Friday, April 11, 2014

haggadah on Shabbos haGadol

Yesh lachkor what the relationship between Shabbos haGadol and Pesach is: Is that the upcoming chag of Pesach impacts Shabbos, as the geulah of Pesach is already tangible in some sense, or is it that Shabbos takes on added importance because it impacts the upcoming chag, as it is only through kedusha Shabbos that the kedushas ha’moadim can come into being?

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.


  1. Anonymous11:56 AM

    Nice post, interesting questions about reading the hagada without havana. They say over from the Rav that he thought the mitzva of hagada is a form of talmud torah, with its own birkas hatorah, and that's why learning halachos is a kiyum of sippur yetias mitzrayim etc. Not sure what that would say about reading the hagada without havana.

    Your answer about mevatlin talmud torah is said by Rav Chaim Kanievski to be the Chazon Ish's answer. Double score on this one, as mevatlin talmud torah lemikra megilla and talmud torah without havana are from my favorite topics. (forwarding article :)

    Now it's a chazaka (although I'm running out of articles)

    1. My lucky day -- I hit the trifecta! I keep hitting favorite topics of yours. I guess we have the same taste in talmud Torah.

      I did a post sometime back quoting R' Gifter who said along the same lines as the Rav that haggadah was a form of talmud Torah. The Rav I think said that Baruch haMakom was a birchas haTorah; R' Gifter explains that haggadah has no independent bichas hamitzvah because it is just a form of T"T (interestingly, he says that's why there is no birchas hamitzvah on krias shema - it's also just reading parshiyos and is covered by birchas haTorah as well).

  2. I'd like to suggest that shulchan aruch OC 430 is basically a din of pirsumei nissa. I.e., you are right, it's not just a trivia fact or a reminder for luach-printers that this shabbos has a special name; rather, there is an actual din to refer to this shabbos by name as "shabbos hagadol" in commemoration of the miracle, just as the mechaber writes. That is the ma'aseh, and the full kiyum of this din comes when we explain to each other "oh, we call it that because of the great nes ..." (Note: I would presume we can fulfill this din by referring to this shabbos by name any time we refer to it, certainly during shabbos and perhaps in the days around it; saying "Good Shabbos hagadol" works too, although I'd be surprised if Rav Elyashiv held we are literally obligated to do so every time we say good shabbos this week.)

    Building on your opening chakira, may I suggest that this pirsumei nissa is a din in Shabbos. Every shabbos includes a component of zecher litztias mitzrayim as a core theme (see e.g. Ramban on shabbos in the 2nd set of 10 commandments, in va-eschanan). This week's shabbos is especially "great" in that regard, because we recall and commemorate a nes that demonstrated the very beliefs that Ramban says Shabbos aims to reinforce. The nes of shabbos hagdol also validated our ancestors' emuna -- according to the midrash, we showed great emuna in designating the korban pesach, even before we had seen the 10th plague and before we were free -- and so in a sense this is especially good reinforcement for our own emuna today. (Note: this is one way to answer the famous kashe of why we mark shabbos hagadol, instead of marking the 10th of Nissan as special.)

    1. I looked at the Tur 430 over shabbos, and I see that Maharlach on the Tur writes along these lines to explain why we mark shabbos rather than the 10th of nissan.

  3. Baruch shekivanti, i had tge same chakira when i learnt the mishna brura, why it depends on tge shabas and not 10 nison.

    I always wondered why every gadol even rishonim write on the hagada. it seems the reason might be its written by a tana so its a mishna in a way. so its torah shbal pe.

  4. Anonymous9:16 AM

    Over Shabbos I happened to come across a piece in Shalmei Simcha, by the great Rav Simcha Elberg, and he makes exactly the same point as you about sippur without havana

    Yasher Koach!

  5. Chag kasher vesameach to you. Yasher kocacha for writing.