May 1, 2016
Beis Moshiach in #1018, Bitachon Bytes, Pesach

By Rabbi Zalman Goldberg 

Pesach is definitely the head of the yearwhen it comes to observing minhagim-Jewish customs. In general, there are many customs which are observed by myriads of communities in every aspect of Jewish life. Other minhagim are kept by certain sects of Yidden. Still more minhagim are passed down in families from generation to generation.

Pesach also gives us an important perspective on how to view and approach fulfillment of these customs. All of them must be observed when, where, and to whom they are applicable, but they can sometimes seem burdensome, so what should the appropriate approach be?

We can appreciate the value of minhagim by first explaining a seeming peculiarity in the Mah Nishtana1. The order of the Four Questions according to Nusach Chabad (also brought down in the Mishna in the Yerushalmi, many Rishonim, many Mekubalim, and the first printed Hagada) has as the first question, the question about dipping twice during the Seder, (the karpas in the salt water and the maror-bitter herbs in the charoses) followed by the question of why we eat only Matza on Pesach. The third question is about why we eat Maror, and finally the fourth question is about why we lean.

Whether we look at the level of importance, or if we consider in what order the child notices the changes of the night of the Seder, the order of the questions should be different. According to the hierarchy of importance, the questions about Matzo and Maror should certainly precede the question of dipping, for they are Biblical and Rabbinical commandments respectively, while the dipping of Karpas and Maror is merely a custom. Furthermore, even the question of why we lean should come before the question of dipping karpas and maror, for the leaning is a sign of freedom, which is the theme of the Yom Tov we are then celebrating.

From a child’s perspective, he has only seen the leaning during Kiddush before dipping the karpas, so at least the question of why we lean should be first! Alternatively, the main dipping is the maror which follows the matzo, so then surely the question about the dipping should be last, for the child will be surprised about the dipping only after the matzo is eaten and the maror has been introduced.

The common denominator between all these considerations is the logical perspective on what is most important: Biblical, Rabbinical etc., or what the correct order of Seder proceedings is.

To answer these questions we will take a different stance, and that is to reflect on what is most impressionable to a child, thus causing it to be the first question he asks.

That which catches the child’s attention and influences the child most is the Minhag. There are many aspects in Yiddishkait. There are Biblical commandments and Rabbinic commandments. These Mitzvos are actions which we do, but are not necessarily a way of life. The Torah instructs us to do certain things (and abstain from doing others), but these actions can remain isolated, with little influence on the level of holiness in our lives.

Jewish customs, on the other hand, if heeded, dictate how much devotion to the fulfillment of Torah and Mitzvos we will have. This is why the Jewish customs make a very strong impression on a child because they not only teach rituals, but rather they imbue a child with a sense of holiness, a feeling that he is surrounded by an ambience of Yiddishkait. It’s possible to observe all of the Torah and Rabbinic commandments and not feel any affinity with Yiddishkait, or any separation from goyishe influences.

Yiddishe customs separate us from the coarseness of the world and elevate us to a stronger connection to Hashem corresponding to authentic Bitachon material. As we have explained many times, Bitachon at its essence is an unshakeable connection to Hashem where materialism is transparent and the only real existence is Hashem and His Will. Among the many ways to accomplish this, one is through meticulous compliance with the minhagim which are not just more rituals than we already have Biblically etc. They represent the pure devotion and dedication of a Yid to Hashem, beyond what He has already required us to do.

This is why the first of the Four Questions that the child asks is about the dippings (מטבילין), because of the powerful effect it has on the one observing them.

This is also why we should cherish our minhagim. Especially when it comes to Pesach, when some have myriads of minhagim and hiddurim, one may feel burdened, “Why do we do this custom? It’s so limiting! Just because our ancestors conducted themselves as such does it mean that we need to do the same? The variety of food is very limited, koshering and covering huge amounts of kitchen space in so challenging, and preparation of food is at times quite complicated.’’

The truth is that not only are all of these customs not burdensome, they are actually the greatest thing we can do to bolster and strengthen our Yiddishkait and to improve our approach to fulfilling Torah and Mitzvos.

It is told2 of a Ruzhiner Chassid who was in the process of moving to North America and who came to his Rebbe to receive a Bracha before leaving. His Rebbe said, ‘’If you make sure to be scrupulous in your observance of minhagim (in addition to the rest of Torah and Mitzvos), I guarantee that you will merit many generations of Torah observant offspring.”

This he did, and the guarantee was fulfilled as well. This was no coincidence, for a child who grows up in a home where an atmosphere of G-dliness reigns (as a result of doing Yiddishe minhagim), will indeed continue to affect many generations to come. For each descendant will be positively affected by the minhagim being observed in the home where s/he is raised.

Rabbi Zalman Goldberg is a well sought after speaker and lecturer on Chassidic thought. His writings and recordings on the topic of Bitachon can be accessed at You can also receive his one minute daily Bitachon clip by sending a WhatsApp to 347.546.4402 with the word “Bitachon.”


1)  לקו”ש ח”א ע’ 244 ואילך.

2)  מפי השמועה


Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (
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