We, the People of Israel, are a futuristic people, and the way we celebrate the second half of the Passover Seder can serve as an example. In their commentaries on the Passover Haggadah, sages such as the Abarbanel and the Vilna Gaon offer the following explanation as to why the Passover Seder is divided into two parts - one part before the meal and the other part after the meal: The first part focuses on the past redemption - our physical and spiritual liberation from the bondage of Egypt. The second part focuses on the future redemption - the arrival of the messianic age.
We are now going to discuss why we begin the second part of the Seder with the following passage regarding the destruction of the evil "goyim" nations that have "devoured" our people:
"Pour out Your wrath towards the goyim that do not know You and on the kingdoms that have not proclaimed Your Name. For they have devoured Jacob, and destroyed his habitation." (Psalm 79:6,7)
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains that in Biblical Hebrew, the term "goy" refers to the outer structure or body of a nation, while the term "am" refers to a people. The reference to the destruction of evil "goyim" in the above passage is therefore referring to the destruction of evil national structures, but not to the destruction of peoples. (Commentary to Psalms 10:16, 67:5.)
What does the above passage from the Haggadah mean when it refers to goyim "that do not know you"? An answer can be found in the Divine proclamation which explains how to know Hashem - the Compassionate One:
"Only with this may one take pride - contemplating and knowing Me, that I am Hashem Who does lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness on earth, for in these is My desire, spoke Hashem." (Jeremiah 9:23)
To know Hashem is to be aware that Hashem does lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness, and that He desires that we emulate these Divine ways. The goyim that don't know Hashem are those that refuse to emulate Hashem by doing "lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness on earth." A similar Divine message appears in the following verse: "If one does justice to the poor and destitute, then it is good; this is what it means to know Me, spoke Hashem" (Jeremiah 22:16).
The above passage from the Haggadah also
calls for an end to "the kingdoms that have
not proclaimed Your Name." We respectfully
refer to the most sacred Divine Name as Hashem
- which literally means, the Name. This
sacred Name expresses the Divine attribute
of compassion, as our sages teach:
Wherever Hashem is mentioned, it designates the Divine attribute of compassion, as it is written (Exodus 34:6): "Hashem, Hashem, Compassionate God. " (Sifrei, a midrashic commentary to Deuteronomy 3:24)
The kingdoms that failed to proclaim the compassionate Divine Name are those that failed to emulate the compassionate Divine ways.
After we read in the Haggadah the above passage referring to the downfall of evil powers, we begin to chant passages which refer to the redemption of Israel and all humanity. Why, however, do we start the second half of the Seder with a reference to the end of evil powers? The Vilna Gaon explains that the reason the passage referring to the downfall of the evil powers precedes the passages referring to our future redemption is because the power of the wicked must be destroyed before the power of the righteous can arise. A source for this idea is found in the following Divine proclamation:
"I shall cut down the pride of the wicked, so that the pride of the righteous will be exalted." (Psalm 75:11.)
There is a custom to begin the second part of the Seder by opening the door of our home for "Eliyahu Hanavi" - Elijah the Prophet. A reason for this custom can be found in the ancient prophecy which is read on the Shabbos before Passover. This prophecy reveals that the Compassionate One will send Eliyahu Hanavi just before the future redemption, as it is written: "Behold, I will send you Eliyahu Hanavi before the coming of the great and awesome day of Hashem" (Malachi 3:23). Since the second part of the Seder is to remind us of the future redemption, we begin by welcoming Eliyahu Hanavi - the "forerunner" of the future redemption.
The future redemption will complete a process which began during the Exodus from Egypt. Rabbi Yechezkel Abramsky, a sage who lived during the era of the Holocaust, elaborates on this idea:
"We must bear in mind that the protracted manipulation of the forces of nature (during the Exodus) was designed to teach a lesson not only to the people who benefited most directly from these miracles. Indeed Hashem told Pharaoh that He could have eliminated him without fanfare, in an instant, with one fierce blow, but 'for this reason I have let you endure, in order to show you My strength and so that My Name may be declared throughout the world.' (Exodus 9:16). The lessons of the Exodus were not intended to inspire the limited audience of Israel alone; they were cosmic events, with universal objectives. But if this was the ultimate purpose of the miraculous nature of the Exodus, it seems to have fallen short of its goal...The world is still filled with idolatry and corruption. The Jewish people and the Torah are still despised in every corner of the globe. However, Hashem has sent us His word through His prophets, promising that one day, 'Many peoples and mighty nations will come to seek Hashem, God of all the hosts of creation, in Jerusalem' (Zechariah 8:22). At that time, in the Messianic era, when Hashem promises that 'As in the days of your Exodus from the land of Egypt I will show you wonders' (Micah 7:15), the objectives that were undertaken in the days of the Exodus will at last finally come to fruition. The universal recognition of Hashem as supreme Sovereign of the Universe will finally be achieved." (See the ArtScroll Haggadah of the Roshei Yeshivos, Book Two, page 84.)
The future redemption will therefore be a continuation of a process that began with the Exodus from Egypt; however, the future redemption will also be greater than the first redemption, for in the Messianic era, the universal goals of the Exodus will finally be achieved. In this spirit, we chant the following verse during the second half of the Seder:
"Praise Hashem, all goyim; extol Him, all the peoples!" (Psalm 117:1).
And we conclude the Seder with the proclamation: "Next Year in Jerusalem!" - the era when, "Many peoples and mighty nations will come to seek out Hashem in Jerusalem" (Zechariah 8:22). Regarding this era, the prophet states:
"It will be a unique day; it will be known as the day of Hashem, neither day nor night, and it will happen towards evening that there will be light." (Zechariah 14:7)
Our yearning for this day is expressed the following words from a song which is sung after the conclusion of the Seder: "Brighten like the light of day the darkness of the night."
As a result of this light, there will be universal enlightenment and shalom, as it is written:
"The wolf will live with the sheep, and the leopard will lie down with the kid; and a calf, a lion whelp and a fatling together, and a young child will lead them. A cow and bear will graze and their young will lie down together; and a lion, like cattle, will eat hay. A suckling will play by a viper's hole; and a newly weaned child will stretch his hand towards an adder's lair. They will neither injure nor destroy in all of My sacred mountain; for the earth will be filled with knowledge of Hashem as water covering the sea bed." (Isaiah 11:6-9)
May we be blessed with a good and sweet Shabbos, and a happy and liberating Passover.
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen (See below)
1. Rabbi Judah, the Prince, explains that biblical prophecies regarding the destruction of evil states or groups only apply to those that stubbornly refuse to return to the Compassionate One and persist in their evil ways (Talmud, Avodah Zarah 10b). There is hope for all those who return to the Compassionate One; thus, we pray three times a day that we should soon experience the era when, "all humanity will call upon Your Name, to turn all the earth's wicked towards You" (Aleinu).
2. During the second half of the Seder we also chant: "Please Hashem, grant new life; please Hashem, grant success" (Psalm 118:15). According to the classical biblical commentator, Radak, this is a prayer that Israel will say on behalf of the pilgrims from all the peoples who will come to the Temple at the dawn of the messianic age. Through these words, states the Radak, we are praying for new life and success "for all who come to take shelter in Your shade and who return to Your service." Following this prayer, we say:
"Blessed is the One Who comes in the Name of Hashem; we bless you from the House of Hashem" (Psalm 118:26). According to Radak, the above blessing will be said by the "Kohanim" - the Ministers of the Temple - to the pilgrims from all the peoples. The Radak explains that the Kohanim are blessing them in the Name of Hashem Who gave Israel the light of redemption; moreover, the Kohanim are inviting them to join Israel in the service of Hashem.