The Seventh Day of Pesah (2 Samuel 22:1-51)
April 29, 2016 / 21 NISAN 5776
The Seventh Day of Pesah celebrates the splitting of the sea. It was such a joyous occasion that it called for song. And song is a celebration of a poetic outlook – of seeing things a different way – of a changed perspective. Too often in our world based on empirical outlook, we find ourselves incapable of seeing or understanding things in any other way. Scripture challenges us to see the sea split and mountains dancing at God’s behest. We are enjoined to experience metaphor and to subject ourselves to this different reality – a poetic reality.
The book of Samuel begins with the poem of a mother, Hannah, who sings God’s praises in her “victorious” triumph over childlessness and it ends with a poem of a triumphant king, David, praising God for his great victories. This former song marks the haftarah for the First Day of Rosh Hashanah and the later heralds the haftarah for the Seventh Day of Pesah. Hannah’s song is one of thankfulness over being remembered by God and David’s is one of gratitude over being redeemed. This theme of redemption along with that of song is what links it to Pesah.
David was no stranger to existential threats and in his poem of triumph, these threats were viewed in cosmic terms. His enemies were no mere mortals and his victories over them involved the forces of nature acted at God’s behest: “The Lord is my crag and fortress and my own deliverer… for the breakers of death beset me; the underworld’s torrents dismayed me… In my straight I called to the Lord, to my God I called and from His Palace He heard my voice, my cry in His ears. The earth heaved and quaked. The heavens’ foundation shuddered, they heaved for He was incensed… the Lord from the heavens thundered, the Most High sent forth His voice, He let loose arrows and routed them, lightning and struck them with panic…” )22:5;7-8;14-15)
The language of this poem enjoins us to see the events of life in anything but banal terms and to use poetry as a means for expressing the significance of being alive. It is also a clarion call to sense the involvement of God in our lives and to be sensitive to more than empirical reality. Above all, and this is perhaps the most important message of these last days of Pesah, we should not be afraid to sing out our thankfulness for the redemptive events in our lives, the lives of families, our people, the world.
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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