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Who Knows One?

By: Rabbi Dr Zvi Ron

At the end of the Seder there are a number of songs that are traditionally sung, Chad Gadya, Adir Hu, Echad Mi Yodea and others. These are generally viewed as folk songs with little connection to Pesach, added mainly to encourage young children to stay awake until the end of the Seder.

My great-great-grandfather, Rabbi Yonatan Binyamin Cohen in his commentary to the Haggadah, Nefesh Yonatan, explained that there are deep meanings to be found in these seemingly simple songs. The key to understanding Echad Mi Yodea is understanding the question itself. While some of the numbers may be obscure (who knows eleven), everybody should know the obvious answer to the first question, "One is Hashem"! The question is actually much deeper.

The story is told that when Rav Levi Yizchack of Berditchev returned from studying by Rav Dov Ber of Mezerich for two years, sceptics asked him what he learned there. Rav Levi Yitzchack replied "I now know that Hashem is one." The sceptics called over a simple cleaner and asked him how many gods are there, and the man replied that there is only one God. The sceptics then scoffed at Rav Levi Yitzchack, "Even an unlearned man knows that! There is no reason to go away for two years to learn that God is one!" Rav Levi Yitzchak replied that they did not understand, "That man only heard that God is one, and so he repeats it, but I know that God is one!"

The term "to know"לדעת  in the Torah means more than just amassing facts. In Bereishit, "to know" is the verb used to describe Adam and Chava producing children (4:1).  The term implies a close, intimate relationship. It is not knowledge as information, rather knowledge that causes a strong relationship to be formed. Thus, Rashi on Gen. 18:19 explains that "to know" is a term implying endearment and closeness. Many people have been taught the information that God is one, but how many feel an intimate relationship with Hashem as a result of this knowledge? This is what is meant by knowing that God is one. This close relationship with God is what Rav Levi Yitzchack worked to acquire during his years of study by Rav Dov Ber.

During the Seder we recall the miracles God performed for our ancestors, and we are instructed to view ourselves as if we came out of Egypt personally. How successful was the Seder in accomplishing this goal of making us feel close to Hashem? This is the question that we pose at the end of the Seder. As the dishes are being cleared, as the leftover shmura matza is wrapped up and returned to its box and the little children carried to bed, we ask ourselves, who now did reach the goal of the Seder, who now feels a close, intimate and personal connection to Hashem? Who knows One?

Chag Same’ach and Shabbat Shalom




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