The Weekly Shtikle Blog

An online forum for sharing thoughts and ideas relating to the Parshas HaShavua

View Profile

Sunday, April 1

The Weekly Shtikle - Haggadah shel Pesach

    Normally, I feel a little guilty when the shtikle is nothing more than a question. I feel it is to some degree my duty to deliver answers as well as questions. However, for the Haggadah, when so much revolves around the asking of questions to spur discussion, I feel no such guilt.
    There is considerable discussion surrounding the scope of Makas Bechoros. There is, of course, the famous Rashi (Shemos 12:30) which states that even if there was no technical first-bron in the house, the oldest was considered the "bechor" and died. In all the discussions, it seems assumed that the default definiton of a "bechor" in this case is the first born from the mother (see Ramban.)
    It is therefore puzzling that the perek in Tehillim chronicling the exodus from Egypt recounts Makas Bechoros as follows: (78:51) "Vayach kol bechor beMitzrayim, reishis onim be'ohalei Cham." The term "reishis onim," or a form thereof, is used twice in the Torah (Bereishis 49:3 and Devarim 21:17) both clearly referring to the "first strength" of the father. Why is this term used in Tehillim to describe Makas Bechoros if it, at the least, falls short of conveying the full scope of the plague?
    In the Haggadah, we praise HaShem stating "Baruch shomer havtachaso, baruch hu - shehaKadosh Baruch Hu chishav es hakeitz." We praise HaShem for "calculating" the time of the redemption from Mitzrayim. Surely, we are not praising HaShem for being able to count to 400. What does this mean?

    In the end, as we know, the final tally of 400 years was calculated from the year Yitzchak was born for it was then that Avraham had a child who was a stranger in a land that was not his. This would seem to be what we are praising HaShem for.  The 400 years could have started later. HaShem not only "kept His word" but also made sure the decree of 400 years was lighter than it could have been. I don't think I'm the first to suggest this.
    But this is not so simple. If we are clearly defining the decree as referring to Avraham's progeny being in a land that was not theirs, did this end with Yetzias Mitzrayim? It was another forty years until they entered the land they could call their own. Even if the sin of the spies had not taken place, the spies were only sent out over a year after coming out of Egypt. That's still 401 years.
    I have a theory regarding this quandary but it is incomplete. First, it does not seem farfetched to suggest that the fallout from the sin of the Golden Calf delayed their potential entry into Eretz Yisroel. Had everything gone smoothly while Moshe was on the mountain, it is conceivable that B'nei Yisroel would have entered Eretz Yisroel immediately. I believe I have seen this somewhere but can't remember where.
    It seems the decree of 400 years came with two or more different significant checkpoints from which the count might begin. HaShem took us out of Egypt with the intention that the starting point would be Yitzchak's birth. Had we done everything right, we would have entered Eretz Yisroel that year. Instead, the starting point was pushed off 40 years and our entry into Eretz Yisroel followed. So what was the starting point? Yitzchak married Rivkah when he was 40 years old. Perhaps this was seen as the next step in the continuity of Avraham's offspring and thus, became a checkpoint from which the 400 years were calculated.
    Nevertheless, we must give praise to HaShem for initially counting the 400 years to end as early as possible and taking us out of Egypt 400 years after Yitzchak's birth.
Have a Chag Kasher veSamei'ach!



Post a Comment

<< Home