals with one’s personal mitzvah to eat matzah, the word מַצֹּת is spelled in the chaser (incomplete) form, without a vav, whereas in the second pasuk, it is spelled מַצּוֹת, in the malei (complete) form, with a vav. (Why is this so and what can be learned from this?)
“When the pasuk refers to our personal obligation, the chaser form connotes that we are obligated only to meet the minimum requirement of a kazayis. However, when the pasuk speaks of the matzah that we should provide for the aniyim (for the poor), it is spelled malei, since they should be given enough to be fully satisfied.
“Why should there be a special mitzvah of tzedaka on this night, over and above the general mitzvah of tzedaka and simchas Yom Tov?
“The Tur (Orach Chaim 417) quotes his brother, Rav Yehudah, who explains that the Shalosh Regalim (Three Festivals – Pesach, Shavuos, Succos) correspond to the three Avos. The pasuk לוּשִׁי, וַעֲשִׂי עֻגוֹת (Bereishis 18:6 – וַיְמַהֵר אַבְרָהָם הָאֹהֱלָה, אֶל-שָׂרָה; וַיֹּאמֶר, מַהֲרִי שְׁלֹשׁ סְאִים קֶמַח סֹלֶת–לוּשִׁי, וַעֲשִׂי עֻגוֹת) is a reference to Avraham Avinu’s observance of Pesach and his eating matzah.
[“Shavuos corresponds to Yitzchak, since the shofar sounded at Matan Torah was from the ram that replaced Yitzchak at the Akeida, and Succos corresponds to Yaakov, who constructed Succos for his livestock (Bereishis 33:17).”]
“Avraham’s primary middah was chessed. He always wanted to give to others, to be kind and welcoming to them. Perhaps that is why the Vilna Gaon felt that there is a special reason to invite poor people and to give ma’os chittim as a chelek of the mitzvah of matzah – to emphasize the middah of chessed that Avraham was known for” (Rav Schachter on the Haggadah, p.81).
שִׁבְעַת יָמִים, תֹּאכַל מַצֹּת – When matzos is written chaser, in regard to our personal obligation, the Torah is teaching us that for one’s own needs, it is sufficient to be sure that he has the minimum requirement to fulfill the mitzvah of matzah.
מַצּוֹת, יֵאָכֵל, אֵת, שִׁבְעַת הַיָּמִים – But when matzos is written maleh, in regard to ensuring that others have what they need to properly observe and celebrate the chag, then we must go above and beyond the basics, and ensure that others have more than enough!
R’ Mendel of Vizhnitz was very generous in distributing his money to the poor; everything he had, he gave away. A family member asked him: Rebbe, is this a good idea? Is there not a law ‘whoever gives money away should not give more than twenty percent’ (Kesubos 50a)? R’ Mendel replied: To transgress an edict of the rabbis is a very serious sin, and one is obligated to receive punishment for such a thing. But when I give away twenty percent of my money in the morning, and then someone comes to me crying that he has not even a crumb of bread for his family, I cannot stop myself from violating this edict and distributing the rest of what I have. Whatever happens to me, let it happen. For a transgression such as this, it is good to be punished” (Tales of the Righteous, Simcha Raz, p.196-197).
As we sit down and celebrate on layl ha’Seder this year, and we readily fulfill the mitzvah of achilas matzah let us be sure that we emulate the ways of Avraham Avinu, and have enabled others to partake of the mitzvah as well.
בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,