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Rabbi's Blog

rabbi 05 smallsf badge lgRabbi Joel Landau  (rabbi@adathisraelsf.org) has been the Rabbi of Adath Israel since May 2013. He was ordained by the Chief Rabbinate in Jerusalem and has served previously as a congregational Rabbi in Charleston, South Carolina and Irvine, California. A full biography of Rabbi Landau is available here.


The Significance of 15

As I’m sure you know, the Seder opens with a poem that lists the fifteen (15) steps of the Seder; it begins with the words Kadesh, Ur’chatz, Karpas, Yachatz…. The number fifteen is by no means coincidental – the sages intentionally incorporated fifteen steps in the Seder so that they should correspond with the fifteen steps in the Holy Temple that led from the outer courtyard up to the inner courtyard. The reason for fifteen steps was to correspond with the fifteen Songs of Ascent (literally: “songs of steps”) that appear in the books of Psalms. These songs were sung by the Levites while standing along the steps as worshipers ascended to the inner recesses of the Temple.

The idea of fifteen is very closely related to the first half of G-d’s four letter name. The first two letters of this divine name are yud and heh; they themselves combine to comprise a Name of G-d. The Kabbalists point out that the numerical value of these two letters is fifteen. Hence, this two-letter name is, in a sense, the gateway leading to the complete four letter name of G-d. Based on this correlation, the Maharal of Prague explains that man’s connection to G-d is represented by the number fifteen. The ascent to the Temple via fifteen steps symbolizes the connection between our current spiritual level and our pursuit of higher spiritual achievements.

This, too, is the essential purpose of the fifteen steps of the Seder – to elevate and intensify our relationship with G-d. We therefore conclude the Seder with Hallel and Nirtza, expressing our newly attained closeness with G-d.

I hope that we will all succeed in upgrading our connection to G-d and enhancing our understanding of the Jewish concept of freedom.

-Hag Sameach