Pesach Sheni 5767
We recite fifteen blessings every morning:
ברוך… אשר נתן לשכוי בינה להבחין בין יום ובין לילה
Blessed… who has given the rooster the ability to discern between light and darkness
ברוך… שלא עשני גוי
Blessed… for not making me a gentile
ברוך… שלא עשני עבד
Blessed… for not making me a slave
ברוך… שלא עשני אשה/שעשני כרצונו
Blessed… for not making me a woman/ or making me according to His will
ברוך… פוקח עורים
Blessed… who gives sight to the blind
ברוך… מלביש ערמים
Blessed… who dresses the naked
ברוך… מתיר אסורים
Blessed… who frees the incarcerated
ברוך… זוקף כפופים
Blessed… who raises up those who are stooped
ברוך… רוקע הארץ על המים
Blessed… who sets the land upon the waters
ברוך… המכין מצעדי גבר
Blessed… who prepares the footsteps of man
ברוך… שעשה לי כל צרכי
Blessed… who has provided me with my needs
ברוך… אוזר ישראל בגבורה
Blessed… who girds Israel with heroism
ברוך… עוטר ישראל בתפארה
Blessed… who crowns Israel with glory
ברוך… הנותן ליעף כח
Blessed… who grants strength to the tired
And the last blessing…
ויהי רצון מלפניך…ברוך המעביר שנה מעיני ותנומה מעפעפי…ברוך את ה’ הגומל חסדים טובים לעמו ישראל
Blessed… who withdraws sleep from my eyes and slumber from my eye lids… Blessed… who grants benevolence to His Nation Yisrael…May it be Your will…
When analyzing the blessings, one could get the impression that although they relate to very basic issues – which indeed require the offering of thanks to the Almighty – there is no common thread joining them nor a discernible intellectual framework which guided the rabbis who instituted the blessings.
In addition to the apparent disconnected content of the blessings, there is another difficulty. At the end of every blessing recited by the chazzan, we must reply with “Amen.” The only exception is with the last blessing, “Blessed… who withdraws sleep from my eyes and slumber from my eye lids,” where the “Amen” is delayed until the end of an additional lengthy blessing which closes with, “Blessed… who grants benevolence to His Nation Yisrael.” Why?
I suggest that there is, indeed, a definite framework within which the rabbis composed these fifteen blessings. It is the episode of the exodus from Egypt.
With this in mind, the blessings and their order become rational and mandatory:
Pharaoh came to Moshe at midnight of the fifteenth of Nisan (seder night) to order him and the Jewish people to immediately leave Egypt. Moshe refused, saying that that we will not leave like “thieves in the night” but in daylight, as a proud people, with heads high, for all to see.
From midnight on, the Jewish nation waited impatiently for the first rays of dawn, which would signal daylight. When the roosters crowed, the rabbis knew that day had come; and they enacted the first blessing, “Blessed… who has given the rooster the ability to discern between light and darkness.” This was not to glorify the natural ability of roosters to discern the beginning of morning, but to indelibly set in our national consciousness the glory of that night.
When looking back at what they left, the Jews saw the condition of the Egyptian people where not a home was without a death. This gave rise to the second bracha, “Blessed… for not making me a gentile.” At the first taste of freedom they said, “Blessed… for not making me a slave.”
The first mitzva given by HaShem to the nation to sacrifice a lamb or goat and put its blood on the doorposts was directed at the males of the nation. So they recited, “Blessed… for not making me a woman,” in order to be obligated to do this first mitzva.
The flight out of Egypt came on the wake of the plague of darkness, when the Egyptians were blinded but the Jews were able to see. So they praised HaShem with the blessing, “Blessed… who gives sight to the blind.”
HaShem commanded Moshe to instruct the people to “borrow” vessels and clothing from their Egyptian neighbors. This was to enable the Jews to shed their tattered clothing of slavery and don the clothing of free men. So they recited the next two blessings, “Blessed… who dresses the naked, Blessed… who frees the incarcerated.”
Since a slave is prohibited from standing erect, the people now recited, “Blessed… who raises up those who are stooped.”
Upon seeing the waters of Yam Suf turned into dry land they said, “Blessed… who sets the land upon the waters.”
When the Jewish nation saw the might army of Pharaoh running berserk into the death trap of the split waters, they praised HaShem with, “Blessed… who prepares the footsteps of man.”
While walking in the twelve lanes of the parted waters (one for each tribe) that were filled with drinking water, fruit and other luxuries, the Jews said, “Blessed… who has provided me with my needs.”
Upon being victorious in their battle against Amalek in Refidim, the people said, “Blessed… who girds Israel with heroism.”
When receiving the Torah, the people were blessed with “atarim”, crowns of glory and they recited, “Blessed… who crowns Israel with glory.”
And when the episode of the Exodus and all that transpired at that time ended, the nation took stock of what had happened and praised HaShem with the words, “Blessed… who grants strength to the tired.”
And the last blessing –
“Blessed… who withdraws sleep from my eyes and slumber from my eyelids,” after which there is no reply of “Amen.”
We were freed by HaShem from Egyptian slavery and were given the Torah at Mount Sinai, followed by over 3000 years of Jewish history; but despite it all, HaShem has yet to fully “withdraw sleep from my eyes and slumber from my eyelids.” We as a nation have not yet awoken to the true life which HaShem had planned for His “chosen people.”
Yehuda Ha’Levi writes in his classic “The Kuzari” that, in the future, Am Yisrael will be granted the gift of prophecy. Cognizance of HaShem, accompanied by the unfolding of the profoundest secrets of the worlds within the text of the Torah, are possible only through prophecy. The human intellect was not made with the capacity to disclose these matters nor to comprehend them even when explained. For this we need prophecy.
When that time comes, we will all realize that life – with all its understanding and wisdom until that moment – was only a dream, a virtual reality.
This is what King David meant when he wrote in Tehilim 126
שיר המעלות בשוב ה’ את שיבת ציון היינו כחלמים:
“A song of Ascent
When HaShem will return the captives of Zion, we will realize that we were dreaming”
Therefore the time has not yet arrived to answer “Amen” after “Blessed… who withdraws sleep from my eyes and slumber from my eyelids.”
However, when the time does arrive, prophecy will be granted only to us who live in Eretz Yisrael (as stated in many sources that prophecy was granted only here).
Pharaoh was evil, but no one claims that he was stupid. How then did he permit himself to charge ahead into the bottom of the Red Sea between skyscraper-high walls of churning water? Did he forget so quickly the power that the God of the Jews has over nature?
In Shemot 11,2 HaShem orders Moshe to request of the people:
דבר נא באזני העם וישאלו איש מאת רעהו ואשה מאת רעותה כלי כסף וכלי זהב:
“Please speak to the nation that the men shall borrow from their (Egyptian) acquaintances and the women from their (Egyptian) acquaintances silver vessels and gold vessels”
Why were the Jews instructed to only borrow the vessels? Did they not deserve them as indemnities for 210 years of hard labor? And why did HaShem so politely request “please speak to the nation?”
When Pharaoh rejected Moshe’s demand in the name of HaShem to “Let my people go,” I am quite certain that it gave rise to a theological dialogue between Moshe and Aharon on one side against Pharaoh and his clerics on the other. Pharaoh did not recognize the name of HaShem among the list he maintained of avoda zara, so he rejected the God of the Jews.
Moshe and Aharon must have certainly elucidated the principles of the Jewish faith, foremost of which is moral behavior, as defined in the seven Noahide mitzvot which applied also to Pharaoh – including not to murder, plunder, steal and all other methods which Pharaoh used in order to enslave the Jewish people. Moshe impressed upon Pharaoh that HaShem comes to the aid of the oppressed and the victimized and punishes dishonest, immoral behavior.
Pharaoh was unimpressed by the God of morality, because in his view the “State” and its interests stood above individual feelings.
But with each and every plague, Pharaoh began to see that the words of Moshe were not empty concepts and that HaShem was indeed the God of the oppressed, who punished the oppressor.
The Jews were requested to forgo their rightful and legal claim for compensation and only ask the Egyptians to “borrow” their vessels and clothing. The Egyptians agreed willingly, because they had expected the Jews to demand payment. So the Egyptians were relieved to lend these items, knowing that the ethical Jews would return what was borrowed.
When the day of the Exodus arrived, it became obvious to the Egyptians that the Jews had left permanently with no intention of returning the huge wealth of borrowed items. At this point, Pharaoh saw himself and his people as victims of Jewish swindling and deception and thought that the Jewish God would now be on the side of the duped Egyptian people – particularly since Moshe had told him that HaShem is objective in meting out justice by rewarding the honest and punishing the dishonest.
Pharaoh chased after the Jews in order to regain the enormous wealth stolen from his people. Pharaoh thought that HaShem is now on his side and that he and his army will be protected even when plunging into the bottom of the Red Sea.
But Pharaoh fell into the trap set for him. Since all the wealth taken from the Egyptians was a mere fraction of what was owed to the Jewish people, Pharaoh had no case against them.
I believe that HaShem is bringing about a similar process today in Eretz Yisrael.
The conduct of some of our political leaders is creating the impression that the Jewish nation has descended from our high spiritual level to be “as one of the nations.”
The Moslem world credits itself with being more observant and faithful to their laws and traditions than the Jewish nation; and this feeling gives them the fodder and motivation to confront the State of Israel. But this is another deceptive maneuver designed to pave the way for their destruction, as was the maneuver which caused Pharaoh to enter the death trap of the Red Sea.
Deceptive because under a thin veneer of corrupt leadership is the kedusha of the nation – the yeshiva world, the extraordinary acts of chesed on a daily basis, the 2000-year loyalty to HaShem despite all our catastrophic history, and the mesirat nefesh of the Jewish people to settle all of Eretz Yisrael.
All these attributes will combine together to create a sea of merit which will drown every adversary who dares to threaten HaShem’s chosen nation.
Shabbat Shalom and Pesach Sheni Sameach, Nachman Kahana
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.