April 12, 2024
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Revolutionary Insights on the Haggadah

Highlighting: “Rav Daniel Glatstein on the Haggadah,” by Rabbi Daniel Glatstein. ArtScroll/Mesorah Publications. 2023. Hardcover. 350 pages. ISBN-13: 978-1422633052.

Rabbi Daniel Glatstein, rav and founder of Machon Maggid Harakiah in Cedarhurst, New York, is one of the contemporary Jewish world’s most popular speakers and respected maggidei shiur. In the just-released “Rav Daniel Glatstein on the Haggadah,” published by ArtScroll/Mesorah, he treats the Haggadah text not as a series of unconnected “vertlach,” but as a living, unified document, mirroring the slavery, miracles and ultimate liberation in its words and structure.

“Rav Daniel Glatstein on the Haggadah” features comprehensive analyses on rarely before tackled subjects such as, “Who Wrote the Haggadah?,” “What Is the Structure of the Haggadah?,” “How Many Words in the Haggadah?” and many other basic issues that give us a deeper understanding of our beloved Haggadah, and, indeed, of the entire experience of Yetziyas Mitzrayim.

The following is an excerpt, providing a glimpse into this uplifting, fascinating Haggadah.

An Expression of Gratitude

The Gemara teaches that there are four people who are obligated to show gratitude to Hashem by bringing a korban todah: one who crosses a sea, one who traverses a desert, one who recovers from an illness, and one who is released from captivity. The Maharsha writes that when Klal Yisrael were redeemed from Mitzrayim, we experienced all four of these forms of salvation. This is alluded to when the Torah uses four distinct expressions of geulah, redemption: V’hotzeisi, v’hitzalti, v’ga’alti, v’lakachti. Each represents a different miracle for which hoda’ah must be expressed.

The Vilna Gaon and the Sefer HaMichtam explain that the four cups of wine that symbolize these four expressions of salvation are, by extension, also expressions of gratitude to Hashem.

The matzah, too, is fundamentally a means whereby to convey gratitude to Hashem. The Rosh brings the custom of Germany and France to make the three matzos of the Seder from one isaron of flour, which is the quantity of flour used to make every three loaves of the korban todah. Thus, the matzos, too, are a form of a thanksgiving offering to Hashem.

A Time for Hakaras Hatov

We can now more fully appreciate one of the most fundamental objectives of the Pesach Seder. An integral part of our avodah at the Seder is to express hakaras hatov, gratitude and appreciation to the Ribbono Shel Olam for the miracles and incredible kindnesses He showered upon us when He redeemed us from slavery. As we recite the Haggadah, and especially as we read the parashah of Bikkurim, we must express sincere and heartfelt hakaras hatov to the Borei Olam for His infinite kindness and mercy.

Haggadah Is Hoda’ah

Thus, we come to a novel interpretation and understanding of the mitzvah of Haggadah. When discussing the mitzvah of bikkurim, the Torah instructs:

וּבָאתָ אֶל הַכֹּהֵן אֲשֶׁר יִהְיֶה בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם וְאָמַרְתָּ אֵלָיו הִגַּדְתִּי הַיּוֹם לַה’ אֱלֹקֶיךָ כִּי בָאתִי אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע ה’ לַאֲבֹתֵינוּ .לָתֶת לָנוּ

You shall come to whoever will be the Kohen in those days, and you shall say to him, “I declare (הִגַּדְתִּי) today to Hashem, your G-d, that I have come to the Land that Hashem swore to our forefather to give us” (Devarim 26:3).

The mitzvah of Bikkurim itself includes the use of the term “Haggadah” — הִגַּדְתִּי הַיּוֹם.

Targum Yonasan ben Uziel explains:

וּתְעַטְרוּן בְּסַלַיָא וְצִינַיָא וּפֵיפוּרַיָא וְתֵיעֲלוּן לְוַת כַּהֲנָא דִי יֶהֱוֵי מְמַנֵי לְכַהֵן רַב בְּיוֹמַיָא הָאִינוּן וְתֵימְרוּן לֵיהּ אוֹדִינָן יוֹמָא דֵין קֳדָם ה’ אֱלָקָךְ אֲרוּם עָלֵינָן לְאַרְעָא דְקַיֵים ה’ לְאַבְהָתָן לְמִתַּן לָנָא.

And you shall put crowns upon the baskets, hampers, and woven cases, and bring them to the priest appointed to be the chief priest in those days, and shall say to him: We are grateful this day before Hashem, your God, that we have come into the Land that the Lord swore unto our fathers to give us.

The Targum Yerushalmi similarly translates הִגַּדְתִּי as ושבחינן אוֹדִינָן, thanks and praise. The term higgadati is not defined as a declaration or statement. Rather, it means gratitude and thanks.

Amazingly, the Avudraham comments that this is the very meaning of the word “Haggadah” on Pesach. Thus, the objective of the Seder is not merely to relate events of the past and discuss the power and might of the Ribbono Shel Olam. It is to express our heartfelt gratitude to Hashem for all He did for us as He redeemed us from Mitzrayim.

Zechirah and Sippur

B’siyata d’Shmaya, we are now equipped to suggest an answer to a question raised by Rav Chaim Brisker. There is the mitzvah of Zechiras Yetzias Mitzrayim that a Jew is obligated to perform every day of the year. What is different about the mitzvah of Sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim with which we are charged on the night of Pesach?

Based on the above, the answer is clear. There is a daily obligation to recall and mention the events of Yetzias Mitzrayim. Seder night is different. In addition to merely mentioning these seminal events, we are required to express gratitude and thanks to Hashem for the miracles He performed on our behalf. While the daily chiyuv is to discuss and recall, leil haSeder incorporates the element of hoda’ah that is not included in the mitzvah during the rest of the year.

As the Avudraham teaches, this is not an aspect of the Haggadah; it is its very definition.

Perhaps we can further suggest that this fundamental difference is actually the foundation and basis for the three differences that Rav Chaim highlights between the daily mitzvah of Zechirah and the annual mitzvah of Sippur. The reason we are maschil b’genus umesayeim b’shvach is because when we present our history in this manner, we engender greater feelings of gratitude. We follow a question-and-answer format at the Seder, and we mention the reasons behind pesach, matzah, and maror for the same purpose. The structure of the entire evening revolves around our need to feel and express hakaras hatov to the Ribbono Shel Olam in the fullest, most extensive way.

Thus, the underlying objective of Sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim, the mitzvos of the night, the four cups of wine, and the achilas matzoh, are all to be able to wholeheartedly fulfill the mitzvah of v’higadeta levincha, which is to say to Hashem: Thank You!

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