D’var Torah: The First Days of Pesach
In his D’var Torah for the first two days of Pesach, the Chief Rabbi explores the connection between Pesach and Tisha B’Av.
What is the antidote to gratuitous hatred?
The answer comes in a surprising connection between Pesach and Tisha B’Av. The Rema in the Shulchan Aruch mentions that the evening of first night Seder will always be the same day of the week as the opening evening of the following Tisha B’Av. And that’s the reason, he says, why just before the fast of Tisha B’Av and also on our Seder tables we have a hardboiled egg to eat.
What then is the deeper connection between Pesach and Tisha B’Av?
In the Mah Nishtana we declare: ‘She’b’chol ha’leylot ein anu matbilin afilu pa’am achat – On all other nights we don’t even dip once.’ ‘Aval ha’layla ha’ze shtei pa’amim – but on this night we dip twice.’ The Ben Ish Chai of 19th century Baghdad gives a wonderful peirush: he says that these two dippings at the Seder table come to remind us of the very first two dippings on record.
Karpas comes to remind us of when Joseph’s brothers dipped his coat in blood and Charoset comes to remind us of the second dipping on record – the mitzvah given in the book of Shemot to the Israelites to take a bundle of hyssop, to dip it into blood and then to smear it onto the doorposts and the lintels to protect them from The Plague of the Firstborn.
The Ben Ish Chai said that that first dipping in Sefer Bereishit represents Sinat Chinam. It was the causeless hatred that Joseph’s brothers had for him that prompted them to engage in their attempted fratricide.
The second dipping in the book of Shemot is all about unity. You see, the Torah says ‘U’lekachtem agudat ezov – take a bundle of hyssop’; that term aguda represents a bonded entity which is a symbol of the unity of the Jewish people at that time. Therefore, says the Ben Ish Chai, the second dipping is an antidote to the first. It is only through Jewish unity that we will be able to overcome the totally unnecessary and tragic friction of Sinat Chinam.
Our exile into Egypt started with Sinat Chinam and we were redeemed therefrom through Ahavat Chinam – through causeless love, through unity within our ranks.
Similarly, our exile out of Jerusalem in the year seventy with the destruction of the second temple happened because of Sinat Chinam and please God, our ultimate redemption will come through the unity of our people. We see from this that Mah Nishtana isn’t just a lovely little song that children sing, rather, it provides for us the strong connection between Pesach and Tisha B’Av and more significantly, it shows us what the antidote to Sinat Chinam is and gives us the key to our ultimate redemption – may it happen speedily in our time.
I wish you all a Chag kasher ve’sameach.