Pesach Hol Hamoed / Shira
Dedicated by Jacob Antebi Leilui Nishmat Rachamim Ben Irah
Pesach Hol Hamoed / Shira
We have just completed the first two Seder nights and we are now approaching the Shabbat of Hol Hamo’ed. During the Seder we praised Hashem as we sang the lively song Dayenu, which begins with the words "Kama Maalot Tovot Lemakom Alenu" which means, "How Grateful we must be to Hashem for all the different acts of kindness He has done for us!” We must appreciate everything we do each and every second of the day, from the time we open our eyes when we wake up in the morning throughout our day until the night when we close our eyes as we lie down to sleep. We all know people who are old or sick that can't do the daily activities that we take for granted.
Dayenu recalls all the trials and tribulations that our ancestors went through when they left Egypt. We can try and relate this to what we go through on a daily basis during the years of our lives and how, looking back, we must appreciate and praise Hashem for everything he did for us each and every step of the way. The middle of the song focuses on the miracle of B'nei Yisrael's Exodus from Egypt and the crossing of the Red Sea:
If Hashem had brought us out of Egypt, but not meted out judgments against them(the Egyptians)-DAYENU-it would have been sufficient for us!
If He had split the sea for us, but had not led us through it on dry land-DAYENU-it would have been sufficient for us!"
If He had led us through the sea on dry land, but not submerged our enemies in it-DAYENU-it would have been sufficient!
If He had submerged our enemies in it, but not supplied our needs in the desert for forty years-DAYENU-it would have been sufficient!
And so on, up until the arrival at the Land of Israel and the building of the Beit Hamikdash.
In Rabbi Yitzchak Mirsky's Haggadah, he remarks on the splitting of the Red Sea: How exactly did it split? Did it split all at once or in stages? The Torah states that "Hashem removed the wheel of the chariots.” How does this relate to the splitting of the Sea? In the Tosaphot for Masechet Erchin 15a, we read that B'nei Yisrael at first were not convinced that they were saved by this miracle. They were worried that just as they emerged on the other side of the sea safely, the Egyptians could have also emerged safely on the opposite side. The commentary asks, "Would it have been so bad if the Egyptians had come out on the other side? B'nei Yisrael would still have been safe because they would have been separated from the Egyptians by the entire breath of the sea.” Tosafot concludes that the Israelites did not walk across the dry seabed of the Red Sea; rather, they entered on one side, traveled in a semi-circle and emerged safely further down the coast on the same side they entered. So the whole purpose of entering the sea was to lure the Egyptian army into the sea so they could drown there.
Another miracle was that the Sea split in twelve sections to accommodate the twelve separate tribes, each taking their own lane. Since they were moving in a semi-circle, logic dictates that the inner lane would cover less ground than the outer lanes, therefore the Egyptians chasing them could have easily caught up with them. Hashem performed another miracle by making one of the Egyptian’s chariot wheels fall off, thereby impeding their riding ability. Thanks to this miracle, B'nei Yisrael were able to proceed normally, while the Egyptians were all detained until the last Israelite set foot ashore. At this point the waters returned and drowned the entire Egyptian army, whose chariots were stuck in the muddy seabed. The Tur adds that if both wheels had been removed, the chariot could have still been pulled along partially by the horses, but with only one wheel removed, the chariot would tip over and become impossible to manoeuvre. According to Ibn Ezra, when the waters of the Sea began to close in on the Egyptians at one end, the waters simultaneously opened for B'nei Yisrael on the other side.
In our evening Arvit prayers we say, "He gave passage to His children between the pieces of the Red Sea; He drowned their pursuers and their enemies in the depths of the sea." In the morning Shachrit prayers, we say, "You split the Red Sea; You drowned the Evil ones; You gave passage to the beloved ones." The question is asked, "Why is the order reversed? Either the Egyptians perished first or B'nei Yisrael crossed first, but they both can't be true?" The Etz Yosef answers that the splitting of the Red Sea was a miracle within a miracle. In fact both events did happen simultaneously, for the Egyptians began to drown after some of the Israelites had crossed, but before the entire nation had crossed.
So the lesson we learn through the singing of this fun and lively song is that we were saved for just one simple reason, and that is to serve Hashem through the study of Torah. The praises also teach us to have a sincere Hakarat Hatov for all that Hashem does for us. There are many studies today which show that being appreciative and having gratitude increases a person’s happiness. Some years ago in Israel there was an elderly lady who passed away and Rav Shach asked his grandson to take him to her funeral. The day was raining and it was a difficult day for Rav Shach at his age to travel but he insisted that his grandson take him. When his grandson asked why it was so important that he attend, the Gadol Hador answered: “When I was a young boy in Yeshivah in Europe, there were very difficult conditions that we had to endure. We slept on cold benches and had no covers to sleep under and the food was very scarse. There was a time when my uncle offered me a position in his business and I was seriously thinking of leaving Yeshivah to take the job. But then a lady came and gave us blankets and it made a world of difference to us. So it’s because of that gesture that helped me to endure those conditions to stay in Yeshiva. That old lady who just passed away gave us those blankets and I’ll never forget her kindness. So I have a tremendous amount of Hakarat Hatov (gratitude) for her because if it wasn’t for her kindness at that time, I might have left Yeshivah to go to work for my uncle”.
We learn from this story that we have to have Hakarat Hatov for every one in our lives who shows us kindness, just as the lady in the story did for Rav Shach when he was a young boy in Yeshivah who eventually grew to be the Rosh Yeshivah of the great Punavich Yeshivah. If not for that seemingly simple act of Chesed we might not have had one of the greatest Rabbis of our generation. All the more so, as we learn on this holiday of Pesach, we must appreciate all that Hashem gives us and try to emulate Him, as we learn from the actions of Avraham Avinu.
May we all appreciate everything that Hashem does for us from when we were born and all throughout our lives because as we learn, nothing is ours and everything that we have is a gift from Hashem. May we truly live the words of the praises we sing of Dayenu and use them to have the tremendous gratitude that we owe Hashem for saving us from the Egyptians through all the miracles He showed us by Yetziat Mitzrayim until this very day, by living and learning the Torah that He gave us each and every day of our lives! Amen!
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach!!
Jack E. Rahmey with the Guidance and Teachings of
Rabbi Amram Sananes
Eliyahu Ben Rachel Malka Bat Garaz
Sarah Bat Chanah Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher
Shulamit Bat Helaina Meir Ben Latifa
Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther Esther Bat Sarah
Rav Haim Ben Rivka Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana
Yitzchak Ben Adele Rafael Ben Miriam
Chanah Bat Esther Moshe Ben Mazal
Moshe Ben Garaz Avraham Ben Mazal
Avraham Ben Garaz Ovadia Ben Esther
Yaakov Ben Rachel Rahamim Ben Mazal