April 15, 2024
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Reaching the Level of Song on Pesach

When I was young, I’d often have to split a cookie with my older brother. Being the middle child, it seemed to me that I always received the smaller half. One time after I complained, my father made my brother switch with me, and I remember looking down at the new half I received and guess what? It actually looked smaller than the piece I had!

Our Pesach Seder begins by splitting the middle matzah in half—Yachatz. We keep the smaller piece in the three-matzah group and set aside the larger one for the afikomen.

But the middle matzah isn’t the only thing that’s split. The Yom Tov of Pesach itself is split into two parts—the first days of Pesach and the last days of Pesach, with Chol Hamoed in between.

The last days of Pesach have their own split as well. The seventh day of Pesach was when krias Yam Suf, splitting of the sea, occurred. The splitting of the sea was a different splitting entirely. No one was getting a half of anything—the splitting occurred to divide the water to enable the Jewish nation to pass through.

The Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer and Zohar both say the first night and seventh night of Pesach are very propitious times. On these two nights, all personal prayers are answered.

What gives our prayers such power on these nights? The Zohar makes a cryptic statement, “In the exile of Mitzrayim, our speech was in exile.” The seforim explain that this means Bnei Yisrael lost their ability to communicate with Hashem. The Torah says, “V’yeianchu Bnei Yisrael, The Israelites groaned from their labor.” They could not articulate any words of prayer; their prayer just consisted of groaning.

Their lack of ability to truly communicate with Hashem is also alluded to in the name Pharaoh, which spells “peh ra, evil mouth.” Therefore, the Yom Tov which represents freedom from this exile is called Pesach, which spells “peh sach, the mouth speaks.” Their redemption restored the ability of Bnei Yisrael to speak to Hashem.

In fact, the two halves of Pesach restore our ability to communicate Hashem’s benevolence. On the first night of Pesach, we have a special mitzvah of v’higadata l’bincha, to speak, communicate and tell the story of Yetzias Mitzrayim to our families. This communication plants the seeds of emunah, faith, in our families.

The words we say at the Seder are super-charged with emunah. The Gemara says the matzah must remain on the table when we tell the story of Yetzias Mitzrayim. This is learned from the name the Torah ascribes to matzah, “lechem oni.” Simply translated, lechem oni means “bread of affliction,” as the Egyptians gave us matzah to eat instead of bread. But the word “oni” also means to speak or respond. The words of Maggid, telling, and of Hallel, praising, need to be said with the matzah in front of us as a physical reminder of both our suffering and our redemption through the hands of Hashem.

Rav Shimshon Pincus notes that our words on Seder night are so spiritually powerful that they permeate the air we breathe and the matzah we eat. The messages of emunah and love for Hashem are blended together and become part of us. On Pesach, we are absorbing these powerful messages and words of praise of Hashem.

The culmination of Pesach is the seventh day—the day Hashem split the sea to save us from the Egyptian army. As Bnei Yisrael came ashore, they recited the Shira—the song of “Az Yashir.” Indeed, song can be used as an expression of love and deep feeling—a high form of speech. We finish the Pesach Seder with such fervor, that our love for Hashem propels us to burst out in song.

On Pesach, we get the message. Our faith is such that our smaller piece of matzah, representing our current capabilities of relating to Hashem, is the correct and appropriate one for us at this time. In the time of Moshiach, however, we will be given the second larger piece as well.

On the final days of Pesach, we look at a stormy ocean and walk right in, knowing that Hashem will remove all barriers before us and let us walk through. In this state of being, we raise our voices in song to Hashem “Ashira l’hashem ki gamal alai, I sing to Hashem for all the incredible kindnesses He has bestowed upon me.”

May we utilize this incredible Yom Tov of Pesach to elevate ourselves and our families in our emunah, to the point where we reach the level of song. Wishing you and your families a chag kasher v’sameach.


Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim is the associate rosh yeshiva of Passaic Torah Institute (PTI)/Yeshiva Ner Boruch, where he leads a multi-level Gemara learning program. PTI has attracted adult Jews of all ages from all over northern New Jersey for its learning programs. Fees are not charged, but contributions are always welcome. Rabbi Bodenheim can be reached at [email protected]. For more info about PTI and its Torah classes, visit www.pti.shulcloud.com.

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