Thursday, April 05, 2012

Some thoughts on Rabban Gamliel

What is the reason for Rabban Gamliel's statement that anyone who does not say Pesach, Matzah and Maror on Pesach does not fulfill his obligation of (sipur)?

1) One can become engaged in the derashos of maggid and forget to say these three basic elements of the Passover story. This is a way of grounding people.

2) Earlier, when discussing the Chacham, I noted the different approaches as to what to do on the seder night. Rabban Gamliel and the Zekeinim in Lod spent the whole night talking about hilchos haPesach; this as opposed to Rabbi Eliezer, Rabbi Yehoshua, Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah, Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Tarfon, who spend the whole night engaged in the story of Pesach.

Given the differing overarching focus in the opposite direction, it makes sense that Rabban Gamliel would establish a minimum level of sippur.

3) Besides all this, I believe that Rabban Gamliel in not establishing a minimum that others would actually necessarily agree to. Rather, he is imposing an additional requirement, based on derashot of pesukim. (Which pesukim, I'll present in a bit.) But conceivably, one could have been doreish all of Arami Oved Avi and started with gnay and ended with shvach without mentioning in particular the korban Pesach and its prompt, the matzah and its prompt, and the maror and its prompt.

Thus, we mention Pesach, meaning the korban Pesach. Because Hashem skipped over our ancestor's homes in Egypt. And a prooftext establishing that Hashem indeed skipped over the houses, and that this is the cause of it being called a Zevach Pesach.

But the prooftext, in this instance, does more that. I think it also establishes the chiyuv. The key word is the first one: ואמרתם. And you shall say that it is a zevach pesach...

Thus, in the very establishment of the chiyuv of sippur, in a response to a son's query, there is the requirement to say zevach pesach hu.

Ideally, this would be while standing in front of a korban you are bringing / eating. Thus, zevach pesach hu, as something you can point to. Maybe the chiyuv of sippur would fail when the korban Pesach fails. But it didn't, and Rabban Gamliel, who had his seder in Lod after the churban, still not only requires sippur but even mention of the Pesach.

On a peshat level, by the way, one might be able to argue that this is not a requirement of sippur. Rather, it was a promise, that things will be so good that the son will not even know the meaning of the sacrifice, because the Egyptian exile will pass so far from their minds in their living a life of cheirus.

כה  וְהָיָה כִּי-תָבֹאוּ אֶל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר יִתֵּן ה לָכֶם--כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֵּר; וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם, אֶת-הָעֲבֹדָה הַזֹּאת.25 And it shall come to pass, when ye be come to the land which the LORD will give you, according as He hath promised, that ye shall keep this service.
כו  וְהָיָה, כִּי-יֹאמְרוּ אֲלֵיכֶם בְּנֵיכֶם:  מָה הָעֲבֹדָה הַזֹּאת, לָכֶם.26 And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you: What mean ye by this service?
כז  וַאֲמַרְתֶּם זֶבַח-פֶּסַח הוּא לַה', אֲשֶׁר פָּסַח עַל-בָּתֵּי בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּמִצְרַיִם, בְּנָגְפּוֹ אֶת-מִצְרַיִם, וְאֶת-בָּתֵּינוּ הִצִּיל; וַיִּקֹּד הָעָם, וַיִּשְׁתַּחֲווּ.27 that ye shall say: It is the sacrifice of the LORD'S passover, for that He passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when He smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses.' And the people bowed the head and worshipped.

That is why the people's reaction was so positive, that they bowed their head and worshipped. But that does not necessarily establish a chiyuv to engage in such sippur.

As opposed to matza zo and maror zeh, we don't say pesach zeh because it is not in front of us.

Next up is matza zo.

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