By: Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo
Judaism lives in constant tension. Between reality and dream. Hope and disappointment. It longs for the day when the wolf will live with the lamb and the messianic era will finally be ushered in. But it knows that day has not yet come. There is still an enormous gap between what is and what ought to be. Judaism is the art of the possible. Of the doable. The road is long and the bumps are many, but the dream is alive and well. Until one has arrived, there is a heavy price to pay. Still, one must not give up and should even enjoy the ride. At least make a sincere attempt.
What does one do when his arch enemies are drowned in the Reed Sea? Should he dance on the rooftops when he sees the enemy crushed, or should he thank God for the victory but go home with a heavy heart, shedding a sincere tear for human life that was lost? Even if it is the life of his arch enemy?
Judaism chooses the latter. It has no option but to be sad even in times of joy. And its sadness is so great that it spills over. Despite the enemy's cruelty, the Jew takes his cup of wine on the day of his liberation and spills a bit to demonstrate sorrow for his enemy's loss of life. He does so in spite of the prohibition against wasting even a drop. His sadness is so intense that he cannot hold back from transgressing the law for the sake of allowing his emotions to have their way. He diminishes his simchah by removing a tiny bit from the cup of his glorious victory. The dip of a finger. Nothing more. It takes only a second, but the act is of infinite value. Compassion for those who fell so low that they turned into Jew haters and lost all dignity. How distressing that human beings are able to compromise themselves to that extent. How is it possible not to mourn? Ten mini dips for ten plagues that befell the Egyptians. The totality of the Jewish neshamah is reflected in this tiny gesture. Tiny, but of enormous moral strength.
But can a man really live with ten mournful dips in the face of an arch enemy's cruelty? Is it possible for the Jew to simply dip and forget about the pain inflicted by the enemy for thousands of years? Where will this pain go? Does one just swallow it? Forget what happened? Or shall the Jew, after all, call for revenge, take the law in his own hands and initiate a jihad (holy war)? And if so, how then will he live with the drops of wine he just wasted? The Jew is caught between a sorrowful dip and an inner need for revenge. He is tossed from left to right and back again. And he ultimately decides for the dip. No revenge, no jihad.
But what about the pain? How can one vent his frustrations, fed by thousands of years of cruel anti-Semitism? Is violence not often the result of such frustrations that were denied an outlet? What does one do when the drop of wine stands in the way and does not allow his vexation and pain any escape? At whose feet can one throw his resentment and be assured that it will be handled with the greatest sensitivity but simultaneously not lead to more trouble?
Only in the privacy of one's home, where one knows he can call for revenge and be confident that he will be taken seriously but not so seriously that it will be turned into reality. Where one can say what he means, let off steam, get it out of his system and be sure that in spite of it all, he would not hurt a fly.
Only with God, the ultimate home, can we unburden our feelings. Only He knows how to deal with human frustrations, and not get carried away. He will know what we really have in mind and whether or not to take action.
Far from what one may think, shefoch chamatcha is not a prayer of incitement. It is a prayer born out of pain, in which we ask God to redeem us from all the hate which we Jews have experienced over thousands of years. To this very day. We just have to let off steam. It is up to Him to decide how to respond. It is not our business to assist Him in this. In fact, it is forbidden to be of any support.
Judaism does not allow any waste. Only in a few instances is one allowed to spill. And just a tiny bit. To teach a fundamental lesson on how to approach life. To learn not to waste our souls or risk our stake in God. Why, after all, is it forbidden to waste? So that we may recognize the overflow of the beauty of life.
Shefoch chamatcha is a prayer spoken at the moment of great intimacy between God and us. A prayer in which we try to master what is inferior in us and grow beyond its words.
May this prayer soon disappear from the Haggadah. When hate will cease to exist and there will no longer be need of an outlet for our frustrations. When we will be able to live and let live in pure love. When we will dwell on a word in our prayers and transform it into the realization of our ultimate dream-from feelings of frustration into emotions of love.
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