MA NISHTANA Q1 revisited
Pardon me for not writing the Lead Tidbit about Parshat M'tzora. The fact is, several of our columnists said what I wanted to... and better.
Since we are already into Nissan, and since we have included the Pesach Pull-Out part one in this week's TT, let me share with you one of my favorite Hagada comments...
We begin the Seder with several unusual things that should arouse the curiosity of a child. Note that a child can be a chronological child or an adult who is not completely knowledgeable of some Seder nuances.
These curiosities include filling everyone's wine cup, drinking while sitting and reclining to the left, washing NETILAT YADIM without a bracha, continuing with a small piece of a vegetable rather than HaMotzi, dipping it in saltwater, then taking matza - but not to eat it (yet) - but rather to break it, hide the larger portion for later, hold up the smaller piece and state that this is the bread of affliction, to then put that piece of matza back between the two remaining whole sheets, pour a second cup of wine... but not to drink it (yet)...
Curious and curiouser!
The mishna in the tenth chapter of Pesachim teaches us that it is at this point that the child should be bursting with questions and we encourage him to ask.
In case he doesn't have questions - how can that be?! - we teach him to say MA NISHTANA.
So what's the first thing he asks about? MATZA! The one thing we've just explained to him. The reason that HA LACHMA ANYA is in Aramaic is that in the time that the Hagada was composed, Aramaic was the common spoken language and so we are sure that everyone has understood the statement about Matza.
Rav Sorotzkin in his Hagada, HaShir v'HaShevach, asks: Hasn't he been paying attention? Did he not just hear the reason for Matza? Why ask about that?
Rav Sorotzkin explains that the real question is not, Why do we eat matza. The question is why KULO MATZA? Why exclusively matza? If matza is the bread of affliction that our ancestors ate in the Land of Egypt, then where is the beautiful, fluffy, sweet challah that should remind us of freedom and nobility?
Furthermore, any other time (when we have a Beit HaMikdash), and we thank G-d with a Korban Toda, we eat the accompanying Menachot which were Matza and Chameitz. Why is this night different from all other nights, in this respect?
Says Rav Sorotzkin, this is a brilliant question!
And we must tell the child (remember, of all ages) that there is another aspect of matza that we will explain a bit (or more than a bit) later in the Seder. First we make a short statement: We were slaves to Par'o in Egypt and G-d took us out... Then we do all of Magid, basically elaborating on that initial short statement. Towards the end of Magid, we pick up that same broken piece of matza, we hold it aloft and we ask - this matza which we eat, because of what (do we eat it)? And this time, we don't answer the way we did at the beginning of the Seder. This is no longer the bread of affliction. That was before we relived the Exodus.
No. Now the matza is the bread of freedom and faith in G-d. We speak proudly of the fact that we did not hesitate when given the word to leave. Not even to properly provide for our unknown and uncertain journey. Not even to fully bake of bread.
Matza, we tell our children - and each other - is the symbol of slavery and the symbol of freedom. Matza is both the meager ration that a slave and a poor person needs to save some and eat some... and matza proudly proclaims our trust in G-d and in the truth that we are actually becoming free people.
Maror is the main reminder of the bitter life in Egypt. The Korban Pesach is the luxurious dessert we eat at the conclusion of our celebratory meal. Matza links the two ideas and gives us the whole picture. That's why G-d calls the holiday CHAG HAMATZOT.