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A Taste of Wrath for Shabbat

Friends,
Towards the end of the Pesach Seder, we opened the door for Eliyahu HaNavi and recited the short paragraph, "Shfoch Chamatcha": "Pour out Your wrath upon the nations that do not acknowledge You and upon the kingdoms that do not cry out Your Name (Psalms 79). For they have devoured Jacob and destroyed his habitation (Psalms 69)."

The harshness of this concluding element of the Haggadah has led some to include an alternative version which begins "Sh'foch Ahavatcha" - "Pour Out Your Love." The text is apparently taken from a 1521 medieval Haggadah attributed to the descendants of Rashi, which is printed in the Family Participation Haggadah published by Noam Zion and David Dishon (Shalom Hartman Institute, 1997).

This version of the prayer dovetails nicely with a Chassidic interpretation quoted in the name of the Kotzer Rebbe who said that you could read the original phrase more lovingly anyway. Instead of reciting "Shfoch Chamatcha" as "Pour out Your wrath", read it as Shfoch Chohmatcha" – "Pour out Your warmth."

On the other hand, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach z"l once read "Shfoch Chamatcha" as follows: "Please God, if there has to be a wiping out of evil let us not be the ones who are forced to do it. Can You find a way to destroy the evil in this world? Please, Shfoch Chamatcha, pour out Your wrath... please, can You do it?"

As Yom HaShoah VeHaGevurah – Holocaust Remembrance and Resistance Day approaches this weekend, I would like to suggest that the essence of the Shfoch Chamatcha prayer has less to do with the words, and more to do with the action that accompanies them. This prayer, a late addition to the Haggadah, was included after waves of persecution and pogroms, and was intended to encourage the Jews to fling open their doors (albeit in the dead of the night) and wail aloud to God and to each other of their sufferings. But perhaps the older tradition was simply to open the door for Eliyahu – to take an active step in our own redemption. We have learned from the Exodus narrative, that freedom begins with the ability to cry out (Shemot 2:23), but the final step towards redemption requires us taking action (Shemot 14:15). In this manner, Shfoch Chamatcha is a critical reminder that "Never Again" may ultimately mean that actions will have to speak louder than words.

Shabbat Shalom!

See you in shul,

Rabbi Uri