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ויסב אלקים את העם דרך המדבר

So God turned the people toward the way of the wilderness. (13:18)

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The Midrash teaches that this pasuk, which relates that Hashem caused the people to journey in a circuitous (va’yaseiv) manner, is the source for the halachah that requires each Jew – even one who is poverty-stricken – to sit at the Seder table, b’haseibah, reclining. Apparently, the only connection between the halachah and the pasuk is the word va’yaseiv; they are related by the root, sov. The question before us is obvious: What is the relationship between reclining on Pesach and the manner in which the Jewish People traveled from Egypt?

Horav Zaidel Epstein, zl, suggests a significant principle to be derived from this pasuk. Why did Hashem guide the Jews in a circuitous manner? If the problem was that their fear of the Egyptians would catalyze their desire to return to Egypt, Hashem could simply have removed the fear. After all, they had witnessed the most amazing miracles as Hashem devastated Egypt. They really had nothing to fear but fear itself.

We realize that obviously Hashem had other options. Hashem, however, sought to teach Klal Yisrael an important lesson: what is straight and easy is not always what it seems to be. Hashem was in the process of educating the nation. Every challenge which He presented to them was to elevate them, to increase and enhance their spiritual powers. What they thought was impeding them was actually a promising opportunity that would sustain them throughout their national lives.

This, explains the Mashgiach, is the lesson of Afilu ani she’b’Yisrael, “Even the poor man of Yisrael” must recline and celebrate the Seder as a king. Specifically during the Festival of Faith, which is another name for Pesach— when we delve into the miracles that Hashem wrought for us, the plagues which overturned Egypt, the Splitting of the Red Sea with its accompanying miracles — we are able to perceive the reality that even the most abjectly poor person should sit back and recline at the Seder table like a king. He understands that his function in this world is to carry out the ratzon, will, of Hashem. If Hashem has created him to be poor, then he believes that this state is best for him. After all, it is the will of G-d.

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