Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Seder Plate and the 10 Sefiros - Based on Rav Pincus

If you use this diagram, please give credit.


My friend Reb Yerachmiel just informed me that today is Rav Pincus, zt"l, and his wife and daughter's Yhortzeit today. May his Torah that people learn from this post be an ilui Neshoma for them.


A friend was kind enough to give me a Hagada for Pesach with the Commentary of Rav Shimshon Dovid Pincus, zt"l, called the Tiferes Shimshon. I wanted to share his explanation of the 3 Matzos and the Seder Plate, according to the 10 Sefiros, which is really fascinating. I will use the Picture on top as a visual guide. And even though this post sounds esoteric, it is meant to be applicable in a practical way so try to read it in that light.

The Three Matzos - First of all, he says that the Three Matzos correspond to the Three Intellectual Sefiros, the Mochin, of Chochma, Bina and Daas, ChaBa"D. The 3 Matzos are called "Nahama D'meheimenusa," "Bread of Emunah/Faith." This is because they should be used to focus on incorporating one's intellectual Emunah into one's practical life through the intellectual faculties of Chochma, Bina and Daas. Chochma is the intellectual knowledge that there is a Creator of the world. Bina is understanding all of the implications of the fact of the existance of the Creator, and it also means understanding the obligations that this knowledge imposes upon me. And Daas implies chibur, connection, as in the phrase "V'Adam Yada Es Chava Ishto." So Daas means connecting the knowledge of the fact of G-d's existance and the implications of that fact into one's real way of living so that it affects the person in his daily life. It is through focusing on these ideas in the three matzos at the seder that matzah can live up to it's name, "The Bread of Emunah."

Now to summarize in advance, the seder plate (1) and its 6 contents comprise the other seven emotional midos that make up the other seven sefiros. The top row, as you can see in the picture, is Zroah, Beitza and Maror. On the top right, representing Chesed, is the Zroah. On the top left, representing Gevurah, is the Beitza. And in the middle, but below and drawing from the top two, is the Maror, representing Tiferes, which represents the pleasing combination of the top two midos, Chesed and Gevruah. The second row is the Charoses, Karpas and Chazeres. The Charoses, on the right, is Netzach. The Karpas, on the left, is the mida of Hod. And the Chazerez (the maror which is used in the rabbinically required "Hillel Sandwich"), in the center and below the other two, is the mida of Yesod. And the seder plate, its self, is the mida of Malchus.

Z'roah - Chesed - The Z'roah is the symbol we use on the Seder Plate today to represent the Korban Pesach. The Korban Pesach is the method through which we internalize the Intellectual Emunah of the Three Matzos. It is the Chesed, the generous giving of the spiritual gift of Emunah. Spiritual gifts are the embodiment of chesed, since chesed implies an unlimited, endless giving of good. And since the good that we are receiving is a spiritual gift, it is appropriate that chesed is the mida through which we receive this gift, since spirituality is an inherently unlimited, boundless gift as well, as opposed to physical gifts which are inherently bounded and limited by the finite-ness of physicality.

Beitza - Gevurah - The Beitza symbolizes the Korban Chagigah. An egg is round, and closed in on all sides, which implies limitation and finite-ness, which is the idea of Gevurah, which implies strictless and limitations. So it symbolizes physical gifts, which are finite and limited. The Beitza is on the plate to remind us that even physical gifts from Hashem must be connected in our mind to their source, which is also Hashem. And we cannot only look at spiritual gifts as having a spiritual source (i.e. Hashem), but we must look at those physical gifts as well as coming from Hashem.

I was also thinking that this breakdown is interesting in another way. The Z'roah is the right side, the side of Chesed, which is the "masculine" side. And its symbol on the seder plate is the Z'roah, which is a Kav, a line, which is similar to the letter zayin, which means "zachar," male. (V'hameivin yavin.) So that's an interesting correspondance. Also, the Beitza is on the left side, and symbolizes Gevurah, which is the "femenine" side. And the Beitza is similarly an appropriate symbol for the femenine side since an egg would certainly correspond to the femine side for obvious reasons.

Maror – Tiferes – Splendor - Maror is Tiferes because the ultimate expression of Splendor is the beauty that comes from the unification between two seemingly opposite characteristics. Chesed and Gevurah are two distinct traits with their own inherent beauty. But the awesome aspect of unifying Chesed and Gevruah. And why is Maror, bitterness, the best expression of connecting Chesed and Gevurah, kindness and strictness? This is because it is the bitter parts of life where one experiences the unified Chesed that is within Gevurah. When one thinks about the bitterness of the hard times and how, within the difficulty and Gevurah that one is experiencing, is hidden only love and Hashem’s desire to do chesed with us, then that is when one truly feels the splendorous beauty of the unification of the attributes of kindness and strictness. And by focusing on this idea when we eat the Maror at the seder, we can achieve the attribute of Tiferes, in it’s most beautiful form.

The bottom three items on the Seder plate, Charoses, Karpas and Chazeres (the Maror used in the “Hillel Sandwich”) are different from the top three in that they are not geared toward fulfilling any mitzvah d’oraisa, any biblical commandment. They are rabbinic mitzvos. The significance of this is that these items are more precious to Hashem than the higher level ones, which we were commanded to use, by Hashem in the Torah. This is because they are our own Jewish expressions of our desire to show our love and gratitude to Hashem. As such, they are a wonderful expression of the preciousness of the Jew. And, since they originate with us, the Jewish people, they are even more precious to Hashem, on a certain level, than the Mitzvos D’oraisa.

Charoses – Netzach – Eternity/Victory - Maror is not bitter for its own sake. Hashem sends us bitter things in life, not to cause us suffering for its own sake, but for a purpose. And often, that purpose is to induce us to leave behind our prior apathy and return to Hashem. We dip the bitter Maror in the sweet Charoses to sweeten the dinim of our suffering. Similarly, when we take the lesson of the Maror of our lives by returning to do good, we also sweeten the din that brought about the bitter suffering to begin with, and obviate the need for it to continue in the future.

Karpas – Hod – Glory – There are two levels of knowledge that Hashem exists. The higher level of understanding is that “Ein Ode Milvado,” that there is nothing in the universe other than Hashem and that He has the power at every moment to do good to us, or to do “bad,” and that if He would cease to will us to exist at any moment, then the whole universe would revert to nothingness. The more b asic level of knowledge is simply the point that there is, in fact, a Creator of the world and that we must therefore serve him with the faculties that we have. It is this simple understanding of faith that we must, as a first level, attain and instill in our children. It is this point that is brought about by Karpas, the mitzvah that we do “so that the children should ask.” It is through things like Karpas, which are there so that we have an opportunity to teach our children about this most basic level of Emunah that we have the mitzvah of Karpas.

Chazeres – Yesod – Foundation – This Maror, used in the “man-made” mitzvah d’rabanan of Koreich, the “Hillel Sandwich,” personifies the types of bitterness that a person brings upon himself. And what kind of bitterness does a person bring upon himself? These are the tests that a person brings upon himself. When the person overcomes those tests, that is when he has attained the level of Yesod. This was the trait of Yosef Hatzadik, who was promoted, through his hard work and Siyata Dishmaya, to the head of Potifar’s house. When the wife of Potifar tried to tempt Yosef, and he overcame this test by thinking of his father’s face, he thus unified the spiritual and physical worlds by giving spirituality dominion of the natural physical aspects of this world. This was why he personified the mida of Yesod. And by focusing on unifying our spiritual and physical sides, in those tests that we bring upon ourselves, when we eat the Koreich, the “Hillel Sandwich,” we internalize the mida of Yesod, the mida of Yosef Hatzadik.

The Ka’arah – Seder Plate – Malchus – Kingship - The seventh of the lower midos, Malchus, is the expression of all of the powers of the King. All of the other six midos have their own essence. However, Kingship means the King’s ability to channel all of the resources of the Kingdom into practical expression. A King has nothing of hid own. All he can do is tax and collect the resources of the Kingdom. However, his is the most important mida because only through unifying the resources of everyone in the Kingdom can those resources find any kind of powerful expression. So too, the Seder Plate facilitates and enables the expression of the other six midos by supporting them. Even though it does not have its own “unique” personality, it gives meaning and expression to all of the other aspects of the Seder Plate, whose meaning we try to inculcate into ourselves at the Seder.

May it be Hashem’s will that the 10 expressions of Hashem’s light be manifest in our own lives this Pesach through the 10 parts of the Seder!

-Dixie Yid
P.S. For more on this topic, see what was posted today at Revach. See also this article by R. Simon Jacobson, with a HT to Rabbi Brown at Divrei Chaim.
And for the more current and past content at Dixie Yid, click here.

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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

According to this kabbalistic explanation, if I eat a lot of matzah over Pesach, then I will increase my intellectual comprehension of the world and how everything is connected to Hashem.

Micha Golshevsky said...

Very nice.
Rav Pincus, zt"l, is actually bringing and explaining the Arizal here as he often does.
I have a friend who listens to his tape on the Seder for a review after he learns the Arizal.