Three seder meditations
Who Teaches Whom?
One the most famous questions asked on seder night is, “Why isn’t Moses’ name mentioned in the haggadah? He’s the one who took us out of Egypt! Surely, if anyone is featured, it should be him!”
The truth is, Moses’ name is mentioned, but only once, and it’s easy to miss unless you are paying close attention.
The question is, why?
My rebbe, Shlomo Carlebach, explained that there are two kinds of teachers:
The first kind is exemplified by Moses.
The second by our parents.
Yes, Moses is the star of the historical event that we commemorate. But the seder is about our other holy teachers, our parents, who, on this night, are the ones who pass down our holy tradition to us, instilling us with emunah — belief — in the deepest, deepest way.
Yachatz: The Journey of Creation
One of the deepest moments of the seder is yachatz. That’s when we take the middle of the three pieces of matzah on the seder plate and break it in two. The larger piece is hidden away and becomes the afikomen, which symbolizes the korbon Pesach, the Passover offering. At the end of the seder, our children find it and bring it back to us for a reward.
This is so deep! With these actions, amazingly, we are acting out the entire history of the world, from before creation until the final redemption.
Let’s try to understand how this works.
Before HaShem created the universe, all that existed was Him alone in His Oneness.
After HaShem created the world, there is still only HaShem, but now, after creation, there began the illusion of duality: Heaven and Earth, good and evil, body and soul, male and female, the material and the spiritual, the written Torah and the oral Torah, and perhaps most important, free choice — the ability to choose between one thing or another.
Fascinatingly, we see this dynamic at work in the very first letter of the Torah — the letter bet — which in gematria corresponds to the number 2.
This of course makes perfect sense, as we know that the Torah is the blueprint of creation. And thus, the first letter of the Torah announces and describes for us the world that has been created.
Now, back to yachatz.
When we do yachatz at the seder, we begin with an unbroken matzah, which stands for the Oneness of HaShem before the world was created. Then we break it in two, which stands for the duality that now exists — or, put another way, the illusion that there is any power other than God.
But why do we hide the larger piece?
Because HaShem is infinite. The world, on the other hand, is finite. We hide the larger piece because the larger piece of reality is hidden from us.
But this will not always be the case. The world is destined to bask in the revealed Oneness of HaShem, and this will happen when Mashiach comes.
The Koshnitzer Rebbe explains when our children bring the larger piece of matzah, the afikomen, back to us, we have them to thank for restoring our sense of wholeness and destiny.
Thus, the seder night is not just about parents giving to their children, it’s also about children giving back to their parents.
As to the custom of rewarding the children for finding the afikomen, on the deepest level, this act symbolizes the reward all of us will receive for our mitzvot when Mashiach comes.
Loving the In-Between
During the seder, we drink four cups of wine. I want to share with you one of my favorite teachings about wine.
Carlebach once said that everybody loves you when you are a finished product. Everybody loves you when you are a grape or when you are wine.
But do you know what a grape has to go through before it becomes wine? How much it has to be crushed, and stepped on?
Then he asked a searing question. “Who loves you when you’re in-between — when you’re not a grape or wine? The people who do — those are your real friends.”
I’d like to add to this teaching. Right now, the world is in between. Mashiach isn’t here yet, and there is still evil. The people who love HaShem now — those are His real friends.
May I conclude on a personal note? On seder night, I go up to each of my children and whisper to them, telling them that just like HaShem promised He would take us out of Egypt, and He kept His promise and took us out, so, too, He promised us that He will bring Mashiach, and He’s going to keep that promise too, and redeem the world. Tonight, we are filled with so much love and confidence, we are celebrating it happening already.
Let it be soon, let it be soon, let it be right now.