Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
April 6h 2012 -Volume 2, Issue 22 –13th of Nissan 5772
The Third Cup
What do you think about when you hear the word “redemption”? How about when I talk to you about being “saved”? Admit it. These words make you feel uncomfortable. A little Christian, maybe? I believe it was Rav Hutner ZT”L who once complained about how the Christians stole Tanach from the Jews- after all they can quote Isaiah and Zedekiah better than most Jews; as the Jews stopped learning these works. But have they also stolen the notion of Geula? Is it Jewish-ly Incorrect to talk about being redeemed? I hope not. There’s a lot of Matzah and cleaning that has gone into celebrating this upcoming holiday and I for one want to make sure I know what this holiday of redemption is all about.
The truth is, even leaving the Christians behind, we need to examine an even deeper or fundamental question about Pesach. As a recent Oleh or even examining the state of the Jewish people, do we really feel we are lacking redemption today? I can understand during the times of past, holocaust, persecution, wandering Jew-homeless with nowhere to go, that there was a sense of longing for our homeland. But today thank God after thousands of years we have returned to Eretz Yisrael. We have an independent Jewish State, although not perfect. But when was it ever perfect? Yes, we have some anti-Semitism, some missiles flying here and there, the fear of a nuclear Iran looming, but in the far recesses of our day to day lives. Over-all we are home with the freedom to learn, study and serve Hashem. Sure it would be nice to have a Bais HaMikdash our Temple restored, but somehow I think that urgency of being redeemed from the dire “Egypt-like” slavery and persecution days seem to be behind us.
There is a story told of Rab Yehoshuah Leib Diskin, the Rav of Brisk, who settled in Eretz Yisrael in the early 20th century after fleeing the terrible situation in Europe. As he was celebrating the first Seder in Eretz Yisrael and began to sing the traditional Seder refrain and conclusion of “L’Shana Ha’Ba B’Yerushalayim- Next Year in Jerusalem” he was asked by his son what his father’s intent was in this song.
In years past we longed for Jerusalem, but now we are here, why are you asking for next year to be in Jerusalem? His father answered “Son, yes we are here this year, but as you know the situation is dire, people are starving and we suffer daily threats. We ask Hashem that next year we should merit remaining here and being here as well.” But that was then. Today I don’t think anyone thinks that Israel is not here and ours for keeps. In fact I noted to someone that I believe we are living in an era that for the first time in thousands of years of Aliyah to Israel, Jews are moving to Israel for financial reasons. There is a great sense of opportunity and entrepreneurship over here. It requires a lot less to live. Minimal tuitions for schools, subsidized health insurance and more affordable and secure real estate (at least in the North), so what redemption are we really missing?
One last question, after all it is the holiday of questions. We have four cups of wine and a fifth for Eliyahu that we are told represent the five terminologies of redemption mentioned in the Torah in regards to our Exodus. V’Hotzaisi- I will take you out, V’Hitzalti- I will save you, V’Goalti- I will redeem you, V’Lokachti- I will take you, V’Haveisi- I will bring you (to the land). What would be lacking without that middle one of redemption? Let’s say Hashem would have taken us out, saved us from the Egyptians, taken us as his nation (through giving us the Torah) and brought us to Israel. What would we have been missing? Mah Chaseir? What is that third cup really about?
It is fascinating when we examine the verses and ritual of the Korban Pesach/ the Phascal lamb. Right before the final plague of the death of the First Borns, Hashem gives us this commandment to take a lamb- or a goat, roast it-without water, dip its blood and put it over the doorposts-Pehsach (with the letter Taf) and eat it together as group. In return Hashem will be Pascah (skip-Rashi or have mercy-targum) over us. This seems to be the prelude to us becoming the first-born of God. Rabbi David Fohrman, one of my favorite contemporary Torah scholars and biblical commentators, notes that it is fascinating to note the similarities between the Korban Pesach offering and many of terms and storyline that led to us coming down to Egypt in the first place. For if we trace back our history to the narrative of the sale of Yosef. Yosef was elevated to the level of the first born by his father Yackov- symbolized by the coat of colors-Ketonet Pasim ( note the Peh Samach of Pesach connection) . After being sent by his father to check on the sheep they are jealous of him and throw him in a pit- without water, Yehudah, the leader from the children of Leah then says “what gain will we have by killing him and covering up his blood”(similar terminology by pesach lamb of covering the Nefesh), they then remove his coat dip it in the blood of a goat and sit down to eat together. It’s also interesting to note that the word utilized by the Phascal lamb is that the blood should be taken from the threshold- Saf, which is the same letters as Pas- Yosef’s coat of colors and also the letters of his name.
What to make of all these connections? What the Torah is suggesting perhaps, is that the means for the Jewish people to achieve redemption and become the first-born of Hashem is to rectify the sins and scars that remain of the past-when they unjustly tried to take the birthright. The Torah repeatedly cautions us as we leave Egypt to be careful in how we treat our slaves. Having been slaves ourselves and been persecuted, we are the most prone to pass that same abuse on to someone else, in the same way that someone who has been abused in some form can become the abuser. One cannot just “move on” without dealing with the trauma of the past in a constructive meaningful way. There are many holocaust survivors who tried to forget and never talked about the trauma they had been through, yet those scars keep showing up. They never went away.
Geula/redemption is the process which Hashem promised to take us out. Yackov, who tried to take the birthright from his brother (also through goats-and our sages say on Pesach night), and his children as well wanted the birthright for the right reasons. To serve Hashem. To bring his Name to the world. Yet the energy they invested was negative. The only way we could become the true representatives of Hashem is by doing it the right way. We have to revisit that earlier murky past. Relive the blood, the sheep, the goats, the coats, the no-water, the sitting together and eating and channel it into the true earning of rightful role. Only then can we become the first-borns. Only then can Hashem be Pas-ach on us (using that same word of the symbol of the birthright the Ketonet Pas-im. When we take that blood from the Saf-the blood of Yosef and redeem it.
Which brings us to our Seder today. Yes, we have Eretz Yisrael, we have our freedom. We have the ability to learn and grow close to Hashem and bring his Name to the world. But yet, something is missing in what seems to be this almost perfect world. What is missing is us. Why are we not waking up each morning with a special closeness to Hashem? Why are we not running around dedicating ourselves to building a country that would only serve to make His name great; To create a home for him that he would gladly and speedily return to? The answer is because we are still lacking Geula/ redemption. 2000 years of exile has made us cold and stagnant. We have been freed, we are no longer being persecuted and that seems to be enough for most of us…most of the time. We have V’Hotzaisi, V’Hitzalti, V’lokachti V’Havaisi. But we are still lacking the V’Goalti. We are missing that inner sense of redemption that makes sense of the past and that allows us to rectify it and appreciate and move to our new roles. We still need to be redeemed.
The truth is there is one time a year when I know I feel that sense. When I believe we are meant to feel that inspiration. It is Pesach night by our Seder. Usually it around the time of the third cup; the cup of Geula. We have read through the majority of our Haggadah. We asked our questions, we re-experienced slavery, we tasted our Matzah, our Maror, our festive meal and we tasted what it must have felt to be fully redeemed. As we say our grace after the meal and thank Hashem for the Eretz Hatova and we pray for the return of Jerusalem, for the sending of Eliyahu Ha’Navi, we are now ready to lift up our third cup and make a blessing of redemption. We know what it feels like. We want it back. We want it now. Its time for us to not just come home but to be inspired and capable of being that home. Not just once a year… but every day… all the time. Home with You. Your first-borns. May each of us merit this year and this Seder to taste that redemption and may we celebrate together redeemed in Yerushalayim Ha’Bnuya.
Have an inspired Pesach,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
This weeks insights and Inspiration E-Mail is sponsored by Deborah Cole of Kirkland Washington in appreciation of the weekly inspiration and in honor of the olim that have moved to the North of Israel!
RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL PLACES IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK-
Free stuff- There is nothing cooler than free stuff. If it’s free its cool. If it usually costs money and now it is free..it is even cooler the following is a list of places sponsored by Bank Ha’Polaim in honor of Pesach that is free for the holiday for Yom Tov Tiyuling pleasureList of Sites with Free Entrance:
• Ben-Gurion’s hut, Sde Boker
• Treasures in the Wall Museum, Acre
• Wilfred Israel Museum, Hazorea
• Eco-Kinneret laboratory boat
• The Aqueduct, East Talpiot, Jerusalem
• The Archeological Experience, Emek Tsurim, Mt. of Olives
• Tikotin Museum of Japanese Art, Haifa
• Haifa City Museum
• Derech Ha’etz park, Shadmot Dvora
• Old Yishuv Court Museum, Jerusalem
• Museum of Water and Security, Nir Am
• Rishon Lezion Museum
• Mane Katz Museum, Haifa
• International Stone in the Galilee Symposium
• Deer Forest, Moshav Odem, Golan Heights
• Ein Harod Museum
• Parobot, robotic dairy, Kfar Yehezkel
• Dan Sewage Reclamation Center – eco-art exhibition
• Massuah Holocaust Museum
• Corinne Maman Museum, Ashdod
• Ashdod Museum of Art, Monart Center
• Hai Negev, Revivim
• Israeli Museum at Yitzhak Rabin Center
• Reuven Rubin House, Tel Aviv
• Gan Guru, Nir David - Sakhne
• Haifa Zoo
• Botanical Gardens, Jerusalem
• Armored Corps Memorial, Latrun
• Bible Lands Museum, Jerusalem
• Joe Alon Bedouin Culture Museum, Negev
• First Aliyah Museum, Zichron Yaakov
• Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art
• Air Force Museum
• Haifa Museum for Israeli Art
• National Maritime Museum, Haifa
• Umm el-Fahm Art Museum
• Ghetto Fighters Museum, Lohamei Hagetaot
• Janco-Dada Museum, Ein Hod
• Nachum Gutman Museum, Tel Aviv
• Golan Antiquities Museum
• Katzrin Park
• Petah Tikva Art Museum
• Museum of Israeli Art, Ramat Gan
• Tel Aviv Museum of Art
• Museum of Pioneer Settlement in the Valley, Yifat
and Katzrin Park
RABBI SCHWARTZ FAVORITE QUOTE OF THE WEEK
It is extremely difficult for a Jew to be converted to christianity, for how can he bring himself to believe in the divinity of - another Jew?
RABBI SCHWARTZES FAVORITE YOUTUBE PESACH SONG OF THE WEEK
BYE BYE MR. PHAROAH GOOD-BYE
and on a more serious note