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Temple Israel of Scranton

Temple Israel of Scranton

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Three Torahs, the Moon, and Pesah 

Posted on April 1, 2022

April 1st 5782

Three Torahs, the Moon, and Pesah 

We used to have a children’s book for Hanukkah that showed a picture of a full moon with the hanukkiyah burning. I am not sure how that got past the editor, for it portrays an impossibility. Hanukkah begins on the 25th of the month when there is almost no moon and goes until a few days into the next month when there is a tiny moon. There is never a full moon on Hanukkah.

On the first night of Pesah, on the other hand, the moon is always full. Likewise on the first night of Sukkot. There have been a number of years when there was even a lunar eclipse on seder night.

Not much moon tonight though. Tonight is Rosh Hodesh Nisan. New moon tonight; full moon in two weeks for seder. Yup, seder is two weeks away. The Shabbat before Rosh Hodesh Nisan (or, on RH Nisan if RH falls on Shabbat, like this year) is called Shabbat HaHodesh. We take out a special Torah and read from parashat Bo about Pesah, both the original Passover in Egypt and the later Passovers of the generations. We read the commands given to the people of Israel in Egypt to get ready for the feast before the exodus and we read also about how the festival is to be observed through the ages, the Pesah of now, if you will. We prepare for our current Pesah which celebrates the exodus of the past.

Preparing for Pesah includes cleaning the house and buying Passover foods. It includes appointing me as your agent to sell any leftover hametz that you might have in your home so that you do not own it over Pesah. It includes reading the service sheet carefully to see which Pesah services you can attend. It includes reviewing the haggadah and deciding what elements of the seder to focus on.

And this year, preparing for Pesah includes reflecting on the fact that as we prepare our homes for Passover, we are witnessing one of the biggest exoduses and migrations of populations that the world has seen since World War II.  Exodus is very much in the present for millions of folk, and not only in Ukraine.  As we prepare for Pesah and at our sedarim, let us consider what exodus means then and now.

Three Torahs this week — one for Tazria, one for Rosh Hodesh Nisan, and one for HaHodesh. It does not happen often and I love it when it does.

If you or someone you know needs a place for seder, please let me know. Similarly, if you have an extra seat at your seder and would like to host someone, please let me know.