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Shabbat Parashat Tzav Erev Pesach 5781

Parashat Hashavua: At this Point, the Son Asks

Harav Yosef Carmel

[Rav Carmel wrote this at the beginning of Corona. Let us hope that we are close to the end of it, but certainly some readers are still under restrictions.]

At this difficult time, the preparations for the Seder night are a little different. We will try to reach an understanding that will connect the beginning and end of the Seder.

Bnei Yisrael’s spiritual status before leaving Egypt was horrible. The prophet Yechezkel rebuked the people of his generation. He demanded them to cast off idol worship, comparing the situation to the idolatry in Egypt, which caused Hashem to contemplate the perpetrators’ destruction (Yechezkel 20:5-8). This connection between sinners and Bnei Yisrael in Egypt prompted Rabbi Akiva to declare that the generation that left Egypt did not have a part in the World-to-Come (Sanhedrin 10:3).

The midrash (Vayikra Rabba 23) makes a point of the pasuk, “Did a god ever try to take out a nation from the midst of another nation” … like Hashem did for us? – “nation” is referred to with the word “goy” instead of “am,” hinting that Bnei Yisrael were like the nations of the world (“goy often refers to non-Jews). They had the same problematic behaviors and violated the same prohibitions as the Egyptians.

So why did Hashem liberate them? The answer is: because they were his sons; children are treated differently. They are always excellent, charming, beloved, and sweet. Hashem always treats them “like a father who has mercy on his children,” as they are the “apple of his eye.”

There was a difference in approach between the prophet Eliyahu and his disciples, Yona and Elisha: For whose honor should a tzaddik stick up stronger? Eliyahu stood up for the father’s (Hashem) honor. Yona and Elisha stood up for the son’s (Bnei Yisrael) honor.

There is a clear conclusion to this question at the Seder. Prominent among the mitzvot of the day is to tell the story of liberation to your son. When the matzot are before us, we turn to the children. Our motto is: “At this point, the son asks.” The authors of the Haggada did not suffice with one son, but four. They are all invited to the Seder table to discuss the liberation of Israel at that time and throughout history. The wise, the wicked, the simple, and the one who does not know to ask are all beloved to their father, their Father, and their forefathers. Hashem criticized prophets such as Hoshea when they did not sufficiently stand up for Bnei Yisrael’s rights even regarding their failings toward Hashem (see Pesachim 87a). The author of the Haggada did not quote the aforementioned p’sukim in Yechezkel, but those about Bnei Yisrael as a baby who lives through its blood, hinting at brit mila. This covenant is not based on proper actions alone, but is innate and unbreakable, even if Bnei Yisrael fall to the lowest spiritual level.

Along with four sons there are four cups of wine, followed by a fifth at the Seder’s end – the cup of Eliyahu, at which time we ask for Hashem’s vengeance against our enemies. Eliyahu, representing our Father, accused his nation of breaking the covenant (Melachim I, 19). We invite Eliyahu so that he can see that the whole nation is there, each one telling the story in his style.

This year (again) not everyone will be at an intergenerational Seder, not because of a lack of familial harmony, but to protect each other. In that way, we will declare that we are all sons of Hashem. In that merit, may He once again liberate us from darkness to great light!

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