The Korban Todah and Sippur Yetziat Mitzrayim
- HaRav Avigdor Nebenzahl
- Mar 24, 2010
The Torah distinguishes between two categories of korbonot shlamim, peace offerings. The first category is known as Shalmei Todah, offerings of thanksgiving, while the second category is known as Shalmei Neder o Nedava, offerings brought as a result of vows and gifts. The Shalmei Todah could only be consumed during the day the sacrifice was brought and the following night (a later rabbinic decree limited even further the time one was permitted to eat the sacrifice to no later than midnight rather than the entire night). The Shalmei Todah was accompanied by forty loaves of bread, thirty-six of which were eaten by the one who brought the sacrifice. The Shalmei Neder o Nedava, on the other hand, were able to be eaten during the course of the day the sacrifice was brought, the following night, and the following day after that, thus having an extra day to consume the sacrifice. The Shalmei Neder o Nedava were not accompanied by any loaves of bread.
One reason given for the above distinction is that one who brings a Korbon Todah, an offering of thanksgiving, wishes to thank Hashem for the miracles and general good bestowed upon him. This short period of time with which one had the need to consume an entire animal as well as the many loaves of bread, necessitated the inviting of guests to partake in the festivities. Anyone eating from an animal that had been sacrificed had to be ritually pure, requiring much preparation for the day when they would eat from their friend's Korbon Todah. The inviting of guests as well as all the preparation resulted in further publicizing the thanks the person was giving to Hashem, announcing to everyone that everything we have is from Hashem.
Today when one wishes to thank Hashem for being saved from danger, one recites the blessing of hagomel. Many of the laws of the recitation of hagomel originate in the way the Korban Todah was brought. For example, the blessing of hagomel must be said in front of ten people, as it says "viyeromemuhu bikhal am" "Let them exalt Him in the assembly of people (Tehillim 107:32) - meaning that the thanks to Hashem must be given in a public setting.
Human nature is such that one feels a greater need to thank Hashem at the outset of the bringing of the sacrifice, when one still feels great elation over the miracle that happened, than on the following day. If the Korban Todah were allowed to be eaten for an additional day, it would be eaten at a time when the feelings are not as strong. For this reason, that the novelty and excitement has worn off, we are much more spiritually uplifted from our davening on the first day of Rosh Hashana than the second, and this is not only because the first day of Rosh Hashana is ordained from the Torah whereas the second one is only rabbinic. Many authorities feel that the daytime reading of the Megilla on Purim is halachically more significant than the reading the night before. Despite this fact, we are much more emotionally drawn to the night reading because it comes first, the story is new to us. Our mind might tell us that the daytime reading is of more significance but our heart and emotions tell us otherwise.
In order to properly fulfill the Mitzvah of "Sippur yetziat Mitzraim", recounting the story of the exodus form Egypt, we must feel as if we ourselves left Egypt. The best way to really tell of the miracles Hashem performed is to actually experience the exodus. In the Haggadah we quote the Mishna which says "bechol dor vador chayav adam LIROT et atzmo keilu hu yatza miMitzraim" "in every generation one is required to view oneself as if one left Egypt". There are those who say that the word LEHAROT, to show, should be substituted for the word LIROT, to view. In either case the message is that one must feel the suffering that existed in Egypt. It is not enough to relate that which took place over three thousand years ago, but we must actually experience it and thus be awakened by the story. The Rambam's version is "keilu hu ATA yatza miMitzraim" "as if he is NOW leaving Egypt". The way one fulfills the Mitzvah of recounting the story of the exodus is surely different for one who has just left Egypt, who has just been beaten by the Egyptian police, than for one who has left many years before.
The mitzvoth of the seder night, both the Torah ordained mitzvoth as well as the rabbinically ordained ones help us reach this feeling of being slaves in Egypt. For example, we are commanded to eat marror (albeit nowadays without the Korban Pesach it is only a rabbinic commandment). The marror causes us to feel the bitterness of the bondage in Egypt. We must also feel that sense of freedom felt by one who was just released. The Gemara explains that one of the reasons we drink four cups of wine at the seder is that a free man drinks lots of wine. We must recline when we eat at the seder, also allowing us to reach this feeling of freedom.
Interestingly enough, even the people of the generation that left Egypt were commanded to eat marror. Why must they eat marror? Did they not suffer enough and thus feel the bitterness of the bondage without having to be reminded? The answer is that, according to Chazal, they already ceased to work the previous Rosh Hashana. Enough time has elapsed to not feel the bitterness as much, therefore they too were required to eat marror to remember the bondage.
Not long after the exodus the Jewish people say "zacharnu et hadaga asher nochal beMitzrayim chinam" "we remember the fish that we ate in Egypt for free" (Bamidbar 11:5), they have already forgotten the bondage and the suffering. Man contains within him a power to easily forget all of his troubles. Little more than a year passes after the exodus and the Torah testifies that the people said "besinat Hashem otanu hotizanu me-eretz Mitzrayim" "Because of Hashem's hatred for us did He take us out of the land of Egypt" (Devarim 1:27). The Jewish people actually forgot all the bondage and suffering and are now accusing Hashem of taking them out of Mitzrayim due to His hatred of them, for this reason even they must eat marror, to remind them that Pharaoh is the enemy not Hashem.
Man has two strengths: the intellect and the emotions. Although one often forgets what one learns, when one uses one's intellect an impression is left. Out of the two, the intellect leaves a more lasting impression. Emotions require constant renewal. We must constantly work on our emotions to feel our love for Hashem Who took us out of Egypt.
The Gemara says that whoever spends too much time davening at the expense of time that would have been spent learning is referred to as "manichim chayei olam veloskim bechayei shaa" "having put eternal life aside and busies himself with temporary life". Why should tefilla, prayer, be referred to as chayei shaa? Is it not after all a mitzvah, albeit a dispute whether from the Torah or rabbinic in origin, yet nevertheless a mitzvah? In addition to the mitzvah of davening itself, one who davens also fulfills the mitzvah of loving and fearing
Hashem? Tefilla, prayer, is referred to as chayei shaa because it is something that requires emotion as opposed to learning that requires intellect. One thinks about what one learns, asks questions, and has new insights and thus it leaves a more lasting impression. What one gains using their emotions can be lost a very short time later.
When we daven, we must feel every day like it is a new experience. Every day we must feel our thanks for the good Hashem does for us and what He gives us. We must, G-d forbid, reach the stage of "vatehi yiratam iti mitzvot anashim melumada" "their fear of Me is like rote learning of human commands" (Yeshayahu 29:13). Rabeinu Yona states that this pasuk is referring to those people who do not awaken anew within themselves an emotional feeling for serving Hashem.
Perhaps we can now explain the expression "nashim daatan kalot" "women's intellect is lighter." The women's strong point is the emotion, emotions come and go easily. Men's strong point is the intellect, things do not switch on and off as easily as it does for women. This is not considered a weakness in women. Chazal tell us "bina yeteira natan Hakodosh Boruch Hu beisha yoter mibeish" "Hashem endowed the woman with more intuitive understanding than the man" (Gemara Nidda 45b). We are told that a woman can size up her visitors and understand them much better than a man can. Why should this be? The answer is that a woman draws conclusions based on her emotions whereas a man must use his intellect. The emotions can draw their conclusions in much less time than the intellect - the emotions are more like the senses.
Perhaps the above distinction between conclusions drawn based on intellect versus emotions can be used to explain why a woman is an invalid witness. A witness must relate what happened without any conclusions of his own. Perhaps a woman would draw conclusions based on what she saw. If a woman would witness a loan between Reuven and Shimon she would not simply relate that she saw the transaction take place but rather would conclude that Reuven lent Shimon money because Shimon was in need. A court only wishes to hear the facts without any commentary. Perhaps this also can explain the dispute amongst the authorities whether a woman can be a judge, for a judge must work with his logic and intellect, whereas a woman also works with her emotions.
When we recount the story of the exodus from Egypt, we may need our intellect in order to discuss all the facts, yet every year we must use our emotions to feel anew the bondage and suffering in Egypt. When Chazal said "kol hamarbe lesaper biytziat Mitzraim harei zeh meshubach" "and the more one dwells on the story of the Exodus from Egypt, the more praiseworthy is he", it is not simply a matter of spending more time recounting the story, but it is also a matter of awakening, of feeling as much as possible, the bondage in Egypt.
The pasuk states "Haben yakir li Ephraim im yeled shaashuim ki midei dabri bo zachor ezkerenu od" "Is Ephraim, my favorite son or a delightful child, that whenever I speak of him I remember him more and more" (Yirmiyahu 31:19). What does it mean when it says "midei dabri bo zachor ezkerenu od" "whenever I speak of him I remember him more and more"? Is it not obvious that the more I speak of him, the more I remember him? The explanation is that even if I have spoken enough about him, I still continue to mention him and speak of him. If one were to ask a father about the welfare of his son, the father would not simply say thank G-d well, but would go into great detail and even mention things that the one asking is not really interested in. The one asking the question is only doing so because he feels some sense of obligation to ask, the father, on the other hand, enjoys giving details about the welfare of his son. When one recounts the story of the exodus from Egypt it is not only out of obligation but also because one enjoys telling the story.
Although certain parts of the seder must be completed before midnight, there is a dispute as to exactly what parts. Whichever way one rules, one must tell the story in the best way possible. The word mesaper to tell a story, can be thought of as being from the same root as sapir, sapphire. The story should be as shining and clear as a sapphire.
The wise son asks "Ma haedot vehachukim vehamishpatim asher tziva Hashem Elokeinu etchem" "What are the testimonies and the decrees and the ordinances that Hashem our G-d commanded you" (Devarim 6:20). We answer him "af ata emor lo khilchot haPesach ein maftirin achar haPesach afikoman" "You too must tell him all the detailed regulations of the Pesach for instance", that we do not partake of any dessert after eating the paschal lamb. The simple explanation is that we teach the wise son everything in Masechet Pesachim which ends with the Mishna "ein maftirin achar haPesach afikoman".
Perhaps we can give an additional explanation. The wise son is not simply asking what these testimonies are but rather why are there so many things that are specific to Pesach? For seven days we eat Matza, many days beforehand we clean the house, we may not even possess any chometz lest we violate "bal yerae ubal yimatze", we bake matzot, we eat marror, drink four cups of wine, etc. Why so many details and why for seven days? Furthermore, why are we told to remember the exodus from Egypt every day and night of the year? The Torah tells us that the mitzvoth of Shabbat, tzitzit, and tefillin are for us to remember the exodus from Egypt. Why must I remember yetziat Mitzrayim every day, every minute, in every place, and in everything I do?
What do we answer the wise son? All the laws of Pesach until "ein maftirin achar haPesach afikoman". We cannot eat anything after having eaten the Korban Pesach. The sacrifice must be eaten when one is satisfied. In fact, all sacrifices must be eaten when one is satiated, to make sure that one does not leave the table of the King when hungry, thus giving a sense of honor and respect to the eating of the sacrifice. What makes the Korban Pesach unique is that one may not eat anything after partaking of it, not so in other sacrifices.
On Pesach they would eat a special Korban Chagiga prior to the Korban Pesach. In order to fulfill the commandment of not eating anything after the Korban Pesach, we are required to eat the Korban Chagiga prior to eating the Korban Pesach. Why is it so important that the Korban Pesach be eaten last? The Yerushalmi offers an explanation based on a prohibition unique to the Korban Pesach, that of "shvirat etzem", breaking of a bone. When one is hungry there is more chance one may attempt to eat every last drop of meat and thus may break a bone.
Insuring that the person is not hungry to avoid "shvirat etzem" may explain why the Korban Pesach was eaten last, even following the Korban Chagiga. This does not, however, explain why nowadays we eat the afikoman last. What relevance does "ve-etzem lo tishberu bo" "and a bone shall you not break thereof" (Shmot 12:46) have with the kezayit matza we eat at the end of our meal?
One possible explanation is that our eating of the afikoman at the end of the seder is a remembrance of the Korban Pesach that was the last thing eaten. If the Beit Hamikdash were to be rebuilt speedily in our day we would want people to remember that the Pesach is always the last thing eaten.
The Gemara offers another explanation. The afikoman is eaten last because we wish for the taste of the afikoman to remain with us as long as possible. Eating any food following the afikoman would negate the taste of the afikoman. The Torah says "lo tochal alav chametz, shivat yamim tochal alav matzot lechem oni, ki vechipazon yatzata meretz Mitzraim, leman tizkor et yom tzeitcha meretz Mitzraim kol yemei chayecha" "You shall eat no leavened bread with it, seven days shall you eat unleavened bread therewith, even the bread of affliction: for in haste did you come forth out of the land of Egypt that you may remember the day when you came forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of your life" (Devarim 16:3), through the "lechem oni" a person remembers the exodus from Egypt his entire life. If the afikoman is the last thing eaten, the taste remains for the entire year. Although the taste will physically be negated, for it is impossible to decree that one not eat the entire year, however, one should try to have this taste last as long as possible, by it being the last thing eaten. With Hashem's help, speedily in our day, we hope we will soon partake in the Korban Pesach and have that taste remain in our mouth.
Just as what one tastes negates what one tasted before that, so too what one hears may negate what one heard before. The Torah requires us to remember the Exodus from Egypt every day and night in order that when one hears on the news what America did or the IDF did, etc. it will not cause us to forget what was spoken about at the seder, about Who took us out of Egypt and Who is the "Ein od milvado" "there is none else beside Him"(Devarim 4:35).
We must constantly remind ourselves of the Exodus, as a way of constantly using our emotions to renew our belief. Belief cannot simply be "veyadata hayom" "You must know today" (ibid. 39), rather it must constantly be "vahashevota el levavecha" "and bring it back repeatedly to the innermost heart" (ibid). Our daily life causes us to forget our belief, therefore we must constantly renew the belief in our hearts and feel it.
It is not only general current events but even personal matters that cause one to forget the Hand of Hashem. When one goes to the doctor one must remember that it is not the doctor who heals but rather Hashem. "Lo al halechem levado yichye haadam ki al kol motza pi Hashem yichye haadam" "That not by bread only does man live but by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of Hashem does man live" (Devarim 8:3). Hashem is the One who gives us our bread to eat and heals all our ailments. When Hashem wishes, He gives us manna enough for us to live on. That is our task on the night of Pesach, to awaken within us this feeling that everything is from Hashem, for Hashem provides us with the food and He is the one who frees us from slavery.
We must be prepared for the fact that after the first night our emotions will decline. Although the Gemara provides a reason for not reciting the full Hallel after the first day of Pesach, we can already feel that after the first day we have lost some of that special feeling that comes with the realization of what Hashem has provided for us. Following Pesach are the days of the Omer when Hashem hides his presence from us and we are in mourning for the students of R' Akiva. After Shavuot, we can easily forget the Exodus from Egypt and the giving of the Torah. During this period of time one can easily forget that Hashem alone rules the world.
Due to the fact, that shortly after the seder we can forget that Hashem is the ruler of the world, we must gather at the seder enough of the feeling of Hashem ruling the world, to last us the entire year. The seder is not the time for heavy in-depth discussions about intricacies of Pesach. There may exist many nice commentaries and in-depth discussions on different aspects of the Haggadah, however, one must remember that these were not written on the first night of Pesach. At the seder our main purpose is to relate what happened at the time of the exodus from Egypt, to feel the bondage. The Rambam explains that during the bondage in Egypt, the roots that Avraham Avinu planted were nearly uprooted from this world.
We say in the Haggadah that at the time of the exodus "lo hispik betzekam shel avotenu lehachmitz" "there was no time for the dough of our forefathers to rise". The literal meaning is that within eighteen minutes the entire Jewish nation was cleared out of Egypt, thus not leaving time for the dough to rise. The word "lehachmitz", to leaven, can also have a negative connotation of being spoiled. Perhaps one can say that the spiritual dough, thank G-d, did not have a chance "lehachmitz". While in Egypt, the Jewish people descended to the forty-ninth level of impurity and if, G-d forbid, the redemption would have been delayed at all, the Jewish people would have been unable to leave Egypt.
"Ve-avarti beretz Mitzraim balaila hazeh, ani velo malach" "For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, I myself and not an angel" - why Hashem and not an angel? The simple answer is that Hashem loves the Jewish people so much that He insisted on being the One to redeem them. Chazal bring another reason and that is that the impurity in Egypt was so great that even an angel would have been unable to enter without becoming defiled, therefore only Hashem Himself could have come to redeem the Jewish people. If even an angel would have been unable to enter there without becoming defiled, how much more so would man have been in danger of becoming defiled? Another possible explanation is that the impurity was so great that an angel would not have been able to distinguish between a Jew and an Egyptian. Although there was blood on the doorposts as a sign of who was Jewish, an Egyptian, however, could also have placed blood on his doorposts. Hashem did not need the blood of the Jewish people, but rather the hearts of the Jewish people.
Rashi explains that when Hashem saw blood being used for the mitzvoth of brit milah and Korban Pesach, Hashem felt that the Jewish people were worthy of being redeemed. It is clear from this that not all the Jewish people had sunk to such a low level, certainly not people of the likes of Aharon, Yehoshua, and other righteous people. There were, however, people, who had Hashem not intervened and redeemed the Jewish people, would not have been able to be redeemed, for Hashem knows what is in the hearts of people.
A week after the Jewish people were redeemed, just before the splitting of the Red Sea, the angel protested and asked what makes these people better than the others thus having them merit being saved? This is all going on near the Red Sea, the debate on whether or not to save the Jewish people. After the miracle of the splitting of the Red Sea, the Jewish people go towards the great redemption of receiving the Torah. People who were deeply involved in the terrible bondage are now reaching the level of prophecy. The Ramban says that when the Jewish people had the merit of building the Mishkan, they reached the level of the forefathers. During Pesach we also must ponder the great miracle of how people who had sunk to such a low level are suddenly able to reach the level of the forefathers.
According to the Ramban, the book of Shmot ends with the building of the Mishkan for this signifies the climax of the redemption, the Divine Presence residing among the Jewish people. The physical redemption is the exodus from Egypt, the spiritual one is when they left the forty-nine levels of impurity. We say "vayotzei et amo Yisrael mitocham lecheirut olam" "and He removed His nation Israel from their midst to eternal freedom", (from the weekly Ma'ariv davening). If one looks at history one will see that the Jewish people were enslaved many times throughout history, are we saying lies in our nightly davening? The explanation is that never again did they reach the low level that had been reached during the bondage in Egypt. The eternal freedom we speak about in davening is referring to spiritual freedom, freedom from the forty-nine levels of impurity. We may have been placed into slavery many times following the Exodus from Egypt, but the will to serve Hashem was never lost.
When recounting the story of the Exodus from Egypt, we need only discuss the events that culminated on the first day of Pesach, up until "makat bechorot", the plague in which all the firstborn in Egypt died, strictly speaking one need not discuss the splitting of the Red Sea. It is important to discuss details of the Pesach, matzah, and marror, such as why the Korban Pesach must be roasted, specifically from a lamb, etc. Discussing the laws and details of the mitzvoth of the night is also part of the mitzvah of sippur yetziat Mitzraim, recounting the story of the Exodus. The lack of time at the seder does not permit us to do everything but we must do the best we can and remember "kol hamarbe harei ze meshubach" "and the more one dwells on the story of the Exodus from Egypt, the more praiseworthy is he".
It is said of the Steipler zt"l that he was able to understand how people had the ability to eat the kezayit of matzah but could not understand how people could fulfill the shulchan orech, partaking of the festive meal. Eating the matza and partaking in the festive meal are a very important part of the seder, but the main thing is to explain to everyone in their own language and on their level what actually took place in Egypt. When we discuss all the plagues it is important to explain what actually happened in Egypt. If what is written in the Haggadah does not provide one with a sufficient understanding of what took place in Egypt, and of the mitzvoth of Pesach, matza, and marror, then one must look in the Chumash or the Gemara.
We must strive that by recounting the story we attempt to glorify the Name of Hashem in this world, and this alone should be a reason for Hashem to bring about the final redemption speedily in our day. We should then be able to continue publicizing the Name of Hashem and then "veyeda kol paul ki ata pe-alto" "let everything that has been made know that You are its Maker" (from the Rosh Hashana davening). Amen.
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