The Haggadah is one of the most remarkable works in the Torah library. According to one estimate, more than four thousand types of Haggados were published in the past five hundred years, and new commentaries are being compiled and released every year.
But who wrote the actual Haggadah?
Some authorities state that it was partially written in the era of the Mishnah, with additions in the time of the Gemara.
But if so, how can it be that Moshe Rabbeinu, appointed by Hashem to take us out of Egypt, the primary human player in the “story,” is only mentioned once — and then only when a passuk that mentions his name is quoted?
The answer might be that the Haggadah was actually written by Moshe Rabbeinu himself, and in his great modesty he didn’t mention his name.
He is alluded to, though: the numerical value of “Nirtzah,” the final siman of the Seder, is 345 — the gematria of “Moshe.”
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Bnei Yisrael experienced the miracles of Yetzias Mitzrayim as family units. Parents and children were together when plague after plague struck the Egyptians, leaving Bnei Yisrael unscathed. Together they marched away from the land that had enslaved them for generations, and together they discovered that they were being pursued. When the sea split, families walked together on what had become solid ground.
When they began the journey into the desert, there was no reason for parents to describe to the children the details of what had transpired, for they had seen it all themselves.
Except for one father: Moshe Rabbeinu.
Unique among Bnei Yisrael, his sons were in far-off Midyan when all these miracles were taking place. Moshe Rabbeinu had previously brought them with him when Hashem sent him to Mitzrayim to redeem Yisrael, but at the urging of his older brother, Aharon, he sent them back.
Therefore, the very first one to tell his children about the most wondrous events to happen to mankind was Moshe Rabbeinu himself. This — like everything else in life — was purposely pre-ordained by Hashem.
Because Moshe Rabbeinu was the first one to relate to his children the story of Yetzias Mitzrayim, he paved the way for all the coming generations. The Seder night would be an auspicious time to transmit and instill kedushah and ahavas and yiras Hashem in the hearts of our children (the second Belzer Rebbe, Harav Yehoshua, zy”a).
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One of the highlights of the Seder is Hallel, divided into two parts: one before and one after eating the matzah, the maror, and seudas Yom Tov.
There is a difference of opinion in the Mishnah regarding how much of Hallel is said before eating the matzah. Beis Shammai says we conclude the first perek of Hallel, ending “eim habanim smeichah — the glad mother of children.” Beis Hillel says we conclude the second perek, ending “chalamish l’mayno mayim — flint into a flowing fountain.”
The Keren l’Dovid explains the Mishnah homiletically: The Mishnah is discussing how much the individual leading the Seder is required to inspire those present during the recital of Hallel.
Beis Shamai (in this case) rules leniently. It suffices to bring joy into the home; one is permitted to stop once the family members are experiencing true happiness, “the glad mother of children.”
Beis Hillel (in this case) is more stringent, ruling that one must put such effort into the recital of Hallel that even a heart as hardened as flint is turned into a flowing fountain.
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The uplifting experience of hearing the Haggadah certainly isn’t limited to the children. To the contrary, in order to transmit such a lofty message to our children we have to internalize it ourselves.
Harav Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz, zt”l, would compare the phenomenon of this night to a person who walks into a fast-food store. The proprietor offers the potential customer a free taste to convince him that it’s good. After that first bite, he has to pay if he wants more.
On the night of the Seder we temporarily get to “taste” great spiritual heights. Then we have 49 days to work on ourselves so we can merit these levels on our own.
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There is an age-old tradition in many communities that the children add a few words in Yiddish when the first siman, Kadesh, is proclaimed.
“When the father comes home from shul, he dons his white kittel, and quickly makes Kiddush so that the small children shouldn’t fall asleep. “
When the melamed of the young son of the saintly Rebbe known as the Shpolyer Zeide once failed to teach his charges these additional words, the Rebbe sharply reprimanded him.
The Rebbe explained that the children are actually speaking to Hashem, our Father in Heaven.
When our Father comes to His abode in Shamayim after observing how, despite the exhaustion and stress the Yidden endured in preparing for Pesach, they still davened Maariv and Hallel in shul with great fervor, each on his own level, He ought to make “Kiddush” — quickly renew the bond of kiddushin between Him and His beloved children before the “small children” will fall asleep, before His children will fall into a deep slumber of despair, chas v’shalom, of the geulah.
May we all merit to awaken from our spiritual slumber and take full advantage of these lofty days.