I’ve come to the conclusion we need to change the date of Simchat Torah. Our Jewish festivals must be re-envisioned as inspirational community gatherings of joyful spiritual Jewish celebration. Every single festival needs to be a time of great community involvement and meaning.
One of my dear friends and colleagues, Rabbi Phyllis Sommer, has for several years now challenged us to blog Exodus. She has come up with daily themes.
This week’s Torah portion, B’haalot’cha, begins with the instructions for the lifting up of “the lamps,” haneirot, to illuminate the Tabernacle. The initial letter of the word, “lamp,” neir, is nun.
In Parashat Emor, the Torah reports that a man born of mixed Israelite-Egyptian descent “blasphemed the Name [of God],” was placed on trial, and was stoned to death. A law was then enacted that anyone, Jewish or gentile, who blasphemes the name of God shall be put to death. Over time, in communities throughout the world, laws against blasphemy were put in place to address curses leveled at God as well as perceived slights against some religions.
Typically, at some point in my work on this project, my wife will lean over my shoulder and ask me, in her own style, “So. How are the Jews this year?” Some years that is a difficult question to answer. This year the answer is clear: The Jews are afraid.