Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
April 28th 2016 -Volume 6, Issue 30 20th Nisan 5776
Passover/Pesach II/ Acharey Mos
Sea-ing it All
I used to like long Seders. I had piles of and piles of notes and questions prepared. I would shlep out Hallel and songs as long as possible. Singing every last thing. We did the Nishmas with all the fervor of the Jews that had just left Egypt. I was that guy at the Seder that would want to say a Dvar Torah or question on the Vayehi BaChatzi Halayla about Gideon’s battle in the Tanach..Forget about eating the Afikoman before Chatzot/Midnight. We knew the loophole that you can just grab a piece of Matza beforehand and the halachic intricacies of how you could make that count. Rabbi Akiva and the sages of Bnai Brak were my role models. Till Shacharis. I wanted to even out do them and got till the time to recite Mincha. It was fun. And then I turned 8 J.
No just joking I really enjoyed doing it till a few years ago. And then my body for some reason started getting tired. It’s different when I was leading a community Seder or when I was the one pontificating to my children. But lately I’ve been pretty wiped. This year it really hit home. The Seder you see, was Friday night. My body and mind know when its Friday night. That’s the night that it’s supposed to sleep. To make things worse I always try something new by my Seder-in order to make the kids ask, of course. So I decided to fulfill the mitzva of eating the Seder the ‘real way’ it was meant to be done; reclining of course. But reclining doesn’t’ really mean sticking a pillow on a chair and kind of hanging off it and balancing off the side of it while trying to chew down some matzah or drink some wine without redecorating the color of my white Kittel or the tablecloth. No reclining means the good old Roman wine. The Rabbi Akiva and the sages did it. On couches, of course. Ous’g’shprayt-spread out like a King. Julius Caesar would have nothing one me. So I moved the couch next to the table for our Seder. Put it on some blocks to raise it up to the right height, and I was good to go.
The problem was that it was Friday Night. It was Friday Night and I was lied out on a couch. It was Friday night, I was on a couch, the table was set like Shabbos, there was no way my body was ever gonna be convinced that my eyes were meant to be open. From the second I said Kiddush it was over. Ma Nishhhh…zzzzz.. Avadim Hayinuuuhhhh….By the time I read about the Seder in Bnai Brak Iwas ready to call it tops with Kriyat Shema one makes it before bedtime. But the Seder kept going and going. I made it through and we even finished about 1:00 AM- a little earlier than usual admittedly. But it was still fun. I didn’t make it upstairs though to my bed. Shir HaShirim the traditional Song of Songs of King Shlomo that I usually sing after the Seder happened in my dreams. But in the end I had the Seder like a King…kind of…It’s not easy being king.
Now by the Seder as it was going on and on and on and on. I was struck by a question that I didn’t ask. See above for why not. But it struck me as something worth pondering about-at least when I was quasi-conscious. There’s a lot of extra information that seemingly has nothing to do with the night of leaving Egypt. Particularly it hit me was the whole story of the splitting of the Sea, which took place on the 7th day of Pesach. Which is also a holiday that we will be celebrating tonight. Why do we have to cover that Seder night as well? Particularly at the end of Maggid when everyone seems to be pretty ready to get the meal started already, we spoke about Egypt, the slavery, the plagues, and the leaving of Egypt with all their money. We spoke about the Pesach offering the blood on the door posts. We’re ready to eat our Marror and our Matzot. Save the sea splitting for the last day. Stay tuned in a few days, we could say for the end of the story. Not only do we talk about the splitting of the sea, but we get even more intensive about it. We mention the three way dispute about how many different plagues the Egyptians received at the Yam Suf. Being that in Egypt they were hit with the finger of God and the Sea it says they were struck with the hand five times as much. Was it fifty plagues, two hundred or two hundred and fifty? Do we really care? Be honest. You’re just thinking about matza balls by this time. What is this all about?
Perhaps even more interesting is one of the Dayeinu’s that we say. If Hashem split the sea for us but would not have brought us through on dry land-Dayeinu, it would have been enough. What’s that all about? The Avudraham and other commentaries explain that our sages tell us that when we went through the sea, it was totally dry. Nice and carpeted and comfortable. Not a drop of dirt. No mud. No sludge. That’s nice. But compared to the rest of the Dayeinu’s it doesn’t seem so significant. Taking us out of Egypt, killing their first-borns, their gods, giving us the Torah, bringing us to Israel, the Manna, the Shabbos. A nice comfortable walk through the sea doesn’t seem like it makes it up to that level of making it into the top 15 list of things to thank Hashem about our Exodus and redemption. The truth is why was it really necessary to do it that way? Let’s say we came to the sea and Hashem brought helicopters to take us out Egypt. Or maybe even wings of eagles if you want to get more biblical or Harry Potter about it. Would we then have a helicopter celebration, eagle or broomstick celebration about it? Is there something more about the splitting of the sea that perhaps is the pinnacle of the redemption that is essential about understanding even on the Seder night?
In the teaching of the Chasidim it is explained that the world was created with dry land and water. The dry land is the Olam Ha’nigla- the revealed world, everything we can see and experience. The water, the entire world that is under the sea, where there are big creatures, small creatures, plants, trees…everything, is the Olam Ha’nistar- the hidden world. Upon creation the entire world was filled with water. The hidden was all revealed. Then began the process of Olam-hiddeness. The dry world, the land, where we don’t see Hashem, the Creator and manager of the world, so clearly. The Exodus from Egypt, from Mitzrayim, which comes from the root word Meitzarim-constraints, was not just about getting out of slavery. It was about understanding that we can find redemption and break free of all things that are holding us back in life. We can rise above the nature and limitations of this world. The forces of nature are subject to the will of our Creator, and He wills us to break free and connect that world to him. Egypt can hold us back no longer. We can break free.
But there is breaking free and still having muddy feet, and there is breaking free and seeing that the entire world has no hiddenness in it any more. It is a world where the most hidden, the deepest recesses of the sea are open to us and clear to us as the dry land is. We see the entire real picture of the Creation. The maid servant at the splitting of the sea had a greater vision the prophet Ezekiel. We have entirely done Kriyat Yam Suf-ripped up the concept of a hidden non-understandable world. That’s what the Exodus was truly about. We didn’t just merely get out and walk through the sea. We left Egypt through the sea-on dry land. The land and the sea were one. We were one with our Creator. There was absolutely no hiddenness left. We burst out in song. We were like angels, who sing daily as they appreciate that each day is a brand new moment of creation. There is only Hashem.
The three sages note and the way that we culminate the Maggid is with this idea. The Exodus from Egypt was the finger of God. The finger is used for pointing something out. Check out that thing of there. When there’s a lot of other things that are distracting you. Forget the other stuff. Look at that. It’s Hashem. The splitting of the sea was an entirely different concept it was the hand of God. The hand is used to grab something. To show ownership. It’s mine. I have it totally in my possession. There’s no room for any doubt. It’s all Hashem. The revelation is complete.
The leaving of Egypt was not a one-time deal. It’s the reason we go through this exercise each year. Perhaps the only real challenge and difficulty in life is when we feel stuck, when we feel limited, when we feel we are facing something that seems insurmountable. Sure there’s Hashem. Sure He runs the world. Sure he can preform miracles. But there is also the ‘natural’ way the world works. There is all the dirt, mud and physical restraints that the natural way things work that make somethings seem impossible. That we have to sludge through to get there. The splitting of the Sea and the entire Exodus from Egypt was to give us an entirely different perspective of the ‘real’ world. There is no real hiddenness. We can not only make it to the other side of every single sea that stands between us and our ultimate redemption. We can make it through without not even one speck of dirt on the white carpet laid out before us as we cross through. Not a wine stain on our Kittel, not a shpritz of mud on our suits. We can come out as fresh and clean as the day that we walked in. That’s Redemption. That’s what can happen this last day of Yom Tov. This year we go from the last day of Pesach into Shabbos. May it be that this year we enter into the ultimate Shabbos. The Shabbos when the entire world sings together with us the song of Moses and the Jewish People. Hashem yimloch l’olam va’ed- Hashem rules for ever and ever.
Have a Happy Pesach and a Shabbos full of Redemption,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZ’S PASSOVER VIDEOS OF THEWEEK
https://youtu.be/y-DIpnr2If4 – Acapella Season begins Vehi Sheamda Kippalive
https://youtu.be/V5fc2qO48bI –A spoonful of Pesach
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8c-iuwpkD0 –My favorite Pesach song from shira Chadasha
RABBI SCHWARTZ’S FAVORITE YIDDISH PROVERB OF THE WEEK
“Az der vorem zitst in Chreyn, meynt er az es iz keyn zisers ni do..”- “When a worm sits in horseradish, it thinks there's nothing sweeter.”
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
answer below at end of Email
Q. One of the reasons that led to the Great Revolt was:
A. Hadrian’s decrees
- The establishment of Aelia Capitolina
- A dispute between Jews and Gentiles at the Hakra fortress
- A dispute between Jews and Gentiles in Caesarea
RABBI SCHWARTZ’S COOL EVEN THAT HAPPENED IN HISTORY THIS WEEK
24TH OF NISAN 4 CENTURY BC-Egyptian representatives appeared in the court of Alexander the Great, demanding that the Jews pay restitution for all the Egyptian gold and silver they took along with them during the Exodus. Gevihah the son of Pesisa, a simple but wise Jew, requested the sages' permission to present a defense on behalf of the Jews. Gevihah asked the Egyptians for evidence that the Jews absconded with their wealth. "The crime is clearly recorded in your Torah," the Egyptians gleefully responded. "In that case," Gevihah said, "the Torah also says that 600,000 Jews were unjustly enslaved by the Egyptians for many, many years. So first let us calculate how much you owe us..." The court granted the Egyptians three days in which to prepare a response. When they were unable to do so they fled on the following day, the 25th of Nisan, and never returned. In Talmudic times, the day when the Egyptian delegation fled was celebrated as a mini-holiday.
RABBI SCHWARTZES COOL RASHI OF THE WEEK
As we know Rashi is there to teach us the simple understanding of the verse. But sometimes something is so simple we have to ask ourselves if we are missing something. Maybe we just ignored something obvious that Rashi thought we might stumble upon and he is clarifying it. If we take a second look then we might understand what ws troubling Rashi and in turn then understand what should have perhaps been troubling us.
This week’s Torah protion of Acrharey Mos begins with the conclusion of the death of Nadav And Avihu and how Hashem then commands Moshe to tell Aharon about the holiday and the special service o Yom Kippur. At the conclusion of this commandments and the entire order of the day, which is our Yom Kippur reading, theh Torah says and Aharon did as Hashem commanded him. Rashi on that verse(16:34) notes that Aharon did this ‘when it came Yom Kippur like the order of this command’. Now I don’t know about you. But it should seem obvious that he did this when it came Yom Kippur. I mean when else was he supposed to do it. On Purim? Obviously we are missing something.
The truth is if you think about this command it is kind of strange when it was given to Moshe to give to Aharon. The Parsha begins that this was after the death of Nadav and Avihu which took place on Rosh Chodesh Nissan; the beginning of this month. Why is Hashem commanding Aharon about Yom Kippur now? That seems to be what Rashi is struggling with. He is telling us that the yhom Kippur mitzva although it was given around Pesach time a few months before. But Aharon didn’t fulfill the order of the day of Yom Kippur until Yom Kippur. He is highlighting the discrepancy in time for us.
The question though is still why? Why now after the death of Nadav and Avihu? The answer can be found in the last words of Rashi. ‘To tell us the praise of Aharon that he didn’t wear the white garments of Yom Kippur for his own honor only as one who is fulfilling the decree of the King. The Lubavitcher Rebbe notes that the mitzva of the changing of the white garments and its’ difference between the gold garments. The gold garments would be worn by the Kohen again and again, as opposed to the white garments on Yom Kippur, Rashi previously teaches us that it would only be allowed to be worn that Yom Kippur. The difference, the Rebbe explains, is that each Yom Kippur the Kohen would have to reach anew the perfect exalted level of purity and atonement on behalf of the Jewish people. Last years clothes won’t work. Each year has its own struggles and new levels that must be achieved. One would think that after achieving such an incredible level that it might go to the Kohen’s head. Look at this level I achieved. Me., My clothing. This year. Wow!. Rashi tells us that Aharon wasn’t like that. Despite his and every Kohen’s incredible spiritual achievement they fulfilled it and wore those garments only because of the command of Hashem. It wasn’t about them.
This command was given right after Nadav and Avihu, because they messed up. They wanted to bring a fire and grow spiritually to Hashem for their own spirituality. It was about them and not what Hashem commanded. The command is given right before Pesach, Rashi notes despite the fact that it wasn’t observed until later, in order to teach us the most important lesson about Pesach. We weren’t redeemed because of any greatness on our part. Hashem Himself takes us out while we were one lowest level of impurity that we could still be picked up from. We will achieve the greatest levels possible of closeness to Hashem over Pesach, but it should not go to our head. The opposite. It’s about Hashem. If it were up to us, if Hashem Himself would not have taken us out, we would still be slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt. Small little Rashi what a powerful insight and lesson. And isn’t the timeliness amazing as well…
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S PESACH JOKES OF THE WEEK
What do you call someone who spent hours preparing the Seder plate???? Egg-zosted!
Why do we eat horseradish with the four cups. When it chrains it pours.
Why did the Egyptians have the Jews do the pyrimaid building? They were ant-cementic
Top Ten Ways You Know Your Son Isn’t The Wise Son
10. He used up all the saltwater on Urchatz
9. Asks you what page is it in the Rosh Hashana Machzor
8.Thought the 6th Plague was ‘Don’t Steal’
7. Asks what other kinds of fish can be used to make Carp-as
6. Wonders why there is no honey around to dip the apples into
5. Confuses 4 Questions, with 21 Questions (“Is it something round on this table?”)
4. Keeps asking when Elijah will come down the chimney
3. Really wants to know how Egyptians became so stupid during the plague of Dumb
2. Asks if he can read the part of Charlton Heston
1. He already ate the afikomen
Answer is D – Not a bad question. Not an easy one either for the non-historian but important I believe for everyone to know. Let’s go through them one by one. Hadrian was post-destruction as you should have known he was the Emperor/General that put down the Bar Kochva Revolt about 65 years later. He eventually plows down the Temple Mount and at that point in time he bans Jews from living in Jerusalem and declares the city to be Aelia Capitaolina the Roman capital of Israel- a pagan city. The Hakra fortress which was according to most archeologists on the South side of the Temple was a Hasmonean fortress and was the site of the major battle of the Maccabees in the story of Hanuka about 200 or so years before the destruction of the Temple. The eventual return of the descendants of the Maccabees to the ways of the Greeks led to an eventual power struggle between to corrupt Hasmonean kings and we invited the Romans in to settle our problem. Eventually they took control of Israel and the rebellion began after they began to desecrate the Temple and with the revolt and civil war that took place in the city of Caesarea which was the Romans northern capital.