Pesach 5779 #2

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The stubborn sea[1]

הים ראה וינס הירדן יסב לאחור
The [Reed] Sea[2] saw and ran away, the Jordan River turned backwards[3]

During the holiday of Pesach (as well as every other holiday), we recite Hallel during the morning prayers. It consists of chapters 113 to 118 from Psalms. Chapter 114 describes how when the Jews left Egypt, nature was entirely subservient to them. Nothing stood in their way. Most pronounced was the miracle of the splitting of the sea. On the seventh day of Pesach, we commemorate this event with the Torah Reading being the Song at Sea that the Jews recited[4] after this miracle[5]. In Psalms the sea is described as “running away” from the Jews, meaning that it split in two, after seeing something. What did it see that made it split? Some say that it was Moshe[6]. Others says that it was the coffin[7] of Yosef[8]. A very strange opinion[9] is that the sea “saw” the teaching[10] of the Academy of Rabbi Yishmael. What does this mean?

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Pesach 5779

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The mighty hand of Hashem[1]

מה נשתנה הלילה הזה מכל הלילות, שבכל הלילות אנו אוכלים חמץ ומצה וכו’‏
Why is this night different from all other nights? For on all other nights, we eat leavened and non-leavened bread etc…

עבדים היינו לפרעה במצרים ויוציאנו יקוק אלקים משם ביד חזקה ובזרוע נטויה
We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and Hashem, G-d, took us out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm[2]

The Ma-Nishatana is a classic moment at everyone’s Seder. The youngest member of the house proudly gets up and asks the Four Questions. The Haggadah continues by declaring that we were slaves in Egypt to Pharaoh. This would seem to be an attempt to answer the child’s questions. However, what connection is there between the parent’s response and the child’s questions? They seem totally incongruous.

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Toldos 5779

The delightful smell of betrayal[1]

ויגש וישק לו וירח את ריח בגדיו ויברכהו ויאמר ראה ריח בני כריח שדה וגו’‏‏
[Yaakov] got close and [Yitzchak] kissed him, smelled his clothes, and blessed him. [Yitzchak] said: “See that the scent of my son is like the scent of a field!”…[2]

This week’s parsha describes Rivka and her son Yaakov’s ploy to prevent Eisav from receiving Yitzchak’s blessings. Yitzchak had gone blind, and commanded his son Eisav to prepare a feast for him before the blessings would be given. Rivka, overhearing this, told Yaakov to impersonate Eisav and try to get the blessings himself. She would prepare a feast for Yitzchak, consisting of two goats, while Yaakov would put on Eisav’s prized garments. Since Eisav was hairy, and Yaakov was not, Rivka gave Yaakov goatskins to wear on his arms and neck. This was in case Yitzchak touched Yaakov, so he wouldn’t realize their ploy. Once the preparations were done, Yaakov went to Yitzchak’s tent, pretending to be Eisav.

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Mattos Masei 5778

Concern for the other’s honor[1]

וידבר יקוק אל-משה לאמר: נקם נקמת בני ישראל מאת המדנים וגו’ וידבר משה אל-העם לאמר וגו’ לתת נקמת-יקוק במדין
Hashem said to Moshe, saying: “Avenge the vengeance of the Children of Israel from the Midianites…” Moshe said to the people, saying: “…to give[2] the vengeance of Hashem upon Midian”[3]

Two parshiyos ago[4], the Midianites enacted a wicked plot against the Jews. In order to undermine their relationship with Hashem and their mitzvah observance, the Midianite women seduced the Jewish men to commit immoral relations. Just as the men’s urges got the better of them, the Midianite women introduced one condition: they must first perform idol worship[5]. This way they would be guilty of two cardinal sins. As a result of this successful scheme, a plague broke out amongst the Jews. By the time the mayhem ended, 24,000 people had died. This week’s parsha picks up after the conclusion of that story, with Hashem ordering Moshe to take revenge on the Midianites. Hashem specifically says to avenge the slight against the Children of Israel. However, when Moshe relayed this command to the people, he stressed that the Midianites committed a slight against Hashem[6]. Which one was it?

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Pesach 5778 #2

Surrounded by walls of water[1]

הים ראה וינס הירדן יסב לאחור
The Reed Sea[2] saw and ran away, the Jordan River turned backwards[3]

On the seventh day of Pesach, we commemorate the day of the great miracle of the splitting of the sea[4]. On the Jew’s seventh day of their Exodus from Egypt, the sea’s splitting allowed them to escape the Egyptians once and for all. As an expression of their thanks to Hashem for saving them, they sang what is known as the Song of the Sea[5]. One of the chapters of Psalms[6] describes the miracles that occurred during this monumental event. The verse unusually describes the sea as running away. Why didn’t it use the more appropriate term: that the sea split[7]?

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Pesach 5778

The Four Children[1]

1) והיה כי-תבואו אל-הארץ וגו’ ושמרתם את העבודה-הזאת, והיה כי-יאמרו אליכם בניכם מה העבודה הזאת לכם 2) והגדת לבנך ביום ההוא לאמר בעבור זה עשה יקוק לי בצאתי ממצרים 3) והיה כי-ישאלך בנך מחר לאמר מה-זאת וגו’ 4) כי ישאלך בנך וגו’ מה העדות והחוקים וגו’‏
1) When you will come to the land…you shall observe this [Passover] service, and your sons will say to you: “What is this service to you?” 2) You shall tell your son on that day saying: “Hashem acted for me when I left Egypt because of this” 3) It shall be when your son will ask you tomorrow saying: “What’s this?” … 4) When your son will ask you… “What are the testimonies and statutes” …[2]

כנגד ארבעה בנים דברה תורה: אחד חכם, ואחד רשע, ואחד תם, ואחד שאינו יודע לשאול…רשע מה הוא אומר? מה העבודה הזאת לכם. לכם ולא לו. ולפי שהוציא את עצמו מן הכלל כפר בעיקר, ואף אתה הקהה את שניו ואמור לו, בעבור זה עשה יקוק לי בצאתי ממצרים. לי ולא לו. אלו היה שם לא היה נגאל

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Pesach 5777

To change one’s nature[1]

הים ראה וינס הירדן יסב לאחור
The Reed Sea[2] saw and ran away, the Jordan River turned backwards[3]

During the holiday of Pesach (as well as every other holiday), we recite Hallel during the morning prayers. It consists of chapters 113 to 118 from Psalms. Chapter 114 describes how when the Jews left Egypt, nature was entirely subservient to them. Nothing stood in their way. Most pronounced was the miracle of the splitting of the sea. On the seventh day of Pesach, we commemorate this event with the Torah Reading being the Song at Sea that the Jews recited[4] after this miracle.  In Psalms the sea is described as “running away” from the Jews, meaning that it split in two, after seeing something. What did it see that made it split? Chazal teach us that it was the coffin[5] of Yosef[6]. When Yosef was dying, he commanded his brothers and their descendants to ensure when the Jews are redeemed from Egypt that his remains be taken to the land of Israel to be buried there[7]. The Torah describes that it was Moshe who brought the coffin of Yosef with him to the sea[8].

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Pesach-Tzav 5777

The message of the four cups on Passover[1]

מה נשתנה הלילה הזה מכל הלילות
Why[2] is this night different than every other night?[3]

In the four questions we list four differences that are prominent on the night of the Seder as opposed to other nights: eating only matzah and no leavened bread, eating marror (bitter herbs), dipping two times[4], and eating and drinking while reclining. A difference that’s neglected is the obligation to drink four cups of wine, which doesn’t exist on other nights. Why is this difference not mentioned in the Haggadah?

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