Hamakom at the Seder

Baruch Hamakom baruch hu – Blessed is the Omnipresent. The obvious question is why does the Haggadah use this name of Hashem. Many commentators cite the midrash that explains the meaning of the name: Hashem is the place of the world, the world is not the place of Hashem. However, this midrash does not explain the use of Hamakom here before the Four Children.

Rav Schwab is quoted as suggesting the use of Hamakom when we need to feel a sense of stability which Hashem provides. As evidence, he notes that we use Hamakom in our prayers: To mourners during availus we proclaim Hamakom yenchem eschem and in times of distress we recite Hamakom yerachem. Therefore he suggests that when we deal with children we emphasize God as Makom to feel that no matter how far from Torah our children may be, Hashem is still there.

In my humble opinion, this explanation does not explain the problem at all. The context is Talmud Torah, we when we emphasize that at least three children are engaged.

Furthermore, there are two other times in the Haggadah when Hamakom is used. One is mitchilah ovdei avodah zarah hayu avoteinu v’achshav kirvanu Hamkom la’avodato- originally our ancestors were idolaters, and now Hamakom brought us close to his service. The other one is before Dayenu- kamak ma’alot tovot Hamakom aleynu. I think a proper explanation must explain all three uses of Hamakom. This problem has been bothering me for many years. For a while, it has come to mind that the word Hamakom is a reference to the Beis Hamikdash in Devarim. Many times the Torah commands there that a certain service will be performed in Hamakom asher bochar Hashem- in the place Hashem chooses, an oblique reference to the Beis Hamikdash. So I had an association between Hamakom and the House of Hashem. However, I felt like I needed more to provide an explanation for the use of Hamakom in the Haggadah.

This year I found a source that sheds light on the issue, and it was when I was learning for siyum behvorot. I had the privilege of studying Kodshim, whose final masechet is Midot. It describes the holy precinct of the Beis Hamikdash. In the final mishnah, the one I concluded for the siyum, the text states that the Great Sanhedrin not only adjudicated laws in their office next to the Kodesh Hakodashim, they also ruled whether individual kohanim were qualified for service by pedigree and by being without blemish. When kohanim were judged to be qualified they made a “yontof”, donning white clothes and making a party for their family and friends. Pay attention to the prayer they used to recite: Baruch Hamakom baruch hu! Blessed is the Omnipresent blessed is He- blessed is He who has not found a blemish in the offspring of Aharon Kohen Gadol. Tosfot Yom Tov makes the association! Hamakom is used in this context to refer to the Beis Hamikdash, the cite where the kohanim would be serving.

I had my connection! Baruch Hamakom is used before the passage of Talmud Torah to tell us that although we no longer have the Beis Hamikdash we still feel Hashem’s presence through the study of Torah! Achshav kirvanu Hamkom la’avodato means that Hashem brought our ancestors to the Beis Hamikdash and He promises that He will do the same for us! And finally, kamah ma’alot tovot Hamkom aleinu- Dayenu ends with Hashem bringing us to the Beis Hamikdash or in our girsa, Beis Habechirah- the place which Hashem chose. Just as Hashem brought us in the past to that “place” to serve Him, so too He will bring us again to the Holy Place to serve Him in the time of the Moshiach, the time of the ge’ulah shelemah!

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