Shvii Shel Pessach 5765 – Gilayon #392


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Seventh day of Pessah

THEN MOSES AND THE

ISRAELITES SANG THIS SONG TO THE LORD. THEY SAID: "I WILL SING TO THE LORD,

FOR HE HAS TRIUMPHED GLORIOUSLY; HORSE AND DRIVER HE HAS HURLED INTO THE SEA.

 (Shemot 15:1)

 

 

In Contrast to Human Beings and the Ministering Angels, God is never pleased

at the fall of the Wicked.

And they say, Give thanks unto the Lord, for his kindness is

everlasting. Rabbi Yohanan said: Why doesn't it

say for He is good in this expression of thanks? Because God is not

pleased at the fall of the wicked, as Shemuel bar Nahmani said in the name of Yonatan:

Why is it written, they [the Israelites and Egyptians] did not come close to

each other all through the night? [Because] the ministering angels wanted

to sing, but God said: My handiwork is drowning in the sea and you would sing

before Me? Yossi bar Hanina said: He does not rejoice, but He makes others

rejoice, read carefully that it is written, so [the Lord will] cause to

rejoice [in making you perish] (Devarim 28:63), and it is not written [that He] will

rejoice [Himself].

(Yalkut Shimoni,

Divrei Hayamim Beit, 20)

 

The Hallel is read with deletions, etc. Because

the Egyptians drowned on the seventh day of Pesah,

and God said, "My handiwork drowns in the sea and you would sing before Me?" Since [the deleted passages] are not read on the

seventh day, they are not read on hol ha-mo'ed as well, in order to keep them from having an

advantage over the final day.

(Mishnah Berurah,

490:7)

 

Thoughts on Dayeinu

Devorah Weisman

This article is dedicated to the memory of my father and teacher, Dr.

Nahum Weisman, who passed away on the Seventh of Pesah,

twelve years ago.

Dayeinu is one of the holiday's best known

songs; so much so that even assimilated Jews who do not observe the laws of Pesah would never dream of deleting it from the "Seder"

they celebrate. It enjoys two major sources of

popularity: Its catchy tune, and its repetitiveness, both of which make it easy

and effortless to remember. This contrasts with what is sometimes felt to be

the holiday's overbearing nature.

The

song does not appear in the RaMBaM's Haggadah. Never-the-less, it seems to be quite ancient. Goldschmidt

writes: "Friedman speculates – with some justification – that this song

was sung when the first fruits were presented in the days of the Second Temple.

In any case, the song was clearly authored in the days of the Temple; after the

Temple's destruction they would not have counted the building of the Temple as

God's greatest act of kindness" (Daniel Goldschmidt,

Haggadah Shel Pesah [1940], pg. 50). This article shall not

pursue historical questions. Rather, it will treat several thematic aspects of Dayeinu.

The

poet begins, "How many favors God has granted us!" The list of events

echoes two biblical passages: Tehillim 136:10-21, and

Nehemiah 9:10-15. Dayeinu mentions fifteen

favors [ma'alot]: Starting with the Exodus

from Egypt, through the splitting of the Red Sea, and climaxing with the

building of the Temple. The number

of favors has inspired many and varied interpretations: 1) It

refers to the number of steps leading to the Temple's inner court, upon which

the Levites sang the fifteen Psalms known as Shirei

Hama'alot (Tehillim 120-134). 2) It recalls the fifteen

sections of the Seder from kadeish until nirtzah. 3) The fifteen generations from Abraham to

Solomon, who built the Temple. 4) The date of the

Seder's celebration – the 15th of Nisan, which is the first full

moon following the spring equinox. 5) The numerological value of God's Name.

There

are two main approaches to the poem. One holds that we must uncover the hidden

depths of meaning in each and every line. For instance, what is the point of mentioning

the possibility of God's having split the sea for us, but not having led us

through it on dry land? I have participated in Sedarim

in which – perhaps as a kind of game to hold the children's attention – we

amused ourselves trying to explain the exact point of each "favor"

mentioned. The only such explanation that I have found convincing is that of

the verse, "If You had brought us near to Mount

Sinai, but did not give us the Torah." The idea is that this refers to the

instilling of unity in the people, as Rashi (Shemot 19:2) wrote,

we stood there "as one person with one heart." (I have even heard

someone say that each line should be followed with a question mark, as if to

say, "Dayeinu?" ("Is

that enough for us?")

I

prefer the other approach, which understands the poem as teaching us the

important spiritual virtues of gratitude and hope. Viewing the process as an

organic whole, we must acquaint ourselves with its various stages, even though

they are not necessarily independent, and give thanks for all of them.

This

past year, I have adopted a habit that is recommended to anyone who wants to

develop a more optimistic view of life. Every night, I try to remember all of

the good things that happened to me in the course of the day. I started this

when I was on sabbatical and traveled frequently. During that time, I felt I

ought to be grateful for having arrived safely, together with my baggage. All

positive experiences – eating a tasty dish, reading an interesting article,

meeting a likable person – were individually acknowledged. Experience has taught

me that the more one looks for good things, the more one finds them.

It

is important to mention that Rabbi Yehudah HaLevi's Kuzari III:11 cites the poem in an interesting context. When speaking

of Nahum Ish Gamzu – who

used to always say Gam zu

le'tova ["This is also for the best"] –

HaLevi's Jewish scholar (called Hahaver)

reads sections from the haftorah of Shabbat Hol HaMo'ed Pesah

(not read this year, as there is no Shabbat Hol HaMo'ed). It is taken from Ezekiel 37, and is known as the "Vision

of the Dry Bones." As the prophet explains, These dry bones are the

entire House of Israel (verse 11) HaLevy tries to apply the optimism that informed Nahum Ish Gamzu's personal life to the

general situation of Israel suffering the tribulations of exile ("the

length of exile, the nation's dispersion, it's impoverishment and diminution").

He writes:

And

if Satan should bring him [the saint] to despair by saying, "Can these

bones live?"(Ezekiel37:3), for

our impression is erased among the peoples, and our memory forgotten, as it is

said our bones have dried up, our hope is lost, our fate is decided – he

will think of the miracle of the Exodus from Egypt, and of all that is

mentioned in "How many favors God has granted us!" [Dayeinu] Then it will not seem wondrous to him that

we shall be restored, not relinquishing

a single person of our number

I

would like to learn three things from this passage:

1)

The Exodus from Egypt teaches us that there is a chance for change in the lives

of individuals and societies. That is a source of optimism. Just because a

particular people was enslaved for hundreds of years, that does not mean that

they cannot change in the future. What was does not have to be what will be. Rabbi

Prof. David Hartman says that God is "the God of surprises."

2)

Throughout all the generations, Jews saw to their continued existence. The

historian Simon Ravidowicz (1948) claimed that every

generation called us "a dying nation," or in another translation, "an

ever-dying nation." I say that if we remember this, we shall be strengthened

and survive.

3)

It seems that the poet Naftali Hertz Imber was inspired by these verses to write our anthem – "Our Hope is not yet Lost"

Hatikva.

Optimism

has a disadvantage. I learnt this from a Jewish woman I met in Australia; she

is a feminist, religiously observant, and works as a psychologist. It is very

easy to take advantage of naïve people who see the world through

rose-colored glasses. It takes them a long time to realize that their situation

is not as good as they imagine and that they must try to improve it.

Many

women are affected by this problem; sometimes they suffer from their

relationships with violent and abusive men, holding on thanks to the false hope

that they will change. A feminist Haggadah written by

a group of women in the U.S.A. states, "It is not worth spending too much

time on this hymn, because it is not yet ‘enough for us.' Much

work still awaits us, the work of repairing the world" ("Masah le'heirut" as quoted in Bat Horin:

Seder Nashim [200]).

Sober

caution and continued dedication to societal reform need not entirely banish

the hope and gratitude which I think we are taught by the Jewish tradition. I

will finish with a story that happened to me a little more than ten years ago:

I

was teaching a group of Jewish educators from the ex-Soviet Union at the Hebrew

University's Melton Center for Jewish Education. The group was comprised of a

dozen teachers from Riga, Krakow, Vitebsk, and Tashkent.

I once asked them if they had any recollections of Jewish experiences during

the holidays. Only one – the one from Riga – had faint memories of a

grandmother who used to light candles once in a while and who baked hamantashen. That was it. None-the-less, after two

or three years, they had all gained enough proficiency in Hebrew that they were

able to participate in courses at the Hebrew University!

One

day, I read them the "Vision of the Dry Bones." I read aloud in

Hebrew, while they followed the Russian translation. Long minutes of silence

followed the reading. Finally, one of them spoke: "This story, it is our

story."

And

I said: "In every generation a person is obligated to see himself… ? Dayeinu – It is

enough for us."

Dr. Devorah Weisman, an educator, is a member

of Kehillat Yedidya in

Jerusalem.

 

 

Response to Oshrat Shoham's

article (VaYakhel issue)

In her article, "A

Different Kind of Jewish Leadership," Oshrat Shoham describes Betzalel's

origins:

Miriam,

whose creative talents celebrated the Song at the Sea – via her musical

abilities was the one from whom would arise a

descendant full of wisdom, understanding, and creativity, one chosen to lead

the "national project." It was precisely Miriam, the more "folksy"

of the two, whose water-well stood beside her amidst the people, who sang and

danced with the women – she was the one whose descendant would take charge of

the wonderful cooperative activity of constructing the Tabernacle.

The passage implies

that Miriam was more involved with the people than were her two brothers. This

approach is not necessarily correct; is there anyone more deserving of the

description "he dwelt amongst his people" than Aaron, who loved peace

and pursued peace, and would bring about peace between people (see, among other sources, Avot

DeRabbi Natan, Schechter edition, "A" version, chapter 12, pp. 48-49).

As for the question of

Miriam and her well, one must first mention that Scripture itself does not

contain the motif of Miriam personally residing "amongst the people with

her well." Neither does it appear in the Talmudic or midrashic

literature, although it is clear that she did dwell in the Israelite

encampment. It is also said that the manna fell thanks to Moses' virtue, so

that one might just as easily claim that Moses was a man of the people, for he

moved amongst them. The Talmudic and midrashic

literature relates that the well filled with water thanks to her, and that it

stopped refilling upon her death, only to refill again thanks to Moses, or

according to some sources, thanks to both Moses and Aaron (See y. Levin, "Ve'lo

hayu mayim la'eidah: al petirat Miryam ve'totzateha", in

Daf Shevu'i,

Bar-Ilan University, 554, Parashat

Hukat 5764, pp.3-4). In Seder Eliyahu Rabbah (Ish Shalom edition, 13, pp.

59-60), it is stated that when Israel failed to do God's will the well

tarried in refilling, until scholars and young boys came out and said, "Fill

up, well, to the credit of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob! Fill up, well, to the

credit of Moses, Aaron, and Miriam!" We find that some sources connect

Moses and Aaron with the well – not just Miriam. All in all, it is impossible

to conclude anything from the matter of the well regarding Miriam's closeness

to the people.

Shoham

claims that the song sang by Miriam and the other women

demonstrates her musical ability, and that this creative talent was

inherited by Betzalel, and that her closeness to the

people is shown by the fact that she sang and danced with the women. Some

sources say that the men also sang while reciting the song, even though this is

not mentioned by Scripture itself. For instance, Pirkei

DeRabbi Eliezer has

Moses singing, and states that Miriam actually followed his lead: "…when

Moses out teacher, may peace be upon him, who was a faithful shepherd, began to

sing before God, and all the Israelites followed him, for it says then sang

Moses and all of the Israelites (Shemot 15:1), Miriam saw this and began to sing

before God and all of the women followed her, as it says and Miriam the

prophetess, sister of Aaron, took the drum in her hand (verse 20)" (Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer, M. Higar edition, Horev 10

[1948], chapter 41, pg. 223). Perushei

Siddur HaTefillah la'Rokeah mentions in connection with the men's singing

that Moses had instructed the people to make musical instruments before leaving

Egypt: Then sang (Shemot

15:1), already in Egypt he told them, ‘Know that in the future you will

recite a song, prepare musical instruments to take with you, as it is written, He

led His people out in gladness, His chosen ones with joyous song (Tehillim 105:43)'"

(Rabbi Eliezer of

Worms, Perushei Siddur

HaTefillah la'Rokeah,

M. & Y.A. Hirschler edition, Jerusalem 1992, part

I, paragraph 37, pg. 213). These sources recognize the importance of the

fact that the women's song was accompanied by musical instruments and dancing. They

seem to be saying that since these accompaniments were mentioned explicitly in

connection with the women, the men must have certainly done the same.

The passage quoted by Shoham from Shemot Rabbah (Parashat

VaYakhel, 48:4), "Miriam took wisdom and raised up Betzalel," makes no

mention of Miriam's own Torah wisdom. According to certain sources – beginning

with the Tannaitic literature and continuing through

the midrashic and medieval literature – Miriam took

her place alongside her brothers as one of the direct transmitters and teachers

of the Torah amongst the general Israelite public (see

Y Levin Katz, "Hora'at ha-Torah al yedei Miryam" in HaTzofeh, Friday 16 of Heshvan 2002, 2 November

2001, Sofrim ve-Sefarim

section, pp. 11-12). To give one example, in connection with the sin

of the waters of contention, the RaLBaG opines that "Miriam

would also draw the heart of Israel with her wisdom to serve the Lord, may He

be exalted. It is as if it said that if Miriam were still alive Israel would

not have fallen in this way to ask Moses for water in such vexing words" (Rabbi Levi ben Gershom, Perushei

Ha-Torah, Y. L. Levi edition, Bamidbar 20:2, pg.

111). The parallel formulation of Shemot Rabbah 1:16 (2) (Shinan edition, page 64), does not exclude the

possibility that Miriam herself bore Torah wisdom: "And Betzalel, who was full of wisdom, came out of Miriam."

Yael Levine – Jerusalem

 

 

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