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The Foundation Stone Haggadah: Themes of the Haggadah 6

There is an interesting debate between Rambam and Raavad. When we eat the Matza we make two brachot. First we say Hamotzi, and then we say Al Achilat Matza. Rambam says not so. This is wrong. In fact, all of us are doing it wrong because we leave out the most important step. When we take our matza we must dip it into charoset. Incredulous, the Raavad rants that he doesn’t know what Rambam is talking about. In his book on the holidays, Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank quotes the Haderes, which describes another debate between Rambam and Raavad. Frank uses this second debate, to explain the first.

This debate revolves around Rambam’s Laws of Teshuva. Here, Rambam addresses the issue of free choice, and asks a potent question. God told Abraham that his descendants would be enslaved in a land that wasn’t theirs, and that the inhabitants of that land would oppress them, and turn them into slaves. God intended that the nation that would enslave and oppress the Jews would be the Egyptians. So how could God punish them in such a devastating way when all they did was what God wanted them to do? Rambam says that it’s obvious. God decreed that the nation of Egypt should do it. He never decreed that each individual Egyptian should take part in it. Each individual had the choice whether or not to participate. Only the ones that chose to oppress the Jews were punished.

Raavad says: “I don’t know what planet this man comes from, but obviously he doesn’t know anything about Torah!” All God said is that the Egyptians should enslave and oppress the Jews. He didn’t say that they should torture them. He didn’t say that they should abuse them. He didn’t say that they should act with horrible cruelty. The Egyptians weren’t punished for enslaving the Jews; they were punished for going overboard.

The Haderes asks why doesn’t Rambam use Raavad’s answer? It seems to make more sense. Haderes explains that Rambam says, as many do, that one of the reasons why we were redeemed early was because we were overworked. In 210 years, we suffered 400 years worth of pain. Thus, charoset is a symbol of hard labor. To symbolize this, the matza is dipped into the charoset. Just as matza is a symbol of redemption, so is the charoset. He still has to explain why Rambam says to dip it into the charoset. I have different answer that is much simpler. Matza is not only a symbol of redemption; it is also a symbol of suffering! But the thought process here, I love the fact that he is able to tie it into the Laws of Teshuva. I love it!

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