Passover and First-fruits
The Passover Haggada is one of the most accepted Jewish books after the Bible. It is not known who authored the Haggada, nonetheless, the Jewish people recognize in this work the heart and soul of the Passover Seder.
We will focus here on the section of the Haggada which recounts the exodus from Egypt. The author of the Haggada structured the exodus story around the verses from a passage in the book of Deuteronomy (26:5-9). The Haggada quotes one phrase from that passage after another and builds the exodus stories on the amplification of these verses.
Why? From all of the passages in Scripture that speak of the exodus, why did the author of the Haggada choose this particular passage in Deuteronomy?
If we read the passage in its original context, we find that it relates to the bringing of first-fruits to the Temple. When Israel dwelt in her land and the Temple was established in its place, every farmer would bring the first-fruits of his land to the Temple. Upon presenting the fruit the farmer would recite words of thanksgiving, appreciation and acknowledgment to God as prescribed by the Bible. It is these words of gratitude that the author of the Haggada used as the anchor for the exodus story.
The commandment to recount the story of the exodus at the night of the Seder is based on the verse in exodus 13:8; “And you shall recount to your son upon that day saying; it is because of this that the Lord acted on my behalf when I left Egypt.” The Ibn Ezra explains that this verse is commanding the father to point to the Matza and tell his child; it is because of this – our obedience to God’s command as represented by the Matza – which is the first of God’s commandments to us as a nation – it is for this reason that God preformed all those miracles for us and took us out of Egypt – just as God sent Moses to tell Pharaoh; “… send forth my son so that he may serve Me” (Exodus 4:23).
So the purpose of the exodus was in order to grant us the privilege of serving God. At the Passover Seder, we thank God for taking us out of Egypt so that we can serve Him. We express our appreciation over the first-fruits of our service – the Matza, the bitter herbs, and when the Temple stood; over the Passover offering. These are the first-fruit of our national service to God because these are the first commandments that God gave us as a nation.
Is there a more appropriate passage in Scripture for this night than the passage from Deuteronomy? The entire Seder night is a presentation of “first-fruits”. Certainly, it is precisely this passage that God ordained as the expression of gratitude for the first-fruits that we will use to express our thanks to God for granting us these spiritual first-fruits.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal