July 19, 2024
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Love That’s Un‘dew’

Why Pesach? If anything, the hallmark of this Yom Tov is the exodus—leaving the terrible conditions in Mitzrayim—so maybe let’s call it “chag ha’yetziyat Mitzrayim”! What’s the significance of recognizing the holiday as Pesach?

The reference to Pesach takes us to the time when Hashem was going to unleash the 10th makka, Makat Bechorot, where immediately prior to Hashem told us to place some of the blood of the korban Pesach on our doorposts, and as a result promises—וּפָֽסַחְתִּ֖י עֲלֵכֶ֑ם—“upasachti aleichem, I will skip over you” so that there won’t be any plague to destroy you as opposed to the Egyptians.

The term “u’pasachti,” although typically translated to mean “skip,” nevertheless, Rashi in his first explanation says that this word means “compassion.” And so Hashem is saying, I will have compassion for you, but not for them.

The implication seems to be that Bnei Yisrael needed Hashem’s compassion to be spared, which indicates that they wouldn’t be spared because of merits they may have to make them worthy of such, but rather specifically because of Hashem’s compassion on them. Hence, it seems that by Makat Bechorot a turning point in Hashem’s relationship with us was demonstrated: He is saving us and giving to us not because we deserve it, but because of His compassion for us.

And this thematic relationship carried on. A bit later on, on the brink of departure, Moshe tells Bnei Yisrael, “Today you are leaving, in the month of spring” (13:4). But Rashi asks, did they need Moshe to tell them it’s springtime? Rashi explains that Moshe was essentially imparting to them: Look at the loving-kindness that Hashem performed for you, that He took you out in a month when the weather is good, and not in the heat, cold or rain. Yet, R’ Henoch Leibowitz (“Majesty of Man,” p. 171,172) persists, did it really matter to them if the weather is nice? Imagine living in such horrible conditions. The very fact that one is freed is so overriding that one couldn’t care less what the weather out there was like! Just get me outta here and I’m good, right!? Says R’ Leibowitz, Hashem is showing his love for the Jewish people, that although it may have not made a difference to them, it made a difference to Him.

From the fact that Hashem did this out of “loving kindness” seems to as well imply that although we may not have been worthy of such high standards, yet Hashem is showing his love and compassion for us even by trivial matters like the weather, which we may not have even needed or cared about at such a moment.

This theme continues. Bnei Yisrael get to the sea, with the Egyptians right behind them, animals on both sides of them, and the sea in front of them. There is a fascinating midrash (Shemot Rabbah, Beshalach, 21:7) where the “chief prosecuting angel”—“Samael”—argued to Hashem: “Master of the Universe, these (Bnei Yisrael) were idolaters, and you’re splitting the sea for them!?” The Midrash basically relates that Hashem pulled a “shtik” on Samael and distracted him until after crossing the sea. From the fact that Hashem had to pull a quick one on Samael, and didn’t answer back, perhaps shows that Samael had a strong point that may have been true. Thus, Hashem had to pull a “trick out of the bag,” which shows that although we may not have been worthy to be saved at the sea, He still got our backs.

R’ Naftali Tzvi Berlin (Haamek Davar, Va’eira, 6:6) points out that Makat Bechorot marked our official freedom from servitude. Hence, perhaps we can suggest that since at the commencement of freedom Hashem is introducing this unique relationship with us where it’s not based on justice but on mercy, and since this relationship will continue through until we are totally severed from Mitzrayim and the Egyptians, which occurred after the splitting of the sea, therefore in our vernacular we refer to it as Pesach because that moment (Makat Bechorot) was the first moment where Hashem instilled this new and necessary thematic relationship that would continue through until we are fully severed from Mitzrayim and their people.

On the first day of Pesach we have a special prayer for dew. The question is, why specifically on Pesach do we say it and not any other time of the year? After all, dewfall is constant throughout the entire year!

The Gemara (Taanit 4) records that Bnei Yisrael requested of Hashem, “Be for us like rain!” and Hashem responded, “I will be like the dew for Bnei Yisrael.” What’s the convo here? R’ Yonasan Eibeshutz (Yaaros Dvash 1) explains that for rain to fall, it requires precipitation from what’s on the earth, and since there isn’t always precipitation on earth, there isn’t always rain. However, dew is formulated by the precipitation in the atmosphere, and since there is always precipitation in the atmosphere, there is always dew. To access closeness to Hashem, we need to do good down on earth, so we said to Hashem “be for us like rain”—so that when we do good down here, when we do teshuva, it’s creating “precipitation” that will cause rain—i.e., it will “enable” You to take us the rest of the way. However, Hashem replied, “I will be like the dew,” so that in the future to come, even if you chas v’shalom haven’t done teshuva and haven’t created enough “precipitation”—I will still redeem you.

Based on this, R’ Meir Shapiro (Ohr Meir Haggadah, p. 47-48) explains that we know that Hashem redeemed Bnei Yisrael from Mitzrayim even though they were undeserving and didn’t have the merit—the “precipitation.” Hence, it makes sense to have the prayer for dew, which represents Hashem favoring us “unduly,” even without deserving it, on this Yom Tov where Hashem took us out of Mitzrayim even though we were undeserving. We can add, perhaps more pointedly, that the Meshech Chochma (Va’etchanan) says that on Pesach Hashem showers us with abundance without us doing anything to cause it. Hence, we can say that it’s appropo to have this prayer of dew, which requires no precipitation from earth, on Pesach, a holiday where Hashem “showers” us with good, without us having to create “precipitation” on earth.

The Meshech Chochma (ibid) based on the Midrash says that on Pesach, Bnei Yisrael are considered the “daughter of Hashem.” Based on the above, we can perhaps suggest this to mean that on Pesach Hashem relates to us like a father—namely, that even though the child hasn’t done his part, nevertheless the compassion and love that a father has overrides any other factor and will thus prevail, even if the child may not deserve it.

Our rabbis say that on every Yom Tov, the same energy, power and influence that occurred originally on those days is present on each Yom Tov, specific to that Yom Tov. Hence, even though we may lack merit and feel undeserving, nevertheless we can tap into those vibes and thus have a unique opportunity on Pesach to come to Hashem no matter where we may be holding. For on this Yom Tov His readiness for us may not be due to our worthiness, since at this time His compassion and love for us is indeed undue.


Binyamin can be reached at [email protected].

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