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Shabbat Chol Hamoed Pesach, The Intermediate Shabbat of Passover (Exodus 33:12-34:26)

“And God said, “My presence will go with you and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33:14)

Pesach is the first of the three pilgrimage holidays. In Biblical times, Jews would seek out God’s presence by leaving their homes to travel to Jerusalem to make the appropriate sacrifice at the altar in the Temple. Today we are ordered to remain at home and gathering together is forbidden. So we seek spiritual inspiration in our living rooms.

Pesach interrupts the weekly cycle of parashot, or portions. There is a special selection for each day. The Shabbat reading describes the aftermath of the episode of the Golden Calf: God’s instructions to Moses to carve two new tablets to replace the shattered ones (Ex. 34:1), the revelation of God’s thirteen attributes (Ex. 34:6, 7), and the prohibition of idolatry (Ex. 34:17). Together, they provide an important perspective on Pesach in a time of Covid-19.

Moses himself must carve the stones for the second set of the Ten Commandments God will inscribe; achieving freedom (from Covid-19) requires both individual effort as well as communal collaboration. The list of God’s attributes focusses on God’s mercy, and ends with God’s ability to cleanse; getting through Covid-19 requires extending an extra measure of patience and kindness to others, and we all will need to forgive (and be forgiven) for offenses triggered by the ongoing stress when it’s over. The prohibition of idolatry? Covid-19 teaches us to distinguish between what is true and important and what is ephemeral and insignificant. Let’s hope all these lessons stick.

Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom
Gut Yontif/Chag Sameach
A Zisn Peysach/A Sweet Passover

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