The Maggid - the section of the Haggadah for Passover wherein the actual tale of the Exodus is recounted - opens as follows: "This [matzah] is the bread of the poor that our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. Let all those who are hungry come and eat with us...."
A number of things must be understood. Why do we use the expression "This is the bread ... that our ancestors ate" when it is not the actual bread, but merely something similar? Additionally, this passage seems merely to serve as an invitation for anyone who is hungry to join in the Passover Seder. How does this relate to the tale of the Exodus?
Moreover, as this is the first passage in the Maggid, we understand that it contains a message that is crucial to the entire tale of the Exodus. What is this message?
Our Sages inform us that in every generation, and in fact every day, we are to see ourselves as if we are departing from Egypt. In keeping with this theme, the matzos we are eating, baked as they were before Passover, are actually the matzos "that were eaten in the land of Egypt."
This explains why this passage begins the Maggid, for it informs us that, to as great an extent as possible, we are not only to recount the tale of the Exodus, but to actually relive the Exodus; we are the ones leaving Egypt.
But how is this message related to the "bread of the poor"? And how does this connect to the sentence that follows: "Let all those who are hungry come and eat with us...."?
As long as a person is aware of himself, he has yet to leave Egypt, or Mitzrayim, which in Hebrew means straits and limitations, and so it is impossible for him to truly relive the Exodus. After all, thousands of years have passed since the original event; how can he be expected to relive it in a different century and living under completely different conditions?
In order to truly relive the Exodus, a person must be able to transcend the bonds of time and space in which he finds himself. Only then will he be able to feel that he is actually leaving Egypt.
This is accomplished when a person realizes how truly insignificant he is; that he is indeed poor, and the food he is eating - that which is responsible for his very existence - is "poor man's bread." Eating "this very bread" enables him to become appropriately humble and thus relive the Exodus.
This is also the connection to the passage in which we invite total strangers to partake in our meal. As long as we think of ourselves and our needs first, it is difficult to share with others, since this means having less for ourselves. However, by acquiring the humility necessary for reliving the Exodus, one will also become able to share his meal.
The passage that starts "This is the bread..." concludes with: "This year we are here. Next year may we all be in Eretz Yisrael. This year we are still slaves. Next year may we all be free."
What connection does the final section have with the sentences that preceded it? According to the above, the connection is clear:
Eretz Yisrael is "a land that is constantly under G-d your L-rd's scrutiny; the eyes of G-d your L-rd are on it at all times." As such, it is only by attaining the humility commensurate with eating "poor man's bread" that we are able to acquire "Eretz Yisrael."
For as long as man is an entity unto himself, G-d will not reside within him, for "G-d only resides within an entity that is nullified to Him." Only when a person achieves a state of total self-abnegation - "poor man's bread" - will he attain the ability to have G-d reside within him at all times - the level of Eretz Yisrael.
The same is true regarding the statement: "Next year may we all be free." As long as a person is confined within his own limitations, it is impossible for him to be free. By achieving total self-nullification - "poor man's bread" - he rises above all limitations and becomes truly free.
Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. VII, pp. 259-263.
- (Back to text) See Shulchan Aruch Admur HaZakein 473:14.
- (Back to text) Mishnah, Pesachim 116b.
- (Back to text) Addition of the Alter Rebbe at the beginning of ch. 47 of Tanya.
- (Back to text) Ibid.
- (Back to text) Devarim 11:12.
- (Back to text) Tanya, ch. 6; see also ibid., ch. 19.
Among the laws unique to the first Paschal offering was the obligation that it be eaten "with your waist belted, your shoes on your feet and your staff in your hand."
This indicated the Jewish people's readiness to leave Egypt and their belief in their impending freedom.
Every detail in Torah serves as a lesson in a Jew's life. This is especially so with regard to something as encompassing as remembering the Exodus, an "important fundament and a mighty pillar of our Torah and our Faith."
What lesson are we to derive in our own spiritual exodus from the above-mentioned law?
Among the most important elements in a person's life are his achievements, particularly his spiritual and moral accomplishments. One should strive to attain these achievements in the most complete manner possible.
It goes without saying that in order to embark on this path, a person must first free himself from all his negative characteristics and tendencies - elements that hinder, or at least sharply limit, one's ability to strive toward a life of spiritual and moral accomplishment.
There are three specific areas in which people strive for accomplishment, achievement and completion: with regard to oneself, with regard to one's immediate environs, and finally, with regard to the greater world. The way to achieve success in all these areas is alluded to in the verse quoted above.
Spiritual and moral attainment with regard to a person himself encompasses one's entire mode of conduct, both with regard to refraining from evil and to doing positive deeds, performing Torah and mitzvos to the best of his ability.
The verse alludes to this by stating "with your waist belted." We readily observe that the mid-section keeps the entire body upright. In other words, the verse is telling us that we should always behave in a proper and upright manner.
The second area in the struggle for achievement and completion pertains to one's relationship with his fellow man and immediate environs. The individual seeks to help all those with whom he comes in contact, seeking to enhance their lives, as well as generally striving to imbue his surroundings with holiness.
This is alluded to by the words "your shoes on your feet." It is specifically the feet that come in contact with the ground, which is rife with objects that may harm the one who treads upon them. Rugged protective garments are a must if someone is to walk in a place that may be fraught with danger.
So too when a person leaves his own spiritually comfortable setting, his own spiritual "space," and tries to influence his surroundings - surroundings that may seek to rend, tear and gouge his spirituality. In order to be sure that he effectively influences others and is not himself influenced to the contrary, he needs an extra spiritual protective layer - "your shoes on your feet."
The third area in a person's life pertains to that part of the world that seems so distant from him, either physically or spiritually, that he has no idea how to reach out to it. Nevertheless, "Each and every individual is obliged to say: 'The entire world was created for my sake,' " i.e., one's responsibility extends far beyond one's immediate confines.
The way in which one extends his grasp and reaches out to the world as a whole is through the "staff in your hand." This staff will be either the "staff of kindness" or the "staff of sternness," whatever is most appropriate and effective. In all events, the staff is a symbol of dominion, whereby an individual extends his might and influence.
Although this task is daunting, the festival of Pesach, with its concomitant spiritual empowerment, enables us to succeed. We then merit that "I will satiate him with long days, and show him My deliverance," with the speedy arrival of our righteous Moshiach.
Based on Hagaddah Shel Pesach im Likkutei Taamim, Minhagim U'Biurim, Vol. II, pp. 775-784.
- (Back to text) Shmos 12:11.
- (Back to text) Commentators, ibid.
- (Back to text) See Radak, Tehillim 19:8; Gur Aryeh, beginning of Bereishis; Zohar, Vol. III, p. 53b; HaYom Yom, p. 52.
- (Back to text) Chinuch, Mitzvah 21.
- (Back to text) See Tanya ch. 29 (36a), beginning of ch. 32; Commentary of Radvaz on Rambam, Hilchos Mamrim 2:4.
- (Back to text) See Shabbos 54b.
- (Back to text) See Igeres HaKodesh, Epistle I, Or HaTorah p. 306ff.; Hemshech VeKachah 5637, ch. 4.
- (Back to text) See Tanya, ch. 36.
- (Back to text) See Hemshech VeKachah, ibid., ch. 113; Taanis 23b.
- (Back to text) See Toras Chayim, Beshallach, p. 221b ff.; Or HaTorah, Shir HaShirim, Vol. III, p. 987ff.
- (Back to text) Sanhedrin 37a; Rambam, Hilchos Sanhedrin 3:12.
- (Back to text) See Zechariah 11:7. See also Sanhedrin 24a; Hemshech VeKachah, ibid., ch. 116ff.
- (Back to text) Tehillim 91:16.
- (Back to text) See commentaries on this verse.
One of the most important elements of Pesach, the festival that celebrates the freedom of the Jewish people, is that it serves as a preparation for the complete and eternal Redemption through our righteous Moshiach.
Thus the verse states: "I shall reveal wonders [at the time of the final Redemption that are] similar to [those that were revealed at] the time of your exodus from Egypt." In fact, the exodus from Egypt made all subsequent redemptions possible, the final one as well.
More specifically: the first days of Pesach relate mostly to the exodus from Egypt, while the last days are more closely connected to the coming Redemption. This is also to be seen from the Haftoras read during the final two days, dealing as they do with the theme of each day:
The Haftorah of the seventh day of Pesach is the Song of David, since on that day (as well as on the final day of Pesach) there is a connection to Moshiach, a descendent of David. Particularly so with regard to the Haftorah on the final day, which speaks directly about the coming Redemption.
During these two last days of Pesach, the greatest emphasis on the final Redemption is found on the final day, Acharon Shel Pesach, when the Haftorah speaks openly and at length about the coming Redemption, and about the personality of Moshiach himself, the conduct of the world at that time, and the ingathering of the Jews.
The relationship between Acharon Shel Pesach and the coming Redemption was revealed to an even greater extent by the Baal Shem Tov, who instituted a special third and final Acharon Shel Pesach meal, naming it "Moshiach's Feast" because "this day is illuminated by a ray of the light of Moshiach."
Even before the Baal Shem Tov instituted this special additional meal, Moshiach was commemorated by the special Haftorah recited on Acharon Shel Pesach. What is the significance of celebrating something as lofty as the future Redemption with another physical meal?
Commemorating the coming Redemption in such a fashion also causes its radiance to permeate the individual not only in his thought and speech (something accomplished by reciting the Haftorah), but also in his physical body. Thus this concept is assimilated within the person's actual body.
Additionally, celebration and commemoration by a meal points to the holiness that will permeate the entire physical world when Moshiach comes. For at that time "the glory of G-d shall be revealed, and all flesh shall observe...." This permeating of the material by the spiritual is best realized by the sanctification of food.
For a Jew eats even an ordinary meal with the intention of bringing holiness into this world, and how much more so with regard to a meal on a holy day! Surely, then, the special once-a-year Acharon Shel Pesach "Moshiach's Feast" enables us to better realize how all of physicality will be imbued with holiness at the time of the Redemption.
The effect of this special event is, of course, not limited to the day of Acharon Shel Pesach itself. Rather, the idea is that it should affect the Jew throughout the year, so that all he does in relation to the mundane world will be permeated with holiness and spirituality, like the spirituality that will permeate the world upon Moshiach's arrival.
The lesson of Acharon Shel Pesach, however, is not limited to man's relationship to the physical world; it also relates to each Jew's inner spirituality. For the level of Moshiach is at the core of every Jewish soul. Acharon Shel Pesach enables each Jew to reveal this core throughout the year, thereby serving G-d with every fiber of his being.
Based on Sefer HaSichos 5748, Vol. II, pp. 384-386.
- (Back to text) See Haggadah Shel Pesach im Likkutei Taamim, Minhagim U'Biurim p. 32.
- (Back to text) Michah 7:15; cf. Or HaTorah, Nach, on this verse (p. 487).
- (Back to text) See Sefer HaMaamarim 5708, p. 164; Sefer HaMaamarim Melukat, Vol. II, p. 37ff.
- (Back to text) Sefer HaSichos 5700, p. 72.
- (Back to text) Shulchan Aruch Admur HaZakein, Orach Chayim 480:5-6.
- (Back to text) Megillah 31a; Tur and Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 490:8 Shulchan Aruch Admur HaZakein, ibid. sub-section 13.
- (Back to text) Likkutei Dibburim, Vol. IV, p. 701a.
- (Back to text) Yeshayahu 11:1-3.
- (Back to text) Ibid., verses 6-9.
- (Back to text) Ibid., verses 11-12.
- (Back to text) See Likkutei Sichos, Vol. VII, p. 273ff.
- (Back to text) HaYom Yom, p. 47.
- (Back to text) Yeshayahu 40:5.