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04/08/2022 05:24:59 PM


One of the reasons why this Shabbat is called hagadol is that it is connected to the word hagada. That is, many have the custom of reading parts of the hagada on this Shabbat: So, here is a thought on the hagada:


We all remember the story, related shortly after the mah nishtanah, as told of the Rabbis who were sitting in Bnai Brak, and talking all night about the redemption from Egypt. Included among them was Rabbi Akiva, who lived in Bnai Brak. Other participants were R. Eliezer, R. Yehoshua, R. Elazar ben Azaria, and R. Tarfon.  They were discussing all night, until their students came to tell them that it was time to recite the morning Shema, i.e., the first morning light has appeared. When I was was younger, I wondered why the rabbis couldn’t have seen that for themselves, by just  looking out the window.


Good question, huh? However, many years ago I read a plausible scholarly explanation:  they had to cover their windows!  As we all know, Rabbi Akiva was one of the leaders of the Bar Kochba rebellion.


This was at the time of the persecutions of the Roman emperor Hadrian.  One of the Hadrianic decrees was that it was forbidden to teach Torah (as was the case in Russia until recently!) Many rabbis were tortured to death for their crime of teaching Torah. Therefore, the Rabbis might have been concerned lest any informant was passing by their house, and so they had to cover the windows!


There is even an interpretation that carries this idea a bit further. When the students entered, they were speaking cryptically. What they meant was:  rabbis, you have been speaking too theoretically.  Let’s get down to tachlis and discuss how we can carry out the revolt!.


I wish everyone a happy and kosher Passover.  Despite all of our complaints against our government, we appreciate our freedom to pray and learn Torah, and should not take it for granted.


Chag sameah!

Sat, June 25 2022 26 Sivan 5782