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The Mouth Of Pesach (Pesach)

Oct 21, 2009 by Rabbi Pesach Siegel


 From even a cursory gleaning of the laws and customs of the Pesach holiday it is quite evident that the faculty of speech figures prominently. A few examples should suffice:


The Shabbos prior to Pesach is called Shabbos HaGadol. The Maharil explains the meaning behind the term. He says that it is the Shabbos when we increase our prayers, beseeching, and Torah drashos (public sermons). Our very speech expands and becomes “gadol”.


Matzah is referred to as “lechem oni” – bread that one recites upon it many things. When we recite the Hallel we recite it on the matzah. When we say the Hagaddah we say it on the Matzah.


The cardinal mitzvah of the Seder night is sippur yetzias mitzrayim. Even if one finds himself alone, he should verbally recite the seder to himself.


Let us examine why speech occupies such a role.


The Gemorah in Sanhedrin poses the eternal question. What is the ultimate purpose in the creation of man? “To toil”, answers the Gemorah. Man was born to toil. “To toil in what?” queries the Gemorah. “The toil of the mouth. The toil of Torah speech”.


Conversing, talking, is the purpose of creation!? What about the worthy pursuits of limud haTorah (sans speech), fulfillment of mitzvos, emulation of the middos of HaKodesh Baruch Hu? What is it about the power of speech that gives it such a cardinal role in creation?


The answer lies in the unique dual nature of creation. Hashem created a world of shamayim and aretz, body and spirit, physical and meta-physical, olam hazeh and olam haba. Man, being created in the tzelem of Elokim, resides in both worlds. His grasp extends from the lowest nether-depths until the untold heights. His spiritual self is attuned towards the will of Hashem, and Hashem reveals His infinite wisdom to the soul of a tzelem Elokim unceasingly. This not apparent in the physical component of a tzelem Elokim. The physical part of creation is meant as a challenge. What is the challenge? To pierce the illusion, the impression of the existence of two separate worlds, the physical and the spiritual. The spiritual one where G-d’s will reigns supreme, and the physical one, where one may do as he wishes.


The mind of a Ben Yisroel has a perpetual connection to the “doings” of the neshoma.

Through the power of thought one has access to all the wondrous revelations that the neshoma is privy to. When one toils in Torah, Hashem grants him the blessing of wisdom and understanding. Understanding in Torah emanates from the relationship of the neshoma with the master melamed, Hashem yisborach.


When these hard earned words of wisdom are expressed in the form of speech, something happens. The gap between the physical and non-physical narrows. The mechitza drops. The two worlds become one.


This is the purpose of creation.


Shlomo HaMelech in Sefer Koheles tells us, Zeh Le’umas zeh asa haElokim. Everything in creation has a parallel, a negative parallel. There is speech and along with speech was created anti-speech. Anti-speech is not the expression of wisdom beyond this world. Quite the opposite, it is the faculty that enables man to express his lowest and basest thoughts and desires. It is the speech of the guf.


In the beginnings of time as we know it, there existed two creatures that possessed the power of speech, Adam HaRishon and the nachash hakadmoni (original serpent). We are not privy to the exact words that passed between the nachash and Chava. What we do know is that he used the power of speech to seduce her to sin against the Creator. Chazal find him guilty of lashon hora, based on his claim that Hashem’s reason for forbidding Adam and Chava from partaking of the Eitz Hadaas was due to jealousy, chas vashalom. By partaking of the forbidden fruit they would become as great as gods.


Chava ate and from then on speech was never the same. (The name Chava means “speech”. Thus it can be stated that Adam’s “speech” was tainted). From then on it would always have the “echo” of the nachash in it. Man would be fighting a constant battle of the tongue, whether to express the wisdom of the neshoma or the black desires of the body.


This battle bridges the generations. The wicked Eisav used his power of speech to distort reality, bombarding his saintly father with Torah queries, endeavoring to convey an aura of piety. (The Medrash relates that Eisav was born with the impression of a snake on his thigh). Yaakov Avenu made it his life’s work to regain what was lost by Adam HaRishon. He was successful. The toil of his life produced a ben adam who was connected to the higher parts of his reality. The loftier world was revealed through his dibur (speech). A great danger was present, the danger of Eisav being proclaimed the successor to Yitzchok. Eisav sought to fashion the whole world in his image. His speech should be the last word. His definition of creation should be the accepted one. The blessings of Yitzchok would enable his dream to come true. Providentially, Yaakov Avenu snatched the blessings away from Eisav. The one way to expose an imposter is for the true voice to reveal itself. What were the words of Yitzchak at that propitious moment, “Hakol kol Yaakov” - Yaakov has the voice, he is the master of his power of speech. The world was created for Yaakov.”  Through Yaakov, Adam HaRishon emerged victorious over the nachash.


When did this victory occur? On Pesach. (Chazal tell us that Yaakov Avenu prepared a sheep for his father. This was his Korban Pesach).


Eisav’s great grandson, Haman had the gift of gab. He used his koach hadibur to destroy an entire nation (almost). He was a master of lashon hora. He was able to distort the positive qualities of the Bnei Yisroel and utilize those very qualities to cast the yidden in a negative light. (They are a G-d fearing people, they stick to themselves, they don’t intermarry, etc.).  Mordechai was a true scion of Yaakov Avenu. The gemorah in Meseches Menachos tells us that he was also known as P’sachya – The meanings of speech were an open book to him. Only he was able to understand the “speech” of a mute, unearthing from him the location of the barley crop needed for the Korban Omer, or the intent behind the words of a new mother when bringing her korban. He knew and understood the nuances of all the spoken languages, enabling him to discover the plot against King Achashveirosh at the hands of the two Tarsi’im, Bigsan and Teresh, a pivotal point in the salvation of Klal Yisroel. The downfall of Haman occurred on Pesach as well.


Now perhaps we can understand the enigmatic words of Moshe Rabeinu in response to being called upon by Hashem to be his messenger to Pharaoh. “How will Pharaoh listen to me.  I am not a man of words. I am aral sefasayim (possess a speech impediment)”. Would a mere speech impediment prevent Moshe from performing Hashem’s mission? Or the fact that he was not a practiced orator? Moshe, upon contemplating himself, saw an impurity in his power of speech. It was not yet free from the impact of the nachash hakadmoni. He felt inadequate. Only one whose words “ring true” without any impurities will be successful in his words being heard. The phrase “aral sefasayim” is quite appropriate. In the words of Chazal, orlah is synonymous with the impact of the nachash.


The prophet Yechezkel refers to Pharaoh as “hatanim hagadol” – the great serpent. The name Pharaoh is an acronym of the words Peh Ra (evil mouth). Mitzrayim was the source of Tumah. They were capable of harnessing the spiritual forces in creation for the service of the physical desires. All thoughts, speech, and actions were drawn towards the pursuit of passion. In the environment of Mitzrayim it was impossible to express the type of speech that the world was created for. The enslaved Bnei Yisroel built the cities of Pisom and Ramses. “Pisom” is an acronym for pi sasum – sealed mouth. The contact with the higher world was deeply buried. Hashem’s voice was not heard in creation. As Pharaoh said, “Mi Hashem asher eshma bikolo” – Who is Hashem that I should listen to his voice?”   Pharaoh was not feigning ignorance of the existence of Hashem. He was stating that in a world where Hashem’s voice is not heard, then, there is no requirement to listen to His word.


Moshe’s mission was to “speak” to Pharaoh (Bo, daber el Pharaoh). And how he spoke to Pharaoh! Never again could it be said that Hashem’s voice was not heard in creation. The miracles of the makos resounded throughout the world, fusing together the natural and supernatural worlds. Pharaoh, the serpent, was toppled.


The Bnei Yisroel, upon exiting Mitzrayim, camped by “Pi HaCheros” – mouth of freedom. Rashi tells us this is Pisom. Their mouths became unsealed. The nation of Israel regained the power of speech.  Moshe Rabeinu claimed that he is an “aral sefasayim”. Post yetzias Mitzrayim, he was the one who lead the Bnei Yisroel in shira.


Pesach is the time when we come in contact with the pure speech prior to the sin of the eitz hada’as. Our utterances during this period have a previously unattainable purity. We have the opportunity and responsibility to spread the malchus of Hashem throughout olam hazeh by expressing His words with speech. Our power of speech has expanded, it has become gadol.


The seforim hakedoshim say that this internal lesson is contained within the very name of the yom tov. “Pesach“ is a combination of the two words peh sach – the mouth speaks. It is a time when we can revitalize the life force Hashem intended for this world. Bringing Hashem’s word into olam hazeh via the power of speech invigorates this world with life. (The numerical value of the word “sach” is 68, the same value as the word “chayim”, hence Pesach is the time of the “Mouth of Life”).


The mitzvos performed by verbalization are an integral component in tikkun ha’olam – bringing our world to a state of perfection.


May we be zoche to that great day of “Az yimaleh s’chok pinu” – may our mouths be filled with joy.


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