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Guide to the Perplexed: An in-depth look at the maggid section of the Passover Haggadah

by the editors of Torah from Dixie

The following 18 headings comprise a brief outline of the central maggid section of the Passover Haggadah relating the story of the exodus from Egypt. We hope that this guide will provide some perspective to the most crucial part of the seder.


uHa lachma anya - The maggid section begins with the declaration that the matzah in front of us is the same bread of affliction that our forefathers ate in the land of Egypt. After extending an open invitation for the needy to join us in our celebration, we express our hopes for the speedy arrival of the Mashiach (Messiah) and the ultimate redemption of the Jewish people, when we will be able to rejoice with the entire nation at our seder in the land of Israel.

uMah nishtanah - Why is this night different than all other nights? These four famous questions asked to initiate the discussion of the exodus story, really boil down to one: On this night, are we slaves or are we free?

uAvadim hayinu - This critical paragraph is the outline of the answer upon which we will elaborate throughout the rest of the evening. We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, but Hashem redeemed us from servitude and elevated us to become His chosen people. Had He not done so, we would still be enslaved to Pharaoh.

uMa'aseh b'Rabi Eliezer - Lest we think that we are already familiar with the exodus storyline and are exempt from delving into its intricacies, we are reminded of the great sages of the Talmud who spent the entire night discussing the miraculous exodus from Egypt.

uBaruch haMakom - We praise Hashem for giving us the Torah, and we discuss the four categories of people (arba banim) to whom we must address our elucidation of the Passover story: the chacham (wise son), the rasha (wicked son), the tam (simple son), and the eino yode'a lishol (one who doesn't know how to ask).

uYachol meRosh Chodesh - Passover night, and not the beginning of the month of Nissan, is the night on which we relive the exodus experience.

uMitchilah ovdei avodah zarah - The Haggadah puts the exodus in its proper historical perspective: Our predecessors were idolaters, but through the exodus and the subsequent giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai, Hashem brought us close to Him so that we could become His chosen nation and serve Him.

uBaruch shomer havtachato - We praise Hashem for keeping His promise to Abraham and redeeming us from our servitude.

uV'hee she'amdah - Not only did Hashem save us from our bondage in Egypt, He continually saves us in every generation when our enemies rise up against us and attempt to destroy us.

uTzei ulmad - In this lengthy section, we quote a series of verses from the Torah which serve as a springboard for further discussion of our slavery and subsequent redemption. In Egypt we grew into a great nation; the Egyptians enslaved and afflicted us; we cried out to Hashem and He heard our cries; Hashem redeemed us with wonders and miracles.

uEser makot - We enumerate the ten plagues and classify them into three groups.

uRabbi Yose HaGlili - We discuss the miraculous splitting of the Red Sea and the drowning of the Egyptians on the seventh day of Passover.

uIlu hotzianu - We express our hakarat hatov (gratitude) to Hashem for every aspect of the exodus, beginning with His taking us out of Egypt and extending 15 stages later to our arrival in the land of Israel and the building of the Temple. Any one of these tremendous favors would have been enough (dayeinu) to deserve thanksgiving.

uRaban Gamliel - This great sage taught that the following three things - Pesach (the Paschal lamb), matzah (the unleavened bread), and maror (the bitter herbs) - each must be discussed as part of the seder.

uB'chol dor vador - An important goal of the Passover seder is to facilitate our feelings that we personally went out of Egypt along with our ancestors.

uFirst part of Hallel - Here we begin the recitation of Hallel, a series of praises to Hashem for everything He did and continues to do for us. The second part of Hallel is recited after the meal.

uBlessing of Asher g'alanu - We praise Hashem for redeeming us from Egypt and we express our hopes for the future redemption.

uSecond cup of wine - Thus concludes the maggid section.

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