The Haggadah under review this week, “Haggadah Shel Pesach: Machat Shel Yad,” composed by Rabbi Yitzchok Frankel of the Agudath Israel of the Five Towns, is the first publication in the Machat Shel Yad series. This work, in Hebrew, is user-friendly and meant to be learned, not just casually read, starting from Rosh Chodesh Nissan and especially on Shabbos Hagadol.
Rabbi Frankel was a student and a musmach of HaRav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, and is well known and a teacher in our community and beyond, especially for his lectures on Talmud, the Daf Yomi, Jewish law and hashkafah. Many of these disciplines will be found within the context of his detailed commentary on the Haggadah under review this week. As a result, given the complicated nature of the rabbi’s methodology, this result will give you but a small hint as to the details contained in this work.
In the section titled, “Shibolei Haleket,” Rabbi Frankel teaches us that this commentary explains that the passage opening the Haggadah narrative, “Avadim Hayinu answers our fourth question asked in the Mah Nishtana, the question regarding Haseibah [reclining]. He, the commentary’s author, states that the initial three of the Mah Nishtana questions are answered further during Maggid [the story narrative] with Rabban Gamliel’s quote regarding Pesach, Matza, and Marror.”
Rabbi Frankel goes into much detail as to both the construct and logic of the holy text and of its application to the ritual for the evening’s seder liturgy. Even the very physicality of the seder participant is given narrative space so as to give the participant the rational for the physical choreography of the seder night’s ‘program’. As you read on you will begin to appreciate the rabbi’s method of teaching and learning. It is an analysis that literally feeds you the commentary, line-by-line, concept-by-concept, teaching you concepts that you may not have given much attention to prior to your reading this particular work.
As a result, you will, by night’s end, find your seder experience that more enriching and spiritually rewarding.
In addition to this basic work, Rabbi Frankel’s prior commentary of the same title, in English, on the book of Exodus, Shemos, contains a worthwhile short segment on the Haggadah that is worth your attention. I urge the author to consider expanding this chapter into a full Haggadah text. Rabbi Frankel accurately combines the teachings of the methods of p’shat, drush, philosophy and hashkafah, thus bringing together a truly genuine comprehensive presentment of the Pesach story.
FOR YOUR FURTHER STUDY
Rabbi Moshe Krieger of Jerusalem’s Yeshiva Birchas Torah work, “Gedolei Yisroel on the Parashah,” presents a valuable resource of Pesach themes that when applied will serve you well in understanding the major basic theological and moral lessons of the Exodus experience.
Such rabbinical giants as Rav Yisrael Salanter, the Chazon Ish, Rabbeinu Yona, Rav Aharon Kotler, the Brisker Rav, the Chasam Sofer, the Rambam, Dayan Fischer, and many others richly inhabit the sacred pages of this valued work. They all, in Rabbi Krieger’s words, will go a long way toward helping you “to internalize the lessons of the Exodus.”
Most meaningful to me was the teachings of Rabbi Krieger in Parashas Bo, entitled “Our Personal Exodus.” It cites the learning of Rav Reuven Fine, rosh yeshiva of Torah Vodaas, who goes into some detail on the value of mitzvos to our daily lives.
Consider the following:
“So many mitzvos have an element of recalling Yetzi’as Mitzrayim, such as mezuzah, tefillin, tzitzis, Kri’as Shema, and Pesach, of course. More than simply acting as reminders, these mitzvos possess an intrinsic spiritual power to infuse the one who properly fulfills them with emunah in the Exodus.”
This teaching is a hint of what you will find in this work by this most modest of teachers, Rabbi Moshe Krieger of Birchas Torah on Rechov Ohr Hachayim in the Old City in Jerusalem.
Last, but not least, is the work, “Inside Time: A Chassidic Perspective on the Jewish Calendar,” volume three, that is filled with 100 pages of some of the most elegant and eloquent teachings themed to the Pesach holiday. Compiled by Yanki Tauber of Woodmere, you will find his style and method riveting.