These are some of my reflections on a line from the Haggadah, which I wrote about a few of years ago, but thought I’d fix ’em up a bit, and post them somwhere they can be perused by others.
My issue is with the line, “Pour out Your wrath upon the nations who have not known You, and upon the kingdoms who did not call upon Your name. For they have consumed Ya’akov, and laid waste his dwelling place. Pour upon them Your indignation, and let Your fierce anger overtake them. Chase them with anger and destroy them from under the heavens of the Eternal Compassionate One”.
This is in the Haggadah just after the fourth cup of wine is filled, and the door is opened for Eliyahu the prophet. I feel that line is really in need of talking about, and actually, I wish it wasn’t in the Haggadah at all. I may be wrong about all of this, and I don’t know the wisdom and greatness of the people who put it into the Haggadah. There are also some great Rabbis who have commented on this line, and the difficulty with it, and who provide some ways of dealing with it. So my thoughts should be taken with a grain of salt, and hopefully they can point at what might be worth being troubled about in this line, which isn’t to say that the line shouldn’t be there. Sometimes being troubled by something is important perhaps. I shared here some of the sources from Torah that seemed to me to speak against this line. Heheh… it’s all so confusing… and sooo good.
Usually, when we come to that point in the seder, I feel that I need to say something about it, and not just let it slide by, with whatever ideas it conjures up for people without giving it serious thought. One sort of side thing that troubles me here is the use of the word goyim – “upon the nations”. In this Torah context, I don’t have difficulty with the word goyim at all, as it simply means nations, but the casual use of the word goyim today, when people throw it into an English sentence or what have you, I think is very problematic, and hurtful. Words take on different meaning in different times, and the word “goyim” has for sooo many people taken on a very derogatory connotation, and I think it should really not be used, at least until we can heal it of that sad, uncaring connotation, and learn to love each other, and make it a word of love, and friendship, oneness, and joy. G-d loves every single one of G-d’s creations with a love beyond beyond the highest love we can imagine, and as I understand it from my learning and my life, what G-d hates is only harm coming to any one of them, or any harm to the relationship between any individuals, or peoples, or between us and the world, or between us and G-d.
A Torah though I’m reminded of here, which I particularly like is when Beruriah,( whose husband is Rebbi Meir from the Gemara), says: “G-d put an end to the sins”. Well that’s her interpretation of a line that can also be read “…an end to the sinners”. But she tells her husband that the correct understanding is to ask G-d to put an end to the sins… and how is that done? She asks Rebbi Meir to pray for the people to make teshuvah = to return to good life, to being well and whole through and through. But not chas v’Shalom, an end to any of His people.
Along those lines it says over and over in the end of the Yom Kippur Machzor that G-d does not want the destruction of the “wicked” – the unhealthy, the lost, the broken people, but rather their return to good life. In the Gemara it says that it is forbidden to hate a person, and permitted to hate a hurtful trait, or behaviour. Nonetheless, the Tosafot recommends that we stay away from even the permitted hatred, saying “As a person’s face to the water, so their heart to their friend.” I think that means that if we focus much on the traits we hate, or dislike in another, they may just feel from us in general that we dislike, or chas v’Shalom, that we hate them, and since it is enormously difficult to have warm, loving feelings towards one who hates you, we will cause them to hate us, and so a cycle of hatred is begun.
It makes me think of the Yosef story… how we thought that Yosef thought he was better than us, and how he told Yaa’akov on us, mistakenly judging our behaviour, and how we ended up hating Yosef, our brother, and so we threw him into a pit,
and sold him into slavery, and ended up in slavery in Egypt ourselves. I feel that we, as Jews, should consider that if we nurture, and spread negative feelings towards other peoples, no matter who we think started it, that we continue it, and if we cause other peoples to think we dislike them, or that we think we are better than them, or more important, than we create a situation in which they will naturally dislike or hate us, G-d forbid.
A Rav of mine, Rav Yehoshua, taught me that one of the things we do near the start of the seder is dip our celery in salt water, and how the word we use in the Haggadah for the greens, the celery, is Karpas, which is the same word Rashi uses in describing Yosef’s K’tonet pasim = his special coat. And when we sold Yosef into slavery we took his “Karpas”, his coat, and dipped it into sheep’s blood, and that is represented in the dipping of the Karpas into the salt water. He also pointed out how at the leaving of Egypt, we again dipped – this time hyssop into sheep’s blood. I think it’s a good reminder to realise that our slavery began with a lack in ourselves, and was meant as a healing process for us. I think if we sit around and nurture negative feelings towards the rest of humanity, that we create more problems in ourselves.
I think we can see all the characters in the story, including Pharaoh and the Egyptian as Us, and really, in the deepest sense, contemplate the teaching that we are all one, Adam Kadmon – sort of humanity on a level that co-exists with ours, in which we are one entity, and to deeply consider that really really truly Ha-Shem, G-d, is ONE, ECHAD, and to know that it is true, that all the people in the story are Us, and that G-d loves every single one, and wants only the protection, and healing, and the very best for each and every one, and never ever gives up on any one, and is constantly trying to help us go in the right direction, so we can receive all the good that G-d is trying to give us, and that G-d is deeply, beyond imagination grieved at the suffering of each one, and for any brokenness in any one.
And to remember that when we the children of Yisrael are in Egypt, we are at the 49th gate of tumah,which is a hairbreadth above the bottom morally, spiritually = very deeply corrupted, broken human beings, and there G-d is loving us, and trying to redeem us, and some of us are able to do what we need so that G-d does indeed redeem us… and when we, the Egyptians are in Egypt, some of us are at the 50th gate of tumah, and G-d loves us, and only wants our redemption, but we have become too broken to be redeemed in this incarnation, BUT, like the children of Yisrael who in their previous incarnation were also at the 50th gate of tumah, when we were the people of S’dom, (so says the Ari z’l), just like we were brought back, so we could be healed, and finally brought to receive the incredible goodness G-d wanted for us all along, – so too please G-d, we the Egyptians will be brought back, and healed, and when we drowned, G-d silenced His angels from singing, because is there a more horrible thing than to see your children being dying from such deep brokenness!
It’s like Rebbi Meir said in the Gemara – that we are G-d’s children, and G-d’s love for us is never ever diminished, not even if we went, chas v’Shalom, against every single Mitzvah in the Torah! Does a parent love there child less when they fall and hurt themselves, or when they become sick, or if they are kidnapped, or if they become lost in terrible, painful, frightening places?!!! G-d’s amazing unbelievably incredible love for us, for all of Us, is forever, and G-d just wants us to move away from those things that hurt us, and towards the sweet, happy, good things G-d has prepared for us, and G-d wont give up, ever, not if we have gotten so lost and are at the 49th gate of tumah, and not if we are at the 50th gate of tumah, and so we will get there = : ) , to the good life G-d wants for us, to such joy that we could cry tears of laughter, and dance a jig for a hundred and twenty years – all of us!