The last days of Pesach celebrate the great miracle of Krias Yam Suf, the splitting of the Red Sea, when the Jewish people were miraculously saved and the nine million Egyptians went to their watery graves. (Nine million per Rav Avigdor Miller, zt”l, zy”a, who says that together with the older men, women and children and the eirav rav, there were three million Jews. And since the posuk says, v’shalishim al kulo, that the Egyptians brought a force of three against one, this results in the tally of nine million Egyptians.) This was a stupendous miracle for in a mere four hours, during the last third of the night, Hashem wrought vengeance against our nine million tormentors. One of the reasons why the name of Hashem, Elo-him, describes the manifestation of middas hadin, the attribute of strict justice, is because the letters of this Name can also be read el hayam, into the sea, where this incredible exhibition of Hashem’s justice occurred.
The Toliner Rebbe, zt”l, zy”a, says that the Seder ritual of karpas is an acronym of kol sus rechev Paroh, all the horses and chariots of Paroh. And when we dip the karpas herb into the saltwater, we are symbolizing the drowning of Paroh’s massive fleet in the salty waters of the Rea Sea. This is a very fitting symbolism since karpas comes after the first cup of wine which symbolizes the first language of geula, redemption, v’lakachti, and I took you to Me. And right after Hashem took us out of Egypt, He split the Rea Sea. So too, right after the karpas ritual, we do the yachatz ceremony, breaking the middle matzah into two, which also symbolizes the splitting of the Yam Suf.
This is why yachatz has the numerical value of 108, the same gematria as the word chok, which refers to milah, the circumcision. As we say at a bris, “Chok bisheiro som – He places the statute of the bris on our flesh.” This is very fitting since it was in the merit of the bris milah that the sea split. As it says in tehilim, “L’gozer yam suf l’gezorim.” While this literally means that He carved the sea into many paths (twelve paths for the twelve tribes), the Pe’er Aharon, zt”l, zy”a, Hashem should avenge his blood from the dreaded Nazis, renders the verse that He split the sea ‘for those who cut themselves’ by doing the circumcision. To sweeten this idea, the words that come right after yachatz are ha lachma, which has the numerical value of 85, the same gematria as the word milah.Reb Yochanan of Rachmastrivka, zt”l, zy”a, says that the word karpas is also an acronym of klal rishon peh sagur, the first principle of life is that one should keep their mouth shut.
This is consistent with the sage advice in Pirkei Avos: Lo matzosi l’guf tov mishtikah. Rav Shimon teaches us that he didn’t find anything better for the body than the talent of keeping quiet. The aforementioned acronym of kol sus rechev Paroh is consistent with this new acronym of klal rishon peh sagur, to keep our mouths closed. For right before the splitting of the sea and the drowning of the Egyptians, Moshe Rabbeinu gave the instruction to the Bnei Yisroel, “Hashem yilcheim lachem v’atem tacharishun – Hashem will do battle for you and you will be silent.” Thus we see that our part in the resulting end of our Egyptian nemesis was our adopting the talent of silence.
This was to repair the dibur ra’ah of Yosef, the evil tidings that Yosef told his father about the tribes, which was the initial spark that unleashed the horrors of the saga of Mitzrayim. It is for this reason that the name of this holiday is Pesach, which is a composition of the two words peh sach, the mouth speaks, indicating that on this holiday we put an emphasis on speaking wisely. We read the haggadah which means ‘to relate,’ again emphasizing our preoccupation with talking wisely to our children. We demonstrate that we are the antithesis of the villain of this yomtov, Paroh, whose name is made up of the same letters as the words peh rah, an evil mouth.
Thus, on Pesach we convey to our children the great lesson of “hakol kol Yaakov,” the voice is the voice of Yaakov. This testifies that our national strength is in the proper usage of our mouths, not only through Torah and tefillah, but in words of encouragement and compliments to our spouses, our children, our parents and our friends. As the Gemara concludes in Masechtas Sanhedrin, “Adam la’amal peh nivra – A man’s greatest arena for achievement in this world is through the usage of his mouth.” On Pesach, the anniversary of the birth of the Jewish people, we caution them to avoid at all costs the sinful sides of speech such as lashon hara, lying, hurtful words, vulgar speech and the like.
In the merit of our sagacious silence and words of wisdom and healing, may Hashem bless us with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.
Transcribed and edited by Shelley Zeitlin.