- Torah Portion and Tanach
Hashem commanded Bnei Yisrael to remember the day they left Egypt (Shemot 13:3). The midrash (Shemot Rabba 19:7), notes the similarity to the commandment to remember the day of Shabbat. It says that Hashem was telling them to commemorate the miracles of the Exodus as they were obligated to remember the creation of the world, which is at the heart of Shabbat. The midrash continues that just as there are seven days of the week which repeat themselves, so are there seven days of Pesach, from the day of the liberation until the day of the splitting of the sea, which we commemorate yearly.
What is the connection between the ongoing commemoration of Shabbat and the two parts of the celebration of Pesach? Rav Chaim Goldvicht (Asufot Ma’arachot, IV, pp. 81-90) explains with the help of another question. The gemara says that Bnei Yisrael would have been fully redeemed if they would have fully kept two Shabbatot. Why is one Shabbat insufficient and two sufficient?
He explains, based on the Sefat Emet, that there is a difference between a first Shabbat and a second. Hashem gives us the Shabbat, with its entire spiritual splendor, as a gift from Him. The job of the human being is to take that sanctity and apply it to the mundane days of the week. This work of integrating the message prepares the person to accept the Shabbat that follows the spiritually enriched week on a higher plane. That special second Shabbat, after preparations through toil to accept it properly, makes one, personally, and the nation, collectively, fit for redemption.
Similarly, Hashem granted Bnei Yisrael liberation from Egypt on the first day with minimal participation on their part. However, in the days that followed, Bnei Yisrael traveled in circles in the desert in a manner that encouraged Egypt to prepare for attack at Yam Suf. By taking part in permanently severing links to Egypt, they caused the liberation to have a greater impact on the development of the nation. In both cases, then, commemorating the miracle of creation and of liberation on a cyclical basis engenders an ongoing growth, inspired from Above, then from below, then from Above again, etc.
One of the most difficult religious tasks is to find a balance between viewing history as Divinely mandated and controlled and between striving to be actively involved in its unfolding. As we have seen, both are part of the religious experience. Those, for example, who were or are involved in the building and defense of the State of Israel are more likely to feel a strong connection to it. On the other hand, when one is active, he may have a tendency to see the human effort as the cause of its success or failure. The daily remembrance of the events of the Exodus should certainly bring us to remember Hashem’s leading role. However, we should also remember the beauty of being a partner with Hashem in unfolding, positive, historical events.