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Peninei Halakha > Pesah > 15 – The Hagada

15 – The Hagada

01. “Tell Your Child”

There is a positive mitzva to tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt on the night of the 15th of Nisan. The more one embellishes the telling, elucidates the great kindness God showed us by saving us from the Egyptians and avenging us upon them, interprets the signs and wonders that God performed at that time and place for our sake, delves into the laws of Pesaḥ, and gives expansive gratitude to God – the more commendable it is. The essence of the mitzva is to tell the children, as it is stated: “Tell your child on that day: ‘It is because of this that God did for me when I left Egypt’” (Shemot 13:8). Even one who is childless is commanded by the Torah to recall the Exodus on Pesaḥ night, as it states: “Remember this day on which you came out of Egypt, of the house of bondage; how, with a mighty hand, God took you out of there” (ibid. 3).

Two mitzvot in the Torah require us to educate our children: the first is to teach them the written and oral Torah, so they understand the world properly and may live their lives according to divine guidance. Part of this mitzva is to habituate and familiarize children with the observance of mitzvot, as it is impossible to teach about Shabbat, kashrut, and the like without training for their observance (Peninei Halakha: Shabbat 24:1). The second mitzva is to tell our children about the Exodus from Egypt on the Seder night.

At first glance, this is puzzling. Is narrating the Exodus not part of the general mitzva of teaching Torah? In that case, what is different about the Seder night? The purpose of the stories told to the children on Seder night is to convey the fundamentals of faith that logically precede Torah study: they must know how the nation of Israel was formed, that God chose Israel to be His special nation, and that He gave them a special duty to receive the Torah and rectify the world. Parents, of course, do not live forever. The next generation will have to bear the torch of tradition, the great and awesome task that God intended for Israel, until the world has been fully repaired. This is the lesson of the Seder night. All of its mitzvot lead to that end.

Note that the obligation to study Torah is derived from the verse: “Teach them to your children, to speak of them” (Devarim 11:19). The Sages explain that one who must teach his son Torah must himself study Torah (Kiddushin 29b). It is only through the personal example of parents studying Torah with love and diligence that the value of Torah study is imbued within the children. The mitzva to instruct the children teaches us that the fundamental goal of the Torah is to positively influence others and add life to the world, not just to elevate the individual who studies Torah. Therefore, the Torah emphasizes in this commandment the obligation to teach the children, for the essential goal of the Torah is to influence the entire people of Israel in every generation. What is more, when one studies in order to teach others, his study is more thorough and profound. Likewise, the purpose of the mitzva to tell the story of the Exodus is that the memory of the Exodus and the great destiny of the Jewish people will be so deeply and palpably alive in the hearts of the parents that they will be able to pass it on to their children. To that end, parents must delve into the meaning of the Exodus and the mitzvot of the holiday and serve as personal examples for their children of how to say the Hagada and fulfill the mitzvot of Pesaḥ. Thus, they will be able to tell them the story of the Exodus and guide them toward fulfillment of the mitzvot of the Seder night.

02. The Mitzva to Tell the Exodus Story on Pesaḥ Night

The Torah commands us to tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt on the very night we left Egypt for freedom. Actually, we are commanded to remember the Exodus every day of the year, as it states: “So that you remember the day you left Egypt every day of your life” (Devarim 16:3). Ben Zoma infers from an apparent superfluity in this verse (“kol yemei” instead of “yemei”) that we must invoke the Exodus not only every day, but also even every night (Berakhot 12b). To fulfill the obligation to invoke the Exodus every day and night, we recite the third paragraph of Shema each morning and evening, as this paragraph states: “I am the Lord your God Who has taken you out of Egypt to be your God: I am the Lord your God” (Bamidbar 15:41).

Yet there are several important differences between the daily mitzva and the mitzva on the Seder night. A) To fulfill the daily mitzva, it is sufficient to mention the Exodus, whereas the mitzva on Pesaḥ night is to narrate broadly the events of the Exodus from Egypt. B) The mitzva of the Seder night is to relate the story to the children. C) On the Seder night, the mitzva is to tell the story while the matza and maror are set out in front of us. D) On the Seder night, we tell the story by way of questions and answers. E) Women are exempt from the daily mitzva to commemorate the Exodus but are obligated to tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt on the Seder night.[1]

The Exodus from Egypt is the basis of Jewish faith, for it was the first time that God’s providence was revealed in the world to an entire nation with great signs and wonders. With the Exodus, it became clear that God had chosen Israel to be His nation and to reveal His word in the world. For this reason, every Shabbat and Yom Tov commemorates the Exodus from Egypt, especially in prayers and kiddush. By virtue of the unique mitzva to tell the story of the Exodus in depth on the Seder night, our faith becomes more firmly established, and added meaning is given to all the brief remembrances of the Exodus throughout the year.

[1]. SA 472:14. The poskim disagree whether women are obligated in the mitzva of telling the story on a Torah level or a rabbinic level. Sefer Ha-ḥinukh §21 infers from the fact that women are obligated in matza and the Paschal offering on the Torah level that they are obligated by the Torah to tell the Exodus story, which was stated alongside the matza, maror, and Paschal offering. Other poskim maintain that since the mitzva of telling the story is a time-bound positive mitzva, women are exempt according to the Torah, but the Sages obligated them in the mitzvot of the Seder night, since women also experienced the miracles of the Exodus. This is the view implied by Tosafot on Pesaḥim 108b.

03. The Mitzva to Begin the Seder with a Question

There is a mitzva to tell the story of the Exodus by way of question and answer, as it is stated: “When in the future your child asks you…say to your child, ‘We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt…’” (Devarim 6:20-22). It is likewise stated: “When your children ask you, ‘What is this service to you?’ say, ‘It is a Paschal sacrifice to God’” (Shemot 12:26-27). And: “When in the future your child asks: ‘What is this?’ Say to him, ‘With a mighty hand God took us out of Egypt’” (ibid. 13:14).

Questions open the heart and mind to accept answers. The message we need to convey on the Seder night is so important and fundamental that we are commanded transmit it in the most effective way – by way of question and answer.

This is the main reason for the unique mitzvot of the Seder night: eating matza, the Paschal sacrifice, and maror. They cause the children to ask “Ma nishtana?” “Why is this night different?” and helps them understand that this is a special night whose essence must be understood. As a result, the Sages instituted several unusual practices in order to inspire children to wonder and enquire further. We begin by giving the children nuts and roasted grain, through which they realize that this is a special, festive night. The Sages instituted washing hands and eating karpas dipped in a liquid after kiddush, something we never do throughout the year. Furthermore, instead of starting the meal at this point, we pour the second cup of wine and remove the Seder plate and the matzot from the table, all to cause the children to realize that this is a very special night. They will thus truly be interested in its meaning, and they will sincerely ask: “Why is this night different?”

Perhaps it can be said that this question, “Ma nishtana?” embodies a bigger and deeper question about the Jewish people: Why are we different from all other nations – in our faith, in our mitzvot, in our suffering, in our spiritual achievements, in our exile, and in our redemption? There is no complete answer to this question. Only by contemplating the Exodus from Egypt and the election of Israel can we understand that this is a divine matter; we are capable of understanding part of it, but we will never understand it all. This same question spurs us on, toward infinitely deeper and more sublime understanding. Perhaps this is why the Torah instructs us to tell the story of the Exodus and of Israel’s singularity using questions and answers: the ideological basis of Jewish peoplehood lies in a question that opens us to an endless profusion of ideas. If we do not impart the Torah and the story of the Exodus to the children, no new questions would be asked and we would be unable to continue rising higher.

04. The Text of “Ma Nishtana

In order to give this seminal question a structured framework, the Sages formulated the “Ma nishtana” text, through which the children express their surprise at how different this night is, paving the way for the telling of the Exodus story. In the text of “Ma nishtana,” the Sages included questions about all of the Seder night mitzvot related to eating: matza, maror, the Paschal sacrifice, and the two dippings. After the destruction of the Temple, we no longer ask about the Paschal sacrifice and instead ask about reclining at the Seder.

If there are no children present to ask “Ma nishtana?” the youngest participant asks. Even if all the participants are Torah scholars well versed in the story of the Exodus, one of them must ask “Ma nishtana?” Even an individual performing the Seder alone must begin with “Ma nishtana?” This is how the Seder is arranged; we begin with a question because it makes the explanation more complete. Once a child or someone else has asked “Ma nishtana?” the other participants need not repeat the question and may proceed immediately to “Avadim Hayinu” (SA and Rema 473:7).[2]

[2]. According to several Rishonim, including Roke’aḥ and Maharil, if a child asks any question about the Seder, the obligation to ask questions has been fulfilled, and there is no need to recite the “Ma nishtana” formula specifically. However, according to most Rishonim, including Tosafot and Rambam, even if a child autonomously asks a question relating to the Seder, the entire “Ma nishtana” formula must be recited. The halakha follows this opinion. See Berur Halakha on Pesaḥim 115b (p. 134) for a summary of opinions. This ruling notwithstanding, one should encourage his children to ask their own questions, to fulfill the verse “when your child asks…”

One authority writes that the mitzva de-Oraita to tell the Exodus story only applies when a child actually asks a question, but if the child does not inquire, the mitzva of the Torah is only to commemorate the Exodus from Egypt, though one is still rabbinically required to tell the story. This is the implication of Responsa Rosh 24:2, but this is not the view of most poskim. Rather, they maintain that there is a mitzva to recount the Exodus in all cases, and one who has a child is obligated to tell him the story, as the Torah states regarding the son who does not know how to ask, “Tell your child on this day: ‘It is because of this that God did for me when I left Egypt’” (Shemot 13:8). (R. Yeruḥam Fishel Perla, in his commentary on R. Saadia Gaon’s Sefer Ha-mitzvot §32, states that according to Ramban and other Rishonim, one who does not have matza is exempt from the mitzva of telling the story of the Exodus, based on the phrase “because of this” [“ba-avur zeh” – the Hebrew uses the demonstrative pronoun “zeh” instead of the expected indefinite relative pronoun, indicating that it refers to an object that is present, i.e., the matza]. Additionally, see Sidur Pesaḥ Ke-hilkhato ch. 6 n. 2 which mentions a distinction between a child who asks his father a question, which obligates his father to tell the story in detail, and a child who does not ask, which only obligates the father to tell the story briefly. We can explain that if the son asks, the father must embellish his response based on the question, but if the child does not ask, the father need only tell the story briefly. Embellishment depends on the child’s desire to listen and obtain answers. See SAH 473:42.) In any event, it is clear that at least on the rabbinic level one must recite the entire Hagada as formulated. Even if he is alone, he asks himself the questions (Pesaḥim 116a) and thus extends to himself the obligation to answer.

05. The Torah Speaks of Four Children

On four occasions the Torah states that one must tell his child about the Exodus from Egypt, and each time it uses a different formulation. This teaches us that one must tailor his storytelling to the abilities and personality of each child.

In one place it states: “When in the future your child asks you, ‘What are these testimonies, laws, and principles that the Lord our God commanded you?’” (Devarim 6:20). The fact that he asks in a detailed manner – “What are these testimonies, laws, and principles” – implies that we are dealing with a wise child, and the verses that follow teach us that in the answer we give to the wise child we must explain at length the whole matter of the Exodus from Egypt, the mitzvot of Pesaḥ, and the destiny of the Jewish people. Therefore, the answer for the wise child is the longest and most detailed (as shown in the next section).

Elsewhere it states: “When your children ask you, ‘What is this service to you?,’ say, ‘It is a Paschal sacrifice to God, Who passed over (‘pasaḥ’) the houses of the Israelites in Egypt, when He smote Egypt and spared our homes” (Shemot 12:26-27). This refers to the wicked son, who calls the mitzvot “work” (“avoda”), as it is difficult for him to observe them, and who says, “What is this service to you?,” as he does not feel like a participant in the mitzvot. Nevertheless, the Torah commands us to address him and explain to him Israel’s uniqueness, as expressed in the Paschal sacrifice, because we must always believe that the words may penetrate his heart and that he will gird himself with strength and faith, sanctify God’s name, and carry the torch of tradition forward.

It also states: “When in the future your child asks: ‘What is this?,’ say to him, ‘With a mighty hand God took us out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. When Pharaoh refused to free us, God killed every firstborn in Egypt, human and beast alike’” (Shemot 13:14-15). The question “What is this?” indicates that the asker is simple and does not know how to sharpen his question. The Torah commands us to explain to him, according to his abilities, the impressive events that took place during the Exodus from Egypt, the mighty plagues that struck the Egyptians, and the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, which was ultimately broken by the Plague of the Firstborn. These are things the simple child absorbs and finds most impressive.

Even if the child is not moved to ask at all, one must tell him about the Exodus, as it states: ““Matzot are to be eaten…. Tell your child on that day: ‘It is because of this that God did for me when I left Egypt’” (Shemot 13:7-8). Since he does not ask any questions, his interest must be aroused with tangible objects. We therefore say to him, “It is because of this” – by virtue of the matzot, maror, and Paschal sacrifice God performed miracles for us and took us out of Egypt. Thus, we put the Seder plate on the table so that each food on it can illustrate one of the meanings of the Seder night.[3]

[3]. It is worth noting that the answer given to the wicked child was spoken in context of the mitzva to bring the Pesaḥ offering in Egypt and in future generations (Shemot 12), for sacrificing an animal and sprinkling its blood raise the biggest questions for him. Nevertheless, the answer to his question is not evasive. It addresses the uniqueness of the Jewish people, a topic whose roots are beyond human comprehension and whose branches appear throughout the course of history. The response to the child who does not know how to ask comes from Shemot 13:8 following the commandment to eat matza on Pesaḥ. Apparently, it is through the concrete act of eating matza that we can explain the ideas of the Exodus to him, until he reaches a good understanding. (The child who does not know how to ask is not stupid, merely uninterested). The response to the simple son is written in the context of the sanctity of firstborns. Because he is not very intelligent, his father must teach him fear of heaven and respect for sanctity. This is accomplished by contemplating God’s power and the Plague of the Firstborn. As a result, this child will accept the mitzvot, whose goal is to sanctify us and distinguish us from all other nations. The question of the wise son is not mentioned specifically in the context of Pesaḥ; rather, it is mentioned in Devarim 6 regarding the foundations of belief and the destiny of the Jewish people. Since everything stems from the Exodus, the Sages understood that the wise child’s question is related to the mitzvot of Pesaḥ. Through that we explain to the wise son all the basic principles of faith.

06. The Main Message of the Hagada

In order to understand fully the goal of the Hagada and the story of the Exodus from Egypt, we must consider the question of the wise child and the answer he receives, for he is the preferred child, and we pray that all our children develop and succeed in becoming wise.

As befits him, the wise child poses a detailed question, as it is stated: “When in the future your child asks you, ‘What are these testimonies, laws, and principles that the Lord our God commanded you?’” (Devarim 6:20). The answer initially addresses the Exodus from Egypt but then broadens to include the overall purpose of the Jewish people: to come to Eretz Yisrael, to adhere to God, to fulfill all of His mitzvot, and to earn His benevolence:

Say to your child, “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, but God took us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. God brought great and terrible miracles and demonstrations upon Egypt, Pharaoh, and his entire household before our very eyes. He brought us out of there in order to bring us to, and give us, the land He promised to our forebears. God commanded us to keep all of these laws, to fear the Lord our God, for the sake of our everlasting benefit, so that He might sustains us as we are today. And it shall be considered our virtue to observe and perform all these commandments before the Lord our God, as He commanded us. (ibid. 6:21-25)

We see, then, that the aim of the Seder is to impart to our children, by telling the story of the Exodus, the desire to belong to the people of Israel, to inherit the Promised Land, to adhere to God, and to perform all of His mitzvot.

To enable us to tell the story of the Exodus to the wise child without leaving out any of its essential components, the Men of the Great Assembly, who lived at the beginning of the Second Temple period, composed the text of the Hagada. Over time, the leading Tanna’im, Amora’im, and Ge’onim added passages containing important elements related to the mitzvot of the Hagada. Finally, about 800 years ago, a consensus version was accepted by all Jewish communities, based on the text of R. Amram Gaon.

The text of the Hagada is thus the complete story, and whoever recites it covers all aspects of the Exodus from Egypt. Nonetheless, the more one explains the Hagada and expands upon it with illuminating ideas, stories, and laws related to Pesaḥ and the Exodus, the more commendable it is.[4]

[4]. The text of the Hagada is the complete answer to the wise child. However, the Hagada itself states that the answer to the wise child is: “after the Paschal sacrifice, we do not conclude with dessert (afikoman).” The Hagada means to say that we teach the wise son all of the laws of Pesaḥ until the very last one, namely, that we do not eat anything after the consumption of the afikoman. (Originally, the sacrifice was the last thing eaten at the Seder; we now eat matza – the afikoman – instead.) This law highlights how beloved the mitzvot of the Seder are: we do not want to eat anything after the afikoman, so that the taste of the matza remains in our mouths. It also seems that the wise child has a tendency to discuss and attend to peripheral issues. On the Seder night, the goal is to understand the larger principles in all their profound simplicity. Thus, we say to him: “Do not go for dessert after eating the Paschal sacrifice. Focus on the main thing without getting sidetracked.”

Some had the custom of reciting the berakhaal sipur yetzi’at Mitzrayim” (“regarding the telling of the Exodus from Egypt”) before reciting the Hagada. This is not our practice, for several possible reasons: According to Me’iri, the berakha of “emet ve-emuna,” recited following the recitation of the nighttime Shema, counts as the berakha on the Hagada. According to Rabbeinu Yeruḥam, kiddush at the beginning of the Seder counts as the berakha on the Hagada. According to Responsa Rosh 24:2, it is not necessary to recite a berakha on the Hagada, since the main aspect of the mitzva is to eat the matza and maror while also telling the story. Berakhot are in fact recited on the matza and maror. According to Maharal (Gevurot Hashem 5:62), the key aspect of the mitzva is to understand, and we do not recite berakhot on thoughts. According to Shibolei Ha-leket, the berakha recited at the end, “asher ga’alanu” (“Who has redeemed us”), is a berakha on the Hagada. Ma’aseh Nisim adds that since we recite “asher ga’alanu” as part of the Hagada, we should not recite a berakha beforehand just as one does not recite a berakha on the mitzva of reciting Birkat Ha-mazon.

07. From Indignity to Praise

The Sages state that one must begin the story of the Exodus with indignity (“genut”) and end it with praise (“shevaḥ”). To what sort of “indignity” does this refer? Some say it refers to physical indignity – the fact that we were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, that the Egyptians embittered our lives with all manner of hard labor, until God redeemed us from them (the view of Shmuel). Others say that it refers to spiritual indignity – the fact that our distant ancestors, Teraḥ and Lavan, were pagans, and through a long process of refinement we became an entire nation of monotheists (the view of Rav). In practice, we follow both approaches, recounting in the Hagada the process of our emergence from enslavement to freedom as well as the process that took us from idolatry to the point when God revealed Himself to us, and we achieved complete faith (Pesaḥim 116a).

At first glance, it might seem preferable to tell only the pleasant and agreeable stories. A deeper second glance, however, makes it clear that the more we contemplate the hardships of the enslavement and the ignominy of the paganism practiced by our forefathers, the better we can grasp the enormity of our redemption. Light is more discernible in the midst of darkness.

In addition, discussing our undignified beginnings allows us to better understand that Israel’s uniqueness is not contingent upon our success or good deeds, but is rooted in divine election that lies beyond all human comprehension. f Though we lacked all dignity as contemptible slaves, God chose us from all other nations and took us out of Egypt with signs and demonstrations. Despite the fact that our forefathers were idolaters, God chose to reveal Himself to us and give us the Torah. Thus, Israel’s special status is not contingent on anything of this world, but on Divine fiat.

This can also teach us about Israel’s unique ability to turn darkness into light and evil into good, and to bring redemption to the world. We therefore start the story by emphasizing our former indignity, to show that from the ignorance of paganism and servitude we rose up and achieved great things. This is an encouraging and comforting message: As then, so too now – our redemption will emerge from the suffering and travails of recent generations.

Additionally, discussing the fact that we were ignoble slaves awakens our sensitivity and consideration for strangers and for the unfortunate who suffer and need help, as it is stated: “Do not oppress the stranger, for you know how it feels to be a stranger, since you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Shemot 23:9).

08. The Meaning of the Ten Plagues

The Torah describes the ten plagues at length, without omitting a single plague. There are many things we can learn from this. The most obvious is that there is a Judge and there is justice, and the wicked eventually will be punished. Those who are especially wicked, like the Egyptians, who enslaved an entire nation, imposed backbreaking labor, and drowned their male children in the Nile, deserved to receive their full punishment, so that all generations might learn this lesson.

There is also a profound allusion here. As we know, the world was created with ten divine utterances (Rosh Hashana 32a). Kabbala interprets these as ten sefirot, or “emanations,” with which God created the world and continues to maintain and sustain it. However, until the nation of Israel emerged, these sefirot were concealed and hidden. Just as these ten spiritual elements were hidden, so too the Israelites, before they matured enough to emerge as a nation, were enslaved in Egypt.

When Israel finally reached maturity, numbering 600,000 (see above 1:4), the time had come for them to go free. It was then that God commanded Moshe to go to Pharaoh and order him to “free My people so they may make a pilgrimage to Me in the wilderness.” Moshe did so, but Pharaoh refused to free them, saying, “Who is God that I should heed His call to free Israel. I do not know God and I will not free Israel” (Shemot 5:1-2). Pharaoh stubbornly refused God’s command many times. But God’s will prevails. No human being can stand against God’s command, not even the leader of the strongest empire in the world. Using the same ten elements He used to create the world, God rocked the Egyptian empire with plague after plague, so that the ten utterances of Creation took the form of ten plagues, until the Egyptians were completely broken, and Israel went free.

When we arrived at Mount Sinai, God revealed the meaning of those same ten utterances in the Ten Commandments, the Torah’s foundation.

09. Pesaḥ, Matza, and Maror

The Mishna teaches: “Rabban Gamliel would say: ‘Whoever does not say these three things on Pesaḥ has not fulfilled his obligation, and they are: Pesaḥ, matza, and maror‘” (Pesaḥim 126a).

This means that even one who cannot recite the entire Hagada must at least delve into the three food-related mitzvot of the Seder night. The Torah thus states regarding the mitzva to teach the child who does not know how to ask: “Tell your child on that day: ‘It is because of this that God did for me when I left Egypt’” (Shemot 13:8), and the Sages teach: “‘because of this’ means when matza and maror are before you on your table” (Mekhilta Bo 17). This teaches that one must at least reflect upon the reasons for the three foods we have been commanded to eat on the Seder night. Even though we are unable to offer the Paschal sacrifice nowadays, we are nonetheless commanded to recall its meaning.[5]

Because, as we have seen, the Seder is conducted in question-and-answer form, we recite: “The Pesaḥ [sacrifice] that our ancestors would eat when the Temple still stood, what is it for?”; “This matza that we eat, what is it for?”; and “This maror that we eat, what is it for?”

The Paschal offering expresses Israel’s special relationship with God, matza expresses freedom, and maror expresses the significance of the enslavement.

The Paschal offering expresses Israel’s special relationship with God because it recalls God’s miraculous differentiation between Israel and other nations, slaying the Egyptian firstborn while “passing over” the homes of the Israelites. One might say that Israel’s special status is not obvious to all as long as the Temple lies in ruins, and so we cannot offer the Paschal sacrifice nowadays.

The matza, though, which expresses our redemption from Egypt, is a perpetual mitzva, as we have never lost the freedom we obtained when we left Egypt and became wholly attached to God. This is true freedom, because only one who occupies himself with Torah is truly free. Even when we are enslaved among the nations, our spirit remains free, for the Torah allows us to transcend material enslavement.

Maror is a mitzva of rabbinic origin during periods when the Paschal sacrifice cannot be offered. Maror alludes to the pain and bitterness of the enslavement, and perhaps it is only when we are able to offer the Paschal sacrifice that we can grasp the full meaning of our suffering, which refines and purifies us, and understand how our salvation sprouted from all of our travails. Then, the mitzva to eat maror becomes de-Oraita. But when the Temple is in ruins and we do not have the privilege to bring the Paschal offering, we must still believe that all our suffering is for the good. Nevertheless, it is hard for us to understand the full meaning of our suffering and see how our salvation arises directly from them. Therefore, the mitzva of maror is de-rabanan.

[5]. According to Ran and Ramban, one who recites the entire Hagada except for the sections about Pesaḥ, matza, and maror fulfills his obligation, albeit not in the optimal fashion. Some explain that according to Rambam (MT Laws of Ḥametz and Matza 8:4) and Tosafot, if one neglects to invoke Pesaḥ, matza, and maror he does not fulfill his obligation to tell the story of the Exodus. However, a literal reading of their words is not compelling, for it is possible they referred to one who did not tell the story of the Exodus at all. If such a person mentions Pesaḥ, matza, and maror he fulfills his obligation, and if not, he does not. See Berur Halakha on Pesaḥim 116b which explains that the poskim debate the reason for mentioning Pesaḥ, matza, and maror. Some maintain that invoking them is necessary for the proper fulfillment of eating Pesaḥ, matza, and maror. Without explaining their meanings, one does not properly fulfill the mitzvot of eating them. Others maintain that invoking Pesaḥ, matza, and maror is needed to properly perform the telling of the Exodus. Binyan Tziyon §30 suggests that Pesaḥ Sheni, the make-up date for those who were unable to offer the Paschal sacrifice at its proper time, constitutes a practical difference between these two approaches: if invoking these elements is connected to the eating, one would still need to invoke them, but if it is connected to the telling of the story, one need not invoke them.

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