The Shulchan Aruch devotes a siman to telling us that Shabbos is called "Shabbos haGadol." We expect the Shulchan Aruch to tell us do's and don'ts -- l'mai nafka minah that the Shabbos has a special name? I saw R' Chaim Kanievsky quotes from R' Elyashiv that you should wish people "Good Shabbos haGadol," not just "Good Shabbos," because of this din.
No matter how hard cleaning is, I think the bigger avodah is figuring out what to do with kids on chol hamoed. If your kids are in strollers still or are little and you think having to pack a diaper bag or bags and bags of snacks and drinks is hard, just wait until they become teenagers. I’m too young to start sounding like a grumpy old man, so I’ll leave it at that.
The Rama quotes a minhag to read the haggadah on Shabbos haGadol, but the GR”A objects, as we read in the haggadah itself that sippur yetzias Mitzraim can only be done when you have a chiyuv of matzah and maror (or maybe you actually need matzah and maror physically present – see R’ Zolti’s discussion in Mishnas Ya’avetz). It’s hard to understand what bothered the GR”A. One would hope that you are not first cracking open the haggadah on leil haseder and looking through the Artscroll notes on the bottom to try come up with something to say! You can learn the haggadah any day of the year. So what’s so bad if on Shabbos before Pesach you take out the haggadah and go through it even if it is not the zman hamitzvah?
This GR”A reminded me of the gemara (Megillah 3) that you have to even be mevateil talmud Torah to read the megillah. Why does the gemara call reading the megillah “bitul Torah” – isn’t reading the text of Tanach also a kiyum of talmud Torah? Apparently reading b’toras kriah is a different type of engagement with the text than study. Here too, of course one can learn the haggadah any time. What the GR”A may have found problematic was formalizing it into an act of recitation rather than talmud Torah. That smacks of an imitation of the mitzvah of haggdah, which can only take place on leil haseder.
That’s not to say that if you just read the text at the seder it’s enough. Achronim writes that you get a kiyum mitzvah of talmud torah for reading pesukim even if you don’t understand them, but you get no mitzvah of talmud torah for reading torah sheba’al peh unless you know what it means. So what if you open a chumash on leil haseder and just read the pesukim that tell the story of yetzias Mitzrayim without understanding what you are saying – are you yotzei? I find it hard to believe that you are. The point of reading the haggadah is not talmud torah, but rather is about engendering the feeling of “k’ilu hu atzmo yatzah m’Mitzrayim.” I haven’t bothered to look for ra’ayos and am just speculating m’sevara.
The Sefas Emes quotes the Midrash that at the time of creation every day had a match – the days come in pairs – except for Shabbos, which was the odd man out. Hashem said to Shabbos that Klal Yisrael would be its match. It was not until the geulah from Mitzrayim, when we became a nation, that the day of Shabbos was completed with its match. True, Shabbos existed beforehand as a commemoration of creation, but that commemoration is incomplete without a Klal Yisrael to reveal it to the world. (The 10 makkos parallel the 10 ma’amarim of the creation of the world. The latter conceal G-d’s presence in nature; the former reveal that concealment. Shabbos allows us time to stop and contemplate, so that we hopefully come to recognize, “Mah rabu ma’asecha Hashem…,” as we say in the shir shel yom for Shabbos. Yetzias Mitzrayim, geulah, is the culmination of peeling away of the layers of teva so that recognition is obvious to all.)
We end “Ha lachma anya…” with the declaration that next year we hope to be in Eretz Yisrael and celebrating in Yerushalayim. We have at the end of the seder as well the declaration of “L’shanah haba’ah b’Yerushalayim.” The halacha is that on leil haseder you bring out your best dishes, your finest silverware. You might even be sitting on leil haseder in Cancun or the French Riviera in the greatest hotels, waited on hand and foot. At the start of the seder you look at the beautifully set table, at all that you have, and you think to yourself, "Ah, what could be better than this?" Therefore, the haggadah sticks in a reminder – don’t forget that you’re still in galus. As nice a galus as it can be, it’s still not where we belong. With all the luxuries we may have wherever we are, we still yearn to be in Eretz Yisrael (heard from R’ Meir Goldvicht).
In case I don't write anything on Monday (my brain stopped working much earlier this week already) let me wish everyone a wonderful Pesach in advance.