This week, in Acharei Mot we read about all manner of forbidden relationships. Included in the list of forbidden relationships – and there are more than you might imagine – is the now infamous 18:22. The word toevah, abomination is used in application to any man who may lie with a man as one lies with a woman. How do we bring understanding to these words, particularly in our Judaism that welcomes people who are in relationships “technically” not sanctioned by Torah?
Leviticus – Vayikra – can really take us into the weeds – or the tzaaras, a leprous-like affliction. So many words devoted to descriptions of this affliction and what is to be done. Yet, even the Rabbis say, “There never was nor will there ever be a rebellious and gluttonous son; why [then] was it written? Study [it] and receive a reward……There never was nor will there ever be a leprous house [requiring destruction]; why [then] was it written? Study [it] and receive reward…” Bavli: Sanhendrin 71a.More
As of Sunday, March 28, we are in the period of the Omer, that countdown of 49 days to our next Festival, Shavuot. By doing so, we are preparing ourselves to receive Torah at Sinai. This Omer period is a time of semi-mourning, so no haircuts, no listening to instrumental music, or dancing, or weddings or other simchas are traditionally undertaken – except for the 33rd day, Lag B’Omer.
There is a mystical tradition that has been revived in some communities where we look to a chart delineating some of the qualities of the Divine to emulate on each day. It is a profound practice and in contemplating how to bring these qualities into each day, we are a step closer. Here is one translation of these attributes. To use the chart you read the guiding principle of the week through the lens of the principle of the day – so day 2 is Chesed guided by the attribute of gevurah. Etc.
The seven attributes are:
1. Chesed ― Loving-kindness
2. Gevurah ― Justice and discipline
3. Tiferet ― Harmony, compassion
4. Netzach ― Endurance
5. Hod ― Humility
6. Yesod ― Bonding
7. Malchut ― Sovereignty, leadership
Very few announcements this week – we are in the week of Passover, a time to eat the leftovers from our Seder meals (one of life’s mysteries: why when I cook for two people, do we still have enough leftovers for 12?) and a time perhaps to reflect on some of the questions and discussions we held at our respective Seders. Some of us were able to have small family Seders because we were now vaccinated – such hope in the air as a result. The last day of Passover is Sunday, April 4th. We will be holding a Yizkor service on Friday night, April 2nd.
Pesach draws near. Last Shabbat we learned that the penultimate Shabbat before Pesach didn’t carry a special title like the other four preceding parshiot (Shabbat Shekalim, Shabbat Parah, Shabbat HaChodesh and this Shabbat coming up, Shabbat HaGadol). But in fact a few Chassidic masters designated the Shabbat before Shabbat haGadol, a very special Shabbat indeed – and named it Shabbat Penuyah, after, variously, a young girl, opening, or turning. This last Shabbat is (symbolically) the Shabbat where the people of Israel become ‘engaged’ to God, in preparation for the betrothal ceremony on Pesach and the actual marriage ceremony on Shavuot! Shabbat Penuyah is the Shabbat where the people of Israel turn away from their former life and open up towards a life of Covenant.
PESACH SEDER FIRST NIGHT: ON ZOOM: We will be holding our Pesach Seder First Night, March 27th, Saturday night, invitation sent separately. 6 pm – 8:30. Some people have asked for some basic instructions about preparations this year (please contact Kolot Mayim if you would like an invitation):
First night is Saturday night so we have a few complications to understand as we proceed with our preparations:
· If doing Bedikat Chametz, (searching for chametz), it must be done Thursday night (March 25th). Keep track of where you have hidden chametz, so you find it all!
· Biyur Chametz (destroying chametz, usually by lighting a small fire outside and burning last of the chametz that has been set aside) is done Friday morning.
· All preparations for Shabbat and Seder meal should be done on Friday, including preparation of Seder Plate elements that require cooking/roasting.
· Preparation of Seder plate completed on Friday – roasting of bone/parsnip and egg. Seder plate can be completed with parsley, charoset, and maror (bitter herbs) before Seder.
· Challah eaten for Shabbat: If your kitchen is Pesadikke, then you will want to eat it in a place that is not Pesach-ready – such as outside or over a paper plate so no crumbs spill.
· You will want to make charoset. See: https://www.thespruceeats.com/charoset-recipes-from-around-the-world-4031811
· As we are on Zoom and not at a communal table you will want to have your Seder plate, Matzah, charoset, wine/juice and wine glass, parsley, and salt water all at the ready, nearby your computer screen.
· We will be using an on-screen Haggadah, but you might want to bring your own Haggadah to your table to follow singing the order – the font is a little small. Otherwise this is a wonderful resource from the publishing wing of the Reform movement: CCAR.
· Have a cover for the matzah – if not a matzah cover then a cloth napkin.
· Have a basin and cup and small towel so you can wash hands (for ritual washing).
· You may want to prepare a small plate of appetizers – vegetables, hard cooked egg, pickles – just not matzah – yet!
· We will pause for eating our meal for 30 minutes and then resume our Seder. We will be joining each other in 3 different breakout rooms during the meal to visit and shmooze.
· Matzah, chrain (horseradish) and other Pesach supplies are available at Aubergine and at Fairway markets.
· We will be reciting Havdalah after making the blessing on the first cup of wine; we use the candles lit for YomTov as Havdalah candles. No spices needed.
Shavua tov everyone. I am writing this note on one foot as I continue to reflect on the teachings of Exodus and look forward to entering Vayikra, the centre, the core of Torah.
I want to include one last thought about Sh’mot, even as we move forward this week.
One of the encounters in Torah was that of the Israelites encountering Amalek, not long after leaving Egypt. The reference I am making below is more complete in Deuteronomy (25:17-19), and is barely inferred in Exodus: that the Amalekites attacked the Israelites on their way out of Egypt, “when you were famished and weary,” and cut down the stragglers in the rear. Yet even by inference, there is an important teaching here.
This coming Shabbat is Shabbat haChodesh – the Shabbat before Rosh Chodesh Nisan – the month in which we celebrate Passover (first night of which will be a full moon). Rosh Chodesh, the New Moon, was traditionally honoured by a gathering to see the sliver of moon, and say prayers. We must calculate our dates and holidays very carefully so that we are celebrating our holidays at the proper time. We read in Torah that, “Hachodesh hazeh lechem Rosh Chodashim” – this month is the first of months for you.” And we say, Chodesh tov.
By the light of the silvery moon…we will spoon!
Last Thursday evening we celebrated Purim on Zoom – what a fun evening! I find myself filled with trepidation before our holidays, wondering how we will ever find the ‘tam’, the flavour of the holidays on Zoom – and every time I am thrilled that we taste every flavour imaginable! Thank you to everyone for coming and joining in the reading of Megillat Esther. We look forward to our Seder, knowing we will continue to find the taste of community and connection through all mediums necessary.