The Jewish Chronicle - - JUDAISM -

Rabbi Ju­lian Sin­clair dips into the dic­tionary

TRANS­LATED as “night of vigil”, leil­shimurim is the To­rah’s de­scrip­tion of the night God brought out the chil­dren of Is­rael from Egypt. Af­ter the orig­i­nal leil shimurim, we are told, “That same night is the Lord’s, one of vigil [ shimurim] for all the chil­dren of Is­rael through­out the ages” (Ex­o­dus 12.42). Just as God pro­tected us on that night long ago in Egypt, we are ob­li­gated to ob­serve a leil shimurim through tak­ing part in a seder.

D Gold­schmidt, in his hag­gadah, links leil­shimurim with the Ara­bic word samaroun, which refers to a night of wake­ful­ness and en­deav­our. The four sages in the hag­gadah who stayed up all night dis­cussing the Ex­o­dus were ful­fill­ing their re­quire­ment for a leil­shimurim.

The root of the word shimurim,shamar, has sev­eral re­lated mean­ings: to guard, to ob­serve, to save. An­other mean­ing is to look for­ward to some­thing with an­tic­i­pa­tion. Thus Ja­cob shamar the mat­ter of Joseph’s dreams: as Rashi puts it, “waited for and an­tic­i­pated when it would come to be”.

Isaish refers to the Jews as shome­re­mu­nim (26:2), a na­tion that keeps faith, ie looks for­ward to re­demp­tion.

The seder night, our leil­shimurim, has the po­ten­tial to in­cor­po­rate all of th­ese mean­ings — a trib­ute to the re­demp­tions of the past, a night of wake­ful­ness and a time to en­vi­sion a fu­ture of free­dom and peace.

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