Number 5 on the list of Seder steps is called "Maggid". The author of the Hagaddah gives us a text and a structure to guide us how to tell over the story. It is easy, however, to get lost in this ancient text and lose focus as to what we are trying to accomplish.
The following is an overview of Maggid that will assist you in using this beautiful text as a powerful tool to pass on this wonderful tradition.
Ha Lachma Anya (Poor Man’s Bread)- הָא לַחְמָא עַנְיָא
We open the discussion by uncovering the Matzah and introducing the Matzah as “poor man’s bread”. The bread that our ancestors ate while still in Egypt.
Ma Nishtana (Why the Difference?)- מַה נִּשְּׁתַּנָה הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה מִכָּל הַלֵּילוֹת
Pour the second cup of wine and give the children their moment in the spotlight. But even if there are no children at the Seder we begin Maggid by asking these questions to set the tone of the evening. The entire Seder discussion should be in question and answer format.
Avadim Hayinu (We Were Slaves)- עֲבָדִים הָיִינוּ לְפַרְעֹה בְּמִצְרָיִם
This is not yet the answer to the question. Just a teaser. The rest of the paragraph will go on to introduce the once a year special Mitzvah that we have to tell over the story of the Exodus and how the more we discuss it, the greater the reward is.
We are going to illustrate this point with a story and a ruling:
Maaseh (A Story) - מַעֲשֶׂה בְּרַבִּי אֱלִיעֶזֶר
A story of 5 great Rabbis who went all night getting into the Pesach story.
Omar Rabbi Elazar (Rabbi Elazar’s Ruling)- אָמַר רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן עֲזַרְיָה
Rabbi Elazar quotes Ben Zoma to teach us that we should tell the story every day and night, as well as the Sages who say that this will be an eternal Mitzvah.
Boruch HaMakom/K’neged Arba Bonim (Bless Hashem/The 4 Sons)- בָּרוּךְ הַמָּקוֹם
We continue to emphasize the obligation to tell the story by illustrating that not every Jew relates to the story in the same way. Sensitive to that, the Torah tells us 4 different times to tell the story to our children, teaching us that on this special night, with Matzah and Maror before us, we adapt the story in a way that will resonate with our audience.
After the lengthy introduction, we begin to tell our story, beginning at the very beginning:
Mitchilah Ovdei Avodah Zara (We were idol worshippers)- מִתְּחִלָּה עוֹבְדֵי עֲבוֹדָה זָרָה
In order to fully appreciate the story we need to understand that the world was steeped in idol worship and the birth of the Jewish people happened through the relentless dedication of our forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their wives who challenged the world and the society around them with a monotheistic belief and set of values.
Once our foundation was set with our Patriarchs and Matriarchs, we needed to further cleanse ourselves by going through a period of suffering and challenges in Egypt, ultimately to emerge as a stronger people, with an independent identity and the resilience to survive whatever the nations of the world would throw at us.
Boruch Shomer Havtachoso (Keeping the Promise)- בָּרוּךְ שׁוֹמֵר הַבְטָחָתוֹ
Hashem was behind the entire slavery. He had already told Abraham that they would have to undergo this slavery for the reasons mentioned above. In the original covenant, God said that it would take 400 years, but after seeing the heaviness of the suffering, we were able to be redeemed after 210.
Tzei U’Lemad (Go and Learn)- צֵא וּלְמַד מַה בִּקֵּש לָבָן הָאֲרַמִי
The Haggadah now takes 3 passages that can be found in the Book of Devarim and expounds on them. The passages are from the commandment of Bikkurim, delivering one’s first fruits to Israel. When the fruits are delivered, he is obligated to recite these verses that speak about Hashem’s delivery of his “first fruits”, the Jewish people from Slavery to Israel.
In Talmudic style, the author of the Haggadah quotes a line from the verse and then expounds on it. Through this exegesis, the author brings out many important aspects of the story. Here is a partial list:
We then go on to describe the 10 plagues:
Eilu Esser Makos (These are the 10 Plagues)- אֵלּוּ עֶשֶׂר מַכּוֹת שֶׁהֵבִיא הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא
We list the ten plagues and describe them in detail as each one revealed a new aspect of Hashem’s rule from the lowest depths to the highest heights and even over the firstborn children who were viewed as deities in Egypt. We complete this section giving a 3 word symbol that is an acronym for the 10 plagues and was also written on the staff of Moshe (hinting to the fact that there are other secrets hidden in these words relating Hashem’s kingship over the world). The symbol is: D’Tzach, Adash, B’Achav - דְּצַ"ךְ עַדַ"שׁ בְּאַחַ"ב
After telling how we left Egypt, we continue the story by describing the miracles that happened a week later when we arrived at the Red Sea (the Yam Suf) with Egypt chasing us and how the sea split for us and closed in on the Egyptians.
The author of the Haggadah once again does this through an exegesis of the verses to show us that the number of miracles that happened at the sea were many more than what happened in Egypt:
Rabbi Yosei HaGlili Omer (Statement of Rabbi Yosei)- רַבִּי יוֹסֵי הַגְּלִילִי אוֹמֵר
The author brings 3 different opinion how many miracles happened at the sea. According to Rabbi Yosei it was 50. According to Rabbi Eliezer it was 200. According to Rabbi Akiva it was 250. All of these opinions relate to the mystical understanding of each of these sages how many spiritual forces needed to be overcome in order to raise the Jewish people above the natural order of Creation and completely into the hands of the Almighty.
Kamah Maalot/The Dayenu Song- כַּמָּה מַעֲלוֹת טוֹבוֹת לַמָּקוֹם עָלֵינוּ
Now that we’ve completed the story of the Exodus we joyously sing this song that relates the wonderful things Hashem has done for us. The first 5 verses focus on the miracles necessary to take us out of Egypt. The second 5 verses talk about the splitting of the sea and supporting us in the desert. The final 5 verses speak about the spiritual gifts that Hashem has given us: Shabbat, the Sinai experience, Israel, the Torah and the Temple!
We now teach about the various Mitzvot that are given to us to perform on this night to commemorate the Exodus. Rabbi Gamliel rules that without teaching about these Mitzvot we have not fulfilled our obligations of the night:
Rabbi Gamliel- רַבָּן גַּמְלִיאֵל הָיָה אוֹמֵר: כָּל שֶׁלֹּא אָמַר שְׁלשָׁה דְּבָרִים אֵלּוּ בַּפֶּסַח, לֹא יָצָא יְדֵי חוֹבָתוֹ
The 3 Mitzvot that we are required to teach about are “Pesach”, the Pascal Lamb, “Matzah” and “Maror”. We explain how the Pascal Sacrifice was brought in the Temple to commemorate rising above all Egyptian Gods. The Matzah is now explained as the dough that didn’t rise because our leaving Egypt had to be with utmost speed. And Maror reminds us of the bitter times, those that we should never forget even though we are free.
Maggid now comes to a close. We lift our cups and recite the first part of the Hallel praise. We then make a final blessing thanking Hashem for redeeming us and bringing us to this point, and praying that we should merit to see the rebuilding of the Temple. We then make a HaGafen and drink the second cup.