The “Holiday of the Decimation”?
The name of the holiday in the title of this article sounds a bit strange. Yet, it appears in the Passover Haggadah of the “Rasag”, Rabeinu Saudia HaGaon, one of the great Gaonim after the period in which the Talmud was written. He used the name “Chag HaHashmada” – The Holiday of Destruction in reference to the Seventh Day of Passover. And indeed, after a little thought, the reason for such a name is quite simple: The seventh day of Passover commemorates the day when the Egyptians were drowned in the Red Sea. For this, a Yom Tov was set down. Thus, the name: The Holiday of Destruction.
As simple as this might seem, in these days it is not simple at all. For the distorters, perverters, and ignoramuses work overtime to change the message of Passover to be precisely the opposite! In recent years, so many are overjoyed to bring a source called “Midrash Harneinu”, which does not exist today but is brought down by a few “Achronim”, where it says that we say only half a “Hallel” on Passover because when the Almighty drowned the Egyptians, he said, “the works of My hands are drowning in the sea, and you sing a song?” And since the liberals FINALLY found a source (at first glance) that supports their point of view, they pounce upon it like coveted booty, quoting it non-stop. But alas, they are mistaken.
The name which Rabeinu Saudia HaGaon gives for this day sheds a great deal of light on the essence of what the seventh day of Passover is all about. In other words, not only did the drowning of the Egyptians not take away from the “simcha” of the holiday, but quite the contrary – THE VERY ESSENCE OF THE SEVENTH DAY OF PASSOVER IS THE JOY AND GRATITUDE FOR THE DROWNING OF THE EGYPTIANS. Let us pay attention: Why was the seventh day of Passover set down as a “Yom Tov”, and not another “Chol HaMoed”, just as the seventh day of Succot is a “Chol HaMoed”? The answer is, that on the seventh day of Passover, we celebrate a very special “Yom Tov”, because it is the day in which the Egyptians were drowned in the sea! If so, then obviously for one to say that it is forbidden to rejoice over the drowning of the Egyptians is a contradiction of terms! On the contrary, the day was set down as a Yom Tov ONLY because of the drowning of the Egyptians!
In the TALMUD, which is a pretty decent source, we find the explanation why only half a “Hallel” is said. It is explained in Trachtate Arachin (10) that: “The sacrifices are not divided up”. In other words, in contrast to “Succot” where each day a DIFFERENT number of sacrifices are brought which demonstrates the uniqueness of each and every day (and so on each day we say “Hallel”), on Passover, the same number of sacrifices are offered each day, and so there is no need to say the complete “Hallel”, which corresponds to the sacrifices, other than the first day!
We are still left with the question concerning the saying: “the works of My hands are drowning in the sea, and you want to sing a song?”, which indeed is brought down in the Talmud (though not in any connection to “Hallel”) in Tractate Sanhedrin (39). If one reads the entire passage, he will see that G-d did not want the ANGELS to sing for the drowning of the Egyptians!
Two more points on this subject:
- It must be payed attention to that the continuation (the next sentence!) of the same Talmud says: “He (G-d) is not happy, but he commands others (Israel) to be happy”. In other words, only G-d is not happy, since he cannot be joyful that he is forced to destroy the works of His hands – BUT HE DEMANDS OF US THAT WE REJOICE over the destruction of the haters of Israel, which is a Kiddush Hashem. The fact is, Israel certainly DID sing the great song which we all know – the song of the sea, WHICH WE SAY EVERY MORNING.
- Other parallel midrashim teach us that G-d’s words on the people drowning in the sea were referring to the JEWS, who at that moment were crossing the sea and had not yet been saved! This becomes clear after seeing midrashim which say: ‘Yisrael was in trouble in the sea” (Tanchuma), or “My hosts are in trouble” (Shmot Raba, 23)
In any case, the point is clear that the entire Yom Tov of the seventh day of Passover is for the drowning of the evil enemy, which is a Kiddush Hashem, as it says in the Mechilta: “When the Almighty punishes the wicked, his name is made Great and Holy.” Happy Holiday.