BINA Beis Medrash

This week’s classes:

Sunday, July 21
Sunday Morning Beis Medrash
BINA Beis Medrash
Starts 8:00AM
BINA Beis Medrash
Starts 8:00PM

What are we celebrating on Pesach?

The Mishna in Pesachim (116b), after explaining the famous Ma Nishtana, the four questions asked by the children at the seder, concludes with a direct instruction to all educators on Seder night, “מתחיל בגנות ומסיים בשבח” – “We begin the story with disgrace, and conclude with praise”. When a parent begins to answer their child’s question on seder night, the Mishna provides somewhat of a structure; the parent begins by speaking of Bnei Yisrael’s destitution and darkness, and then to conclude with the positive, the praise and celebration.


Rav Kook explains the purpose of this structured parental response; “Even the experience of disgrace has a purpose, and even with pain comes meaning. These experiences are capable of uplifting us to higher, sweeter levels.” When the parent begins with the disgrace of our nation, the child is more appreciative of the sweeter, more emphatic achievements.


However, a question remains, which following the Mishna, the Gemara openly discusses. “What is this בגנות – disgrace” that we are to respond with? A machloket ensues between Rav and Shmuel – “Rav says: ‘We begin with the explaining that our forefathers were once idol worshipers’, and Shmuel says: ‘We begin with explaining that our forefathers were slaves in Egypt’” (Pesachim 116b).


Rav and Shmuel disagree at a fundamental level regarding the disgrace of the Jewish People, and as it would appear, we have a source for two different Haggadot. If we follow Rav’s structure, the Haggadah transitions from our idol-worshiping disgrace to the following praise “ברוך שומר הבטחתו לישראל, ברוך הוא – Blessed is the protector and securer of Israel, blessed is He”. On the other hand, Shmuel’s ensuing praise reads “ברוך המקום, ברוך הוא – Blessed is Hashem, Blessed is He”.




Analysing Rav and Shmuel’s structure of disgrace and praise, we can begin to understand their machloket on a deeper level. Rav is focused on our idol-worshiping past and our disgrace as a once self-serving people, originating from Terach, Avraham’s father. This is a spiritual matter. Whereas Shmuel, who appears more concerned with our slavery in Egypt focuses on the physical. Rav and Shmuel therefore argue on both the disgrace and the praise on the Jewish people – do we answer our children with an emphasis on physical, or spiritual redemption?

Rabeinu Chananel explains that we paskan like both. Seder night revolves around the experience of geula from a deep, spiritual awareness of our freedom, a celebration that we were freed to be Ovdei Hashem and not Ovdei Pharoah. And yet, we celebrate through a feast, we rejoice through four cups of wine and use the experience of physicality and senses to be free. Seder night is the perfect expression of being a Jew, and we Paskan like both Rav and Shmuel as a fundamental indication of who we are. A nation born to experience a freedom by being close to Hashem, to spiritually elevate the physicality, and to answer our children’s questions with both matters in mind.


~ Gidi Fine