THE JERUSALEM JEWISH VOICE
PASSOVER PERSPECTIVES -- 1997, 5757
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This study is brought to you by Dr. David and Rena Hurwitz & their family, in memory of Harav Yosef Shlomo ben Yaakov, Rabbi Joseph Schapiro (his yahrtzeit is 4 Nisan); Joe's love for Torah, Am Yisroel, and Medinat Yisroel were legend. An ardent reader and propagator of these studies, he urged everyone to read them like a telegram-- every letter counts!
When in Hong Kong, one shops-- in London, theatre is tops. The U.S. features spacious fields of grain-- in Jerusalem, Torah study sanctifies the brain! This sheet is a small sample of Israel's chief export (besides Israelis!)-- FOR FROM ZION SHALL COME FORTH TEACHING AND THE WORD OF GOD FROM JERUSALEM (ISAIAH 2:3).Clean for Pesach and Enjoy the Seder based on the responsa of Rabbi Scheinberg.
A. ITS UP TO US
If Eliyahu can visit all Jewish homes on Passover night, he can also get in without our opening the door! But we demonstrate that he and Meshiach are ALWAYS ready to come, IF we're ready to receive them, to open the doors of our hearts (Rav S. Riskin). So when the Kotzker was asked where God dwells, he answered: "wherever a human heart is open to receive Him"! May we all leave Mitzrayim (Egypt), the narrow places of our souls, on Pesach-- then we can truly receive the Torah on Shavuot. Then all Jews will make Aliya and Israel's Arabs will feel privileged to live in our redeemed State, and gladly help us build the final 3rd Temple (see Ramban, Gen. 26:20-2); there's no mitzva to build it until most Jews have come home, rebuilding their own inner Temples (Sefer Hachinuch, Truma).
NEUROTIC HOLIDAY SPIRIT: Many of us, especially those most creative, have extreme, even neurotic, personality traits. We can't always overcome them, but we can always use them constructively. Freud links truly great creativity to neurosis, with rare exceptions-- cf. his patient, Mahler. Rambam claims that we're born with certain traits, as much a part of us as our arms and legs (M.T. Daot I). The small research team at Jerusalem's wonderful Ezrat Nashim Hospital (mazal tov on its 101st year) made a world class scientific breakthrough, by identifying the genetic component in personality traits, such as risk-taking and a passion for adventure-- some climb Everest and do deep sea diving, while others eat kugel and watch TV (compare King David and Rav Shach). But whatever we're born with can be used positively or negatively-- the angry would-be murderer can become a pious ritual slaughterer, tho he might avoid killing already abused calves. Viscott describes neurotic object choice, where each extreme marriage partner picks one of the opposite extreme to achieve harmony, rather than developing his/her own "other side". Such marriages are wonderful, engendering both appreciation and conflict, so long as neither partner becomes more balanced. So Freud just identifies your unconscious drives, but doesn't tell you what to do with them!
God may thus give a season for each extreme trait's public expression-- "a season and appropriate time for every desire beneath heaven..." (Ecc. 3:1, words by Solomon, music by Seeger). Then we teach each other our particular leitmotif, that all achieve better balance. The constant joker and celebrant organizes Purim for everyone; the sad sack is the man of the hour on Tisha B'Av. Overly self-critical guilt-laden souls give us all a push on Yom Kippur, while the party giver, the public personality, thrives on Sukkos. Pesach may be the holiday for the obsessive compulsive, who loves searching for, rooting out, every speck of profanation and fermentation. Not only must there be no chometz (forbidden fermented grain), but not even a speck of dirt on a wall! (the gutsy passover sacrifice, and the requirement for even a vegetarian to eat it, may be a tikkun for such types). His mood spills over to all of us-- some even creep under beds, searching for leavened crumbs (reliving Egyptian servitude before the seder (festive Passover commemorative meal)?-- cf. building the sukka).
SEARCH & GROW: We thus act out our need for deep exacting self-analysis, to root out our own inner fermentation-- puffing up from pride, we mask our existential disconnection and resultant insecurity and poor self-image. Both swellings above the skin and spots sunk below it determine tzara'at, the Divine infliction for sins of pride. Purim reveals our masquerade, our pretense of true knowledge. We work on it during Nisan, the time of growth, opening ourselves up on Pesach, heading toward the Truth & Love of Shavuot (see E). Torah Psychologist Mimi Dickman (in a TOP Video Vision) notes that love and creative growth are the food and drink of the human spirit-- without them, depression results, the lull between great steps forward (Rebbe Nachman).
???? A computer can answer ??, but only a human can ask the right ??! Beit Hamidrash literally means "the house of questioning or searching", the creative (male misnagdic?) human gesture (The Royal Reach, Rav N. Lamm, 65ff). Many Jerusalem groups offer "truth"-- TOP stresses the quest for truth. Rav Mordecai Gafni (in a TOP 2-tape audio lecture-- God, the Sweet and the Dangerous-- $15) attributes Orthodox failure to affect the masses of Jews, despite successful use of modern media and techniques, to our stress on providing answers, often pat or glib, rather than being at the forefront of constructive questioning and inquiry. Avraham, Job and the prophets taught us to question God's treatment of Man-- each spouse is to provide constructive loving critique of the other (amidst praise!), to be "a helper opposite him" (Gen. 2:18, per the Ishbitzer Rebbe; cf. B. M. 84a); God enters such a "marital" relationship with Israel (Hosea 2:21-22).
Yet in the end, bottom line, we must bow to God's so much greater perspective and insight, and accept His decisions, no matter how terrible they seem from a human perspective-- even Moshe can only see some of God's ways, as reflecting His Glory, long after an event occurs, His "back" (Ex. 33:13-23). "Seek God when He can be found... For your thoughts aren't Mine nor are your ways Mine, the statement of God. For as heaven is above earth, so are My ways elevated above yours, and My thoughts above your thoughts (Is. 55:6f, read on public fast days)". Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchiv protested God's administration of His World, summoned Him to a "court hearing", and praised, perhaps emulated, the sincere prayer of a simple Jew who offered to forgive God His "sins" if He'd forgive him his!! Yalkut Shimoni suggests that the atoning goat on rosh chodesh is brought on behalf of God Himself!
Yet when all's said and done, Rav Levi Yitzchak sings The Dudela, praising the Omnipresent God, and recites Kadish, magnifying His Great Name-- he's only Levi Yitzchak, and only God is God. God finally tells Job simply that His ways, from which Man cannot escape (see also Job 12-14), are beyond human understanding (Job 38-41). But God rejects Job's friends' critique of him and his ??, and praises his quest for truth and understanding (Job 42:7f). Per Hagiga 5b, God both laughs and cries at the state of the world; per Rashi (vs. Rambam), he laughs on the outside-- the sun shines and birds sing above the beautiful meadows around Aushwitz; but inwardly He cries-- man's never alone in his sorrow. When Gideon complains that God's abandoned Israel, God tells him to use the power (of his complaint) to become an activist, and have God work thru him and Tzahal to save Israel-- AFTER bringing sacrifices (Judges 6:11f); so, as Yaakov, modern Israel must simultaneously pursue peace, war and prayer (Rashi, Gen. 32:9, citing Tanchuma). Perhaps God appears to Avraham (Gen. 18:1) in his very act of seeking and feeding travelling idolators, bringing out his own Divine Image. Even atheism can achieve God's purpose, if it results in social action, not relying on God to solve our problems-- cf. early Zionism.
So Rav J. B. Soloveichik stressed that high-level Torah study (Talmudic, the male role?) is not to simplify life, nor to provide security and tranquility (The female role? The function of prayer?), clear black and white answers, but to deepen the problems and questions and provide alternative viewpoints. We remember Exodus every day, but we probe and explore it via ?? on Pesach (R. Chayim Brisker). But ?? can either reflect a quest for truth (e.g. Gen. 18:25, 25:22) or a mocking attack (e.g. Gen. 25:32, Num. 16:3)-- the tone of voice is so relevant and revealing. Both the wise and simple sons seek information; but the wicked son's "?" is merely an expletive, phrased interogatively! One seeks his duty, the other an excuse to abandon it, with no replacement. Youth, who critically reject their parents' values, often wind up with no values whatsoever.
PROBLEMS CHANGE: Centuries ago, our main spiritual danger was conversion to another faith. While still a problem, its far outshadowed by Jews who leave all faith-- modern paganism threatens all religions (cf. Princeton's besotted Nude Olympics); to deny the existence of great truths and teachings in other Western faiths is to deny our own, from which they were taken (Varieties of Jewish Belief, Barish). Today's prevalent son is he "who doesn't know to ask ??" (or he who isn't even around, says Rev. J. Seidel, who finds and guides him at hostile H.U. and T.A.U., before he wanders off to Egypt for Pesach!). Rav Lamm says that many such spiritual drifters are unconcerned, morally drowsy; some are shy, embarrassed by their ignorance; others are assimilated, unable to formulate Jewish ??, tho they yearn for the God of their forefathers (Rav Shlomo would respond: "Amen, brother Norman!). We must know how to engage this increasingly prevalent son, how to open him up by opening our own minds and hearts to him. We must never reproach him with anger (e.g. screaming "shabos" or yelling at a woman who accidently wanders into the Wall's men's section).
But we must teach true Judaism, with halacha and mitzvos-- a legal system, not just pleasant ideas and feelings, ethics and history; so we only recite the hagada when matza and maror lie before us. We begin with Avraham's sordid background of idolatry- if he did it alone, the most assimilated Jew, who despairs of return, can also do so, with our help. May our Passover escape from the House of Slavery culminate in our Shavuot return to the Freedom House of Seeking and Searching.
RAV YEHUDA HENKIN views Sukkot as experiencing ongoing Divine Providence, Shavuot the truth of Torah, and Pesach the belief in God Himself, His Concerned Existence proven by the witnessed miracles of Exodus (see Ex. 14:31, 20:2, Deut. 4:34, Tur OH 725, Kuzari 1:25). We strengthen our faith in retelling the story. Jeremiah predicts that the Living Concerned God will be seen in the ingathering of our dispersion (16:14); then "we'll sing a new song before Him-- Praise God (Halleluy-ah)!"-- cf. the song festival hit Halleluy-ah, and the improved Hatikva, which stresses also, in the last refrain, our dream "to be a HOLY, not just a FREE, people in our land"-- get our bumper sticker and spread the message!.
We can eliminate tiny crumbs of chometz, not found or only found with great difficulty, by mental negation, disconnecting ourselves from them, or by selling them. We are also commanded to rejoice on our holiday; Rav Chaim Scheinberg noted that obsessive pre-Pesach cleaning, beyond that legally necessary, can ruin the joyous spirit of Pesach, and prevent women from properly experiencing the seder-- e.g. carefully cleaning out cracks in the floor. . Clean for Pesach and Enjoy The Seder is available from the Jewish Student Information Center, 628-8338, 5 Bet El, J-m (firstname.lastname@example.org); but hiding 10 pieces of bread before the search for leaven (Practical Application #18) is a highly questionable practice. WE WISH ALL OUR READERS A HAPPY PASSOVER, DESPITE ALL THEIR EFFORTS TO MAKE IT A KOSHER ONE. WE HOPE THEY HAD A KOSHER PURIM, DESPITE ALL THEIR EFFORTS TO MAKE IT A HAPPY ONE (Rav Y. Hadari)!
B. THE PASSOVER WEEK TORAH READINGS
ON THE FIRST DAY OF PESACH, MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME EXODUS 12:21-51: The Jews must place blood of their passover lamb on their exterior doorposts and lintels, openly defying their Egyptian masters, sheep worshippers; tho still addicted to idolatry, this first expression of a desire to abandon it is merit enough for God to "pass over" Jewish houses, while destroying Egypt's firstborn. The Jews are to continue celebrating Pesach in Israel and explain it to their sons; they rejoiced in their redemption, grateful that their children would live in Israel-- may U.S. Zionists so rejoice at their children's aliya (see Reunion in Jerusalem, by Bertram Joseph, z"l, one of my early students and avid readers; are Zionists those who send others to Israel?). The Jews bravely did just as God commanded. At Midnight, God killed ALL firstborn Egyptians and Egyptian animals. As each house had a firstborn, a great cry filled Egypt. Pharoh summoned Moshe and Aharon and URGED them to take the Jews out, exactly as they'd requested. The Egyptians pressed them to leave quickly; they left with their dough not yet risen, wrapped in cloths. Per Moshe's request, they borrowed (or "took") silver and gold vessels and clothes, gladly given; they drained Egypt of it's ill-gotten wealth. Did the Egyptians feel better w/o it?-- cf. the Swiss banks' stolen Jewish property.
The Jews headed toward Sukkot, a huge group with many hangers-on and much livestock-- fighting men alone numbered 600,000; called "God's armies", they'll soon fight skeptic Amalek (shouldn't strident Mea Shearim youth join Tzahal, and Toldot Aharon become a hesder Yeshiva?). With no time to take other provisions, the Jews quickly baked dough into unleavened cakes. They lived under Egyptian influence (from Avraham on) for exactly 430 years (210 years from Yaakov's descent); God specially guards the Jews on Pesach night, when Haifa was captured (5708), leading to overall victory; Jaffa and Tiberias were captured in Nisan, destined for the redemption of Israel-- Ex. Raba 15:12. Then God told Moshe and Aharon the laws of the Pesach sacrifice-- it's to be eaten in groups, including converts; no bone may be broken, no alien or uncircumcised or apostate Jew may eat it-- cf. Israel's Supreme Court ruling, denying sacrificial Israeli citizenship to Jews who have switched faith. Our's is a covenant of belief, not race, tho an apostate remains a Jew. All Jews observed the Pesach laws perfectly. God took them out in broad daylight, tho Pharoah had released them the night before (he saw many of his own people going out with them).
ZEAL & PATIENCE-- A TIME TO HASTE AND A TIME TO WAIT: ON THE 2ND DAY we read Lev. 22:26-23:44. We've just reexperienced our ZEALOUS rush out of Egypt-- we now shift gears for a long slow PATIENT countup-- 49 days, 7 weeks-- to the next stage in Israel's cosmic journey; Shavuos, the Giving of the Torah, begins the 8th week. A State or wedding can be set up quickly; an ideal State, or state of marriage, takes a lot longer. A newborn animal may not be sacrificed, or a baby circumcised, until it's spent 7 days with its mother. An animal may not be offered on the same day as its mother-- don't jump the gun in religious experience. God's Torah laws of sacrifice are coordinated with the Lord's natural law of bonding (cf. healthy natural marriage at 18, the Divine Draft at 20). So Pesach, celebrating "dead" Israel's sudden spiritual revival, must occur in spring, when plants spring back to life, after winter's death and "exile". So we adjust the lunar calendar to the solar, by adding 7 months of Adar II, every 19 years.
BACK TO ZEAL: THANKSGIVING peace offerings, brought with bread, must be consumed by the next morning (other peace offerings may be consumed over two nights); leftovers must be burnt. Drawn out experience loses impact-- e.g. long services, especially for children. This law, repeated from Tzav, adds that God's to be sanctified among the Jews-- He'll be desecrated if they dawdle in consuming it. Apathetic religious experience broadcasts a negative image-- lackluster rote prayer and ritual also turn off children and the non-observant-- cf. The Wall. Ch. 22 ends: "I'm the Lord your God, Who makes you holy, Who's (always) bringing you out of Egypt to be your Lord-- I'm God".
CH. 23: Shabbat and Pesach head the list of holy days; a new commandment is taught with each festival (Ramban). In Israel, an omer of first BARLEY, the food of animals and the poor, is to be brought and waved on this 2nd day, with a sacrificial lamb, two portions of flour, and only one of wine. ONLY THEN may new grain be eaten. 7 weeks are to be counted; then the offering of the first WHEAT, God's unique food for humanity (cf. rice), is brought on Shavuot-- 2 LEAVENED loaves, together with 7 yearling lambs, 1 bull, and 2 rams-- a burnt offering. A goat is the sin-offering and 2 yearlings an OBLIGATORY peace offering, eaten by the cohen. Field-corners and fallen stalks are to be left for the needy. Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are described as days of shofar and affliction, leading to Sukkot and Shemini Atzeres, holy happy assemblies, a rendezvous with God. The holidays are called convocations for sacrifices, tho no details thereof are given here (23:37). 4 species are to be taken (cf. 4 cups and sons), and male Jews are to dwell in booths, on Sukkot, to vividly relive God's settling the Jews in sukkot (booths) after Exodus (its optional for females, who intuit much of what males must learn formally)
ON THE 3rd DAY (unless Shabat), we read Exodus 13:1-16. The consecration of all firstborn of the womb is followed by laws commemorating Exodus-- the prohibition of chometz on Pesach, and the springtime mitzva to tell the seder tale of Exodus to our children. The Hagada doesn't take its concise summary of Jewish History and Exodus from Exodus, but from Joshua 24:2-4, Genesis 15:13, and the declaration upon bringing one's first fruits, Deut. 26:5-8, a ready-made summary by God Himself.
These biblical passages omit Moshe, hero of the Passover drama, Israel's greatest prophet-- we experience God's direct intervention and redemption on Seder night, ignoring even Moshe, a tool in His hands to do His will (Rav Y. Hadari). These passages themselves reflect the Hagadic function-- to RELIVE Exodus, both BEFORE and AFTER the event; indeed the very first seder was hours BEFORE the event commemorated. The broken matza reminds us that Pesach doesn't just celebrate an eventual perfect state, symbolized by the 2 whole loaves of shabbat; it's also a commitment to forge ahead in a shattered world, despite heart breaking setbacks; we express faith in eventual success-- the whole matza will be restored, tho perhaps only long after our death! Pesach was celebrated even at night, in The Camps. Israel's 45th anniversary was a milestone on this path (Rav Riskin, per those who use only 2 matzos, one broken). "How much destruction can a people suffer and still believe in rebuilding?", asks Yaakov Glatstein; Edward Alexander replies: "destruction beyond imagining, Zionism answered".
Exodus shall be "a sign on your hand and a memory between your eyes (the center of your headspace, just above the hairline), that God's Torah be in your mouth (13:9)"-- one's practice and thoughts must be in order, in order to preach! Rashi says 13:9 refers to tefillin-- cf. 13:16, Deut. 6:8, 11:18; each of these verses provides one of the 4 readings in tefillin (see The Living Torah, p. 177). But Rashi's grandson Rashbam takes 13:9 as a metaphor for constant awareness of God's Law (cf. Karites). He apparently learns the laws of tefillin only from the oral law-- truly traditional Jewish grandchildren often disagree with grandpa's conclusions and customs; those who try to reproduce Grandpa's world intact (as they mistakenly think it was, "invented tradition"-- Rav JBS) aren't truly traditional, tho they wear Granddad Israel's antiquated clothing and follow his unhealthful fatty diet. Kfar Saba shouldn't be a clone of Yisroel Saba, tho it should reflect and express his basic beliefs and values. Firstborn humans and animals are dedicated to God or redeemed; these ceremonies arouse our children's interest in the tale of Exodus.
ON THE 4th DAY (but never on Sunday) we read Exodus 22:24- 23:19-- Don't take interest from the poor, nor retain their pledged clothing when they need it, lest God heed their cries against you. Don't curse authorities (e.g. Rabin & Peres, per Rav Steinsaltz and Rav Lau-- two years ago, he used his 5 minutes on the air before Rosh Hashana only for this message, extended to loving all Israel). First fruits and priestly dues must be brought in their proper order. Even FIRSTBORN animals must not be sacrificed until the 8th day. Eating meat from an animal with fatal defects is forbidden-- give it to the dogs! Your diet is higher (Hirsch). Ibn Ezra claims that such meat is unhealthful; God rewards Egypt's dogs for not wheting their tongues at the Jew (11:7); tho trained to attack Jews, they saw God's grace with Israel and ignored their blind masters (Mechilta-- cf. Bilaam's donkey); tho our dogs probably aren't their descendants, about whom dogs lack concern anyway, this cultivates sensitivity and appreciation in the Jew-- cf. covering challot during kiddush over wine, that they not be "embarrassed" by being ignored then, meaning that we may not ignore necessity, when we focus on pleasure luxury (Rav JBS). This Midrash may encourage appreciation of dogs; tho Judaism doesn't overtly call them man's best friend, kelev, dog, means "like a heart". Nice people tend to have nice dogs and v.v. Treating our dogs well makes them pleasant, improving man's environment.
Strict honest judicial procedure and aid to the stray or fallen animals of others is commanded. Observance of the sabbatical year and sabbath day is enjoined. We preserve Torah Law with protective regulations-- e.g. not to even mention alien gods (23:13), not eating even fowl with milk. One shouldn't use J.C. as an explative, tho Rav Soloveichik would say his name when appropriate. Jesus would probably be shocked that Christians turned him into a god, long after he died, heartbroken that he failed to be Messiah (per Rav S. Riskin's NCSY lecture & TOP video, A Jewish View of Jesus; see From Jesus to Christ, Yale).
Sefer Hachinuch: causing even a non-Jew to swear by or worship an idol is prohibited. Idols shouldn't even be used to indicate direction (a slight benefit-- see San. 63b). The 3 pilgrimage festivals are to be celebrated at the Temple, temporarily occupied by the Dome (tho Kaufman locates it in that part of the Temple open to Gentile visitors)-- Pesach in the spring, followed by Shavuot, and Sukkot in the fall. The Passover lamb may not be slaughtered over chametz, nor may its fat lie overnight. First fruits are to be brought to the Temple; no calf is to be stewed in its mother's milk, even if not eaten; the hybrid mixture per se is bad; as sorcery, it destroys God's order in nature. Rambam interprets the law as a reaction to idolatrous customs (Sefer Hachinuch). Rav Chaim Seiger, who exposed me and Dr. Mel Botvin to the depths of Torah, suggests that once you've eaten an animal, taken its life, don't add its milk, which is to preserve life.
ON THE 5th DAY (unless Monday or Shabat), we read Exodus 34. Moshe returns to God with 2 tablets, hewn by him; these replace God's, which he broke, when he saw the Golden Calf. No man accompanies him. Moshe proclaims God's Name and attributes, as He descends on Sinai. He entreats God to return to Israel's midst (the religious Zionist dream), although He already promised conquest and settlement of the land (the secular Zionist dream). God warns the Jews NOT to make any convenant with the idol worshipping Canaanites (not the monotheistic Moslems-- see Ohr Hachayim), and not to tolerate idolatry in Israel, lest Jews become influenced (Far Eastern idolators may not replace Moslem workers). The matzoh festival of 7 days must be in spring, as was Exodus. All firstborn are to be given to God or redeemed. On Passover, as on the first wheat harvest festival (Shavuos) and the ingathering festival (Sukkos), all males are to appear before God-- He'll protect their vacated homes. This addition, and God being called THE LORD OF ISRAEL, distinguishes Ex. 34 from Ex. 23 above. Amidst the continuity and depth of repetition, new aspects are constantly revealed. Ch. 34 also ends with bringing first fruits to God's house and the prohibition of meat & milk.
ON THE 6th DAY, we read Numbers 9. Pesach #2, in the desert, is a model for all future celebrations (it may have been the last Pesach observed before entering Israel). Some men were ritually unclean, excluded from the Passover sacrifice-- Moshe RUSHED to God, to relieve their plight, as he did with Tzlafchud's daughters' inheritance problems; but when he didn't know how to punish sinners-- the Shabbat violator and the blasphemer, he patiently waited until God came to him-- Rav Yosef Soloveichik deduces that a model religious leader is eager to help others fulfill their desires, within the Torah framework; but he's reluctant to castigate or punish them-- cf. charedi protests against women's national service, w/o any offer to bake cookies, sew parachutes, etc. at home! Don't scream "Shabbos"-- offer kiddush instead! God made a 2nd Pesach Sacrifice Seder one month later, for those unclean or too far from Jerusalem (there are various definitions) on Nisan 14. But if they could have done it then, but didn't, their souls are cut off. The Lubavitcher Rebbe thus once urged Jews to leave Jerusalem for Pesach-- per Rambam, we can offer the lamb today! But Chabad halachic authority Rav Zevin ruled against the Rebbe (he wasn't yet called "moshiach"!). The substitute Pesach Lamb is sacrificed as the original; a convert must follow the same laws.
ON SHABBAT CHOL HAMOED, we read Exodus 34, as on the 5th day, but preceded by the end of Ch. 33-- God yields to Moshe's impassioned pleading to restore His manifest Presence in the midst of Israel, and to show Moshe as much of He can of Himself! Moshe's rewarded with a greater experience of God, after leaving His Presence to deal with the golden calf!-- should one leave his Kollel Torah Study to serve a congregation or teach Torah, join Israel's army, or open a business?
ON THE 7th DAY, we read Exodus 13: ...THE LORD DID NOT LEAD THEM BY THE WAY OF THE PHILISTINES, THO IT WAS CLOSE, FOR THE LORD SAID: "LEST THE FOLK RECANT WHEN THEY EXPERIENCE WAR AND RETURN TO EGYPT" (17-- cf. aliya today). Rav Goren claimed that God didn't want to fight Israel's war to conquer Israel. A model people must also have a top-flight army, not just prayer (see Jonathan Netanyahu's letters). Chasam Sofer interprets: God did not lead them in the WAY (= life pattern) of the Philistines, AS IT WAS CLOSE (to their hearts-- cf. Rashi on "higayon", Ber. 28b)! Advanced Philistine civilization was closer to the Jewish soul, and thus MORE dangerous, than decadent corrupt Egyptian culture (compare L.A. with the shtetel); so he rules that children should NOT study Bible or Math, subjects too "close", too pleasant, leading them to shun Talmudic intellectual war (a fortiori TV?)! This approach may have made many reject Judaism, rather than rejecting the world, unlike Rav Hirsch's blend of Torah and the world (cf. religious Jews in Russia and Germany in 1900). So the Baal HaTanya favored the Tzar over Napoleon, preferring physical to spiritual annihilation! (tho the former often led to the latter). Others disagreed. Who was right? Will Habad absorption with Rambam engender harmony between worldly rationalism and chassidic mysticism, between reason and affect? Is such Orthodox breadth and balance Rav Shach's fear?
The Jews were led by pillars of cloud and fire; Moshe took along Yosef's bones. God ordered Israel to turn back towards Egypt, enticing Pharoah & Co. to regret Exodus and chase them to the Red Sea (perhaps to recover the many Egyptians, "the people", who went along!). Moshe told the panic-stricken Jews not to worry-- God will take care of everything; some wanted to commit suicide, others to return, still others to fight, and some to shout at the Egyptians. God told Moshe to stop praying-- the Jews must act, proceed forward, right into the sea (Mech. B'shalach 2-- cf. '48, '67; should Crown Heights' hassidim come to Israel, rather than battle for their turf with its black community?). Led by Nachshon, they did so. Moshe split the sea, Egypt drowned; the Jews were ecstatic, but kvetched when there was no water!
FOR THE DAILY MAFTIR, we read of the Passover sacrifices, Numbers 28. Their number, unlike those of Sukkot, remains the same all 7 days-- 2 bulls, one ram, and 7 yearling sheep, a burnt offering, plus accompanying grain offerings. A sin offering goat is brought, besides the daily burnt offering.
C. 3 HAFTORAS
On the 1st day, we read of Joshua circumcising the people, who then offer the Pesach lamb; they thus repeat, on entering Israel, their blood sacrifices in Egypt; the Jew brings close to God, transcends, both his own animal self and the idolatrous Egyptian environment. Then the manna stops-- they're to live naturally in Israel (Joshua 5:2-6:1). On Shabbat, we read of the lifeless dry bones of Jewish exile FIRST being gathered together, THEN being given God's eternal life spirit, in Israel (Ez. 37:1-14, cf. 1945ff; see A SACRIFICIAL FOLK in our Tsav study). On the 7th day, we read 2S22:1-51-- David's ode to God, expanded in Ps. 18. All of nature and history, tho so laden with distress, ULTIMATELY leads to God's final Kingdom of Love & Truth.
D. SONG OF SONGS
Song of Songs, epitome of Shlomo's 1,005 songs, was written in his youth (Proverbs in his middle years, Kohelet in his old age-- Song of Songs Raba 1:10); it depicts God's bond of love with Israel and their yearning for His return as a romance between a man and a maid. Some chant it on the Intermediate Shabat of Passover, or, if none, on the 7th or 8th day, the midrashic season of marriage of God and His folk. Many read it each eruv Shabat (cf. L'cha dodi-- See Esther KiTov's TOP video exposition of S. of S., and Avraham Sutton's rendition in The Palace Gates Hagada, $15 from TOP). Malbim sees the maiden as Shlomo's soul, struggling to merge with the Almighty (cf. Prov. 31:10 ff, Y'did Nefesh, Ps. 63:2-3). Shlomo's choice of sexual metaphor reflects a positive view of sensuality; its highest expression may resemble the highest spiritual merging with God (see our Tzav study). But Rav JBS notes that S. of S.'s being called "holy of holies" uproots the usual validity of its simple meaning, unlike other parts of the O.T. (Only Testament; see Nefesh HaRav, Shechter). Some overly prudish observant Jews, mostly Ashkenazic, influenced by their traditional Christian environment, ignore and/or disdain the sensual realm, whereas oriental Jews, living in sensual Islamic society, had no problems with it and, as many Yemenite Jews, naturally integrated it with enthusiastic spirituality (Shaalot Yavetz, II:15).
E. SECULAR "HUMANIST" DISTORTIONS
But Israel's Secular "Humanist" Hagada goes to the other extreme-- it completely eliminates the essence of Song of Songs, the beautiful eternal spiritual love between God and Israel (which also has a physical, even sensual, component-- bodily mitzvos and temple sacrifices-- see R. Handel, Maimonides Attitude to Sacrifice, Tradition 1973). The secularists cite R. Akiva (who, after his long separations from Rachel, also married jet-set Mrs. Turnus Rufus, who may have financed Rachel's Jerusalem of Gold diadem), that Song of Songs is "holy of holies"; yet they insist tht it's only a pagan love poem, which somehow crept into the Bible-- they illustrate their hagada with erotic drawings! Unlike observant Jews, such folks have few children, and will probably, together with their so limited viewpoint, gradually disappear as a social force.
They also ignore the essence of the Hagada-- gratitude and praise to God for making us a unique people in a unique land; this is the theme of its first fruits declaration from Dvarim, the link of Shavuot and Torah to Pesach and Exodus (Rav Riskin). They claim not to know why the traditional Hagada ignores Moshe, tho any observant child knows the beautiful reason above (B.). In their narrow and ridiculous worship of finite man, ignoring The Infinite Creator and Redeemer (cf. the Tower of Babel), they eliminate kiddush (Sanctification) from the ceremony of the first cup, which sets the tone for the whole hagada-- they praise only the greatness of the helpless deceased, rather than God, in their "kaddish". Far better that they first read the traditional hagada and celebrate our holidays as they are-- covenants with God, to at least experience and understand their roots in Judaism. Then they can register their protests and disagreements and add contemporary responses (cf. feminist and other "modern" hagados, whose contemporary politically-correct agendas silence the voice of their people and forefathers). The Family Participation Hagada-- A Different Night by Noam Tziyon and David Dishon ($20 from TOP) beautifully blends tradition and modernity. So Hanuka celebrates the Maccabees' expulsion of alien Western civilization, with its emphasis on sports and nudity-- but many reform and secular Israelis celebrate it with Grecian torch races and sport competitions!
Secular Humanism is indeed a contradiction in terms, per Jewish tradition. Avimelech, king of sophisticated Philistine civilization, complains that Avraham told him that Sara was his (1/2) sister, concealing that she was also his wife; Avraham replies: "For I said: `Only God awareness is lacking in this place, so they'll kill me to get my wife'"-- if there's no sense of God, there's no sense of an orderly universe, of laws, created and continued by an Intelligent Being; then all is accident, man's life a meaningless moment in infinity, with no purpose in life but to survive and enjoy, regardless of others. True Humanism rests on belief in a concerned God, Who creates Man in His holy image. Likewise, Judaism is only God's choice of the Jews to bring man back to God, Eden and himself from Israel. Without Him and His Torah, there's neither humanism nor Judaism; so there's no Pesach without an omer count-up to Shavuot, no connection between Yemenite and Yeke but Torah. The love of God, Israel and the Torah is indivisible-- you can't have one w/o the others (Rav E. Quint and Rav A. Steinsaltz, per The Zohar, 1278).
Yet some Jews unconsciously identify with this great mission and remain kind concerned folks (e.g. early secular Zionists and Yiddishists), tho they outwardly deny and discard our mission; they invent or "reconstruct" Kaplanian Jewish "culture" or Civilization to justify rejecting Judaism, while still claiming to be somehow "Jewish"-- e.g. Meretz and The Israeli Secular Movement for Humanistic Judaism. Such groups claim to be even more moral or ethical than usual, to justify abandoning God's covenant; yet they usually lack the intensive one-to-one true humanism that characterizes truly traditional Judaism, e.g. visiting the sick, helping the poor, having large families, filling the earth with Divine Images.
F. BLESSINGS ... AND NISSAN'S EXTRA-SPECIAL BLESSING ...
Every truly traditional Jew's day is full of blessings for his/her blessings. The Torah's model blessing, grace, after a satisfying meal, is given a fixed text, expanded and expounded, by the rabbis of the Talmud-- "You shall eat and be satisfied*, and you shall bless God your Lord on (or "for") the good land (the Earth, especially Israel), which He's given you" (Deut. 8:10). Just what God means by "blessing" God is unclear; my guess is that we acknowledge Him as the source of all blessings, i.e. "You are a blessing"; so all nations will eventually bless Israel, the eventual and ultimate source of their existential blessings.
* Is the fulfillment of human needs and the enjoyment of life itself a fulillment of the will of God? He Himself constantly sustains all life. The Jerusalem Talmud (end of Kiddushin, chapter 4) states that we must justify our rejection of any pleasure, which came before us , just as we must account for every pleasure illicitly taken-- YF: but we shouldn't search far and wide, in trivial pleasure pursuits, e.g. wasting lots of time and money to find the perfect steak, wine or sour pickle.
Rav Mordecai Gafni states that eating, merging with food, can be a way of avoiding the discovery of my real self (my "Exodus" from the confining straits of my past), of God, amidst depression (food is a chemical anti-depressant), a compulsive substitute for a truly satisfying relationship, an escape from doubt and ambivelance; but when we eat matzah, holy eating, we exercise free will and connect to God, Who gave us both food and self-definition, Who took us out of the servitude of Egypt, of being defined by our alien masters, in Whom we trust, even amidst our doubts and dilemnas. When the Jews falter, they want to return to the fleshpots of Egypt. Our parents can also be our slavemasters, when they do not recognize our own independent identity, but seek to submerge us in their own struggles for recognition (and cooking?)-- Leah does this with her first 3 sons, manipulating them to get her husband's love. She finally frees herself of her mission impossible, to get Yaakov's love, and appreciates both God's unique gift of her fourth son, Yehuda, and his unique identity; unlike his older brothers, he grows up secure in his identity and her love, becomes progenitor of Dovid and Moshiach. Later Leah reverts and "buys" Yaakov's love from Rachel with her son's mandrakes-- but tho Leah wants Yaakov, Yaakov wants Rachel, tho Rachel wants children; bought love is not love; its product, Yissaschar, is not Yehuda. Dina, like her mommy, lacks self-worth and goes out, seeking even valueless love and approval.
A whole slew of blessings for our blessings begin each new Jewish day, as we re-focus on all the basic blessings of life-- food, health, clothing, our masculinity and femininity, our life strength and health, our being Jewish, the wonder of waking and walking, etc. (but not for house and hearth, less intrinsic to our bodies). We then recite many morning prayers, culminating in the supreme prayer, shemoneh esrei, itself another long (19) set of blessings on every realm of life, accompanied by prayer. We also bless God when we do mitzvos, a great privilege, drawing us near to Him-- e.g. donning tallit and tefillin, hearing Shofar, taking the lulav. Throughout our daily life, wherever we are, we have to recite blessings whenever we eat and drink; we utter unique blessings on grain products, fruit, vegetables and wine. Even each visit to the bathroom engenders a long, beautiful and awesome blessing, reflecting the miracle of our bodily functioning-- even the most mundane and unpleasant function can be a great source of gratitude and spiritual inspiration.
What are blessings suppose to accomplish?
At the simplest level, we recite them to acknowledge God as The Source of every phenomenon and experience, to thank the Supplier of all our needs, physical and spiritual. If so, why specify the exact source of sustenance in blessings over food?-- just generally thank God for sustaining us, as we indeed do over many foods (the shehakol blessing); just bless God for giving us mitzvos, as we bless Him generally for giving us Torah, without specifying Torah, Nach, Mishna, etc. But the rabbis singled out certain foods-- fruits, grains, bread and wine-- for special blessings, before eating them; also, after eating any of the 7 species, via which God praises the land of Israel, a special long blessing is required; it's even longer after bread, the staff of life. So they insisted that we specify the mitzva which we're about to perform, in its blessing, which must precede it-- "we will understand and we will do!" . These laws reflect another function of Blessings-- to make us keenly aware of the unique wonder of each aspect of God's world and Torah; true, before I eat an orange, I must join The Grateful Living-- God is now providing me with food; but I should also envision and contemplate the growth and essence of a tree; a potato is not just protein and vitamins, but a miraculous process occuring within God's Irish, Idaho or Maine earth.
Yet too frequent expression of ANY feeling, as constant striving for peak experience or over-sensitivity, becomes stale, trite and counterproductive (cf. chassidus). Thus the rabbis strictly defined and limited the occasions for formal blessings (as opposed to informal spontaneous prayer) and ruled: "When in doubt, do without"! No blessing was to be recited constantly. Blessings on the Torah and basic life realms, e.g. clothing, the earth, and sight, are made once a day; blessings over one's oral and anal functions-- eating, drinking, and lavatory-- are made upon every distinct act; one needs constant aid to sanctify primal drives. The blessing on seeing the sea is only made every 30 days. "Who's kept us alive to this day" is limited to special occasions, e.g. seeing your beloved after 30 days, or annual natural cycle signs, such as new fruits. EVERY 28 YEARS, we make the special blessing on completion of the sun cycle, when the sun's first appearance on a Wednesday evening in the spring (Nisan) is repeated. Only the most impressive aspects of the constant miracle of nature are celebrated, e.g. thunder, lightning, awesome landscapes.
A BEAUTIFUL LOST BLESSING
Blessings become part and parcel of a little Jew/Jewess' soul, as soon as he/she begins to speak; they're repeated so often that they're quickly memorized-- their inclusion in the siddur (prayer book) primarily serves ignorant and returnee Jews, who aren't used to saying them. Observant Jews have little need to look in the section on blessings in the siddur. As a result, perhaps, a beautiful and inspiring annual blessing, over trees blossoming in Nissan, found in every siddur, is often unknown and ignored by many otherwise observant Ashkenazic Jews; for many centuries, their ancestors, exiled in cold central and northern Europe, later in New York, didn't say the blessing, as their trees only bloomed after Nisan. But even not-so-observant Sefardim, who remained in the warm Middle East and Northern Africa, are used to reciting it. Likewise, many Chassidim, full of joie de vive and mystical enthusiasm, re-embraced this inspiring mitzva, much more than (often dour) misnagdim. I encountered it in Boston, where the kind and jovial Bostoner Rebbe hired buses to take us to the Boston Arboretum for the blessing-- their Japanese cherry trees bloomed by Nissan.
THE SOURCE AND MESSAGES OF THIS BLESSING
The talmud teaches: "He who goes out IN THE DAYS OF NISAN and sees treeS FLOWERING is to recite: `YOU'RE THE SOURCE OF BLESSINGS, GOD, OUR LORD, KING OF THE UNIVERSE, WHO'S LEFT NOTHING LACKING IN HIS UNIVERSE, WHO'S CREATED IN IT GOOD CREATURES AND GOOD TREES, THAT THE SONS OF ADAM ENJOY THEM'" (Based on Rav Yehudah, Berachot 43b; Rosh Hashana 11a; this law is found in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 226, and in Rambam, Mishna Torah, Blessings 10:13). This first mitzva of the Passover season is expounded by P'kudat Haleviim: "This is a periodic experience of (constant world) renewal-- man sees dried out trees, which God again makes flower". As the Jews were "dried out", in the depths of degradation, in Egypt, so God made them beautifully flower in Exodus, amidst many miracles. But, just as flowers also quickly die and have fleeting benefit, so Exodus was only a wedding, a glorious celebration of future glory; it soon dissipated into kvetching about water, shortly after the honeymoon! Yet flowers also herald the EVENTUAL arrival of truly, beneficial fruit-- so the preliminary redemption of Egypt is a model for the eventual true redemption of the entire universe, via Israel (Torah Ohr, Exodus). Thus we may not make the blessing once the flowers become fruit! On Tu B'shavt we celebrate the budding of renewed life, in Nissan its flowering, and on Shavuot, its fruits.
The messsage is to see, in history as in nature, the eventual greatness of a long process in its humble beginnings, e.g. the 1897 first Zionist Congress, where the modern state of Israel was born; so after one day of Pesach, we begin the long upward road of counting the omer to the giving of the Torah-- itself only a "flowering", followed by withering, the Golden Calf; all will be A-OK, only when the hidden ancient Tabernacle is again set up, prior to the Third Temple (Vendyl Jones is working on it!). We're now only at the beginning of the gradual growth of our redemption. The world will only be in full perpetual bloom after the coming of Moshiach and full world redemption. So Amy Klein feels that the second day of Passover, after the Seder and the beginning of the Omer count-up (in Israel), is an especially appropriate day to recite the special blessing. Yaakov-Yisroel's choice by God results in Egyptian exile, while Esau gets his heritage as "instant gratification". To be Jewish is to patiently wait for something of infinite worth to eventually emerge-- yet we need "flower- signs" from time to time, to believe life sustaining fruit is on the way, the miracles which we now celebrate as holidays (e.g. Purim, Chanukah, Pesach, 1967 & Yoni at Entebbe).
Per Sefer Moed L'Chul Chai (1:6) and Rav Ovadia Yosef, this blessing greatly elevates those souls who transmigrated into mineral and plant matter-- see Zohar, Balak, 196. Zoharic Belief in reincarnation (not found in the older kabbalistic Sefer HaYitzira) was inherited by chassidut, via the Ari; but it was considered non-Jewish superstition long before him, by Saadya Gaon, Albo, and others; Abarbanel viewed it as Greek secular wisdom. But Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsberg claims that Ari had a subsequent revelation (!!) of Torah, that the philosophical Gaonim lacked the mystical tradition, and that they would have accepted the Ari. But it's most difficult to believe that an allegedly major component of Jewish tradition, such as The Zohar, would be hidden from the greatest scholars of the age. **
One only blesses over fruit trees (i.e. GOOD & ENJOYABLE TREES?), not merely ornamental ones (per B'er Hativ; is this a hint in how to choose a fruitful mate?). But this limitation isn't found in the Talmud, Shulchan Aruch or Rambam. Any 2 fruit trees suffice in a pinch, but the more varieties the better. Authorities differ as to making the blessing over hybrid trees, from different species-- can we praise God for human distortion of nature, or is the blessing a general one on the forces of nature, also active in hybrids? One shouldn't prevent someone from so blessing, but advise him not to, if he asks. We may eat the fruit of hybrid trees. One may bless over trees less than 3 years old, tho their fruit is forbidden (we stress the EVENTUAL true good in the blessing). One may make the blessing and smell trees on Shabbat, tho some authorities worry about possible plucking. One should make the blessing at the first opportunity in Nisan, but may do so later in the month, per most views; some OK it even after Nisan.
** Most traditional scholars attribute the Zohar to talmudic rabbi Shimon ben Yochai, tho he says little about mystical matters in the talmud. But Meyer Waxman (A History of Jewish Literature) notes the medieval custom of attributing one's book to his favorite talmudic rabbi. The Zohar, written in medieval pseudo-Aramaic, indeed dates itself as having been written in 1278, (a little more than 1200 years after the destruction of the Temple). Its author (or transcriber), Moses De Leon, claims that Ramban found it in Shimon ben Yochai's cave, and sent it to his son in Spain; a bird swooped down and picked it up on the way and brought it to De Leon! But De Leon's wife and daughter later said that he was the author!!!
Both Yaakov Emden and Gershon Shalom claim that SOME PARTS of the Zohar do reflect much older tradition, but that other parts are distortions and additions (they differ as to which). Italian Rav Eliyahu Benamozegh (d. 1900), who founded the modern Noachide movement, together with Aime Palliere, defended the Zohar's antiquity against Shadal's attacks; Paulist Press published it in English, with his famous work, Israel and the Nations-- ($35 from TOP). Rav A. Y. Kook admitted that he couldn't prove that Rashby wrote the Zohar, but claims that whoever did was on the same level! But renowned Jerusalem Yemenite scholar Rav Yosef Kapach's even more famous grandfather, Rav Yichya, z"l, discarded the Zohar about 100 years ago (as did Leon De Modena much earlier); he claimed that it contained tref non-Jewish Eastern mysticism; he urged his Yemenite followers to return to their pure Maimonidean tradition of Torah and Science, sullied by kabbalistic sephardic "newcomers", only about 500 years in Yemen; Y.K. established a network of Torah and Science schools in Yemen around 1905. Jerusalem's great Maavad Hak'somim restaurant, near Mashbir, is run by one of his followers, who include Chief Rabbi Arisei of Kiryat Ono. When Jerusalem's fire-and-brimstone rabbis tried to excommunicate Kapach's group, Dor Deah, in 1914, he reprinted their diatribe, with a vigorous response (Hebrew, $5 from TOP)!
The Jewish people's return to the "lost blessing", Birkat Ha'ilonot, as they return to their holy land, reminds us of the great beauty and spirituality latent in God's world, to be fully experienced by every Jew.
G. From THE PASSOVER ANTHOLOGY, Phillip Goodman, JPS
NAMES: The festival of Passover is generally known by three distinct names: 1) Chag Hamatzos, Feast of the Unleavened Bread (Ex. 23.15), in commemoration of the physical exodus. 2) Chag ha-Pesach, Festival of the Paschal Offering (ibid, 34.25); the sages used this name to stress the spiritual redemption and religious values of Pesach. (3) Z'man Cherutenu, Season of Our Freedom-- this term, found in the liturgy, marks the establishment of the children of Israel as a free and independent people.
Philo calls Passover the "Crossing Feast"-- "Passover" doesn't refer to the destroying angel "passing" over the Israelites (Ex. 12.23,27), "but to the crossing of Israel itself, going from Egypt... and no doubt also to the crossing of the Red Sea...". IN MOROCCO, the Seder evening is called Layl al-Rass (Night of the Heads)-- Jews ate heads of sheep in commemoration of the paschal offering.
The Talmud relates that no man was every crushed in the Temple Court (in spite of the enormous crowds-- cf. farbrengin), except on one Passover in the days of Hillel, when an old man was crushed to death; they called it "The Passover of the Crushed". "Once King Agrippa, to know the male population of Israel, ordered the High Priest to pay heed to the paschal lambs. So he took one kidney of each-- there were found sixty myriad couples, double the number of those who came forth from Egypt... and at least ten people shared each lamb-- it was called "The Crowded Passover".
There are several candidates for the infamous title of "Pharoah of the Oppression". Most scholars identify him with splendor-loving and tyrannical Rameses II, 1300-1234 B.C.E. (Petrie) or 1347-1280 (Mahler). "He was a vain and boastful character, who wished to dazzle posterity by covering the land with constructions, whereon his name was engraved thousands of times; he prided himself, in his inscriptions, upon great conquests, which he never made." (Naville). Exodus probably took place under his son, Merneptah, with whom the decline of Egypt began. Merneptah (or Menephtah) was an obstinate and vain despot. He too claimed, as his own, achievements of others. He was "one of the most unconscionable usurpers (and defacers) of the monuments of his predecessors, including those of his own father, who had set him the example... due to a somewhat insane desire to perpetuate his own memory".
Some scholars, however, date the oppression and Exodus in the century preceding Rameses II, and connect it with the religious revolution of Amenophis IV, or Ikhnaton (1383-1365). This extraordinary personality abolished the multitudinous deities of the Egyptian Pantheon, and devoted himself exclusively to the worship of the sun. These scholars relate the faith of the Israelites to solar monotheism of Ikhnaton, Israelite influence partly responsible for this assault on the gross idolatry of Egypt. Ikhnaton was hated by the people as the "heretic king"; his innovations were abandoned by his successor and son-in-law, Tut-an-khamen, eventually to be altogether uprooted by Haremrab, last Pharoah of the 18th Dynasty. When the native religion was restored-- these scholars maintain-- the Israelites suffered persecution and degradation; the oppression formed part of the extirpation of Ikhnaton's heresy. Other Egyptologists select Thotmes III (1503-1449). They connect the oppression and the departure of the Israelites from Egypt with the movements of the Habiru people in the Amarna age; recently discovered inscriptions in Sinai may favor this theory.
PASSOVER IN TEMPLE DAYS: from a letter written by Versovius to King Alfonso the Pious, copied from a written report sent by Marcus, Consul of Jerusalem, to Rome during the 2nd Temple: The Pesach sacrifice, a part of which I witnessed, and the entire ceremony, I was told, take place in the following manner-- When... Nisan approached, by the command of the king and the judges, swift messengers visited every one in the vicinity of Jerusalem who owned flocks of sheep and herds of cattle; they ordered him to hasten to Jerusalem with them, that the pilgrims should have sufficient animals for sacrifices and food, for the people were then very numerous. Whoever did not present himself at the appointed time had his possessions confiscated for the benefit of the Temple. Consequently all owners of flocks and droves came hastily on, and brought them to a creek near Jerusalem, and washed and cleaned them of all dirt. This they did in pursuance of that which Solomon had said: "A flock of well-selected sheep, which are come up from the washing (Song of Songs 4.2)".
When they arrived at the mountains which surround Jerusalem, the multitude was so great that the grass was not seen any longer-- everything turned white, from the wool. When the tenth day approached-- as on the 14th day of the month, the sacrifice was brought-- everyone went out to buy his paschal lamb. And the Jews made an ordinance, that when going forth on that mission, nobody should say: "Step aside," or "Let me pass", even if the one behind was King Solomon or David. When I remarked to the priests that this was not seemly nor polite, they answered it was so ordered, to show that there's no rank before the eyes of God, not even at the time of preparing to serve Him, more especially at the service itself; at that time, all were equal in receiving His goodness.
FALASHAN PASSOVER: The Jews of Abyssinia observe Passover for seven days; they eat only unleavened bread and don't drink any fermented drinks. Several days before the feast, the homes are carefully cleaned, all articles of clothing are properly washed, and all vessels and utensils thoroughly scoured and cleaned. Three days before Passover, they stop eating leavened bread and take nothing but dried peas and beans; on the eve of Passover, they abstain from all food, until after the sacrifice of the paschal lamb. On this day, a little before the setting of the sun, all assemble in the court of the synagogue; in the name of the entire community, the sacrificer offers the paschal lamb upon the altar. The ceremony is observed with great pomp; the ritual prescribed in the Bible for this sacrifice is followed punctiliously; the roasted meat is eaten with unleavened bread by the priestly assistant. On the following days they assemble in the Mesgid (the place of prayer) at fixed hours, observing a special ritual; they recite various prayers and biblical texts about the Exodus.
PASSOVER IN THE CAUCASUS: Towards evening, the Caucasian Jews put on "liberty clothes", having wide loose sleeves. Into their belts they stick a short spear or dagger, and some even put their pistols there. They go to the synagogue to chant and pray. On this night they chant, together with their hakham (learned man), the Hallel Psalms, word for word. Upon returning home, they find their homes illuminated with many candles, in honor of the festival. The old women wrap themselves in their shawls; but the young women and girls are dressed mostly in linen dresses, and put roses and other kinds of flowers in their braids. They hastily get together all the food they have prepared-- such as roasted geese, stuffed turkeys, matzot, bitter herbs and a bowl of haroset-- and carry it to the house of the hakham. It is the custom with the Caucasian Jews to have many families gather in the house of a learned man, or in the house of any man who knows enough Hebrew to explain the Haggadah in the Tatar's language. Then they sit down, in accordance with their custom, upon the ground, and the learned man translates and explains the Hagaddah to them.
SEVEN DAYS OF PASSOVER: Holy days are appointed for rejoicing and for such pleasant gathering as people generally need. They also promote the good feeling that men should have to each other in their social and political relations. The appointment of the special days for such purposes has its cause. The reason for the Passover is well known. It is kept seven days, because seven days is the unit of time intermediate between a day and a month. It is also known how great is the importance of this period in nature, and in many religious duties. For the Law always follows nature, and in some respects brings it to perfection; for nature is not capable of designing and thinking, while the Law is the result of the wisdom and guidance of God, author of the intellect of all rational beings.
The Feast of Weeks is the anniversary of Revelation on Sinai. To raise its importance, we count the days that follow the offering of the Omer-- one who expects his best friend on a certain day counts the days and even the hours. Shavuot was the aim and object of the Exodus-- thus God said: "I brought you unto Myself" (Ex. 19:4). As that great revelation took place only one day, so we keep its anniversary... ; but if the eating of unleavened bread were only commanded for one day, we should not have noticed it, and its object would not have been manifest. We frequently take the same kind of food for two or three days. When we eat unleavened bread for 7 days, however, its object becomes clear and evident.
REJOICING BRINGS FORTH REJOICING: The verse: "The people took their dough before it was leavened" is the basis for burning the leaven on Passover eve. "Leavened" and "unleavened" symbolize the evil and the good inclinations in man. Every Israelite must relate the story of the Exodus on seder night. He who does so fervently and joyously, telling the tale with a high heart, shall be found worthy to rejoice in the Shekinah in the world to come, for rejoicing brings forth rejoicing (mood follows behavior); the joy of Israel causes the Holy One Himself to be glad, so that He calls together all the Family above and says to them: "Come and hearken unto the praises which My children bring unto Me! Behold how they rejoice in My Redemption!" Then all angels and supernal beings gather round and observe Israel, how she sings and rejoices because of her Lord's own Redemption-- and seeing the rejoicings below, the supernal beings also break unto jubilation, for that the Holy One possesses on earth a people so holy, whose joy in the Redemption of their Lord is so great and so powerful. For all that terrestrial rejoicing increases the power of the Lord and His hosts in the regions above, just as an earthly king gains strength from the praises of his subjects, the fame of his glory being thus spread thruout the world.
THE UNBROKEN BONE: With bitter herbs they shall eat it... neither shall ye break a bone thereof. The bitter herbs signify the Shekinah's exile with Israel, in all their bitter afflictions in Egypt. Why were the bones of the Passover lamb not allowed to be broken?-- So that the dogs might drag them about and the Egyptians thus realize the nothingness of the lamb they worshipped-- they'll be put to shame, and the Holy One glorified.
CALENDRICAL FORMULATIONS: The first day of Passover never falls on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday. The 7 days of Passover correspond to the days of the week when other festivals will occur, when put in reverse alphabetical order. The first day will be the same day on which Tisha b'Av, first holiday on the reversed list, falls. The 2nd day corresponds to Shavuot, the 3rd to Rosh ha-Shanah, The 4th to Simhat Torah, the 5th to Yom Kippur, the 6th, to the previous Purim, and the 7th to Israel Independence Day.
ON ALL FOURS: The number 4 plays a significant Passover role: 4 cups of wine, 4 ??, 4 Sons-- wise, wicked, simple and he who doesn't know how to ask. 4 cups correspond to 4 expressions of redemption-- "I'll bring you out..., I'll deliver you..., I'll redeem you..., I'll take you" (Ex. 6.6-7). There are 4 special foods-- Pesach (roasted shankbone), matzah, maror and haroset.
THE PASCHAL SACRIFICE: During the 1st century, Theudas-- the most prominent Jewish Roman-- well intentioned, tho apparently void of Jewish learning-- introduced a lamb sacrifice on Passover eve to fulfill biblical law! Israeli Rabbis rebuked him; sacrifice was permitted only in the Temple.
In the 19TH CENTURY, both Ashkenazi and Sephardi Responsa seriously discussed the possibility of reintroducing the Passover offering in Jerusalem; no practical results were achieved (other than annual attempts to organize such groups via In Jerusalem ads).
LOCAL CUSTOMS: For many centuries Jews lived in the Ksurs (forts) of the Sahara desert. The "heretics of Wargla", celebrated Passover by leaving their abodes and marching into the desert, as the children of Israel did under Moses (cf. Sukkot). Ancestors of the present Bene Israel of India observed Anasi Dhakacha San, "the holiday of the closing of the Anas" (an earthen jar containing sour liquid, used as a sauce), for eight days from the fourteenth of Nisan. During this period they abstained from the use of leaven, although they had forgotten the origin of the festival. Some Hungarian Hasidim would assemble in a private home and dine together on the 7th Day. After midnight they would dance with a pitcher of water until it spilled; they'd then jump and dance around it, singing The Song of the Sea, Then sang Moshe. Some Jews expressed their piety and love of performing a mitzvah by kissing the matzot and bitter herbs on the first two nights of Pesach.