Monday, April 02, 2007

Maschil B’Gnus U’Mesayim B’Shvach

There is a Mishna in in Arvei Pesachim (116A) that tells us that on the night of Pesach when we thankfully (to God) recount the exodus story (henceforth referred to as Sipur Yitzias Mitzrayim), we “begin with the negative and end with the positive” (henceforth referred to as “Maschil B’Gnus U’Mesayim B’Shvach”.

The Gemarah there tells us about a Machlokes between Rav and Shmuel in how we go about this. Rav says we begin by speaking about when our forefathers were idol worshippers and end with our service to God. Shmuel says we start with the fact that we were slaves in Egypt and end with being freed from slavery.

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik points out that the Halacha of “Maschil B’Gnus U’Mesayim B’Shvach” is a Mitzvah unto itself and not part of Sipur Yitzias Mitzrayim. It is learned out from the portion in the Torah that is said when one brings the “first fruits” to Jerusalem…the Bikurim. Upon doing so we say the portion of the Torah: Arami Oved Avi. Lavan (the Arami) tried to destroy our forefather (Yaakov). This is a G’nus (negative).

This phrase is part of the praise to God that we are mandated to say upon bringing the Bikurim. We learn from that that when we say praise to God we should be “Maschil B’Gnus U’Mesayim B’Shvach”. So on the night of Pesach Sipur Yitzias Mitzrayim is done in the manner of “Maschil B’Gnus U’Mesayim B’Shvach”.

The primary issue between Rav and Shmuel is the following: According to Shmuel the purpose of this thankful praise is for delivering us from physical slavery and that is why he says to begin with Avodim Hayinu… we were slaves, and end with our freedom. According to Rav it is about the spiritual redemption of the soul. So we begin with our idol worshipping ancestors (Terach’s era) and end with our servitude to God.

But is this principle of Maschil B’Gnus U’Mesayim B’Shvach a part of Sipur Yitzias Mitzrayim?

The Haggadah enumerates all the Halachos of Sipur Yitzias Mitrayim. It starts with the statement that anyone who elaborates Sipur Yitzias Mitzrayim is praiseworthy. That is followed by the Halacha that according to the ability to of a child to understand should it be taught (the four sons). And then it tells us that we must consider as if we ourselves were freed from slavery. Then it tells us Rabban Gamliels dictum about saying Pesach, Matzah, and Maror without which we are not Yotze Sipur Yitzias Mitzrayim. It even mentions the importance of Sipur Yitzias Mitzrayim for the rest of the year. The one Halacha it does not mention is the Halacha of “Maschil B’Gnus U’Mesayim B’Shvach”.

It can be concluded that the omission of “Maschil B’Gnus U’Mesayim B’Shvach”. is not at all part of the Mitzvah of Sipur Yitzias Miytzrayim at all but a separate Mitzvah… a Din in Hoda’ah… the laws of thankfully praising God.

So that leaves Rav’s position in question. He says that Sipur Yitzias Mitzrayim is effectuated by beginning with the negative of our idol worshipping ancestors and ends with the positive that we now worship God? If this is a separate din, how are we fulfilling Sipur Yitzias Mitzrayim?

The answer is that of course Rav holds that one must mention that we were slaves in Egypt etc. That is indeed the fulfillment of Sipur Yitzias Mitzrayim. But the fulfillment of the requirement of Hoda’ah… the thankful praise requires “Maschil B’Gnus U’Mesayim B’Shvach” and that is only fulfilled with the by mentioning the idol worshipping ancestors and ending with service to God. That, Rav says is the entire purpose of the Yitzias Mitzrayim.

Taken From Harirei Kedem