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    Blessing on the Haggadah – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. Why is there no b’rachah recited on the Haggadah?

    A page from the Wolf Haggadah, circa 1390

    A. Almost every mitzvah has a blessing, yet on the Biblical command to relate the story of the Exodus no b’rachah is said. Why do we not say before reading the Haggadah, “Blessed are You… who made us holy with Your commandments and commanded us to relate the story of the Exodus from Egypt”?

    There are four possible answers:

    1. The early halachists hold that the essence of the mitzvah of recounting the Exodus is fulfilled by reciting Kiddush over wine at the beginning of the Seder, which contains references to the going out from Egypt.

    The Haggadah tells us: “There is a mitzvah upon us to relate the story of the Exodus”, and even though this is a Biblical command, no blessing is needed, for “all who magnify their telling of the Exodus are praiseworthy” – i.e. all who increase their recounting after having recited Kiddush, are worthy of praise.

    2. Another opinion is that we do not say a b’rachah because this mitzvah has no limit.

    The Torah tells us to “remember the day when you came forth from Egypt all the days of your life” (Deut. 16:3); one must tell the story of the Exodus every day of one’s life, and on a mitzvah which has no limit, no blessing can be said, just as the mitzvah of prayer does not have a b’rachah, for prayer has no quantifiable measure.

    3. The Sfat Emet looks at the mitzvot which are bein adam l’chavero, between man and man. On giving charity, visiting the sick, etc., no blessing is said. These are rational mitzvot, which, even without a Divine command, we would have worked out of our own accord. Recounting the Exodus is bein adam laMakom, between man and God. It is also a rational mitzvah, which we would have fulfilled even had we not been commanded by God.

    Our sages cite a master who freed his slave and gave him money to start a new life. The erstwhile slave will, of his own accord, want to thank his former master for his kindness. So, too, it comes naturally to the Jewish people to thank their Master for His loving kindness in taking them out of slavery in Egypt.

    4. The Chatam Sofer begins by looking at the laws of conversion to Judaism. A person who is ready for conversion must immerse in a mikvah. After immersion the convert says, “Blessed are You… who made us holy with Your commandments and commanded us…”. A convert cannot recite this b’rachah before the immersion, for at that stage s/he is still non-Jewish.

    We are told: “In every generation one must look upon himself as if he personally had gone out of Egypt” (Pesachim 116b). The Chatam Sofer reads into this that every Jew must see himself as if he were now converting to Judaism; the Haggadah says: “In the beginning our forefathers were idol worshippers, but now God has brought us to his service”.

    Like converts, we cannot recite a b’rachah prior to our “immersion”, with the recitation of the story of the Exodus. We can only afterwards, towards the end of the Haggadah, say the b’rachah: “Blessed are You… who has redeemed Israel”.

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