Simanei Ha-Seder/Steps of the Seder

The word Seder means order and the Haggada spells out that order right at the beginning. Why?

Tags: Pesach Seder
Rabbi Avraham Gordimer

Judaism הגדה של פסח.
הגדה של פסח.
Rabbi Avraham Gordimer

Simanei Ha-Seder/Steps of the Seder

What is the reason that the Simanei Ha-Seder appear at the beginning of the Haggadah, and that some people recite these Simanim before commencing Kiddush and/or before each section of the Seder (reciting each Siman before its particular section of the Seder)?

halakhic authorities are challenged by the structure of the Seder vis a vis the halakhot of Kiddush and Seudah (the Yom Tov meal): there is an extremely long break between Kiddush and Ha-Motzi, Karpas (a vegetable) is eaten after Kiddush, an extra cup of wine is drunk (with a beracha, for Ashkenazim) between Kiddush and Ha-Motzi, and, according to the Rambam, one recites Ha-Motzi on only two matzot, one of which is broken, thereby halakhically lacking two complete breads. While these apparent deviations from the standard regulations of Kiddush and Seudah can certainly be explained in a manner that conforms with normative halakhic practice, another approach may be suggested:

Chazal (the Talmudic Sages), who established most of the halakhic regulations of Kiddush and Seudah, ordained a different set of regulations for the Seder, that replace the standard regulations of Kiddush and Seudah which pertain year-round. That which would otherwise be deemed a halakhic interruption is not deemed such, and that which would otherwise be out of the halakhic sequence of Kiddush and Seudah is deemed to be in perfect sequence, for the Seder has its own unique arrangement and sequence, which replace those of the rest of the year. As such, the Seder embodies the transformation of a standard seudat Yom Tov into an extraordinary seudat Yom Tov.

In order to take note and proclaim how the halakhic arrangement of Pesach night is starkly different than all other nights, in consonance with the requirement to declare the differences between Pesach and all other nights of the year, does the Haggadah feature the Simanim and do many people recite them.

Ha Lachma Anya/This is the Bread of Affliction

One of my rebbeim told me in the name of Rabbi Y. Silver that the reason we recite L’Shana ha-ba’ah B’Yerushalayim at the end of the Seder and at the end of Yom Kippur is to signify that the primary avodot (services) of each of these days – the Korban Pesach/Passover Sacrifice and Avodat Yom Ha-Kippurim/the Yom Kippur service in the Beit Ha-Mikdash (the Temple) – are both missing, and that we need to realize that our avodah is thus deficient, as we aspire to a complete avodah next year, with the coming of Moshiach and the restoration of the Beis ha-Mikdash.

It may be suggested that Ha Lachma Anya is likewise part of this message, as is Kol Nidre – both of which are recited in Aramaic, the language of Galut (Exile), at the introduction of the Pesach Seder and the Yom Kippur prayers. Kol Nidre represents (among other things) the concept that our avodah on Yom Kippur is currently manifest through the tefillot (prayers) as formulated by our rabbinic authorities, into whose hands were entrusted the tools of kapparah (forgiveness), as exemplified by the ability of the beis din (rabbinic court) to cancel oaths and vows, which is the crux of Kol Nidre. Just as through the authority of a beis din can one be absolved of the sin for violating oaths and vows, so too do tefillot as instituted by the Sages serve today, in the absence of the Beit Ha-Mikdash, as the primary vehicle for kapparah.

In a similar vein does Ha Lachma Anya provide for the context of our current Seder observances, for in the same statement in which we explain that our ancestors ate broken scraps of bread during the Egyptian bondage and we bemoan the fact that we are again slaves in Exile (as we use Aramaic, the language of Exile), praying to be redeemed this year, do we introduce the concept of tzedakah, inviting those with less to join us for Pesach. Ha Lachma Anya focuses on tzedakah, because we are taught (Yeshaya/Isaiah 1:27) that through tzedakah will the Final Redemption come. By conducting our Pesach avodah with tzedakah as its context, may we merit to observe Pesach comprehensively and in its full glory with the coming of Moshiach and the rebuilding of the Beis Ha-Mikdash.

 Answer to the Ben Chacham/The Wise Son

And you should reply to him by teaching him the halachot of Pesach (all the way until), “One may not consume dessert after the Afikoman.” Why does teaching the halachot of Pesach constitute the optimal performance of the mitzvah of Sippur Yetzi’at Mitzrayim, Recounting the Exodus from Egypt?

One of the very unique facets of the Seder is that its mitzvot require explanation. (Rabban Gamliel’s dictum) Unlike all other times, when mitzvot are performed without explanation, failure to explain the mitzvot of the Pesach Seder constitutes a lack of fulfillment of one’s religious duties. Thus, aside from the fact that discussion of the halachot of Pesach, such as Afikoman, is part of the mitzvah of Sippur Yetzi’at Mitzrayim (as expounded by the Brisker Rav zt”l), discussion of the mitzvot of the Seder by definition mandates an explanation of their connection with the Pesach narrative - thereby maximally fulfilling the mitzvah of Sippur Yetzi’at Mitzrayim, such that both the mitzvot and the story of Pesach must be taught and explained. This is the rationale behind the response to the Ben Chacham. 

Baruch Shomer Havtachato L’Yisrael/Blessed is He Who Keeps His Pledge to Israel   

The Redemption is often thought of as a type of rescue – that Hashem suddenly intervened and pulled us out of Mitzrayim (Egypt) at the last second. This is not accurate. In truth, the Redemption, along with the entire series of events that led up to it, was part of a planned and purposeful sequence, whose climax was the march forth from Mitzrayim to freedom. This concept, of the full span of Hashgacha P’ratit (Divine Providence) throughout, is the message of Baruch Shomer Havtachato L’Yisroel and is the underlying theme of Pesach: “For the Holy One Blessed be He planned the end of the Exile from the very start…” The notion that Yetzi'at Mitzrayim, and all of Jewish history, with its most painful of periods and its times of joy and splendor, was foreseen in advance and is part of a meaningful sequence toward the Ultimate Redemption, instills great emunah (faith) and converts the Haggadah of Pesach and the Haggadah of all life into a mega-narrative of Hashgacha P’ratit, even in the darkest of times.     

And We Cried Out to Hashem, the God of our Forefathers

This section of the Haggadah invokes the illustrative verse, "And it occurred in those days that the king of Egypt died, and B'nei Yisrael groaned from the slave labor, and they cried out, and their supplication due to the slave labor arose to God." (Shemot 2:23)

Most mefarshim (commentators) interpret the cries of B'nei Yisrael to be cries of anguish rather than prayers. As such, why does the Torah state that their supplications arose to God? Furthermore, even if the Hebrew word for supplications in this context - שועתם - refers to cries rather than prayers, why did Hashem suddenly now hearken to the cries of B'nei Yisrael? He surely had been aware of their suffering even before they cried out.

The answer to both of these questions seems to be that when one cries out in pain, he does so because he believes that someone is listening. When someone gets hurt, he expresses his pain far more vocally when another person is present, even if that other person cannot help him. In other words, an outcry, even if it seems that the suffering person is merely speaking to himself, is actually directed to others, whom the suffering person knows are listening.

Such was the case with B'nei Yisrael, as whatever the apparent intent of their cries may have been, these cries were subconsciously directed to Hashem as tefillot. Hence does the simple reading of the verse convey that the people cried out and Hashem heard their supplications, for that which seemed to be aimless outcries was in fact soulful tefillah to the Master of the Universe. Once B'nei Yisrael reached this point and directed their hearts to Hashem, even if it was on a subconscious level, did Hashem immediately hearken and activate the process of Redemption.