March 1st, 2005
|05:29 pm - Just what you've been searching for.|
After the introduction to the Rabbis, the Rabbis continue on discussing how to tell the story. Then suddenly it finishes and with Baruch HaMakom which is an entirely different direction for the Haggadah.
Now instead of a) the story, or b) how to tell it, we talk about 3) for whom to tell the story, saying "When G-d spoke about the Exodus from the Egypt, He addressed himself to four children." It could continue with a transition from the previous section, but it doesn't. It changes direction, First it praises G-d for giving the Torah and continues on to talk about the four children. How does this relate to the story or how you tell it?
Additionally, amoung the four children being addressed is the wicked child. Does G-d speak to the wicked?
The Talmud says "You are the children of your G-d." At a time when you ask in the manner of children, you're called a child. If you don't behave a child, the term child is removed from you. (You're cast out.) [Comperable to the punishment of spiritual excision] There is a descenting minority, Reb Meir,, who says you're a child regardless of if you sin. But the Halach follows the majority opinion stated above by Rebbe (R. Yehudah) that when you sin, you are no longer considered a child.
From this we can understand that generally, G-d does not speak to the wicked, but about the exodus from Egypt, G-d does speak even to wicked.
This paragraph invites in both the story of giving the Torah which might not be relevant to the Exodus, and the concept that we're speaking to the wicked child who would normally be excluded.
As we celebrate Passover, there are four cups of wine. Why? Because there are four expressions for removing the Jews from Egypt, (Exodus 6:6-7) "6:6 Therefore, say to the Israelites, 'I am the Lord. I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from the hard labor they impose, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. 6:7 I will take you to myself for a people, and I will be your God." And based on those four expressions, we build the Seder. There is a fifth expression there that gets ignored: (Exodus 6:9) "I will bring you to the land [Israel]…". That expression gets left out, the Rabbis determined that the Exodus was the most important, and the subsequent verse was omitted.
The reason it was omitted is because in principle, they didn't want to create the feeling that going out of Egypt was tied to the land of Israel. The emphasis is on the act of leaving Egypt and that's the holiday and truth that should not be identified with something outside of it.
Why then should we then identify the holiday with the giving of the Torah? As the Haggadah says, even if we had not been given the Torah, Diyyanu! Why confuse the issue! Why not keep the giving of the Torah reserved for Shavuot, which celebrates the giving of the 10 commandments.
In Exodus it says, about the Jews leaving Egypt, "chamushim ala beyadah". Rashi explains this as they wernt out of Egypt armed. And also since Chamushim means a fifth, that they walked away with 1/5th of the Jewish people. The rest stayed behind in Egypt.
Additional commentaries say it was the mixed multitude numbered 1:5. So for every 5 Jews, there was 1 other people who wasn't Jewish. This ended up creating chaos in the community because they didn't want to be part of the religion, they only wanted to leave Egypt. According to Rab. Jose, it was 1/6th. Rabbi Judah says 1/50.
Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochi says in the Zohar that the word "chamushim" is an allusion to the Jubilee year that allowed them to leave Egypt. Jubilee is traditionally when all slaves go free. This is also why 50 days had to pass before the Jews could receive the Torah. They were focused on 50. The Omer (period between Passover night and Shavuot is 49 days, and on the 50th day, you receive the law.
This is also comparable to the 49 gateways of knowledge, with the 50th being the essence of G-d.
The culmination of everything, built into the Jewish perception of why they're leaving Egypt is the Torah. The reason they wanted to leave Egypt was to reach 50, to reach the Torah, the final pinnacle of the connection to G-d.
This shows the interdependency between the Exodus and the giving of the Torah. Without the Torah, the Jews couldn't reach the ultimate connection with G-d, they weren't finished becoming a nation.
Prior to the giving to the Torah, the only practical applications of Judaism were monotheism, and circumcision. But when they left Egypt, they knew a whole new reality awaited them, a new way to connect to G-d. And they had an insight that they were going to receive more than just a pass out of Egypt, they had a sense that something was about to happen on a religious level, and on a practical level.
So built into the Exodus is the psychological preparation for receiving the Torah.
Prior to the Exodus, the individual was responsible for establishing their own ways to connect to G-d. It says that Jacob woke up one morning and dotted sheep to separate his flock from his uncle's, and the Zohar says it was a meditative process; his ritualistic way of worshiping G-d, like putting on Tefilin.
After the Torah, those individual rituals fall away to make room for the G-d given commandments which are not just a connection to G-d, but actual G-dliness.
So the reason to end the how you tell the story by focusing on the goal of the story, is a logical shift.
The Baruch HaMakom paragraph contains the word Baruch (blessed) four times. The blessings over the Torah also contain the word Baruch four times.
The first of the Seder focused on stories and what other people said. The part that comes up focusing on studying the scripture. We tell the story from structure and follow it with interperations of the scripture, like a study class. Because it's a study class, we should makes a blessing. We should acknowledge the difference between what comes after and what came before. And therefore the prayer mimics the blessing, which you've already said first thing in the morning as part of the morning prayers
Because the Torah is intimately connected with the Exodus, it makes sense that we study and analyze the Torah.
Why does the Haggah use the expression of "Baruch Hamakom" (Blessed is "the Presence" (or "the place")). When you comfort a mourner, you use the expression "HaMakom" as an allusion to G-d as well, because a person who is depressed over morning is defying G-d in a way. It's a state of not accepting that what's happening is true and necessary. Mourning is natural, but maybe it's excessive and in the mourners mind, his heart is heavy towards G-d. He doesn't understand why it happens. But out of respect to the mourner, you say "haMakom" because it might be easier to accept.
Why use that language here though?
When Jacob leaves his father after stealing the blessings and he's headed to Charom, and he encountered 'the place" and he dreams his ladder dream, and he wakes up and says "I realize now that there is G-d in this place." He encountered "Makom". The Midrash taks it for granted that this is an encounter with G-d. And it asks, why do we change G-d's name? Why is He referred to in this somewhat quirky way. R. Hua says in R. Ammi's name, it's because G-d is the place of the world.
R. Jose b. Halafta asks, "Is it that? or is the world G-d's place?" G-d occupies the world, but the world doesn't occupy him. Either G-d is the place of the world, and he's the energy in the world and beyond it, or the only thing we know of G-d is the world. Finite existence is the only capacity we have to measure G-d.
From a Jewish perspective, that limits G-d. The essence of G-d is beyond the finite and the infinite; beyond the spiritual and the physical as it is said: "Behold there is a place with me." It follows that the L-rd is the place of the world, but His world is not His place.
When we use the term HaMakom, we're trying to gain an understanding of G-d which goes beyond how G-d reveals Himself in the world.
If you immerse yourself in any aspect of G-d, you can become fooled into thinking that's an accurate measurement of G-d. Makom is the true place of G-d because it's beyond both infinite and finite. The word Makom identifies a truth beyond the normal allusions contained in G-d's name. (for example: Hasham kindness; Elokim judgment, etc.)
These individual attribute-based names don't represent the sum total of G-d. They limit Him.
As an analogy, you can't take the name of G-d into the bathroom, but you can take the world HaMakom into the bathroom. G-d doesn't cease to watch you because you're in the bathroom. G-d has the ability to be everywhere, because he transcends constraints. The attribute of Hasham doesn't transcend constraints, it is, by definition, constrained.
So the Haggadah wants to talk about the G-d who is beyond constraints. Tonight we're attaching to the most upper level of G-d's truth, beyond the normal constraints our interpretations of G-d, just like Jacob when he woke up from his dream and started to realize an essential truth about G-d.
Using "Baruch Hamakom" as an expression seems like it's concealing G-d rather than revealing it.
In Talmud it talks about the time of Issaiah, when Menaseh got rid of him, first by branding him as a false prophet and then used that as a justification for killing him.
Meneseh says: "Moshe your teacher declared you will never be able to see my face. Because no one will see my face and live. And you said, "I saw G-d seated on a high and lofty throne.""
He continued in this vein, trying to discredit Isaiah.
Isaiah's reaction was to escape, recognizing that they would kill him regardless of what he said.
The Gemorah says the verses do appear to contradict each other, but they don't.
Isaiah's statement does not contradict Moshe, because prophesy is generally given through an unclear glass. Moshe's vision would never be achieved, because he possessed an unusual clarity of vision granted by G-d.
In the Torah where this is described, G-d says "Henay Makom itey" which is literally translated "There is a place in me." ("I have a set aside place for you" is the common translation).
What's unique about Moshe's vision is the place that G-d separated for Moshe. It is not an expression like the other expressions in the previous verse (Exodus 33:19 "I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the L-rd before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.", where in Exodus 33:21, G-d says "I have a place in me." That relationship in 21 is beyond the usual expressions of G-d. We witness G-d in the expressions of the usual: favor, mercy, and goodness (or in the terms I quoted: goodness, graciousness, and compassion)
Tonight in Baruch HaMakom, we want to move beyond the usual expressions and relate to G-d on an essential level, where the relationship goes beyond us identifying G-d as the expressions of what he does, but rather as a whole.
The prophets say: "G-d considers Esav and Jacob brothers," and it G-d's eyes, there's no difference.
But we know that G-d does favor Jacob over Esav. He's closer to goodness than evil. We've defined G-d as someone who prefers good to evil; this is at the level of expression again. But essentially, at the core, beyond expression, there's no difference between brothers and children of G-d, regardless of deeds. On that level of Makom, which doesn't discount any of G-d's children, including the evil, he speaks to all his children equally, even though who would normally be denied the opportunity to join.
Tonight we want to be like Moshe, to relate to G-d beyond the confines of expression. We want to relate to the essential bond of the Jews to G-d.
This may radically affect my ability to sing this song at the Seder. I hope everyone realizes that.
No, stop applauding, I didn't mean I wouldn't sing it.
Current Mood: accomplished
It looks cute! We use the Prince of Egypt Haggadah. It has a centerfold of the crossing of the red sea. It's bizzare, but I like it.
We were using the Maxwell House coffee Haggadahs before that. The language was...archane and in some places rather embarassing for us kids to have to read in front of our parents.
And we're from Kentucky, so our accents around some of them fancified city words is both atrocious and repulsive.
I'll bring a copy for you to look at the next book club.
Speaking of books we need to pick a date to exchange other books!
Next Tuesday isn't great for me, but the one after it might be okay. When did we schedule the next meeting for again?
March 22 for the meeting.
We can do another day other than Tuesdays if that works better.
Normally Tues is great for me, I just don't know how energetic I'll feel since I'm going out of town this weekend.
Ah I see..how about the 15th then? we can always do later this month as well.
no major rush.
I could have sworn book club was on the 15th so it wouldn't be on a 2nd or 4th Tuesday again (when I sort of have another commitment, although it's not hard and fast). I am definitely free on the 15th and 29th though or just about any Monday or Thursday.