Mordechai Silverstein
Mordechai Silverstein

Pesah’s Greatest Miracle (Joshua 5:2-6:1; 6:27)

The first Pesah celebrated after crossing into Eretz Israel was a turning point in the lives of the Children of Israel. It had been close to forty years since the last Pesah celebration and this momentous event marked not just reaching their destination, it also signified the normalization of their lives: “On the day after the Passover offering, on that very same day, they ate of the produce of the country, unleavened bread and parched grain. On that same day, when they ate of the produce of the land, the manna ceased. The Israelites got no more manna; that year they ate of the yield of the land of Canaan.” (Joshua 5:11-12)

Why did the miracle of the manna end? The Mekhilta, a midrashic work on the book of Exodus contemporary with the Mishnah, attributed the miracle of the manna to Moshe: “Rabbi Yehoshua said: ‘When Miriam died, the well was taken away, but it came back because of the merits of Moshe and Aharon; When Aharon died, the cloud of glory was taken away and returned no more, but it then came back because of the merit of Moshe; When Moshe died, all three, the well, the cloud of glory and the manna, were taken away and returned no more.'” (Mekhilta d’Rabbi Yishmael Vayissa 5, Horowitz-Rabin ed. p. 173)

With the death of Miriam, Aharon and Moshe, together with the entry into the land, the life of the people changed radically. While in the desert, the people’s lives were maintained by God’s miraculous providential grace. Entering Eretz Yisrael (the land of Israel) was a turning point, as noted by Rabbi Naphtali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin, known by his acronym – the Netziv (19th century Belorussia): “In the desert, they conducted themselves with glory for they walked alongside Moshe who operated above the ways of the natural world; but in Eretz Yisrael, the people lived according to the laws of nature, where God’s providence is hidden…” (Ha-amek Davar, Intro. to the book of Numbers)

In some sense, the first Pesah in Eretz Yisrael was a redemptive experience of a different sort. The experience in the desert was for the Children of Israel a childhood experience where everything was provided for them. This first Pesah, under the leadership of Yehoshua, was the nation’s introduction into adulthood, where with God’s help, they had to provide for themselves. This second model represents the life that we lead, with all of its triumphs and its vicissitudes. It is our ability to choose our own paths and our ability to choose to serve God of our own volition that makes life meaningful. And this, perhaps, is truly the miracle of freedom we celebrate on Pesah.

About the Author
Mordechai Silverstein is a teacher of Torah who has lived in Jerusalem for over 30 years. He specializes in helping people build personalized Torah study programs.
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