Ha Lachma Anya and the Angels


We commence the Hagadah with the passage of הא לחמא עניא, this is the poor man’s bread that our forefathers ate in Egypt. The commentators (Machzor Vitri, Ravyah, Rashbatz, and Shivlei Haleket) explain that this passage is recited in Aramaic because it was instituted in Babylon, where the Jews resided after the destruction of the first Bais HaMikdash, and they spoke in Aramaic. We therefore recite this passage in Aramaic so the children should notice the change of language and begin to ask the מה נשתנה. Perhaps we can offer an alternative explanation as to why we recite this passage in Aramaic (a similar interpretation is also mentioned by the Ritva and the Avudraham). The commentators write that Kaddish is recited in Aramaic because the Ministering Angels do not understand Aramaic, and we do not want them to be privy to our sanctification of HaShem’s Name. In a similar vein, we can suggest that the Medrash (Yalkut Shimoni Bashalach § 234) states that when HaShem desired to split the Sea for the Jewish People, the angel in charge of the Sea claimed, “these (the Egyptians) are idolaters and these (the Jewish People) are idolaters. Why split the Sea for them?” HaShem overrode the angel’s objections and split the Sea for the Jewish People, thus granting them eternal freedom from the Egyptians. When we sit down to recite the Hagadah on the Seder night, we are concerned that the angels will once again wonder why we are deserving of freedom. To negate their prosecution, we commence the Hagadah in Aramaic. Given the fact that the angels do not understand Aramaic, they depart without prosecuting us and we are free to continue praising HaShem for our miraculous deliverance from the Egyptian servitude.

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