An Excerpt from
God's Lights are
At night before we retire, we recite Hash-kiveinu, pleading with God to protect us from the dangers and afflictions associated with the terrors of night. How is it then that night, which represents both the forces of natural fear and the fear of galut, has become the time of redemption "It came to pass at midnight." It would have seeemed more logical for the redemption to have occurred at dawn when man's confidence and faith are renewed and reinvigorated in welcoming a new day of light and activity!
Yet, the song Vayehi bachatzi ha'layla recounts thirteen redemptive experiences which took place on Pesach eve, at night. Using the precedent of the past, we complete the song by asking God to add just one more redemptive experience to the long list of night redemptions; the ultimate, final, all encompassing redemption:
What other redemptions and outstanding happenings occurred on various Pesach nights in the course of our history? Abraham defeated the four Canaanite kings; God warned Abimelech the king of Gerar regarding Sarah; Laban was warned not to harm Yaakov "in the dark of night;" Yaakov triumphed over the angel of Esau; the first born of Egypt were destroyed at midnight; Sisera's army was defeated; Sancherib's armies were annihilated; the collapse of Nebuchadnezzar's giant idol Bel; Daniel's revelation; Belshazar's assassination; Daniel's deliverance from the den of lions; Haman's ultimate downfall.2
Why at night?Because God's greatest mercy and compassion is awakened just when all hope seems to be lost. At the very darkest and most inauspicious moment of all, at midnight, is a particular time of Divine favor and mercy. This is the essence of the matzah, and its significance as one of the three fundamentals which Rabban Gamliel taught must be explained on Pesach night.
In the midst of the thickest darkness of night, geulah "suddenly" appeared again and again throughout our history. Eventually however, when the ultimate and final Messianic geulah will dominate, it will "brighten like the light of day." The Messianic redemption, unlike all preceding redemptions.
In relating Jacob's struggle with the ambassador of Esau, the Torah reports that "a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day" (Bereishit 32:24). This signifies that the struggle with Esau will continue throughout the generations, even if at times Israel will be temporarily victorious, until day break when Messiah will arrive. The Zohar states it explicitly:
In other words, in spite of the fact that many redemptions did take place throughout the thickness of night, Esau and his constant and annoying evil will not disappear until day breaks the final Messianic redemption. That is why the Midrash states, according to the Beit Halevi, throughout history God wrought miracles at night, to point to the fact that these are but passing miracles, whereas ultimately miracles will be performed during the day when they will be lasting and permanent. The passing miracles of night are synonymous with the continuous state of the dark galut, from which we do merit temporary respite every so often. The final Messianic geulah however will be as clear as day (U'keor boker yizrach shemesh), when no doubt will prevail that the night with all of its inherent fears and insecurities has finally vanished. That is the reason for Israel's painful call to God: "Watchman what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?" (Isaiah 21, 11) Out of great frustration, despair and fear Israel seeks to know how long the darkness of galut with its frightening uncertainties will last? Even if we were redeemed from Mitzrayim, yet the galut seems to be never ending! To this the Watchman responds: "The morning comes, and also the night" (21:12). The "morning," redemption and final geulah will indeed come, and the "night" of destruction, fear, and punishment will yet befall the wicked.
It is for this ultimate "morning" that Jews continuously yearned and prayed for throughout the long generations of galut: "Satisfy us in the morning with Your kindness, that we shall sing out and rejoice throughout our days" (Tehilim 90:14). If and when the miracle of redemption is occur at daytime, then we will certainly know that this is the joy that is everlasting, "throughout our days."5"Brighten like the light of day the darkness of night!" A little boy stood In the sun, on the edge of an open trap door to a cellar. From above, nothing was visible in the cellar, only blackness. Up from the cellar came the voice of the boy's father:
"Jump down son, I'll catch you!""But I cannot see you, Father." "Never mind, I can see you! Jump." Summoning his courage, the boy jumped, and in a moment felt himself held safely, with his father's arms around him.
1. See Rashi Shemot 12:22 and Talmud Baba Kama 60b.
2. For explanatory details and elaboration on the thirteen events listed see the Artscroll Haggadah pp. 201-204. and the Haggadah Treasury edited by Rabbi Nosson Sherman, published by Zeirei Agudath Israel of America, pp. 174-5.
3. The Vayaged Moshe Haggadah, comments from the writings of Harav Moshe Feinstein, Artscroll Mesorah Publications, New York 1991, p. 72.
4. The Zohar, published by the Rebecca Bennet Publications, Vayishlach 169b-170a, p. 151.
5. See Haggadah shel Pesach MiBeit Levi (Brisk) edited by M. M. Gerlitz, Jerusalem 5743 (1983). pp. 141-142, also Beit Halevi al Ha-Torah, Vayishlach.