Friday, March 31, 2006

The Fifth Son at the Seder

It is interesting to note that Navi uses the construct of the child’s question (when your children as you tomorrow saying, “ what are these stones?”) which may be yet another reinforcement of the many parallels to the Exodus in this re-enactment of the kriyas Yam Suf (splitting of the Red Sea).

On a speculative note, one might suggest that this represents a fifth son to complement the four times in Chumash we are told on sons asking about Yetzias Mitzrayim and its attendant rituals, and perhaps we could posit a shadow set of fives that are related to the entry into Eretz Yisrael, the true culmination of the Exodus, that complement the more standard fours of the haggadah :
  1. ve-heveysi , “I will bring” the fifth term for redemption used in Chumash. (See here if you aren’t familiar with this concept.)

  2. the fifth kos (or kos shel Eliyahu), paralleling the fifth language of redemption.

  3. the fifth question of in Temple times of “On all other nights we eat meat roasted, stewed or boiled, but on this night, roast only, ” representing the unique halachos of the Korban Pesach (although historically there were probably never five questions asked, nevertheless the Jewish experience of Pesach has known five questions. )

  4. The fifth pasuk of Arami Oveid Avi:
5. And you shall speak and say before the Lord your God, A wandering Aramean was my father, and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous;
6. And the Egyptians dealt ill with us, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard slavery;
7. And when we cried to the Lord God of our fathers, the Lord heard our voice, and looked on our affliction, and our labor, and our oppression;
8. And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great awesomeness, and with signs, and with wonders;
9. And he has brought us to this place, and has given us this land, a land that flows with milk and honey.
which completes the four that are the basis of the Haggadah.
R’ David Tzvi Hoffman in Shu't Melamed leHoil 3:65 posits that this fifth pasuk was part of the original haggadah, and that that our entry into Eretz Yisrael truly is the mesayyem bashevach, the conclusion of the Haggadah with praise required by halakha, but is not relevant in the time of exile.

It is certainly intriguing that in the Maharal’s thought, four is a symbol of exile, and five of redemption!
(by Daniel Yolkut)


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