Seventh Day of Passover – Beit Warszawa
Rabin Dr. Gil Nativ
The Seventh Day of Passover, just like the first day, is a ‘Yom-Tov’, literally “A good day” meaning: A Holiday, even a better translation: A Holy Day.
What does the Torah (5 Books of Moses) teach about the special significance of this day?
Nothing! A seven-day holiday needs a solemn day to begin it and a solemn day to end it. There should be a clear-cut end just like a definite moment of beginning.
However, the Tannaim (early rabbis) determined that this was the day of crossing ‘Yam Suf’ =The Sea of Reeds i.e. The seventh day of Passover commemorates a unique historical event, just like the first day
Moreover, the early rabbinic tradition claims that the ‘miracle of the Sea’ was five times greater than all the ten miraculous ‘Makkot’ (which in English are called plagues, though some of them were disasters but not plagues). There are 3 midrashic passages in the ‘Hagaddah of Passover’ in which Tannaim (rabbis/sages of the first 2 centuries C.E.) which are based on this midrashic equation. The underlying midrash compares Exodus 8:15, when Pharoe’s magicians conclude: “This must be God’s finger” (Referring to the third disaster… The first two ‘Makkot’ seemed like simple tricks of magicians…) After crossing the sea, the verse [Exodus 14:31] declares that the people of Israel saw ‘the mighty hand’ (of G-d). Apparently, even in God’s hand there are 5 fingers, hence: Crossing the Red Sea =5 times ‘Makkot’ in Egypt
This is ofcourse an artificial, unconvincing arithmetics, but there is reason behind it:
1. The 10 makkot in Egypt seem to be natural disasters, which could have happen in other places and times. Only the fact that they happen so instantly one after the other proves that they are divine means to put pressure on Egypt to let the slaves leave. Some scientists claim that a volcanic eruption was the prime cause of a ‘chain reaction’ which brought about most of these ten ‘plagues’. However, the crossing of the sea is described as a ‘super-natural’ event.
2. The 10 makkot in Egypt caused harm to the civilian population: All Egyptians (and their domesticated animals) suffered (including Egyptiands who had no share in the enslavement of the Israelites!). The miracle on the Sea hits the warriors of Egypts and only them.
3. In Egypt only Moses and Aaron conduct a struggle against Pharoe. The Israelites were passive at best, or told Moses to stop his futile struggle, which only makes their suffering worse. In the Red-Sea the Israelites at least had to keep moving in the direction that Moses told them to move…
Further study and discussion:
When the Israelites realized they were in great danger: Egyptian Cavalry chasing them and a deep sea ahead of them – Did they have the same reaction?
What does Moses tell them at this crucial moment?
The rabbis claim that there was internal argument between the different tribes [Talmud Sotah 37a]. There are two different descriptions of this argument –Which of them seem more realistic to you?
Who was Nachshon? Is there a hint in the Biblical text to his famous ‘leap’? Why was it important for the rabbis to describe his leap (jump) into the water?