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Take Me Out To The... SEDER?! -- Chronicle Online/The WORD 03/16/23

Weekly On-line Rabbi's D'var-Torah

March 16, 2023

25 Adar 5783

Shabbat Hachodesh

Parashat Vayakhel-Pekude


The World Baseball Classic is well underway. So far, the American team has lost to Mexico and the Japanese team seems to be the runaway favorite. What would Abner Doubleday say (even though he didn’t really invent baseball)?! It seems to me that Team USA’s biggest problem is the timing of the WBC. How can we expect American baseball players to be in top form in the middle of March? It makes no sense. As any baseball fan knows, one doesn’t simply flip a switch and turn on the baseball season. First the pitchers and catchers report. Then, the rest of the team arrives for workouts. Next, there are intra-squad games and exhibition games. Only after all these steps have been taken can the season begin. Some would even argue that the 162 regular-season games merely serve as preparation for the postseason, when the games REALLY matter. No matter how one looks at it, though, the key to success in baseball is preparation. One cannot simply show up on the field for the first game and expect to succeed. It’s true from little league all the way up to major league baseball. And it’s not only true for baseball. It’s a good approach to just about any worthy endeavor and it’s certainly the approach the Jewish tradition encourages. Consider the festival of Passover, which is now three weeks away. We cannot simply show up at the dinner table on April 5 and expect that Passover will happen. A great deal of preparation goes into the observance of Passover and, specifically, putting on a Seder. To ensure that we don’t try to leave everything to the very last moment, the rabbis created four special Sabbaths between Purim and Passover to gently remind us of the tasks at hand. Through the special Torah readings and Haftarot (prophetic selections) assigned to each one, we are reminded of an essential principle of Passover each week. This Shabbat is the third of these four special Shabbats. The first is Shabbat Shekalim—during which we read Exodus 30:11-16. Every person must bring a half-shekel to the Tabernacle. No one is exempt. While we no longer observe that custom, we have a different way to make a contribution. Today, we collect money for Ma’ot Hittim (“grain money”), which we give to members of our community who would not be able to afford Passover on their own. This important mitzvah enables everyone to participate. The second is Shabbat Parah—during which we read Numbers 19:1-22. The Red Heiffer ritual reminds of the importance of cleanliness and purity. The cleaning of our homes and selves is one of the best-know parts of Passover preparation. Not only do we remove the hametz from our homes, but we check to see if there is anything undesirable inside of us. The third is Shabbat Hachodesh—during which we read Exodus 12:1-20. This passage contains the Biblical description of the preparations for the Paschal sacrifice. It is a reminder of our requirement to participate in the rituals and liturgy of Passover. While we no longer offer the actual sacrifice, we re-create the ceremony through the Seder meal. The fourth is Shabbat Ha-Gadol—during which we read Malachi 3:4-24. The last Shabbat before Passover, we read about the Messianic Age—the ultimate redemption—as we prepare to celebrate our ancestor’s redemption from Egypt. The classical Jewish belief holds that the World-to-Come is our reward for our participation in Jewish life and rituals. While no one knows for certain what lies beyond this world, participation in Jewish life does lead to a rewarding sense of satisfaction here and now. So, good luck with your preparations for Passover. There are only three weeks of spring training left. Opening Day will be here before you know it! Shalom, RAF.

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