D’var Torah: Matya Schachter (Emor)

אֵ֚לֶּה מוֹעֲדֵ֣י ה’ מִקְרָאֵ֖י קֹ֑דֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר־תִּקְרְא֥וּ אֹתָ֖ם בְּמוֹעֲדָֽם׃ … וַיְדַבֵּ֣ר מֹשֶׁ֔ה אֶת־מֹעֲדֵ֖י ה’ אֶל־בְּנֵ֖י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃

“These are the appointed seasons of the L!rd, sacred assemblies, which you shall announce in their due season. … Thus Moses announced the L!rd’s appointed seasons to the children of Israel.”[1]

The Torah contains three extended presentations of the Jewish holidays. In Numbers 28-29, the focus is on the sacrificial services of the holidays. In Deuteronomy 16, the focus is on the social and societal aspect of the holidays, particularly the need to include the homeless, the widow, and the orphan in our celebrations. This week’s reading of Parashat Emor (Leviticus 21-24) focuses on the specific rituals performed during the biblical holidays: eating matza, counting the Omer, bringing the first fruit, blowing the shofar, fasting on Yom Kippur, dwelling in a sukkah, and waving the four species.

With this theme of the Jewish holidays in mind, I have three points of gratitude I would like to share as we prepare for Week 8 of the Coronavirus lockdown.

  1. I am grateful for the Schechter school and community, through which our children can learn about these holidays, how to observe their practices, and the joy involved in celebrating them. Last year, we read this parasha at Schechter’s first Shabbaton, a joyous Shabbat spent together as a community. I pray that that we will be able to resume this new tradition next year.
  2. I am grateful for interactions with the Divine on each Shabbat and holiday. In his 2016 Dvar Torah on this parasha, Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks drew the connection between two uses of the word moed. In the above quote from this parasha, moed traditionally translates to “appointed seasons,” while meaning “a tryst – an appointment made between lovers to meet at a certain time and place”[2] in the last line of the Kabbalistic poem Yedid Nefesh, which is traditionally sung at the beginning and end of each Shabbat. Rabbi Sacks teaches that the holidays, as presented in this parasha, are indeed a tryst with the Divine – important, scheduled breaks from our daily routines that enable special encounters with G!d.
  3. I am grateful for the opportunity to spend more quality time with my family. When we approach the end of our lives and prepare to meet our Maker, this 24/7 time spent together with our families will likely be of much greater significance than anything else we would have achieved during these months, professionally or otherwise. The holidays listed in this parasha remind me of my priorities and the need to reallocate my time accordingly, perhaps more than ever this year.

Wishing everyone health and the ability to find happiness through these challenging times, and looking forward to celebrating together again soon.

[1] Festival morning kiddush; Leviticus 23:4,44

[2] http://rabbisacks.org/holy-times-emor-5776/

Matya Schachter, Schechter Parent

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