Rabbi Zvi Teichman
After having read the Haggadah, performing all the special mitzvos of the night, partaken of a delicious and festive meal, we then recite an enthused birkas hamazon, drink the third cup of wine, and then immediately pour a fourth one, over which we will recite the rest of Hallel, offering heartfelt praise to Hashem.
This is the order of things how it appears in the Mishnah.
Yet, in later years a custom evolved to stop for a moment before we begin the outpouring of thanks that we offer at this peak of inspiration of this night — as expressed in Hallel and its concluding ‘Blessing of Song’— by first reciting two verses from Tehillim and one from Eichah.
Pour your wrath upon the nations that did not know You and upon the kingdoms that did not call upon Your Name! Since they have consumed Yaakov and laid waste his habitation. Pour out Your fury upon them and the fierceness of Your anger shall reach them! You shall pursue them with anger and eradicate them from under the skies of the Lord.
It seems as if we are suddenly reminded of the reality of the many enemies among the nations of the world who deny our destiny and purpose, beseeching G-d to bring them to swift justice and destroy them.
Some suggest this was instituted during the many periods of our history from the times of the crusades and on, where we have been slaughtered and defamed for what we represent. That frustration at a time when we are expected to long for the future redemption and promised joy of our nation, provokes us to evoke an instinctive desire for the ultimate eradication of evil in the world that stifles all that hope.
In conjunction with this wish, we also open the door to ‘welcome’ Eliyahu HaNavi, providing him with a cup of wine.
The Rama writes that we do this to display our great faith in the fact that, as the Torah reports, it is a ליל שמורים — a night of vigil, and in the merit of that faith G-d will send the Mashiach and pour His wrath upon the nations. (או”ח סי’ ת”פ סעי’ א)
It seems that the courageous opening of the door is meant to display our confident faith in G-d Who will protect us, and that is to serve as our merit in bringing the final redemption, nevertheless upon examining the original source for this custom we will discover a different objective. (מ”ב שם סק”י)
The Ohr Zarua quotes in the name of Rav Nissim Gaon that by rushing out to hopefully greet Eliyahu who will herald the awaited redemption, we express our ever-present anticipation of the coming of Moshiach. That expression of trust in that promise for redemption, is the merit that we so long for that will prod it to happen. (או”ז ח”ב סי’ רלד)
The two understandings of the Rama depend on the exact translation of this night as a ליל שמורים.
The first understands in the context of a ‘night of guarding’ from harmful forces, as took place on that night in Egypt. The second interpretation translates it as a ‘night of anticipation’ of the final date of redemption as decreed yet from the beginning of creation. (ר”ה יא:)
Clearly this custom which originated from the days of the Gaonim was not instituted merely as a responsive venting of frustration over our being unfairly persecuted.
The Holy Reb Menachem Mendel of Rimanov makes a fascinating assertion dating this custom to a much earlier event.
The blessings conferred on Yaakov, we are taught, transpired on the night of Pesach. The two offerings that Rivkah prepared, and Yaakov served, corresponded to the Pesach and its accompanying offering the Chagigah.
After Yaakov succeeded in his deception, gaining his rightful blessing from his father Yitzchak, the verses describe an amazing moment of Divine Providence.
And it was, when Yitzchok had finished blessing Yaakov, and Yaakov had scarcely יצא יצא — left from the presence of Yitzchok his father, that Esav his brother came back from his hunt.
(בראשית בז ל)
The Midrash depicts how as Yaakov was opening the door, he observes Esav about to enter. Yaakov hides behind the open door to avoid being seen, and subsequently leaves once Esav passes by him.
The Rebbe explains that Yitzchok had instructed Yaakov to open the door as is customary on Seder night, and just at that moment Esav arrives Yaakov must conceal himself from Esav’s murderous intentions.
May I humbly suggest that within this clever parallel to the custom of opening the door on the eve of Pesach, lays the entire purpose and mission of our existence.
Since the sin of Adam, the world entered a process of correction. With birth of Yaakov, the ‘choicest’ of patriarchs, the hoped for restoring to the original heights of human accomplishment, emulating the character of G-d Himself, was set in motion. But Esav, the proverbial antagonist of everything positive embodied within Yaakov, is always right at the door to prosecute and expose our weaknesses.
It is only when we rise to the stature as the nation that knows G-d; calls out in His name; exemplifies the traits of Yaakov;senses G-d’s habitation in every endeavor, can lay claim to that prized birthright.
Only then can we appeal to G-d to rectify the world from all evil in eradicating the enemies of His people.
We are not simply advocating for the ridding of our enemies so that we may live in peace. We desire instead the promotion of G-d’s will in the world that when followed will bring indescribable joy to all who adhere to His word!
No wonder at this juncture, after being so inspired by the tale of our redemption that link each one of us after thousands of years to that event, we acknowledge that privilege to undertake that mission expressing immediately afterwards in the very first words of this segment of Hallel:
Not for our sake G-d, not for our sake, but for Your Name’s sake give glory, for Your kindness and for Your truth!
Were we to live our every moment with that heightened consciousness, we would spring instinctively to greet Eliyahu HaNavi, who will herald the final redemption.
The great Tzaddik of Yerushalayim, Rav Aryeh Levine would visit the prisoners of Zion, who were imprisoned by the British, on the morning after they celebrated the Seder in captivity.
They described how despite their dire predicament they managed to arouse their spirits despite their unfortunate circumstances. But they bemoaned the fact that one vital component of their Seder was missing — the opening of the jail cell door to greet Eliyahu HaNavi.
Reb Aryeh responded that they were mistaken. Every person is imprisoned within oneself and can only exit if one open’s the door of their heart. Even in a jail cell he can free himself from that which imprisons him and discover true freedom.
As the Holy Kotzker once said to his disciple who ran enthusiastically to open the door for Eliyahu only to be disappointed by his absence, “You think Eliyahu enters through the door? He enters your heart!”
Just three years ago we were all imprisoned in our homes due to the Covid pandemic. There were some unfortunately who were literally sentenced to solitary confinement.
Leah Levinson, then a recent divorcee without children, described her painful loneliness that Pesach in a article in the Inyan/HaModia magazine, when the circumstances forced her to isolate and celebrate the seder alone. Despite her many anxieties and feelings of ‘inadequacy fused with panic of failure’, she was determined to ‘Just Do It!’
Pushing herself to dress up, set a beautiful table, prepare her Haggadah with notes, she also set up an extra setting opposite her ‘to represent people alone in need of comfort and connection’.
Going through all the steps, she felt ‘like lava bursting from a volcano, lofty thoughts and grand feelings enveloped’ her. She was ‘at peace with herself, her past, the world, and prayed that this rare togetherness would extend into her post-Pesach life.
In her own words: “I was grateful for my solo seder, my opportunity to connect with Hashem at my pace, with my impediments. Regardless of our riches, marital status, childlessness or more, I realized He loves all Jews and in return, we must serve Him b’simchah.
A Jew grounded in Hashem is never alone… Alone is a state of mind, not only a state of being unaccompanied.
But to be alone with Hashem, to surrender to His will, to embrace His dominion over my life and the universe, is an encounter of the highest order.”
May we open the doors of our hearts, allowing Hashem to accompany us in every situation in life we may be facing.
May we eagerly, with Hashem by our side, run to open the door and merit to greet Eliyahu who will restore the hearts of all of Hashem’s children to their Father in Heaven!