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.
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
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.
Thoughts on Dayeinu
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.
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 , pg. 50). This article shall not
pursue historical questions. Rather, it will treat several thematic aspects of Dayeinu.
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.
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?")
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.
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.
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").
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…
would like to learn three things from this passage:
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."
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
It seems that the poet Naftali Hertz Imber was inspired by these verses to write our anthem – "Our Hope is not yet Lost"
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.
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 ).
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:
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!
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
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
Response to Oshrat Shoham's
article (VaYakhel issue)
In her article, "A
Different Kind of Jewish Leadership," Oshrat Shoham describes Betzalel's
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
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.
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, 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
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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