Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg
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l'iluy Nishmas Hena Hitza bas Eliyahu (Anne Dodick,
mother of Risa Rotman) z"l
on the occasion of her second Yohrzeit
and by an anonymous donor
Vol. 9 No. 25
The Four Cups - The Four Exiles
The four cups, as we know, are hinted in the Torah in the four expressions of redemption. The B'nei Yisaschar elaborates. In fact, he explains, the words "Ani Hashem" that precede the four expressions in Parshas Va'eira, hints at the exodus from Egypt, as Rashi and the Ramban discuss there. And the four expressions actually hint at the four exiles that would take place in the course of our history:
"ve'Hotzeisi hints at Galus Bavel, for so the Navi writes in Yeshayah "Go out from Bavel ... , flee from the Kasdim";
Interestingly, all this is hinted further in Sh'mos. The Torah writes there " ... va'yokutzu mipnei B'nei Yisrael" (1:12), which in terms of the Zohar, hints at Galus Mitzrayim. And further on (2:23) it says 'Va'yehi ba'yomim ho'rabim ho'heim". The letters 'rabim' form the first letters of Romi, Bavel, Yavan, Madai.
Elsewhere, the B'nei Yisaschar quoting the Chida, connects the four cups with the four good deeds through which Yisrael merited the redemption.
They retained their Jewish names - hence the first cup over which we recite 'Mekadesh Yisrael';
It seems to me that Yisrael attaining these Midos was largely due to Yosef. We know that Yosef sustained Yisrael materially, due to his Midah of Yesod (which, in Kabbalistic terminology, is the feed-pipe). It therefore stands to reason that, just as Yosef sustained K'lal Yisrael materially, and prepared them for the Ge'ulah, so too, did he sustain them spiritually, by imbuing them with the necessary Midos with which to merit the redemption. Indeed, we find all four of the above-mentioned Midos in connection with Yosef, at the time of his reunion with his brothers. He said to them -
(based on the Torah Temimah)
You Must be Dreaming!
Rebbi Yehoshua ben Levi in the Yerushalmi, connects the four cups at the Seider with the cups mentioned in connection with Paroh's dream "And the cup of Paroh was in my hand" (40:11); "And I squeezed them into the cup of Paroh"(40:11); "And I placed the cup on to Paroh's palm" (40:11); "And you shall place Paroh's cup into his hand" (40:13).
How strange, asks the Torah Temimah? There is a fifth Pasuk - "And he placed the cup on to the palm of Paroh" (40:21)? So why did Chazal not institute five cups?
And if you will argue that one of the Pesukim is needed for itself (and is therefore not superfluous, then surely, that should have been the first Pasuk, and the Yerushalmi ought to have quoted the fifth Pasuk, and omitted the first!
It seems to me however, that the answer is quite simple. The Yerushalmi lists all the Pesukim connected with the dream, no matter that the fourth Pasuk ("And you shall place Paroh's cup into his hand"), refers to Yosef's interpretation, and not to the actual dream itself. The fifth Pasuk on the other hand, has nothing whatsoever to do with the actual dream. It refers to the realization of the dream, and that explains why Rebbi Yehoshua ben Levi did not include it among the four ...
The Bavli on the other hand, takes a different view of things. Rava, in Chulin explains that the three cups mentioned in Egypt correspond to the cups of punishment that Egypt would have to drink in the course of history. One that they drank in the time of Moshe, one in the days of Paroh the Lame (at the hand of Nevuchadnetzar) and one that they are destined to drink together with all the other gentile nations in the days of Mashi'ach.
Clearly, Rava is concerned only with the cups mentioned in Paroh's dream, and does not even include that of Yosef's interpretation.
And it is in accordance with this explanation, that Rashi in Pesachim 108a. commenting on the four cups at the Seider, writes: 'Four cups, corresponding to the three mentioned in this Pasuk (40:11, which refer to Paroh's dream), and the fourth, is that of Birchas ha'Mazon (which one would drink after the meat anyway, Pesach or not).
'Ho lachma anyo di acholu avhosono be'ar'o de'Mitzrayim'.
The first and last letters of these words, says the Chida, add up to one hundred and seventeen, the number of years of slavery that our ancestors suffered in Egypt from the time that Levi died (when the Shibud began) until the Exodus.
The Ba'al Hagadah cites the Machlokes between ben Zoma and the Chachamim, whether the word 'all' comes to include the night (ben Zoma), or the time of Mashi'ach (the Chachamim).
The G'ra bases their dispute on the two implications of 'all' when it is used in this context - continual (extending that occasion) or continuous (repeating it on an ongoing basis). Ben Zoma adopts the first interpretation (by extending the day to include the night), and the Chachamim, the second (by adding more days).
Why did the disciples find it necessary to disturb the learned discussions of these great Tzadikim, by informing them that it was time to recite the Sh'ma?
The fact that it was time to read the Sh'ma, explains Rabbi Abramski, indicated that the Mitzvah of Hagadah no longer applied. In that case, they were obligated to stop speaking about Yetzi'as Mitzrayim and to fulfill the Mitzvah of reciting the Sh'ma (since there is no Mitzvah to relate the miracles of Egypt in the daytime. Had there been, they would have been exempt from reciting the Sh'ma, on account of the principle 'Someone who is performing a Mitzvah is exempt from performing another one which falls due').
Chazal extrapolate from the opening words of Hallel "Praise G-d , Praise Him, Slaves of Hashem", 'slaves of Hashem, and not of Paroh'.
The Medrash Shochar-Tov describes how, after Makas-Bechoros, Paroh said to Yisrael 'Until now, you were my slaves, but now you are free. You are your own masters; you are the slaves of Hakadosh Baruch Hu'. You need to praise Him because you are His slaves, as it is written "Praise Him slaves of Hashem!" '
Now this was precisely what G-d had asked of him one year earlier, when Moshe had said to him "So says Hashem 'Send out My people and let them serve Me!" And what did he answer then? 'Who is Hashem ... ?'
In the end, he did everything that Hashem asked of him. If only he had done so a year (even a few months) earlier, he could have saved so many lives, and spared so much anguish and devastation to himself, to his people and to his country .
It is a lesson which we can apply to ourselves. Ultimately, G-d's word will prevail, and we will be forced to conform. Better to conform now whilst the going is good, rather than wait until G-d forces us to do so anyway, and then suffer the consequences for not having chosen to do it of our own volition.
The B'nei Yisaschar adds a novel insight. Rashi at the end of Vayishlach explains how corresponding to the eight kings who ruled over Edom before Yisrael became a kingdom, eight kings ruled Yisrael, during which time there was no king in Edom (from Shaul to Yehoshafat), only governers.
It was in the days of Yehoshafat's son Yoram, the ninth king, that Edom finally broke away from the rule of Yisrael and appointed their own king. And that occurred on the same day that Eliyahu ascended to heaven in a fiery chariot. Their kingdom has extended right up to now and will come to an end, once and for all, when Eliyahu comes to announce the arrival of Mashi'ach. That is why we pour out the cup of Eliyahu and declare 'Sh'foch chamoscho el ha'Goyim ... ' (Pour your wrath on the nations who did not know You).
Given Paroh's history of broken promises, it is hardly surprising that even G-d did not consider Yisrael safe as long as he and his henchmen were alive. The fact that Paroh had sent Yisrael to freedom was in the long term (and even in the short) meaningless. Because, no matter what he said or how glad he was to send Yisrael away today, there was not the least reason to suppose that, once his initial fear had subsided, he would not send an army after them already the next day (as it transpired). To paraphrase Rashi in this very Parshah (14:7) "The only good Egyptian is a dead one. The finest snake, crush its brains".
(This is a Divine lesson that today's so-called leaders might do well to take to heart).
In essence, K'ri'as Yam-suf was unique, because it was the culmination of the miracles of Egypt, and because it marked the point where Yisrael were transformed into a free nation, as we just explained.
But there is more to it than that. K'ri'as Yam-suf was intrinsically unique, inasmuch as it was the first time that G-d performed miracles on behalf of K'lal Yisarael. In Egypt, He had performed them in order to punish Paroh. Granted, Yisrael was spared from that suffering, and granted that they were spared in a miraculous manner. But the objective of the miracle was to punish the Egyptians, not to save K'lal Yisrael.
Not so K'ri'as Yam-suf, which was performed as much to save Yisrael as to drown the Egyptians. And this is evident from the fact that the salvation of Yisrael took place before the drowning of the Egyptians and even more so from the ten miracles that took place in the Sea for the benefit of Yisrael. Add to this, Moshe's words to Yisrael prior to the event "Stand and see the salvation of Hashem, what Hashem will do *for you* (rather than 'to the Egyptians') today". Effectively, this was the method G-d chose to liberate Yisrael, which he did by destroying Paroh and his army, and this liberation took place in the form of a dual miracle.
In any event, Yisrael witnessed at K'ri'as Yam-suf, an incredible combination of Midas ha'Rachamim (to save Yisrael) and Midas ha'Din (to destroy the Egyptians) - symbolized by the Pillar of Cloud and the Pillar of Fire. These two Midos worked in concert, using exactly the same tools (the same dry floor-bed, the same miraculous splitting of the Sea, the same walls of water and the same pillars of Fire and of Cloud). They saved and destroyed miraculously, differing only in the way in which they manipulated them. That too, gave K'ri'as Yam-suf its unique character, and, together with the reasons that we mentioned earlier, help us to understand what caused Yisrael to sing Shiroh then and not earlier.
And perhaps we will be able to explain in this way the double expression in the Pasuk we quoted above "and I will redeem you with a strong hand and an outstretched arm". This Pasuk, as we explained, refers to K'ri'as Yam-suf, and Hashem is telling K'lal Yisrael here that He will display a strong Hand to save them, and an outstretched Arm to destroy the Egyptians.
A final proof that K'ri'as Yam-suf was primarily performed on behalf of K'lal Yisrael, lies in the wording of 'Dayeinu'. We say there 'Had He split the Sea for us and not taken us across (but only drowned the Egyptians)', or 'had He taken us across and not drowned the Egyptians, it would have sufficed'. The expression 'for us' makes it abundantly clear that whatever did or might have transpired, was first and foremost an act of Yisrael's salvation, and not of the Egyptians' destruction. That is what makes that miracle so unique and that is why it deserves our special gratitude.
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