Kos Eliyahu - Insights on the Haggadah and Pesach - by Rabbi Eliyahu Safran

Kos Eliyahu, by Rabbi Eliyahu Safran, draws upon the resources of Jewish thought, and illuminates every aspect of the Passover festival, giving each detail of its ritual a meaning both timeless and timely.  And since Passover symbolizes the two great themes of exile and redemption, which resonate even more strongly in our time than generations past, Rabbi Safran provides us as well with a prism through which to view the events of our own time.

 An Excerpt from
Kos Eliyahu: Insights on the Haggadah and Pesach
by Rabbi Eliyahu Safran
Published by Ktav

Chapter 27

God's Lights are Always Shining:
"It Came To Pass at Midnight"

A young child once taught the significance of faith to her mother. Both mother and daughter were preparing to retire for the night, and both were a bit frightened of the darkness. After the lights were extinguished the child caught a glimpse of the moon outside the window.

"Mother," she whispered, "is the moon God's light?"

"Yes," replied the mother, "God's lights are always shining."

The young child was silent for a moment and then asked, "Will God blow out His lights and go to sleep?"

"No, my child," replied the mother, "God never goes to sleep."

"Well, so long as God is awake, I am not afraid," said the child.

The child could very well be the nation of Israel, while the night could very well be the night of Pesach, the most ideal time for the ultimate redemption to surface.

Why would redemption take place at night? Isn't night Indeed the time of fright, insecurity and anxiety? "Nighttime is the domain of the destroying agencies."1

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:

Hasten the day (of Messiah), that is neither day nor night.  Most High, make known that Yours are day and night.   Appoint guards for Your city, all the day and all the night.  Brighten like the light of day the darkness of night.

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.

God needs neither time nor preparation to perform His miracles and bring salvation. This is because all the universe is His creation and subject to His will. The Jews were shown this by the suddenness of their liberation, which did not allow them even the few minutes necessary to let bread rise. This lesson is especially important to bear in mind in times of difficulty, when one sees no glimmer of hope and is apt to despair. God can change everything in an instant!

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.

You judged the King of Gerar (Avimelech), in a dream by night.

You frightened the Aramean (Lavan), in the dark of night.

Israel (Yaacov) fought with an angel and overcame him by night.

It came to pass at midnight. (Haggadah)

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:

Until the breaking of the day; this being the moment when his dominion passed away and vanished. The same will happen in the time to come. For the present exile is like the night, and in that night the barren dust rules over Israel, who are prostrate to the dust; and so it will be until the light will appear and the day will break; then Israel will obtain power, and to them will be given the kingdom, as they are the saints of the Most High .4

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.


Notes

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.

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