Thursday, March 11, 2010

Koreich: Two Views from Rav Kook

[This week's Toronto Torah is here!]

I’ve spent quite a bit of time this year reading Rav Kook’s comments on the Haggadah. I have come to believe that Rav Kook saw the Seder as a performance centered on the food, and the Maggid, the re-telling of our experience of suffering and redemption, as a complement to the food.

In particular, Rav Kook’s views of Koreich are fascinating; he presents two dichotomies to explain the Matzah/Marror sandwich. Here are excerpts explaining the two views:

1. Matzah = Freedom, Marror = Servitude, and we need to develop a unity of the two to be true servants of Gd
We must understand these two forces, that of servitude and that of freedom, not as separate forces which operate independently, each with its own role, but as two joined, complementary forces…

The overall goal will be realized only with the knowledge and recognition that these two forces are not contradictory, but are joined in creating the world’s ultimate Freedom, the honor and the powerful desirability of which is not revealed unless it is crowned by exalted Servitude, servitude before the King of Glory, which is also the ultimate freedom.

Therefore, the perfect form of Freedom comes when it is bound together with Servitude, such that a person will find within himself the total control which is suitable for a truly free person, who reigns as well upon the greatest of forces, which is the force of freedom itself.

2. Matzah = Realized Redemption, Marror = Preparation for Redemption, and we see Yetziat Mitzrayim as both extant redemption and preparation for future exile and then future redemption
(Rav Kook makes this observation on the passage of Maggid about reciting the story of our departure from Egypt during the day and at night.)

Matzah is parallel to the goal of accepting the yoke of Divine monarchy… Marror is bceause they embittered the lives of our ancestors, which is the preparation for the revelation of HaShem upon us in the future…

Therefore we say, ‘Because of this [Gd acted for me when I left Egypt],’ and not ‘Because of these,’ plural, to demonstrate the unity of the preparation and the goal, the unity of day and night.


  1. Rav Kook was intensely cognizant of being a Cohen, as encouraged by the Hafetz Haim. I wonder if that has to do with the focus you perceive? The food is related to the korban Pesah, which may have especially interested a Cohen.

    The symbiosis of apparent opposites or antagonistic forces, or more correctly their higher unity, is a recurring theme throughout his writings.

  2. R' Mordechai-
    An interesting thought, although his food focus extends beyond the korban-related to elements like Karpas.