I posted this D’var Torah a couple of years ago and received very positive feedback. If you like it, please print it out and tell it over at your seider.
We all know that practically everything we do at the Seider is to remember and in a way, reenact the story of the Jews in Mitzrayim. So where does the story start?
I heard this first idea from R’ Paysach Krohn who heard it from R’ Isaac Bernstein. If we had to point to the very beginning of the story, it wouldn’t start with the Jews already in Mitzrayim, rather, it should start with how they got there in the first place. So if we had to identify the very pasuk that starts this narrative, it would have to be in Parshas Vayeishev, Chapter 37, verse 3, which states “Yisroel (Yaakov) loved Yosef from all of his children because he was born to him at an old age so he made for him a ‘Kisones Pasim’” which is most often translated as a robe or coat of many colors. The next pasuk immediately states “And his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, so they hated him, and they could not speak with him peacefully.” This of course led to them dipping the “Kisones Pasim” – the colorful robe in blood to convince Yaakov that Yosef was killed, but actually selling him into slavery and Yosef winding up in Mitzrayim. We all know the rest of the story. The brothers and Yaakov ended up going down to Mitzrayim to Yosef where they ended up living. Several generations later, their great grandchildren became slaves in Mitzrayim. But it all started with the jealousy of the brothers because of the colorful coat that their father gave Yosef.
If that is the beginning of the story, you would think we should do something in the very beginning of the Seider to commemorate this, since, as we said earlier, that is what we do at the Seider. Therefore, what is the first thing we do at the Seider that is different from every other yom tov? It is not kiddush as we do that every other yom tov. Urchatz – washing our hands is next, but that is only because the halachah dictates that we must wash before having a vegetable that is dipped in water. So Urchatz is just a preparation for Karpas. Karpas is really the beginning of the story, if you will, that we experience at the Seider. That being so, there must be some connection between Karpas and Yosef’s’ colorful robe, the Kisones Pasim that the brothers dipped in blood, since again, that was the beginning of the Pesach story. But what is the connection?
If we go back to that first pasuk that we mentioned earlier, you are going to be amazed at how Rashi, on the spot, describes Yosef’s robe. He describes it as “Kimo Karpas – just like Karpas.” Incredible! Pashut pshat is that Rashi is describing the material like karpas, like that which was hanging in Achashveirosh’s palace. But of all the ways to describe it, Rashi uses the word “Karpas” right at the beginning of the story of Pesach. In fact, the first pasuk! Obviously, there has to be something deeper here.
The question I have is what is the connection between the Robe and Karpas? Well, both items were/are dipped in something. However, the Robe was dipped in blood and we did Karpas in saltwater. What’s the connection between blood and saltwater? Would you believe that one of the oldest and most effective ways of removing blood from a garment is with none other than saltwater? Google this if you don’t believe me. Saltwater is a great way to remove blood and I imagine that hundreds of years ago before people were able to buy certain detergents and stain removers from the supermarket, salt water was the best way to remove blood. If you think about it, we use salt to remove the blood from meat. It is the same thing with removing a blood stain from a garment.
Therefore, perhaps, by dipping the karpas into saltwater, we are making up for the brothers dipping the robe in blood, which started our descent to Mitzrayim. Perhaps dipping the Karpas (and Rashi explains that the robe is like karpas) into salt water, is the Tikun for the sin of the brothers dipping the robe in blood.
We could stop there, but I want to take this a step further.
What does saltwater actually do? If you ever did the experiment where you tie a string to a pencil and place it at the top of a cup with the string dipping in the saltwater and leave it for a week, by the end of the week, the water evaporates and the salt comes together on the string like a rock. It literally comes together. It becomes unified. It brings Achdus! And that is the point.
Incredibly, if it was the blood that started the story of the Jews descent to Mitzrayim, it was the saltwater of the Yam Suf that split, allowing the Jews to walk through it, which concluded the story of their stay in Mitzrayim. They went in with blood and came out through saltwater.
We said before that saltwater represents Achdus, whereas blood certainly represents just the opposite. What did the Jews do immediately after they crossed the Yam Suf? They sang Az Yashir. We say Az Yashir every single day during davening. It consists of a lot of words. It certainly is not short. Did you ever wonder how the Jews all sang it together? How is it possible that on the spot, they all knew the words and the tune and were able to sing it together? It is not as if they had been practicing this for months. It was instantaneous! How is that possible?
There is a gemara in Sotah where Rabbi Nechemya answers this question. He states that Moshe began the first verse and then the Jews all prophetically and simultaneously composed the very same words. At that moment, they achieved a level of absolute unity!
The Ohr Chaim states “The Jewish people sang this song with absolute unity, without difference and separation between them, for they were like one person. To hint to this point, the verse (15:1) uses the expression ‘I will sing’ (singular) and not, ‘We will sing.’”
This was the highest level of Achdus the Jews had ever experienced. In my opinion, it was by no coincidence that this occurred right after they walked through the Yam Suf.
Again, the story started with blood, which certainly represents the opposite of achdus. Hashem then orchestrated it so that the story would end with us walking through the saltwater of the Yam Suf, which represents achdus, so that we would reach the absolute highest level of achdus, more than at any time in history.
So I would like to suggest that maybe that is the reason we start the Seider – a night that all Jews come together to celebrate – not by dipping the Karpas in blood as the brothers did, but rather, by dipping the Karpas in saltwater, not only as a tikun for the brothers sin and to, in a sense, cleanse that blood, but to show our achdus from the very beginning of the Seider.
This also explains the beautiful minhag many have for men to wear their white kittels at the Seider. Yaakov gave Yosef a colorful robe which made the brother jealous and ultimately caused our descent to Mitzrayim. Now, we make up for that by showing our achdus by all of us wearing the same plain white kittel. We are all the same and we are all unified.
May we and all the Jewish people unite and achieve the level of achdus we once experienced after crossing the yam suf during the first geulah so that we can all soon experience the ultimate geulah, bimheira biyameinu!