Pesach, Matzah and Maror: A Summary of Our Faith
From: Helen in the U.K.
What is the significance of the statement of Rabban Gamliel in the Haggadah that one who has not said “Pesach, Matzah and Maror” has not fulfilled his obligation? If this is referring to the requirement to tell the Passover story to one’s children, how does the mention of these few words do the job? If it’s referring to the fulfillment of the actual mitzvot themselves: for one, Rabban Gamliel requires we say, not do; and secondly, the Pesach sacrifice is currently not performed. Please inform.
Certain commentators in fact explain that this is a reference to performing the mitzvot. You say: Rabban Gamliel tells us we are to make verbal reference to these mitzvot. He’s not telling us to do them, and we can’t fulfill all of them nowadays anyway. They explain that Rabban Gamliel means not that we should merely say these three words, but actually explain them (which the Haggadah goes on to do).
And this is because, while the performance of other mitzvot usually does not require one to have special intentions, these are among the few mitzvot where one is required to have their meaning in mind when fulfilling them. Why? Because
Still other commentators explain that Rabban Gamliel’s teaching is referring to the mitzvah of telling the Passover story (Haggadah). You ask how the mention of these three things does the job. These commentators explain that this section of the Haggadah completes the answering the four questions. As such, it is a repetition and summary of the entire “Maggid” section. Here’s how some of the authorities explain it:
Rabbi Yosef Albo explains that since the events of the Passover story and telling them over on Pesach play a major role in forging the Jewish People’s belief in
Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto sees in these three commandments the steps by which the Jews rose from pagan ways to the pure worship of
The Sfat Emet explains that Maror recalls the wickedness of the Egyptians and the suffering of the Jews, which led to ultimate punishment and redemption respectively. Matzah reminds us of the redemption of the Jews by recalling that they had to leave in haste before their dough could rise. Pesach recalls the arbitrary revelation of
Interestingly, while the first two explanations follow the order stated by Rabban Gamliel, namely Pesach, Matzah and Maror, the last explanation, which most closely relates to the historical aspects of the events [specifically: Jewish suffering, the Paschal lamb on the night of Passover and finally, hastily baked matzot shortly before departure] would seem to indicate that Rabban Gamliel’s order is not chronologically correct – it should be Maror, Pesach and Matzah. Why does he move Maror to the end, after Pesach and Matzah?
One possible explanation is that Rabban Gamliel mentioned Maror last in order to refer to later exiles that followed the redemption from Egypt. Rabbi Bunim of Pashischa explains that the depth of the bitterness and suffering, and thereby the greatness of the salvation, cannot be fully appreciated until after one has been redeemed from it. The author of Vayagidu L’Mordechai suggests that Rabban Gamliel intended to include in his teaching the idea that even after deliverance it is important recall one’s former suffering in order not to forget the miracles of
- The Artscroll Haggadah based on Talmudic, Midrashic and Rabbinic sources, pp. 140-3