י׳ במרחשון ה׳תשע״ד (October 14, 2013)

Pesaḥim 116a-b: Moving on to Maggid

The main part of the Maggid section of the Haggada is described in the Mishnayot on our daf. Its key components include:

The four questions (Ma nishtana)
Begin with disgrace but conclude with glory (mat’hil be-genut u-messayem be-shevah)
Tell the story based on the passage in Devarim 26:5-9 (Arami oved avi)
The need to explain the role of Pesah, Matza and Maror
The inclusion of Hallel in the story

With regard to the questions, ideally the child is supposed to be drawn to ask questions by our behavior at the seder meal.

The Nemukei Yosef says that it is the second cup of wine poured that should elicit questions: If we just made Kiddush, why are we bringing a second cup, which appears to be preparation for birkat ha-mazon, if we haven’t yet eaten the meal?! According to the Tosafot Rid, it is the karpas that should get the children’s attention: Why are we skipping ha-motzi over bread tonight and going straight to the vegetables instead?

It was taught in the mishna that the father begins his answer with disgrace and concludes with glory. The Gemara asks: What is the meaning of the term: With disgrace? Rav said that one should begin by saying: At first our forefathers were idol worshippers, before concluding with words of glory. And Shmuel said: The disgrace with which one should begin his answer is: We were slaves.

The Maharal writes in his Gevurot HaShem that their disagreement is over which of these should be considered the greatest generosity of God towards the Jewish people. Was it, as Rav understands, the spiritual redemption, or was it, as Shmuel believes, the physical redemption that we celebrate on this night?

Although Hallel is a central part of the seder, it is only the conclusion of the maggid section. Some commentaries say that we do not say a blessing over Hallel during the seder, because it is divided into two parts. Rav Hai Ga’on suggests that it is not recited as praise, but as a song that accompanies the seder, so no berakha is made. According to the Massekhet Sofrim, we are obligated to say Hallel in the synagogue as part of our prayers before we begin the seder. The berakha is made on that recitation of the Hallel, so there is no need to make a blessing over it again at the seder.

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