Volume 33, No. 15
6 Shevat 5779
January 12, 2019
R’ Saadiah Gaon z”l (882-942; Egypt, Eretz Yisrael and present-day Iraq; author of the earliest known work on Jewish Thought) asks: If Techiyat Ha’meitim is an integral part of the future, ultimate redemption, why was it not also part of the first redemption, i.e., the Exodus from Egypt?
He answers: Simply stated, Hashem did not promise that Techiyat Ha’meitim would accompany the Exodus, whereas He did promise that it would accompany the future redemption. And why the difference? Because the suffering in Egypt was relatively light compared to our suffering in the present exile; the exile in Egypt was short (210 years) compared to our current exile (1,948 years, so far); and the Jewish People were not dispersed to the four corners of the earth during the Egyptian exile, unlike in this exile. Given the length of, and the pain associated with, our current exile, Hashem knows that we need more to look forward to–not just redemption, but also Techiyat Ha’meitim–to have the strength to persevere.
R’ Saadiah adds: For the same reason, the future redemption will surpass the Exodus in other ways also. (1) The Exodus took place Be’chipazon / in a hurried, almost panicked way; the future redemption will not be so, as we read (Yeshayah 52:12), “It is not in Chipazon / haste that you shall go out.” (2) At the time of the Exodus, we were led by prophets; after the final redemption, everyone will prophesy, as we read (Yirmiyah 31:33), “They will no longer teach–each man to his fellow, each man to his brother–saying, ‘Know Hashem!’ For all of them will know Me, from their smallest to their greatest.” (3) The Exodus was followed by other eras of subjugation, while the future redemption will not be. (Emunot Ve’de’ot 7:6)
“On the tenth of this month they shall take for themselves . . . a seh / lamb or kid for the household. . . It shall be yours for examination until the fourteenth day of this month . . .” (12:3, 6)
Rashi z”l notes that setting aside a lamb for the Korban Pesach four days before the time for slaughtering was not required in succeeding generations. Why was it required here? The Sage Rabbi Matia ben Charash explains (based on Yechezkel 16:7-8): The time had come for Hashem to redeem Avraham Avinu’s descendants (i.e., Bnei Yisrael), but they lacked any merit in which to be redeemed. Therefore, Hashem gave them two Mitzvot, one involving the blood of the Pesach lamb and one involving the blood of Brit Milah. Another answer is that, because they were mired in idolatry, He [Hashem] told them (paraphrasing Shmot 12:21), “Withdraw your hands from idols [i.e., the lamb, which was an Egyptian deity] and take a lamb to fulfill a Divine command.” [Until here from Rashi]
How does Rabbi Matia’s teaching answer the question: Why was the first Pesach different from every Pesach in succeeding generations? R’ Tevele Bondi z”l (1796-1885; Germany) explains: In order to bring the Korban Pesach, Bnei Yisrael had to buy lambs from the Egyptians. Of course, Bnei Yisrael could not tell the Egyptians why they were buying the lambs. Therefore, the Egyptians presumed that Bnei Yisrael wanted the lambs to worship them as deities, as the Egyptians did, and they happily sold the lambs at bargain prices. Subsequently, however, Bnei Yisrael tied the lambs to their bedposts for four days and inspected their fitness to be used for the Korban Pesach, an action that angered the Egyptians and endangered Bnei Yisrael, thus bringing them great merit. That merit was only necessary that first year, and that is what Rabbi Matia is teaching.
For the same reason, writes R’ Bondi, Hashem commanded that the bones of the Korban Pesach not be broken in the process of eating the sacrifice. Let the bones remain whole so there would be no doubt that Bnei Yisrael had eaten the Egyptian deity!
R’ Bondi adds: The requirement to roast the Korban Pesach whole recalls Avraham Avinu’s self-sacrifice, choosing to be thrown into a furnace rather than worship idols. King Nimrod worshiped fire, but Avraham told him (according to a Midrash), “Fire cannot be god because water can extinguish it. Water cannot be god, because clouds carry it. Clouds cannot be god, because the wind can disperse them,” and so on.
R’ Bondi concludes: That conversation between Avraham and Nimrod is recalled through the format of Chad Gadya. That song speaks about a goat that was purchased–like the first Korban Pesach–for a bargain price, but which cannot be a deity, since it can be eaten by a cat, which can be bitten by a dog, which can be hit by a stick, etc. (Haggadah Shel Pesach Im Peirush M’eit R’ Tevele Bondi p.75)
“They baked the dough that they took out of Egypt into unleavened cakes, for they could not be leavened, for they were driven from Egypt and they could not delay, nor had they made provisions for themselves.” (12:39)
In the Pesach Haggadah (in the paragraph, “Matzah zo sh’eanu . . .”), we cite the above verse as the reason for eating Matzah at the Seder, implying that Matzah recalls the Exodus, especially the aspect of Chipazon / the hastiness of our departure from Egypt. But, earlier in the Haggadah (in “Ha lachma anya”), we say that Matzah is the bread that our ancestors ate in Egypt, implying that Matzah recalls the slavery. These two statements seem to contradict each other!
R’ Shlomo Zarka z”l (Algeria; died 1876) and R’ Yehuda Chermon z”l (Algeria; 1812-1911) explain that these two reasons for eating Matzah are complementary. They write: Why was the Exodus Be’chipazon / with hastiness, as alluded to in our verse? The answer is that it exactly paralleled the Egyptians’ treatment of Bnei Yisrael in slavery. When our ancestors were slaves, the Egyptians fed them Matzah, which is digested slowly, so they would go longer between meals and work more. And, when Bnei Yisrael tried to bake bread at home, the Egyptians came and rushed them off to work, forcing them to eat their bread before it leavened. Middah K’negged Middah/ measure-for-measure, when Hashem redeemed Bnei Yisrael, he rushed them out of Egypt, forcing them, once again, to eat Matzah. This time, however, it was eaten with a feeling of great joy because it represented something different–freedom! (Haggadah Shel Pesach Rinah V’yeshuah p.101)
R’ Chaim Paltiel z”l (13th century; France) asks: Why does our verse say they baked Matzah because they had to rush out of Egypt?, In fact, they already had been commanded (12:15), “For seven days you shall eat Matzot”!
Therefore, he answers, our verse should be read as follows: “They baked the dough that they took out of Egypt into unleavened cakes, for they could not be leavened [because of the Mitzvah to eat only Matzah. And, why did they bake their Matzah outside of Egypt?] For they were driven from Egypt and they could not delay, [and they had nothing else to eat] nor had they made provisions for themselves.”
If this is the case, however, how can we say in the Pesach Haggadah: “Why do we eat Matzah? Because their bread did not have time to rise, as is written (in our verse), ‘They baked the dough that they took out of Egypt into unleavened cakes . . . for they could not delay’”? In fact, we eat it because of the command! Rather, R’ Chaim Paltiel concludes, the way to reconcile our verse with the earlier command to eat Matzah is to realize that Hashem knows the future. When He commanded us to eat Matzah, He already knew Bnei Yisrael would not have time to leaven their dough at the time of the Exodus. (Quoted in Haggadah Shel Pesach Torat Ha’Rishonim p.163)
Siddur Avodat Yisrael cites a custom to recite Psalm 77 on the Shabbat on which Parashat Bo is read. Accordingly, we present here verses from, and commentaries on, that Psalm.
“I recall the works of G-d, when I remember Your ancient wonders. I shall meditate upon all Your deeds and speak about Your works.” (Verses 12-13)
According to the Mesorah / our tradition regarding the reading and punctuation of the text, the Hebrew word for “recall” is spelled as if it would be pronounced “Azkir” / “I will recall to others,” but it actually is pronounced “Ezkor” / “I will recall to myself,” i.e., I will remember.
R’ David Kimchi z”l (Radak; 1160–1235; Narbonne, France) explains that both are true. He writes: These verses refer to the wonders that Hashem performed in Egypt. When I recall the deeds and wonders that You performed in ancient times in order to take us out of Egypt–deeds that no one could have expected or imagined, deeds that were done after all hope was lost–I become confident that You likewise will extract us from the current exile. I have recalled these deeds and I have spoken to others about them in order to console my brethren.
Radak adds: The phrase “all Your deeds” refers to the awesome things Hashem did in Egypt and at the Yam Suf, as well as at Har Sinai and during all the years in the desert. (Tehilim Im Peirush Radak Ha’shalem)
From the same work:
“In the sea was Your way, and Your path went through the mighty waters; and Your footsteps were not known.” (Verse 20)
Radak writes: the Hebrew word for “path” is written in plural, but pronounced in singular. This hints to the Midrash that there actually were twelve paths through the Yam Suf[, one for each tribe].
He adds, to explain the last phrase: The fact that You, so-to-speak, passed though the Yam Suf is not noticeable, as we read (Shmot 14:27-28), “The water went back to its power,” and, “The water came back.” No sign remained in the sea of the path that once existed.