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Thursday, April 21

The Weekly Shtikle - Shevi'i shel Pesach

The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my father, Reuven Pinchas ben Chaim Yaakov, a"h.


It is only fitting that I quote from my father's haggadah this year. There are surely many themes and lessons to be gleaned from the story of yetzias Mitzrayim, as well as many aspects and nuances to be analyzed. In his commentary to the famous Dayeinu portion of the haggadah, my father explains how the poem covers the gamut of these various aspects. But there is one that flies under the radar, one that I have not seen discussed elsewhere. It is examined a bit more closely earlier on in the exposition which declares HaShem's carrying out of the final plague by Himself. This theme is perhaps not so overt in the earlier stages of our exodus but is given more focus in the passage we read on the 7th day of Pesach.

As is often the case, nothing is more effective than quoting from the source:

Finally, God's expressed intent of alone taking care of the exodus in all its detail was intended to prevent the Israelites from taking matters into their own hands and inflicting their own brand of justified revenge on the Egyptians. The people were undoubtedly justified for wanting to get back at those who afflicted and oppressed them and who murdered their husbands and children.

But the expression of violence, however justified, has its price, a heavy price. Those who resort to violence become tainted and adversely affected by the exercise of violence. It creeps into and attacks the humaneness of the individual. Even more so can it affect the collective psyche of a people who resort to mob violence.

God was concerned with the physical and spiritual welfare of the Israelites. The people, who were soon to affirm their allegiance to God and their adherence to God's word, the Torah, had to be a peace loving, caring, understanding people, certainly not a belligerent lot with warlike premonitions. Hence, God effectively told the people to leave the revenge to God, so that the people could better train their thoughts on their collective spiritual development.

It is interesting to note that this is perhaps the only time in our history we merited this level of exclusively-Divine deliverance. Even the great miracles of the conquest of Eretz Yisrael, the defeat of the Amaleikim following Haman's demise and the great triumph over the Syrian Greeks in the story of Chanukah necessitated an element of human involvement in violent activity. (There were, perhaps, some smaller-scale exceptions such as the overnight demise of Sancheirev's army as he lay siege to Yerushalayim in Melachim II 19.35.)

But this did not end with makas bechoros. When B'nei Yisrael are faced with the attacking Egyptian army at Yam Suf, the midrash, as exposed by Targum Yonasan (14:13), tells of four different factions, each with their own approach to the predicament. One of them was to take on the Egyptians and engage them in battle. To this, Moshe responds in the very next pasuk, "HaShem will do battle for you!" Moshe is clearly conveying this very lesson to the nation. However noble the cause, even with the most altruistic intentions, human warfare is not part of the blueprint of this deliverance. It must be HaShem – and HaShem alone – who delivers us from Paroah and his army.

(This also ties in nicely with a theme we discussed a number of years ago regarding how the prohibition of leaven relates to Pesach.)

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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