Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Parameters of Sippur Yetzias Mitzraim

There is a daily mitzvah of זכירת יציאת מצרים – “mentioning the exodus from Egypt” – which requires us to remember, orally, the exodus from Egypt. (We fulfill this mitzvah through the recitation of the third paragraph of the Shema.) Rav Chaim Soloveitchik asks, what is the difference between the daily mitzvah of זכירה – “remembering” – and the special mitzvah of סיפור – “recounting” – that we have on Pesach night?

He explains that there are three distinctions between the mitzvot of זכירה and סיפור:
  1. To fulfill the mitzvah of זכירה one only needs to mention יציאת מצרים to himself. The mitzvah of סיפור יציאת מצרים requires that you tell the story over to another person in the form of a question and answer discussion.
  2. The narrative of the סיפור must follow the pattern of מתחיל בגנות ומסים בשבח – “begin with shame and conclude with praise” – whereas זכירה does not require any narrative at all.
  3. The mitzvah of סיפור יציאת מצרים also includes discussing the טעמי המצוות (“reasons for the mitzvot”) that we perform at the Seder, as we read in the Hagada from Rabban Gamliel.
The Brisker Rav, Rav Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik, points out that we can see this last point in the question and answer of the “Wise Son”, which makes no mention of the story of the Exodus, but only about the laws of the Pesach offering.

The Brisker Rav expands further on this idea, noting that at the beginning of Maggid (which is basically an introduction to the mitzvah of sippur, in which we describe how important the mitzvah is and recount how even the greatest sages invested great effort into it) we include a passage about a debate between Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya and the Sages regarding the daily mitzvah of זכירת יציאת מצרים.

The Brisker Rav explains that, as we see from the Rambam, this debate was part of the discussion that took place at the seder in Bnei Brak described in the previous paragraph, and the fact that the Sages discussed this topic at their seder demonstrates that any discussion of any mitzvah or halacha connected to Pesach or the Exodus from Egypt, is included in the mitzvah of סיפור יציאת מצרים. It was precisely to teach us this rule that this paragraph was included in the Hagada.
(הגדה מבית לוי)

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