Thursday, March 14, 2013

Haggadah: The End of Maggid


In our previous post, we presented the structure of Maggid. We noted that the middle of Maggid tells the story of our suffering in Egypt, and our redemption. There is some debate, though, as to where we end this story.

Our Haggadah takes the story through the makkot (plagues), but then, before Rabban Gamliel's closing statement about the centrality of the Korban Pesach, Matzah and Marror, we insert a midrashic passage regarding the number of plagues in Egypt and at the Sea, and the Dayyenu song which summarizes Divine miracles on our behalf. The Rambam, in his Haggadah, omitted this midrash and song. What is the reason for including or omitting these elements?

Rav Soloveitchik explained that the Rambam (as seen in Hilchot Chametz uMatzah 7:1) believed that the Seder is meant to discuss our experience in Egypt, and our rescue from there - but this ends with our actual Exodus. All that happens afterward is not part of the Seder. Therefore, we halt with the list of ten plagues. (For more, see Rav Hershel Schachter's article in Masorah 3 (Nisan 5750), pp. 27-28.)

It is possible, though, to suggest a justification for including the later miracles at the Sea. When Gd told Avraham that we would be 'strangers in a land not our own', compelled to work and to suffer, He also promised that the nation that harmed us would be judged for their deeds. The midrash which counts the plagues at the sea presents the punishment the Egyptians received for their cruelty during the enslavement of the Jews (more on that in "What happened to the Egyptians at the Sea, and why does it matter?"), and so it truly details part of the Egyptian experience.

Perhaps the same may even be said for Dayyenu, which records our national path all the way to the construction of the Beit haMikdash. The song, which is ancient - it appears in the 9th century Haggadah of Rav Amram Gaon - depicts our Egypt experience as an inextricable part of a longer arc. True, as the Rambam said, the Seder is meant to focus on what we endured in Egypt. Nonetheless, to ignore the national identity formed in Egypt, and the chain of events catalyzed by our national slavery, would be to omit the significance of the Egyptian experience itself. Therefore, our Haggadah includes those later events as well.

Have a great day,

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