During the Seder, when we recite the ten plagues G–d brought upon the Egyptians, we customarily pour off some wine from our cup with one of our fingers. This gesture shows that we are not completely happy because pain was inflicted upon the Egyptians. We recite the ten plagues to focus on G-d’s power and His control of all aspects of nature that He displayed during the ten plagues. G-d warned Pharoh through Moshe of the impending plagues and Pharoh could have avoided all the suffering if he hadn’t been so stubborn and would have let the Jews go out. Pharoh basically brought the plagues upon himself.
Before the second plague of frogs, G-d told Moshe to warn Pharoh of the plague and to state, “They will enter your homes, bedrooms, in your ovens and dough batter.”
The ovens in Egypt were hot in preparation to bake the batter, and the frogs, although they are not commanded to sanctify G-d, chose to jump in the ovens and risk their lives rather than going anywhere else. Those frogs remained alive after the plague while the other frogs died.
Our Sages in the Talmud relate that Nevuchadnetzar the King of Babylon issued a decree that all leaders of the world are to bow to a golden bust of his image. Three of our prophets, Chanania, Mishael and Azaria opted to be thrown into a fiery furnace rather than bow to the image.
The Talmud with the commentaries explain that the image was not an actual idol. Chanania, Mishael and Azaria chose to sanctify themselves to G-d and be cast in the fire rather than making it appear that they were bowing to an image. They were miraculously saved and emerged unscathed, while those who cast them in were burned from the intensity of the fire.
Our Sages tell us that the three prophets chose to be thrown in the furnace after taking the lesson from the frogs.
These prophets said, “We who are commanded to sanctify G-d should certainly be thrown in the furnace rather than trying to escape.” We know that Chanania, Mishael and Azaria were saved and it brought a great awareness of the power of sanctifying G-d’s name and will.
The homes in Egypt were made of marble and were sealed, preventing the frogs from entering. The Medrash says that the frogs were so determined to fulfill G-d’s will that the marble cracked and opened to let them in.
The Slonimer Rebbe o.b.m. would comment and say, “We see that the frogs’ determination was able to penetrate stone, so too, even if a Jew’s heart is hard like a rock in defiance of G-d and His Torah, even if he feels he is the Rasha – the wicked son of the Hagadah – if he says, ‘I’m in. I’m open to serving my creator,’ his hardened heart will soften and G-dliness will fill it and warm him up once again to Yiddishkeit!”
Every Jew is drawn to the Seder. There is something magical about it. What is it all about? Of course, it’s the family getting together, the rituals, the traditions, the songs etc. However, there is something deeper that occurs during the Seder. It’s a night when we are supposed to ask questions, not only the four questions of the Ma Nishtana, rather, the Seder is a forum to inquire about our belief. It’s a night when we are given the opportunity to seriously find out about our roots, our history, the miracles G-d did for us, how we became G-d’s chosen first born, and how we received the greatest gift given to mankind, the Torah from G-d Himself. The Seder is a transformative experience for all!
The four questions begin with “Ma Nishtana Halaila Hazah ― Why is this night different?” The Vilna Goan points out that Seder night is different from all other nights because certain Mitzvos that are normally performed only during the day are done at the Seder at night. For example, the prayer of Hallel is a daytime Mitzvah, yet we recite Hallel at the Seder at night. Also, while Esrog, Lulav and Shofar are daytime Mitzvos, the Mitzvah to eat Matzah and Morror, to tell the story of our Exodus, and eat the Pascal lamb have to be done at night.
The reason Pesach night differs from the rest of the year is because Seder night is actually considered day! A reference to this is in King David’s Psalms, “And the night shines as day.”
This means we look out the window Seder night and it is dark, the stars and full moon are out, yet in the sphere all Jews are sitting in, it is as clear as day, hence we do Mitzvos as if it were day!
This is what is magical, spiritual, transformative and totally uplifting about the Seder. We are in a different realm and we place our deep trust in the Almighty. It is a night of protection from all evils. It is a night like day when we are at home with ourselves, our family, our people and with G-d!