Torah Tidbits


Tidbits of Torah
Shabbat Parashat Shemini
Shabbat Mevarekhim HaChodesh
April 6, 2013 – 26 Nisan 5773

Dear Friends,

Immediately after Pesach – the very night that we switched back from Pesach dishes to year-round chametz dishes, and the next morning as well – I noted that many of my Jewish friends and acquaintances spoke about the chametz they were planning to enjoy – and, the sooner, the better.  Some spoke of pizza; some of beer.  For me, it was actually the combination of pizza and beer that sounded most appealing…

It occurred to me that this conversation, about the joys of chametz eating, was taking place on the 8th day of the counting of the Omer, coincidentally in a week when our weekly Torah portion was “Parashat Shemini” – referring to the 8th day of the Biblical celebration of the initial consecration of the Sanctuary in the desert.  It was on that 8th day of ritual preparation and consecration that our people experienced for the first time the beginning of the priestly service of sacrifices in accordance with God’s instructions to Moses and to Aaron.

In truth, the number 8, in Jewish tradition, is often associated with new beginnings.  While 7 symbolizes completion – as in the 7 days of creation; 8 symbolizes new beginnings – as in the celebration of berit milah, the ritual circumcision of a newborn boy, that is done on the 8th day of a healthy Jewish baby boy’s life.

Yet, interestingly, despite the fact that 8 symbolizes new beginnings – in the ritual counting of the Omer, the 8th day is not referred to as “the first day”, but rather as “the 8th day”, or as “the first day following the completion of the first week”.  And in our Parsha, “the 8th day” is similarly seen as a continuation of the full week of preparation for the consecration ceremony, rather than as a “first day” standing on its own as such.  Why is this?

Here’s my thought…

We know that new beginnings, no matter how refreshingly different and uplifiting they may seem, are buttressed by the events of the past.  The context of a new beginning is just as important as the new beginning itself.
Clearly, the joy of eating chametz is enhanced by the previous exclusion of chametz from our diet for a full week…

By calling a new beginning, the 8th day, we acknowledge the fact that new beginnings, and their meanings for us, are shaped by the context of the previous days.

It seems that Jewish tradition understands that as human beings, we need to recognize our past, in order that we may appreciate the full measure and significance of our present, and of our future.

This Shabbat we will be reciting the blessing for the new Jewish month of Iyar.  This too is a new beginning…In fact, if we count the Jewish months from Tishrei, the month which includes the Jewish New Year of Rosh HaShannah, Iyar is the 8th month in the Jewish calendar….

Rosh Chodesh Iyar will be on Tuesday night, Wednesday and Thursday.

We pray for Iyar to be a month of health, of joy,  of peace and of love.  May it be so for us and for all the people Israel and for all people everywhere.

May our past enable us to fully appreciate the blessings that are yet possible in the new Jewish month ahead!

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror