Haggada as Tefilla

I felt like I needed to frame this year’s seder differently than usual. How to celebrate geula in a way that is responsive to the reality of the pandemic? What wisdom of previous generations can we tap into? Here’s pretty much what I said to my family before we began kiddush at the first seder. 

The Gemara in Berachot 4b quotes R. Yochanan:

איזהו בן העולם הבא? – זה הסומך גאולה לתפלה של ערבית

Who is deserving of heaven? The person who connects the beracha of גאל ישראל to the עמידה in maariv. 

The תלמידי רבינו יונה suggest two rationales behind this statement:

אומר מורי הרב, שהטעם שזוכה לשכר גדול כזה – מפני שהקב”ה כשגאלנו והוציאנו ממצרים היה להיותנו לו לעבדים……

That is, the purpose of our redemption from Egypt was to serve God. By connecting the beracha of גאל ישראל to the עמידה thereby performing עבודה שבלב, we show that we understand the purpose of geula.

But there’s a second reason suggested and I want to focus on that tonight:

ועוד אמר מורי נר”ו טעם אחר, מפני שכשמזכיר גאולת מצרים ומתפלל מיד – הוא מראה שבוטח בה’ בתפילה, כיון שמבקש ממנו צרכיו…..

Connecting גאל ישראל to the עמידה reflects our belief in the power of tefilla.  If we really believe that Hashem answered our tefillot in יציאת מצרים then we should believe that Hashem can do so now. We demonstrate that belief by transitioning immediately from גאל ישראל to the עמידה and calling out to Hashem just as we called out to Him in Egypt. 

Why though does the Gemara praise the person who is סומך גאולה לתפילה specifically at ערבית? For this, we need Rav Kook, who in this beautiful comment in אין אי״ה explains that night symbolizes times of suffering and difficulty. When life is good, it’s easier to consider God’s greatness when we daven. But the real challenge comes when life is dark. At times of darkness are we able to transcend our own narrow needs and focus our tefilla on גאולה, on the broader needs of the nation and even the world. Tonight in in this time of ערבית may our reliving גאולת מצרים, serve as a tefilla for the redemption of a world that is suffering. 

עין אי״ה

And perhaps we can add another angle on סמיכות גאולה לתפילה. Instead of understanding סמיכה as “connecting”, let’s understand it as the סמיכה that Moshe did to Yehoshua or that we perform on קרבנות. When Moshe put his hands on Yehoshua, he was investing some his status in him. When we lean our hands on a קרבן we are endowing that קרבן with some our own status. May the גאולה give “semicha” to our תפילה. May the redemption from Egypt endow our tefillot with a redemptive power.



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