Scribe writing Torah scroll
Scribe writing Torah scrolliStock

This week’s Shabbat [Parshat Tazria] will mark the first Shabbat of the month of Nissan; Pesach is the 15th of Nissan, and therefore it is appropriate to highlight the Torah’s perspective on the Exodus and the Haggadah.

The fifth step of the Pesach Seder [there are 15 steps, as enumerated in the popular songs that outline the Seder’s path] is known as “Maggid\telling over,” and contains the meat and bones of the Seder. During Maggid, the Jewish Nation’s path is traced from Abraham until the Exodus [roughly 400 years], and the miracles that led to and accompanied our escaping Egyptian slavery are related. Interestingly, Moshe’s name is not mentioned at all, despite his having been the central human figure of the Exodus in the Torah; commentaries explain that our faith in G-d transcends the need for any mere mortal [as great as that person is], and therefore, when celebrating our faith in G-d which was cultivated throughout the process of the Exodus, the authors of the Haggadah focused only on G-d’s role.

The opening of Maggid however, is the fascinating paragraph of “Ha Lochma Anya,” and consists of the declaration of:

הָא לַחְמָא עַנְיָא דִּי אֲכָלוּ אַבְהָתָנָא בְאַרְעָא דְמִצְרָיִם. כָּל דִכְפִין יֵיתֵי וְיֵיכֹל, כָּל דִצְרִיךְ יֵיתֵי וְיִפְסַח. הָשַּׁתָּא הָכָא, לְשָׁנָה הַבָּאָה בְּאַרְעָא דְיִשְׂרָאֵל. הָשַּׁתָּא עַבְדֵי, לְשָׁנָה הַבָּאָה בְּנֵי חוֹרִין.

This is the bread of destitution that our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. Anyone who is famished should come and eat, anyone who is in need should come and partake of the Pesach sacrifice. Now we are here, next year we will be in the land of Israel; this year we are slaves, next year we will be free people.

Most traditional Jewish commentaries consider the last prophet to have been Malachi, who died approximately 2500 years ago. However, throughout our history, echoes of prophecy have been clearly visible, perhaps nowhere more so than in the comments of the Vilna Gaon [R’ Elijah of Vilna, 1720-1797, considered by all to be one of the greatest Torah scholars within the last 500 years] on the above paragraph.

The Vilna Gaon writes, that the sequence of events portrayed in the above declaration seems to be illogical, for we proudly announce “Now we are here, next year we will be in the land of Israel; this year we are slaves, next year we will be free people”--would it not have been more logical to stress our freedom as a people, and then our return to Zion?

The Gaon comments, that the reason why the authors of the Haggadah framed the opening declaration in this fashion can be found in the following Possuk [Isaiah, 1’ 27’]:

Zion shall be saved in judgment;

Her repentant ones, in charity.

The verse implicitly identifies that Redemption will come to Zion first, through judgment, and eventually, the whole of the Jewish people will be redeemed in a more charitable fashion.

This same pattern would hold sway for the final redemption, writes the Gaon, and therefore, when beginning the “telling over” of the story of our first national redemption, we start with declaring our fervent prayer for the final redemption to take place as well.

It is clear to the author that the events of the last 75 years are falling into place exactly as the Gaon prophetically described 250 years ago; for while we have fought for and earned the Land of Israel, and the practice of Jewish life has returned to Zion, we cannot say that our Jewish brothers and sisters in Israel are truly free, as war after war has been started [by the terrorists surrounding Israel] and fought for with blood and tears, only for the sympathetic whims of the Western “sophisticated” world to flare up at the final hour and prevent lasting accomplishments for the Jewish army.

Alas, it can be said, that at the moment, the first part of the declaration– “Now we are here, next year we will be in the land of Israel” has been fulfilled; we eagerly pray for the world where “this year we are slaves, next year we will be a free people” can come to fruition as well, and the Jewish State no longer has to depend on the “charitable” allowances of a corrupt and anti-Semitic United Nations, or bumbling politicians who likely cannot explain with any coherency their moral code.