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Pesach 5776 — 04/23/2016

Pesach 5776 — 04/23/2016

In honor of the 32nd birthday of Daniel, Eve and Shoshanah!

Note: Since Pesach falls on Shabbat this year, the 8th day of Pesach also falls on Shabbat. Since Pesach is only celebrated for the Biblical 7 days in the Land of Israel, they will read Parashat Acharei Mot next week, while we in chutz la’aretz (the Diaspora) will read the special reading for the last day of Pesach (Devarim 14:22-16:17). We will not be back in sync with Israel until 6 August, when we read parshiyot Matot-Masei together, while they are split in Israel. I don’t know the reason for this at all. Upon further reflection, it may have to do with the fact that parashat Devarim always comes on the Shabbat before Tisha B’Av, and the Haftarot of the 3 Shabbatot between the fast of the 17th of Tammuz and Tisha B’Av are special Haftarot called the “Three Haftarot of Retribution.” That’s just a guess however, so don’t go around quoting me on it!

Shemot 12:21-51 (1st day), Vayikra 22:26-23:44 (2nd day), Maftir: Bamidbar 28:16-25 (both days)

R. Steinsaltz doesn’t have a chapter on the holiday readings, so you’ll have to make do with my musings.

The Torah portion for the first day is, as one might expect, the passage from Parashat Bo which details the commandment to offer the Pesach sacrifice in Egypt, to put the blood on the lintel and doorposts and to eat the Pesach inside one’s house and not to leave, lest one be harmed in the ensuing bloodbath. The portion continues with the actual Exodus and the famous story, found in the Haggadah, of the bread that did not rise because we were hurried out of Egypt and couldn’t wait around for the bread to rise.

One interesting thing in the parashah that caught my eye is the following statement by Pharaoh: Rise up, go out from among my people, even you, even the Children of Israel; go and serve Hashem as you have spoken! (12:31) As we will see in the next parashah, once Pharaoh realizes that the Israelites are not coming back, he immediately chases after them, as if they had somehow gone back on their word. Did he think that after the destruction of his country, the same offer was still on the table? Apparently he did, even though Moshe Rabbeinu hadn’t spoken about a “3 days journey” for some time now.

There is another place where the expression as you have spoken is used. After the sin of the spies (Bamidbar, Ch 13-14) Moshe pleads with Gd to forgive the people: … forgive now the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of Your kindness and as You have forgiven this people from Egypt until now. And Hashem said, ‘I have forgiven as you have spoken! (Bamidbar 14:19-20). I read in a drashah some years back that Moshe only asked for a partial forgiveness: as You have forgiven this people from Egypt until now – until now but not for the future (if I remember correctly). And that is exactly what we got – an incomplete forgiveness. The entire generation of the desert died in the desert, and we get to “celebrate” the Israelites’ weeping every year on Tisha B’Av. Moshe spoke, but he didn’t ask for enough, for whatever reason.

Everything we get comes from Gd. We think it comes automatically, but actually we are asking Gd to sustain us all the time, either explicitly (e.g. through prayer) or through our actions, which create reactions, either positive or negative. What these passages indicate to us is that we should be very careful what we ask for, because we are likely to get it!

A joyous and kosher Pesach to all!