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Thursday, April 28

The Weekly Shtikle - Acharon Shel Pesach

The davening experience during chol hamoed of Pesach is significantly different from that of Sukkos. For one, we arrive with much less baggage and there is no hoshanos following mussaf. The laining for each day is also more diverse on Pesach. But one of the most significant differences is that we do not recite the full hallel once the initial days of yom tov are complete. There are numerous reasons given for this. The gemara (Erchin 10b) explains that each day of Sukkos is considered a separate special day in its own right since the korbanos change for each day. Since every day of Pesach requires the exact same lineup of korbanos, each new day is not significant enough to warrant saying a full hallel.


But perhaps the better known reasoning is that given by Mishnah Berurah (490:7), quoting the midrash. HaShem forbade the angels from reciting shirah while the Egyptians were drowning in the sea. Although we celebrate our deliverance at Yam Suf on the last day of Pesach, we diminish ever so slightly from our joy by not completing hallel in order to acknowledge the loss of Egyptian life. Since it is not proper for chol hamoed to be on any sort of higher level than yom tov, we refrain from saying a full hallel beginning with the first day of chol hamoed.


However, a serious difficulty with this reasoning occurred to me recently. On the first day of Pesach we are commemorating the exodus from Egypt. On that very night, makas bechoros wiped out all the first born in Egypt. We know approximately how many Egyptians perished at Yam Suf. There were only 600 chariots. Although we don't necessarily know exactly how many soldiers there were in each chariot, one nevertheless has to imagine that the magnitude of the carnage of makas bechoros was much greater. Furthermore, the deaths at Yam Suf could certainly be written off as casualties of war. The soldiers were chasing us down in order to bring us back to subjugation or possibly worse. They certainly got what they deserved. The dead of makas bechoros must have included many innocent young children. Even a newborn baby, if the first born of the family, would have met the same demise as an adult in that position. So the circumstances surrounding the night of our exit from Egypt involved not only a much larger loss of life but also presumably the loss of innocent lives. Why then are we so moved by the loss of life at Yam Suf but we have no qualms about reciting a full hallel on the first days (removal of drops of wine at the seder notwithstanding?)


One practical - but perhaps overly simplistic - approach to this difficulty is that we must certainly begin yom tov by reciting a full hallel due to the significance of the new holiday. Any other discussions concern only the matter of whether we continue that way. But it wouldn't be proper to never say a full hallel for all of Pesach.


There is, perhaps, another aspect which might demand more sympathy for the events at Yam Suf. Although we read about makas bechoros in great detail, the plague was experienced, for the most part, behind closed doors. B'nei Yisrael were segregated from the native Egyptian community and it is possible that with all that transpired on that fateful evening and following morning, none of the destruction was actually witnessed first hand by the general population. They may have heard the screams but did not see death with their own eyes.


At Yam Suf, however, while the people might not have borne witness to the actual drowning of the Egyptian soldiers, the perished corpses washed ashore in plain sight and the nation even benefited from the spoils. Coming literally face-to-face with the deceased soldiers, as guilty and deserving as they might have been, our natural sense of compassion and sensitivity demands that we cannot walk away from that experience with complete, wholehearted joy and therefore, we take it down one tiny notch.

Have a Chag Samei'ach and Good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Al Pi Cheshbon: Omer Counting in Different Bases
Dikdukian: Exceptions Ahoy!

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