By: Rabbi Moshe Goodman, Kollel Ohr Shlomo, Hebron
Inviting the Holy Presence in Our Holy Land
‘Because of our forefathers, may You save their children and bring redemption to their children’s children…’ Many put special emphasis on the future redemption on the last day(s) of Pesah – the Holiday of Redemption. One way we can tap into the special meaning of the last days of Pesach is by contemplating the Torah readings unique to these days. Before we begin we should note that although an eighth day of Pesach is not observed in the Land of Israel, the Arizal explains that the 21st and 22nd days of Nisan are strongly spiritually linked by virtue of the fact that they culminate the first week of the Counting of the Omer.
According to our Sages, the Torah readings on Pesach – beginning with the first day – can be remembered by a pneumonic phrase referring to one of the first words of the Torah reading:
- Meshoch/’Take’ – ‘Take sheep and offer the paschal lamb’ (Ex. 12, 21)
- Tora – Ox in Aramaic referring to the reading that begins with the words ‘an ox or sheep that is borne to you’ (Lev. 22, 27)
- Kadesh/’Sanctify’ – ‘sanctify to me all the firstborn’ (Ex. 13, 2)
- Bechaspa/’with money’ – referring to ‘if you lend money’ (ibid. 22, 24)
- Pesal/’Carve’ – ‘carve two tablets of stone’ (ibid. 34, 1)
- BeMadbara/’in the wilderness – ‘and HaShem spoke to Moshe in the wilderness of Sinai (regarding Pesach Sheni)’ (Num. 9, 1)
- Shlah/’Send’ – ‘when Pharaoh sent the People’ (Ex. 13, 17)
- Buchra/’Firstborn’ – ‘all firstborn animals that are borne to you.’ (Deut. 15, 19) Although this pneumonic can be understood as an easy way to remember the Torah reading of Pesach, it seems that our Sages also wish to teach us a deeper message in regard to Pesah, as this pneumonic forms four clear sentences that are fascinatingly linked with the redemptive message of Pesach.
The first sentence ‘Take an ox’ (1&2 above) can teach us about the first and most basic stage of redemption. Joseph is compared to an ox, and he is also taken out of Egypt in the Exodus. In this way, all of Israel is compared to the ox of Joseph for they all entered Egypt because of Joseph. We should note that the ‘taking’ here implies a passive role on the part of the ‘ox’, hinting that the first and basic stage of redemption may come from the kindness of HaShem the Redeemer. Even when the People are relatively ‘passive’ and may also have animalistic traits, such as an ox, and do not have much merit, this stage calls us to take action (like a trustworthy ox) and harness our animalistic traits for the service of HaShem.
The second sentence ‘Kadesh Bechaspa’ (3&4 above) can refer to a wedding when the groom betrothes, an act called ‘kidushin’ [‘kadesh’], the wife, with money/ring – ‘bechaspa’. This refers to a higher stage of redemption than the first, when HaShem and Israel are united as husband and wife so-to-speak; as in the Song of Songs read on Pesach. This stage calls us to strengthen our ties and connectedness to HaShem and to the longing, ‘kisufin’ [as in ‘kesef’/’chaspa’] for His Holy Presence.
The third sentence ‘Psal BeMadbara’ (5&6 above) can also mean ‘[make] rubble in the desert’. Our Sages homiletically interpret the term ‘desert’ to refer to the attribute of humility, as they say that just as a desert is empty, so too by the attribute of humility one feels so-to-speak ‘empty’ of virtue in contrast to HaShem. This message is also incorporated during Pesach by the matza, which by its simplicity of material also represents the attribute of humility. By this step of redemption one leaves the bondages of selfishness and arrogance, and thereby is drawn closer to HaShem.
The fourth sentence ‘send the firstborn’ (7&8th days of Pesach/Isru Hag) can refer to the highest level of redemption when Israel become ‘one’ with HaShem, for our Sages teach that a messenger ‘sent’ is like the one who sent him himself. In this sentence, Israel can be called the ‘firstborn’ as HaShem declares during the Exodus ‘my firstborn Israel.’ Therefore, this sentence entails that HaShem ‘sends’ (as if an ‘extension’ of Himself) his ‘firstborn’, Israel. Also, just as HaShem is the ultimate ‘First’ before all creation, so too Israel takes on this attribute here when becoming ‘one’ with HaShem, being called the ‘firstborn’. This level of unity is even higher than that of a couple (bride and groom) in stage two, for while the couple are two entities united, here Israel is considered one entity, so-to-speak, with HaShem as if a direct extension of His Godliness in the world. Of course, this stage is reached in virtue of the previous stage of humility, for by the work on humility, one leaves the feeling of ‘self’ and can unite fully with the Godly Light described in the last stage.
Sources: Sefer Hebron, Article by Mordechai Land (about midrash and custom to make pilgrimage to Hebron on 7 Adar), Sefer HaTemuna, Tana Deve Eliyahu ch. 2
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