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The Magical Words of the Ma Nishtanah

By: Rabbi Yerachmiel Ukelson

Ma Nishtanah - Those two magical words that conjure up such warm and cherished memories of Leil Haseder and the Haggadah Shel Pesach. The Mishna that discusses Ma Nishtanah starts off like this:  מזגו לו כוס שני וכאן הבן שואל אביו

The Rashbam brings  2 explanations to explain "וכאן":

1. If the son is clever he will now ask why tonight we are pouring a second cup of wine before we eat the meal. 

2. He brings in the name of רבי יעקב בר יקר that the Mishna is saying וכן הבן שואל כלומר דין הוא שיהא שואל במזיגת כוס שני מה נשתנה .

This second pshat requires explanation as to what "דין" is the mishna teaching us and referring to.

There is a famous vort from Rav Chaim Brisker zt''l that there are 3 differences between the obligation of remembering 'yetziat mitzrayim' of every night of the year and of the obligation of seder night.

1. On seder night,  the requirement is that of "Sippur" in a question and answer format, in a way of conversation, whereas every night all that is needed is a mention of the exodus from Egypt to himself.

2. Normally all of that one has to mention is the exodus from Egypt itself whereas on seder night, one has to speak about the entire sequence of events and he must be מתחיל בגנות ומסיים בשבח

3. On seder night, one has an obligation to explain the reasons for the mitzvot on  ליל טו ניסן whereas on a regular night there is no such obligation.

 Other Rishonim explain that there is another idea included in the mitzva of סיפור יציאת מצרים. The Sefer HaChinuch describes the mitzva in these terms (mitzva 21)  לספר בענין יציאת מצרים בליל טו ניסן כל אחד כפי צחות לשונו ולהלל ולשבח להקדוש ברוך הוא על כל הנסים שעשה לנו שם שנאמר והגדת לבנך. 

We see that included in the mitzva is not only retelling what happened with all of the miracles but our shevach vehallel is also part and parcel of the mitzva of סיפור.

 The Avudraham writes at the beginning of his commentary on the Haggadah ונקראת הגדה.... ויש מפרשים הגדה שהוא לשון הודאה ושבח להקב"ה  על  שהוציאנו מארץ מצרים כמו שמתרגם בירושלמי הגדתי היום להשם אלוקיך  שבחית יומא דין .

We see from here that the Haggadh itself is called Haggadah because of the element of shevach vehodaah and not because of its content of retelling the miracles of Yetziat Mizrayim.  We learn from here a new definition of the term sippur yetziat mitzrayim.This new definition also explains the difference between the mitzva of Leil Pesach and the mitzva of the other nights of the year.

There is a Halacha that אין אומרים שירה אלא על היין  .That is exactly the "דין" of רבי יעקב בר יקר that being that our entire sipur yetziat mitzrayim is one big shirat hallel to Hashem and being that our sipur begins by ma nishtanah, that is why precisely at that point of the seder there is a din that we require the presence of the second "kos" of wine poured and on the table so that when we sing our מה נשתנה -עבדים היינו - מתחילה עובדי עבודה זרה היו אבותינו that that שירה and that הודאה also has its rightful accompaniment of אין אומרים שירה אלא על היין

One last point to bring out this idea even more.  There is the Halacha of מתחיל בגנות ומסיים בשבח The רמבם explains that the סיום שבח of עבדים היינו is the story of the great and wondrous miracles which Hashem performed for us by   יציאת מצרים The  פסקי ריד on the other hand explains that the שבח is the מקצת הלל שאומרים קודם האכילה because since we told over the great miracles that Hashem did , it is incumbent upon us to praise and thank Hashem. We see that the שבח that Chazal were referring to was not a mere dry recital of a history event but rather an outpouring of our feelings.  An expression of OUR realization and OUR appreciation of how WE have actually benefitted from Yetziat Mitzrayim.  

The shevach is our participation of reaffirming our kesher to כלל ישראל  and an expression of our  never ending Emunah and love of Hakodesh Baruch Hu .What greater שירה do we as Jews have.     




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