March 31, 2020 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm #1845447
The Lesson of the Bread of Poverty: e-mail address removed
שבעת ימים מצות תאכלו– Seven days shall you eat matzah (Shemos 12:15).
We say in the Haggadah, in the first paragraph of Maggid: “Ha lachma anya di achalu avhasana be’ara de’Mitzrayim. Kol dichfin yeisei ve’yeichol kol ditzrich yeisei ve’yifsach. Hashata hacha le’shanah haba’ah be’ara de’Yisrael. Hashata avdei le’shanah haba’ah bnei chorin – This is the bread of poverty that our fathers ate in the land of Egypt. Whoever is hungry, let him come and eat. Whoever is needy, let him come and celebrate Pesach. Now, we are here; next year may we be in the Land of Israel. Now, we are slaves; next year may we be free men.”
In his Haggadah, Simchas HaRegel, the Chida explains the flow of Ha Lachma Anya, based on the Midrash in Eichah. The third pasuk of Eichah begins, “Galsah Yehudah mei’oni –Yehudah has gone into exile from poverty.” Referencing the word mei’oni, from poverty, the Midrash (Eichah Rabbah 1:28), as quoted by the Chida, explains that we went into exile for two reasons: from not eating lechem oni, the bread of poverty (matzah); and from not giving matnos aniyim, gifts to the poor. (Our version of the Midrash differs from that of the Chida’s.)
To offset these two shortcomings, we begin the Seder by stating, “Ha lachma anya di achalu avhasana be’ara de’Mitzrayim” – We, unlike our ancestors prior to the exile in Bavel, are eating the bread of poverty, and “Kol dichfin yeisei ve’yeichol kol ditzrich yeisei ve’yifsach” – We, unlike our ancestors prior to the exile in Bavel, are concerned with the poor, and are offering them matnos aniyim and support.
Given the truth of our tikkun in these two areas, the last part of Ha Lachma Anya follows naturally: “Hashata hacha le’shanah haba’ah be’ara de’Yisrael. Hashata avdei le’shanah haba’ah bnei chorin” – Now, we are here; next year may we be in the Land of Israel. Now, we are slaves; next year may we be free men.
I believe that by making a few observations about the language and details of both Ha Lachma Anya and the Midrash in Eichah, we can arrive at a deeper meaning of the two, as well as a new insight into the kavanah, intent, required while eating matzah on Pesach.
Before that, we have a few questions. First, in Ha Lachma Anya, why is matzah described as the bread of poverty, rather than the bread of slavery, which would have been more accurate?
The second question is regarding the second part, where we say, “Whoever is hungry – let him come and eat. Whoever is needy – let him come and celebrate Pesach.” This call and offer to provide to others seems rather disingenuous. The guest lists have been made, the invitations have all gone out, and we are now beginning the Seder. Any invitation to others, however hungry, falls only on our ears; it doesn’t seem to be based on any real concern for the needy. What are we accomplishing with this statement?
As we read through the Midrash carefully, we come up with a few more questions. First, why is the sin of not eating matzah a reason to be sent to galus? What is the middah keneged middah? Beyond this, what is so bad about not eating matzah? The sin is only a passive one, a bittul mitzvas aseih. Why would this warrant the severity of exile?
Another, more basic, difficulty in the Midrash is that it seems incomprehensible that the people as a whole would neglect to eat matzah, an action performed today by the most secular Jews. There is no mention of the Jews not bringing the korban Pesach, a sin that would incur the kareis punishment. If they were, as a whole, bringing the korban Pesach, how could they not be eating it with the requisite matzah?
And finally, is there any connection between not giving gifts to the poor and not eating the bread of poverty, or is the Midrash presenting us with two unrelated reasons?
The Gemara (Berachos 6b) tells us that Mar Zutra said: “Agra de’taanisa, tzidkasa – The [main] reward of a fast day lies in the charity dispensed.” According to many mefarshim (see Mishlei Yaakov on Vayikra: 144), the true value of a fast is not in abstaining from food, but in the sympathetic chord that resonates within the person who denies himself sustenance. All year long – while the belly is full – one cannot truly understand the plight of the poor and hungry. It is only during a fast, when one experiences his own hunger, that true identification with starving people is possible; it causes a person to reflect, “Just imagine. This guy feels this way all year long!” This thought process gives a person a newfound ability to give tzedakah with an open hand. Hence, the main reward for fasting is due to the identification with the poor and the empathetic change it can bring.
Perhaps this is one of the lessons of eating matzah. The Torah wants us, one week each year, to eat the simplest of fare: plain flour and water. By eating lechem oni, bread of poverty, during Pesach, we are reminded that some people have to subsist on this all year and cannot afford a more costly or tastier fare. That is why it is called bread of poverty, and not bread of slavery. As we chew on it, we should ruminate over how impoverished some of our brethren are, in contrast to the bounty with which we are blessed.
We can now reconcile the Midrash, which states that the galus came about because they did not eat lechem oni, with the more likely fact that if they brought the korban Pesach, they must have eaten lechem oni, as well.
Yes, they did eat matzah, as most every Jew does, but they did not eat it as lechem oni, poor man’s bread. They did not learn from it to have empathy for the poor. It is possible that they had the greatest intent of fulfilling this important mitzvah bein adam la’Makom, but they did not bear in mind how this can translate into a bein adam la’chaveiro concern.
Now we understand the two-step process of the Midrash. “Galsah Yehudah mei’oni” – Because we did not eat the matzah as lechem oni, with the right intent and feelings for the poor, this caused us not to give matnos aniyim, which caused us to be exiled. This was middah keneged middah; since we were not concerned about our impoverished brothers, we were placed in exile, where we, too, were not cared for.
Perhaps that is why we start the Seder with Ha Lachma Anya. We remind ourselves that some people are truly hungry, surviving on flour and water. While we think about the sad lot of others versus the bounty which we have, the only possible course of action comes to both mind and lips. We are not issuing an insincere invitation to others, but we are speaking to and reminding ourselves of how we must act – not only during Pesach, but the entire year. While tonight the words are only spoken, henceforth they will be heard near and far: “Whoever is hungry, let him come and eat.” What better message for the start of the Seder.
If we undo the mistakes of the past, this galus will come to an end.
Hashata avdei le’shanah haba’ah bnei chorin.April 1, 2020 12:34 am at 12:34 am #1845611lebidik yankelParticipant
very nice!!April 1, 2020 1:54 am at 1:54 am #1845616
Thank you! I have two other posted verter that are also novel and good. Ayein.shamApril 1, 2020 1:24 pm at 1:24 pm #1845728yldParticipant
aviaviavi, if you have any more then show it, the first one is amazing!!April 1, 2020 7:30 pm at 7:30 pm #1845771
I actually have a word doc with 23 pretty good Pesach verter that are mostly unknown. . I also have a pdf of a Feldheim sefer I wrote that I would be happy to send you. I know we cannot give email addresses to one another. In the meantime I did post 2 or 3 other verter under aviaviavi. If you google my sefer, classics and beyond you may figure out how to connect. I hope I am not doing anything in violation of the rules. Stay safe z d look for those verterApril 1, 2020 7:31 pm at 7:31 pm #1845782Reb EliezerParticipant
According the Bino Leitim we will say opposite. The Midrash says ויסב אלקים דרך המדבר ים סוף – מכאן אפילו עני שבישראל לא יאכל עד שיסב Hashem took them around, the question is why does the Midrash change the meaning to interpret it as reclining? We are telling the poor person that we were in the same boat as he is now and Hashem saved us. In the desert we have nothing as he feels but Hashem led us and protected us taking us out Mitzraim.
The bread of affliction reflects this. Similarly we show emphaty and put ourselves in his shoes. Therefore in the zechus of charity we are showing we become worthy of the redemption.April 1, 2020 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm #1846029
This relates to what you wrote.
Encircled With Love:
ויסב אלקים את העם דרך המדבר ים סוף
G-d led the people roundabout, by way of the wilderness at the Sea of Reeds (Shemos 13:18).
The Midrash (Shemos Rabbah 20:18) says that we can learn a halachah from the word “Vayaseiv – And He led roundabout.” At the Seder, even a poor person is required to eat in a reclining position. The word for reclining, heseibah, has the same shoresh as vayaseiv: י.ס.ב.
While the letters are the same, the similarity seems to end there. י.ס.ב. in our context means roundabout (as in a dreidel, a סביבון), while in hilchos Pesach it means to recline. Additionally, where do we see anything pertaining to a pauper in our pasuk?
It says in the previous pasuk (13:17), that Hashem did not lead the Bnei Yisrael by way of the land of the Pelishtim, so the Jews would not be afraid when they see a war and want to return to Egypt. My father (see also Ke’Motzei Shalal Rav, which cites the Chasam Sofer; and Bircas Yitzchak) explained that the reason for vayaseiv, for the circuitous route, was in order to avoid the civilized and even inhabited lands. The Al-mighty wanted us to learn and become accustomed to the true value of a Jew. Rather than becoming preoccupied with amassing material wealth, a person should be involved in more ethereal and lofty goals. For a Jew, success means having a close relationship with Hashem and leading a life committed to the Torah and its precepts. In fact, the very nature of real freedom is dependent on this, as the Mishnah in Avos (6:2) tells us: “Ein lecha ben chorin ella mi she’oseik be’salmud Torah – There is no free man but the one who engages in the study of Torah.”
When the Jews left Egypt, they were free from the bondage of slavery, but they needed to be freed from the bondage of self – and not remain caught up in pursuing pleasure. Only after living 40 years in the proving grounds of the desert, with no physical pleasures, were they able to enter Eretz Yisrael and live a life based on agriculture and commerce. During the time spent in the desert, the Jews learned the importance of limiting one’s preoccupation with financial gain, and the need to focus one’s energies on moral and spiritual excellence.
In a comparable vein, the Midrash (Shemos Rabbah 20:15) explains that the Jews were not yet trained in mitzvos, specifically those pertaining to Eretz Yisrael. For this reason, Hashem said that He would first give them the Torah and then bring them into the Land.
We now understand the correlation between our pasuk and the halachah that even a poor person must recline. When one learns this lesson – that a person’s freedom and true worth are dependent on his ability to serve Hashem and study his Torah – then even the most downtrodden among us have cause to celebrate, for they recognize their value as part of a holy nation; their nobility is not determined by dollars and cents, but in Torah and mitzvos.
The poor person who reclines like royalty on Pesach is a testament to this value. A Jew, notwithstanding his circumstances, is a royal and deserves to act and be treated as one. Hashem took us out of Egypt in a roundabout manner to teach us that even nomads living in a desert can receive the Torah and be deemed holy by Hashem. And halachah demands that we acknowledge our nobility by reclining at the Seder.
Perhaps, based on this, the mindset of the obligation to provide for the poor person should not be: “Oy, a poor fellow. He’s so needy,” but “Ah, a fellow royal. He deserves nothing less than I!”
Thus far, we’ve understood the word vayaseiv as describing the route we had traveled, under Hashem’s directive. The first part of the above Midrash, however, explains the word in a different manner: that Hashem surrounded us when we left Egypt. The Eitz Yosef on the Midrash explains that He surrounded us with the Ananei HaKavod, Clouds of Glory.
This, again, begs the question: What does being surrounded by heavenly clouds have to do with a mendicant man leaning at the Seder?
Rav Bentzion Feinhandler, in his sefer Gei Chazon, explains that the Ananei HaKavod were so named because they brought kavod, honor, and pride to those sheltered within. Beyond the protection they afforded, they were a display of Hashem’s love toward us. Unlike the Manna and the Well, this was one ongoing miracle that was unnecessary. He took us into a desert; He had to provide us with the essentials. But providing us with an air-conditioned environment was going above and beyond the call of even His duty. So, more than a safeguard or shelter, the Clouds were a sign of His special relationship with us.
This is one way to explain why we have the holiday of Succos to commemorate the Clouds, but no corresponding holiday to commemorate the Manna or Well. Hashem must provide the necessities of life, as Middas HaDin would dictate. The Clouds, however, were a welcome but unneeded bonus, a true sign of His love and a manifestation of His Middas HaChesed.
We are special; look how He treated us! Everyone, even those without riches or rank, was afforded the glory and pride the Clouds conveyed.
Thus, at the Seder, we celebrate this singular honor by acting as royalty and reclining like kings. This is in remembrance of the kavod and regard that Hashem displayed for us when He took us out of Egypt.
We can do no less.April 2, 2020 3:54 pm at 3:54 pm #1846355Reb EliezerParticipant
The Rambam adds the words בבהילו יצאנו ממצרים before the passage הא לחמא עניא with swiftness did we leave Mitzraim. What does the Rambam accomplish with this addition? Also, why do we include Matzoh in our sandwich of Pesach and Maror? Isn’t it enough that we eat it separately?
The Dubner Magid explains this with a parable.
A very wealthy man from a great city had a daughter. He wanted to marry her off to a successful young man who had outstanding traits. He only found a pauper in a small village who had a son praiseworthy with these traits. He traveled to the village together with his daughter to see the young man. When he saw him, he was so impressed with the young man’s wisdom and his G-d fearing that he decided that he does not want to leave, but make an engagement and get the wedding done right away. So the pauper, father of the groom, s aid, don’t you need time to prepare for the wedding to buy the best food and drinks fitting your rich stature? I am a poor person who lives on stale bread, so how can I satisfy your needs? Answers the rich man by convincing him that he does not care now for all the niceties since making the wedding as soon as possible is his first priority. So, in order to make the wedding, the rich man commands his servant to replace the cheap torn clothing of the groom with fancy ones. After the wedding, the rich man asks his servant to collect all the cheap torn clothing and bundle it together because he wants to take it home with him. As the groom saw what was happening, at night, when they were all busy eating the poor man’s stale hard bread, he took a piece and hid it in the bundle, making sure that his father in law was not aware of it. When the rich man came home, he gave the bundle to his servant for safekeeping. After a while, the groom became arrogant towards his father in law, who decided to reprimand him. He took out the bundle and showed him the cheap and torn clothing. Look what you wore before. You were a nothing before your wedding, he hollered. As he opened up the bundle, the stale bread fell out. The young groom retorted, remember how you hurried to perform the wedding without regard to any niceties. You were willing to consume this stale bread as long as I was willing to get married. Obviously, you saw some qualities in me you couldn’t pass over that is why you hurried so fast to make the wedding before I will change my mind.
This is the meaning of the above passage, the fact that we are currently eating the bread of affliction reminds us that we came out of Mitzraim swiftly because Hashem found us special to be worthy of being his servant. He didn’t want us to sink into abyss the fiftieth level of tumah. This gives us hope for the future. The same way that He felt that we were worthy of redemption once, should make us worthy of redemption again במהרה בימינו , swiftly in our lifetime Amen.
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