Peshat - What's Really Going On?
Mishnah Pesachim 10:3
They mixed him the second cup and here the son asks his father. And if the son lacks the intelligence to ask, his father instructs him, ‘How different this night is from all other nights…’
Abbaye was sitting in front of Rabbah. He saw that they were taking the table away. He said to them, ‘We still haven't eaten, why are they taking the table away?’ Rabbah said to him, ‘You have exempted us from reciting Mah Nishtanah.
Mishnah Pesachim 10:4 (as per Rambam)
They mix the second cup and the at this point the child asks and reads -
How is this night different from all other nights;
For on all nights we don’t even dip once, this night twice.
For on all nights we eat chametz or matzah, this night only matzah
For on all nights we eat roast, boiled or stewed meat, this night roasted.
For on all nights we eat other vegetables, this night maror.
For on all other nights we eat either sitting or reclining, this night we all lean?
Nowadays we don’t include ‘roasted meat’ since we don’t have the paschal offering.
There were hangings of white, green and blue, fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings and pillars of marble; the beds were of gold and silver, upon a pavement of alabaster, marble, mother of pearl, and precious stones.
Tosefta Brachot 5:5
What is the arrangement of reclining? Where there are two cushions, the most important person reclines at the head of the first. The second is below him.
Where there are three cushions, the most important person reclines at the head of the middle, the second is above him, the third is below him.
Josh Kulp: The Schechter Hagadah
Reclining was customary in Greco-Roman banquets and helped distinguish normal eating from formal ‘dining.’ In the Greco-Roman world banquets were typically eaten while reclining on a triclinium, three elevated mattresses arranged in the shape of the Greek letter Pi. In front of each mattress was a table which was brought to the diner and taken away at various points in the meal. People reclined to their left, so that they could use their right hand to eat.
Mishnah Pesachim 10:1
On the eve of Pesach … even the poor of Israel don’t eat until they are leaning.
Said Rabbi Levi, it is the way of slaves to eat standing up, but here they eat leaning to make it known that they have left servitude for freedom.
Floor Mosaic, Sephoris
Mishnah Brachot 6:6
When they sit [yoshvin] each blesses themselves. When they lean [heyseivu] one blesses for all.
Sitting without seiva is a sign that they are not coming together to eat.
Hagadah Shleimah, Menachem Kasher C20
First we should emphasise that the number of questions is not at all consistent in the manuscripts of ancient Hagadot. We have two, three, four, five questions. So there is no proof that the question is late, simply since it doesn’t appear in the Mishnah… The word ‘seivah’ has two meanings aside from the meaning of leaning to the left. As it states in the Arukh – a circular arrangement of chairs to sit at for a meal and there is also a meaning derived from Mishnah Brachot 6:6 They seiv and one blesses for them all. How can this mean leaning? Rather the idea is that they ate in a group gathered together. For note that the Torah (Exodus 12:1) says that the paschal offering is to be eaten ‘in one place’ – bvat echad. [That is to say] the obligation of the paschal offering is to eat it together in seiva - in a group … leaning was just a natural way of eating throughout the year but the essence of the obligation seivah was that a person should eat with their fellow and their family in seivah that is to say together. And this question applied even while the Temple was standing, that is to say it is a Torah mandate.
So God led the people around [vayaasev], through the way of the wilderness of the Red Sea.
Exodus Rabba 20:18
The Rabbis have learned from this that even the poorest man in Israel must not eat without leaning for so the Holy Blessed One did for them as it says ‘So God made the people recline [vayaasev].’
Remez - What Might this Hint At?
Freedom In Exile – Fleeing
for Dharamasala Lhasa
At a few minutes before ten o’clock, now wearing unfamiliar trousers and a long, black coat, I threw a rifle over my right shoulder and, rolled up, an old thangka that had belonged to the Second Dalai Lama over my left. Then, slipping my glasses into my pocket, I stepped outside. I was very frightened. I was joined by two soldiers, with them I groped my way across the park, hardly able to see a thing. On reaching the outer wall we joined up with Chikyah Kempo who, I could just make out, was armed with a sword. He spoke to me in a low reassuring voice. I was to keep by him at all costs. Going through the gate, he announced boldly to the people gathered there that he was undertaking a routine tour of inspection. With that, we were allowed to pass through. No further words were spoken.
Talmud Gittin 56a
Abba Sikra the head of the guard in
was the son of the sister of Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai. Jerusalem
Yachanan sent for him saying, Come to visit me privately.
When he came he said to him, How long are you going to carry on in this way and kill all the people with starvation?
He replied: What can I do? If I say a word to them, they will kill me.
He said: Devise some plan for me to escape. Perhaps I shall be able to save a little.
He said to him: Pretend to be ill, and let everyone come to inquire about you. Bring something evil smelling and put it by you so that they will say you are dead. Let then your disciples get under your bed, but no others, so that they shall not notice that you are still light, since they know that a living being is lighter than a corpse.
He did so, and Rabbi Eliezer went under the bier from one side and Rabbi Joshua from the other.
When they reached the door, some men wanted to put a lance through the bier. He said to them: Shall [the Romans] say. They have pierced their Master?
They wanted to give it a push. He said to them: Shall they say that they pushed their Master? They opened a town gate for him and he got out.
The Jew In the Lotus, Rodger Kamenetz
As [Rabbi Yitz Greenberg] told the story of the first-century sages, I felt the power of our being there, as Jews. Dharamasala as much as one can argue by analogy, is surely the Tibetan Yavneh. In this small Indian town, with no more than five thousand souls, lies the main hope for the survival of Tibetan Buddhism. And I could see – with a little squinting – the Dalai Lama and his leading abbots and monks as the Buddhist equivalent of Yochanan ben Zakkai and his sages.
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