Over many decades, Rabbi Chaim Meir Bukiet, the Rosh Yeshiva of the Central United Lubavitcher Yeshiva in Brooklyn, NY, would pen his thoughts on the Hagadah.
Penned in Hebrew on scraps of paper, his grandson Dovid Zaklikowski, deciphered the small text and adapted them in English. Presented here are 6 of those explanations on the Hagadah.
The Salted and Purified Rebuke
What is a culture, an art and, many will claim, a talent? The passion of rebuke.
We all have something to say about what everyone else is up to. We are quick to criticize and rebuke our friends, neighbors, educators, and leaders.
There is a huge industry, in fact, surrounding the phenomenon of discussing what other people are doing: Talk Radio. The New York Times recently reported that opinion-based news shows on stations such as FOX and MSNBC trump the old fashioned news on CNN. Most of these conversations center on public officials’ actions, their policies, and gaffes.
The Torah teaches us to rebuke our fellows for their wrongdoings, as stated in Leviticus (19:17), “You shall surely rebuke your fellow.” Discrete rebuke, with the intention of bringing about change in the rebuked individual, has always been part of Jewish practice.
The Passover meal celebrated in Jewish homes across the globe, known as the Seder, is divided into fifteen steps. The order of these steps contains many lessons for our daily lives. One of these lessons involves the appropriate way to rebuke our fellows.
Towards the beginning of the Seder are some interesting, and seemingly bizarre, customs.
We ritually wash our hands, referred to as “purification,” or Urchatz in Hebrew. We then have a piece of a vegetable, known as Karpas, dipped in salt-water. Then we take the middle of our three thin matzahs and break it in half, known as Yachatz. The smaller half of the matzah is returned to the Seder plate, while the larger half is hidden until the end of the night, when it is eaten prior to the Grace after Meals.
One of the reasons for breaking the matzah is because matzah also commemorates the bread of the poor—thin cracker bread. As slaves in Egypt, the Israelites would eat this broken and cheap bread.
Yet the order of the Seder is peculiar. Why don’t we break the matzah earlier, prior to the washing of the hands and the dipping of the vegetable? Shouldn’t the entire Seder be over this broken matzah, which holds so much meaning for the Passover experience?
The broken spirit represented by the broken matzah could refer to any individual who is down because of a mistake or wrongdoing. The breaking of the matzah is also a symbol for rebuking—the breaking of the spirit.
As individuals, we sometimes silently enjoy putting down the other so that we could be elevated at their expense. Our intention, in these cases, is not G-dly; nor will it make a difference in the person we are rebuking.
When coming to rebuke another, we must first wash our hands. We need to purify ourselves spiritually, thus removing any personal agendas which would result in damaging rebuke.
We then need to dip that satisfaction we might’ve received, symbolized by the good vegetable, in saltwater, to remove, to erode, the egotistic layers which cause us to put down others. The salt reveals the essence of good in us, the kinder source in our hearts.
Only then, when there is no other reason beside goodly intention, should one rebuke.
When rebuke is given in this way, coming from the heart, from the depth of good, it will surely enter the heart of the other, and bring about meaningful improvement.
+ 6 Vertalach on Haggadah