Peacefood for Thought

Peacefood for Thought

Pesaḥ is around the corner and one of the sections of the Haggaḏa is ‘Moṣi Maṣa’ (lit. taking out [the] maṣa [to be eaten]). The great Moroccan ḥakham Yoseph Messas homiletically interprets this phrase by playing on the double meaning of maṣa. Maṣa, to most people, means the unleavened bread normally eaten on Pesaḥ, but maṣa in Hebrew can also mean dispute, quarrel, or strife. Accordingly, Messas says that should we find ourselves in a maṣa (dispute), we ought to moṣi (remove) that from our heart and ask for only peace, since without peace there is nothing. 1

הקדמה (introduction) from Ḥ. Yoseph Messas’ handwritten haggaḏa

This clever derasha highlights the importance of avoiding strife and quarrels with others and reminding us that peace is the ultimate goal. In the same vein, ṿaYiqra Rabba highlights the importance of peace in resolving conflict by noting that peace is so great that even God’s name can be erased in order to resolve a quarrel between a man and his wife. 2

In a subsequent ṿaYiqra Rabba derasha, R. Simon highlights the importance of peace with a reference to this week’s perasha, Ṣaṿ.  After describing the sacrifices in great detail, chapter 7 is summed up with the following phrase:

זֹ֣את הַתּוֹרָ֗ה לָֽעֹלָה֙ לַמִּנְחָ֔ה וְלַֽחַטָּ֖את וְלָֽאָשָׁ֑ וְלַ֨מִּלּוּאִ֔ים וּלְזֶ֖בַח הַשְּׁלָמִֽים׃

This is the law of the burnt-offering, of the meal-offering, and of the sin-offering, and of the guilt-offering, and of the consecration-offering, and of the sacrifice of peace-offerings;

Picking up on the mention of shelamim (peace-offering) at the end of the list, R. Simon likens it to sweet dessert saying that just as dessert is always served at the end of the meal, so too, the peace-offerings are also mentioned last.

Thus, we see the importance of peace, its significance to us, and the importance of conflict resolution.

In fact, this is the truly Sephardic ethos — peace and unity among all.

I think the Sephardic tephilla service is a beautiful example of this. The universal practice among Sepharadim is to have the ḥazzan lead the service with the qahal (congregation) listening and singing along to some sections. The people feel connected to the service and all are welcome to participate, regardless of background or level of observance. At the end of each prayer service in the De Sola Pool siddur, still in use by most Spanish and Portuguese congregations, it reads teqabbel beRaamim wuBraṣon eṯ tephillaṯenu (accept our prayer with mercy and desire). Here tephilla is conjugated in the singular, connoting our unity in voice.

True unity and peace with each other, the same way it led to the revelation, will lead to the redemption. As it says in Yishaʿyahu 52:7 :

מַה־נָּאו֨וּ עַל־הֶֽהָרִ֜ים רַגְלֵ֣י מְבַשֵּׂ֗ר מַשְׁמִ֧יעַ שָׁל֛וֹם מְבַשֵּׂ֥ר ט֖וֹב מַשְׁמִ֣יעַ יְשׁוּעָ֑ה׃ 

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger of good tidings, that announce peace, the harbinger of good tidings, that announce salvation

Due to the variable nature of our posts and the wide spectrum of ideas exchanged, we feel it is important to clarify that the thoughts and opinions shared in posts and articles reflect the opinions of the author and are not representative of our contributors as a whole.


  1. Messas, Yoseph, and Eli Messas. Haggaḏa Shel Pesaḥ ṿaYizkor Yoseph. Hephah: Agudaṯ “Oṣroṯ Yoseph”, 1979. Print. Haggaḏa and commentary by H. Yoseph Messas (1892-1974) written when he was 20 years old in 1912 in Morocco. A talented calligrapher and artist, he illustrated his haggaḏa and rather than retype his work to publish, the publisher simply photocopied the pages and bound them together.
    לרמוז, אם יש לך ריב ומצה עם שום אדם, ובפרט עם אשתך תוציא אותו מלבך ותבקש רק השלום, שאם אין שלום אין כלום 
  2.  ṿaYiqra Rabba 9:8 referencing the sota ritual which in order to alleviate the husband’s suspicion there is a special ritual designed to verify the wife’s innocence, which involves dissolving God’s name written on a sheet of paper in water.
    תָּנֵי רִבִּי יִשְׁמָעֵאל גָּדוֹל שָׁלוֹם שֶׁשֵּׁם הַגָּדוֹל שֶׁנִּכְתַּב בִּקְדֻשָּׁה אָמַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא יִמָּחֶה בַּמַּיִם כְּדֵי לְהַטִּיל שָׁלוֹם בֵּין אִישׁ לְאִשְׁתּוֹ 
March 23, 2018

About Author

Aaron Levy Contributor to Aaron graduated Cornell University with a Bachelor’s in Operations Research and works as a business manager at Capital One Bank, living in Manhattan. Of Kurdish background, he grew up in a Greek and Turkish synagogue with Syrian ḥazzanim and Tora readers. He also served on the board of Westside Sephardic Synagogue (2015-2017), a predominantly North African minyan. He is passionate about Sephardic culture, Sephardic intellectual achievements, linguistics and grammar. Fluent in Hebrew and English, he is proficient in Spanish and Arabic.

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