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March 28, 2013 - Image 51

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2013-03-28

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Pharaoh's army drowning in the Red Sea

Intermediate Shabbat Pesach:
Exodus 33:12-34:26, Numbers 28:19-
25; Ezekiel 37:1-37:14.


uring Passover do you feel
torn about the plagues
against the Egyptians and the
destruction of the Egyptian army at
the Sea?
As I feel joy at our freedom and the
revenge against Egypt for centuries
of oppression, I also need to express
remorse for the loss of human life.
There are three places
during Passover where
we see the struggle that
Judaism has had with this
tension throughout history.
Two are from the seder and
one from the Torah por-
tion for the seventh day of
During the seder, after we
pour Elijahs Cup, we ask of
God, "Pour out Your wrath
against the nations that do
not know you, God, and
that oppress us:'
This section, Sh'foch chamatcha, was
added to the Haggadah following the
crusades, a time of great turmoil and
distress for Jews.
It is easy to understand the sentiment
of the time and the desire for revenge.
However, there is an addition in some
Haggadot that adds a section immedi-
ately following the Sh'foch chamatcha.
This section asks God to Shfoch aha-
vatcha, "Pour out Your love upon the
righteous gentiles of the world:'
This text, attributed to the school of
Rashi, seems appropriate. After all, we
have seen cases throughout history of
some non-Jews coming to the aid of
Jews, often at great risk to themselves.
Why, during the seder, do we take
out drops from our cup of wine when
we recite the 10 plagues? One inter-
pretation reaffirms the righteous
vengeance that God inflicted upon the
Egyptians. Another view is that we
express sympathy for the pain that the
Egyptians faced while the Israelites
were being freed. Again we see this
tension between celebrating our vic-
tory and showing restraint at the
destruction of our foes.
Finally, in the Torah portion for
the seventh day of Passover, we sing
God's praises for the destruction of

the Egyptians in the Shirat Hayam:
the Song of the Sea. This celebration
of our escape from slavery is in stark
contrast to a well-known midrash on
this passage.
In this midrash, God is surrounded
by angels. Upon seeing the destruction
of the Egyptians at the sea, the angels
begin to sing praises to God. After all,
God's chosen people had
just been delivered from
their oppressors. God,
appalled by this action,
rebukes the angels saying,
"The works of My hands are
drowning in the sea, and
you would utter song in My
God feels the pain of los-
ing part of His creation.
There is a story that we
find in the Talmud in which
Bruriah, a great scholar in
her own right and the wife of Rabbi
Meir, provides a better way to solve
this problem:
A gang of hoodlums lived in Rabbi
Meir's neighborhood, and they tor-
mented him. Rabbi Meir prayed for
their death. His wife, Bruriah, asked him
"How did you reach such a decision?"
He replied, "The Bible says, 'Let sin
be obliterated from the Earth:"
She answered, "Is it written 'sin-
ners?' The verse says 'sins: Look fur-
ther to the end of the verse: And the
wicked will be no more: Therefore,
pray that these hoodlums repent and
then they will not be wicked anymore'
Bruriah's lesson is not to seek
revenge against those that wrong us or
to ask God to destroy them. Nor is it
to feel remorse when our enemies are
defeated. Instead, her response is to
root out the source of evil so that evil
cannot exist at all.
By separating the ideas from the
people and working to eliminate those
evil ideas, we can work toward a better
world where enemy and revenge and
rejoicing at the defeat of our foes are
not part of our vocabulary at Passover
or any other time of the year!

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March 28 • 2013


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