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Pesach (seventh day) 5772

Haftarah Pesach Seventh Day
(2 Samuel 22)
April 13, 2012
21 Nisan 5772

The Seventh Day of Pesah marks the day when Israel passed through the miraculously parted sea. This occasion is marked in the Torah reading by reading the Song of the Sea (Exodus 15), a song of praise to God for this miraculous redemption. The accompanying haftarah for this festive day is the Song of David, a song of praise to God for a lifetime of redemptive experiences, which David offered towards the end of an event filled life. Both of these songs offer a window into the human experience of the redemptive process in the word.

The Song of David is found twice in the Tanach, in the book of Samuel and in the book of Psalms (18) with minor variations between the two. The last verse of the song of David is the most well-known since it is recited towards the end of birkat hamazon – the grace after meals: “[God is] a tower (Migdol) of victory to His king (David) who deals graciously with His anointed with David and his offspring evermore.” (2 Samuel 22:51) In Psalms, the beginning of the verse reads: “He brings (Magdil) great victories to His king.” (Psalm 18:51) In the Birkat Hamazon, these two versions are used to mark different occasions.

In the following midrash, this verse is used to tease out ideas about how one should view the divine redemptive process: “In one place, it is written: ‘migdol – is the tower of victory’ while in another place, it is written: ‘magdil- literally: He increases deliverance’. Rabbi Yudan said: This comes to teach that deliverance does come all at once, but rather, little by little. So what is the meaning of ‘magdil’? It means that the deliverance of Israel grows gradually. Now, since they are enveloped in great troubles, if redemption were to come all at once, they would be unable to suffer it because it brings with it great troubles. Therefore, it comes gradually. This is why redemption is compared to dawn since there is no greater darkness than before dawn. If the sun would rise suddenly when everyone is still sleeping, everyone would be blinded. Therefore, the pillar of light rises first and gives light to the world; after that, the sphere of the sun rises and gives light, so that no one is trapped by its light.” (adapted from Midrash Tehillim 18:36 Buber ed. p. 162)

People often presume that redemption will come in one fell swoop since then its miraculous nature will be readily discernible. This midrash argues the opposite, using the variant of this poem found in Psalms as its impetus. The process of redemption will instead be gradual since a swift redemption would be too much for human beings to bear. This interpretation adheres more closely to the reality that we perceive and that we proudly participate in.

About This Commentary

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.

The United Synagogue Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem offers students of all backgrounds the skills for studying Jewish texts. We are a vibrant, open-minded egalitarian community of committed Jews who learn, practise and grow together. Our goal is to provide students the ability and desire to continue Jewish learning and practice throughout their lives.
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