The First Day of Passover
(Joshua 3:5-7; 5:2-6:1; 6:27)
March 30, 2010
15 Nisan 5770
During the children of Israel\’s forty year trek through the desert, the holiday of Pesah was celebrated only twice, once in the second year, at the beginning of their journey and again at the end of the journey just before entering the holy land. During this period, the entire nation was maintained miraculously on a diet of manna provided by God. This miraculous nourishment ended with the celebration of Pesah before entering the land of Canaan, when the people reentered \’real\’ life where they would need to fend for themselves: \”On the day after the Passover offering, on that very day, they ate of the produce of the country, unleavened bread and parched grain. On that same day, when they ate of the produce of the land, the manna ceased. The Israelites got no more manna; that year they ate of the yield of the land of Canaan.\” (5:11-12)
This second Pesah represented a transformative moment for the nation. In the desert, God tended to the people\’s needs in a miraculous fashion. The move into the Promised Land represented a break from this total dependence. God\’s relationship with His people would now be in the form of a partnership where the people would manage their lives in conjunction with God. In Menorat HaMaor, a famous Sefardic moralistic work from the Middle Ages, Rabbi Israel Al Nekaveh, uses the above episode as proof for the establishment of the tenth blessing of the Shemoneh Esreh, the weekday standing prayer – the Blessing for a Prosperous Year and the second blessing of Birkat Hamazon (the grace after meals): \”And when Joshua brought Israel into the land, and the manna ceased and they ate what the land produced and there was a need for a blessing for the year, Joshua established for Israel a blessing for the land and on food in Birkat Hamazon, they (in turn) said the blessing over the [prosperity] of the year.\” (Menorat HaMaor, Enelow ed. pt. 1 p. 127)
What are we to learn from Al Nekaveh\’s interpretation? After the people enter the land, God is not read out of the picture. God remains the source of all blessings and deserves appreciation, but there is discernment that the blessing will not come without human involvement. God\’s blessing will now be to help us be productive.
Pesah, in a sense, represents this same sense of partnership. God has granted us freedom in conjunction with responsibility to establish His world on earth. This is not something that God can do alone. It is not something that we can do alone. But, together…
This study piece is offered as a service of the United Synagogue Conservative Yeshiva. It is prepared by Rabbi Mordechai (Mitchell) Silverstein, senior lecturer in Talmud and Midrash at the Conservative Yeshiva. He is a graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.
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