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Pesach of Prayer

Written by Rabbi Yehoshua Alt, 4/4/2020

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Fascinating Insights—The Sefer (in English)

Pesach of Prayer

In the story of Purim, Mordechai made a three day fast in the middle of Nissan, which included the night of Pesach.[1] This seems puzzling since he had until the next Adar to make this three day fast. Why did he pick the night of the Seder—the night we have Matza, Marror, the four cups and so on? Indeed, Rashi translatesמרדכי  ויעבר that he transgressed the law of fasting on Yom Tov.[2]


The Tiferes Shlomo says the word הגדה is related to המשכה, pull as the Targum Unkolos on וימשכו[3] is ונגידו, since tremendous bounty come down on the night of the Seder.[4] The Divrei Chaim says on the words in the Haggada שאינו יודע לשאול את פתח לו that he doesn’t realize that the gates from א to ת (all gates) are opened up on this night.[5] In מה נשתנה it says וכאן הבן שואל, the child should say the מה נשתנה. During the Seder in the year תר"ד (1844) the father of the Beis Aharon said this also means here on the night of the Seder is where, we, the children of Hashem can make requests. כל דצריך ייתי ויפסח, for anything you need pour out your heart in Tefila.[6]


The Gemara[7] tells us Matza is called לחם עני since לחם שעונין עליו דברים הרבה,[8] we declare many things upon the Matza like the Haggada and Hallel.[9] עונין means to answer as in יענך ה'[10] meaning Hashem answers our requests on this night. This is the meaning in הא לחמא עניא which refers to Matza and עניא means to answer. This explains why the Targum Unkolos on Matza is פטירא, to open up[11] as it opens up enormous abundance. With this we can comprehend why this was the time picked for the fast and Tefila to remove the decree of Haman. Let us all take advantage of the special opportunity the night of the Seder affords.

Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander Ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.

[1] Pirkei D’Rebbi Eliezer, chapter 49. See the Midrash (Koheles Rabba 8:5, Yalkut Shimoni 978) of Esther being busy with Biur Chametz (see the Maharzu).

[2] Megila 15a. Esther, 4:17, Rashi. See Pirkei D’Rebbi Eliezer, chapter 50. It saysוצומו עלי ואל תאכלו ואל תשתו שלשת ימים, fast and don’t eat or drink for three days (Esther 4:16). Isn’t it obvious that if one fasts that there will be no eating or drinking? On Pesach we have the Mitzva of eating Matza and Marror and drinking the four cups. This is what is meant by ואל תאכלו ואל תשתו, referring to not eating Matza and Marror and drinking the four cups (Taamai HaMinhagim, p. 371).

[3] Breishis 37:28.

[4] Pirkei Drebi Eliezer (chapter 32) tells us that on the night of Pesach, אוצרות טללים נפתחים, storehouses of dew (bounty) are opened.

[5] R’ Moshe Kobriner says on שאינו יודע לשאול את פתח לו that he doesn’t know how to daven so open him up.

[6] Tiferes Shlomo, s.v. כל.

[7] Pesachim 36a.

[8] It is also called לחם עוני because it is made only with water. This is in contrast to לחם עשירה which can also be with oil, wine, milk and honey (see Yerushalmi Pesachim 2:4, Rambam in Hilchos Chametz Umatza 6:5).

[9] In the Sefer Darkei Chaim V’Shalom (אות תרכג) it brings the custom of the Minchas Elazar that after Pesach he wouldn’t wash his Kittel that he wore on Pesach in order not to remove the uncleanliness from the Matza and wine from Seder night. This was so that on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur when he wears his Kittel the merit of the Matza would be there. Only prior to Pesach did he wash it.

[10] Tehillim 20:2.

[11] As in פטר רחם. See Shemos 13:6.

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