An explanation of the custom to walk four cubits with the Afikoman on the shoulder.
In siman 477 of the Shulchan Aruch, the Acharonim bring in the name of the Maharshal, in Teshuvah 86, that one should take out the Afikoman wrapped in a cloth, and throw it over his shoulder, and walk four cubits with it in the house, and say: Thus did our forefathers go, with their leftovers bound in their garments on their shoulders.
We need to understand the reason for this custom - do we need to make an allusion to every movement that they did at that time?! Is it not enough of a reminder of our exodus from Egypt all that Chazal fixed for us on this night, that we have to add also that which they happened to do because of the particular needs of a particular time? Also, where is this custom hinted to in the Torah?
But it seems to me that we can explain all this, by examining that which is written (Shemos 3,21) “and it will be, that when you go, you will not go empty handed. Each woman shall ask from her neighbour and the dweller in her house silver and gold objects and garments, and you shall put them on your sons and your daughters, and you shall empty out Egypt”. The words “when you go, you will not go empty handed” appear to be superfluous - since it says immediately afterwards “each woman shall borrow…and you shall empty out Egypt”, it follows that they would not go empty handed, so why does it need to state it?
But it seems to me that there is a special intention behind these words. Behold, it is written (Shemos 12,34) “The people picked up their dough before it was leavened, their leftovers bound in their garments on their shoulders. And the children of Yisrael did according to the word of Moshe, and they asked from the Egyptians objects of silver, and objects of gold, and garments”. What is the connection between the two posukim?
At the end of the fifth perek of the gemora Pesachim, it says: It was taught, each person takes his Pesach sacrifice in its skin, and throws it over his shoulder. Said R. Illish, like an Arab. Rashi explained that this is the way of Ishmaelite merchants. It was always a puzzle to me - what was R. Illish coming to teach, and why did Chazal see a need to fix this teaching in the gemora? Also, the Baraissa itself is appears to be superfluous, because what’s the difference how they carried the Pesach sacrifice to their houses? But in order to understand the words of the sages and their riddles, we can say as follows:
There are many reasons given to explain the cause of the enslavement in Egypt, and the opinion of many commentaries is that it resulted from the sin of the sale of Yosef. And it seems to me that this is Chazal’s intention here. Because in all the matters of Pesach there are allusions both to the redemption and to the enslavement - the bitter herbs allude to the enslavement, and the Pesach sacrifice and the matzos allude to the redemption, but there is no allusion as to why the enslavement came about. Therefore, they made an allusion that it was through the sin of the sale of Yosef, because it says there (Bereishis 37,25), after the brothers had thrown Yosef into the pit, “and they raised their eyes and looked, and behold, a caravan of Ishmaelites came from Gilead, with their camels bearing spices and balm and laudanum, going to take it down to Egypt”. And afterwards it says (37,28) “And Midianite men, merchants, passed by, and they pulled and raised Yosef from the pit, and they sold Yosef to the Ishmaelites for twenty silver coins, and they brought Yosef to Egypt”. So by carrying the Pesach sacrifice thrown over their shoulder, which, as R. Illish (who had the same question that we had, which was why Chazal informed us about how they carried the sacrifice) explained, was the way of Ishmaelite merchants, they alluded to the sale of Yosef, which involved such merchants, and thereby they reminded us that the slavery came about because of this sin.
With this we can understand the continuation of the matter above. It is well known that the Rabbis explained that the spoils of Egypt was wages for their years of slavery. But this really depends on whether the slavery had been deserved or not. Because if they had not deserved it, then, since they had been enslaved for no reason, they deserved to be paid wages. But if had deserved to be enslaved, because of a previous sin, then they did not deserve to be paid.
Therefore, for this reason, Hashem commanded that they ask for the riches, but not to take them forcibly. Because to all appearances, they did not deserve any wages, since they were liable for the sin of selling Yosef. But this was only in deed, but not in thought, because really the sale of Yosef did not happen because of their intentions, but rather Hashem caused it to happen, as it brought in the Midrash, parshas Vayeishev. According to this, they did deserve to be paid for their years of slavery. So the payment had to be parallel to the sin. Thus, in practice they could not take their wages forcibly, since in practice they had sinned, and so did not deserve wages, and therefore they took only by way of request. But since, in the realm of thought, they did deserve wages, therefore they really intended to take the spoils.
With this we can understand what is written in Megillas Esther, where it says (9,16) “but upon the spoils they did not send forth their hands”, and yet Mordechai and Esther had written in the second set of letters (8,11) that they were “to plunder their spoils” - could it be that the people were on a higher level than Mordechai and Esther!
But the intention is like we just explained, because the command of Mordechai and Esther to plunder the spoils was just like the taking of the spoils from Egypt. There, they were compensation for their years of slavery, and here too, they could take the spoils as compensation for the distress of the decree of Haman which had hung over them. However, this is only if they had not been deserving of the decree. But if they had deserved the decree, then they would not deserve compensation.
Now, Chazal said that this decree of Haman was for the sin of their bowing down to the idol that Nevuchadnetzar had erected, and the reason why Hashem is not considered to have shown favoritism in this matter, by annulling the decree of Haman in the end, was because they had bowed down only in outward appearance, but in their thoughts they were bowing to Hashem. Therefore, here also Hashem only punished them outwardly. Accordingly, in the realm of deed they did not deserve compensation, since in practice they had bowed down, and so they deserved the decree, but in the realm of thought, in their hearts, they did not sin, and so deserved compensation.
Therefore, Mordechai told them that in their hearts they should intend to plunder the spoils, in order that they would recognise that in the realm of thought they deserved compensation, and to recognise that the decree was only in appearance, and so there was no favoritism here. But in practice they should not take. This is why it says “and upon the spoils they did not send forth their hands”, that is, in their hearts they desired to plunder the spoils, and their hearts sent forth to plunder, but their hands they did not send forth to the spoils, because with their hands, that is, in practice, they did not deserve it.
And now we can understand the connection between the two posukim that we brought earlier. Behold, if Yisrael had not remembered the sale of Yosef, then they would have thought that they deserved to be paid wages, and they would not have been concerned to take them by way of request, because they would have said to themselves: Why do we need to ask for it? We deserve wages by right! But since they carried the remainder of their dough, tied up in their garments, like the way of Ishmaelite merchants, as Rashi explained, they remembered that this enslavement was for the sin of the sale of Yosef, and automatically they would know that they did not deserve by rights any compensation. Therefore, they took it only by way of request. This is what it says, “the people picked up their dough…their leftovers bound up in their garments on their shoulders”, and therefore “the children of Yisrael did according to the word of Moshe, and asked the Egyptians” - they took specifically by way of request, because they understood the reason for the matter.
But why did they carry the leavening on their shoulders bound up in their garments? It seems certain that they had horses and donkeys to carry it, just like they carried all their possessions! But the reason they did this was because they were thus commanded from the mouth of Hashem. This is what Hashem said to Moshe in the posuk that we began with, “and it will be, that when you go, you will not go empty handed”, that is, that they themselves should not go empty handed, and put the leaven on their donkeys, but rather they should carry it on themselves, like the way of the Ishmaelites, in order that they recognise that the enslavement was because of the sale of Yosef, and from this they will recognise that they do not deserve by rights any payment, and so they will only take their wages by way of request. Therefore, the Torah continues “and each woman will ask from her neighbour” - request, and not plunder, since they understand the truth.
And since Yisrael were commanded to do this, so the word of the truthful G-d was in the mouth of the Maharshal, that it is therefore fitting for everyone to do this, in order that they will have a reminder of from what cause the enslavement in Egypt sprouted. Thus, there is support for this custom from both the gemora and the Torah.
Why was Hillel the one who used to eat matzoh and maror together?
Thus did Hillel at the time when the Beis Hamikdash existed - he would sandwich together matzah and maror, and eat them together, to fulfil that which it says “you shall eat it together with matzos and bitter herbs”.
The reason why it was specifically Hillel who did this, we can explain according to the gemora in Berachos - once Hillel was coming from a journey, and he heard an outcry in the city, and he said: I am certain that this is not in my house. The Maharsha explained that Hillel used to teach his household, that if, G-d forbid, something bad happened, that they should not cry out - he taught them to say “This is also for the good, and everything is for the good”.
Now, it is well known that the Pesach sacrifice alludes to good, to redemption, and matzah has two aspects - it could allude to good, to redemption and freedom, and there is also a side to say that it alludes to bad, to the bread of affliction, like it says in the Haggadah, “this is the bread of affliction”. And maror certainly alludes to bad. Therefore, someone who does not say that the bad things that come from Hashem are actually good, distinguishes between good times and bad times. But somebody who believes that the bad things that come from Hashem are actually good, all times, good and bad, are the same. Therefore, Hillel would sandwich together the matzah and maror, because to him their allusions were equal.
And this is the explanation of what it says, “you shall eat it (the Pesach sacrifice) together with matzos and bitter herbs” - that because of the matzah and maror, (because of both the good things and the bad things which had happened to them), they merited to eat the Pesach sacrifice, and they reached this level. But if not for this they would not have merited it. Like it says (Yeshayohu 12,1) “I will thank you, Hashem, for You were angry with me”, and (Tehillim 118,21) “I will thank You, for You afflicted me, and You were my salvation” - (this ‘bad’ thing which happened to me was for the good, and made me what I am, and for this I thank You).