4 Sons & Sons

A discussion of Pesah/Passover generally and the Hagadah specifically. Please comment and contribute!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Bene Berak seder I

One of the first bits in Magid is the story of the sages in Bene Berak.

מַעֲשֶׂה בְּרַבִּי אֱלִיעֶזֶר וְרַבִּי יְהוֹשֻעַ וְרַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן עֲזַרְיָה וְרַבְּי עֲקִיבָא וְרַבִּי טַרְפוֹן שֶהָיוּ מְסֻבִּין בִּבְנֵי בְרַק, וְהָיוּ מְסַפְּרִים בִּיצִיאַת מִצְרַיִם כָּל אוֹתוֹ הַלַּיְלָה עַד שֶׁבָּאוּ תַלְמִידֵיהֶם וְאָמְרוּ לָהֶם: רַבּוֹתֵינוּ, הִגִּיעַ זְמַן קְרִיאַת שְׁמַע שֶׁל שַׁחֲרִית.

It happened that Rabbi Eliezer, Rabbi Yehoshua, Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah, Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Tarphon were reclining in B'nei Berak. They were discussing the exodus from Egypt all that night, until their students came and told them: "Our Masters! The time has come for reciting the morning Shema!"

The origin of this account is unknown, although there is a very similar report related in Tosefta Pesahim 10:12 regarding R. Gamaliel's circle at the home of Boethus bar Zonin in Lud. Why did the author of the Hagadah include this story rather than the one in the Tosefta? Baruch Bokser, in his Origins of the Seder, theorizes that it is because R. Gamaliel studied the halakhot of Pesach while the 5 Rabbis studied about the story of the Exodus, a topic of wider interest. The Mekhilta Pisha (18) deals with this topic in a more straight forward fashion. R. Eliezer quotes the Wise son's question (Ex. 13:14) as proof that even those who are experts in Torah need to engage in study Seder night.

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