By Naama Goldberg
The holiday of freedom sets the tone for the entire month of Nisan – the month of freedom – during which time the concept of freedom is expressed through a whole range of halachot, especially some of those connected to Seder night. The Mishnah in Pesachim (10:1) reads: “On the night of Passover ….. even the poorest of Israel shall not eat until he reclines, and shall drink no less than four cups of wine, even if it comes from the tamhui (soup kitchen)”
One of the laws that most emphatically expresses the idea of freedom on Seder night is that of reclining. According to Rambam, “We are commanded to eat while reclining in order to eat the way of kings and great men, the way of freedom.” The Jerusalem Talmud (Pesachim 90:1) similarly writes: “Rabbi Levy says: Since the way of the slaves is to eat standing up, therefore we eat while reclining in order to pronounce that we have gone from slavery to freedom.” The Babylonian Talmud (Pesachim 108a) relates a debate about the obligation to recline while drinking the four cups, a debate from which we learn that the obligation is only upon those who are able to fully experience the feeling of being free. For this reason, women in the presence of their husbands and students in the presence of their rabbis are exempt (but not students in the presence of their vocational teachers or sons in the presence of their fathers).
By Rachel Lieberman
The bechor, the firstborn son, is a prominent theme on Passover. The bechor appears in the Haggadah, in the Torah readings for Passover and in the customs that surround the holiday. Makat haBechorot, the tenth plague where God slew the Egyptians’ firstborn sons and saved the Israelites’ sons is so significant that it is given as an answer for the redemption from Egypt.
God commands, “When your children say to you, ‘What is this service to you?’ You will say, ‘It is the Pascal sacrifice to God, who passed over the houses of the Children of Israel in Egypt when God smote the Egyptians, but God saved our households.” (Ex. 12:25-27)
By Rori Picker Neiss
Moses, the hero (at least flesh-and-blood hero) of our Passover story, has only a singular mention in the entire Passover Haggadah-- within the context of a biblical quote.
On some level, this fact should not be surprising to us. Moses is well-known for his humility. Famously, in the Bible, when God first revealed Godself to Moses at the burning bush, “Moses hid his face - ויסתר משה פניו” (Exodus 3:6). In fact, the Midrash in Leviticus Rabbah (Vilna 1:5) teaches that it was for that reason, for Moses’s very humility, that God chose to send Moses as God’s messenger to Pharaoh: “ועתה לכה ואשלחך אל פרעה והוצא את עמי בני ישראל ממצרים - And now go, I will send you to Pharaoh, and you shall free My people, the Israelites, from Egypt” (Exodus 3:10).
However, Rabbi Elazar points out that there is an extra letter “ה” in the word לכה - go. He expounds that the extra letter serves to emphasize the word. Moses must go to free the Israelites from Egypt, because if he were not to go, no one else could go in his place. This is not merely a suggestion from God or even an exhortation, but an imperative.