In the Maggid part of the Haggadah we say ובאותות זה המטה כמה שנאמר ואת המטה הזה תקח בידך אשר תעשה בו את האתת. What was the nature of this Matteh of Moshe that played such a major role in Yetzias Mitrayim? We find that the word מטה also means Tribe. What is the connection between the staff that brought on the Makkos and the Twelve Tribes?
The Medrash at the beginning of Shmos says that the reason why the Shevatim were mentioned once again at the beginning of Sefer Shmos was to convey that the seeds of geulah were planted since the names of the Shevatim represent redemption. Revuen was named by Leah after the word “see” (Bereishis 29,32) and the passuk says that Hashem saw Yisrael’s affliction. Shimon was named after the sense of hearing (Berieshis 29,33) and the passuk says that in Mitzrayim Hashem heard our cries etc. The Shem Mishmuel (p.30) explains this repetition of names to mean that the power of geulah from Mitzrayim came from the Shevatim. Would it not have been for them and their power for our redemption, then there wouldn’t have been a galus in the first place. The natural state of Yisrael is to be redeemed.
The word Matteh possesses two facets that complement each other as they both symbolize our geulah from Mitzrayim. The Shevatim were the seeds that were planted even before the galus started, and the staff of Moshe was its implementation to bring on the plagues. This duel power of the Matteh can be seen in the very letters of the word מטה. The מט which is gematriah 49 represents the 49 letters found in all the names of the Shevatim. The letter ה symbolizes the extra letter ה that was added to Yosef’s name after he overcame the test with the wife of Potifar יהוסף – (Sotah 12b). Yet the gematriah ofמטה is 54 the same gematriah as the word דן judgment found in the passuk describing the Makkosוגם את הגוי אשר יעבודו דן אנכי (Bereishis 15,14) the nation that enslaves Yisrael will be punished.
This could be the interpretation of the passuk (Tehillim 105, 36) ויך כל בכור בארצם ראשית לכל אונם ויוציאם בכסף וזהב ואין בשבטיו כושל. Hashem smote the first born of Mitzrayim and He took them out with silver and gold and there was no faltering in the Shevatim. What is the connection between Yetzias Mitzrayim and the faltering of the Tribes? It comes to say that the seeds of geulah were planted by the names of the Shevatim. If we were taken out of Mitzrayim with the plague of Makkas Bechoros, together with the fulfillment of leaving with a great wealth, then we know for sure that the Shevatim came through in bringing the geulah to their descendants. Both “Mattes” worked together for our geulah.
A second way of understanding the nature of the Matteh and the interpretation of its letters is as follows. There are four known foundations in creation, the Inanimate, Vegetative, Animal, and Medabeir (literally means speech referring to man). The Kuzari adds a fifth dimension named Yisrael. This fifth category is beyond any comparison to the fourth category – gentile. For only the Yid possesses neshamah and because of this the Yid is the sole purpose of creation. These two exclusivities of the Yid are expressed in the letter ה which numerically equals five. From the aspect of neshama, Chazal say that there are five levels of neshama נפש רוח נשמה חיה יחידה. This is hinted in the letter ה because this letter is the only one in the Aleph Beis that is pronounced with only breath without using any part of the mouth. This letters alludes to the neshamah which was blown into Man (Bereishis 2,7 ויפח באפיו נשמת חיים). Concerning the purpose of creation the letter ה also alludes to it as the passuk says כי ביה ה’ צור עולמים (Menachos 29b) from where Chazal learn that the world was created with the letter ה.
Klal Yisrael emerged as the fifth dimension in creation after their exodus from Mitzrayim on Pesach. This is the reason why our Yom Tov is called פה סח the mouth speaks for it is then that we attained the level of the Man with Speech which expresses itself in ה’ מוצאות הפה five different letter sounds (guttural palette tongue etc). That is why the Torah describes Yetzias Mitzrayim in five expressions and levels והוצאתי והצלתי וגאלתי ולקחתי והבאתי (Shmos 6,6). During their exit from Mitzrayim the Torah says וחמושים עלו בני ישראל מארץ מצרים (Shmos 13,18) this can be interpreted to mean they left Mitzrayim as a nation on level Five of creation.
Being on the Fifth level Yisrael has a special love bond with Hashem since they are the only creation that possesses a neshama from the breath of Hashem. This unique relationship is manifested at the time Am Yisrael left Mitzrayim when they were on the verge of sinking into the 50th level of tumah of which there was no return would it not have been from the chesed of Hashem to whisk them out from there at the last second. The Sfas Emes (Shabbos Hagadol תרנו ) writes that the fact that the decreed period of 400 years of bondage was not yet fulfilled and that Yisrael were overcome and steeped in tremendous tumah, left no alternative to Am Yisrael’s salvation other than Hashem revealing Himself during the night of Makkas Bechoros. This incredible demonstration that no limitations and decrees can stand in the way of this close relationship, brought out Am Yisrael’s unique role of “Man the Medabair” as being the fifth category in creation.
This is also hinted in the letters of מטה. Yisrael were only allowed by Hashem to sink to the מ”ט the 49th level just shy of seconds of falling into the 50th. To this we merited because of our special love relationship with Hashem being the ה category of creation.
The portion of Maggid begins with הא לחמא עניא referring to the matzos. The matzos are a display of this love relationship with Hashem for it describes Hashem’s swift redemption of Am Yisrael right before we fell into the 50th level. We pick up this matzoh and sayהא which means this. However, we can also say that it alludes to the letter ה symbolizing the 5th category. As we begin the Maggid part of the Seder we capsulize in the first word the gain of all our servitude and redemption from Mitzrayim and that is Number Five, the Adam Hamadabeir. The proof is that on this night we are commanded to eat matzos which symbolize our love relationship with Hashem because of our ה.
Another aspect of belonging to the Fifth Category is our mission to thank Hashem by recognizing His constant wonders and miracles. This is the purpose of our creation as the passuk says (Yeshaya 43,23) עם זו יצרתי לי תהלתי יספרו I created this nation for the purpose of singing my praises. This mission is also hinted to in in the letter ה for Number Five is specifically related to הודאה praising and thanking Hashem. In the sefer Otzros Yosef (Engel) he elaborates on this theme. Every Shemoneh Esrai contains six berachos of praise, three at the beginning and three at the end. The fifth beracha is מודים אנחנו לך
The gemarrah in Berachos 6b states that if one benefits from a wedding without gladdening the hearts of the Chasan and Kallah he transgresses Five Kolos קול ששון וקול שמחה קול חתן וקול כלה קול אומרים הודו את ה’ (Yirmaya 33,11). Once again we find that the fifth kol is הודאה. In Avos (6,11) the Mishnah states that Hashem possesses five acquisitions and the fifth listed is the Beis Hamikdash. The Chazal tell us (Berachos 58) that the Beis Hamikdash is called הוד as we find it listed fifth in the passuk לך ה’ הגדולה והגבורה והתפארת והנצח וההוד for it is the place to express gratitude to Hashem.
When we were redeemed from Mitzrayim in the state of חמושים having acquired the fifth category of creation, we were then commissioned as a nation to spend our lives with praise and gratitude to Hashem as the commentary of the Ramban says at the end of Parshas Bo . וכוונת כל המצות שנאמין באלקינו ונודה אליו שהוא בראנו והיא כוונת היצירה ואין אל עליון חפץ בתחתונים מלבד שידע האדם ויודה לאלהיו שבראו וכוונת רוממות הקול בתפלות וכוונת בתי הכנסיות וזכות תפלות הרבים זהו שיהיה לבני אדם מקום יתקבצו ויודו לאל שבראם והמציאם ויפרסמו זה ויאמר לפניו בריותיך אנחנו
There are five cups at the Seder. The fifth cup is that of Eliyahu Hanavi. The Rif paskins like Rabbe Tarfon that on the fifth cup we recite the Hallel Hagadol which begins with הודו לה’. Eliyahu Hanavi was in Mitzrayim during Makkas Bechoros as he is present in the acronym ולא יתן המשחית לבוא אל (Shmos 12,23). Tonight is the night of ה, a night of הודאה .
With this understanding we can explain the part of the Haggadah of דיינו. On every chesed of Hashem that He bestowed upon us we say it would have been enough for us.
This proclamation also stems from the letter ה which is composed of two letters, a dalet and a yud inside which spell the word די enough. The higher level of gratitude is the recognition that whatever Hashem bestows upon you it is more than one deserves. This lofty degree of gratitude can be derived from Leah at the birth of Yehudah. She named him Yehudah from the lashon of הודאה conveying that she took more than her portion. She saw in ruach hakodesh that Yaakov was destined to have twelve children. Having four wives meant that each one would give birth to three children. When she gave birth to her fourth child Yehudah, she thanked Hashem for meriting more than she deserved. Therefore during the night of the Seder which is the night of הודאה we express our gratitude in the form of ה , Dayeinu.
Let us continue elaborating on the five levels of creation and its relationship to Amalek. They are the nation of אשר קרך (Devarim 25,18) which professes that everything in the world is a מקרה a mere happening and coincidence. As the sefarim write, Amalek is gematriah 240 which is equal to ספק – doubt. Amalek places doubt in all four levels of creation claiming that none of them are subjugated to Hashem’s will but rather they exist on their own. If one adds up all the four levels including the word itself one arrives at 502. דומם = 91, צומח = 145, חי = 19, and מדבר = 247. The Avos who are the beginning of the fifth category, lived a total number of 502 years of publicizing Hashem’s presence in creation (Avraham 175, Yitzchak 180, Yaakov 147).
This correlation of 502 between the Avos and the four categories of creation demonstrates that even though Amalek removed Hashem from these four levels by placing doubt in the world of Hashem’s presence, the Avos replaced Hashem in the world with His chesed, awe, and emes. This is hinted in the letter ה which is composed of the letters dalet and yud symbolizing that the Avos of the fifth level subjugated the four levels (ד) of the universe to the (י) symbolizing Hashem.
The Matteh of Moshe brought about the Makkos in Mitzrayim. The Chidushei Harim writes that the Ten Plagues revealed that the Ten Sayings with which the world and the four categories were created by Hashem are constantly renewed and sustained by Him. This Matteh like the Avos subjugated these four categories to the will of Hashem for the plagues involved smiting the Nile, the crops, cattle and humans. Chazal say that the acronym of the Ten Plagues דצך עדש באחב were written on this Matteh. Is it not incredible that the gematriah of the above is the same gematriah of the four levels 502.
Let us delve even deeper in the above concept. Chazal tell us that this Matteh weighed 40 Seah which is the minimum measurement of water for a kosher Mikveh. This teaching is derived from the passuk (Shmos 4,2) מזה בידך and it is to be read מ זה בידך 40 seahs are being held in your hand (Baal Haturim). What is the significance that the Matteh is compared to a Mikveh? We can explain it as follows. The Mikveh contains 960 lugin measures of water since every seah measure is equal to 24 lugin. Hence 40 seah equals 960 lugin of water. 960 is the most powerful measure of bittul (negation) for even a Berya (an entire creature) which is not able to become battul with the normal sixty times greater quantity of heter into where it fell, nevertheless 960 times greater can make it battul. To understand the reason why it works we must go to the origins of tumah which stems from the Nachash. It caused Adam and Chava to eat from the Aitz Hadaas by arousing ספק – doubt in the words of Hashem. Amalek is deeply connected to the Nachash as Chazal say Haman’s name is first mentioned in relationship to the Aitz Hadaas after the sin המן העץ הזה (Chullin 139). Just as the Nachash sent his tumah and impurity to all four levels of creation, so too Amalek continues in its footsteps infusing the four categories with its tumah.
The Yid who is from the fifth category is essentially Tahor. He becomes temporarily impure by the levels of creation embedded with Amalek’s impurities rooted inספק . Four times Amalek and ספק which corresponds to the four levels of creation is gematriah 960. The fact that the Mikveh also contains 960 Lugin of water conveys that the spiritual power of Mikveh can remove theספק of the Nachash and Amalek which are the source of all tumah. Just as the Mikveh has the power to reaffirm Hashem’s powers and providence within the four levels, so too the Matteh by bringing on the Makkos accomplished the same, and removed the question of Hashem’s intervention and sovereignty in creation.
That is why Hashem told Moshe that the name of אהיה is the name through which the redemption of Yisrael will be revealed (Shmos 3,14). The sefarim explain that the name of אהיה serves like a Mikveh, for together with its inner letters its gematriah isמקוה 151אלף הה יוד הה . The explanation is that through the subjugation of the four levels of creation to Hashem, one rids himself from any doubt that Amalek infuses into creation concerning Hashem’s interaction. It is as if the four levels of the world undergo the purification of a Mikveh. אהיה אשר the Mikveh will take the form of אשר which is gematriah 502 (including the word) the Ten Makkos דצך עדש באחב written on the Matteh.
Amalek attacked Am Yisrael right after Yetzias Mitzrayim. The reason being, that Yetzias Mitzrayim demonstrated that Am Yisrael is the ה the one who is above the four levels and subjugates everything to Hashem. Amalek had to reinstate their philosophy of tumah so they attacked Yisrael.
A third interpretation in the nature of Matteh is as follows. Theמטה which smote Mitzrayim with the plagues brought about this fifth level of Medabeir. An integral component of this category Medabair is that we merited to the ten languages that lead to the shelaimus of Tefilla (Devarim Rabba 2,1) שועה צעקה נאקה רנה פגיעה ביצור קריאה ניפול ופילול תחנונים . The Sfas Emes ((וארא תרמג says even more poignantly that the entire purpose of the Makkos was to bring us to the level of Tefillah. Tefillah is not to be looked upon as merely a means to remove the tzarah but rather the opposite that the tzarah is there to bring one to Tefillah. If there was proper Tefillah beforehand there would be no need for the tzarah to come. This is the meaning that the Dibbur at Pesach went out of its galus because Yisrael learned how to really daven.
This concept is hinted in the gematriah of מטה when spelled with its hidden letters thus מם טית הי arriving at 515 which is equal to תפלה. Even more so the word מטה is gematriah 54 which equals the number of berachos said at the three daily tefillos 3 times 18 equals 54. Through the Makkos brought by the Matteh we merited the koach of Tefillah.
Gut Shabbos Rav Brazil