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The Sweetness of Bitterness

22/03/13 08:26:11


R Pesach Siegel

The Sweetness of Bitterness

Rav Yechezkel Landau, in his sefer, Tzion LiNefesh Chaya, ponders the order of the Pesach Seder.

The mitzvah of eating matzah precedes that of eating maror.

This follows the order found in the Torah when it says, “Al matzos umerorim yoch’luhu.” 

Rabban Gamliel, in the mishnah, also places precedence on the mitzvah of eating matzah as he says, “Whomever has failed to mention the following three things has not fulfilled his obligation; Pesach, matzah & maror.”

By eating matzah, we are commemorating the unleavened bread that the Bnei Yisroel ate upon redemption.

Maror is eaten to recall the bitterness of slavery.

First came the slavery, then the redemption followed.

Chronologically the eating and the very mention of the maror should come first.

Rav Landau explains, when an individual is in the process of committing a bitter sin, he is totally involved in the sweetness of the passing moment. One is caught up in the momentary pleasure of the aveirah. After the pleasure has passed and one has earned momentary respite from the wiles of the yetzer hara that has enticed him, the bitterness sets in. One begins to berate himself, saying, “How could I have traded eternity for a temporal pleasure.”

Mitzrayim was the bastion of spiritual impurity. The enslavement of the Jewish people was much deeper than a physical one.  Their very souls were ensnared. The intense physical pleasures of the world were accessible in their most potent form. And throughout it all, the Jewish people did not experience the bitterness their souls were undergoing.

It was only after the redemption that they became aware of the depths of depravity that they had descended to.

We emulate this by first partaking of the matzah of redemption and only then the bitter maror.

The Jewish calendar is a cycle. We undergo the same process that the Bnei Yisroel underwent upon emergence from Mitzrayim. It is a time, every year, when we are lifted up from amidst the impure environment that surrounds us. It is a period when we are removed from the false sweetness of temporary pleasure.

When we feel the bitterness of the false reality that engulfs us, we can then view ourselves as we really are.

We are free.

Sun, September 20 2020 2 Tishrei 5781