Friday, March 23, 2018

Chad Gadya: “One Kid Goat”

Reb Noson Sternhartz, Likutey Halakhos, Rosh Chodesh 6:19
Translated by Dovid Sears
From The Breslov Pirkey Avot, Breslov Research Institute

The singing of Chad Gadya (“One Kid Goat”) at the conclusion of the Passover Seder is a most amazing thing. The song’s basic theme is the perversion of justice. Each creature acted unjustly: the cat ate the kid goat unjustly; then along came the dog that ate the cat, and although the cat unquestionably deserved this, the dog had no right to bite the cat—for who appointed the dog to pass judgment on the cat? Similarly, the water, fire, etc., took vengeance on one another. All this was brought about by God, for each [as a victim] deserved its fate; yet each [as an aggressor], when considered alone, acted unjustly. Thus, each was subject to retribution afterward.

In truth, the nature of cosmic justice is beyond mortal understanding, for “God’s designs are profound” (Psalms 92:6) and it is forbidden to question them at all. This paradox is addressed by the Mishnah: He saw a skull floating on the surface of the water. He said to it: “Because you drowned others, they have drowned you— and those who drowned you in the end will be drowned.” No doubt [the victim] deserved to drown according to divine justice; nevertheless, the [murderer] behaved wrongfully. Therefore, those who drowned you in the end will be drowned.

This is why we mention this theme of Chad Gadya on Passover. Since the first Passover preceded the Giving of the Torah, we had not yet received the perfection of judgment. Chad Gadya teaches us that as long as judgment remains imperfect, it is impossible to fathom divine justice. Therefore, we are forbidden to harm anyone else, although according to his deeds he deserves it. We may not carry out this judgment, for “judgment belongs to the Lord” (Deuteronomy 1:17), and the ultimate perfection of justice is brought about only by God directly.

As we say at the conclusion, Along came the Holy One, blessed be He, and slaughtered the Angel of Death… which teaches us that the perfection of justice will be revealed in the end, when God slaughters the Angel of Death, and “the spirit of impurity will be removed from the earth” (Zechariah 13:2). However, at present it is impossible to understand the ways of divine justice, and it is forbidden to question them when we are confronted with such enigmas. Rather, we must believe that God’s reasons are profound, that it is impossible to understand them at all, and that everything reflects great kindness.

© Breslov Research Institute

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