Tzav 5773 – Gilayon #792

Now if his hand cannot attain two turteldoves or two young pigeons,

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Parshat Tzav – Pesach

The torah speaks about four children

One who is wise and one who is wicked; one who is


And one who does not even know how to question


Pesahim 70b)



does the wise child ask? What is the meaning of the testimonies, statutes, and judgments

which the Eternal our God has commanded us?


shall explain to him: 'The Lord delivered us from Egypt, from the house of slavery,

with a strong hand'.


does the wicked child ask? What is the meaning of this service to you? What is

this bother with which you inconvenience us every year?


he excludes himself from the group, you should tell him; 'Because what the Eternal

did for me' for me he did, for that man he did not do. If that

man were in Egypt,

he would have been unworthy of deliverance forever.


does the foolish child say? What is this? after the

Pascal meal [by saying] 'To the aftermeal

entertainment", [Hebrew], that he not move from one group to another.


child who does not know how to ask – you must begin for him. Said R. Yose: So says the Mishna: 'If the

child lacks knowledge [of how to ask], his father instructs him.'

(Yerushalmi, Pesahim, ibid, ibid)



Torah speaks about four sons", and the answer to the wise son is "You

shall explain to him the laws of the pesach

sacrifice, that one must not conclude etc.", but no Biblical passage is

cited, only laws of the Pascal meal, and this is because this is the Oral

Law, and regarding the Oral Law is it Witten "When the Lord delivered

you from Egypt etc." "shall you worship etc" on this mountain, for

the Oral Law is endless and it renews itself daily, therefore do we recall

the exodus from Egypt daily, because the entire Torah is commentary on the

exodus from Egypt, as is written "I am the Lord your God who delivered you

from the land of Egypt", and just as the Name, be He blessed, renews

creation daily and sheds light upon the land and its inhabitants, so is the

Oral Law renewed daily.

(R. Avraham Mordecai Alter of Gur: Imrei Emmet – Parashat Bo 5667)      




wishes to all our readers and all Of Israel for a joyous festival.


we – in the season of our freedom – merit fulfillment of the scripture::


you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt,


do I charge you to do this thing:


shall not oppress the laborer, the poor and the indigent among your brothers


of the stranger who is in your land in your gates.


The Watzman family dedicates

this issue of Shabbat Shalom and this dvar


to the memory of our son and brother Niot,

z"l, who was taken from us in the prime of his

life two years ago on Pesach.


Egypt – The Mundane





In the year

1300 AD a Christian poet and pilgrim landed on an island somewhere in the

southern hemisphere. Upon arriving on the shore, he spied an approaching ship

and heard its passengers singing "In exitu Isräel de Aegypto."

They were singing, in Latin, the psalm that we sing just before the Pesach meal

on Seder night, Psalm 114. That psalm is part of the "Egyptian Hallel": "When Israel

came forth out of Egypt,

the house of Jacob from a people of strange language." We speak here of

three journeys – that of the poet and passengers, that of the Israelites, and

ours, the participants in the Seder.

Like other

parts of the Seder, the recitation of the Hallel,

the set of psalms we recite on festivals and other days of celebration, is

different, in two ways. It is said at home, by the company that has gathered to

celebrate the Seder together, and not in public, in synagogue. And it is

divided into two parts. Two psalms are recited before the meal and the rest

afterward. On no other holiday do we halt the Hallel

in the middle to eat a meal.


particular psalm about the Exodus also differs in spirit from all that has

preceded it on the Seder night. To this point in the recitation and explication

of the Hagaddah we have told of the Exodus

from Egypt

and performed precepts and rituals that make that story into a concrete and

present action rather than a legend of the past. While the events we relate are

miraculous ones that stand outside the laws of nature, we tell of them as

events that indeed occurred on the same timeline and in the same geographical

space that we live in today. We do not merely recall these events, but are

meant to experience them as if we had been there at the time and are there

today. We eat matzah because it symbolizes the

bread of affliction that the slaves ate in Egypt and the bread that did not

have time to rise on the night of redemption; we eat bitter herbs in order to

feel ourselves the bitterness of slavery, and we eat from the paschal lamb (or

today, from a stand-in), just as God commanded the Children of Israel to do on

that night in Egypt. We also tell about the tellers of the story of the Exodus

– about the Sages in Bene Berak

who told the story all night.

But Psalm 114

does not tell of events that took place even within the miraculous reality of

the Exodus. When the Children of Israel left Egypt, they did not in fact see the

sea flee, the mountains did not skip like rams nor the

hills like young sheep. There is no mention of any such phenomena in the book

of Exodus and we do not make any note of them while relating the story of the

deliverance from Egypt

during the narrative portion of the Seder. We do not rise from our seats on

Seder night to dance in evocation of the mountains that skipped, and the

symbolic foods on the Seder plate do not include spring water in memory of the

rocks that turned into a pool.

Don Yitzhak Abravanel proposed that the subject of Psalm 114 is in fact

the parting of the Red Sea, and argued that the two psalms recited before the

Seder meal are about the redemption from Egypt, while the rest of the psalms

recited after the meal are psalms of thanksgiving to God that hint at the

complete redemption promised for the end of days. But his interpretation is

difficult to accept for two reasons. First, the psalm itself says that it is

about the Exodus and not the parting of the sea. Second, it does not, as noted,

actually tell about the deliverance. In fact, the supernatural events it

describes seem to fit the final redemption better than anything that has

happened in the history of the Jewish people.

I suggest that

the simple meaning of this psalm is not its narrative but its emotion. Its

subject is not God's power to change the course of nature but the joy that

filled the world at the time that the Children of Israel cast off slavery for

liberty. The prancing hills, the reversing rivers, and the liquefying rocks

symbolize the new freedom the people received under the strong hand of the Holy

One Blessed Be He. The psalm appears at this point in the Seder because up to

this point we have not spoken of the joy of redemption. We have spoken of

slavery, of plagues, of the long night of waiting, but not on the elation of

the slave who is now free.

But then why

do we split the Hallel in two, just as we

previously split one of the three matzot on

the Seder plate in two, and then sit down to eat?


poet-pilgrim who arrived at the island on the other side of the world was

Dante, the great Italian poet, author of The Divine Comedy. That poem

tells of his journey to Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. Psalm 114 appears when he

arrives at his second destination, the island of Purgatory

where sinful souls are purified and cleansed before they return to the divine

presence. In this world the laws of nature no longer apply – there is only

divine providence. What could be a more appropriate song to sing than one about

the collapse of the laws of nature in the face of God's miraculous redemption?

They sing and ascend the mountain in the center of the island to receive their purgings and plagues, after which they will ascend to the

world that is only good.

And we – we

sing the same psalm and then sit down to eat meat and bread, to drink wine, and

to celebrate with our families, friends, and any poor person who comes to our


I suggest that

the Seder Hallel is interrupted because the

Jewish people's deliverance from Egypt did not lead us from the

material world to paradise, but rather from slavery to freedom. Freedom is not

utter redemption. The Children of Israel left Egypt

to establish a society in its own land, one that was supposed to be the

diametric opposite of Egypt.

It was to be a society founded on justice and liberty rather than on the

arbitrary whims of a Pharaoh and slave labor. The Jewish people did not die in Egypt and did

not pass on to a world that is only good. They remained alive and accepted a

mission to make this world a better one.

That is why,

once a year, we recite the Hallel in our homes,

rejoice in the Exodus from Egypt,

and then leave off this divine recitation of miracles to do the most mundane

thing possible – to sit down and eat a family meal. Because after the holiday

we will remain in a world in which the labor is not yet completed,

and neither are we free to flee it. The redemption we celebrate is a mundane

one, as in the words of the Kotzker Rebbe: The heavens are God's heavens, and he gave the earth

to humankind… to make it into

a heaven.

Haim Watzman is a member of Kehilat Yedidya.



"Shabbat Hagadol

– the Great Sabbath"- The courageous iconoclasm and the miracle.

The Sabbath preceding Pesach is called "Shabbat Hagadol", for the following reason: A great

miracle was performed on it. The pascal lamb was to

have been obtained on the tenth, as is written 'On the tenth of this month they

shall take a lamb for each family a lamb for the house'. The Pesach on which Israel left Egypt fell on Thursday (as per

"Seder Olam"). Therefore we find that the

tenth of the month fell on Shabbat, and each took a lamb for his Pesach

sacrifice and tied it to his bedposts, and the Egyptians asked: What is this

for? And they replied: To slaughter it for the Pesach as the Lord commanded us,

and they gnashed their teeth because their god was to be slaughtered yet they could

say nothing, and because of this miracle it is called "Shabbat Hagadol."

(Tur Orach Hayyim 430)



he shall reconcile parents with children"

(From the

Haphtarah of Shabbat Hagadol in Malachi 3)


R. Yehudah says [Elijah comes] to

bring closer, not to distance. R. Shimon says: To smooth over disagreement. The

Sages say: Neither to distance nor to bring closer, but to make peace in the

world, as is written: 'Lo, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before the

coming of the awesome, fearful day of the Lord', and it says 'He shall

reconcile parents with children'.

(Yalkut Shimoni, Malachi Chap. 3, 595)


When the Holy One delivered Israel from Egypt, he did not

deliver only those who were in Egypt, but all generations did he liberate, as

we recite at the end of the Haggadah "Not only

did He redeem our ancestors, but He also redeemed us with them", meaning

to say that when the Holy One, blessed be He, removed Egyptian power over

Israel, this removal was not effected because they were of that particular

generation, for if that were the case, the exodus would have been for that

generation alone, but the exodus extended also to [future] progeny.

(Sefer Gevuroth HaShem of the Maharal of Prague, p. 227)


In every generation there is an exodus from Egypt, relative

to the situation of the generation. All this existed during the exodus from Egypt. To the

degree which a person believes "as though he had left Egypt', this phenomenon is revealed and he feels

the current exodus from Egypt

and every one can be released from his personal straits.

 (Sfat Emmet, Vayikra).


The Holy One blessed be He Suffers together, so-to-speak,

with those who suffer

And you find that all the while that Israel was enslaved, the Divine Presence [was

enslaved] with them, so-to-speak, for it is said: And they saw the God

of Israel

and beneath his feet was the likeness of a sapphire pavement. And when they

were redeemed what does it say? Like the very sky for purity and

it is said in all their troubles He was troubled. This only tells

me about the community's troubles, where do I learn this regarding the troubles

of the individual? It is learned from the verse: He shall call me and

I will answer him, I am with him in his troubles.

(Mekhilta Bo Messekhet De Pas'ha 14)


If this had not appeared in Scripture, we would not be

allowed to say it. It is as if Israel

told the Holy One blessed be He: "You redeemed Yourself."

(Mekhiltah Bo,



Pesach – Our

Time of Freedom?

This goal ['Our Time of Freedom']

of the exodus from Egypt

was not achieved; the mission of 'Our Time of Freedom' received a semblance of

freedom, something which may perhaps be a primary condition for freedom, but is

not yet true freedom. The people who left Egypt

did not accept upon themselves the Kingdom

of God, and therefore we

do not recite the complete Hallel on a festival on

which the attempt to realize our freedom fell short. True, we read how, after

the crossing of the Reed Sea, the people: "… trusted in God and in His

servant Moshe", but immediately afterwards the Torah relates how that

trust was only temporary – spontaneous faith born out of being powerfully

impressed by what had happened – but not faith which derives from awareness of

God's divinity. Therefore it did not last even three days; the people call out

to Moshe "Is the Lord present among us or not?"

Even though this appointed time

is a holiday for Israel

who was delivered from the hands of its torturers and freed from the yoke of

its oppressors, there is still no justification for recitation of the 'Complete

Hallel'. We have yet to be redeemed from our

enslavement to human nature. This fact teaches us that

primary thanks for redemption is not related to what happens to the

Jewish people in history, but to what the Jewish people do in history.

After all, everything that happens is indifferent because it is an act of God

in His world, whether we – from our perspective – call certain events

'redemptions' and 'deliverances' and other events 'misfortunes' 'pogroms' or


 (Y. Leibowitz: Discussions on Israel's

Festivals, p. 74)


Lord of the surprise: Who

believes in miracles?

The enumeration of the miracles performed

on behalf of the Children of Israel during the exodus from Egypt is a

central part of the Seder. But for modern man, educated on the knees of

Science, on the natural order of the world, the story of the miracles seems

childish, primitive, mythological.

If, however, we see the miracles

only as ancient superstition, we will miss the message of these extraordinary occurrences.

We must see the miracle as a symbol of the power of the spontaneous in

existence, as a belief in the ability to transform arrogant regimes. What had

been seen as destiny, the vulnerability of a small nation subservient to a strong

and secure empire, is revealed to be an illusion. The language of the miracle

is the Bible's method of protesting the deterministic attitudes of people who

accept the world as it is, sans faith in the power to change it. On the Seder

night we pour into ourselves the faith that there exists in the universe an unexpected


The belief in miracles is the

basis for the 'hope model' in Judaism. The exodus from Egypt intends

to plant in us revolutionary hope, despite historic conditions. The protest

against the conditions of the universe is possible because the Jews possess a

pool of memories which fashion that which seems to us to be possible. The

exodus from Egypt

is essential because it allows us to hope. Order in the cosmos is not

unalterable. Tomorrow does not have to be as it is today.

 (R. David

Hartman, z"l, from: "This Night" – An Israeli  Haggada,

ed. By Mishael and Noam Tsion)


The Holy One,

blessed be He, does not rejoice in the defeat of the wicked, sometimes in

contrast to human beings and the administering angels.

And we recite "Praise the

Lord, for his loving kindness endures forever". Said R. Yochanan, Why are the words "for it is good"

omitted from this praise? Because the Holy One, blessed be He does not rejoice

in the defeat of the wicked, as Shmuel b. Nahmani said in R. Yonatan's name: How to understand "and

they did not approach each other all through the night" – the administering

angels sought to sing praise, said the Holy One, blessed be He: My creations

are drowning in the sea and you sing praises before me?! Said Yosi b. Hanina: He does not

rejoice, but He causes others to rejoice, and this proven by the wording of the

phrase "so will He cause to rejoice"; it

does not say "He will rejoice".

(Yalkut Shimoni, II

Divrei Hayamim, Chap 2)



Does not rejoice etc. The explanation

for this is that joy is present when the joy is complete, and God desired their

creation because He is the cause of everything. And it is written that when the

world was created, (Psalm 104) "May

the Lord rejoice in his creations" because when God wants and desires his

creations, how then can He rejoice at their loss, as they said "My

creations are drowning in the sea and you sing praises before me?!" Therefore

He does not rejoice, but He causes others to rejoice because the wicked oppress

them and oppose them, and it is proper that others rejoice in their defeat, and

this is explained.

Does God rejoice at the defeat

of the wicked etc? Said R. Yose b. Hanina: He does not rejoice, but He causes others to rejoice,

and this proven by [close reading of] the wording of the phrase "so will

He cause to rejoice"; it does not say "He will rejoice"… [The Maharal

proceeds to strongly rejects the possibility that God causes others to rejoice

at the defeat of the wicked; he finds grammatical justification for

interpreting the text to mean that it is rather Man who causes others to


(Maharal's Novellas for Aggadot,

Part 3, p. 157)


Recites the Hallel with omissions, etc" – Because on the

seventh day of Pesach, the Egyptians drowned, the Holy One, blessed be He said "My

creations are drowning in the sea and you sing praises before me?" and

since on the seventh day we do not recite it [the complete Hallel],

therefore on Chol HaMoed

– the intermediate days – we also do not recite it, lest they become more

important than the final day of the festival.

(Mishnah Berurah

490, 7)



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