הא לחמא עניא
הרב דני זוקרמן
From the mishnayos in ערבי פסחים one gets the impression that מגיד begins with the pouring of the second cup of wine, followed by מה נשתנה. However, our minhag is to commence מגיד with הא לחמא עניא. The main mitzvah of the night, which we are just about to begin, is to tell the story of יציאת מצרים. This paragraph does not seem to be a part of that story, yet it must be crucial if we are delaying a מצוה דאורייתא in order to recite it. What function does this paragraph serve?
ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ Another oddity of this paragraph is that, unlike the rest of the Haggada which is in לשון הקדש, it is in Aramaic, the vernacular at the time of the Haggada’s composition. Why did the author of the Haggada make this section stand out?
ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ Maharal (גבורות השם פרק נא) explains that הא לחמא עניא is written in Aramaic because it is not a ritual recital, but rather a notification from the head of the household to the family seated around the table. What is the nature of this notification?
ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ At first glance it seems that הא לחמא עניא is an invitation. We invite the hungry and needy to join us for the seder. If this is the case, we may understand why we say this in the vernacular and we could even understand why צדקה and הכנסת אורחים delay the mitzva of סיפור יציאת מצרים. However, if this is indeed an invitation, then it is certainly too late! Here we are sitting down at our table, surrounded by our family and guests, and we announce to no one in particular that if they are hungry or needy, they should feel free to join us. Clearly this is not an actual invitation, but if so, why is it stated as if it is?
ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ Rav Elyashiv explains in his הגדה based on an idea of the Vilna Gaon regarding מעות חיטים. All year we have a mitzva of tzedakah. Beyond this, on each of the yamim tovim, we have a mitzva of simcha, which the Rambam (הלכות שביתת יום טוב ו:יח) tells us includes the responsibility to ensure the simcha of the poor and unfortunate in our midst. The Gr”a notes that our minhag of מעות חיטים goes beyond both of these mitzvos. It is not only tzedakah and not only simchas yom tov. We give a special tzedakah before Pesach because there is a particular mitzva to assist others to eat matza. The Gr”a bases this on the Torah’s language when it commands us to eat matza. While the Torah sometimes speaks of אכילת מצה using an active verb, "בערב תאכלו מצות", it sometimes uses a passive verb, "מצות יאכל". The passive term, says the Gr”a, teaches us that beyond our personal obligation to eat matza, we each have a responsibility to ensure that, to the best of our ability, each and every other member of klal Yisrael should eat matza as well. מעות חיטים expresses our communal commitment to מצות יאכל.
ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ Rav Elyashiv explains that הא לחמא עניא is not an invitation to עניים outside of our home to come in and join us, but an explanation- in the vernacular- to those sitting around our table. “You should know, aside from purchasing matza for those sitting here, before Pesach I took care of the hungry and the needy. I gave מעות חיטים because this matza, of which we are about to start speaking and eating, is not only a symbol of my own freedom from מצרים, but the freedom of every Jew.”
ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ הא לחמא עניא precedes and delays סיפור יציאת מצרים because it lays the crucial foundation that as much as the מצוות הלילה are personal, they take place in the context of a larger klal Yisrael. חירות is not only a personal status; it is the formation of a community.
ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ ֲ Perhaps we can take this idea one step further. The gemara (פסחים לה:) says that, even though one cannot be yotzei with matza which is forbidden to eat, such as מצה של טבל, one can be yotzei with matza which is דמאי. The difference is that טבל is grain whose תרומות ומעשרות have not yet been separated, while דמאי is grain about which there is only a safek whether its תרומות ומעשרות were separated. However, even though דמאי is only אסור משום ספק, it too is usually prohibited to eat! Why do Chazal allow us to be yotzei with מצה של דמאי? The gemara says "כיון דאי בעי מפקר לנכסיה הוי עני ואוכל דמאי השתא נמי חזי ליה". When Chazal prohibited דמאי, they made a provision that poor people are allowed to eat it. Since every person has the theoretical option to relinquish all his assets and make himself poor, anyone- rich or poor- can be yotzei with מצה של דמאי.
What does this gemara mean? Limaaseh, a person doesn’t actually need to make himself poor in order to be yotzei with מצה של דמאי, so of what relevance is it that theoretically anybody could choose to make himself poor?
Tosfos there offers two possible explanations of the gemara. The first is that a wealthy individual doesn’t actually have the license to eat מצה של דמאי, but if בדיעבד they did so, they would be yotzei because of the theoretical possibility of being poor.
Tosfos’s second explanation goes a giant step further. Tosfos says that אכילת מצה is a fundamentally different אכילה. The Torah calls matza לחם עוני and when we eat it, we are doing אכילת עניות. Therefore, every Jew, rich or poor, can לכתחילה use מצה של דמאי.
Based on Tosfos’s second explanation, we see an additional aspect of the point above. When we eat matza, we do so not only as individuals, but as members of a community. One of the most significant divisions in any community is the economic divide between rich and poor. On ליל הסדר, we bridge that divide in two complementary directions. We give מעות חיטים to ensure that every member of our community can eat matza. At the same time, even the wealthiest members of the community remind themselves that they too could be poor and for the purposes of matza, they are indeed eating like a poor man.
ליל הסדר is a time for reviewing and internalizing the messages of yetzias mitzrayim. In addition to the messages of הקב"ה’s love for us and His selection of us as His nation, there is also an opportunity and responsibility to internalize the message of our unity as a people and the fundamental equality we all share in our standing before Him. May we use this season of חירות to strengthen ourselves in our commitment to one another.
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