You are on page 1of 3

Back to The Beit Midrash

Isser Zalman Meltzer (Even HaEzel, Hil. Kriyas He-


mah, 1:3) questions this assumption. Reb Isser Zal-
man maintains that even Ben Zoma, who appears to
reject the existence of this mitzvah in the Messianic
Zechiras Yetziyas era, does not reject its existence categorically. Rather,
Ben Zoma understands Zechiras Yetziyas Mitzrayim
Mitzrayim as part of a broader, more general requirement to
commemorate each of the miraculous redemptions
which Hakadosh Baruch Hu performs throughout
Rabbi Yonason Sacks the generations. This mitzvah remains eternally bind-
ing, even in Messianic times. Ben Zoma merely ar-
gues regarding the specific details within this broader
mitzvah, maintaining that the miracles of the Messi-
anic era will take the place of the Egyptian exodus. In
its core essence, however, the mitzvah to remember
Hakadosh Baruch Hu’s redemptive miracles remains
The mitzvah of “Zechiras Yetziyas Mitzrayim,” re- Pesach obligation, but not necessarily enjoining, by obligatory and unaltered.
membering the Exodus, occupies an incontrovert- force of a positive biblical commandment, to active-
ibly prominent position in Jewish consciousness. ly remember the Exodus itself. Hence, according Reb Isser Zalman’s argument finds its roots earlier,
Ramban (Shemos 13:16) notes that the Jew’s con- to Rashi, both verses in Shemos and Devarim are in the words of the Rashba (Perushei HaHagados,
stant recollection of Yetziyas Mitzrayim attests to his essential in conveying the biblical requirement for Berachos 12b) and the Ramban (Shemos 12:2).
unwavering belief in the veracity of the Creator and daily remembrance. Both Rishonim broaden the mitzvah of Zechiras
His Torah, and that “Because HaKadosh Baruch Yetziyas Mitzrayim beyond the localized historical
Interestingly, however, the Rambam makes no men- event of Yetziyas Mitzrayim. The obligation consists
Hu will not perform overt miracles in every genera-
tion of a requirement to remember Yetziyas Mitz- of constantly appreciating the wondrous miracles
tion to (convince) the wicked and the deniers, He
rayim. In light of this conspicuous omission, the which Hakadosh Baruch Hu performs on behalf
commanded us to make a constant recollection of
Ohr Sameach (Hil. Kriyas Shema 1:1) goes as far as of Bnei Yisrael. Thus, when HaKadosh Baruch
what our eyes saw, and to transmit the matter to our
to suggest that the Rambam understands the daily Hu redeemed the Jewish nation from Bavel, the
children, and from their children to their children,
obligation as being only rabbinic in nature. Rav mitzvah of Zechiras Yetziyas Mitzrayim obligated
until the final generation.” In underscoring the sig-
nificance of this commandment, Ramban enumer- Soloveitchik Zt’l (Shiurim L’Zecher Abba Mori I: national thanksgiving and commemoration of the
ates the plethora of other mitzvos which also serve Mitzvas Kriyas Shema u’Zechiras Yetzias Mitzrayim Babylonian redemption as well2. Similarly, the fu-
to deepen the Jew’s awareness of Yetziyas Mitzrayim, page 1), however, explained the Rambam’s omis- ture redemption, which will bring new miracles and
ranging from chametz and Korban Pesach to tefillin, sion of this mitzvah in a different manner1. Quoting triumphs, will necessitate new expressions of praise.
mezuzah, kriyas Shema, and sukkah. While the cen- his grandfather Reb Chayim Zt’l, the Rav explained
Granting the possibility that Zechiras Yetziyas Mitz-
trality of Zechiras Yetzias Mitzrayim in Jewish faith is that in the Rambam’s eyes, Zechiras Yetziyas Mitz-
rayim may indeed qualify as a “mitzvah l’doros,” Reb
thus quite clear, the source of this obligation is sub- rayim does indeed constitute a biblical mitzvah. The Chayim suggested an alternative possibility to ac-
ject to considerable debate. Rambam merely refrained from counting it as one of count for the Rambam’s omission. Perhaps, Reb
the canonical 613 mitzvos for technical reasons: the Chayim posited, the Rambam does not count
In identifying the source for the daily obligation to Rambam himself writes (Shoresh 3 of Sefer Hamitz-
commemorate Yetziyas Mitzrayim, Rashi (Shemos Zechiras Yetziyas Mitzrayim independently because
vos) that only mitzvos which are eternally binding, he views the mitzvah as part of a larger obliga-
13:3) quotes the Mechilta on the pasuk “Zachor es “mitzvos l’doros,” are reckoned amongst the 613. In
hayom hazeh asher yatzasem miMitzrayim mibeis tion, namely, the mitzvah of “Kabbalas Ol Malchus
the Rambam’s eyes, however, the mitzvah of Zechi- Shamayim” of kriyas Shema itself. Thus, when the
avadim.” In Berachos 21a (d.h. “Emes”), however, ras Yetziyas Mitzrayim is temporary in nature. Cit-
Rashi cites a different source for this obligation: Rambam counts keriyas Shema as a mitzvah, he
ing the Mishnaic dispute (Berachos 12b) between includes the mitzvah d’oraisa of Zechiras Yetziyas
“L’ma’an tizkor es yom tzaischa me’eretz Mitzrayim kol
Ben Zoma and the Chachamim as to whether the Mitzrayim. This possibility accords consistently
yemei chayecha” (Devarim 16:3). Apparently, Rashi
mitzvah of Zechiras Yetziyas Mitzrayim will exist in with the Rambam’s understanding of the scope of
maintains that both verses are necessary to under-
the Messianic era, Reb Chayim explained that the the biblical requirement to recite keriyas Shema, an
stand the scope of this mitzvah. Had the Torah
Rambam rules in accordance with Ben Zoma, that issue which, as we shall see, is the subject of a major
merely commanded “Zachor es hayom hazeh,” one
the mitzvah will eventually cease to exist. As such, machlokes haposkim.
may have erroneously concluded that the mitzvah
the obligation to remember Yetziyas Mitzrayim does
applies only during Pesach (see the continuation of While the text of keriyas Shema is universally accept-
not constitute a “mitzvah l’doros.” Thus, while the
Shemos 13:3). The pasuk in Devarim thus dispels ed, considerable debate exists regarding how much
mitzvah is undeniably biblical in nature, it is none-
such a notion, teaching that the obligation exists of this text is biblically mandated (mid’oraisa), and
theless technically omitted from the list of 613.
“Kol yemei chayecha” – every day of one’s life. Con- how much was instituted rabbinically (mid’rabanan).
versely, had the Torah merely presented the pasuk in While Reb Chayim suggested that the Rambam Perhaps most extreme is the opinion of Shmuel in
Devarim, “L’ma’an tizkor…,” one may have errone- omitted Zechiras Yetziyas Mitzrayim because he rules the Gemarah itself (Berachos 21a), who maintains
ously read the pasuk as teaching the reason for the that the mitzvah is only temporary in nature, Reb that the entire text is only binding on a rabbinic level.

8
C h avrusa • N issan 576 8
Back to The Beit Midrash

The Rif and other Rishonim, however, categorically (Ol Mitzvos).” If the second paragraph constituted mission of the Jew: to perceive and appreciate the
reject Shmuel’s opinion l’halacha. Many Rishonim only a rabbinic obligation, reasons the Pri Chodosh, undeniable presence of the Yad Hashem in each and
do conclude, however, that the biblical obligation of no such accounting would be necessary. The prece- every aspect of life.
Keriyas Shema is limited to the first verse alone (“Sh- dence of the first paragraph would be obvious, given The Ramban’s notion that miracles exist in both
ema Yisrael…”). Numerous sugiyos support such a the fact that a biblical requirement always precedes revealed and concealed forms is evident in the
notion. See, for example, Berachos 13b, which rules a rabbinic obligation3 . very meaning of the word “neis” itself. The con-
in accordance with Rebbe Meir that only the first The Rambam, himself, however, appears to main- ventional translation of the term “neis” denotes a
verse requires “Kavanas Halev” – intent of the heart. tain that all three paragraphs are essential to fulfill- “miracle” or wonder,” as Rashi describes in Shemos
Similarly, the Gemarah there writes that the “Keriyas ing the Biblical obligation. At the very opening of 17:16. However, the Torah also employs the very
Shema of Rebbe Yehuda HaNasi” consisted solely of Hilchos Keriyas Shema, the Rambam writes that same term to signify a “banner” or “flag,” as seen in
the first verse. Moreover, the Gemarah later on (16a) “Twice daily, we read the Keriyas Shema, in the eve- Bamidbar 26:10 and Yeshayah 18:3. In light of the
grants a special dispensation for hired workers to mo- ning and in the morning…And what does he read? Ramban’s explanation, these two definitions are not
mentarily stop work to recite the “first perek,” which Three paragraphs, which are: ‘Shema,’ ‘Ve’Haya im coincidental. The glorious and overt miracles serve
Tosafos explains to mean the first sentence – “Shema.” shamoah,’ and ‘Vayomer’… The recital of these three as a “banner,” proclaiming and confirming the mi-
These sources lead many Rishonim, including Ram- paragraphs in order is what is referred to as ‘keriyas raculous status of the smaller, “natural” miracles and
ban, Ritva, and Rashba, to conclude that perhaps the Shema.’” Thus, the Rambam appears to entertain wonders. Such a relationship is certainly apparent
first verse alone fulfills the biblical obligation. the broadest understanding of the Biblical mitzvah in the dual miracles of Chanukah. Chanukah cel-
of Keriyas Shema, including all three paragraphs un- ebrates both the “natural” military victory and the
Our attention to these der the biblical obligation. “supernatural” burning of a small amount of oil for
eight days. The unquestionably supernatural burn-
Given the Rambam’s understanding that all three
“great” miracles should paragraphs of Keriyas Shema constitute a biblical ob- ing of the oil corroborated the equally miraculous
nature of the military victory.
ligation, Reb Chayim’s explanation of the Rambam’s
never distract us from omission of Zechiras Yetziyas Mitzrayim becomes
patently clear. The Rambam does not count Zechiras
This duality finds particular relevance in our current
season of Adar. The Gemarah in Megillah 6b pres-
Yetziyas Mitzrayim independently, because it is part ents a dispute as to whether the Megillah should op-
the “minor” miracles of the larger obligation of keriyas Shema itself. It is timally be read in Adar 1 or Adar 2. Rebbe Eliezer
thus not at all coincidental, Reb Chayim explained, B’Rebbi Yossi requires that the Megillah be read in
which occur constantly that the third paragraph of Keriyas Shema, which the first Adar, in accordance with the principle “Ain
recounts Yetziyas Mitzrayim, would be included in Ma’avirin Al Hamitzvos” – one should not skip over
throughout our own lives. the Mitzvah D’oraisa of keriyas Shema: it furthers
the Kaballas Ol Malchus Shamayim expressed in the
opportunities to fulfill a mitzvah. Rebbe Shimon
Ben Gamiliel, however, defers the reading of the
earlier parts of Shema as well. Megillah to the second Adar, in order to juxtapose
one Geulah (Purim) to another (Pesach). His rul-
The Yereyim (13), however, posits that the first This idea, that Zechiras Yetziyas Mitzrayim may
ing begs the simple question: What is the value of
sentence along with the first paragraph (V’ahavto) serve as a form of Kaballas Ol Malchus Shamayim,
adjoining the two Geulos?
constitute the biblical requirement. The Rashba is explained lucidly by the Ramban. The Ramban
implies that Rashi would agree with such a notion: (Shemos 13:16) emphasizes that by perceiving the Perhaps Rebbe Shimon Ben Gamiliel’s ruling is
Rashi (2a) maintains that one who prays Ma’ariv providence of HaKadosh Baruch Hu throughout precisely rooted in the Ramban’s understanding of
early (before the appropriate time for keriyas Sh- our national history, we cultivate an acute aware- revealed and concealed miracles. The Vilna Gaon,
ema) must only repeat the first sentence and first ness of His omnipotent existence and the truth of in his commentary to Megillas Esther (1:2), empha-
paragraph of Shema before going to sleep in order to His Torah. Our recollection of the unquestionable sizes that the significance of the holiday of Purim lies
fulfill the keriyas Shema obligation. Similarly, Rashi Divine involvement in the wondrous miracles of in the ostensibly natural occurrence of supernatural
(16a) understands that the dispensation granted to Yetziyas Mitzrayim proclaims our steadfast belief in miracles. The salvation was performed in the context
hired workers licenses them to stop working in or- HaKadosh Baruch Hu. At the same time, however, of “hester panim” – concealment of the Divine hand.
der to read the entire first paragraph of Shema – not Ramban adds that our attention to these “great” The Vilna Gaon cites the well known question of
merely the first verse. miracles should never distract us from the “minor” the Gemarah (Chullin 139b): “Esther Min HaTorah
miracles which occur constantly throughout our Minayin?” Where is Esther alluded to in the Torah?
The Pri Chodosh (Hil. Keriyas Shema 67) goes a step own lives. On the contrary, a fundamental and in- The Gemarah cites the verse (Devarim 31) “V’anochi
further, maintaining that the first two paragraphs violable tenet of Jewish belief is that, “From the great Haster Astir Panai Bayom Hahu” – “And I will conceal
(“V’ahavto” and “Ve’Haya im shamoa”) constitute miracles, a person comes to admit to the hidden my face on that day.” It is precisely this concealment,
the Biblical obligation of Keriyas Shema. He ad- miracles that are the foundation of the entire Torah. or “Hester Panim,” set in the darkness of the Babylo-
duces support for this theory from the Mishnah’s For no one has a portion in the Torah of Moshe nian exile, which characterizes the miracle of Purim.
(13a) explanation for the precedence given to until he believes that all of our words and events are The Jewish people’s imperilment and subsequent
“V’ahavto” over “V’haya Im Shamoa”: “So that one miracles, and they are not all a product of nature.” salvation were orchestrated through entirely “natural”
should first accept the Yoke of Heaven (Ol Malchus According to the Ramban, the daily requirement means, and the name of HaKadosh Baruch Hu is not
Shamayim) and then the Yoke of commandments of Zechiras Yetziyas Mitzrayim teaches us the eternal even mentioned in the Megillah.

9
C h avrusa • N issan 576 8
Back to the Beit Midrash

In stark contrast, the miracles of Pesach were marked nize the equally undeniable involvement of HaKa- Chavrusa would like to thank Zev Weiner for his help in
by drastic deviations from the normal course of na- dosh Baruch Hu in the story of Purim. Pesach’s pat- translating this article.
ture. From the transformation of water to blood to ent miracles thus affirm Purim’s silent miracles. Notes
the splitting of the sea, the hand of HaKadosh Ba- May our constant remembrance of Yetziyas Mitzray- 1. See also “Chazon Yechezkel” (Berachos 1), who suggests a
ruch Hu was unquestionably evident throughout im, along with the other annual commemorations similar possibility.
the Exodus; Jews and non-Jews alike were forced to of HaKadosh Baruch Hu’s indescribable wonders,
recognize His insurmountable involvement. In light 2. See Ramban (ibid.), who maintains that the names of the
help us to perceive and appreciate the constant mir- calendrical months serve this very purpose.
of the Ramban’s comment, perhaps the juxtaposi- acles which HaKadosh Baruch Hu blesses us with,
tion of Purim and Pesach serves to further sensitize 3. See, however, Sha’agas Aryeh Siman 2 and 22.
each and every day of our lives. n
the Jew to the miracles of HaKadosh Baruch Hu.
Through the revealed miracles of Pesach, we recog-

Executive Rabbinic Seminar


November 18–21, 2007
December 16–19, 2007
Fifteen rabbis joined with fifteen lay-
leader counterpoints at each of two
programs in Weston, FL, working with
faculty of our Sy Syms School of Business
and a consultant from the Alban Institute
on issues of leadership and management.

Mentorship Seminar
October 18, 2007
Mentors and mentees of the LHREI
mentorship program gathered in Wave
Hill, Riverdale, NY for a day-long seminar
facilitated by a consultant from the Alban
Institute focusing on how to make the
most of the year-long mentorship.

Rebbetzins Yarchei Kallah


March 3–4, 2008
Forty five Rebbetzins from around the
country gathered in Congregation Keter
Torah in Teaneck, NJ for a program led by
Rebbetzin Meira Davis from Hollywood,
FL on the personal and community issues
facing the modern rabbi’s wife.

10
C h avrusa • N issan 576 8