THE NAME OF THE SABBATH which precedes Pesach is Shahbat Hagadol, the Great Sabbath. It is customary to read a portion of the Hagaddah in the afternoon beginning with Avadim hayinu and ending with the words "lechaper al avanotenu" (Orach Chayim. 430:1).

There was a time when one of the sages considered the possibility that it was the duty of a Jew to relate the story of the exodus long before Seder night. The discussion is included in the Hagaddah itself. "Could it be that the story of the exodus should be read on the first day of the month of Nisan that at the very beginning of the festive period one ought to rehearse the narrative of yetziat mitzrayim?" The answer is no, because it is said, "Thou shalt tell thy son on that day" (Exod. 13:8). This sentence implies that the Hagaddah is to be recited on the anniversary of the exodus. The sage, however, was still in doubt. Could it be that the recitation ought to take place when it is still daytime--to approximate the time when the Paschal lamb was offered in the Temple? Again the answer was in the negative, for in the command to tell the story of the departure from Egypt, the Torah employs the phrase haavur zeh--"because of this" (Ibid). The Hebrew word zeh is a demonstrative article and is used when one points one's finger at something. From this word it was deduced that the Hagaddah should be read at the time when there are matzo and bitter herbs displayed at the table so that one will be able to point at them when saying, "These are the symbols of Passover which remind us of the enslavement of our ancestors in the land of Egypt" (Mechilta Bo).

What a wonderful lesson in pedagogy this teaches! It says to us that one cannot impress a child by talk alone. The Hagaddah must be supported by zeh, by a demonstration of symbols, ceremonies, and deeds. Centuries before John Dewey and the inauguration of modern methods in education, the rabbis insisted that the best way of learning is by doing.

The Torah does not agree with cynics who say that words are unimportant and that talk is cheap. On the contrary, it insists that there are times when vehigadta is a meritorious act-when it is a mitzvah to talk. There is a time when we are urged to popularize an idea and give prominence to an epic event in the history of a people. But Judaism stipulates one condition. The Hagaddah must be punctuated with and illustrated by zeh. It must be accompanied by deeds so that the Hagaddah will not only be heard but will also be "munachim lefonekha--"displayed before your eyes."

Parents are often heard complaining about the religious education of their children. They are disappointed in the fact that after attending Hebrew School for a number of years, their boys and girls do not compare well with the products of the old cheder. 'The fault is generally neither with the Hagaddah nor the maggid-neither with the school nor the teacher-but with the zeh. The unfortunate fact is that the child is taught in the religious school to be an observant Jew, but in the home he sees that the precepts he has just mastered are violated. When the school teaches a boy about the sanctity of the Sabbath and Festivals and he comes home to find his mother cooking on the Sabbath or out shopping on yomtov, how can one blame the school or the poor confused child?

Ah yes, we must teach our children in such a manner that they will see in practice what they hear in theory. Then, and only then, can we hope to produce the kind of Jews that came forth from the old school.

The same principle can be applied to the problems that face our nation and the world. If our democratic way of life is not catching on in some areas of the world, it is because of the same failing. There is a maximum of Hagaddah and a minimum of zeh. When the beautiful ideals that are preached to the world via all means of communication are incongruent with reality, the talk is ignored. How can we expect the European, Asiatic and African nations to take our Hagaddah seriously when they hear of Watergate scandals? There is but one way to impress the world: to supplement the Hagaddah with zeh. We must prove to the world that not only do we preach equality but live it, that we not only talk integrity but have it. Then will our Hagaddah reach the hearts and minds of men.

Back Page Contents Next Page