Pesach: The Whole Story

In a previous shiur we discussed the prevalence of “halves” with respect to Pesach and the Seder.  However, the theme of “the whole, complete, full, and total” also sticks out.

We remove all of the chametz and recite “Kol chamira”, we nullify all of the chametz.

Although it is accepted that the mitzvah to eat matzah is only at the Seder and only a kezayit, the peshat (Ibn Ezra to Shmot 12:15) is to eat matzah “all seven days”:  “Shiv’at yamim tochal matzot”.  Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim 3:43 says, “ If eating matzah were only one day, we would not feel it and its point would not be so clear, for many times one eats a type of food two or three days and its meaning is in the constancy of its eating understood and popularized -hekef shalem- in its complete scope.

There is a machlokes regarding how many matzot have to be on the Seder plate:  According to Rambam there has to be one whole one and one half; according to others, there has to be two whole and one half.  True the emphasis is on the half because of lechem oni, and we have two whole matzot on all other shabbatot and yomtovim, but the contrast still seems significant- according to Rabbenu Chananel and other Gaonim, the brachah of Al Achilas Matzah is recited on the whole one.

The mitzvah in its highest fulfillment on Pesach is to drink the whole cup of wine.   Tanya: Hakol chayavim b’arba kosot- All are obligated to drink four cups of wine- echad anashim echad nashim v’echad tinokot.

We recite the whole Hallel.  Although we split the Hallel, on the first two days of yontof and at the Seder we recite all of it.

The five sages discussed the Exodus the entire night, kol halaylah.  The mitzvot of the seder-eating korban pesach, telling the story, studying the halachot- can be performed the whole night.  Although there are opinions as we saw that the cut off is midnight, there are those who hold that many can be done until dawn.

Matchil b‘gnus um’sayem b’shvach v’doresh kol haparshah kulah me’arami oved avi- We analyze the whole section in its entirety.
Maharal explains that when the degradation precedes the praise, the praise is greater.  Wholeness is a “ma’alah”, a virtue or an elevated quality, that is not found at the beginning of something’s existence in the material world.  Completeness is achieved.  The Divine virtue begins with something lacking, something missing, something to “aspire to” perhaps.  Night precedes day…

Further on we can understand Dayenu in this way.  We ascend “Ma’a lot” levels until we achieve full d’veikus with Hashem through mitzvot and the Beis Hamikdash where the Shechina dwells.

Maharal later explains that only Hashem is b’fo’al gamur- fully actualized- because Hashem is not material, transcendent, completely separate from the physical world.  Angels who have some connection to the physical world are not complete in purpose, for “actualized reality” – m’tzi’ut b’fo’al  ka’sher hu shalem k’var- is when it is already whole.  Therefore things that emerge fully actualized can only do so by Hashem who alone is “fully actualized”.  Through the Exodus, havayah gedolah, Hashem “brought out” Israel from the house of bondage to be His special nation, shleimut ha’olam, the completeness of the world.

Maharal explains that the essence of the korban pesach is unity- achdus.  Bnai Yisrael are echad, and I think he is saying that their service is completely devoted to Hashem.  The korban had to be roasted whole; eaten al kra’av v’al kirbo- not in parts.  Something that is divided is not echad, a unity for it has different parts.  Something that is complete – davar shehu shalem – has the quality of achdus, unity.  It had to be eaten in one house, in one place, by one chaburah; it had to be a seh tamim, “whole”, ben shanah- one in years of age; a lamb is “sensitive” not coarse and thick, its whole body feels when it is hit, like Yisrael.  It had to be eaten roasted which method keeps it whole unlike boiling which tends to make the meat into small pieces and causes it to come apart.  Also the bones cannot be broken because that suggests division and separation.  Moreover, the pesach is eaten with matzah and maror which are opposites, freedom and slavery, and all comes from Hashem who is one.  When they are complete they have redemption.  This is the “elevation” they have achieved.  Yisrae yesh lahem ma’alat hatzurah hash’lemah hanivdelet.

Through this discussion, we see that the major theme of Pesach is wholeness.  The whole nation drinks the whole cup of wine, symbol of freedom; relates the story and fulfills all the mitzvot all night; the people ate the whole korban in unity; the nation achieved wholeness.  And yet, we suggested that the “halves” of Pesach indicate the significance of not feeling complete, that we have a lot of work still to do.  We complete the Hallel at the end of the seder and we point to the future, when we will experience the ge’ulah shelemah.

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