A Guide for Magid -
How We Tell the Story of Yetziat Mitzrayim

What is the most important part of Magid? We are all familiar with the four questions, the four sons and the many songs etc., but when and how during Magid do we actually tell over the story of Yetziat Mitzrayim (the Exodus)?

To answer this question, and to better appreciate the Haggada, this week's shiur analyzes the flow and structure of Magid.

Our primary obligation on the seder night is to tell over the story of the Exodus [Sipur Yetziat Mitzrayim]. In contrast to our daily 'passive' obligation to 'remember' the Exodus [Z'chirat Yetziat Mitzrayim - which we fulfill in daily kriyat shma by reciting Bamidbar 15:41], on the evening of the 15th of Nisan we are obligated to 'actively' tell that story.

[This obligation is based on the pasuk in Parshat Bo:

"V'higad'ta - and you must tell your son on that day, saying: ba'avur zeh..." (Shmot 13:8)
The precise meaning of this pasuk is discussed in the further iyun section below.]

With this in mind, let's take a closer look at magid in order to determine when and where we actually fulfill this mitzvah to tell the story of the Exodus. In the shiur, we will review each section in order to determine if (and how) it tells the story of Yetziat Mitzrayim. In the event that a certain section does not tell that story, we must then explain why that section has been included in magid nonetheless.

Ha Lachma Anya - A Preface
The opening paragraph of magid - "ha lachma anya..." is definitely not the story of Yetziat Mitzrayim, but rather an 'invite.' Even though it opens with a quick explanation about the matza on the table, it immediately becomes an open invitation for others to participate ["kol dichfin..."].

[This opening statement of "ha lachma anya" appears a bit problematic since it leaves the impression that we eat matzah to remind ourselves that Bnei Yisrael ate matzah during their slavery, while from Sefer Shmot it seems that the main reason we eat matza is to remind ourselves of the hurried nature in which Bnei Yisrael left Egypt (see Shmot 12:17 and 12:33-40). Nevertheless, this statement may be based on Devarim 16:1-4, where matzah is defined as "lechem oni" - bread of affliction. The question is whether "lechem oni" defines for us what matzah is, or explains why we eat matzah. (See Ramban on this pasuk ["lechem oni"] where he discusses the two independent reasons for eating matzah; see the other commentators as well.) "Lechem oni" may also relate to the matza that we eat with Korban Pesach in contrast to the matza that we eat on the seven days of Chat HaMatzot which is because of "chipazon." See shiur on Pesach and Chag HaMatzot.]

In any case, this paragraph is not part of "sipur yetziat Mitzrayim;" rather, it acts as a general introduction and an open invitation for others to join the Seder. Therefore, we have defined it as a preface. (See Board #1.)

Mah Nishtanah - Catching the Children's Attention
The famous "mah nishtana" that follows is again not part of the story, but rather ensures that the children will take interest in the story that we are about to tell. Obviously, the children asking enhances our fulfillment of "v'higadta l'vincha" (see Shmot 13:8) as well as similar psukim relating to "when your children will ask..." (see Shmot 12:26, 13:14 and Devarim 6:20). (See Board #2.)

However, even though you might not have noticed, we don't answer the "mah nishtana" right away, nor do we immediately begin with the story of Yetziat Mitzrayim. Instead, we return to Sefer Devarim. Let's explain why.

Avadim Hayinu - Our Obligation to Keep All Mitzvot
"Avadim hayinu..." may at first sound like the beginning of a story, but when we continue this paragraph, we don't find a story; rather, we find a more precise definition of our obligation.

In "avadim hayinu..." we make two very important statements:

In other words, before we tell the story, we first define our obligation! Therefore, first we explain: The first statement deals with the most fundamental underlying question of the Haggada - what obligates all future generations to thank God for a redemption that took place for only one specific generation? As we shall see, this point will resurface several times in the Haggada. [Note "v'hi she'amda" and "b'chol dor v'dor."]

Our second statement relates to yet another important consideration. One could think that our obligation is simply to know the story of the Exodus, and hence our obligation is only to inform those who do not yet know the story (a 'passive' obligation). Instead, the Haggada tells us that our obligation is to tell the story ('actively'), over and over again and at great length, even though we already know all of its details.

To prove this second statement, we bring a proof from the story of the five scholars who spent the entire Seder night (until dawn) telling over the story of the Exodus. Even in Bnei Brak - where everyone is a rabbi or Yeshiva student - everyone remains obligated to tell the story! (See Board #3.)

The Four Sons
The next section of magid - beginning with "baruch haMakom", discusses the four sons. Here, once again, we do not find the actual story of Yetziat Mitzrayim, but rather yet another aspect of our obligation, i.e. how we are to tell the story. As we explain in our shiur on this topic, the basic message of this section is that we must be 'dynamic' teachers as we tell over the story, and adapt it to the level of our audience. (See Board #4.)

Yachol MeiRosh Chodesh...
This section ends with one final paragraph: "yachol m'rosh chodesh..." which explain when we are obligated to tell the story, i.e. on the night of the 15th of Nisan, and not any earlier or later. One may have assumed that since the holiday is celebrated in "Chodesh ha'aviv" (see 13:1-4), and since the original commandment to keep Pesach was given on Rosh Chodesh Nisan (see 12:1-3), that our obligation begins on the first of Nisan. Therefore, we explain why our primary obligation remains only on that specific evening when we eat the Korban Pesach and matzah. (See Board #5.)

Finally, after defining the various aspects of our obligation, we begin the story of Yetziat Mitzrayim with "mit'chila ovdei avodah zarah..."

Mit'chila... - Where Does the Story Begin?
At this point in magid, we are finally ready to begin to tell our story. However, we now encounter a new problem - from where does the story of Yetziat Mitzrayim actually begin? Technically speaking, we could start with the story of creation of mankind. More practically speaking, we should start with the story of our enslavement in Egypt. So where should we start? From:

For some reason, the Haggada answers 'none of above.' Instead, it chooses to begin with God's choice of the Avot, by quoting Yehoshua's speech at Shechem:
"Mit'chila ovdei avoda zara hayu avoteinu... - our forefathers were once idol worshipers... but God chose Avraham, Yitzchak... and Yaakov and his children went down to Egypt." (see Yehoshua 24:1-5; note where the quote ends!)
In a nutshell, these three psukim constitute a summary of the primary theme of Sefer Breishit, i.e. God's choice of the Avot to become His special nation. But why does the story of Yetziat Mitzrayim begin here?

The answer is simple but fundamental. When God chose Avraham Avinu, He established a covenant in which He promised a special Land for Avraham's offspring. However, that covenant - Brit Bein HaB'tarim - included an important clause that before they would inherit that land, Bnei Yisrael would become enslaved in a foreign land from which God would later redeem them. [See Breishit 15:1-18, especially 15:13-15!]

Therefore, the full story of Yetziat Mitzrayim really begins with Brit Bein HaB'tarim, and hence God's choice of the Avot. This explains not only why we begin with "mit'chila..." but also why the next paragraph is:

"Baruch shomer havtachato... - blessed is He who keeps His promise to Am Yisrael... as God had promised Avraham Avinu at Brit Bein HaBtarim: 'Know that your offspring will be strangers in a foreign land which will oppress and enslave them for four hundred years...'"
(See Board #6.)

V'hi She'Amdah - Then and Now
But even more so, this explains why we are obligated to remember Yetziat Mitzrayim in every generation! Recall that Brit Bein HaB'tarim is not merely a promise of one event, but rather it defines an eternal relationship between God and His people. Therefore, the story of Yetziat Mitzrayim is only the initial stage of an everlasting relationship, for which we must thank God for every year on "leil ha'seder". This connection between that event and all future generations neatly explains the next paragraph in magid:

"V'hi she'amda l'avoteinu... - and it is this [covenant (or promise), i.e. Brit Bein HaB'tarim] which stood for our fathers, and for us as well, for not only once were we in danger of destruction, but in every generation... and Hashem saves us [in every generation] from our enemies."
(See Board #7.)

Arami Oved Avi
With this 'prophetic background,' we are finally ready to tell the story itself. However, again to our surprise, we do not tell the story in a straightforward manner, but rather by quoting a elaborate Midrash on the pasuk of "arami oved avi" [from "mikra bikurim" - see Devarim 26:1-10], i.e. the section in magid of "tzey u'lmad: mah bikesh Lavan...." [When you read these psukim, note their thematic and textual connection to Brit Bein HaB'tarim - "v'akmal"]

Look at this section of magid very carefully, noting how we take these four psukim from Devarim 26:5-8, 'dissect' them into very short phrases, and then support each phrase by quoting either a pasuk from the story of the Exodus in Sefer Shmot, or a pasuk in Tehillim (what we call: to 'darshen' a pasuk).

In this manner, the Haggada uses the psukim of "arami oved avi" as the 'frame' for telling over the story of Yetziat Mitzrayim. [I recommend that you review this in your Haggada, noting how the Midrash of this pasuk takes us all from the story of the Avot until the story of the Makkot [the Ten Plagues] and the splitting of the Red Sea, and thus completes the entire story of the Exodus.]

This point is extremely important, for this "drasha" of "arami oved avi" is the actual sipur of Yetziat Mitzrayim - therefore it should be the most important section of the Haggada! [Unfortunately, this is usually one of the most neglected parts of the Haggada, since this is usually when most of us are either hiding the afikomen, measuring their "kezayis" of matzah, reading "chidushim" (or internet shiurim), or start snooping around the kitchen checking out what's for "shulchan aruch").]

Again we find that we don't begin with the story of the Exodus, for it was not by chance that Bnei Yisrael became slaves in Egypt. Their slavery was part of a divine plan which was first explained to Avraham Avinu in Brit Bein HaB'tarim. Therefore, the story cannot simply begin with the enslavement of Bnei Yisrael. Rather, it must begin with Brit Avot, God's covenant with the forefathers, in which the concept of Yetziat Mitzrayim was already foreseen.

The story itself is told through the "nusach" of mikra bikurim as explained in Mishnayot Pesachim. [See Rambam on Hilchot Chametz u'Matza chapter 7, especially halacha 4!]

Note also why this is considered a "nusach" of "haggada" to fulfill our obligation from Shmot 13:8 based on Devarim 26:3! [Note the use of the word "Higad'ti" in 26:3; compare with "V'higad'ta l'vincha" in Shmot 13:8.]

Therefore, it's important that we not only pay special attention to this section of magid, but we must also make sure to explain the details of the story of the Exodus at this point, especially for those who don't understand these psukim. (See Board #8.)

[Note also the mishnayot in the tenth Perek of Pesachim, where the mishnah states: "v'dorshin mei'arami oved avi ad sof kol ha'parsha" - this reflects our explanation of the centrality of "arami oved avi" in the Haggada.]

The song of Dayyenu that follows this Midrash serves as both a poetic summary of this story and a form of Hallel (praise). (See Board #9.) [See separate 'mini-shiur' on this topic.] Nonetheless, according to the Rambam, Dayyenu does not constitute an integral part of magid (i.e. he does not include it in his "nusach" for magid found at the conclusion of his Hilchot chametz u'mataza; rather it is sort of an 'add on.'

Rabban Gamliel
Now that we have completed telling the story, we want to make sure that we also fulfill Rabban Gamliel's opinion that while telling the story of Yetziat Mitzrayim, we must also be sure to mention the reasons for pesach, matza, and marror, i.e. we must explain the connection between the special mitzvot that we keep at the Seder and the story that we tell. In the tenth perek of Mesechet Pesachim, Raban Gamliel states that one not does fulfill his obligation [of magid - see Meiri] unless he explains the reason for each mitzvah. (See Board #10.) Therefore, this section forms the conclusion of 'sipur Yetziat Mitzrayim' - and we are now ready to say Hallel - to praise God for our salvation.

[It is not clear precisely which obligation Rabban Gamliel is referring to. It may be the obligation of "sipur Yetziat Mitzrayim;" this would explain why it is added at the conclusion of the "sipur Yetziat Mitzrayim" section. Alternatively, it may be the obligation to eat the korban pesach, matza and maror (i.e. by eating matza alone, without explaining why, one does not fulfill the mitzvah).]

This section may also be considered a 'fill in' for the Korban Pesach itself. During the time of the Bet HaMikdash, magid was said while eating the korban pesach. Nowadays, since the korban cannot be offered, we mention pesach, matza and maror instead of offering it. Thus, this section forms an excellent introduction to the Hallel, which in ancient times was recited as the Korban Pesach was offered, and later on once again when it was eaten.

B'chol Dor V'dor
Before we say Hallel, we must qualify our praise by stating our own connection to this story that we have told. Again, the Haggada returns to our underlying theme that our very relationship with God, and hence our obligation to keep all of the mitzvot, stems from God's covenant at Brit Bein HaB'tarim and the events of Yetziat Mitzrayim (as explained in Devarim 6:20-24). Therefore, we conclude by stating that in every generation each individual must feel as though he himself was redeemed from Egypt - and prove it from Moshe's statement to Bnei Yisrael in Devarim 6:20-24 of "avadim hayinu..." that concludes with "v'otanu hotzi mi'sham." [See psukim inside!]

In other words, if Moshe is commanding the second generation (in the fortieth year) that they must tell their children that 'they' went out of Egypt (even though most of them were not even born yet at that time), we can infer that even someone who was not alive at that time can still speak as though he himself was taken out! Based on our above explanation of the integral connection between the events of Yetziat Mitzrayim and "brit Avot," i.e. our purpose as God's special Nation, this statement of: "bchol dor v'dor chayav adam lir'ot atzmo k'iylu hu yatza miMitzrayim..." takes on additional significance - for it explains how our past relates to the present (and to our future).

Note as well how our closing statement before Hallel - "b'chol dor v'dor..." - complements the opening statement of magid (in the "avadim hayinu" paragraph) that had God had not taken us out of Egypt we would still enslaved until this very day. Now that we have told the story of Yetziat Mitzrayim, we are supposed to feel as though we ourselves were redeemed from Egypt. [It also reflects are statement of "v'hi she'amda... bchol dor v'dor kamim aleynu..." in the middle of the Haggada.]

As Devarim 6:20-25 explains, the events of Yetziat Mitzrayim obligate Am Yisrael to keep not only the mitzvot of Pesach but all of the mitzvot of the Torah! [See Sefer Kuzari section 1.]

Therefore, in the final stage of magid we praise God for Yetziat Mitzrayim as though we ourselves were redeemed. (See Board #11.)

Magid ends with the first two chapters of Hallel, followed by the 2nd cup and the bracha of "geulah" [redemption]. If we truly feel as though 'we were there' when God took us out of Egypt, then we must sing our praise of God accordingly. (See Board #12.) At this point, we read only the two chapters of Hallel that relate to Yetziat Mitzrayim itself. After the meal, when we speak of our future redemption, we complete the remaining chapters of Hallel.

Summary Outline
To help clarify the main points of our above shiur, the following outline charts out the flow of magid. MAGID - AN OVERVIEW =================== I. PREFACE - "ha lachma anya..." This section serves as an introduction and invitation for others to join. II. DEFINING OUR OBLIGATION of "sipur Yetziat Mitzrayim" A. MA NISHTANA - We encourage the children to ask in order that we can fulfill - "v'higad'ta l'vincha" B. The "avadim ha'yinu..." paragraph explains: * WHY we are obligated [otherwise we'd still be slaves] * WHO is obligated - even those who know the story! "ma'ase b'Rebbi Eliezer..." serves as proof that even those who already know the story are still obligated to re-tell it. C. The FOUR SONS section explains: * HOW we must tell the story to our children. D. The question "yachol m'rosh chodesh..." * WHEN we are obligated, i.e. on the 15th at night. III. SIPUR YETZIAT Mitzrayim - Telling the story of the Exodus A. The Biblical (prophetic) setting for MAGID [The story begins with God's covenant with the Avot] 1. "m'tchila ovdei avoda zara hayu avoteinu.." WHY the AVOT were chosen - to become a nation that will serve God/ basically - a summary of the theme of Sefer Breishit, based on Yehoshua 24:1-4 2. "baruch shomer...BRIT BEIN HA'BTARIM..."(Br.15:1-20) the covenant with the Avot in which God explains to Avraham the process of Yetziat Mitzrayim. 3. "v'hi sh'amdah..." - the eternal aspect of that covenant, i.e. of "brit bein ha'btarim". Because of this "brit", God continues to redeem Am Yisrael from peril and destruction in every generation. B. The actual story of Yetziat Mitzrayim (the Exodus) - based on a "drasha" of pasuk "arami oved avi". Each word or phrase in the declaration of thanksgiving (known as MIKRA BIKURIM) is supported by a pasuk. [This DRASHA continues until the details of the TEN PLAGUES are completed, and is the most lengthy section of the Haggada.] C. DAYYENU - a song of praise at the conclusion of the story To thank God for his salvation, we declare that even for only one stage of the redemption process it would have been enough ("dayanu") to praise God (say Hallel), even more so ("al achat kama v'kama...") that we must praise God for all fifteen stages of the redemption process. IV. RABAN GAMLIEL - the need to mention PESACH MATZA & MAROR. Raban Gamliel states that to properly fulfill one's obligation of "SIPUR Yetziat Mitzrayim" he must also explain the reason for PESACH, MATZA, and MAROR. V. HALLEL A. "b'chol dor v'dor..." we must feel as though we ourselves we redeemed B. "l'fichach..." therefore, we are obligated to praise God... C. Hallel Mitzrayim D. BIRCHAT GA'AL YISRAEL - the blessing of redemption =========

For Further Iyun
A. To fully appreciate why magid opens with "avadim hayinu," it is important to read Devarim 6:20-25 in its context in Sefer Devarim. This parsha in Chumash explains why the future generations of Am Yisrael are obligated to keep all of the mitzvot, even though they themselves were not redeemed from Egypt (only their forefathers). It focuses on our eternal obligation to keep God's mitzvot and the centrality of our redemption from Egypt as the cause for that obligation, and God's covenant with the Avot as the reason for that redemption.

Since this parsha opens with "ki yishalcha bincha" - when your son will ask you (6:20) - the Haggada places the "ma nishtana" beforehand, to properly introduce "avadim hayinu..."

This paragraph in the Haggada does not continue with the story of Yetziat Mitzrayim; rather it continues with the definition of our obligation to tell that story, even if we know it already, even if we are wise etc., as explained above.

B. V'higad'ta L'vincha - Shmot 13:8
As we explained in the above shiur, our obligation to tell over the story of the Exodus (i.e. "sipur Yetziat Mitzrayim"), the primary mitzvah of the Seder, is based on a pasuk in Parshat Bo:

"V'higad'ta - and you must tell your son on that day, saying: Ba'avur zeh - for the sake of this - God did for me when he took me out of Egypt." (Shmot 13:8)
As you can see from our 'loose' translation - it is quite difficult to determine the precise meaning of this pasuk. However, since this pasuk is the primary source for magid, it is important to study it carefully.

[Before you continue, note also how this pasuk forms a continuation of the primary obligation of "Zachor et hayom hazeh asher y'tzatem miMitzrayim..." (see 13:2-8 and their context). Note also how Rambam relates to this pasuk in his definition of the obligation of magid in the seventh perek of Hilchot chametz u'matza.]

There are three basic interpretations raised by the various commentators in relation to the meaning of "ba'avur" - for the sake of. In other words:

In his commentary, Ibn Ezra boldly interprets this pasuk in a rather unusual manner. Instead of the usual explanation that we eat matzah to remember that God took us out of Egypt, Ibn Ezra claims exactly the opposite - that God took us out of Egypt in order that we can eat matzah!

In other words, Ibn Ezra claims that God intentionally placed Bnei Yisrael in slavery in order to redeem them - to give us a reason keep His mitzvot. As we saw in the above shiur, this may actually be an underlying theme of the Haggada, since we relate the story of Yetziat Mitzrayim to Brit Bein HaB'tarim and the very reason why God chose Am Yisrael to be His special nation. [Note how nicely this fits with Devarim 6:20-24, and its context within the main speech of Sefer Devarim!]

See also Rashi on 13:8, for he explains that God took us out of Egypt in order that we can eat pesach, matza and maror. Note that this interpretation may also be the source of Rabban Gamliel's statement that we must mention all three in order to fulfill magid.

[Note also how Rashi explains "v'avadta et ha'avoda ha'zot b'chodesh hazeh as korban Pesach!" - see 13:5.]

Ramban rejects Ibn Ezra's explanation, and explains 13:8 in the standard manner that we are keeping Chag HaMatzot because God took us out of Egypt. Note how Ramban's pirush fits into the overall context of the psukim (in 13:2-10) which discuss primarily Chag HaMatzot as a way to commemorate the events of leaving Egypt. [Note how Ramban solves the problem with the meaning of the word "ba'avur."]

Finally, Chizkuni finds sort of a compromise. He claims that in the z'chut (as a reward) for a our readiness to perform the mitzvot of pesach, matza and maror for all generations, God redeemed us from Egypt.

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