What's the Purpose of the Seder? Goucher Hillel 5777

(ד) מזגו לו כוס שני. וכאן הבן שואל אביו. ואם אין דעת בבן. אביו מלמדו.

מה נשתנה הלילה הזה מכל הלילות. שבכל הלילות אנו אוכלין חמץ ומצה. הלילה הזה כולו מצה.

שבכל הלילות. אנו אוכלין שאר ירקות. הלילה הזה מרור.

שבכל הלילות. אנו אוכלין בשר צלי. שלוק. ומבושל. הלילה הזה כולו צלי. שבכל הלילות. אנו מטבילין פעם אחת. הלילה הזה שתי פעמים.

ולפי דעתו של בן אביו מלמדו. מתחיל בגנות. ומסיים בשבח. ודורש מארמי אובד אבי עד שיגמור כל הפרשה כולה:

(ה) רבן גמליאל היה אומר. כל שלא אמר שלשה דברים אלו בפסח. לא יצא ידי חובתו. ואלו הן. פסח. מצה. ומרור.

פסח. על שום שפסח המקום על בתי אבותינו במצרים.

מצה. על שום שנגאלו אבותינו במצרים. מרור. על שום שמררו המצריים את חיי אבותינו במצרים.

(4) They pour a second cup [of wine] for him. And here the son questions his father. And if the son has insufficient understanding [to question], his father teaches him [to ask]: Why is this night different from all [other] nights? On all [other] nights, we eat leavened and unleavened bread, [but] on this night, [we eat] only unleavened bread. On all [other] nights, we eat all kinds of vegetables, [but] on this night, [we eat only] bitter herbs. On all [other] nights, we eat meat roasted, stewed or boiled, [but] on this night, [we eat] only roasted [meat]. On all [other] nights, we dip [vegetables] once, [but] on this night, we dip [vegetables] twice. And according to the son's intelligence, his father instructs him. He begins [answering the questions] with [the account of Israel’s] shame and concludes with [Israel’s] glory, and expounds from “My father was a wandering Aramean” until he completes the whole passage.

(5) Rabban Gamliel used to say: Whoever does not mentioned these three things on Passover does not discharge his duty, and these are they: the Passover-offering, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs. [The] Passover-offering [is offered] because the Omnipresent One passed over the houses of our ancestors in Egypt. Unleavened bread [is eaten] because our ancestors were redeemed from Egypt. [The] bitter herb is [eaten] because the Egyptians embittered the lives of our ancestors in Egypt.

1. Who is ideally asking the questions?

2. Who do you think is the audience of the Mishnah?

3. Does Rabban Gamliel agree with the first Mishnah, or does he have a different Seder in mind?

(ט) ...עד היכן הוא אומר בית שמיי אומר עד ׳אם הבנים שמחה׳ ובית הלל אומר עד ׳חלמיש למעינו מים׳ וחותם בגאולה.

אמרו בית שמיי לבית הלל וכי כבר יצאו שמזכירין יציאת מצרים? אמרו להם בית הלל אפילו הוא ממתין עד קרות הגבר הרי אילו לא יצאו עד שש שעות ביום היאך אומר את הגאולה ועדין לא נגאלו.

(9) Up until where does he recite [before the meal]? Bet Shammai say: Until, "As a happy mother of children" (Psalms 113:9). Bet Hillel say: Until, "The flinty rock into a fountain of water (Psalms 114:8). And he concludes with [a blessing] over redemption.

Bet Shammai said to Bet Hillel: Has Israel already been redeemed that they mention the Exodus from Egypt? Bet Hillel said to them: Even if he waits until the cock crows, since they didn't go out [of Egypt] until the sixth hour of the day, how can he recite the redemption, and they hadn't yet gone out.

(Translation by Dr. Joshua Kulp)

1. What's the debate between Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel really about here?

(יא) אין מפטירין אחר הפסח אפיקומן כגון אגוזין תמרים וקליות חייב אדם לעסוק בהלכות הפסח כל הלילה אפלו בינו לבין בנו אפלו בינו לבין עצמו אפלו בינו לבין תלמידו

(יב) מעשה ברבן גמליאל וזקנים שהיו מםובין בבית ביתום בן זונין בלוד והיו [עוסקין בהלכות הפסח] כל הלילה עד קרות הגבר, הגביהו מלפניהם ונועדו והלכו [להן] לבית המדרש....

(11) They may not conclude the pesach meal with an afikoman, like nuts and dates and parched corn. A person must engage in the laws of Pesach all night, even if it is just him with his son, even if it is just him by himself, and even between him and his student.

(12) It happened that Rabban Gamliel and the elders were reclining in the house of Bitos ben Zunin in Lod, and they were occupied in studying the laws of Pesach all that night, until the cock crowed. They removed [the tables] in front of them and they got up and went to the house of study [to pray].

(Translation by Dr. Joshua Kulp)

תני: ובגבולין צריכין שני תבשילין אחד זכר לפסח ואחד זכר לחגיגה.

It was taught: In the provinces [outside of Jerusalem] they need two cooked dishes, one in remembrance of the pesach and one in remembrance of the hagigah.

Why So Many Plagues?

(ד) עֲשָׂרָה נִסִּים נַעֲשׂוּ לַאֲבוֹתֵינוּ בְמִצְרַיִם וַעֲשָׂרָה עַל הַיָּם. עֶשֶׂר מַכּוֹת הֵבִיא הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא עַל הַמִּצְרִיִּים בְּמִצְרַיִם וְעֶשֶׂר עַל הַיָּם. עֲשָׂרָה נִסְיוֹנוֹת נִסּוּ אֲבוֹתֵינוּ אֶת הַמָּקוֹם בָּרוּךְ הוּא בַמִּדְבָּר, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר יד:כב) וַיְנַסּוּ אֹתִי זֶה עֶשֶׂר פְּעָמִים וְלֹא שָׁמְעוּ בְּקוֹלִי:

(4) Ten miracles were performed for our ancestors in Egypt, and ten [miracles were performed] at the [Reed] Sea. [With] ten trials did our ancestors test the Omnipresent, blessed be He, in the Wilderness, as it is said (Numbers 14:22): “Yet have they tested Me these ten times, and have not hearkened to My voice.”

וירא ישראל את היד הגדולה. ר' יוסי הגלילי אומר מנין שלקו המצרים במצרים עשר מכות ועל הים לקו חמשים מכות, במצרים מה הוא אומר "ויאמרו החרטמים אל פרעה אצבע וגו'" ועל הים מהו אומר "וירא ישראל את היד הגדולה וגו'" כמה לקו באצבע עשר מכות אמור מעתה במצרים לקו עשר מכות ועל הים לקו חמשים מכות.

ר' אליעזר אומר מנין אתה אומר שכל מכה ומכה שלקו המצרים במצרים היתה של ארבע מכות וגו'. ר' עקיבא אומר מנין אתה אומר שכל מכה ומכה שלקו המצרים במצרים היתה של חמש מכות וכו' ועל הים לקו מאתים וחמשים מכות:

R. Yossi Haglili says: Whence is it derived that the Egyptians were smitten in Egypt with ten plagues, and at the sea with fifty plagues? Of Egypt what is written? (Exodus 8:15) "And the necromancers said to Pharaoh: It is the finger of G d, etc." And of the sea what is written? (Ibid. 14:31) "And Israel saw the great hand, etc." How many plagues by the finger? Ten. Say, then, that in Egypt they were smitten with ten plagues and at the sea with fifty.

R. Eliezer says: Whence is it derived that every plague with which the Egyptians were smitten in Egypt was four-fold, etc.? R. Akiva says: Whence is it derived that every plague with which the Egyptians were smitten in Egypt was five-fold? (Say, then, that in Egypt they were smitten with fifty) plagues, and at the sea with two hundred and fifty.

(א) מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה שֶׁל תּוֹרָה לְסַפֵּר בְּנִסִּים וְנִפְלָאוֹת שֶׁנַּעֲשׂוּ לַאֲבוֹתֵינוּ בְּמִצְרַיִם בְּלֵיל חֲמִשָּׁה עָשָׂר בְּנִיסָן שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות יג-ג) "זָכוֹר אֶת הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה אֲשֶׁר יְצָאתֶם מִמִּצְרַיִם" כְּמוֹ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות כ-ח) "זָכוֹר אֶת יוֹם הַשַּׁבָּת". וּמִנַּיִן שֶׁבְּלֵיל חֲמִשָּׁה עָשָׂר תַּלְמוּד לוֹמַר (שמות יג-ח) "וְהִגַּדְתָּ לְבִנְךָ בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא לֵאמֹר בַּעֲבוּר זֶה" בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁיֵּשׁ מַצָּה וּמָרוֹר מֻנָּחִים לְפָנֶיךָ. וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵין לוֹ בֵּן. אֲפִלּוּ חֲכָמִים גְּדוֹלִים חַיָּבִים לְסַפֵּר בִּיצִיאַת מִצְרִים וְכָל הַמַּאֲרִיךְ בִּדְבָרִים שֶׁאֵרְעוּ וְשֶׁהָיוּ הֲרֵי זֶה מְשֻׁבָּח:

(1) It's a positive commandment fromthe Torah to tell about the miracles and wonders that were done for our fathers in Egypt on the night of the 15th of Nisan, as it is said (Exodus 13:3) "Remember this day when you left Egypt." As it is said (Exodus 20:8) "Remember the Sabbath day." And from where [do we know] that it's on the 15th night? The verse says (Exodus 13:8) "And you shall tell your son on that nigh telling him because of this." And the time when the Matzah and Maror are in front of you. And even if he doesn't have a son. Even great sages are obligated to tell about leaving Egypt, and anybody who speaks at length about the things that happened and what was, that is praiseworthy.

(יא) כי בדבר אשר זדו עליהם כי הציל את העם באותו הדבר עצמו אשר זדו המצרים עליהם של ישראל, כמו כי יזיד איש על רעהו. וזה היה שהרג בכוריהם כמו שהרגו המצרים כל הבן הילוד לישראל, והטביעם בים כדרך שהטביעו הם הבנים ביאור, והרג את הבכורות כנגד "בני בכורי ישראל...ותמאן לשלחו" (שמות ד:כב–ג) והקשה את לבם אחרי שלא שמעו ברצונם. ובזה הורה גדולתו על כל האלהים כי לא חשבה שום אומה שיוכל שום אל מאלהיהם שרי מעלה לשלם מדה כנגד מדה בכל דבר, אבל חשבו שיוכל בדבר אחד מיוחד לו בלבד:

(11) Because God saved the Israelites by the very things that the Egyptians schemed against them, like "when a man schemes against his fellow" (Exodus 21:14). Namely, that God killed Egyptain firstborns just like the Egyptians killed all males who were born to the Israelites; and God drowned the Egyptians in the sea just like the Egyptians drowned the Israelite sons in the Nile; and God killed the firstborns just like "my son, my firstborn, Israel...and he refused to send them" (Exodus 4:22-3); and God hardened their hearts after they did not listen willingly.

And in this way God showed God's greatness above all other Gods, because no nation thought that any of their deities could avenge ​middah k'neged middah [like for like], they only thought that each deity could do one unique thing alone.

Ephod Bad (R' Benjamin David Rabinowitz, 19th c.) on the Haggadah, Maggid, The Ten Plagues 4:1-6

(1) How We Count the Plagues, mighty hand: two plagues; outstretched arm: two plagues, etc… It makes no sense to suggest that each expression in this verse refers to two plagues just because each one is made up of two words. First, we already know that there were ten plagues so what does this add to our understanding of the plagues; and second, the words in each of these expressions make no sense by themselves. They cannot separate from one another, so how can we say that each word refers to a different plague? The word yad, hand, and the word hazakah, mighty, are interconnected. Rather, each of the five expressions in this verse - mighty hand, outstretched arm, great terror, signs, and wonders - refers to a pair of plagues that have something in common with one another:

(2) The first two plagues were performed by a Mighty Hand: Blood and frogs were both performed when Aaron raised his hand. In the case of blood, God told Aaron to raise his hand over the river and to smite it, and, in the case of frogs, he stretched his arm over the land and smote it.

(3) An outstretched arm refers to the plagues of hail and darkness. Each of these two plagues took place when an arm was outstretched toward heaven. See Exodus 9:22, and 10:21; in each of these verses the Torah uses the expression “Hold out your hand toward heaven.”

(4) Great terror refers to the plagues of locust and the death of the first born. In the case of these two plagues, Pharaoh summons Moses because he is so terrified by these plagues. They were a great terror to him.

(5) Signs refers to the plagues of mixed wild animals and the cattle disease. Both of these plagues were a sign because God distinguished between the Israelites and the Egyptians, so that it was a sign of God's great power. In the case of the mixture, the Torah says, “But on that day I will set apart the region of Goshen …and I will make a distinction…tomorrow this sign shall come to pass.” Since the cattle disease also involved a distinction, it was also a sign.

(6) Wonders refers to those plagues which the Egyptians could not perform: the plague of lice and the plague of boils.


There is another way of interpreting this passage. The plagues served a double purpose: first they were meant to publicize the greatness of God, and second they were meant to punish the Egyptians for their oppression of the Israelites. The plagues should be paired up. One was for the sake of God and the other for the sake of the Israelites.

For further discussion, see https://jewishreviewofbooks.com/articles/1605/the-fifth-question/