Hakhel Program Imparts Pre-Pesach Guidance and Inspiration

On Sunday night, 7 Nisan/March 17, Hakhel presented a pre-Pesach program at Agudath Israel Bais Binyamin in Flatbush. The speakers were, shlita, Harav Yisroel Belsky,  Rosh Yeshivah of Torah Vodaath, and Harav Moshe Tuvia Lieff, Rav of the host kehillah.

Harav Belsky in his shiur, discussed various she’eilos. Regarding whether matzos and products from Eretz Yisrael are preferable since they involve more mitzvos (terumos, maasros, etc.) the Rosh Yeshivah replied that while halachah does not comment on this, the question reflects “a wonderful hergesh (feeling)” on the part of the questioner. One should work on oneself to feel chavivus hamitzvos — that mitzvos are precious to him.

Regarding which vegetables are preferable for maror, he noted that Chazal’s first choice is chazeres — lettuce; the age-old practice is to use Romaine lettuce.

A common misconception some people have regarding mechiras chametz is that it functions as an alternative to a bedikah and biur and bittul of the chametz (preceded by a thorough house-cleaning). The mechirah  — performed in addition — is a necessary accommodation for many for whom it is a hardship to dispose of all their chametz — especially those who own kosher food businesses.

Regarding kashering, the Rosh Yeshivah said that while today, most people have sets of plates, cutlery and other items exclusively for Pesach, in previous generations few people could afford them and it was common to kasher the year-round set for Pesach use. The present-day reality is a birkas Hashem we need to ponder.

Harav Lieff noted that in Chad Gadya recited at the end of the Seder, various antagonists — the kid, the goat, the dog, etc. — come along and strike the preceding one, and in this regard the Chasam Sofer would relate a story that illustrates the evil of machlokes.

At the Seder the participants have their preferences and minhagim — whether or not to eat the afikoman before midnight, more or fewer divrei Torah, etc. — and there exists the possibility for discord.  Seder night is an uplifting time during which we strive to recreate Yetzias Mitzrayim and the achdus of Klal Yisrael.

Chazal tell us “b’chol dor vador — in every generation one is obligated to regard oneself as if he himself had left Egypt.” The avodah of Leil Pesach is to relate the story of Yetzias Mitzrayim leading one to feel like a slave freed from bondage. The Avudraham and Chida explain that we utilize speech — the Haggadah narrative — to awaken this imagery. The more that we speak about it, the more vivid is this visualization.

The Rambam’s approach (Hilchos Chametz U’matzah 7:6–7) calls for acting as if one is free. One must project an image of freedom, which is accomplished at the Seder through royal conduct such as reclining and drinking arbaah kosos. This fundamental concept provides a lesson for our comportment all year long. “The night of the Seder we instruct our children that we are royal family … for the entire year,” stated Harav Lieff.

Both speakers discussed many other inyanim of the upcoming Yom Tov.