The Seventh Day of Pesach
(2 Samuel 22)
April 14, 2001
What marks the Seventh Day of Pesach as the climax of the redemption from Egypt? It represents the day when the children of Israel departed from Egypt crossing the sea which God had miraculously split. It is a time of celebrating the miracle of faith that God is intimately involved in our lives. For this reason we are taught in the Talmud (Megillah 31a) – Rav Papa said: “On the Seventh Day of Pesach one reads from the Torah – Parshat Beshallach (which includes the Song of the Sea) and for the Haftarah – the Song of David (in which David thanks God for saving him from his enemies)”. Rashi gives two reasons for the association between the Torah reading and the Haftarah reading: 1. Both are songs; 2: The exodus from Egypt is implied in the song of David.
While Rashi’s first explanation seems rather obvious, a quick glance at the Song of David leaves us wondering on what Rashi bases his second explanation since David seems to be speaking of his own personal experiences without a word about the exodus from Egypt.
Rashi bases his interpretation on a Midrash found in the Mechilta deRabbi Ishmael (B’shallach 3) – a Midrash from the period of the Mishnah. There the Midrash finds allusions in David’s words in our Haftarah to support Moshe’s plea to God for divine support against Pharoah and his army.
“At the moment when Moshe prayed, God caused the Children of Israel to see an army of angels standing before them to protect them against the onslaught of the Egyptian army. And so it says: “At the brightness before Him, there passed through His thick clouds, hailstones and coals of fire\”.(2 Samuel 22:13) – “His thick clouds” to protect against the troops of the Egyptians; “hailstones” to protect against their catapults; “coals” against their missiles…. “The Lord thundered in the heavens” (verse 14) – against the rattling of their shields and the noise of their trampling shoes…” (adapted from the Lauterbach translation of the Mechilta).
Notice that the verses brought to prove that God saved the fleeing Israelites come from David’s prayer in our Haftarah. Rashi understood this Midrash as implicit proof that David was referring to the exodus from Egypt.
These associations remind us of some of the fantastic imagery we saw at the Seder. What are we to make of the interpretations and allusions which seem to veer from the simple meaning of David’s prayer? The answer to this question tells us something crucial about the Jewish way of looking at the world. When Jews see the redeeming hand of God, they see it through the prism of the redemption from Egypt. So David’s redemption becomes Moshe’s redemption which becomes the redemption of the Jewish people in every generation. For each of us when we experience God’s hand in our lives we experience the splitting of the sea. Can there be anything greater to sing about!
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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