The Seventh Day of Passover
(2 Samuel 22:1-51)
April 4, 2010
21 Nisan 5770
The Seventh Day of Pesah is the day which commemorates the splitting of the Sea and the miraculous redemption of the Children of Israel from the onslaught of the marauding Egyptian army. This deliverance is celebrated in the Shirat Hayam – the Song of the Sea – a panegyric song of praise to God led by Moses, Israel\’s prophetic leader and God\’s agent in the deliverance. The haftarah offers a similar panegyric ode, this time from the pen of King David, who offers up a song of praise to God for helping him overcome the many vicissitudes which faced him during the years before his rise to the monarchy and then afterwards as leader of the nation.
One midrash draws a seemingly radical conclusion from these songs: \”Rabbi Simon said: Not every one who wants to sing a song sings it; but anyone who experiences a miracle and sings about it can be sure that all of his sins will be forgiven and it will be as if he was created anew. So, when a miracle was done for the Children of Israel, they sang this song: \’Then sang Moses and the children of Israel\’ (Exodus 15:1) And all of their sins were forgiven, as it says: \’Moses took Israel away from the sea\’ (Ex. 15:22) This teaches that Moses took them away from their sins that they sinned at the sea, as it says: \’They were rebellious… even at the sea\’ (Psalm 106:7) [Similarly,] of David, it is also said that after a miracle was done for him, he sang this song (our haftarah): \’These are the later deeds of David… the man who was raised up by repentance\’ (2 Samuel 23:1). So what happened to his earlier deeds [that we recount his later deeds]? It must mean that God forgave his earlier deeds.\” (adapted from Midrash Tehillim 18:6 Buber ed. p. 137)
What could possibly make a song of praise sung to recount a divine miracle such a powerful event that it cancels a person\’s sins? I would like to suggest an interpretation. The experience of a miracle and the expression of thankfulness are a transformative experience. A person who undergoes such an experience, comprehends the experience, and relates to God as a result of the experience is no longer the same person. As the midrash says, such a person is \”created anew\”. In this way, the seventh day of Pesah has the potential to change us in very much the same way that Yom Kippur changes us, if we but partake of the wonder of the miracle of the redemption from Egypt – an event apparently not to be missed.
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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