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|March 18, 2018 1:00PM - 2:00PM|
Shem Mishmuel on Pesach (March 18)
Yesterday we studied some of the writings of the Shem miShmuel on Pesach.
As an historical aside the Shem miShmuel had a shared background with the Sfat Emet whose teachings we studied last week. Both of these great figures were spiritual heirs to Rabbi Bunam of Peshischa. Rabbi Bunam’s pre-eminent disciple was Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk. Rabbi Menachem Mendel’s brother-in-law was Rabbi Yitzchak Meir of Ger, the grandfather of the Sfat Emet. Rabbi Menachem Mendel himself was the grandfather of the Shem miShmuel.
We saw two of the teachings of the Shem miShmuel. On Shabbat of Pesach he discussed the Haftarah reading which is Ezekiel’s prophecy of the dried bones. The prophecy of the dried bones reattaching was meant to be a message to the Jews trapped in the Baylonian exile. The prophecy was a message of promise from Hashem- even if they feel abandoned Hashem has not forgotten about them and they will be redeemed.
The prophecy of the dried bones has always been seen as message for our hopes as a nation. But the Shem miShmuel says that it is also a message to each and every individual as well. At one time or another we all feel a sense of despair. We feel far from any spirituality. In a sense we feel that we are nothing more than dried bones.
Hashem speaks to us in those states of despair through the prophecy of the dried bones. The redemption of the dried bones was an act of pure kindness by Hashem. That is why the prophecy is read on Pesach. The redemption of Pesach was not based on any merit, as a people we had sunk to the lowest level of impurity in Egypt. We were redeemed solely because of Hashem’s kindness and the promise that He made to Avraham Avinu who was himself a person of pure kindness. When a person feels hopeless all that she or he needs to do is to reach out to Hashem and Hashem will answer. Hashem will answer anyone who calls out to Him- this is not contingent on being “worthy” all that is needed is the desire to be near Hashem. This is the message of the prophecy; Hashem redeems individuals as well as a people.
This is also why we count the days until Shavuot which is the holiday of receiving the Torah. Sefirat haOmer begins not on the Seder night, but rather on the second night of Pesach. On the second night of Pesach, on the night which follows the redemption from Egypt we need to remind ourselves that it was when things seemed hopeless that Hashem took us out of Egypt. We count the days following the Exodus in order to keep in mind that despair is the worst of all emotions. We must keep our faith in Hashem’s kindness alive within us.
On the seventh day of Pesach the Shem miShmuel spoke about the parting of the Red Sea.
The Torah mentions that we acquired faith in Hashem at the Red Sea:
שמות פרק יד
(לא) וַיַּרְא יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת הַיָּד הַגְּדֹלָה אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה ה' בְּמִצְרַיִם וַיִּירְאוּ הָעָם אֶת ה' וַיַּאֲמִינוּ בַּה' וּבְמֹשֶׁה עַבְדּוֹ:
Many commentators have asked why faith is emphasized at the Red Sea and not when we actually went free after the Ten Plagues. The Shem miShmuel gives his own answer to this question.
According to the Shem miShmuel there are two types of faith. One type of faith is “simple faith.” It is the faith in Hashem who sees all and rules over the entire world. This simple faith was handed to our ancestors in Egypt over the generations and was not acquired at the Exodus. Our ancestors already possessed this faith when they left Egypt.
The second type of faith is different. This faith is the faith that even when are dealing with crises we believe that these crises are sent by Hashem to help us to grow. Even if a person suffers a crisis of faith and has sinned terribly, he or she needs to believe that Hashem is waiting for them to repent and then Hashem will welcome them.
How was this faith acquired at the Red Sea? According to the Shem miShmuel the Jews when they left Egypt knew that their destination was Mount Sinai where they would receive the Torah. The Red Sea was not the direct route to Mount Sinai. The Jews thought that the march towards the Red Sea was meant to purify them, a sort of mortification of the flesh. However it was after the miracle when the sea split that they were inspired to sing the praises of Hashem with אז ישיר משה ובני ישראל..... Why were they inspired to sing at the Red Sea and not the Exodus? The Shem miShmuel says that their inspiration came because they understood that crises such as the one they faced at the Red Sea are meant to teach us. Even though the Jews doubted that Hashem meant to save them even though they accused Moshe Rabbeinu of taking them out to the desert to die Hashem saved them. The Jews learned that Hashem is patient with us and is always ready to accept our teshuvah. This is what we learned at the Red Sea.
Happy Pesach to everyone,
שמות פרק ג
(יב) וַיֹּאמֶר כִּי אֶהְיֶה עִמָּךְ וְזֶה לְּךָ הָאוֹת כִּי אָנֹכִי שְׁלַחְתִּיךָ בְּהוֹצִיאֲךָ אֶת הָעָם מִמִּצְרַיִם תַּעַבְדוּן אֶת הָאֱ-לֹהִים עַל הָהָר הַזֶּה: 
 שמות פרק יד
(יא) וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֶל מֹשֶׁה הַמִבְּלִי אֵין קְבָרִים בְּמִצְרַיִם לְקַחְתָּנוּ לָמוּת בַּמִּדְבָּר מַה זֹּאת עָשִׂיתָ לָּנוּ לְהוֹצִיאָנוּ מִמִּצְרָיִם: