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Pesach: When Every Parent Becomes a Teacher

By Rabbi Kalman Topp

The whole enterprise of the Seder is the Torah’s clever way of getting every Jew, at least one night a year to learn Torah with the younger generation. On Pesach night, every parent becomes a teacher. The parent’s central responsibility as teacher is to transmit the Jewish narrative and tradition to the next generation. But what is the core substance of that tradition?

רבן גמליאל היה אומר כל מי שלא אמר שלשה דברים אלו בפסח לא יצא ידי חובתו. ואלו הן. פסח. מצה. ומרור.

That tradition is encapsulated by Rabban Gamliel who would say, as we quote in the Haggada: Anyone who does not say three things on Pesach, has not fulfilled his obligation and these are the three: Pesach, Matzoh and Maror.

פסח על שום מה. על שום שפסח הקדוש ברוך הוא על בתי אבותינו במצרים.

The Pesach offering recalls that G-d was pasach- passed over the homes of our ancestors when He struck the Egyptian firstborn. Thus, the element of the Pesach offering symbolizes our emunah, our faith in the providence of Hashem and our belief that he rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked.

מצה על שום שלא הספיק בצקם של אבותינו להחמיץ.

Matzoh recalls the dough of our ancestors which did not have the chance to rise before the Jews rushed out of Egypt. Therefore, Matzoh symbolizes the requirement of hishtadlut, of human initiative in quickly and actively seizing the possibility of redemption.

מרורעל שום שמררו המצריים את חיי אבותינו במצרים.

Maror recalls the bitterness. Even when we are steadfast in our emunah in the involvement of Hashem, as reflected in the Pesach, combined with our energetic hishtadlut, as represented by the Matzoh, we may not achieve immediate success. There will be maror. Life is filled with struggle and redemption does not come easily. But if we hang tough with the courage of our convictions, we will merit to emerge from the bitterness of the maror and sing a shirah chadashah, a new song celebrating our triumphs, both personally and nationally.

If the parents internalize these three core elements of Pesach, Matzoh and Maror and transmit those principles to the younger generation on the Seder night, we will then be prepared to renew our acceptance of Torah, received seven weeks later on Shavuot, and live a meaningful and majestic life of mitzvot.

Shabbat starts Friday: 4:52PM
Shabbat ends Saturday: 5:53PM
Thu, January 17 2019 11 Shevat 5779