Commentary for Concluding Days of Pesach

16 Apr

The Torah reading for the seventh day of Passover is focused on the crossing of the Red Sea and the accompanying Song of the Sea with which the Israelites praise God for saving them. The haftarah is the twenty-second chapter of II Samuel, which contains a personal prayer from (not yet King) David thanking God for saving him from King Saul, who has ordered his execution. The obvious connection between the two passages is that both contain a prayer that thanks God for salvation from a more powerful foe, but the connection between the two runs deeper than that.

 

David’s prayer is reprinted as Psalm 18, with a few minor variations to make it more generic. Tradition teaches us that King David did this as a gift for the Jewish People, providing those who have gone through the same turmoil that he did with words to expression the emotions that they might not be able to find for themselves. The Song of the Sea opens with the well-known phrase “Thus sang Moses and the Children of Israel this song to the Lord (Ex. 15:1).” What is less well known is that this phrase can also be translated as “Thus will sing Moses and the Children of Israel this song to the Lord.” This alternate reading, like David’s transformation of II Samuel 22 into Psalm 18, changes the song from a one-time expression of gratitude into a prescription for future generations for when they need to praise God.

 

On Passover we celebrate both our freedom from slavery and our birth as a nation, but with this celebration must come the question of what we are doing with this freedom. This freedom is but one of the many gifts we have each been given, both as individuals and as a nation, both by God and by those that have come before us. If we, both as individuals and as a nation, do not make use of our freedom to explore these other gifts of culture, religion, and personal ability and expression, then we are letting God’s gift of freedom go to waste.

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