This past Monday, the seventh day of Pesach, we read the story of the crossing of the Red Sea in the synagogue, and the Song of the Sea, Shirat Hayam, is attributed to Miriam by some scholars. There is a unique Torah commentary by Ellen Frankel called The Five Books of Miriam. For this week’s parasha (Torah portion), Frankel speaks in the voice of Elisheva, wife of Aaron, mother of two of their four sons, who die mysteriously on their ordination day, at the hand of God. (Lev. 10:1-7) In the Torah, Elisheva is never mentioned; her reaction to her sons’ death is not recorded. The Five Books of Miriam gives voice to Elisheva’s grief and the comfort she is shown by the women of her community: “And so the women put away their hand drums…and did not perform the dance…prepared for what was meant to be a day of rejoicing.… They sang a lament to my dead sons, and so was I comforted for my loss.” (p. 161)
As we retell the story of the Exodus from Egypt each year at our Seders, we often place upon it our own imprint along with the stamp of the times in which we are living. Egypt becomes a metaphor for any place where people are oppressed and persecuted; Pharaoh becomes any tyrant in our age; and the story of our people’s liberation represents the hope for the liberation of any nation or group that is suffering today. But, can this time-honored tradition of making the Haggadah relevant be taken too far? Are there some analogies that just don’t “work” and force the story of the exodus from Egypt into a comparison that should not be made? At Shabbat services tomorrow night during these intermediate days of Passover, I will delve into this subject in my sermon. Happy Pesach to all!
As we roll the Torah forward each week in the synagogue, the weight of the scroll shifts from the right side to the left. At this time of year, the two sides are about even, making the role of the Hagbaha, the person who lifts and opens the Torah after it is read, a bit easier. It is said that the exact midpoint of the Torah falls in this week’s Torah portion, Tzav, and that it falls on the verse: “And he put upon him the tunic” [Leviticus 8:7-8], referring to the clothing of the High Priest. Apparently, in some Chumashim (Torah commentaries), it is printed in the margin at this spot: “Half the Torah in verses.” In this week’s Parashat Hashavuah, weekly Torah portion study session at 9:30 on Shabbat morning, we are going to check if our Chumashim have this commentary. And we will examine varying commentaries about what exactly is the midpoint of the Torah (it depends on who you ask and what you are counting!) and what meaning is found in the midpoints that are suggested.
BEST WISHES FOR A HAPPY AND KOSHER PESACH!