Non Sequitur — “Necessary Stories” from The Jerusalem Report

Haim Watzman

God knows how Eliezer’s mind works. It goes off into other dimensions every time I try to have a serious conversation with him. That’s what happened on Purim this year. I waited through the entire reading of the megillah, the Book of Esther, to point out to him Chapter 4, verse 14, which I’d never really thought about before.

     illustration by Pepe Fainberg

     illustration by Pepe Fainberg

Ki ‘im taharishi ba-‘et ha-zot’ revah ve-hatzalah ya‘amod le-yehudim mi-makom aher,” Eliezer reads as my finger traces the word. He translates: “‘But if you remain silent at this time, reprieve and deliverance will come to the Jews from elsewhere.’ So?”

“So this is what Mordecai says to Esther when he tells her about Haman’s plot to kill the Jews,” I point out. “That she really doesn’t have to do anything, because the Jews are going to be saved anyway.”

“Well, if that’s God’s plan,” says Eliezer, “then I guess he’s right. What’s the big deal?”

Read moreNon Sequitur — “Necessary Stories” from The Jerusalem Report

Singing at the Sea

Haim Watzman

If you skipped something in the Haggada last week it may well have been that page of disputations among the Sages in which they argue about precisely how many plagues the Egyptians suffered at the Red Sea. Was it 50, or 200, or 250? Since the book of Exodus only tells us about ten plagues in Egypt and says nothing about plagues at the Red Sea, it’s hard to fathom what the Rabbi Yose, Rabbi Eliezer, and Rabbi Akiva were trying to get at here. And could there really be enough permutations of vermin, disease, and natural disaster to make up 250 plagues?

But this midrash, like a number of others, shows that the Sages believed that, in some ways, the miracle at the Red Sea—which we commemorate on the seventh day of Pesach—was greater than the miracle of the escape from slavery. In fact, in many midrashim, the crossing of the Red Sea, not the Exodus itself, is the archetype of redemption, the model for the future salvation of the Messiah.

Rav Tzair, an anonymous Hebrew blogger, cites a midrash (Shemot Rabba 23) in this spirit:

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