With Purim behind us, that means Pesach is rapidly coming up. Does anyone have any good divrei torah to share in preparation for the Seder?
One from me, to start us off, on the connection between the arba l'shonos of geula and the arba kosot and where they are placed in the Seder:
Briefly, the four l'shonos of geulah are:
v'hotzaiti - And I will take you out (from the torments of Egypt)
v'hitzalti - And I will save you (from their servitude)
v'ga'alti - And I will redeem you
v'lakachti - And I will take you (for me as a nation)
I think we need to start by examining the difference between these words, and the ideas they convey.
The first thing to notice, in my opinion, is that they form two pairs of similar words. V'hotzaiti and v'hitzalti seem to be very similar, if not identical. God says he will take the Jews out of Egypt and he will save them - isn't that the same thing? Wasn't taking us out of Egypt saving us?
The latter two seem different from those two. V'lakachti - that God took us for his own people - self evidently conveys more than just the exodus itself. It has to do with our becoming an am kadosh, a holy nation. But what about v'ga'alti? If not by taking us as a nation, how did God redeem us?
Perhaps we can say the following:
V'hotzaiti refers to physically leaving Egypt. "And I will take you out." If so, then v'hitzalti - and I will save you - must be referring to being saved from something other than the physical slavery in Egypt. I'll suggest that it relates back to the idea of the famous Midrash that the Jews in Egypt were on the 49th level of tumah (impurity), and that if God hadn't taken them out right when he did, they would never have been able to leave. That is, that the enslavement in Egypt was not just a physical trauma for the Jews, but put their entire viability as a distinct nation, capable of carrying out their mission, at risk - and it was from that added threat that God saved us.
What about v'ga'alti? For this, let's turn to Raban Gamliel, who is quoted in the Haggada as saying that to fulfill one's obligation, one must mention matza. Why? Because, the Rambam says in Hilchos Chametz U'matza, "g'alanu" - we were redeemed. The Rambam notably deviates from the language of the Haggada here (he includes the same text we use - that the bread did not have time to rise before they were redeemed - in his Haggada), apparently to emphasize the connection between matza and geula.
So what is that connection? Well, if we go back to an idea about matza, that it represents the mental aspects of slavery, perhaps we can understand "v'ga'alti" as referring to the triumph of man over the slave mentality, the redemption of physical acts from simply being the results of physical drives, with no overarching goal, into being the acts of thinking, rational men, aimed at something more than just satisfying momentary desires.
And v'lakachti remains addressed to the idea of the Jews becoming the am kadosh.
Armed with those understandings of the four expressions of redemption, the placement of each cup in the Seder actually fits quite beautifully.
We start out with Kiddush, which is there to define the special k'dushas hayom (sanctity of the day). And what defines the special nature of Pesach? V'hotzaiti! God taking us out of Egypt is the defining characteristic of Pesach.
Next is v'hitzalti - rescuing us from the spiritual destruction that awaited us had we stayed in Egypt. When do we drink that kos? After Maggid, after we've discussed and expanded on the idea of Yetziat Mitzrayim, and can better grasp that it was far more than simply a physical leavetaking.
How about v'ga'alti, the elevation of the physical? We drink the third kos as part of Birchas Hamazon (grace after the meal) - after engaging in a Se'udat Mitzvah and expressing our thanks to God.
And finally, where is the cup of v'lakachti? We drink it at the end of Hallel Hagadol, which is dedicated to recognizing the unique relationship between God and his am, the Jewish people.