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Post-Passover Thoughts

April 13, 2015

This is a passage from the first day’s haftara (Joshua 5:4-6):

And these are the ones whom Joshua circumcised: all the people who came forth (hayotzei) out of Egypt, that were males, even all the men of war, died in the wilderness by the way, after they came forth out of Egypt (b’ tzeitham mimitzrayim). For all the people who came out (hayotz’im) were circumcised; but all the people that were born in the wilderness by the way as they came forth out of Egypt (b’ tzeitham mimitzrayim), had not been circumcised. For the children of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, till all the nation, even the men of war who came forth out of Egypt (hayotz’im mimitzrayim), were consumed, because they hearkened not unto the voice of the LORD; unto whom the LORD swore that He would not let them see the land which the LORD swore unto their fathers that He would give us, a land flowing with milk and honey.

Why is it that the Israelites who left Egypt are constantly referred to here and in other places as “those who left Egypt,” in the present tense (although strictly speaking those present tense verbs mean “having left”), even many years after having done so? More so, why are their children, who were never even in Egypt, referred to as having left Egypt?

This is from Rabbi Rozen’s pre-Passover appeal to the Jewish people:

The most common reason given for drinking four cups of wine on Pesach, when “even a very poor man in Yisrael should not drink less than four cups,” is to represent the four different phrases of redemption which Moshe listed in the introduction to his message to the people enslaved in Egypt (Yerushalmi Talmud, Pesachim 10:1, where other reasons are also given). However, in the verses quoted above there are five variations of redemption – “I will take you out, I will rescue you, I will redeem you, I will take you for me, I will bring you to the land.” We can indeed have a discussion of exactly what redemption we have been yearning for all these years, with the themes of the progress towards the goal as presented in the verses. Is it sufficient to reach the stage that “I have redeemed you,” which is a matter of personal freedom? Or perhaps what is needed is the subsequent stage, religious nationalism, “I will take you for me as a nation.” However, there is also a fifth stage, “I will bring you to the land,” which completes the triangle, “the nation of Yisrael, in Eretz Yisrael, according to the Torah of Yisrael.”

And, indeed, the Rambam rules (but the Shulhan Aruch does not bring such a ruling!), “A fifth cup of wine should be poured, and Hallel should be recited over it… This cup is not an obligation like the other four.” [Hilchot Chametz U’Matza 8:10]. This custom of adding a fifth cup of wine, which is based on various different versions of the text in the Talmud, was adopted by the Geonim and has been discussed throughout the generations in terms of halacha…. Rabbi Kasher printed halachic “propaganda” in favor of a Fifth Cup in an appendix to Torah Sheleimah (the Torah portion of Va’eira), and also in a separate booklet. Rabbi Kasher bases his call on the Hagadda of the Maharal, where the following appears after “Hallel Hamitzri” (“Ki L’Olam Chasdo”): “The head of the household alone should take the Cup of Eliyahu and drink the wine while reclining, without a new blessing (but he should recite the blessing after drinking the wine), and he should say, ‘I am ready and prepared to observe the mitzva of the Fifth Cup which is related to the news of salvation, ‘And I will bring you to the land.'”

The answer to our question is that as long as a Jewish person has yet to make his way to the promised Land, it as though he is still leaving Egypt in the eyes of scripture.


From → parasha

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