One of the obligations we have Seder night is to lean. Even the poor and needy are obligated to lean (Orach Chaim 472:2) because by leaning, we are portraying that we are free and no longer slaves to Pharaoh or Mitzrayim, for only distinguished and prominent people eat in such a fashion. We lean when we drink the four cups of wine (473:2), while eating the matzah (475), eating the afikoman (477:1) and when eating the korech sandwich (475:1). Nevertheless, we do not lean when eating the maror, for the maror commemorates the slavery, difficulties and suffering we endured in Mitzrayim.
But if we don’t lean when eating the maror, then why do we lean when eating Hillel’s korech sandwich? In fact, there are some Rishonim who codify that one should not lean for this reason (see Shibolei Haleket 218). So why do we lean?
One of the students of the Baal Shem Tov, zy”a, woke up in the middle of the night because of an insect bite. He then knocked over the water he had prepared to wash his hands and it spilled onto a coal — thereby extinguishing the fire that was starting! Then, as he sat up, a beam from the ceiling over his bed fell and landed exactly where he had been lying a few moments earlier! When he asked the Baal Shem Tov about it, the Baal Shem Tov explained that since he had such strong emunah and always understood everything in a positive light, Hashem gave him the opportunity to experience this immense hashgachah pratit — Divine intervention.
There was a superintendent who collected rent and was responsible for the upkeep of the vacant apartments in a building in a very dangerous part of town. Whenever he went there, he quickly took care of whatever needed his attention, not wanting to stay longer than was necessary. One day he went to the building to tend to an urgent matter. While he was in one of the apartments he suddenly realized that he had left his attaché case, containing $40,000 cash in his car, along with two iPods on top of it. He quickly ran back to his vehicle. As he approached, he saw that the passenger-side window was broken, and his heart sank. When he reached the car, he saw that the two iPods were gone, but his attaché case was still there! He was overjoyed.
Let’s think about it: Had the same exact thing happened with just his two iPods, without the attaché case being part of the scenario, and he had returned to his car to see a broken window and missing iPods, he would have been devastated! Why? Because of the broken window and missing iPods. So why was he now jumping for joy?
The answer is because in this case he clearly saw how much worse it could have been! Baruch Hashem it was only the window and iPods!
Whenever anything happens, we are expected to realize that it could have, chas v’shalom, been so, so much worse. If we only knew what Hashem saved us from by limiting the harm that befell us!
This is what Hillel’s korech sandwich represents. The famous Hillel, who was the one who coined the expression (Berachot 60b), “Everything the Merciful one does, He does for our best interest!” is teaching us that although there is maror included, it is surrounded by the bread of emunah — the matzah! Everything Hashem does is for our greatest benefit, whether we see and comprehend it or not!
Chag Pesach kasher v’samei’ach!