February 12th, 2007
|08:51 am - The troublesome text (very long)|
I missed the beginning of class, thinking it started at 9:30 instead of 9, but I don't know that I missed all that much. I think the Rabbi made an effort to catch me up seamlessly, knowing that I was taking notes. The Hebrew text and most of the Biblical translations are taken from http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0.htm.
The text that we went over in today's class is a particularly troublesome one. After the meal on Passover is finished, we fill the fourth cup of wine and Elijah's cup, throw open the door and say out into the streets:
Pour out Your wrath on the nations that do not know You and on the kingdoms that do not call upon Your name. For they have devoured Jacob and laid waste his habitation (Psalm 79:67) Pour out Your indignation upon them, and let Your fierce anger overtake them. (Psalm 69:25) Pursue them in wrath and destroy them under the heavens of the Lord (Lamentations 3:66)
And this has always been a troubling verse for our family personally. We're not wrathful, destroying people by nature. We're peace-loving and we like our neighbors. So why are we screaming at them in the middle of night? That hardly seems peace-loving and neighborly.
In the Code of Laws, where the laws are distilled out into practices (Shuchan Aruch by R. Joseph Cairo) there's a simple explanation. We're not afraid of our neighbors on Passover because we're protected and this shows that on the night the commemorates our redemption, we believe that G-d will protect us, so it's safe to open the doors and yell in the middle of the night. It also tells us where it goes in the Seder. After the 3rd cup of wine, which is drunk as part of the "Grace After Meals."
[I'm approximating the above paragraph. That's the section I missed. And here's where I came in.]
So, to recap (for me, since I just walked in...) why not go in the right order? And isn't the repetition of ideas a little bit like overkill? Why two verses of Psalms, out of order, + the verse about pursuit from Lamentations.
What's the intention here?
And this line from Lamentations is pretty mild considering the majority of Jeremiah's writings. So why this verse, specifically?
Let's back up. At the opening of the Seder, we recite the 15 captions of the chapters and it's part of the service. It's in all the Hagaddahs. Who reads the TOC as part of an oral recitation of the book? The order of Seder is a key component of the seder. Many households and many books recite the order of the seder. And there is a lot of discussion about this. It's clearly important. It's not like the table of contents in a book which you just skip over.
Some of the discussion centers on the 15 chapters, which correspond to the 15 steps in the templer, 15 verses of Shir Ha'maalot, etc. There are many commentaries around this. But it's clear and obvious that it was intended to be part of the service, not simply a TOC.
The only debate about what should be in the hagaddah concerns these our paragraph, "Pour out Your wrath". Does it belong with the "Grace After Meals" or is it the introduction to the Hallel, which begins immediately after it. There's this odd break between the drinking of the third cup and the Hallel section where we do this: poor Elijah's cup, open the door, say this paragraph, and close the door. Then we go immediately into the verses of Hallel. Is it the introduction to Hallel or is it part of Grace after Meals (hereafter called "benching" which is Yiddish)? It doesn't really fit in either section.
But approximately 700-800 years ago, this paragraph shows up. Where did they put it? Between the chapters? Or as part of the chapter before or after. Many Haggadahs consider it the completion of benching and put it in that chapter, others put it in Hallel, as a type of introduction.
Where it's placed adds a dimension to the story.
During the time of Joseph Cairo, there was another scholar R. Israel Meiri. He was one of the first commentators to write long accessible commentaries. He talks about how the Hallel is split, to a bit before the meal and a bit after the meal. This is his commentary, roughly translated:
"Since we just sat and gave grace to G-d for the fact that He gave us food, this is an expression of thanks to God for the food. In Psalm 14 it says, 'The nations of the world eat your food and don't say thank you.' So when we eat the food and thank G-d, we mention there are other nations that don't thank G-d, and for this reason, G-d should pour out His wrath on the nations that don't thank Him." So the Me'iri interprets this paragraph as a conclusion to Benching. Don't be angry with us, because we thank you, be angry with them.
So why on Passover do we merit this revelation that other nations don't Bench. Why does Passover get this little extra bit to Benching? We always thank G-d for the food. Why tonight do we top it off with not only our own grace to G-d, but a denunciation of the nations that don't thank G-d.
The Benching is composed of 3 blessings (originally. A fourth was added later)
Hazan et ha'kol (God feeds everyone)
al aretz v'al hamazon (for the land and for the food)
boneh b'rachamav Yerushalim (who, in his mercy, builds Jerusalem)
So it starts off with a general blessing about feeding everyone, then it gets more specific, it's still about food, but it's also about the land of Israel, and then finally, it's not about the land of Israel, it's specifically about one piece (the Temple) in one city (Jerusalem).
We go from nurishing the world, to a blessing about the land of Israel, and then ultimately, building Jerusalem, specifically the Temple. You come off these three blessings on the night of Passover, and realize that the way you became a people was that G-d nurtured us, then He gave us Israel, and then gave us the Temple.
Then we realize we've backslid. We have no Temple anymore. There's something missing. On Passover after we bench, and we say these 3 blessings about how G-d constructed Judaism culminating in the Temple, but now, because of our enemies, there's no Temple.
therefore, we ask G-d, pour out your wrath on our enemies and restore to us our Temple.
Joesphus the historian wrote a history in latin (now translated into many languages) of Jerusalem in Roman times. It's often used as a historical account of what happened back in the day. So there's a story he tells in Antiquities, Book 18, Chapter 2 about Passover night. In the Temple, the priests used to open the gates on Passover night just after midnight and allow people in. But then there were those who corrupted the moment by bringing dead bodies into the temple, so the priests either stopped allowing people in or watched more closely who was allowed in.
The Torah law says every family has to bring a sacrifice for passover. It must be brought in before noon and consumed before midnight, [which is why we must eat the Afikomen, which represents the sacrifice, before midnight.] The passover sacrifice can only be eaten up to midnight.
How much lamb can a person or a family eat though? And how does everyone afford it? To handle these problems, they joined up families, and you had to eat with your family in the Temple, because you had to eat your sacrifice on the Temple mount. So effectively, the whole population of the Jewish people were tailgating on Temple mount and had to finish the tailgating party by midnight. After midnight, you could leave your group (family), you should join another family to conclude the seder, so the Temple mount doors were opened. The doors were closed prior to midnight so no one would accidentally wander off the mountain with the meat. When everyone was done with the sacrifice, they opened the dates, and celebrated the completion of the passover sacrifice and people could move around. But they had to curtail the celebration because people abused it.
So here we are now, we eat approximately about midnight and we rush to finish by midnight. We bench after eating our ritual sacrifice, and then we throw our doors open. And then we say that if it hadn't been for the enemies, this custom would never have been lost, it would still be done as it was in the Temple. If the goal was to punish the nations, why not mention it when the punishment of the Egyptians is discussed? If that was the goal, there was space for it there. But now we see that maybe it's just a revival of the old custom of throwing open the Temple doors.
The Vilna Gaon's Haggadah has been translated and provides his interpretation: You recite this at this point to serve as an introduction to the next part of Hallel. The first part of Hallel deals with the original redemption. The second part of the Hallel deals with the final redemption. The final redemption cannot take place until the wicked are humbled. The Rabbis found it important that we must emphasize the destruction of the wicked as a prelude to the final redemption.
This is how most Haggadah's interperate this pargraph.
Okay, but that interpretation still leaves us a few questions, such as: Why do we need to pick up Elijah's cup? Why not fill up the cup afterwards? Why do we need to open the door?
Don Yitzcah Abarbanel was a Spanish commentator who lived before the Spanish Inquisition and was the finance minister for Queen Isabella. He would have been granted an exemption from the exile, but he refused to take it, left Spain and he ultimately ended up in Israel. His commentary states that he also believes it's part of the second section of Hallel, but there's a difference.
The first part of Hallel is personal, specifically for the Jews, and it talks about Egypt, and the second part is general, for all humanity, and it talks about the future, the ultimate redemption. Since we interrupted the Hallel for dinner, we use this as a transition, both to recall the leaving from Egypt and to link to the future redemption.
Hashem's objectives when he took the Jews out of Egypt were two-fold
1 recognition of G-d
2 a punishment to those who don't recognize him.
Who is the "them" that G-d wants to recognize Him. Everyone. Not just the Jews. And additionally, those who don't recognize him will be punished. And this is why it's here. So not only do you pick up the literal meaning, the destruction of those who don't belive, but also, it acknowledges those who do recognize G-d.
Jeremiah during the destruction of the first temple expresses a similar sentiment. His verse reads: (Jeremiah 10:25) Pour out Thy wrath upon (עַל) the nations that know Thee not, and upon the families (מִשְׁפָּחוֹת) that call not on Thy name; for they have devoured Jacob, yea, they have devoured him and consumed him, and have laid waste his habitation.
Our verses from Psalms read: Pour out Thy wrath upon (אֶל) the nations that know Thee not, and upon the kingdoms (מַמְלָכוֹת-) that call not upon Thy name. For they have devoured Jacob, and laid waste his habitation.
Notice the difference in language, The psalmist doesn't call for punishment to be meted out to the masses, the individual families, and the language of how you approach the nations that do not call out in G-d's name is different. And also there's an additional idea in Jeremiah "They devoured and consumed Jacob," it's heavier, more graphic language. So why do we pick Psalms voice over Jeremiah's. We use Jeremiah (Lamentations) already in the third verse, why not skip Psalms entirely, and use the lines from Jeremiah along with Lamentations?
So lets think about the difference between King David and Jeremiah. King David was thinking about building Jerusalem. Jeremiah was watching the destruction of Jerusalem and he had no hope for the future of Jewish people. And he wrote some of the harshest language about G-d stopping the destruction before it happened. King David has a different position. There was a lot of bickering in Israel, but it was mostly internal. So when King David says bring it "to" the nations, he's asking G-d to approach them. Come to the nations and deal with them. The language of Jeremiah is "Al Hagoyim" bring it "upon" them or "over" them. Overwhelm them utterly. They shouldn't exist anymore. King David's language sets up a mild approach, bring your anger to them, and if they wont accept you, you can back down. Al Hagoyim removes that aspect, bring it to them regardless of whether they accept you, judge them and overwhelm them completely.
David also says bring it to leaders of the nations so the nations themselves acknowledge you.
Jeremiah says bring it to the masses, the people, and wipe them out entirely.
The language of David wasn't a destructive force, it was a plea to redeem those who want to redeemed and destroy those who don't want to be redeemed. Jeremiah removed the element of choice, and wants them destroyed utterly. That's why the Hagaddah uses the language of King David so it can present the duality of ideas in a way people will pick up on. The opening of the door now becomes, in effect, the opening of the door that G-d opens for the righteous nations to accept G-d
That's why it starts with the later verse of the psalm, rather than the earlier one, so people can immediately see the verse of the psalmist and realize it's not the harsh condemnation of Jeremiah we're seeking, but the dual approach of redemption for those who want it, and destruction for those who don't want rememption. This next redemption is a complete redemption of the entire world, not just the Jews, and the nations have a right to be redeemed like the Jews. The future redemption is not a Jewish thing, it's universal and every nation has the right to be a part of it. And that's why Elijah's cup is there, because it's not a focus on destruction, it's a focus on redemption, and the destruction is brought out to contrast it to the rememption.
Pursue them in wrath, is the last line of the 3rd chapter of Lamentations. The chapter reads as follows: I'm going to divide it by theme.
The first theme is the punishment that G-d has given to me.
1. I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of His wrath.
2 He hath led me and caused me to walk in darkness and not in light.
3 Surely against me He turneth His hand again and again all the day.
4 My flesh and my skin hath He worn out; He hath broken my bones.
5 He hath builded against me, and compassed me with gall and travail.
6 He hath made me to dwell in dark places, as those that have been long dead.
7 He hath hedged me about, that I cannot go forth; He hath made my chain heavy.
8 Yea, when I cry and call for help, He shutteth out my prayer.
9 He hath enclosed my ways with hewn stone, He hath made my paths crooked.
10 He is unto me as a bear lying in wait, as a lion in secret places.
11 He hath turned aside my ways, and pulled me in pieces; He hath made me desolate.
12 He hath bent His bow, and set me as a mark for the arrow.
13 He hath caused the arrows of His quiver to enter into my reins.
14 I am become a derision to all my people, and their song all the day.
15 He hath filled me with bitterness, He hath sated me with wormwood.
16 He hath also broken my teeth with gravel stones, He hath made me to wallow in ashes.
17 And my soul is removed far off from peace, I forgot prosperity.
This line is where the focus changes from the suffering of I (Jeremiah) at the Lord's hands to praise of G-d and expectation of future change.
18 And I said: 'My strength is perished, and mine expectation from the LORD.'
19 Remember mine affliction and mine anguish, the wormwood and the gall.
20 My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is bowed down within me.
21 This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.
22 Surely the LORD'S mercies are not consumed, surely His compassions fail not.
23 They are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness.
24 'The LORD is my portion', saith my soul; 'Therefore will I hope in Him.'
25 The LORD is good unto them that wait for Him, to the soul that seeketh Him.
26 It is good that a man should quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.
27 It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.
28 Let him sit alone and keep silence, because He hath laid it upon him.
29 Let him put his mouth in the dust, if so be there may be hope.
30 Let him give his cheek to him that smiteth him, let him be filled full with reproach.
31 For the Lord will not cast off for ever.
32 For though He cause grief, yet will He have compassion according to the multitude of His mercies.
33 For He doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.
34 To crush under foot all the prisoners of the earth,
35 To turn aside the right of a man before the face of the Most High,
36 To subvert a man in his cause, the Lord approveth not.
37 Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not?
38 Out of the mouth of the Most High proceedeth not evil and good?
39 Wherefore doth a living man complain, a strong man because of his sins?
40 Let us search and try our ways, and return to the LORD.
41 Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens.
42 We have transgressed and have rebelled; Thou hast not pardoned.
43 Thou hast covered with anger and pursued us; Thou hast slain unsparingly.
44 Thou hast covered Thyself with a cloud, so that no prayer can pass through.
45 Thou hast made us as the offscouring and refuse in the midst of the peoples.
And through the above section, notice how was again turn back towards the punishment aspects leading to this final section, where we ask that our enemies now be punished, as we have suffered and repented and paid for our sins, but they haven't.
46 All our enemies have opened their mouth wide against us.
47 Terror and the pit are come upon us, desolation and destruction.
48 Mine eye runneth down with rivers of water, for the breach of the daughter of my people.
49 Mine eye is poured out, and ceaseth not, without any intermission,
50 Till the LORD look forth, and behold from heaven.
51 Mine eye affected my soul, because of all the daughters of my city.
52 They have chased me sore like a bird, that are mine enemies without cause.
53 They have cut off my life in the dungeon, and have cast stones upon me.
54 Waters flowed over my head; I said: 'I am cut off.'
55 I called upon Thy name, O LORD, Out of the lowest dungeon.
56 Thou heardest my voice; hide not Thine ear at my sighing, at my cry.
57 Thou drewest near in the day that I called upon Thee; Thou saidst: 'Fear not.'
58 O Lord, Thou hast pleaded the causes of my soul; Thou hast redeemed my life.
59 O LORD, Thou hast seen my wrong; judge Thou my cause.
60 Thou hast seen all their vengeance and all their devices against me.
61 Thou hast heard their taunt, O LORD, and all their devices against me;
62 The lips of those that rose up against me, and their muttering against me all the day.
63 Behold Thou their sitting down, and their rising up; I am their song.
64 Thou wilt render unto them a recompense, O LORD, according to the work of their hands.
65 Thou wilt give them hardness of heart, Thy curse unto them.
66 Thou wilt pursue them in anger, and destroy them from under the heavens of the LORD.
And as mentioned it ends with our sentence from the Haggadah. The progression starts with ideas like: only against me did he turn his hand. He has walled me in. Weighed me down with chains....etc. Then it switches and we ask G-d to remember us in our affliction and we start buttering G-d up, and we still believe in you and trust that you will do good for me. Our enemies jeer at us, and we let G-d off the hook a little bit, and the nations are doing this to us, not so much G-d. And at the end, we say, "pay them back" for what they've done to us.
So how much can you blame the nations when we begin with the premise that G-d is doing to this? Then we say that maybe the messenger got carried away bringing G-d's message. They got too excited about the destruction they brought to the Jews. Punish them for that. It's a kind of weak argument. If the nations understood their relationship with G-d, as we do: that we're being punished for our own sins, it would be less severe, but the messanger has lost touch with the message he was supposed to bring. If we allow the nations to change, and we also change, and we all join together to do G-d's will, there's no need for punishment. The nations carry out G-d's will in the way He wants, with loving kindness and with mercy, and this brings about the ultimate redemption.
That's why it's part of the Hallel and we pour the wine for Elijah.
The rebbe Rashab, R. Shalom DovBer one of the leaders of Chabad told his son, the Frierdiker rebbe, that when you sit at the Seder and meditate, meditate on being a good person. This applies especially when the door is open. It brings out the humanity of the world. You have to be a mench in order to make the world be a mench.
If you understand the language, you understand that King David was speaking of redemption in a counter-language. To bring this point home even further, there was a Haggadah in Worms, Germany that this paragraph printed along with the "Pour out your wrath" text:
Pour out Your love on the nations who have known You.
And on the kingdoms who call upon your name.
For they show loving-kindness to the seed of Jacob,
And they defend Your people Israel from those,
Who would devour them alive.
May they live to see the sukkah of peace spread over Your chosen ones,
And to participate in the joy of Your nations.
That's why we're not embarassed to open the door and scream out. That's why we're not ashamed to stand there and speak to Elijah who will introduce the redemption of the Nations.
Read Nishmat for next time
Current Mood: contemplative
You lost me a bit near the end, but the text in the Worms Haggadah warmed my heart. I can't quite draw that meaning from the original text alone, but that makes a nice counterpoint.