Shabbat Acharei Mot April 26, 2019

With rare exception, go anywhere in the world, go to any synagogue in the world, on any given Sabbath during the year and everyone, everywhere is reading from the same Torah portion.

But not this week and not for several more weeks to come.

Let me explain. According to the Torah, Passover is a seven-day festival. Reform Jews and all Jews in Israel observe it as such following the injunction in the Book of Leviticus. Outside the land of Israel – because the Jewish calendar was originally dependent on the visual observation of the moon – the Rabbis added an extra day to the celebration. So, with the exception of those in Israel, Conservative (Masorti) and Orthodox Jews observe Passover as an eight-day festival.

This year the seventh day of Passover falls on a Friday. So for seven-day-observers, this Saturday is a regular Sabbath and the Torah reading moves to the next portion in sequence; But for eight-day-observers, this Saturday is the last day of Passover and the Torah reading is one selected specially for the festival. The result is that Israeli and Reform congregations will now be one portion ahead of Diaspora Jewry in the reading cycle.

The results of recent elections in Israel have prompted fears of a widening gap between Israeli and Diaspora Jewry, especially American and European Jewry. Like the calendar, we seem to be out of sync with one another in some very important ways. It will remain to be seen what will come of minority rights, issues of religious pluralism, and the protections of fundamental democratic values in Israel - a land that all Jews hold dear. 

But as far as the calendar is concerned, not to worry though. You will recall that in my previous blog post on Tazria-Metsora, I made mention of a number of doubled-up Torah portions – two portions read on a single Shabbat. When the next doubled-up portion comes around, those of us ahead in the reading cycle will separate the two, and - instead of reading them together - it will take us two weeks to do so. By Shavuot we will all be back “on the same page,” and in sync with one another again.

That of course is our hope for Israeli-Diaspora relations. Our mutual love for one another will eventually reconcile whatever might momentarily strain the relationship.

Shabbat shalom

Rabbi Whiman