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Chanukah Hallel: Paragraph Two: External & Internal Freedoms

“When Israel left Egypt, Jacob’s family from among a people that was glad.” Elsewhere, the verse says, “Egypt was glad when they departed.” (Psalm 105:38) Rabbi Berechiah told a parable of a fat man riding on a donkey. The fat man was wondering, “When can I get off the donkey?” The donkey was wondering, “When will he get off of me?” When the time came for the fat man to get off, I do not know which one was more glad.
And when David thought of how glad the Egyptians were when the Children of Israel went forth out of Egypt, he began to sing in praise of the exodus saying, “When Israel left Egypt…from a people that was glad.” (Midrash Tehillim 114.1)

The parable is focused on the period after the plagues began; they would not have been a ‘donkey carrying a heavy load,’ before the plagues began. It seems that God wanted the Egyptians to rejoice even more than their former slaves when Israel left. Some commentators (Rabbi Aharon Moshe Padua of Karlin) connect this Midrash with the Talmudic debate (Berachot 9b) whether the Jews rushed out of Egypt, or if the Egyptians rushed them out. If the rush was the Egyptian’s, it was the final straw in their physical freedom: The Egyptians had enslaved the Jews, and their pushing Israel out of Egypt severed the final link to them. However, if the rush was Israel’s, it was a step forward in their internal process of toward acting as free people. (See Rav Kook, Ein Iyah, Berachot 9b)

Rabbi Berechiah read this psalm as the second stage: When Israel left an Egypt glad to be free of them, they too, rejoiced in their internal freedom. He incorporates both opinions regarding the rush. This psalm celebrates both stages of freedom; the external and the internal.

This was acted out in the Chanukah story: The external freedom was the victory. Their internal freedom was acknowledged by God with the miracle of the oil. The Hallel is the key we use to connect both on Chanukah – the victory and the Menorah.

A woman described a horrible accident in her van while she was driving her children. Miraculously, no one was hurt. She wanted to know how to use the experience, both the accident and the miracle, to improve her relationship with God. The miracle was external – the victory. Her desire to learn from her experience was her internal process – the Menorah. Her Hallel can be the celebration of her connecting both the external and the internal.

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