4 Sons & Sons

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

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

First Fruits

The heart of Magid and indeed the entire seder is a group of biblical verses from Devarim, along with interpretations. A basic question is, why use these verses? Something from Shemot would be a bit more of an obvious choice. One homilitical answer that I think is quite good, is from Shira Smiles is that these verses are in the first person and on Pesah we need to feel as if we were pesonally involved in the Exodus.

A more realistic answer (from Louis Finkelstein) is that the Jews of the 3rd century B.C.E. (which is when Finkelstein believes Magid was established) all knew these verses by heart as they were recited as part of the mitsvah of Bikurim. Therefore even the illiterate would be familiar with the content of the Hagadah.

However, the Hagadah omits the last two verses of bikurim. These pesukim deal with being brought into the land of Israel. In exile, these verses may be too painful to recount. (Glatsner)

The commentators discuss the purpose of the first fruits. The Rambam sees it as an act of humility, recognizing the kindness of G-d. The Abarbanel sees it as an excersize in subduing one’s passion. The self-discipline of taking the first fruits and giving them up. The Akedat Yitshak sees it as recognizing G-d’s power and admiting that everything comes from Him and not us. (Leibowitz)

Sorry that my sources aren't all that clear. Part of my notes were on a computer that was stolen out of our moving van.


At 5:14 PM, Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

Finkelstein's argument is brilliant, but based on fantasy. I plan to do a series of 4 huge posts (which I shall put up on my own blog, but you may copy them, with attribution, here), summarizing Finkelstein's four important articles on the Haggada.

At 5:45 PM, Blogger Tam said...

Looking forward to it. What are the 4 Finkelstein articles? "The Oldest Midrash", "Pre-Maccabean Documents in the Passover Haggadah" and what else? What is based on fantasy? (I guess I'll have to wait for your posts) A lot of his arguments seem overly specific (attributing authorship of Dayenu to Jason, the kohen gadol), but to be honest, to an outsider like me, a lot of academic speculation seems just that tenuous. The documentary hypothesis, for instance.


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