PESACH READINGS II 5781

SHABBAT & SEVENTH DAY YOM TOV

THE MEGILLAH OF SONG OF SONGS

INTRODUCTION
1:1

The greatest of songs,
the Song of Songs,
belonging to Solomon:

BELOVED MOST ADMIRED AND DESIRED
1:2-8

Let him give me of his kisses—
for your love is better than wine;
your scent makes maidens love you!

Draw me after you, let us run—
were the king to bring me into his chambers,
our joy and happiness would still be in you,
we would remember your love above wine—
rightly do they love you!

I have been darkened by the sun,
O daughters of Jerusalem,
compelled by my brothers
to guard their vineyards,
thereby neglecting my own.

So tell me, love of my life,
where you shepherd,
where you lie down at noon,
for why should I be hidden from you
among the flocks of others?

If it is not known to you,
most beautiful of women,
venture out in the footsteps of the flock,
and pasture your kids
where the shepherds encamp.

MUTUAL IMAGININGS
1:9-17

I imagine you, my beloved,
as my very own mare
among the chariots of Pharaoh,
adorned with gold and silver,
your scent extending
as far as the king commands.

My beloved is my very own bundle of myrrh,
lodging between my breasts,
a cluster of henna
in the vineyards of Ein Gedi.

Most beautiful are you, my beloved;
your eyes are doves.

Handsome are you, my beloved,
and my pleasure.
Our couch is luxuriant;
the beams of our house are cedars,
cypresses our roof.

INTIMATE PLEASURE
2:1-7

I am a rose of Sharon,
a lily of the valleys.

As a lily among thorns,
thus is my beloved among women.

As an apple among trees of the wood,
thus is my beloved among men.
Under him is my pleasure,
his fruit sweet to my taste,
his left hand under my head,
his right hand embracing me:
I am lovesick.

I adjure you,
O daughters of Jerusalem,
not to frustrate love,
but to allow it its pleasure.

COME DOWN TO BE WITH ME
2:8-17

The voice of my beloved approaches,
leaping over hills like a gazelle.
Now he stands outside our house,
looking for me through the windows:

Arise, my beloved, and join me,
for the rains of winter are past,
given way to the blossoming of trees,
the songs of birds, the ripening of figs,
and the sweet scent of vines.
Come down from your crags of concealment;
show me your face, let me hear your voice,
for your voice is pleasing,
and your face is beautiful.

Catch those foxes that invade our vineyards
when they are in blossom—
but my beloved is mine,
and I am his,
who shepherds among the lilies—
before the day is done
and the shadows are gone,
be you like the gazelle, my beloved,
upon the steep hills!

I FIND MY BELOVED AND BRING HIM HOME
3:1-5

At night, from my bed,
I seek my beloved,
but I find him not.
I arise to search for him
through the markets and plazas of the city,
but I find him not.

I am found by the guards
who patrol the city:
Have you seen my beloved?
No, they continue their watch,
and then I find him!
I grasp him,
not letting him go,
until I bring him home,
to the room
where I was conceived.

I adjure you,
O daughters of Jerusalem,
not to frustrate love,
but to allow it its pleasure.

WED AS ROYALTY
3:6-11

Who is she,
emerging from the desert
in a column of dust,
in a bouquet of perfume,
secure in Solomon’s palanquin,
surrounded by sixty of Israel’s protectors?
King Solomon made it himself
from the wood of Lebanon,
with columns of silver,
coverings of gold,
and a seat of purple,
lined with love
by the daughters of Jerusalem.

Now go out and behold,
O daughters of Zion,
Solomon wearing the crown
which his mother made for him,
for the happy day of his wedding!

HE DESCRIBES HER BEAUTY
4:1-7

Most beautiful are you, my beloved:
your eyes are doves
peering modestly over your veil,
your hair streaming brightly
like the wool of sheep descending Mount Gilead,
your teeth like the flock sheared and bathed,
each one perfectly matching.
Your lips are like a scarlet thread,
your mouth a comfort,
your pink cheeks like a pomegranate
hidden within your veil,
your neck alert
like the Tower of David.
Your breasts are like twin gazelles
that pasture among the lilies.

But before the day’s shadows have fled,
I shall retreat to the fragrant hill.
You are beautiful, my beloved,
with no blemish at all.

FRAGRANT GARDEN
4:8-5:1

Come with me from Lebanon, my bride;
look out from the heights
of Amana, Senir and Hermon,
from the dens of lions and leopards.
Your love has conquered me,
my sister, my bride,
even only one of your eyes,
only one of your charms.
Your loving is sweeter than wine,
your scent more fragrant than any perfume.
Your lips drip with honey, O bride,
milk and honey are under your tongue;
the scent of your robe
is like the scent of Lebanon.

My sister, my bride,
is a locked garden, a hidden spring,
with sprouts of a multitude
of fragrant plants,
a fountain of fresh water
trickling from Lebanon.

Be roused, O winds,
from north and from south,
blow upon my garden,
spread its perfumes,
to bring my beloved to his garden
for him to enjoy
its excellent fruits!

I am coming to my garden,
my sister, my bride,
to pluck my fragrant flowers,
to eat my honeycomb and my date,
to drink my wine with my milk.

Eat, O lovers, and drink:
be drunk with love!

MY BELOVED IN MY DREAM
5:2-8

I am asleep, but my heart is awake.
My beloved’s voice is at the door:
Open for me, my sister, my bride,
my perfect dove,
for my head is full of dew,
my locks with the drops of night.

I have already undressed,
how shall I cover myself?
I have washed my feet,
how shall I soil them?

My beloved reaches through the window,
my stomach quavers,
I rise to let him in,
my hands, my fingers,
drop myrrh upon the bolt.

I open the door,
but my beloved has disappeared,
I myself away
with the sound of his speech;
I seek him out, calling to him,
but he does not reply.

The watchmen who patrol the city find me:
they beat me and lift my veil from upon me,
those guardians of the walls!

I adjure you,
O daughters of Jerusalem,
if you find my beloved,
tell him
that I am lovesick!

SHE EXTOLS HER BELOVED AND DELIGHTS IN HIM
5:9-6:3

How is yours more beloved than another,
most beautiful among women?
How is yours more beloved than another,
that you thus adjure us?

My beloved is glowingly ruddy,
he stands out among the many,
with the brightness of gold
under his raven’s dark locks.
His eyes sparkle like doves
watered and bathed in milk,
set perfectly in their place,
his cheeks like a fragrant garden,
his lips flowers dripping myrrh,
his arms cylinders of gold,
his chest a plate of ivory,
his legs pillars of marble;
altogether his impression
is imposing as the cedars of Lebanon.
His mouth is sweetness
and altogether a delight.
This is my dear beloved,
O daughters of Jerusalem!

Where has your beloved gone,
O most beautiful of women?
Let us look for him with you!

My beloved has gone down to his garden,
to enjoy its fragrant beds
and graze among its lilies.

SHE IS CHERISHED BY HER BELOVED
6:4-12

Your beauty, my beloved,
is as imposing as Tirzah or Jerusalem,
it overtakes me!
Turn your eyes away from me,
I cannot bear your beauty,
your hair like a flock of goats
winding down from Gilead,
your perfect teeth
like a flock of bathed ewes,
your pink cheeks like a pomegranate
hidden within your veil.
Many are the queens and concubines,
but one is my perfect dove,
unique to her mother:
all of the other maidens
can but admire her!

Who is this
who appears as the dawn,
as lovely as the moon,
as intense as the sun,
as imposing as the stars?

To the garden of nuts
I went down,
to see if the vine blossomed,
if the pomegranates were in bloom,
and before I knew it
my spirit lifted me
upon a noble charioteer!

HER PASSIONATE DANCE
7:1-11

Turn, turn, O Shulammite,
that we may see you!

What shall you see
in this Shulammite
as she dances
about the camp?

How beautiful are your
sandaled feet,
noble daughter;
the turning of your thighs
with their hoops
is a work of artists,
your navel a perfect bowl for wine,
your belly a heap of wheat
surrounded by lilies,
your breasts like twin gazelles,
your neck like a tower of ivory,
your eyes as pools in Cheshbon,
your nose like a tower of Lebanon
looking towards Damascus,
the head upon you like Mount Carmel,
a king would be captured in your tresses!

How beautiful you are,
how fit for the pleasures of love:
you stand like a palm tree,
your breasts are its fruits;
I would climb up
and grab hold of them
and enjoy the apple scent
of the breath of your mouth!

Yes, it flows directly to my beloved
through my sleeping slips.
I am my beloved’s,
whose passion
is upon me.

SHE INVITES HIM FOR A NIGHT OF LOVE
7:12-14

Come outside with me,
my beloved,
to spend a fragrant night,
to see if the vine has blossomed,
if the blossom has opened,
if the pomegranates have flowered.
There I shall give you my love,
where all the fragrances about us
I have reserved for you.

MY LOVER, MY BROTHER
8:1-4

Were you my brother,
having shared with me
my mother’s breasts,
I could kiss you in public
without disgrace,
I could bring you home
and learn to make you
spiced wine
from the juice
of my pomegranate—
his left hand under my head
and his right hand embracing me!

I adjure you,
 O daughters of Jerusalem:
hinder not the pleasure of love!

LOVE IS ABSOLUTE
8:5-7

Who is this,
coming up from the desert,
leaning upon her beloved?

It is I,
who stirred your love
under the apple tree,
where your mother
labored and delivered you.
Place me as a seal upon your heart,
as a seal upon your arm,
for love and jealousy its companion
are absolute,
like death,
the very fire of the Eternal,
unquenchable,
and without price!

AS A YOUNG WOMAN MATURES
8:8-14

We have a young sister,
not yet mature,
but how can we protect her
when men begin to speak to her?
If she were a wall or a door,
we could build a barrier for protection.

But she says:
I am a wall
and can take care of myself.
I will bring you
peace of mind.

Solomon’s vineyard is large,
watched over by many,
each of whom brings in
a thousand pieces of silver.

While my vineyard
can be watched
entirely by me.

You can have your vineyard, Solomon,
with its thousands to you
and its hundreds to your watchers.

Now, my sister,
the men are beginning to notice you.
Notice me!

Quickly, my beloved,
like a gazelle,
or a hart,
over the fragrant hills!

FROM THE TORAH

Exodus 13:17-15:26

THE INITIAL EXODUS
By way of the wilderness at the Red Sea to Etham
13:17-22

When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by the more direct route through the land of the Philistines, lest they retreat to Egypt in the face of war.  Instead, He leads the people around by way of the wilderness at the Red Sea.  The Children of Israel go up from Egypt organized for battle.  Moses takes the bones of Joseph with him to fulfill the promise that Joseph had obtained from the Children of Israel before his death (cf. Genesis 50:25).  They set out from Sukkot and encamp at Etham at the edge of the wilderness.  Constantly the Eternal shows them the way during the day with a pillar of cloud and lights the way for them at night with a pillar of fire, allowing them to travel both day and night without interruption. 

PHARAOH PURSUES ISRAEL
To encampment near the Red Sea
14:1-14

The Eternal tells Moses to instruct the Children of Israel to turn back and encamp facing Pi-hachirot and Baal-tsephon between Migdol and the Sea.  Pharaoh would then imagine the Children of Israel to have lost their way in the wilderness.  The Eternal would empower Pharaoh’s will to pursue them: “Thus will I gain glory through Pharaoh and through all of his army so that Egypt will know that I am the Eternal!” (Exodus 14:4)  The Children of Israel act accordingly.

But when the king of Egypt is told that the people has fled, Pharaoh and his servants already regret having released Israel from serving them.  Pharaoh harnesses his chariot and takes all the chariots of Egypt, all commanded by officers, and among them 600 elite chariots.  His will empowered by the Eternal, Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and the Egyptians pursue the Children of Israel even as they depart determinedly.  They are overtaken at their encampment near the Sea, near Pi-hachirot facing Baal-tsephon, by all of Pharaoh’s chariot horses, horsemen and army.

Frightened at Pharaoh’s approach, “the Children of Israel cry out to the Eternal” (Exodus 14:10). They blame Moses for risking their lives in the wilderness: “Were there no graves in Egypt so that you had to take us out to die in the wilderness” (Exodus 14:11-12)?!  Did we not tell you at the time that we preferred Egyptian bondage to death in the wilderness!  Moses entreats the people not to fear but to remain confident and witness “salvation by the Eternal which He will perform for you on this day” (Exodus 14:13)! Today will be the last day that you will see the Egyptians forever: the Eternal will fight on your behalf, and you, be quietly confident!

MOSES DIVIDES THE SEA
Crossing through the Red Sea

14:15-29

The Eternal says to Moses: “Why do you cry out to Me?  Tell the Children of Israel to proceed with their journey, and you, lift your staff and extend your hand over the Sea, and divide it, so that the Children of Israel can march into the Sea on dry ground” (Exodus 14:15-16)!  I, for My part, will embolden the Egyptians to go after them.  Thereby shall I gain glory through Pharaoh, his army, his chariots, and his horsemen, and Egypt will know that I am the Eternal!

God’s angel who was going before the Israelite camp now moves behind them, as does the pillar of cloud, coming between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel.  The cloud together with the darkness casts a spell upon the night, so that one camp does not approach the other camp all that night.  Moses extends his hand over the Sea, and the Eternal drives back the Sea with a strong east wind all that night, He turns the Sea into dry ground, and the waters are divided.

“The Children of Israel march into the Sea on dry ground with the waters as a wall for them on their right and on their left” (Exodus 14:22). The Egyptians follow them into the Sea with all of Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots and his horsemen.  By the morning, looking down from a pillar of fire and cloud, the Eternal wreaks havoc upon the Egyptian camp.  He starts by locking the chariots’ wheels.  As the Egyptians find it difficult to drive their chariots, they realize that the Eternal is fighting against them on Israel’s behalf.  Now the Egyptians attempt to flee from Israel!

Then the Eternal directs Moses once again to extend his hand over the Sea, the result being that the waters return upon Egypt and upon its chariots and horsemen.  By morning the Sea returns to its full strength.  Although the Egyptians seek to escape it, the Eternal hurls them into the midst of the Sea.  The returning waters cover all of them, all of Pharaoh’s army that marched after them into the Sea.  Not one of them remained, while the Children of Israel had walked through the Sea on dry ground between the walls of water on their right and on their left.

SONG OF THE SEA
On the other side of the Red Sea
14:30-15:21

As the Eternal on that day saves Israel from the hand of Egypt and Israel sees the Egyptians lying dead upon the shore of the Sea, Israel perceives the great power which the Eternal has wielded against Egypt.  They fear the Eternal, and they believe in the Eternal and in Moses His servant.

Moses and Israel sing this song to the Eternal:

Let me sing to the Eternal, exceedingly triumphant;
horse and rider has He cast into the sea!

The Eternal, my strength and my song, has become my salvation;
this is my God, whom I enshrine, the God of my father, whom I exalt.

The Eternal is a man of war:
Pharaoh’s chariots and army has He thrown into the Red Sea.

Your right hand, O Eternal, majestic in power;
Your right hand, O Eternal, shatters the enemy.

With Your nostrils’ blast waters are piled up, rivers stand still like a heap;
The enemy thinks: I shall pursue and overtake, I shall distribute the spoil!
But You blow with Your breath, the sea covers them;
they sink like lead in the mighty waters.

Who is like You among the mighty, O Eternal!
Who is like You, majestic in holiness,
praiseworthily awesome, working wonders!

You stretch out Your right hand, earth swallows them;
You lead Your redeemed people
in lovingkindness and strength
to Your holy abode.

Peoples have heard, they tremble;
terror grips the inhabitants of Philistia.

Then the chiefs of Edom are dismayed,
trembling seizes the heads of Moab;
all the inhabitants of Canaan melt away.

Terror and dread fall upon them;
before Your immense power they become dumb as stone,
until the people You have redeemed crosses over.

You will bring them and establish them
in Your own mountain;
You have created a foundation for Your dwelling, O Eternal,
the sanctuary which Your hands have established, O Lord.

The Eternal will reign for ever and ever!

Then Miriam the prophetess, sister of Aaron, takes the timbrel,
and all of the women go out after her, themselves dancing with timbrels.

Miriam sings for them:

Let me sing to the Eternal, exceedingly triumphant;
horse and rider has He cast into the sea…

SEARCH FOR SWEET WATER
Through the wilderness of Shur to Marah, then encamping at Elim
15:22-27

Moses directs Israel’s march away from the Red Sea to the wilderness of Shur.  They go for three days in the wilderness without finding water.  When they arrive at Marah, which means “bitter,” they are unable to drink its water because of its bitterness.  The people complain against Moses: “What shall we drink?” (Exodus 15:24) Moses cries out to the Eternal, who teaches him about a certain kind of wood, which he throws into the water.  The water becomes sweet.

This is a place of statute and ordinance.
This is a place of trial.

(Exodus 15:25b)

The teaching continues:

If you obey the Eternal your God and do what is right by Him, heeding His commandments and His statutes, then I will not impose upon you any of the malady that I have imposed upon Egypt, I, the Eternal, your Healer.

Maftir for Seventh Day of Pesach
Numbers 28:19-25

Bring a fire offering, a burnt offering, for the Eternal: two bulls of the herd, one ram, and seven year-old lambs without blemish, and their meal offering of fine flour mixed with oil, three-tenths of a measure for the bull and two-tenths of a measure for the ram and one-tenth of a measure for each of the seven lambs.  Bring also one goat as a sin offering to seek atonement for you.  Bring these on each of the seven days: food, a fire offering of pleasant aroma for the Eternal in addition to the regular burnt offering which is brought every morning and its libation.  The seventh day shall be a holy convocation for you: do not perform work of service.

FROM THE PROPHETS

Haftarah for the Seventh Day
II Samuel 22:1-51

David Poeticizes His Salvation

David offered the words of this song to the Eternal
in the day that He rescued him
from the hand of all of his enemies
and from the hand of Saul:

The Eternal is my Rock and my Fortress:
I take refuge in Him,
He saves me from violence.

Praised is the Eternal,
who has saved me from my enemies!

The breakers of death
have surrounded me;
in my distress I call to my God, the Eternal;
my cry reaches Him in His temple.

His fiery response
shakes the earth
and causes the foundations of heaven
to tremble!
Consuming flames shooting forth from Him,
He emerges from heaven,
thick cloud under His feet,
He rides upon a cherub,
He flies upon the wings of the wind,
He makes darkness into booths around Him,
waters gathering,
clouds fill the sky,
brilliance before Him.

The Eternal thunders from heaven,
sends forth and scatters
His arrows of lightning!

The foundations of the world are revealed
by the breath, the wind, of His nostrils.
From on high He sends for me
and rescues me
from my strong enemy.

The Eternal rewards me
in accordance with my righteousness,
for I have kept His ways
and not wickedly
abandoned my God.

Kind are You to the pious,
and true to the upright hero.
You are a Savior to an afflicted people
and a Humbler of the arrogant.
You are my Lamp, O Eternal,
lightening my darkness.
Upon You do I depend
for the battle,
by my God do I scale the wall.

He is a Shield to all
who seek refuge in Him.

The God who is my strong Fortress
quickens my feet like the deers’
and trains my hands for battle.
I pursue my enemies,
they fall under my feet,
and You save me from
my people’s own disputes,
preserving me as chief of nations,
served by a people
whom I did not even know.

You bring me out from my enemies,
lifting me above
those who rise against me.

Therefore I give thanks to You,
O Eternal One,
among the nations.

A Tower of salvations for His king,
showing lovingkindness
to His anointed one,
to David and to his offspring
for ever.

EIGHTH DAY YOM TOV

FROM THE TORAH

Deuteronomy 15:19-16:17

MALE FIRSTBORN
15:19-23

Sanctify to the Eternal your God every male firstborn of your herd and of your flock.  Eat it each year, you and your household, in the place that the Eternal shall choose.  Do not work your firstborn ox, and do not shear your firstborn sheep.  However, if the firstborn animal has a serious defect, if it is lame or blind, do not sacrifice it to the Eternal your God.  Instead, you, whether impure or pure, shall eat it within your gates, as is the case with the gazelle and with the deer.  But you may not eat its blood: pour it upon the ground like water.

PESACH AND MATZOT
16:1-8

Observe the month of Aviv and perform the Pesach to the Eternal your God in the evening at the setting of the sun, because the Eternal your God brought you out of Egypt at night at that time in the month of Aviv.  You shall sacrifice the Pesach to the Eternal your God from the flock or from the herd, not in any of your settlements but in the place where the Eternal shall choose to establish His name.  There you shall cook it and eat it.   Do not eat with it anything leavened.  Let none of the meat of your sacrifice remain overnight until the morning of the first day.  In the morning you shall head back to your tents.

From then for seven days you shall eat Matzot (“Unleavened Bread”), bread of affliction, as you left the land of Egypt in anxious haste—in order that you may remember the day of your leaving the land of Egypt all the days of your life.  Let no leaven be seen in all of your territory for seven days.  After eating matzot for six days, on the seventh day there shall be an observance of conclusion for the Eternal your God: do no work.

SHAVUOT
16:9-12

From when the sickle is applied to the standing grain, count seven weeks and hold a Festival of Shavuot (“Weeks”) to the Eternal your God of the fullest generosity that you can afford of the blessing provided you by the Eternal your God.  Rejoice before the Eternal your God—you and your son and your daughter, your male and female slave, the Levite within your gates, and the stranger, the orphan and the widow who are among you—at the place where the Eternal your God shall choose to establish His name.  Remember that you were a slave in Egypt, so shall you preserve and observe these statutes.

SUKKOT
16:13-15

Observe for yourself the Festival of Sukkot (“Booths”), for seven days, when you gather in the produce of your threshing floor and your wine vat.  Rejoice in your festival—you and your son and your daughter, your male and female slave, the Levite, the stranger, the orphan and the widow, who are within your gates.  Celebrate a festival to the Eternal your God for seven days at the place that the Eternal shall choose, for the Eternal your God shall bless you in the fullness of your harvest and in all the work of your hands; you shall only enjoy!

SUMMARY OF FESTIVALS
16:16-17

Three times in the year shall each of your males appear before the Eternal your God in the place which He shall choose: on the Festival of Matzot (“Unleavened Bread”), on the Festival of Shavuot (“Weeks”), and on the Festival of Sukkot (“Booths”).  He shall not appear empty-handed but each with his own gift according to the blessing that the Eternal your God has given you.

Maftir for the Eighth Day of Pesach
Numbers 28:19-25

[See Maftir for Seventh Day of Pesach.]

FROM THE PROPHETS

Haftarah for the Eighth Day
Isaiah 10:32-12:6

The Marvelous Stock of Jesse

The Lord, the Eternal of hosts,
shall cause the Assyrian to halt at Nob,
shaking his hand at the mount
of the daughter of Zion,
at the hill of Jerusalem.
The high ones shall be cut down,
and Lebanon shall fall by one who is mighty.

But a shoot shall grow out
of the stock of Jesse,
and the spirit of the Eternal
shall rest upon him:
a spirit of wisdom and understanding,
a spirit of counsel and courage,
a spirit of knowledge
and fear of the Eternal.

He shall not judge
by the seeing of his eyes
or the hearing of his ears,
but he shall judge the poor
by righteousness
and shall strike the wicked
with the rod of his mouth.

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
and a little child shall lead them.
They shall not hurt nor destroy
in all My holy mountain,
for the earth shall be full
of the knowledge of the Eternal
as the waters cover the sea.

The nations shall seek the root of Jesse,
standing as a banner of peoples.
Again the Lord will apply His hand
to acquire the remnant of His people,
those who remain from
Assyria and Egypt,
from Pathros, Cush and Elam,
from Shinar, Hamath, and the islands of the sea.
He will assemble the dispersed of Israel
and gather the scattered of Judah
from the four corners of the earth!

Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah,
and Judah will not harass Ephraim.
But they shall fly down
upon the Philistines to the west
and together despoil the children of the east;
Edom and Moab shall feel the power of their hand,
and Ammon shall receive their direction.
The Eternal shall destroy the Sea of Egypt
and turn its River into seven streams,
which can be walked across
on dry ground.

There shall be a highway
for the remnant of His people
from Assyria,
as there was for Israel
on the day that it came up
out of the land of Egypt.

On that day:
I thank You, O Eternal One,
for though You were angry with me,
Your wrath is turned away
and You bring me comfort.

Behold God is my salvation,
I trust and fear not;
He is my strength and song!

Give thanks to the Eternal,
proclaim His name;
make known His deeds
among the peoples!
Sing of the Eternal,
that He has performed greatly,
as is known in all the earth!
Cry out and shout,
O resident of Zion,
for great in the midst of you
is the Holy One of Israel.

FROM TALMUD AND MIDRASH

Song of Songs Rabbah 1:30,31
The Power of Love for Human and Divine

“This is the day which the Eternal has made:
let us rejoice and be happy in it/Him!”
(Psalms 118:24)

Rabbi Abin taught:  From this verse we might not know in what to rejoice: “in it,” the day? or “in Him,” the Holy One, blessed be He?  But then Solomon came and clarified it:

“The King has brought me into His chamber:
Let us be glad and rejoice in You…
(Song of Songs 1:4a)

“Let us rejoice in You” and thereby in Your Torah, in Your Salvation and in Fear of You!

Rabbi Isaac explained how Solomon’s words, “in You,” can mean in Your Torah and, thereby, in Your Salvation,which follows from Torah.  The letters of “in You” [“bach”: beyt-chaf] have the numerical value of twenty-two, the twenty-two letters of the Alef-Bet that are used to write the Torah.  From the Torah (cf. Genesis Rabbah 45:3) the mitzvah of “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:22) leads to Salvation

Mishnah Yevamot 6:6:  If one has married a woman and lived with her for ten years, during which time she has not borne a child, he may not avoid the commandment to be fruitful and multiply.  He may divorce her, so that she may marry another (who has not yet fulfilled the commandment), and he may stay with her for ten years (so that she might bear his child).  If she aborts, the counting of ten years is reset from the time she aborted.  The man is obligated to be fruitful and multiply, but not the woman.  Rabbi Yochanan ben Beroka teaches: For both of them it says, “God blessed them and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply…’” (Genesis 1:28) —

Now it happened that in Sidon a man married a woman and lived with her for ten years, during which time she did not bear a child.  They came to Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai to be divorced (in accordance with the Torah).  He said to them: Just as you were wedded to each other amid feasting, so it is only fitting that you take leave of each other with festive eating and drinking!  They followed his direction and made for themselves together a great festival meal, in which she induced him to have too much to drink.   

When he recovered his composure, the man said to the woman, “My daughter, see what is precious to you in my house, and take it and remove it to your father’s house.”  What did she do?  When he fell asleep from the wine, she directed her servants to lift his bed with him in it and to remove him to her father’s house.  At midnight he awoke, the effect of his wine having worn off.  “My daughter, where am I?”  “In my father’s house,” she answered.  “What am I doing in your father’s house?”  “Did you not tell me last evening, ‘See what is precious to you in my house, and take it and remove it to your father’s house?’  There is nothing more precious to me in all of the world than you.”

They returned to Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai.  He took it upon himself to pray on their behalf, and their prayer was answered.  From this we learn that just as the Holy One, blessed be He, intercedes for barren women (cf. Sarah in Genesis 21:1ff. et al), so also may the righteous of flesh and blood intercede for barren women.  And how much the moreso, if the prayer of one, who says of another person there is none more precious to me than you, is answered, shall the prayer of Israel, who await expectantly the salvation of the Holy One, blessed be He, and say to Him that there is none more precious to us than You, be answered!  Indeed we say as Solomon, “Draw me as we run after You; let the King bring me into His chamber, where we shall be happy and rejoice in You…” (Song of Songs 1:4a)!

“…we cite our love more than wine [mi-yayin];
rightly do they love you.”
(Song of Songs 1:4b)

We cite our love apart from wine [mi-yayin];
soberly do they love you!

This may be likened to the queen who was bereft of her husband the king, her sons, and her sons-in-law, who had traveled far away to secure the kingdom.  After a long absence, the queen abandoned all hope of their return.

But then, when she least expected it, heralds came and announced to her the return of her sons-in-law.  “That does not raise me from despair,” she said; “let my daughters rejoice.”  When later they announced to her the return of her sons, she likewise responded, “That does not raise me from despair; let my daughters-in-law rejoice.”  But then, when they told her that her husband the king had returned, her response was different: “That is my greatest joy, that is the end of my despair!”

So shall it be in time to come.  When the prophets shall come and say to Jerusalem, “Your sons shall come from afar…” (Isaiah 60:4), she will only say: That does not raise me from despair.  And when they say further, “…and your daughters shall be nursed at your side” (ibid.), she shall again say: That does not raise me from despair.  But then, when they say to her, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; behold, Your King is coming to you, righteous and victorious” (Zechariah 9:9), at that time she shall respond: “I shall greatly rejoice in the Eternal; my soul shall be joyful in my God” (Isaiah 61:10)!

Exodus Rabbah 20:1
Pharaoh Compared to a Stubborn Swineherd

“As snow in the summer
or rain at harvest,
so is honor not fitting
for a brute!”
(Proverbs 26:1)

This refers to Pharaoh, who may be compared to a herder of swine who stole one of his master’s ewes and concealed it among his own swine.  When his master demanded the return of his ewe, the swineherd denied that it was in his possession.  Thereupon the master discovered where the swineherd watered his animals, and he had the water source stopped up.  Again the master demanded that the swineherd return his ewe, and again the swineherd denied that it was in his possession.  Thereupon the master discovered where the swineherd sheltered his animals, and he had the swine pens destroyed.  Yet again when the master demanded that the swineherd return the master’s ewe, the swineherd denied that it was in his possession.  Thereupon the master discovered where he pastured his animals, and he had all vegetation burned away.  Even still, when the master demanded return of his ewe, the swineherd denied that it was in his possession.

Then the master discovered where the swineherd’s son attended school, and he had the boy seized.  This time, when the master demanded that the swineherd return the stolen ewe, the swineherd complied: “Here is your ewe!”  When the ewe was returned, the master then had the swineherd himself seized and held along with his son.  The swineherd protested: “Now that you have your ewe back and there is nothing of yours any longer in my possession, why have you seized me?  What can you claim from me any longer?”

The master replied, “I demand from you all that the ewe you seized produced while in your possession: the young she produced and the wool that you sheared from her.”  The swineherd was indignant.  “I should have kept the ewe,” he complained, “and stood my ground, thereby showing that the master was only out to destroy me!”

So Aaron struck the Nile, and it was turned into blood, and the Egyptians could find no water to drink.  When God demanded, “Let My people go,” Pharaoh would not heed.  Knowing where the animals were pastured, He brought down hail to destroy the trees and fire to burn it all up, as was said, “The Eternal sent thunder and hail, and fire went along to the ground” (Exodus 9:23).  He sent locusts to devour all vegetation and what remained of the trees.  He brought all of those plagues upon Pharaoh, yet Pharaoh refused to let the people go!

Then He took Pharaoh’s son, as was said, “The Eternal struck down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who was sitting upon his throne, to the firstborn of the captive, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of cattle” (Exodus 12:29).  Pharaoh told Moses and Aaron, “Arise, get out from the midst of my people, you and the Children of Israel” (Exodus 12:31)!  But then he regretted releasing them and pursued after them (cf. Exodus 14:1-9). God seized him and imposed upon him the same fate that He imposed upon his son: “He overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea!” (Psalms 136:15)  So the story begins, “Vayehi” (Exodus 13:17), implying Pharoah’s woeful regret, “Vaye! Vaye! Hoyi! beshalach Par’oh…much regret when Pharaoh let the people go!”: “I should have kept the people,” he lamented, “and stood my ground, thereby implying that the one who sought to free them was only out to destroy me!”

Pesikta d’Rav Kahana 11:7
Israel at the Red Sea in Egypt’s Eyes

“So it was (Vayehi)
when Pharaoh let the people go…”
(Exodus 13:17)

When Pharaoh let the Children of Israel go out from Egypt, the Egyptians cried, “Vay” (cf. Exodus 13:17; 14:5)! This means: “Woe! Alas!” (comparable to “Oy!”).  Said Rabbi Yosi:  It may be likened to one who inherits an uncultivated but fertile field.  The lazy heir sells it for a price much lower than what it is worth.  The buyer digs and finds in it a spring, from which he develops gardens and orchards.  When the seller sees this, he feels like choking and says, “Vay! What have I lost!”  Thus, when the Children of Israel were encamped on the shores of the Sea, they seemed like the array of a royal army.  This made the Egyptians feel like choking, and they bemoaned their loss: “Vay! Whom did we let go from our land!”

Exodus Rabbah 21:4
The Eternal Hears the Prayer of the Lowly

When the king of Egypt is told that the people has fled, Pharaoh and his forces pursue Israel as far as the Red Sea.  Frightened at Pharaoh’s approach, “The Children of Israel cry out to the Eternal.” (Exodus 14:10)  Soon thereafter, the Eternal asks Moses, “Why do you (singular) cry out to Me?  Tell the Children of Israel to proceed with their journey…” (Exodus 14:15-16).  The Children of Israel are the ones who cried out, not just Moses, yet the Eternal asks Moses alone why he cried out!

Here is how Rabbi Judah bar Shalom explains the apparent contradiction, in the name of Rabbi Elazar:  When a poor man brings his petition to a human master, the human master pays him no heed, whereas if a rich man brings a petition, the human master accepts it immediately.  Not so the Holy One, blessed be He: All are equal before Him—women, slaves, the lowly, the wealthy.

This is reflected in Scripture’s treatment of Moses and the lowly one, respectively.  With respect to Moses, the Psalmist subtitles Psalm 90, “A prayer of Moses, the man of God,” and with respect to the lowly, Psalm 102, “A prayer of the lowly, when he is faint and pours forth his plea before the Eternal.”  The one is prayer, and the other is prayer, in order to teach you that all are equal in prayer before the Omnipresent.

So here is what happened.  When Israel went forth out of Egypt, Pharaoh pursued them, “and the Children of Israel cry out to the Eternal” (Exodus 14:10).  Then Moses also begins to pray, and the Holy One, blessed be He, says to him: “Why do you (Moses) cry out to Me?” (Exodus 14:15)  My children have already prayed to Me, and I have heeded their prayer!  Tell the Children of Israel to proceed with their journey….

Exodus Rabbah 21:10
The Children of Israel Lacked Nothing

“The Children of Israel march into the sea on dry ground with the waters as a wall for them on their right and on their left.” (Exodus 14:22)  If “into the sea,” then why “on dry ground?”  If “on dry ground, then why “into the sea?”  From this paradox we learn that the sea was not divided for them until they came into it up to their noses!  After that it became dry ground for them.

Rabbi Nehorai taught:  An Israelite woman was crossing into the Sea, holding her crying child.  She reaches out and secures a piece of fruit for him from the midst of the Sea and gives it to him, as was said, “He led them through the deeps as through the wilderness.” (Psalms 106:9)  Just as in the wilderness they lacked nothing, so also in the deeps they lacked nothing.  This is what Moses said to them: “The Eternal, your God, has been with you for these past forty years: you have not lacked a thing” (Deuteronomy 2:7).  If they lacked anything, they had only to mention the thing and it was created before them.  Rabbi Shimon taught: They did not even need to mention the thing, but if they just had a thought of the thing, it was made for them, as was said, “They tested God in their mind when they requested food for themselves” (Psalms 78:18).

Another interpretation of “You have not lacked a thing” (Deuteronomy 2:7): You have lacked nothing of the material world, not things, nor words to request them, nor thoughts to hold the words, but one thing that you did lack is a word of repentance.  Hence “these past forty years in the wilderness!” (Psalms 106:9)  In the meantime, “Take words with you, and return to the Eternal” (Hosea 14:3).

Talmud Sanhedrin 39b
The Wicked are the Work of God’s Hands

“Give thanks to the Eternal for He is good,
for His mercy is without limit!”
(Psalm 118:1)

“King Jehoshaphat installed singers to the Eternal…
as they went out to battle,
with the words:
‘Give thanks to the Eternal
for His mercy is without limit!’”
(II Chronicles 20:21)

Rabbi Yonatan asked: Why did the singers of King Jehoshaphat omit the words, “for He is good?”  Because they interpreted those words of the psalm to mean, “Give thanks to the Eternal as it is good,” and the Holy One, blessed be He, does not rejoice in the fall of the wicked (to Him, it, the fall even of the wicked is not good), “for His mercy is without limit!”

Thus, according to Rabbi Samuel bar Nachman, Rabbi Yonatan interpreted the words describing the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel at the Red Sea, “One approached [karav] not to the other” (Exodus 14:20), in reference to the prophet’s description of the seraphim, “One called [karah] to the other, ‘Holy, holy, holy…’” (Isaiah 6:3): The ministering angels at the Red Sea wanted to sing, one to the other, a song of praise to the Holy One, blessed be He (like the seraphim observed by Isaiah), but He disabused them, “The work of my hands is drowning in the Sea, and you would sing a song of praise?!”

Said Rabbi Yosi bar Chanina:  He does not rejoice over the fall of the wicked, but He lets others rejoice, as can be learned from the blessings and the curses that would come upon Israel: “As the Eternal rejoices over you to do you good, so will the Eternal cause rejoicing over you in the event of your destruction.” (Deuteronomy 28:63)

Said Rabbi Yonatan:  When Judah defeated the children of Amon, Moab and Mount Seir, they sang only the words, “Give thanks to the Eternal, for His mercy is without limit!” (II Chronicles 20:21)  Why did they not sing, “Give thanks to the Eternal as it is good?”  They omitted the words, “as it is good,” because the Holy One does not rejoice in the downfall of the wicked; to Him it is not good, “for His mercy is without limit!”

Midrash Psalms 106:1
God’s Constant and Unnoticed Protection

“Give thanks to the Maker of wondrous deeds, He alone…
Give thanks to the Divider of the Red Sea…!”
(Psalms 136:4,13)

God’s daily wonders for us are compared to the splitting of the Red Sea!

Said Rabbi Elazar ben Pedat: Many times a day our bodies may be in danger of mortal attack, perhaps by a snake or some other predator of nature, whereupon another force of nature, another of God’s wonders, defends us against them.  We do not sense the danger, we do not sense the defense.  Who does?  “Maker of wondrous deeds, He alone!”  (Psalms 136:4)

Pesikta d’Rav Kahana 11:13
The Ark of Joseph and the Ark of the Eternal God

“Joseph made the Children of Israel promise:
‘When God shall take notice of you,
then you must bring up my bones from this place!’
When Joseph died, he was placed in an ark in Egypt.”
(Genesis 50:25-26)

“When Pharaoh let the people go…
Moses took the bones of Joseph with him
to fulfill the promise that Joseph had obtained
from the Children of Israel before his death…”
(Exodus 13:17,19)

This is praise for Moses, for while the rest of Israel were busy plundering Egypt (cf. Exodus 12:35-36), Moses was engaged in searching for the bones of Joseph.

Who told Moses where Joseph was buried?  Some say it was Serach daughter of Asher (cf. Genesis 46:17; Midrash Genesis Rabbah 94:9 et al), still alive at that time, who told Moses that Joseph was buried in the Nile.  Moses went and stood by the Nile, crying: “O Joseph, O Joseph, the time has come when the Holy One, blessed be He, is redeeming His children.  The Shechinah is waiting for you, Israel are waiting for you, the Divine Clouds are waiting for you.  So now it is time for you to announce yourself!  And if not, then we are released from the promise that you received from our fathers!”  Thereupon the ark of Joseph floated up to the surface!

Others relate that Moses took a shard, etched the Divine Name upon it, and threw it into the water, whereupon the ark of Joseph floated up to the surface!

In any case there were two “dogs” nearby.  But in actuality these “dogs” were produced by sorcerers.  They started to bark at Moses.  Moses took the opportunity to cry out: “O people, come and see!  These cannot be real dogs, for real dogs would not be barking.”  Rabbi Yudan explained: Because these “dogs” were, in effect, whetting their tongues, whereas Moses had warned Pharaoh that the Eternal would strike the first-born sons of Egypt at midnight, “but against the Children of Israel not even a dog will whet its tongue” (Exodus 11:7)!

So now two arks would accompany Israel in the wilderness.  When the nations of the world asked, “What is the purpose of these two arks?” the Israelites said to them: One of the arks contains the body of Joseph, and the other is the Ark of the Eternal God!  The nations of the world then taunt Israel: What is the Ark of the Eternal God doing alongside the ark of a corpse?!  Israel’s answer: The body that is lying in this ark fulfilled all that is written in that Ark! 

Yalkut Shimoni 164
“Tower of Salvations” and “Increaser of Salvations”

Tower of salvations (Migdol yeshuot) for His king,
showing lovingkindness
to His anointed one,
to David and to his offspring
for ever.”
(II Samuel 22:51)

But another verse says:
Increaser of salvations (Magdil yeshuot)  for His king…”
(Psalms 18:51)

Rabbi Yudan explained: “Increaser of salvations…” because the salvation of a nation does not come all at once; it grows and increases over time.  “Tower of salvations…” for when the nation has its anointed king as a great protective tower, as was said, “A Tower of strength is the Name of the Eternal, to which the righteous runs and is safe” (Proverbs 18:10).

Talmud Niddah 31a
Miracles Not Recognized

“I thank You, O Eternal One:
for though You were angry with me,
Your wrath is turned away
and You comfort me.”
(Isaiah 12:1)

Rav Yosef taught: This verse alludes to competing traders, each of whom began on a venture which required ocean travel.  One was injured on his way to the ship so that he could not reach the port in time, while the other successfully boarded.  The injured trader cursed and reviled God for his ill fortune.  A while later he learned that the same ship was subsequently wrecked and that his competitor lost his life.  The injured survivor then uttered thanks and praises to God for the injury that saved his life.

But what should we think?

“Give thanks to the One
who performs great miracles Himself…”
(Psalms 136:4)

Said Rabbi Eliezer: We should think of it in accordance with the reading of the verse as, “Give thanks to the One who performs great miracles to Himself…” (Psalms 136:4), so that one who ultimately benefits may not recognize it as a miracle or understand it (cf. Midrash Psalms 106:1 supra).

Targum Yonatan:  I give thanks to You, O Eternal One, for since I sinned against You, Your anger was upon me, and were it not for Your mercy, I would not enjoy Your forbearance.

SHABBAT SHALOM!

CHAG SAMEACH!

Copyright © 2021 Eric H. Hoffman

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