Sunday, April 05, 2009

The Haggadah and Crossing the Red Sea

In honor of the Passover holiday I offer the following Dvar Torah based on the Torah of the Rav.
The Rambam writes (Hilchos Chametz U’Matzah 7:1) that it is a Mitzvas Aseh (positive commandment) to recite the wonders and miracles that happened to our forefathers in Egypt on the night of the 15th of Nisan. This is called Sipur Yitzias Mitzryim (telling the story of the Exodus) and is the function of the Hagadah.

The source of this Mitzvah, says the Rambam - is the Pasuk (verse) in the Torah: ‘Zachar Es HaYom HaZeh Asher Yatzasom MiMitzrayim’ - ‘Remember this day which you left Egypt’ (The Rambam compares this to the Pasuk about Shabbos ‘Remember this day of Shabbos…’).

It therefore seems from the Rambam that one does not mention the Kryias Yam Suf – the crossing of the Red Sea. One only speaks of the events of the 15 of Nissan itself. The Rambam’s Hagaddah in fact does not make any reference to it –whereas the Hagadah we use today does make at least make passing reference to it.

Now - the Gemarah in Brachos (12a) states the following: Anyone who does not say V’Yatziv V’Nachon in Shachrais or Emes Ve-Emunah in Maariv does not fulfill his obligation of reciting the Shema which must include mention of Yitzias Mitzraim – the Exodus. These are the – paragraphs immediately following Kriyas Shema and they mention Kriyas Yam Suf. Kriyas Yam Suf is therefore an integral part of the requirement in Kriyas Shema and thereby the requirement of mentioning Yetzias Mitzrayim.

The question against the Rambam is, why the difference between our daily requirement of mentioning the Exodus requiring Kriyas Yam Suf and the requirement on Pesach which does not require mention of it?

We should note that the Rambam does not list reciting Yetzias Mitzraim in his Sefer HaMitzvos. R’ Chaim Solveichik explains that the Rambam considers it a sub-category of the daily requirement of accepting the ‘Ol Malchus Shamyim’ - the 'yoke of Heaven'. It is from the Pasuk in Numbers 15:41 – I am the Lord your God that has brought you out from Egypt to be a God for you – I am the Lord your God’. The Gemarah in Rosh Hashanah (32a) teaches us that this Pasuk is the source of the requirement to accept the yolk (of the Lord's Kingship). This is also apparent from the words of the Rambam himself (Hilchois Kriyas Shema – 1:3).

It would seem therefore that one does not fulfill the daily requirement without mentioning Kriyas Yam Suf – because that is part and parcel of Kabalos Ol Machus Shamayim. In fact it might be argued that Kriyas Yam is the essence of it. The Magen Avraham on the Shulchan Aruch (OC 67:1) says that one can fulfil one’s daily obligation of remembering the Exodus by reciting Oz Yashir - said everday in Shachris (Pesukei D’Zimrah). Oz Yashir is only about Kriyas yam Suf. It does not mention the actual Exodus at all.

The recitation of Yitzias Mitzrayim on Pesach has nothing to do with Kabalos Ol Machus Shamyim. It is a separate Mitzvah based 'remembering on that day' the Exodus itself - i.e. on the anniversary - Pesach night). According to the Rambam Kriyas Yam Suf is therefore not included.

One may ask, What about the reference in Hallel to Kriyas Yam Suf? That is in the Hagadah of The Rambam?! ‘ HaYam Ra’ah VaYanos…’ - ‘The sea ‘saw’ …and fled!’

This is explained by how the Rambam (7:5) sees Hallel. Hallel - the Rambam says -is not part of the requirement of reciting the Hagadah on Pesach night. That ends with the Rabban Gamliel imperative of reciting Pesach, Matzah, and Marror. What follows commencing with the word ‘L’fichach’ is another requirement of the night – that of offering thanks and praise to God for all of miracles, not just those of the first night.

And even though the Rambam lists Hallel as one of the requirements of fulfilling the Pasuk of V’Higadita L’Vincha – and you shall tell it to your children – That Pasuk includes all the events surrounding the exodus. The Pasuk of Zachar Es HaYom HaZeh’ is the primary Mitzvah and that is only what happened on that day. So in the final analyis the Halacha of Sipur is divided into two parts. The retelling of the actual events of that day. And the Shiur of Hoda’ah – of giving thanks which includes all other miracles of the Exodus.

Adapted from Harirei Kedem - Volume Two – a compendium of the Torah thought of Rabbi Dr. Joseph B. Soloveitchik on Jewish holidays as redacted by Rabbi Michel Zalmen Shurkin. I take full responsibility for any errors.