Pesach: Cutting the Sea Open ~ Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein

On the Seventh Day of Passover, we read one of the most captivating stories in the entire Bible: the splitting of the sea. After the Egyptians finally let the Jews out of Egypt, they quickly changed their minds and followed in pursuit of their former slaves. The Jews traveled and traveled until they reached edge of the Yam Suf (Red Sea, or Reed Sea). With the Egyptians behind them and the sea in front of them, the Jews had nowhere to go but forward, so G-d miraculously split the sea open and allowed the Jews to cross the dry sea bed. Jewish tradition immortalizes this fantastic miracle as Kriyat Yam Suf — literally, “the tearing of the Yam Suf”. However, if one looks very closely, one will notice that Torah never uses the verb korea (“tearing”) to describe the sea opening up. Rather, the Torah uses the verb bokea (“splitting”) to refer to G-d’s breaking the sea open (Ex. 14:15, 14:21). What is the difference between bokea and korea? And why does the Torah use the former, but other traditional sources use the latter?

The Gerrer Rebbe, Rabbi Yitzchok Meir Alter (1799-1866), author of the Chiddishei HaRim, was once asked this question. He replied that he has much to say, but from Above he is stopped from giving a full answer. Instead, the Gerrer Rebbe said that he could reveal only a partial answer, one that is based on the halachic definition of the act of korea (“tearing,” which is forbidden on Shabbat). The Shulchan Aruch HaGraz (Orach Chaim §340:17) defines korea as the act of ripping apart two things that were joined together, but were once separate. The Midrash says that when G-d first created the world, He stipulated with the water that when the time comes, they will split in order to allow the Jews to cross the Yam Suf. Because of this prior stipulation, the water can be seen as having already been split from the time of Creation. Thus, when the Jews came to the Yam Suf and G-d split the sea for them, He was actually splitting something which had already once been split. For this reason, the Oral Torah uses the word korea when talking about splitting the sea. Nonetheless, the Gerrer Rebbe said that he cannot reveal why the Written Torah uses the word bokea.

Rabbi Shmuel Borenstein of Sochatchov (1855-1926) offers a different answer. In his work Shem Mi’Shmuel,he explains that the difference between bokea and korea lies in whose voice is speaking. He explains that the word bokea refers to something which was split from the inside out. For example, a hatchling which bursts out from inside an egg is described as bokea (Isa. 34:15), as is wine which busts open a flask (Gittin 26a). In contrast, the term korea applies to something which is cut by an outside force (like North Korea and South Korea, which were split by the Cold War).

Accordingly, Rabbi Borenstein explains that from G-d’s point of view the sea split from the inside out, because He commanded it to split and it listened to Him. For this reason, the Written Torah — in which G-d speaks to us—uses the term bokea when describing the sea’s splitting. However, the Oral Torah is written from the perspective of the Jewish People. From that vantage point the sea did not appear to split on its own. Rather, we look at the sea as having split due to an outside force acting upon it. In other words, we look at G-d as coming from the outside and splitting the sea on our behalf. For this reason the Oral Torah uses the term korea when describing the sea splitting.

Rabbi Shlomo Pappenheim of Breslau (1740-1814) writes that korea refers specifically to “tearing” or “ripping” something which is soft and can be easily torn. The halachic requirement for one to rend one’s clothes when in mourning is called tearing kriyah. According to this we can explain that when speaking of the tradition of G-d’s “tearing” the sea open, we specifically use the term kriyat yam suf to note that vis-à-vis G-d, tearing the sea is no great feat, because He can do everything. When He tore open the sea, it was as though He tore or ripped something which can be easily torn.

Elsewhere, the Bible uses a third verb to denote the cutting open of the sea. In Psalms 136:13, the splitting of the sea is referred to as “cutting (gozer) the Yam Suf into cuts (l’gezarim)”. We also thank G-d in the daily Maariv prayers for being “the one who passes His children between the cuts (gizrei) of the Yam Suf”. How does this verb gozer differ from bokea and korea?

Rabbi Pappenheim explains that gozer refers to the act of precision-cutting with an instrument. Anything which is purposely “cut out” from being attached to something bigger can be described as nigzar or a gizrah. A decree, or judicial verdict, is also called a gezirah because the final ruling is “cut out” from the greater back-and-forth of the legal discussion, and is applied on its own. Interestingly, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (to Ps. 136:13) writes that the Psalmist specifically chose the word gozer because that word refers not only to “cutting,” but also denotes “decreeing” and “deciding”. At the splitting of the sea G-d decided the fates of two nations: the Jewish nation who crossed the sea bed on dry land, and the Egyptians who ended up drowning.

In a separate discussion about the meaning of the root gozer, Rabbi Pappenheim explains that it denotes the type of cutting whereby one must continuously apply a blade, moving it backwards and forwards until it has cut through whatever one is cutting. This type of cutting is used for cutting something especially thick, such as people (I Kings 3:25), animals (Gen. 15:17), or wood (II Kings 6:4). Accordingly, cutting the Yam Suf is referred to by the verb gozer because the sea is considered something eminently thick.

Rabbi Pappenheim and others explain that the two-letter root GIMMEL-ZAYIN — from which gozer is derived — refers primarily to “shaving” or “trimming,” which is a type of cutting that leaves some parts attached and some parts detached. Some quick examples of words that are derived from this root: geiz (Ps. 72:6) refers to the grass remaining after trimming, gozez (Gen. 38:12, 31:19) is the act of shearing wool from sheep; gezel is the act of stealing or robbing somebody’s possession (while leaving some of his other possessions intact); gazam is a type of grasshopper which meddles in produce by eating some of it (and leaving over the rest); geza is a tree whose top has been truncated, and gazit refers to a hewn stone (i.e. parts of the stone are shaved down, and the rest of the stone remains in place). In light of this we can easily understand the etymology of gozer (“cut”), and how it relates to the two-letter root GIMMEL-ZAYIN. [The Modern Hebrew word gezer (“carrot”) is not directly related to this discussion because it is actually derived from the Arabic word for that root-vegetable, jazar (which also means “cut” in Arabic).]

The most common word for “cutting” is chaticha. However, it should be noted that a chaticha-related word appears only once in the entire Bible (Dan. 9:24). Nevertheless, cognates of chaticha come up more often in later Hebrew writings. Rabbi Shlomo Pappenheim of Breslau (1740-1814) explains that chaticha primarily refers to the act of “cutting” something down the middle, thereby splitting it into two halves. Rabbinic Hebrew adopted the word chaticha and its cognate as the principle words for “cutting,” and expanded the word’s meaning to refer to all types of “cutting”.

Rabbi Pappenheim explains that like the word chatichabatar also refers to cutting something in half. More specifically, it refers to cutting an animal in half for the purposes of using that cut animal as a sign for a covenant/treaty between two parties. He explains that the word batar is related to brit, as both words have the same three consonants. In fact, Genesis 15 describes the Covenant Between the Pieces (Brit Bein Ha’Betarim) — an agreement between G-d and Abraham, which Abraham endorsed by following G-d’s command to cut up certain animals and seal the deal. The prophet Jeremiah (in Jer. 34:18-19) also describes solidifying a treaty by cutting animals in half and walking through them. In all of these cases, the word batar is used.

With this in mind, Rabbi Pappenheim explains the meaning of the expression harei bater (“mountains of bater”), which appears in Song of Songs 2:17. That term refers to a pair of mountains which appear to have been originally formed as one, but were split from each other over time.

Another word for “cutting” is natach (or its verb form minateach)Rabbi Pappenheim explains that natach differs from batar in that it refers to cutting an animal into multiple pieces (not just two), and is not used for making a treaty, but for other purposes. For example, when a butcher sells different parts of an animal’s body, or a cook cuts up pieces of meat so they can fit in a pot, this is called natach. The Modern Hebrew word nituach (“surgery”) is derived from this Biblical root.

The term petitah (found, for example, in Lev. 2:6) refers to breaking up something with one’s bare hands. For instance, a baked good broken up into smaller parts is called pat/pita (one of several Hebrew words for “bread”). Rabbi Pappenheim explains that this term differs from natach not in the quality of the cutting, but in its focus. Petitah/pat focuses on the pieces which result from cutting, while natach refers to the whole body of that which was cut.

Interestingly, Rabbi Pappenheim explains that the two-letter root PEH-TAV, which makes up the core of petitah, is also related to the words mefateh/pitui (“convincing” or “cajoling”). When one needs to “convince” somebody else to acquiesce to his propositions, he has essentially “torn up” that person’s feelings into different parts, with the person partially agreeing to him and partially disagreeing. On the other hand, when a person does something completely of his own volition, he is said to do it b’lev shaleim (“with a complete heart”), not with a “partial heart”. Rabbi Pappenheim also expands on this idea to explain the etymology of the word mofet (“wonder” or “sign”), which serves to “convince” somebody of a certain reality.

Another word for “cutting” is mohl/milah. Rabbi Pappenheim explains that this term is reserved for cutting off the top of something. It is famously applied to brit milah (“circumcision”), which is the commandment of cutting off the foreskin (on the top of the male organ). It is also applies to cutting off the tops of stalks (Job 18:16, 24:24) and of grass (Ps. 37:2), and dulling the tips of arrows (Ps. 58:8). One who engages in this sort of cutting is called a mohel. I seem to remember reading somewhere once that the terms mohel or milah refer specifically to cutting something round, but I am unable to recall where I saw this idea.

Nonetheless, Rabbi Pappenheim writes something similar about a different word. He explains that poleach means to cut something open (see Ps. 141:7, Prov. 7:23), while pelach is that which has been cut out (see Song of Songs 4:3, I Sam. 30:12). Rabbi Pappenheim explains that the hallmark of a pelach is that it refers specifically to something “cut off” from a greater circular parent, such that the shape of the pelach makes its obvious that it is cut from something circular or spherical. The shape of an orange segment or a slice of pizza can be described as a pelach (a “sector” in geometrical terms), and poleach refers specifically to cutting something in that fashion.

According to Rabbi Pappenheim, ketev refers to the type of cutting which does not penetrate the entire thickness of something to completely sever it. Rather, it is simply a cut that slices into the thickness, but not through-and-through. This is like a paper-cut, when one’s finger gets cut but is not completely severed. Rabbi Pappenheim explains that all four times that cognates of ketev appear in the Bible (Deut. 32:24, Isa. 28:2, Ps. 91:6, and Hos. 13:14), they refer to a type of illness that cuts one’s innards but does not sever them.

Another word for “cutting” is primah/porem (Lev. 13:45, 21:10). Rabbi Pappenheim sharpens the definition of primah by comparing it to kriyah/korea. Each act of kriyah makes another tear that separates one piece from the item-at-large. However, with primah, one act of tearing causes multiple pieces to come off of the item in question. When one rips something made up of many smaller parts (e.g., cheap fabrics), one simple act of ripping already begins to unravel the entire item. That type of “tearing” or “cutting” is called primah.

Other words for “cutting” include: 1) Gada (“truncating”), which specifically refers to cutting something as a means of destroying it or rendering it useless. 2) Ketzitzah (“chopping”)which refers to the act of cutting something with one strong blow. Rabbi Pappenheim explains that the root of ketzitzah is the two-letter string KUF-TZADI, which means “end,” because through chopping an object into two parts one creates two new ends of it. 3)Ketifah, which refers to severing something which was only flimsily connected. It is the word used to refer to plucking or detaching a flower or other flora. 4) Karet also refers to “cutting,” and is used to refer to the punishment of spiritual excision. In a future essay I hope to address the etymology of karet and how it differs from another punishment called ariri.




Pesach: Liberty and Freedom for All ~ Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein

The Holiday of Passover, when the Jewish People were emancipated from slavery in Egypt, is described in our liturgy as Zman Cheiruteinu, “the Time of our Freedom.” However, as we shall see in the coming lines, the word cheirut is not the only Hebrew word for “freedom”. When the Bible refers to freeing slaves it uses two other words for “freedom”: chofesh and dror. An additional, conceptually-related word is hefker (“ownerless”), which is also related to freedom. We will seek to understand the differences between these four words and what lies at the roots of these words.

We begin with the words dror and chofesh. The word dror first appears in the Bible when discussing the freeing of slaves in the Juiblee Year (Lev. 25:10). Rashi, based on Rosh Hashana 9b, explains that the word dror is related to the word dar (“dwells”), and refers to one who dwells within his own domain, and does not fall under others’ control.

Dror is also a type of bird whose very essence expresses this notion. Ibn Ezra explains that the Dror Bird happily sings when free to its own devices, but if captured and stuck in man’s domain, it refuses to eat until it dies. Sefer HaAruch also tells that the Dror Bird is suicidal when it loses its freedom. Radak in Sefer HaShorashim explains that a Dror Bird is called so because it builds nests inside people’s homes without fear of being captured, as if it was completely free from the possibility of capture (see also Beitzah 24a). In this way, dror denotes being “free as a bird.”

When the Torah calls for “pure myrrh” to be used in the anointing oil (Exodus 30:23), the word dror is used for “pure”. Rabbi Yonah Ibn Janach and Nachmanides explain that this is because the Torah requires they use myrrh that is free from outside impurities and forgeries. Interestingly, the word dror can sometimes be abbreviated as dar,like in Esther 1:6 when it refers to Achashverosh granting merchants a special tax exemption (see Megillah 12a).

The word chofesh also appears in the Bible in the context of freeing slaves (most notably in Ex. 21, Deut. 15, and Jer. 34), although it means “vacation” in Modern Hebrew. In terms of their mutual association with the concept of “freedom”, Rabbi Shlomo Aharon Wertheimer (1866-1935) explains that dror and chofesh do not refer to the exact same phenomenon. Chofshi refers to freedom from an obligation to work, while dror refers to the freedom from subjugation to a specific person who lords over him. The word cheirut does not appear in the Bible in the context of freedom. Nonetheless, it is the standard word for freeing a slave in Rabbinical parlance. In the Birkat HaChodesh prayer, which we say on the Sabbath before Rosh Chodesh, we beseech G-d to redeem us from avdut (“servitude”) to cheirut (“freedom”). Moreover, the Mishnaic term shichrur is a cognate of cheirut that refers to the formal act of freeing a slave, and the Mishnaic phrase eved she’nishtachrar refers to a freed slave. On Passover Night we strive to act like Bnei Chorin — “free men.”

Although the Bible itself never uses the word cheirut in the context of freedom, Rabbinical tradition (Avot 6:2) finds a Scriptural allusion to such a meaning. The Bible describes the Tablets that Moshe brought from Mount Sinai as “the work of G-d, and the writing was the writing of G-d, engraved (charut) on the tablets” (Ex. 32:16). The root for the Hebrew word which means “engraved” is generally spelled CHET-REISH-TET. However, in this context a variant spelling is used, replacing the ultimate TET with a TAV. Because of this slight deviance from the norm, the Rabbis found something deeper alluded to in this verse: “Do not read it as not charut (‘engraved’), but as cheirut (‘freedom’), for the only person who is truly free is one who occupies himself with Torah study.” It seems fairly clear that if the ultimate purpose of the Exodus was to give the Jewish People the Torah at Mount Sinai, then the word for freedom resulting from the Exodus should appropriately be cheirut — and the holiday which celebrates that freedom should be termed Zman Cheiruteinu.

Nevertheless, our understanding of cheirut does not address its meaning vis-à-vis the other words for “freedom.” Why did the Rabbis decide to use the word cheirut for “freedom” instead of the words found in the Bible?

The British philosopher Isaiah Berlin (1909-1997) famously differentiated between two distinct types of freedom: “negative liberty” and “positive liberty.” Based on this philosophical distinction, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks (Chief Rabbi Emeritus of the United Kingdom), offers a deeper understanding as to the difference between chofesh and cheirut. He explains that the adjective chofshi denotes what a slave becomes when he goes free. It means that he can do whatever his heart desires. The word chofesh is related to chafetz (desire) and chapess (search out). Rabbi Sacks, philosopher, identifies this type of freedom with “negative liberty” because it simply denotes the lack of coercion.

Negative liberty may be worthwhile on an individual level, but on a society level there must be some form of rules — one cannot simply do whatever one pleases. On the other hand, law and order must not be imposed in a coercive manner, because then the masses will resent and resist said law. Instead, the law must be presented and taught in a way in which everyone willingly accepts it of their own volition. When this happens, the law becomes a part of them — engrained in their very essence — for the greater good. To that effect, the Rabbis coined a new term cheirut,which denotes a sort of freedom that comes to society where people not only know the law, but study it constantly until it is engraved on their hearts (so charut and cheirut become one). On the surface, this “positive liberty” seems restrictive, but actually it proves quite liberating.

Truth be told, the cheirut-cognate chorim does actually appear in the Bible, just not in the context of freedom, per se. Chorim appears thirteen times in the Bible in reference to noblemen and other dignitaries (see Rashi to Jer. 27:20). Rashi (to Sotah 49a) explains that chorin are people of lineage. The illustrious Wurzberger Rav, Rabbi Yitzchok Dov Bamberger (1807-1878), explains that chorim is related to the Aramaic words whose root is CHET-VAV-REISH, which means “white.” He explains that dignitaries are called “white” because their reputation must be untarnished, and because only important people were allowed to wear white clothes in the ancient world. (Rabbi Yaakov Tzvi Mecklenburg (1785-1865) associates cheirut with the Hebrew root chor, which means“hole” and uses those exact letters, but we will not delve into his approach here.)

That said, it seems to me that the Rabbis chose to use the word cheirut and various conjugations thereof in order to convey the idea of freedom on Passover for a very important reason. They wished to stress that newly-freed slaves begin their new lives with a clean slate, and they have the potential to become important people in their own right. On Passover we recognize and celebrate this potential for greatness. This optimistic, yet challenging, look at a freedman’s bright future warranted the Rabbis’ adoption of a new word for “freedom,” even though the Bible already has two words for that concept.




Pesach: Jumping for Joy! ~ Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein

The Hebrew name for the holiday of Passover is Pesach. The Paschal Sacrifice with which the holiday is associated is likewise known as the Korban Pesach (Pesach Sacrifice). What does the word Pesach actually mean? Rashi (to Exodus 12:11; 12:13; and Isaiah 31:5) explains that the word pesach is an expression of dilug and kefitzah. The latter two words are types of jumping, and as we shall see, Rashi correlates the idea of the Jews’ Exodus from Egypt to the act of jumping. In order for us to fully understand Rashi’s intent in doing so we must delve into the exact meanings of the words dilug and kefitzah, what each word implies, and how those ideas belay a deeper understanding of the word pesach.

The words dilug and kefitzah appear side by side in a Biblical passage that we read every year on the Shabbat of Passover: The voice of my beloved — behold it comes! — jumps (midaleg) over the mountains, jumps (mikapetz) over the hills (Song of Songs 2:8). What is the difference between these two different words used for jumping? In elucidating that passage, the Vilna Gaon explains, based on the Jerusalem Talmud (Beitzah 5:2), that kefitzah refers to a form of jumping whereby one lifts both feet from the ground. On the other hand, dilug refers to one who “skips” by grounding one foot and using the other foot to spring himself forward. This explanation is also cited by Maimonides (Rambam, 1135-1204) and the Rosh (Rabbi Asher ben Yechiel, d. 1328), in their respective commentaries to the Mishnah (Ohalot 8:5).

Rabbi Shimshon of Shantz (d. 1230) offers another way of differentiating between these two words. He writes in his commentary to said Mishnah that dilug is the word used for an animal that jumps, while kofetz is the word used for a human being who jumps. Thus, while Maimonides understands that the difference between dilug and kefitzah is in the style of the jump, Rabbi Shimshon understands that the difference lies in the subject of the action — but both words equally refer to the same way(s) of jumping.

While Rabbi Ovadia of Bartenura (1440-1500) cites both of these views in differentiating between dilug and kefitzah, Rabbi Yisrael Lipschitz (1782-1860) takes issue with Rabbi Shimshon’s explanation. Bartenura openly accepts Maimonides’ approach and points to different sources which seem to contradict Rabbi Shimshon’s position. For example, the Mishnah (Bava Kama 2:3) which speaks of a case in which a goat jumps from a roof and damages another’s property, uses the word kofetz to describe the goat’s action. Similarly, when the Mishnah (Bava Batra 2:4) rules that one must distance his ladder four cubits from his neighbor’s dovecote so that a marten (a cat-like animal) cannot jump from the ladder to the dovecote, it also uses the word kofetz to describe the marten’s action. Furthermore, when the Talmud (Berachot 19b) relates the halacha that one is permitted to jump over human graves in order to greet a king, the word used for jumping is midaleg. These sources suggest that the word doleg is not exclusive to animals and the word kofetz is not exclusive to humans. Moreover, the above-cited passage in Song of Songs proves that both verbs can apply to the same subject.

Rabbi Shlomo Aharon Wertheimer (1866-1935) suggests that while both words mean to jump, the difference is in how high. The word dilug implies a higher jump than does the word kefitzah,because in the above-cited passage from Song of Songs the former is used for jumping over a mountain, while the latter is used for jumping over a hill. We may posit that the word dilug could more accurately be translated as “skipping”, while kefitzah means “jumping”. In English the verb “to skip” refers to a leaping gait while walking (e.g., “Johnny happily skipped down the street.”) and to the evasion of something unneeded or unwanted (e.g., “Johnny skipped the boring parts of the book.”). In truth, both actions are conceptually similar, as the advantage of the ambulatory skipping is that one avoids walking on top of something upon which he does not want to tread, effectively “evading” it. Similarly, in Hebrew, the verb form of dilug refers to both of these types of actions.

Rabbi Shlomo Pappenheim of Breslau (1740-1814) explains that kefitzah refers to walking the distance of multiple footsteps with a single step. This may sometimes involve “jumping” above ground, but the goal of such a way of walking is simply its speed in getting to one’s place of destination. When one is kofetz he is not trying to avoid or skip over something; he is simply trying to reach his journey’s end faster. The word kofetz is also used idiomatically to refer to any action performed in haste or without proper contemplation. For example, when the Talmud talks about somebody taking an ad hoc oath, he is said to have “jumped and sworn”. The miraculous shortening of one’s journey is known as kefitzat ha’derech, literally, “jumping of the path,” in allusion to the speed with which one reaches his final destination. Rabbi Yaakov Lorberbaum of Lisa writes that dilug may actually denote a movement that’s faster than kefitzah, but the focus of dilug is nonetheless that which is skipped, rather than the speed of the act.

Earlier, we mentioned that the Hebrew name for the holiday of Passover is Pesach and the sacrifice associated with that holiday is likewise known as the Korban Pesach (Pesach Sacrifice). We cited Rashi’s explanation (to Exodus 12:11; 12:13; and Isaiah 31:5) that the word pesach is an expression of dilug and kefitzah, both of which are words for jumping. Indeed, the Paschal Sacrifice is called the Korban Pesach because it commemorates G-d “passing over” or “jumping over” the houses of the Jews when He struck the Egyptians with the Plague of the Firstborn. The holiday is accordingly named after the sacrifice associated with it. In the following paragraphs we will demonstrate exactly how the word pesach means “jumping”, but is not fully synonymous with the words dilug and kefitzah.

We explained above that the major difference between the two words for “jumping” by noting that the word dilug focuses on one who “jumps” as a means of skipping over something, and the word kefitzah focuses on one who “jumps” as a means of travelling faster. Rashi’s comment that the word Pesach is an expression of both dilug and kefitzah means that the word Pesach has both of these elements, especially in regard to G-d passing over the houses of the Jews in anticipation of the Exodus from Egypt.

Rabbi Avigdor Neventzhal (Chief Rabbi Emeritus of the Old City of Jerusalem) points out the obvious: when we speak of G-d “jumping” over the Jews in order to afflict the Egyptians with the Plague of the Firstborn, this cannot mean that He literally “jumped” over them, because He does not possess any physical body with which to perform such an action. Rather, the Torah speaks from the post facto perspective in which the Egyptian firstborns died, and the Jewish ones did not. In hindsight, it seemed as if G-d “jumped” over the Jews and smote only the Egyptians. In what way can this be called a dilug? Rabbi Neventzhal explains that just as the idea of dilug is to “skip over” something which has been deemed unnecessary, so too did G-d “skip over” His general requirement that one perform some act of commitment to seal his connection to G-d before G-d will allow that person to come close to Him. However, at that the Exodus, though the Jews had not yet exhibited that desire to connect to G-d, He nonetheless performed miracles on their behalf and took them out of Egypt.

In a similar vein, Rabbi Nachshon Schiller focuses on the haste with which the Exodus from Egypt occurred. Kabbalistic sources assert that during their stay in Egypt, the Jews had alarmingly fallen to the forty-ninth level of impurity and seriously required the Divine intervention of the Exodus. The urgency of the matter is highlighted by the Jews’ descent to the depths of impurity. Had the Jews remained in that land for an extra moment they would have plunged to the fiftieth level of impurity, from whence it would be impossible to recover. Therefore, G-d hastily redeemed the Jews before it was too late. Rabbi Schiller explains that for this reason G-d commanded that the Paschal Offering be eaten “in haste” (Exodus 12:11); eating from that sacrifice should be done quickly in imitation of G-d’s fast-acting miracles that brought the Exodus. In this way, the word Pesach is related to the word kefitzah, which denotes the speed of the jumper.

To summarize, the Exodus from Egypt has both an element of “skipping” and an element of “speed”, concepts which shed light on Rashi’s comment that Pesach is related to dilug and kefitzah. In redeeming the Jews, G-d waived the usual requirement that the recipient of Divine assistance actively show his commitment to Above. In essence, the Exodus basically “skipped over” (dilug) that general prerequisite for a miracle, a favor celebrated in the name Pesach. At the same time, the urgency and gravity of the dire situation demanded that G-d redeem the Jews immediately, and the speed (kefitzah) with which He did so is also immortalized in the very name of the Holiday of the Exodus — Pesach.

Before concluding I would like to point out another insight related to the Hebrew word pesach — and its verb form poseach. Those wordsshare their etymological root with the Hebrew word piseach (lame or immobile). The root of both words is the letter combination pehsamechchet. This occurrence is a poignant example of a common phenomenon in the Hebrew language whereby words whose meanings are conceptually diametric opposite are sometimes phonetically/orthographically similar (i.e. they are spelled or pronounced the same). This phenomenon illustrates the notion that words in the Hebrew language are not mere happenstance based on human whims, but possess inherent meanings and follow a Divine intuition not found in other languages. Therefore, a paralyzed person or an amputee who has been rendered immobile is known as a piseach, a word which resembles the very mobile act of “jumping” (poseach).