Sharing Torah Insights

What’s your goal on Seder night?

Posted on י״ג בניסן ה׳תשע״ז (April 9, 2017) | in Pesach | by

What are we actually trying to do on Seder night? What is the goal of the Haggadah and the seder in general?

You can say “to teach my kids about leaving Egypt”, but what about people who don’t have kids? Or their kids fall asleep? And even if you have kids, it should be transformational for the parents as well! In fact, the Haggadah goes out of its way to say that this is an experience incumbent on everyone, even a Talmid Chacham having Seder alone.

One of the main principles of the seder is מתחיל בגנות ומסיים בשבח – start with disgrace and end with praise. There’s a debate about what exact point of גנות we want to start with, but the main structure of the Haggadah is built around this.

As we look through the structure of the seder, we start by revisiting how bad things were in Egypt. In order to appreciate how good we have it, we have to first realize how bad it could be.

We then start counting all the good things that God did for us during the Exodus, and start looking for opportunities to find even more things to appreciate. (There were 10 plagues and 50 at the sea. No – there were 40 plagues and 200 at the sea. No – 50 and 250!)

And then comes Dayeinu, showing that we know how to say thanks for all the steps along the way. It’s important to appreciate all the good things, even if we haven’t attained the ultimate goal yet.

LefichachThe next step is to personalize it. It’s not just something that happened in the past, but something that each of us has to appreciate in our own lives. And when Maggid reaches its peak, we end off with לפיכך אנחנו חייבים להודות – therefore, we are obligated to say thanks.

I suggest that the entire point of the Seder is to teach us gratitude.

The seder teaches us how to find things to be grateful for, how to look for additional opportunities to say thanks, and how (through Hallel and Shulchan Orech – singing, rejoicing and feasting with friends) to say thanks. And all this even though we haven’t yet achieved everything we want.

This is why we end with לשנה הבאה בירושלים – Next year in Jerusalem. We learn that saying thank you doesn’t have to mean being content with what you have. But you don’t have to wait to be content until you say thank you either.

And if the whole point of the Haggadah is to know how to say thanks, this might explain why the text of the hagaddah comes from Devarim and not Shemot. We take the text from the section of Bikkurim – a mitzvah whose focus is on saying Thank You for things we have now, and remembering to also say Thank You for everything it took to get us here.

May we all merit to internalize our own gratitude and instill thankfulness it in our children.

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