The seventh day of Pessah: Giving thanks

The day that seals the Passover holiday, called Sh’vi’i Shel Pessah is unique.

Seder plate 311 (photo credit: courtesy)
Seder plate 311
(photo credit: courtesy)
The day that seals the Passover holiday, called Sh’vi’i Shel Pessah (beginning on Sunday evening this year, and ending the next night in Israel) is unique among all the other days of the festival in that it is a Yom Tov – a festival when work is forbidden, just like the first day of Pessah. On this day we read the “Song of the Sea” (Shirat Hayam) in the synagogue, the song that the Children of Israel sang under Moshe’s direction after the great miracle of the splitting of the Red Sea. The splitting of the Red Sea took place on this day, seven days after the Jewish people was liberated from Egypt and went out to freedom.
The splitting of the sea, which began at midnight and went on until dawn, was an impressive event that left its mark on the various nations, both near and far, as it is written in the Torah: “Nations heard and shuddered; Terror gripped those who dwell in Pleshet (Philistia). Edom’s captains were taken aback. Moab’s heroes ....All the residents of Canaan melted. (Exodus 15:14-15) Forty years later, when the Jewish people stood at the entrance to the Land of Israel, the strong impression of the splitting of the Red Sea remained.
We see this in the words of Rahav, who hid the two spies sent to Jericho in advance of the Jewish nation’s entrance into its land: She said unto the men: ‘I know that Hashem has given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you.
For we have heard how Hashem dried up the water of the Red Sea before you, when you came out of Egypt. (Yehoshua 2:9-10) As a remembrance of this impressive event, which sealed the miracles of the exodus from Egypt and made the Jewish people a free and independent nation, the seventh day of Pessah was established as a special festival. On this day we remember the splitting of the Red Sea and attempt to relive the exalted feeling that the Children of Israel experienced when they saw the army of Egypt, formerly powerful and undefeated, drowning and thoroughly vanquished.
On this day, when the miracle of the splitting of the sea took place, it is worthwhile to take one small insight for our lives from this great story.
Before the Red Sea was divided and turned into dry land so that Israel could cross it and flee from its enemies, the people were in great distress.
The flight from the great Egyptian army was halted on the seashore, and the situation looked hopeless. The Egyptians behind, the sea ahead, and nowhere to run. In this difficult and discouraging hour, the people turned to Moshe, their deliverer, and spoke harshly: “Weren’t there enough graves in Egypt? Why did you have to bring us out here to die in the desert? How could you do such a thing to us, bringing us out of Egypt? “Didn’t we tell you in Egypt to leave us alone and let us work for the Egyptians? It would have been better to be slaves in Egypt than to die in the desert!” (Exodus 14:11-12) The people expressed their despair in harsh and bitter language. Better to have remained slaves in Egypt than to be slaughtered here, in the desert, by the Egyptian army.
Lo and behold, a miracle occurred! A miracle of amazing proportions. The Red Sea was split into two, and a dry and comfortable path was created for the Jewish people. And if this were not sufficient – when the Egyptian army forged ahead on the dry land created from the sea and pursued the people of Israel, the waters immediately flowed back and covered the Egyptians, drowning them. All this happened before the eyes of the Children of Israel.
And here we have a surprise. After this great miracle, the people, lead by Moshe, burst into song: “Moshe and the Israelites then sang this song to G-d....’Who is like You among powers, G-d? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, Awesome in praise, doing wonders?’ (Exodus 15:1-11) Let us note: When the nation left Egypt and were liberated from slavery, they did not burst forth in song. The song came only after total despair.
Only after they had lost all hope and the chances of survival seemed remote, only then, when salvation came, their gratitude overflowed and they burst forth in joyful song.
There’s an important lesson to be learned here. Sometimes one is successful, and does very well in business. His family is pleased – but he doesn’t remember to thank God. It all seems normal and natural.
Only when he is in trouble, and then saved from disaster, only then does he remember to be grateful and express his thanks. It’s too bad that in order to appreciate all the good things, first we have to lose them.
It’s worthwhile to appreciate all of G-d’s goodness towards always, and sing the song of thankfulness on time! Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz is Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Places.