Monday, July 29, 2013

And Seasons Will End In Tumbled Rhyme (Bob Weir & Eric Anderson -"Weather Report Suite I")

I am due for a few days off next week, my “Summer Holiday”. Except for me, no one in my family seems to care. My wife is busy working at summer camp, three children are busy having a great time at the same summer camp, our eldest daughter is busy making New York City safer, and my parents are busy in retirement. The only “Holyday” they can seem to focus upon are the more “public” “national” and "religious" holidays. Our eldest daughter told me that she planned upon coming in for Festival of Sukkot rather than Rosh Hashanah.  I have to worry about plane reservations for her in the third week of September. My mother asked me about plans for American Thanksgiving which occurs the last Thursday in November and coincides with the first days of Chanukah. While Chanukah is important to American Jewry, Thanksgiving is a very important and a very big deal for Americans, including American Jews, much to the amazement of Canadian Jewry. My mother also wanted to know what we were doing in terms of Pesach festival which is celebrated in April. My wife and younger daughters and son asked about Christmas Vacation and whether we will be able to visit family out in Los Angeles at the end of December. 
This Shabbat we read from Parsha Reeh. Moshe continues his discourse. He has already explained the Mitzvot, and he continues to do that. Moshe has alluded to the blessings of life if B'nai Yisroel follows God's commandments. He has and continues to allude to the curses that will befall B'nai Yisroel if they violate the most important commandment-idolatry. "See I present before you today a blessing and a curse" (Deut.11:26). V'haklalah Im Lo Tishm'u el Mitzvot Adonai Eloheichem V'sartem Min Ha'Derech Asher Anochi M'taveh Etchem ha'yom La'lechet Acharei Elohim Acheirim Asher Lo Y'Datem-"And the curse: if you do not hearken to the commandments of the Lord your God, and you stray from the path that I command you today, to follow gods of others, that you did know." (Deut. 11:28) Moshe presents B'nai Yisroel with two pictures, a world when B'nai Yisroel lives up to it covenant with God and one in which they don't.  He reminds Bnai Yisroel of the sanctity of Eretz Yisroel (the Land of Israel), the consumption of foods that are consecrated to the Kohanim and he warns Bnai Yisroel to avoid imitating the Rituals and Rites of the Egyptians and the Canaanites. Moshe reminds Bnai Yisroel to be careful of false prophets, avoiding non-kosher foods, not living in wayward cities, forgiving loans after seven years, and caring for the less fortunate.
The parsha concludes with Moshe mentioning, for the third time, the commandments for celebrating the three pilgrimage festivals of Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot. Twice before, the Torah provided instructions regarding these Festivals. The first time occurs in VaYikra (Leviticus 23) order to present them in their due order; meaning Pesach occurs in the spring with the Barley (Winter Wheat) Harvest; Shavuot occurs six weeks later to coincide with the harvest of the First Fruits; and Sukkot occurs in the fall as part of the autumn harvest.  The second time these Festivals are mentioned occurs in Bemidbar (Numbers 28-29) in order to teach us what offerings needed to be made at the Mishkan (the mobile sacrificial altar) and later the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The third time occurs in Parsha Reeh in order for the benefit of the public. Remember, this new generation, this generation born in freedom heard these laws declared in public for the first time. Sure they may have learned them during their 40 years of wandering. Now, however, Moshe was declaring for the public benefit what they had learned. Rashi, the 11th century French vintner and great commentator clarifies his understanding of “public benefit”. For Rashi, “public benefit” means everyone needs to know when the holidays occur. So when the Moshe tells Bnai Yisroel to Shamor et Chodesh Aviv v’Asita Pesach L’Adoshem Elokecha Ki BaChodesh HaAviv Hotziacha Adoshem Elokecha Mitzrayim LailaYou shall observe the month of springtime, and perform the Pesach offering for Hashem, your God, for in the month of springtime Hashem, your God, took you out of Egypt at night, Rashi explains that Bnai Yisroel must understand that this holiday must be celebrated in Spring. Rashi comments Mikodem Bo’o Shamor, Sh’yehei Ra’u L’Aviv L’Hakriv BO Et Minchat Ha’Omer, V’Im Lav, Abeir et HaShana- Before its arrival (the month of Aviv) take care that it should be fit for first ripened produce in order to offer in it the meal offering of the omer. And if not late enough to harvest the omer add a month to the year. Since the Jewish calendar is Lunar and  seasons follow the Solar calendar, according to Rashi, Moshe is teaching Bnai Yisroel that for the public benefit, that is to say, to make sure everyone is celebrating at the right time, it will become necessary to make sure that two calendars are regulated and intercalated properly.  
Individuals and individual families can worry about their own family vacations, or summer vacations.  Maybe those vacations and the plans for those vacations just don’t seem to require the same type of preparation since it really just involves getting in a car and driving.  Indeed, the “public” holidays, religious holidays and festivals are so well known that we worry about them months and months in advance. We worry about the airline tickets, the traffic, the food shopping and the menu. Meanwhile, I have ten days off and I haven’t thought about packing, where I am going or when I am getting to wherever I am going.

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