Remembering Redemption: Vehi SheAmda

After the four questions and the story of the four sons we get to the Vehi SheAmbda, the reminder that redemption is an ongoing theme in Jewish life, occurring over and over again in history:

וְהִיא שֶׁעָמְדָה לַאֲבוֹתֵיֽנוּ וְלָנֽוּ. שֶׁלֹא אֶחָד בִּלְבָד, עָמַד עָלֵיֽנוּ לְכַלּוֹתֵנֽוּ. אֶלָּא שֶׁבְּכָל דּוֹר וָדוֹר, עוֹמְדִים עָלֵיֽנוּ לְכַלּוֹתֵנֽוּ. וְהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מַצִּילֵנוּ מִיָּדָם

And it is this [covenant] that has stood for our foremothers and forefathers and us. Not just one enemy alone has stood against us to destroy us. Rather in every generation there are those who have stood against us to destroy us, and the Holy One Blessed Be saves us from their hands.

This version of the song is sung by Adi Arad, an Israeli singer who specializes in Chazanut and is also known for the prayer she composed for Gilad Shalit while he was in custody.

The song has both middle eastern and Ashkenazi versions. Some of the more interesting versions found on You Tube: the Caravan Tamir Israali Scouts chorus, middle eastern European (different tune), Israeli pop rock, and Elior Itzkovitz-cohen singing with orchestra and children’s chorus; ,

According to Issac Luria, the great kabbalist, one should cover the matzah and raise the wine glass. When done, the wine glass is lowered and the matzah uncovered.

It is as if we are acting out the story of rescue and redemption. Wine is dark and fluid. It has no fixed form. So too God in moments of darkness needing rescue. In those moments God cannot be grasped. But when redemption is revealed we can look at events and see God in our midst. The troubles become like liquid flowing away and we are left standing safely on solid ground. Moments of redemption are like matzah whose white color is reminiscent of light and understanding and whose flat surface and solid feel represents the foundational sense of God in moments of redemption.

Matzah also symbolizes redemption because of the way it was transformed. In the story of the Exodus during slavery matzah represents the bread of poverty and affliction. Then on the final night the very simplicity of matzah becomes the sign f redemption. The fact there was no time to let it rise is prove that redemption was not just on its way but rather in the here and now pushing them forward and out from Egypt.

Even within the seder itself we are reminded of many redemptions and rescues. Vehi SheAmda concludes the part of the Seder devoted to the story of Abraham. It precedes the story of Laban and Jacob. In yesterday’s post (Karev Yom: It Happened At Midnight), Abraham was our first midnight story of redemption. Jacob and Laban were players in the next two midnight stories. Placed as it is between Abraham and Jacob it acts as an acknowledgement of the first of many redemptions in Jewish history.

Categories: To Be a Jew | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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