SALT - Erev Pesach, Friday, 14 Nissan 5779 - April 19 2019

  • Rav David Silverberg
            Towards the beginning of the maggid text whch we read at the seder, we recite several passages relevant to the mitzva of sippur Yetziat Mitzrayim – telling the story of Exodus at the seder.  These include the statement that “even if we were all wise, we were all intelligent, we were all elders, we all knew the Torah – there is a commandment for us to tell about the Exodus from Egypt.”  We emphasize that even if all of us assembled around the table were learned, aged scholars, we would still be bound by the Torah obligation of sippur Yetziat Mitzrayim.  As proof to this precept, we tell the story of the four Tanna’im who spent Pesach night together with Rabbi Akiva in Bnei-Brak, how these five towering sages spoke about the Exodus throughout the entire night, until the morning – demonstrating how this mitzva applies even to the greatest scholars.
            This passage is often understood as emphasizing the point that we always have more to learn and achieve, that even if we study something many times over, we reveal some new information or insight each and every time.  Additionally, it has been explained that the mitzva of sippur Yetziat Mitzrayim is not merely cognitive, but experiential.  The obligation is not simply to study the information, but also to relive the Exodus each year, and thus it is relevant to even the greatest scholars who are already well-versed and proficient in all aspects of the Exodus.  They, too, must engage in sippur Yetziat Mitzrayim on Pesach night in order to experience the Exodus anew.
            Rav Avraham of Slonim, in Beit Avraham, adds yet another perspective on this statement in the Haggadah, explaining that it is directed specifically to the people with whom we are conducting the seder.  As we prepare to tell the story of Yetziat Mitzrayim, we note that even if everyone assembled is a scholar, we all have what to learn from one another.  Each scholar brings a unique angle and understanding to whatever subject is being discussed.  And thus when scholars come together to discuss a topic in which they are all very proficient, they are nevertheless enriched by listening to one another and learning from one another.  This, the Beit Avraham writes, is our intent in emphasizing that we must speak of the Yetziat Mitzrayim “even if we were all wise.”  No matter how much we might know, and how many times we have read through and studied the text of the Haggadah, we must share our perspectives and insights with each other, and hear what others have to say with an open mind and with an insatiable desire to learn and understand.  On this night of learning and reflection, we are bidden to recognize the value and importance of hearing new and different thoughts and angles, and to eagerly listen to and absorb new information and new insights, appreciating the unique perspective that each scholar has to offer and contribute to our understanding.