Monday, March 18, 2013

New Ideas for your Pesach Seder

Take a break from the cleaning, and get your mind thinking about Pesach! Here are a bunch of classes that I have written over the years. I am sharing them now so that you may prepare early for Seder Night.

Please feel free to share, and to use as a basis for discussions around your seder table.


The Psychology of Chametz Why is Hametz forbidden on Pesach? What is the philosophy behind the ban on Hametz? We offer 4 possibilities.

Matza and the High-Speed Redemption - Matza must be baked in less than 18 minutes. What is the symbolism of this "fast-food"? Why does the Exodus have to be so quick? We shall discuss what happens in the life of the nation, and in our personal lives, when we make rapid transitions. Are they beneficial or harmful? From Rav Tzadok of Lublin to Rav Kook, from the Exodus to the Ethiopian Aliyah, join our journey.

Earning Redemption! Did Israel "Earn" or deserve to be redeemed from Egypt? Were the Jews assimilated or strong in their Jewish Identity? How does this impact contemporary questions of Galut (Exile) and Geula (Redemption)?

Arami Oved Avi: Peshat and Drash Arami Oved Avi (צא ולמד) suggests that Lavan wanted to kill Yaakov. We shall study this text in peshat and d'rash to reveal a new understanding of the Haggadah.

The Maror in the Matza

The Haggadah: Past, Present and Future When we sit at our Seder, are we reliving the past, or should we be concentrating on how the past enlightens our future?

The Ten Plagues: דצ"ך עד"ש באח"ב Why are the Plagues grouped into a strange mnemonic? Why did God need to bring so many plagues? Could he not have inflicted Egypt with a single mega-Plague?

Test of the Exodus: Blood on the Doorposts Why did the Jews need to smear blood on their doorposts? Was it something magical?

Chag Kasher Vesameach!


Adam said...

Hi Rav Alex,

I was looking for your "Arami Oved Avi" shiur from two years ago, and lo and behold, it is posted on your blog- and in newsletter format no less! (yagati umatzati!)

Rock on, and have a chag kasher vesameach!!!

your old talmid,
Adam Blander

Alex Israel said...

Adam. Great to hear from you. Keep up the learning!
Chag Kasher vesameach.
-Rav Alex

Dani said...

Rav Alex,

I just have a quick question re the "Arami Oved Avi" shiur. I understand ultimately how it is that Lavan could ultimately be the Arami and how he can be "laakor at hakol" by 'destorying' Bnei Yisrael through attempting to create Bnei Lavan. And I further understand that this really relates to an ongoing problem of assimilation. However, I still did not understand how to reconcile the grammatical problem you first raised with respect to the Torah using the word "oved" instead of "maavid" or "me'abed." I'd greatly appreciate it if you could help me understand how your explanation answers this grammatical problem. Thanks in advance.

Chag Kasher v'Sameach.

Alex Israel said...

That is precisely the point.
Midrash frequently ignores rules of syntax and grammar preferring puns, wordplays, allusion, textual parallels and the like to determine meaning. Here despite the fact taht the pashtanim know that the word Oved fails grammatically, the darshan ignores this and prefers to stretch the text a little.
Dani - does this answer your question?

Dani said...

I think I understand, but not completely. Are you saying that the darshan is ignoring this grammatical problem, or perhaps tries solving the grammatical problem by explaining how the Arami could be lavan...? I understand how midrash often uses wordplay and even 'streches the text' a bit to help advance an idea, but here I just dont really see how using the word "oved" allowed any sort of word play or anything to progress this Midrashic approach. It seems to fail both in Pshat and doesnt seem to advance anything in Midrash either. Only by changing the word itself could it make sense both in pshat and in midrash. What would be the pshat reading otherwise? That the Arami is not in fact Lavan but perhaps one of the others that other commentators suggest? 'Oved' would still not fit properly...

Maybe is the idea to state that oved does not fit and thus there must be a bigger picture point being made??