Thursday, April 16, 2015

vigilante halacha

The Torah records the reaction of Klal Yisrael to the presence of the Shechina coming into the Mishkan: “Va’yar kol ha’am va’yaronu va’yiplu al p’neihem” (9:24) – the people sang praises to Hashem. “What song did they sing?” asks the Sefas Emes. Why is there no record of it? He answers that we already know the words to the song -- they sang shiras ha’yam, the same song we read on the last days of Pesach. This was a return to former glory. The downfall and tragedy of cheit ha’eigel which the Mishkan was intended as a kapprah for was now past history. The joy and spiritual ecstasy that marked yetzi’at Mitzrayim and the splitting of Yam Suf were now regained.

I would take the connection the Sefas Emes makes between shiras ha’yam and the Mishkan a step further. The Mishkan was G-d’s “home” so to speak, his permanent address. Bnei Yisrael took the inspiration of shirah, the response to a one-time miracle, and they incorporated it into the Mishkan, the permanent and day to day. This was a fulfillment of “zeh K-li v’anveiyhu,” the word “anveyhu,” as Onkelus explains, coming from the same root as “naveh,” a house. Bnei Yisrael at the time of shirah wanted to take their enthusiasm of the moment and give it a permanent home. Our parsha proves that they succeeded.

This is our post-Pesach job: to take the enthusiasm of shirah, the enthusiasm of the chag, and incorporate it now into our day to day. 


On to Parshas Shmini, with apologies to any readers in Eretz Yisrael who are a week ahead, or maybe I should say that we are a week behind?  What to do if you travel back to Eretz Yisrael after spending Pesach in chutz la'arertz -- how do you make up the lost parsha?  Do you need to?  Something to work on...


There is a question raised by the Ohr haChaim that I think captures a tension inherent in Shmini. The Ohr haChaim (end of d”h “hein hayom”) raises the following issue: is there an issur for a student to pasken a shayla for himself in the presence of his teacher? The halacha is that if Reuvain comes and asks Shimon a shayla, Shimon must pass on answering and defer to his rebbe.  There is an issur of being moreh halacha bifnei rabbo.   But here it’s not Reuvain asking Shimon – it’s Shimon figuring out viz a viz his own behavior what to do. Does that make a difference? The Ohr haChaim suggests that our parsha provides the answer. Aharon decided on his own, without consulting with Moshe, his rebbe, that he and his children should not to eat the korban chatas of rosh chodesh.

Whether the Ohr haChaim’s conclusion is correct or what the lomdus behind the question is (perhaps the issue depends on what the reason for the issur of being moreh halacha bifnei rabbo is. If it is a din in kavod harav, then whether one is paskening for oneself or others should make little difference; however, if it is because the talmid may not be able to communicate properly, as the simple reading of the sugya in Eiruvin 62 suggests, than perhaps when one is dealing only with one’s own private behavior and not communicating with others there would be no issur. See Aruch haShulchan Y.D. 242:8-12 for a discussion of the different reasons) is not my topic for now. What I want to focus on is the sharp contrast between the positive reaction to Aharon acting independently, “vayishma Moshe vayitav b’einav,” and the response of Hashem to Nadav and Avihu’s actions. At least according to one view in Chazal, Nadav and Avihu were guilty of no more than being moreh halacha b’fnei rabbo, of deciding what to do without consulting Moshe. What’s the difference between their deciding for themselves that they should offer ketores and Aharon’s deciding for himself that the korban chatas of rosh chodesh should be eaten?

Whatever the answer is (and there are a number of approaches possible), I think this is the key question that the parsha begs us to ask, the focal point around which the whole episode of Nadav and Avihu’s death and the follow up centers. In light of the Ohr haChaim I would say that the reason for the retelling of what happened to the chatas is not to teach us a din in hilchos kodshim, but to force is to draw a distinction (or distinctions) between independent action that has no place in Torah and independent action that should be valued and praised. (Just as, if one assumes that Nadav and Avihu are guilty of an issur hora’ah, the focus of the parsha of shtuyei ya’ayin may be the issur of hora’ah while drunk, not the issur avodah.) Not every “vigilante” halachic decision should be met with disapproval. Sometimes acting independently is necessary and warranted. The key is to figure out the when, where, and how.

Moshe may have been the rebbe and Aharon the talmid, but interestingly it was Aharon, not Moshe, who grasped that the chatas of rosh chodesh should not be eaten. The Ohr haChaim (in a different piece) wonders in fact how Moshe could have missed such an obvious distinction between koshei sha’ah and kodshei doros.  An important lesson: no rebbe, not even Moshe Rabeinu, has a monopoly on truth and is right at all times and places.  


The ambiguity of Aharon’s role – subservient to Moshe or someone who can act on his own authority – comes across in the next parsha. On the one hand, the plain reading of the text “vayidaber Hashem el Moshe v’el Aharon leimor…” (11:1) suggests an equivalence between Moshe and Aharon, yet Rashi tells us that the pasuk means that Hashem spoke to Moshe who in turn relayed the information to Aharon, a denial of any such equivalence. Of course Aharon was not Moshe’s equal, yet I think the plain reading deliberately obscures the distinction here and necessitates a “peirush Rashi” because the parsha wishes to underscore that there are times when in face a talmid can measure up to the greater personality of the rebbe and attain – momentarily, in a given context – equality and independence.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

vayir'u... va'ya'aminu... az yashir -- a song of yiras shamayim

Why do we mention R' Yehudah assigning the simaning of DeTza"Ch AD"Sh and B"AChV to the staff of Moshe? My wife suggested that since we read earlier in the haggadah that "kol hamarbeh harei zeh meshubach" one might get the impression that going on and on is the ideal. If one takes this approach, at some point one will inevitably find that one is talking to oneself, not one's student or child and the whole raison d'etra of haggadah and sipur is lost. Therefore, the author of the haggadah brings in R' Yehudah to remind us of the principle that a person should always teach "b'derech ketzarah," as that is the easiest way for a student to absorb information and retain it. Sometimes saying more does not enhance the message. I thought that was a nice chiddush.

Chasam Sofer writes (based on a Midrash) that the three items we focus on during the seder, i.e. pesach, matzah, and maror, correspond to different classes of people, much like the four minim we take on Sukkos. There are korban pesach Jews who are dedicated to sacrifice for the sake of religion; there are matzah Jews who do what they have to but it is without flavor or energy; there are maror Jews who are bitter about the whole thing. Hillel is the one who teaches us in Pirkei Avos, that we will start reading right after Pesach, that you should be like Aharon and be a "rodef shalom" and make peace among all people. Therefore, it is Hillel who is able to be "koreich" all these different factions together into one united whole. 

"L'oseh niflaos gedolos levado ki l'olam chasdo." Of course G-d does miracles himself, without help. That's not we need this pasuk to teach us. It's more than that: as we know from the story of Balak and Bilam, G-d saves us from dangers that we don't even know are out there -- He "levado" knows what great miracles he has done and we are unware. And yet even more than that: G-d sometimes does something amazing now where the benefit only pays dividends years and even generations later. "Ki l'olam chasdo," only G-d who is eternal and can connect the dots through history, has full "awareness" so to speak, of how great his miracles are.

I posted two explanations before Y"T of the pasuk “Va’yei’anchu Bnei Yisrael min ha’avodah va’yizaku va’ta’al shava’asam el haElokim min ha’avodah.” The Radomsker suggested that the phrase "vata'al shavasam el haElokim" stands in contrast to the crying "min ha'avodah." Tefilah demands that we set our sights on great things. R' Ya'kov Moshe Charlap, however, suggested that **even though** the cries of the Jewish people were cries of pain and anguish about their being enslaved, nonetheless, G-d accepted those cries as if they were crying about the pain of the Shechinah. G-d understands that the right thought can sometimes be "nislabesh" is a less-than-perfect container. 

The Sefas Emes quotes from the Ch HaR"IM that "Vayir'u me'od vayitzaku Bnei Yisrael el Hashem" means that when the people felt fear of the Egyptians, they cried to G-d in tefilah because they realized this fear was a defect in their emunah. By that same token, one can read, writes the Sefas Emes, the pesukim of "Vayi'r'u ha'am es Hashem va'ya'aminu baHashem ub'Moshe avdo Az yashir..." as meaning that because the Jewish people felt yiras shamayim, because their hearts were filled with emunah, therefore they sang shirah. Yiras shamayim can lead to great simcha and even shirah. Chag sameiach!

Friday, April 03, 2015

"va’ta’al shav’asam... min ha’avodah" - a lesson in tefilah

The questions raised by the four sons we talk about in the haggadah can be asked and answered any time of the year.  So what’s special about the seder night?  Ba’avur zeh – b’sha’ah she’yeish matzah u’maror munachim lifanecha,” explains the Oheiv Yisrael, is a promise.  We tell our children lots of things all year long and they go in one ear and out the other.  The Torah is telling us that on this one night, things penetrate.

It is very hard to feel simchas Yom Tov when you see clearly how the world is lining up once again against their favorite enemy – the Jew.  It’s not time for a rant right now.  I just want to say something short about the koach of tefilah because we desperately need it.

First point: “Va’nitzak el Hashem… VaYishma Hashem es koleinu…”  R’ Chaim Kanievsky points out that Klal Yisrael were on the bottom of the 49 levels of tumah in Mitzrayim – that’s even worse than three-time-a-year Jews.  Nonetheless, the pasuk tells us that G-d listened to their tefilos.  Do not underestimate the power of sincere prayer.

Second point: “Va’yei’anchu Bnei Yisrael min ha’avodah va’yizaku va’ta’al shava’asam el haElokim min ha’avodah.”  Why the need to repeat “min ha’avodah” at the end of the pasuk?  The Radomsker explains that at first Bnei Yisrael were concerned only with their own pains of slavery, but then they realized there is an even greater pain than that – the pain of the Shechina that suffers in galus with us.  Va’yei’anchu” is like the word “naycha” – it was tolerated.  Bnei Yisrael put aside and were willing to tolerate their own pain and instead turned their thoughts and prayers to G-d’s pain.  The turned, “…el haElokim,” to focus on G-d's suffering, kavyachol, and away “min ha’avodah.”  Therefore, their prayers were answered.

Now let’s be honest -- to be more concerned with G-d’s pain, with ruchniyus, than your own suffering is a very high level indeed, one that most of us (at least me) might reach rarely.  It’s hard to think about G-d when someone is beating you.  It's hard to think about it even after a long day of normal work.  But before you get too depressed, Rav Pam, in the haggadah Mareh Kohen, quotes a yesod from the sefer Zechusa d’Avraham: if a person davens even one tefilah with the proper kavanah, that one tefilah elevates all the improper tefilos and ensures their delivery upstairs. 

He uses this yesod to say an amazing pshat in this same pasuk that the Radomsker spoke about.  We just need one other bit of introduction.  The Midrash comments on our pasuk that Pharoah was killing Jewish babies and bathing in their blood.  Why, asks the Parashas Derachim, does the Midrash stick this in here?  What does it have to do with the cries from the work of slavery?  So here’s how it works: “Va’yei’anchu… min ha’avodah…”  Sure, people prayed because they had hard work, they were physical oppressed, they suffered.  We all pray.  Shachris this morning took about 25 minutes despite the fact that President Y’mach Shemo yesterday practically said he is giving our enemy a nuclear weapon.  That type of tefilah is not going to make that much of a difference.  But when Pharoah started to kill Jewish babies, that’s a different story -- then, “vayizaku.”  The Zohar explains that “ze’aka” is the most intense type of tefilah, the deepest kind of cry.  Those tefilos were the real deal.  Suddenly people woke up and realized the danger they and their children were in.  They began to really pray.  The Midrash is explaining to us why Bnei Yisrael’s tefilos were accepted – there had to be a trigger to transform “vayei’anchu” into “vayizaku.”  Those prayers of "ze'aka" went straight upstairs, but, says Rav Pam, not only were those prayers of “ze’aka” accepted, but “va’ta’al shav’asam min ha’avodah,” even those prayers that they said earlier, even the 25 minute Shacharis, even the complaining that they did only because of their own suffering from the pains of slavery, even those prayers were now carried upstairs and accepted as well.  Once you begin to daven for real, even if it’s not the norm, those real tefilos cause all the other tefilos to go up with them.

I go to work at a regular job too, so I know what it’s like to be rushing through shacharis because you need to catch a train.  But what about davening on Shabbos and Yom Tov when there is no train?  These days are an opportunity to daven like you mean it, the real deal.  These tefilos can not only bring about tremendous things on their own, but can cause a tidal wave of tefilah as they carry all our less the perfect tefilos upstairs with them as well.  Hopefully they will all be answered.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

galus Mitzrayim and the seder story as a lesson in emunah

It is a very hard week… too much to do all around, little time to think, less time to write. 

According to one view in Chazal (see this post) galus Mitzrayim was a punishment for Avraham questioning G-d, “Ba’meh eidah ki irashena?” On Avraham Avinu’s level (which I for one have no way of relating to), this question showed a lack in emunah.  Galus Mitzrayim and all other galiyos (which are just snifim of that original galus which got cut short and had to be made up elsewhere) are not a punishment in the way think of punishment, but, as the Shem m’Shmuel explains (and the Maharal before him in Gevuros Hashem ch. 9), are a tikun.  They serve as way for us to exercise and learn emunah.  The way we do that is by remaining steadfast in our trust in Hashem even in the face of Pharoah doing horrible things or President Hussein’s animus toward Jews, b’chol dor v’dor omdim aleinu…, proving that our emunah has no defect – whatever Avraham was lacking has been made up for and overcome. As R’ Eliezer Eisenberg explains in his post here, the leil haseder is not a history lesson – it’s an emunah lesson.

If that is what the holiday is all about, we sure have a strange way of celebrating. If Avraham erred by questioning G-d, then wouldn’t it make sense on this night more than any other night to hold all questions? Wouldn’t it make sense to just sit back and talk about the idea of “emunah peshutah” with no questions allowed? Yet we do exactly the opposite! The mitzvah of sipur yetzi’as Mitzrayim, as opposed to zechiras yetzi’as Mitzrayim that we do every day, can be fulfilled, as R’ Chaim explains, *only* by asking questions. In every haggdah it says “v’kan ha’ben shoe les aviv…” At every seder one of the highlights is “mah nishtanah.” What’s going on?

Maybe the answer is that what the Torah is telling us is that emunah does not mean not having questions – emunah means believing despite having questions. 

The Torah knows that just telling someone not to read that, not to think about that, not to ask that, doesn’t work. I find it impossible to imagine that anyone who heard about the tragedy of the children who perished in a fire last week in Brooklyn was not bothered by what happened and did not have questions. Is it heretical to ask how G-d could do such a thing? I don’t think so. It’s heretical only to conclude that there is no Divine justice just because at the end of the day we may have no answers.

Perhaps another approach, one that I think occurred to me because I am in aveilus this year, is that the difference between Avraham’s question and our questions is in the last two words of the phrase “kan ha’beh shoel *es aviv*…” Avraham Avinu was fortunate to be the first member of Klal Yisrael, the first Jew, but as such, he had no one to whom he could turn to for advice or help (see Kedushas Levi at the end of Lech Lecha). There was no one whom Avraham could ask. Questions are dangerous only when there is no one to talk to about them. When they are part of an ongoing dialogue between parents and children, even if, as in the case of the ben ha’rasha, that dialogue maybe contentious, questions can be defused and they lose much of their force.  

Speaking of the ben ha’rasha, it’s worth noting that it’s the only group of chilren which the Torah speaks about in the plural, “v’haya ki yomru aleichem bneichem.” The Torah is realistic. The vast majority of our brethren out there are not interested in Torah and mitzvos; they dismiss our beliefs as fanatical. Despite all the trouble they cause, when the Torah describes Bnei Yisrael being told of these children, the reaction is one of thanksgiving, “Vayikod ha’am vayishtachavu.” Even as we respond with “hakhey es shinav,” the language is, “v’amartem” – not dibbur, lashon kashah, but rather amirah, lashon rakah. The very fact that the Torah records the question of the ben rasha, writes the Shem m’Shmuel, testifies to the possibility of his being rehabilitated. Why waste words on meaningless questions that a response to does no good? The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains our response to the rasha as follows: “ilu haya sham…,” had he been there, in Egypt, he would not have been redeemed; but he is not there – he is here, with us, post-mattan Torah, post that transformative experience of standing at Sinai that permanently stamped on every Jewish soul the potential for return.

Aside from giving the rasha hope, I think the Torah is giving us parents chizuk as well. What parent has not felt at one time or another that his/her children are ignoring their good advice, acting against their own best interests, and in general, headed down the wrong path? If as the Shem m’Shmuel argues, the parsha of the ben rasha teaches us that this child is never completely lost, because otherwise the Torah would not waste words discussing him, it also teaches us that the words of the parent of the ben rasha are not for naught either, as the Torah would not waste time telling us how to respond if whatever we say made no difference. 

R’ Tzadok haKohen explains that Avraham was bothered by “bameh eidah” because he perceived that this optimistic promise of Jewish destiny contradicted the idea of bechira chofshis. How can there be a guarantee of a bright Jewish future when we have the right to exercise our own free and often bad judgment? Perhaps it’s specifically this parsha of the ben ha’rasha that responds to Avraham’s question. The reason the rasha is a rasha is because he has exercised his bechira and made bad choices. Nonetheless, at least the way these meforshim approach the parsha, the Torah still believes him. Ila haya sham lo haya nigal, but in the future geulah, he will be redeemed. The seder is a lesson in emunah – it shows the Torah’s belief in the potential in each and every Jew. The ball is in our court to respond in kind.

Friday, March 27, 2015

maror: to warrant geulah, we need to first feel bitter about galus

Everything we do on Pesach night is about geulah -- this is the holiday of zman cheiruseinu.  The Sefas Emes quotes an amazing Chiddushei HaRI”M: even eating maror is not just a reminder of the pain galus, but is part of the mechanism that brings geulah.  In order to warrant redemption, a person needs to first feel bitter about being in galus. 

I know it’s hard when you are doing Pesach on the French Riviera, or some other such place, to feel that galus is really a bitter, bitter experience. But it is.  If we don’t think it is, Hashem has ways of reminding us [insert rant about President Husseim y’mach shemo here].

My daughter will IY”H be coming home from Eretz Yisrael next week, but I’m glad she at least had a hava amina of staying and did not take the first flight out once the seminary “zman” ended. In the end, the logistical complications of finding a place for her to spend Pesach in Israel and making arrangements would have been too much to manage, but at least she had to think about it.  Because of that, more than anything else, I consider her year a success.  People ask whether a year in seminary in Eretz Yisrael is really worth the thousands of dollars it costs.  Does it really make that much difference if a girl knows one more Ramban, a piece from Michtav, or another perek or sefer of Nach?  If you ask the question that way, you are missing the whole point of going for the year.  It’s not about learning another Ramban, or if you are a boy, another Tosfos, another R’ Chaim.  The point of going is to learn one thing: to love Eretz Yisrael. 

When a kid gets off the plane in JFK, whether for Pesach, whether in June, and is immediately surrounded by advertisements for all the nahrishkeit available in our society; when a kid comes home and has a choice of six or seven kosher pizza stores, deli, Chinese, and even kosher Mexican (welcome to the Five Towns); when a kid can go to the Yankee game and eat a hot dog like everyone else thanks to having a kosher concession stand, or has to choose whether to spend chol hamoed at Great Adventure or Hershey Park, and af al pi kein that kid gives a sigh because they recognize that nebach, all this is maror, this is galus, none of this compares to what they had while in Eretz Yisrael, can you please tell me how much that is worth, because I can’t put a price on it? 

My daughter spent time this past week shopping for gifts to bring home for her siblings.  She asked me if I wanted anything, so I told her she didn’t have to go far or spend much on my gift.   I asked her to just bring me a stone, any common stone, from the streets of Yerushalayim.  If I can’t be there yet in person, at least I can hold that rock in my hand, my little piece of Yerushalayim real estate, and think about the maror of galus, and dream...

Thursday, March 26, 2015

eating maror as a kiyum of the mitzvah of haggadah

The gemara (Pesachim 115) has a machlokes what to do if you only have maror to eat on Peach night – what do you do for karpas?  Rav Huna holds you say “borei pri ha’adamah” on the maror and eat it for karpas and then you say a birchas hamitzvah on it and eat it again for maror.  Rav Chisda disagrees and argues that you can’t eat maror and only later say a birchas hamitzvah over eating the same food you’ve already had your fill of.  Rather, you should say the birchas hamitzvah on maror along with the "borei pri ha’adamah" at the time you eat karpas, and later in the seder eat maror with no bracha.  The sugya ends by paskening like Rav Chisda.

What is the machlokes all about?  You could learn that the debate revolves around the question of whether mitzvos tzrichos kavanah or not.  Rav Huna holds that since mitzvos tzrichos kavanah, even if you eat maror as karpas, it doesn’t matter, because you have no intent at that moment to fulfill the mitzvah of maror.  Later, when you intend to do the mitzvah, you recite the bracha.  Rav Chisda holds that mitzvos ain tzrichos kavanah and therefore whether you intend it or not, when you eat maror as karpas, you fulfill the mitzvah of maror and should say the birchas hamitzvah.
Tosfos rejects this interpretation.  If Rav Chisda’s point was that mitzvos ain tzrichos kavanah, he should have said explicitly that you were yotzei maror already at the time of karpas.  Tosfos writes that the machlokes here is about hilchos brachos – can you separate the birchas hamitzvah of maror from the kiyum mitzvah of maror that will take place later?  Rav Chisda’s chiddush is that even though you won’t fulfill the mitzvah of maror until later in the seder, you can still recite the birchas hamitzvah on maror earlier at the time of eating karpas.  Tosfos draws an analogy: just like we say the bracha on tekiyas shofar on the tekiyos d'meyushav done before musaf even though the main mitzvah is to hear tekiyos al seder habrachos in shmoneh esrei, so too, one can say the bracha on maror when eating karpas even though the mitzvah of maror will only be fulfilled later.

My friend Chaim Markowitz asked: Tosfos' analogy doesn’t match.  When you blow tekiyos d’meyushav before musaf, you are fulfilling the mitzvah of tekiyas shofar – the Chachamim told you to blow those extra tekiyos in order to mix up the satan (R”H 16).  The Chachamim didn’t tell you to eat maror at the time of karpas.  As Tosfos themselves explained, everyone agrees that you are not yotzei maror until you eat it later in the seder.  So why should you be allowed to say a birchas hamitzvah on maror if there is no kiyum hamitzvah at all involved?
The Chazon Ish (#124) already asked this question and has a different approach to the whole sugya because of it.  Let me share with you three possible solutions (of course, there may be more) in what I think is worst to best order:

1) Since Chazal instituted that the mitzvah of shofar should be done al seder habrachos, in the middle of shmoneh esrei, the blowing done before musaf does not count as a kiyum mitzvah of tekiyas shofar.  (In some old posts we discussed the chiddush of the PM”G in the Pesicha haKolleles that when the Chachamim tell you to do a mitzvah d’oraysa a certain way, you forfeit not just that kiyum derabbanan if you do it differently, but you also get no credit on a d’oraysa level.)  It may be a kiyum of this idea of mixing up the satan, but who says you should be reciting a bracha of tekiyas shofar on that?  
2) Even though there is no kiyum mitzvah of maror when you eat your maror for the sake of karpas, the ma’aseh mitzvah you are doing is identical to the ma’aseh mitzvah of achilas maror.  Tosfos perhaps holds that a bracha can be said on a ma’aseh mitzvah even absent a kiyum.

3) My son’s rebbe, R’ Moshe Brown, dug up a Shibolei haLeket (Hil Rosh haShana #302) that basically echoes Tosfos, but adds a few extra words of explanation: “tibul rishon l’tzorech tibul sheni hu l’heikeira d’tinokos d’kol chovas halayla l’mitzvas haggadah hu…”  Why can you say a bracha on maror when you eat karpas?  Because, answers the Shibolei haLeket, karpas serves as a means of arousing the kids curiosity and therefore, like everything else done Pesach night, is part of the mitzvah of haggadah.  How does the fact that karpas is a kiyum of haggdah help explain why it is a kiyum of maror?  It must be, suggests R’ Moshe Brown, that the Shibolei haLeket holds that eating maror itself is part and parcel of the mitzvah of haggadah.  By way of analogy, just like saying hallel (as we discussed yesterday) is not an independent mitzvah, but is part of the mitzvah of sipur yetziyas mitzrayim because the mitzvah is not just to tell the story but also to give thanks, so too, the mitzvah is not just to tell the story, but to do so using certain “props” like matzah and maror.  Since there is a shared kiyum of haggadah common to both karpas and maror, the birchas hamitzvah of maror is not out of place if said over the karpas.   

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

why are women obligated in the mitzvah of haggadah?

The Chinuch (# 21) writes that the mitzvah of hagadah applies to both men and women.  The Rambam, however, does not have this mitzvah on his list (Hil Aku”m ch 12) of mitzvos that women are obligated in, and the reason why would seem obvious: isn’t sipur yitzias mitzrayim a mitzvas aseh she’hazman gerama?

One possibile answer is that the chiyuv on women to recite the haggadah is really part and parcel of their mitzvah of eating matzah.  The gemara (Pesachim 36) darshens that matzah is called “lechem oni” because “onim alav devarim harbei” – we have to recite things over it to make it into “bread of afflication.”  What things?  Rashi explains that it means we recite hallel and the haggadah (I don’t know why does Rashi mention hallel first and then haggadah when we do it the other way around.)  The point may be valid, but it doesn’t really explain the Chinuch.  If this is what the Chinuch meant, he should mention this detail in the mitzvah of matzah, not include women in the separate mitzvah of haggadah.
Another possibility is that the Chinuch held like the view in Tosfos (Meg 4) that the sevara of “af hein hayu b’oso ha’nes” creates a chiyuv d’oraysa.  However, the dominant view in Tosfos (see also Tos Pesachim 108) and Rishonim is that “af hein” only creates a chiyuv derabbanan.  R’ Baruch Mordechai Ezrachi in his haggadah suggests that this machlokes may depend on how to understand “af hein:” is it a new chiyuv, or does it just remove the ptur of zman gerama?  Any new chiyuv would be derabbanan, but if “af hein” lifts the ptur of zman gerama, then that would mean if the chiyuv on men is d’oraysa, the same would apply to women. 

R’ Wahrman zt”l quotes a very interesting yesod from his rebbe, R’ Leizer Silver.  The source for the exemption of zman gerama is the mitzvah of tefillin.  Perhaps the ptur only applies to mitzvos like tefillin, which we would not know if not for a gezeiras hakasuv, but not to mitzvos sichliyos, mitzvos that we would do anyway because they make sense, even if G-d did not command us to do them.  If it makes sense to do something, what difference does it make if you are a man or a woman, if it is something you should do on one specific day or all year?  (By way of analogy, some Rishonim suggest that a mitzvah sichlis, e.g. tzedaka, does not require a bracha.  You don’t need to thank G-d “asher kidishanau b’mitzvosav v’tzivanu” for commanding you to do something that any moral person would do anyway, even without the commandment.)  The Rambam (Sefer haMitzvos #157) and Chinuch both write that part of the mitzvah of haggadah is to praise and thank Hashem for delivering us from Egypt.  Thanking someone for granting you freedom is an intuitive, rational response – not something that requires a Divine command. 
It’s a big chiddush, no?  Rav Wahrman asks: the gemara (Kid 34) says women are obligated in ma’akah because it is not zman gerama.  Even if it was zman gerama, why would women not be obligated because building a fence so people don’t fall off your roof is a rational thing to do?  I am bothered by the reduction the chiyuv of sipur to one of thanksgiving.  That’s certainly an element of the mitzvah, but is it *the* defining characteristic of the mitzvah?  Something to chew on…