By Naama Goldberg
The holiday of freedom sets the tone for the entire month of Nisan – the month of freedom – during which time the concept of freedom is expressed through a whole range of halachot, especially some of those connected to Seder night. The Mishnah in Pesachim (10:1) reads: “On the night of Passover ….. even the poorest of Israel shall not eat until he reclines, and shall drink no less than four cups of wine, even if it comes from the tamhui (soup kitchen)”
One of the laws that most emphatically expresses the idea of freedom on Seder night is that of reclining. According to Rambam, “We are commanded to eat while reclining in order to eat the way of kings and great men, the way of freedom.” The Jerusalem Talmud (Pesachim 90:1) similarly writes: “Rabbi Levy says: Since the way of the slaves is to eat standing up, therefore we eat while reclining in order to pronounce that we have gone from slavery to freedom.” The Babylonian Talmud (Pesachim 108a) relates a debate about the obligation to recline while drinking the four cups, a debate from which we learn that the obligation is only upon those who are able to fully experience the feeling of being free. For this reason, women in the presence of their husbands and students in the presence of their rabbis are exempt (but not students in the presence of their vocational teachers or sons in the presence of their fathers).