The Secret of the Haggadah

In many communities it is the custom to read the Haggadah on the afternoon of Shabbos Hagadol.

The Haggadah is one of the most remarkable works in the Torah library. According to one estimate, more than 4,000 types of Haggados were published in the past 500 years, and new commentaries are 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 how can it be the fact that Moshe Rabbeinu, appointed by Hashem to take us out of Mitzrayim, was the primary human player in the “story,” is not mentioned even once?

The answer might be that the Haggadah was in fact written by Moshe Rabbeinu himself; in his great modesty he did not 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.”

* * *

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 left 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.

Only his sons were in far-off Midyan when these miracles were taking place. Moshe Rabbeinu had previously brought them with him to Mitzrayim, but at the urging of his older brother Aharon he sent them back.

Therefore, the very first one to tell his children about some of the most wondrous events to happen to mankind was Moshe Rabbeinu himself. This — like everything else in life — was preordained 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 future generations. The Seder night would be an auspicious time to transmit and instill kedushah, ahavas Hashem and yiras Hashem in the hearts of our children (the second Belzer Rebbe, Harav Yehoshua, zy”a).

* * *

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 semeichah — 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: It is discussing how much the individual leading the Seder is required to inspire those present during the recital of Hallel.

Beis Shammai (in this case) rules leniently. It suffices to bring joy into the home; one may 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.

* * *

The uplifting experience of hearing the Haggadah certainly is not limited to the children. To the contrary, in order to transmit such a lofty message to our children we must 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 the food is 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.

* * *

There is an age-old tradition in many communities that the children add a few words in Yiddish to the first siman, Kadesh.

“When the father comes home from shul, he dons his white kittel and quickly makes Kiddush so that the small children should not fall asleep.”“

When the melamed of the young son of the saintly Rebbe “the Shpolyer Zeide” once failed to teach his charges these words, the Rebbe sharply reprimanded him. He explained that the children are in fact speaking to 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 should make “Kiddush” — quickly renew the bond of Kiddushin between Him and His beloved children, before the “small children” fall asleep — before His children fall into a deep slumber and 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.