Rav Brazil: Preparation for Pesach


rav-shmuel-brazil-1The custom of Yisrael is that at the night of the Seder a kittel is worn. Although many reasons have been given for this minhag I would like to suggest another one.

In the Haggadah the reason given for eating matzos on Pesach is because there was no time for the dough that they prepared to rise until Hashem revealed Himself and redeemed them. From here we can deduct that they really intended to make regular bread but it just did not happen. The reason for this is explained by the mefarshim because the presence of Hashem was revealed and the “chimutz” the rising element in the dough was consequently blasted away and removed like a mriacle. As the sefarim explain that the yeast is compared to the yetzer harah which causes haughtiness in a person. Hashem says about the haughty person that He and the baak gaavah cannot coexist. With the revelation of Hashem the yetzer hara which promotes haughtiness becomes nullified.

What the Haggadah is really relating is that the dough did not rise as the Yidden traveled from Raamses and Succos because the impact of the Shechina’s presence was there. Therefore, since Hashem deliberately removed the chametz factor in the dough, it was likewise commanded for us to follow suit and not to eat any chametz, just matzah unleavened bread during Pesach.

The Zohar calls matzah the food of both emunah and refuah. For the matzah that is eaten during Pesach is a Yid’s weapon to ward off his yetzer hara and help him curb its physical cravings. A remez to this thought is that if you will take the word עיסה which means dough and is gematria 145 and subtract from it חמץ which is 138, one remains with 7 which corresponds to the letter זין which means weapon and symbolizes the seven days of Pesach when only matzah can be eaten.

However, we must still understand why did Hashem deliberately desire matzah during the exodus to the point that He intentionally nullified the potential chametz already prepared in the dough? Rav Schwab ztl. in his sefer Maayon Beis Hashoeiva answers the following. Matzah was the bread served to slaves as we say at the commencement of the Haggadah הא לחמא עניא די אכלא אהבתנא בארעא דמצרים. Firstly, it was cheap and fast to produce. Secondly, the satiated feeling in the stomach lasted very long. At the time of their exodus, Am Yisrael was excited and ready to experience their new found freedom from slavery and begin tasting free man’s food – bread. Hashem however wanted them to be very aware that being freed from Mitzrayim meant that now they merited becoming servants to Hashem instead of to human bondage. Yeztias Mitrayim was not an event where a nation threw off the shackles of rules and regulations but rather a time they accepted upon themselves a new yoke of servitude to the Almighty creator of the universe. This is what is defined as true freedom. It was for this reason that Hashem purposely removed any type of chametz from their breads in order to send the clear message that servitude they have never left. It is only that now the master has changed.

With this explanation we can answer the question why does the Haggadah give the above reason for eating matzos when at the night of the 15th of Nissan, the night of makas bechoros, Am Yisrael who were still in Mitzrayim were also commanded to eat matzos with the karban pesach? The answer can be that the matzos that were baked after leaving Mitzrayim were matzos brought about by a heavenly miracle whose deliberate intention was for Yisrael to clearly realize and commit themselves to accept the yoke of servitude to Hashem even though when they baked them they did not have that in mind. The exodus from Egypt is not about leaving bondage but rather about totally entering the sovereignty of Hashem. This was demonstrated specifically by the second matzah baking after they left and not by the first even though this could have been the intention also behind the first matzos.

To elaborate on this theme of “avdus” in relationship of the Exodus from Egypt, let us turn to the explanation of the Bnei Yissacher [Nissan 4,5] who quotes the gemarrah in Yevamos 45b which is the halacha in Yoreh Deah 267/9. When one purchases a servant from a goy, his body does not become owned by the Jew until he immerses him in a mikveh with the intention of making him his servant. However, if the servant went and immersed himself with the intention of becoming a free agent, then he has the halachic status of a free person. In order to avoid such a scenario and mishap, the Jewish owner is advised to place upon the potential servant any type of servitude prior to his immersion in order to secure that from that moment onwards it would be to no avail to immerse for the purpose of becoming a free agent.

Hashem also keeps His Torah. The night of makas bechoros was therefore divided into two parts. The latter half was when Pharoah proclaimed the freedom of Am Yisrael granting them permission to leave Mitzrayim for fear of his life. Therefore, during the first part of the night, Hashem placed on Yisrael His servitude in the form of the blood of Pesach and the blood of Milah in order to restrain Yisrael from saying that they are now eternally free from any bondage.

It is for this reason that we find in these two positive mitzvos of Karban Pesach and Milah that one who fails to fulfill them receives the punishment of Kares which is not found by any other positive mitzvah. The difference is that these two mitzvos served asd the vehicle through which Am Yisrael accepted Hashem’s servitude, contrast to the other mitzvos which are only the fulfillment of that acceptance. By failing to adhere and fulfill these particular two mitzvos he is stating more than these mitzvos are too challenging for me. Instead his behavior challenges the core acceptance of Hashem’s yoke in the first place. Such a conduct deserves a much harsher punishment.

We have talked up until now concerning the essential theme of Yetzias Mitzrayim which is the movement of freedom from a foreign yoke and the initiation of our unconditional acceptance of Hashem’s servitude in its place. At the night of the original Seder it was via the fulfillment of Milah and Pesach. It was reaffirmed by the matzah and prohibition of chametz the next day as explained by Rav Schwab. For it was possible that one might have misinterpreted that the bloods of Milah and Pesach and in fact even the matzah eaten with the Pesach, were merely meritorious opportunities given to Am Yisrael in order to be redeemed, but not that they themselves were the actual means of acceptance of Hashem’s sovereignty over them. To set such a distorted notion straight, Hashem created the miracle of the non leavening matzos to retroactively verify and clearly define the purpose of Milah and Pesach and even the matzah.

For this reason matzo is called “lechem oni” which Chazal interpret to mean the bread on which we answer many things [Pesachim 36]. The reason being that one might question when in the history of Jewish people did they accept the yoke to keep all the mitzvos and Hashem as their sole Master? The answer is that the matzoh of Yetzias Mitzrayim verified that the bloods of Pesach and Milah that you voluntarily placed on your doorposts for the Seder night testify to that acceptance.

Let us delve for a moment into the ramifications of what it means that Am Yisrael accepted the avdus of Hashem through these two specific mitzvos of Milah and Pesach. One has to be mosair nefesh when the time to demonstrate his allegiance to Hashem calls for it. For in both of these mitzvos we find the act of mesiras nefesh.

Taking the Pesach lamb which was the avodah zara of the Egyptians and publicly proclaiming of its slaughtering and sacrificing five days later, was tantamount to self imposing an immediate death sentence. As the Tur [Siman 430] writes that for this reason that 10th day was called Shabbos Hagadol for the Egyptians were involuntarily unable to respond to the Yidden who nevertheless unknowingly were ready to die for this mitzvah.

The mitzvah of Milah is also wrought with self sacrifice as the gemarrah in Gittin 57b explains on the passuk כי עליך הורגנו כל היום that it is referring to Milah as Rashi explains, sometimes the baby dies because of it. Yet to understand the deeper meaning of the mesiras nefesh of Milah we will bring a pshat from the present Belzer Rebbe shlita that he delivered before a yeshiva of Baalei Teshuva just prior to Rosh Hashana. The Torah portion that is read on Rosh Hashana deals with Akaidas Yitzchak and the mesiras nefesh both of Avraham and Yitzcahk. Why then is the merit of the Akaidah deemed the pinnacle of all his ten tests when at the very beginning of his passion for Hashem he already demonstrated his love by surrendering his life at Oor Kashdim? The Nezer Hakodesh answers it is more difficult to live day to day with the loss of a son than to deal with a one time sacrifice of one’s life.

The Rebbe continued by asking why after reading the parsha of the Akaida do we include in the reading of Rosh Hashana the end of the parsha the birth of Rivka? What relevance does that have do with the Akaida and especially to the Yom Hadin? The Rebbe answered that it comes to teach us that there is another type of mesiras nefesh aside from physical sacrificing of one’s life and that is the mesiras nefesh of the day to day challenges to fulfill the desire of Hashem. Rivka paralleled the mesiras nefesh of Avraham at the Akaida for she came from Besuail her father who was a rasha, she had a brother Lavan who was a rasha, and she lived in a place where they were all reashayeem. Yet with all three extreme negatives she did not learn from any of their deeds [Bereishis 25,20 Rashi]. This is our zechus to come before Hashem on the Judgement Day to accept both types of mesiras nefesh to fulfill Hashem’s ratzon.

Rav Pinchus Freidman, a chasid of the present Belzer Rebbe, added that this second type of mesiras nefesh is likened to the mesiras nefesh of Milah which involves much pain and bleeding. It is to teach the Yid that he must take upon himself the acceptance to sacrifice his pleasures and comfort zones, to undergo even pain and anguish in order to fulfill Hashem’s commands.

Once again let us make a quick review. The night of the Seder through the mitzvos of the karban Pesach and Milah, we took upon ourselves and on all the following generations, Hashem as our Master and we as His servants. This concept was reinforced the next day through the miracle of the matzos supernaturally not rising. In the acceptance of being subservient to Hashem we accepted the full spectrum of what it really means to be an eved to Hashem: the privilege to sacrifice our lives on both levels, physically as represented by the Pesach and day to day challenges of Kiddush Hashem as symbolized by Milah. For everything an eved owns belongs to his master as it states Pesachim 88b כל מה שקנה עבד קנה רבו.

In our master eved relationship with Hashem, this bond is expressed in the first passuk of Shema where we fulfill the mitzvah twice daily of Kabbalas ohl malchus shamayim. It is brought down that one should think as he recites these words that he is willing and ready to sacrifice his life for Hashem. This includes both types of mesiras nefesh symbolized by dam Pesach and dam Milah. For both of these mitzvos were the “derech” which led to the fulfillment of all the other mitzvos. For by making us into the ultimate servants of Hashem with the din of whatever is acquired by goes automatically to the master, we are now obligated to fulfill all His wishes.

It is these two types of mesiras nefesh which Amalek attempted to eradicate from Klal Yisrael as they left Mitzrayim. “Asher karcha baderech”. They attempted to cool Am Yisrael from the “derech” Pesach and Milah which was the gateway to all the other mitzvos. [Baderech can be read bais [2] derechs referring to the these two mitzvos that are the conduit for all the others]. In other words Amalek tried to cool us off from the Shema which many have brought that there is found in its acronym עול מלכות שמים . An incredible remez to this is in the acronym of כל מה שקנה עבד קנה רבו which is קרך שמע !! Amalek’s strategy was to cool Yisrael from the shema.

One who feels this dictum in his relationship with Hashem is willing to sacrifice himself on both levels. When we go through the Seder on the night of Pesach and eat the matzah, we must let us not forget the central theme of this Yom Tov night, that we are servants of Hashem to the fullest degree. Since the mitzvah of the Seder night is to feel as if each and every person just left Mitzrayim, then the feeling and commitment of becoming servants to Hashem instead of Pharaoh is part of that reality. When we say and explain the Pesach matzah and maror of Rabban Gamliel, we must try to fully understand the acceptance of nullifying our desires to those of Hashem’s even if it involves mesiras nefesh on both levels. This is hinted in the fact that Pesach and matzah are followed by demonstrating the maror which is gematriah מות maves – death.

We can now return to our original inquiry of the custom at the Seder of wearing a kittel. A kittel is white which the absence of color. It is for this reason that white receives and accepts all colors. It symbolizes the essence of an eved Hashem who has nothing of his own except what Hashem desires. For this status of eved means, that one is willing even to be killed in order to make the necessary Kiddush Hashem. The word kittel in Aramaic comes from the root ketala which means death. On the night of the Seder our task is to praise Hashem for taking us out of Mitzrayim to become His avadim. This undertaking of acquiring the Seder night the prestigious title of eved Hashem comes with the proclamation that I am willing to die for my master on any one of the levels of mesiras nefesh. The matzah and maror are here to remind us of our lofty goal. In times of the Beis Hamikdash we had the added reminder of the Karban Pesach. Nowadays the custom of Yisrael is to have a constant reminder from the beginning of the seder until its end of the commitment that we must make as we presently experience our Yetzias Mitrayim. That extra reminder is the kittel.

Gut Shabbos and a Gut and kosher Pesach.{Matzav.com Newscenter}