To subscribe, send an e-mail to NPOJ8@YAHOO.COM with the word "Subscribe"
THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN
THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN
NEW: Experiential Yiddishkeit
I would like to start this week’s Drasha with a simple question for you: Why is Moishe Rabbeinu so insignificant?
“What, What, WHAT!!!!” you are now asking. “Has Rabbi Pinky gone insane?”
Perhaps. But this question is no reflection of my sanity. In fact, I have always been known for having the GREATEST sanity and the GREATEST intelligence!!!
But the question itself is a fundamental question, a mystery, that stares us in the face when we read about Yetzias Mitzrayim, the exodus from Egypt, during the first few Parshiyois in Shmois, and then juxtapose the Biblical narrative with its retelling during the Pesach Seder. Because, as you may or may not have noticed, you Mechutziff, throughout the entire Seder, a liturgical ceremony that dates back to the time of the Mishnah, and is rooted in a much more ancient tradition, MOISHE RABBEINU’S NAME IS NOT EVEN MENTIONED ONCE! Not once.
What the Tashmish HaMitah?!
When you look up that a question in the sources, people note that Moishe is indeed referred to in one Biblical quote that mentions his name. But that exception just proves the point even more: How is it that the central actor and messenger of the Reboinoisheloilum in the exodus does not play a significant role in the Seder?
This Shailah was first raised by Reb Hai Goyn in the eighth century. He suggested that Moishe RABBEINU’s name was left out so that the Seder would focus on Hakadoshboruchhu as the primary actor. Would the Seder in our Mesoirah have foicused on Moishe like it does in the Toirah, one might think that the exodus was the result of a human endeavor. Chass V’Sholom one should think that humans are capable of miracles!!
Case in point: When I had my heart transplant last year, I made sure NOT to use trained heart surgeons, since they know nothing!! Instead, I had a couple of auto mechanics with greasy hands install the doiner’s heart.. I mean, the donor’s heart, since they were simply the agents of the Aimishteh. And while they were in there, I had them change my oil, install new brake pads, and tune up my transmission.
(As an aside, there is a completely separate Machloikess Rishoinim on why Reb Hai Goyn’s name was “Hai”. According to the RIF, “Hai” was a customary Babylonian nickname for “Chaim”. According to the RASHBA, “Hai” is a misspelling of “Hi”, and he was called “Hi” because he was the most friendly of all of the Gaonim. But according to Rabbeinu Tam, “Hai” is a misspelling of the name “High”. Says Rabbeinu Tam, Reb “High” Goyn lived during a period when the Governor of Pumbedisa legalized marijuana for recreational purposes in order to raise tax dollars, and Reb High Goyn likes to indulge before answering complicated Shailois, such as how many wings do the angels have, and how many Babylonians does it take to screw in a lightbulb.
The RAMBAN holds differently. According to the RAMBAM, the Reboinoisheloilum is a distant figure, and humanity drives the world. However, CHAZAL downplayed the role of Moishe so that Klal Yisroel would not Chass V’Sholom come to deify him. After all, the Seder’s liturgy was likely formalized in the early centuries of the Common Era, at a time when many were coming to embrace Yushka Pandra as their Lord and Savior. Says the RAMBAM, it is bad enough that we have to listen to Christmas music for four weeks in the late fall. But if we had to have a second season with similar faux religious music playing incessantly in the background, we might be tempted to cut our ears off and use them for holding crumbs during Bedikas Chometz.
However, Reb Yoisaiph Caro, the Mechaber of the Shulchan Aruch and their author of a series of self help books, suggests that LeOilum, in reality, Moishe Rabbeinu was originally slated to sit at the center of the Seder, with his role the focus of the Haggadah and its retelling of Yetzias Mitzrayim. However, during negotiations, Moishe asked for 15% of the gross revenue of Haggadah sales, and a percentage of the profits. CHAZAL offered 5% of the gross, followed by a smaller percentage of the profits. But after months of negotiations, with Aroin HaCoihain, the Minuval, serving as Moishe’s attorney, the parties were unable to come to an agreement, and as a result, Moishe was written out of the script - a move he regrets to this day.
I, the RAPAS, would like to suggest an alternative view. The Toirah tells us the story of Yetzias Mitzrayim in the third person, with Moishe at the center of the story. However, the Seder is essentially a re-enactment of the exodus in which we engage as part of the story. “Ba’Avur Zeh Assah Hakadoishboruchhu Lee Ka’Asher Houtzaisee Ma’Eretz Mitzrayim”, “In this was the Reboinihseloilum did for ME when He took ME out of the land of Egypt.” We, the Seder participants, and especially the leader of the story, are supposed to see ourselves as sitting at the center of Yetzias Mitzrayim. We, the people, become the central actors, and we ourselves take on the role of Moishe Rabbeinu!
In fact, I have used this Svara to enrich my relationship with my Bashert, Feigeh Breinah. Every so often we replicate the story of Yehuda and Tamar, and Feigeh Breinah stands on the roadside of Lakewood dressed as a prostitute - that means not wearing her Sheitel and wearing a skirt that does not hang down to the floor - and I “pick her up” and bring her “back to my tent”, AKA the back of the minivan.
At other times, we play “Adam and Chava”, and my talking snake tries to get her to “eat from the fruit of the tree”, if you know what I mean.
In such a way, the Seder as a re-enactment allows us to get beyond recitation, a largely passive experience. It brings us closer to our ancestors by enabling us to enter into the mindset, so we ourselves can taste the joys of freedom, aided by getting hammered on the best Goyisheh wines the kosher labels have to offer.
Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval
Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess