Sunday, April 20, 2008

Pesach 5631 Second Ma'amar

In the Hagadah the wise son asks, “What are the testimonies, statutes and laws that God our Lord commanded you?” The Sfas Emes understands that the wise son is asking to understand the reasons for the laws, not the actual laws. It is to be assumed that he knows the laws. However, how can he ask for a reason for the statutes? Statutes do not have reason. Included in statutes, for example, are the red heifer, sha’atnez and eating non-kosher animals. These mitzvos have no apparent reason. How, then, can the wise son ask for the reason for these mitzvos?

David HaMelech, though, taught us, “מַגִּיד דְּבָרָיו לְיַעֲקֹב חֻקָּיו וּמִשְׁפָּטָיו לְיִשְׂרָאֵל/He told his words to Ya’akov, His statutes and laws to Israel.” We see that really, statutes have meaning as well. How can we come to know the reasons for the statutes? The Sfas Emes explains that the way to attain an understanding of the statutes is by doing them even without understanding but with the faith that they have meaning. By performing these mitzvos without feeling the reason, we will merit knowing the reason as well. (See Parshas Parah, #2 for more detail on the reasons of חוקים/statutes.)

The mitzvah of eating matzah alludes to this. The matzah is made of nothing but flour and water. It contains no additional spices or flavors. It has no additional taste. In Hebrew the same word is used for taste and for reason – טעם. We eat the matzah without adding any other flavor to it to show that the mitzvah itself is enough for us.

Appropriately, the answer we give the wise son is, “one is not to eat any dessert after the Pesach-lamb.” He wants to know the טעם/reason for the mitzvos including the statutes. We tell him that the way to know the reasons is to do them without knowing the reason but with faith in God who commanded us. We give him a hint when we tell him not to add to the טעם/taste of the Korban Pesach.”

This halachah applies nowadays as well. We eat matzah at the end of the Seder to commemorate the Korban Pesach. We do not eat anything after the matzah so that only the taste of the matzah lingers.

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