Wednesday, April 4, 2012

haggadah prep #2 - inviting Rashi to the seder

I am spending a great deal of time preparing for my seder this year. I really want it to be a stimulating intellectual experience not just for me, but for my guests as well.
To be better prepared, I am posting some additional sources that may be helpful in better understanding sections of the Haggadah. I also am going to post some topics of discussion. If anyone has sources, topics of discussions, or questions to ask at the seder that will lead to good conversation - please comment and share them with us.


The 4 Verses
The center piece of the Haggadah is a short text from parshat Ki Tavo that begins "Arami Oved Avi."  These verses were recited by the Jewish farmer who brought his first fruits to the Beit Hamikdash as an offering.  The verses are a quick synopsis of the Jewish people from the time of the forefathers until they came to the land of Israel - focusing mostly on the slavery and exodus from Egypt. 

After we sing the song "vi'hee she'amda" we read the four verses from the haggadah with commentary.

At Beth Israel, since we are involved in the Great Rashi Initiative this year, Rashi is always our first look for commentary on the Torah.  Rashi probably had the same Haggadah that we have today, yet his commentary of the 4 verses is different than that of the Haggadah. 

At my seder this year we are going to study both commentaries side by side and try and figure out why Rashi chose to comment differently then the Haggadah. On the blog I will bring a short sample below.

"An Aramean tried to destroy my forefather, he then descended to Egypt and sojourned there, few in number, and there he became a nation - great, strong, and numerous"  (Translation from the artscroll chumash with Ramban commentary)

"An Aramean tried to destroy my father" - the Haggadah does not give commentary to this line.  Rashi says this refers to Lavan who tried to kill Yaakov.  "Since he considered killing the Jews, Hashem considers it as if he did it."  (Rings of Netanyahu's statement that when Iran declares that they want to destroy Israel the world should take it seriously)  (This clause is very ambiguous and many commentators argue with Rashi's translation.  Why doesn't the Haggadah feel a need to interpret this clause?)

He descended to Egypt - Hagadah: he was forced to go by Hashem's command.  Rashi: "and others also came to destroy us, as after this yaakov went down to Egypt."  (What is the haggadah adding?  What is Rashi adding?)

And sojourned there -  Rashi is silent on this clause while the haggadah has a whole paragraph of commentary.  Why?

With just a few people - The a whole sentence and Rashi only has two words, "seventy people."  Why the difference?

Rashi is silent on the rest of the pasuk and the haggadah has three more comments. 

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