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Kol HaChadoshot

What's news and 'nu' in the Beth David community

April 2019

As we have done in recent years, the halachic guidelines for Passover are available as an online document and can be accessed by Clicking Here. ___________________________

The Jewish calendar ordains seven leap years in every nineteen-year cycle; and a leap year is executed by adding a month, always an extra month of Adar. Adar, of course, is the month of Purim; and in a year when Adar is repeated, Purim is observed in the second Adar. The Talmud explains that it is desirable to keep Purim in relatively close proximity to Passover. As it is, Purim precedes Passover by 31 days. Observing Purim in the first Adar would force a 61-day separation! The Talmudic sages deemed it important to keep these two holidays close to each other in the spirit of "somchinan geulah l'geulah"- to keep the two holidays that commemorate redemption as close to each other as possible. Indeed, there are parallels that suggest similarities shared by both.
     One similarity is communal unity. One of Moshe's agendas throughout his months of delivering plagues upon Egypt was the development of a spirit of affinity amongst the Israelite slaves. For example, when Pharaoh seemed poised to grant a three-day respite for the male slaves, Moshe insisted that the 'holiday' be for all Israelites. Everyone or no one. All of us or none of us. Then, on the night prior to the exodus, Moshe's instructions were for all Israelites to eat their last dinner in Egypt "b'michsat nefashot - united in groups". No one was to eat alone. Fast forward to Esther's instructions to Mordechai regarding the Jews living in Shushan. As she was preparing for a fateful appointment with Achashverosh, she asked that Jews come together in common spirit and singular purpose, "Lech, k'nos et kol haYehudim - go, she said to Mordechai, and make sure that our people are united". We cannot expect to prevail over adversity if we are incapable of standing shoulder-to-shoulder.
     A second similarity is a courageous leadership. This was a mantle forced upon Moshe at the burning bush. Yet, through every encounter with Pharaoh, Moshe grew more and more into the leader that the slaves needed. Aaron followed Moshe's lead and slowly the slaves embraced the courage. Their exodus, on the morning after the Passover, was virtually unopposed. They walked out of Egypt with heads held so high that not even a dog dared to bark as the procession towards freedom advanced towards to borders of Egypt and the portals of departure. So too in the story of Purim. From his position outside of the royal palace, Mordechai needed to coax Esther into a confrontation with king. At first, like Moshe, she was hesitant and reticent; but eventually, she grew into the role that she came to understand was needed of her. She prevailed upon the king and she literally brought Haman to his knees.
     These attributes are worthy to be remembered because redemption is an achievement that needs to be renewed by every generation. Redemption is a promise from Heaven, but it always has been dependent upon earth-bound partnerships, and the redemptions of yesterday are not guarantors of security in the future. We are learning with painful and persistent regularity that devils of the past still lurk, and they are not afraid to come out of the shadows. Our venerable House of Representatives failed last month in its initial efforts to pass a clean resolution condemning anti-Semitism. Who in American government is more or less an anti-Semite is now fodder for conversation on the networks dedicated to maintaining the 24-hour news cycle. Seven members of England's parliament resigned earlier this winter because they determined that their Labour Party had become "institutionally anti-Semitic". Unprovoked missiles were fired at Tel Aviv from Gaza three weeks ago, with no one assuming responsibility; and the IDF yet again felt compelled to justify retaliatory actions. What are we supposed to feel? What is a Jew in 2019 supposed to do?
     Perhaps this is one reason that the sages of tradition wanted Purim and Passover to be observed as close to each other as possible. When confronted with situations that we previously assumed would be unimaginable, we can look at the legacy of our people and rediscover the keys to survival and redemption. We can study what worked for them, and then measure ourselves by the yardsticks of history.
     Are we as united as we could be; and if not, how can we improve the situation? Is there among us courageous leadership; and if yes, is the community prepared to be the wind that is deserved and needed beneath those wings? With succinct simplicity, the Haggadah reminds us that "b'chol dor v'dor", in every generation, the community of Bnai Yisrael must creatively and courageously advocate for itself and the values that guarantee its safety, its security, and its continuity.
     How timely, fortuitously so, that this year is a leap year. This is becoming a year when we should take nothing for granted. An ancient system intentionally kept Purim and Passover near to each other. Unity and courage are beckoning. It is a call we should be willing to welcome.

Wed, April 24 2019 19 Nisan 5779