Appreciating God's Gifts
Therefore it is our duty to thank, praise, laud, glorify, exalt, honor, bless, extol, and pay respect to He who did all these miracles for our ancestors and for us. He took us from slavery unto freedom, from sorrow to joy, from mourning to festivity, from darkness to bright light, from bondage to redemption. Therefore let us recite a new song for Him. Halleluyah – praise God.
By this point of the Haggadah, we see clearly how fortunate we are to be Jews, how wonderful it is to have the Torah, and how we have the opportunity to lift all of humanity. If you realize that, then thank and praise the Almighty!
But does God need our praise? Is He sitting up there and complaining that He doesn't get enough appreciation? Does He need us to get His slippers for Him? That's ridiculous. That's like thinking God needs our animal offerings. He doesn't need any bribes or compliments.
Rather, we need to thank Him – for our own sake. Because the person who is an ingrate will never enjoy the gifts that he has. If you can thank someone for giving you a popsicle, you'll appreciate the Popsicle much more.
What about someone who gives you sunshine, eyes, free choice, health? That's what God does for us.
Think of what a person would give for a pair of eyes. Five million dollars. So with your pair of eyes you're a multi-millionaire.
So why isn't everybody happy? Because we're focused on what we don't have. That's ingratitude. Of course there are difficulties. But all told, life is darned good.
The Talmud tells the story of a man returning from a victorious war. He meets a Sage who says to him, "You've conquered a city, but that was nothing. Now you have to conquer yourself." The Almighty shows us how.
"From sorrow to joy." There is no joy like seeing clearly what life is about, and knowing how to give that to others.
"From mourning to festivity." That's the feeling that every day is a holiday. When you understand the gifts, every day is a holiday. It's true that we have certain special days to focus us, but the fact is they are only examples for what we should be doing every single day of our lives.
"From darkness to bright light." Candles are a central symbol in Judaism --Shabbat candles, Chanukah menorah, etc. A little bit of light dispels a lot of darkness. The Almighty gives us a lot of light. He brought us from servitude – from being controlled – to redemption. Not just "freedom," but redemption which means you are reaching your potential and the whole Jewish nation is reaching their potential with you. We can lift all of humanity with us.
"Then we'll sing a new song for the Almighty."
Rabbi Shraga Simmons
Therefore it is our duty to thank, praise, laud, glorify, exalt, honor, bless, extol, and pay respect to He Who did all these miracles for our ancestors and for us. He took us from slavery unto freedom, from sorrow to joy, from mourning to festivity, from darkness to bright light, from bondage to redemption. Therefore let us recite a new song for Him. Halleluyah – praise God.
The primary theme of the Seder is gratitude. We are thrilled to have a relationship with God and to be part of the Jewish people.
How do we express gratitude? It is said that one of the reasons for tension between parents and children is that children feel a sense of inadequacy for never being able to properly thank their parents for the awesome gift of life.
So how can we possibly express our gratitude to God? The Talmud reports that one day in the yeshiva study hall, a young rabbinic student stood up and began praising God over and over and over again. When he was finished, his teacher came over and said to him, "That's all? You have no more praises to say?"
It is impossible for us mortals to fully articulate the greatness of God.
The Haggadah says "it is our duty to thank, praise, laud, glorify, exalt, honor, bless, extol, and pay respect to God." But how can we do so? We can't in words. We can only show our appreciation through action. By taking life seriously and accepting the challenge of growth and change, we can actualize our potential – and that is the greatest show of appreciation for the Creator and Sustainer of all life.
"Therefore let us recite a new song for Him. Halleluyah."
Happy and Focused
Rabbi Tom Meyer
Praise God! Servants of God – praise, praise the name of God. Blessed be the name of God from now and forever. From the rising of the sun until its setting, God's name is praised.
"Hallel" means praise. This section comes at the end of the Seder because really humanity was created to praise God. Not for Him, but for our own pleasure.
The Torah says that God created Adam as a nefesh chaya – literally "a living soul." But the Sages translates it as "one who speaks." Words help us formulate the spirituality in us and lift us. Try not to think in words for 60 seconds. You'll see how frustrating and inhuman it feels. When you're happy and focused on the beauty of life, you want to sing. That's Hallel – singing about how great life is and how much we love the Almighty. It's so great knowing there is a God.
"His glory is above the Heavens." When you look up at the sky, you feel the immense awe and beauty of being part of God's universe. We are a small part, but we are also a great part of a vast endeavor called human history – striving to find its way to the Almighty.
"Looking down upon Heaven and Earth." God comes down and interacts with us. He wants to join us.
"He raises the poor out of the dust." No matter how low you are, you can lift into Him. If you're depressed, if you're down, if you say "I'm not spiritual, I don't know much about being a Jew, I have so far to go" – He can lift you up in a second. From the trash heaps he lifts the indigent. The Almighty can change our lives in a flash.
"Judah became God's sanctuary." When the Jews left Egypt, Nachshon from the tribe of Judah was the first one to go into the sea. He said, "C'mon everybody. Join me." They said, "We'll drown!" So he went into the sea and it split. Judah is the tribe of leadership. We are technically "Hebrews," but we're called "Jews" from the word "Judah."
"The One Who turns the rock into a pool of water." God can turn a rock into water, like when Moses hit the rock and water came out. That teaches that God can take the most hardened heart and turn it into water. The heart becomes a pond of water. Not just a stagnant pond, but a fountain that continually gushes water – life giving, fluid, cleansing. At the Exodus, we become living fountains of water.
"Blessed are You, God, Who has redeemed Israel." God does it all. He redeemed our ancestors from Egypt. He showed us the way out of the body. He brought us to this night, which we share it with our family, our loved ones. What could be greater than that? Eating matzah and Marror!
God, grant us another year of life so that we may apply the lessons of Passover night. We want another year to get closer to You and to keep growing, and help others do so as well.
Structure of Hallel
Rabbi Shraga Simmons
Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the universe, Who redeemed us and redeemed our ancestors from Egypt, and brought us this night to eat matzah and Marror. Similarly, Lord our God and God of our ancestors, bring us in peace to future festivals and holidays, rejoicing in the building of Your city and joyful in Your service.
And we shall eat there from the offerings and Passover lambs (on Saturday night, say instead: The Passover lambs and the offerings) whose blood will be sprinkled on the sides of Your altar to be gracefully accepted. We shall then thank You with a new song because of our freedom and the redemption of our souls. Blessed are You, God, Who has redeemed Israel.
In terms of the structure of the Haggadah, you'll notice that we begin the "Hallel" prayers now, and don't conclude Hallel until after the meal.
The Netziv explains: The section of Hallel before the meal refers to the Exodus from Egypt. Then the meal itself – with it's royal atmosphere – is actually a continuation of Hallel. And finally after the meal, Hallel continues with chapters referring to the "final redemption" at the time of the Messiah.