Deuteronomy/דברים 26:5

Haggadah Section: Maggid - Beginning

וְעָנִ֨יתָ וְאָמַרְתָּ֜ לִפְנֵ֣י ׀ יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֗יךָ אֲרַמִּי֙אֹבֵ֣ד אָבִ֔י וַיֵּ֣רֶד מִצְרַ֔יְמָה וַיָּ֥גָר שָׁ֖ם בִּמְתֵ֣ימְעָ֑ט וַֽיְהִי־שָׁ֕ם לְג֥וֹי גָּד֖וֹל עָצ֥וּם וָרָֽב

And thou shalt speak and say before the LORD thy God: ‘A wandering Aramean was my father, and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there, few in number; and he became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous.

We are Commanded to recite this on Passover as the priests recited it when bringing the sacrifice of first fruits to the temple, but what does it mean, and why is it important? Who was the "wandering Aramean?"

"Like many things, there are multiple possible answers to this question. The pshat is that this is the first line of a speech given by a person bringing their bikurim (first fruits) as an offering to the temple. Take a look at Deut 26.5-10 and note the whole speech. It's basically a brief synopsis of Jewish history - our forefathers went down to Egypt, were enslaved, hashem brought us out and took us to Israel, therefore I am bringing this offering to hashem. (According to this interpretation, the Aramean was either Abraham or Yaakov - see below). The declaration is made in front of hashem and the cohen because this is the individual making an offering to hashem and making a public declaration of his attachment to hashem along with it. The second (very well known) answer is the midrashic one that originates in the Mechilta. The Mechilta interprets this entire section midrashically (as I suppose one would expect from a midrashic source) and interprets this line as meaning "An Aramean tried to destroy my father", referring to Laban. The instructions for the Pesach seder in the Mishnah (Pesachim 10:4) says to drash from the line "Arami Oved Avi" until the end of the section. Ultimately the drash from the Mechilta became the commonly used text for this exercise, and since it's printed in the haggadah it has become extremely well known. In case you're curious what some of the meforshim say, Rashbam says the Aramean was Abraham, and Seforno says the Aramean was Yaakov. Rashi quotes the midrashic interpretation and says the Aramean was Laban. "

Discussion Question:

How does the interpretation of  Deuteronomy/דברים 26:5 Change the telling of the Passover story?

Do we create our own destiny and greatness, or are we the result of our circumstances?


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