min ha-may-TZAR ka-RA-tee YAH a-NA-nee va-mer-KHAV YAH
Today is the last day of Passover in Israel, and it is recognized as a day of redemptions. Psalm 118 is recited towards the end of the Pesach seder, and uses a word that is central to the themes of Pesach: ‘Maytzar’ (מצר), meaning ‘straits’ or ‘distress.’ This word is closely related to the Hebrew word for Egypt, Mitzrayim (מצרים). On an emotional level, Egypt symbolizes the agonizing straits that constrict us. Each of us occasionally finds ourselves trapped. Sometimes this happens due to physical causes like poverty or illness, and sometimes for psychological reasons, such as depression or anxiety. Pesach is the festival of freedom and faith, teaching that the Almighty saves all from each of life’s narrow confines. As the psalmist notes, “In distress I called on Hashem; Hashemanswered me and brought me relief.” This year we find ourselves especially “confined” and it is fitting that we should start to see a “redemption” from these confines, starting today!
The Priestly Blessing contains three parts. It begins with a blessing for prosperity and safety, continues with a blessing for God’s grace, and climaxes with a blessing of peace. In Israel, the Priestly Blessing is recited publicly each day by individuals possessing a family tradition that they are among the descendants of Aharon. We pray every day for the total fulfillment of the Priestly Blessing, when the Jewish people will live peacefully in the Land of Israel.
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FEATURED PHOTO: Hikers traverse the Kidron Valley (Shutterstock).
Hashem your God will dislodge those peoples before you little by little; you will not be able to put an end to them at once, else the wild beasts would multiply to your hurt Deuteronomy 7:22 (The Israel Bible™)
v’-na-SHAL a-do-NAI e-lo-HE-kha et ha-go-YIM ha-AYL mi-pa-NE-kha m’-AT m’-AT LO tu-KHAL ka-lo-TAM ma-HAYR pen tir-BEH a-LE-kha kha-YAT ha-sa-DEH
God reassures the Children of Israel with a surprising promise regarding their entrance into the Land of Israel: “Hashem your God will dislodge those peoples before you little by little.” Would it not be more comforting to know that the period of conquest would be quick, as opposed to long and drawn out? How is this promise of a, protracted military campaign of comfort to the people? If all of the people of Canaan would have fled at one time, large portions of land would have been left unpopulated, allowing for dangerous, wild beasts to enter and roam the land. In order to prevent this from happening, the Israelites were told that they would capture the land in stages. The modern era has also seen the remarkable return of Jewish people to their land, and it has again happened in stages, “little by little.”
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