Thursday, August 4, 2016

Mattot or Masei and Fraying Threads

Diaspora Jewry and Israel are out of sync. In fact we have been reading different Torah portions.

Since the concluding Shabbat of Pesach Israeli Jews have been reading the portion ahead of that in the diaspora. Let me explain. In Israel, Pesach is celebrated for seven days. In the diaspora for eight days. The reason for this is ancient. Millennia ago when the rabbis delineated the calendar they determined that the months and their holidays would be determined in the physical, and later spiritual, center of the Jewish world: Jerusalem. Worried that the message might take too long to communicate from Jerusalem to distant communities they instituted a second holiday day for those living outside of the land of Israel. And thus in the diaspora a one day holiday becomes two days and a seven day holiday becomes eight.

This year, in Israel, the first day of Pesach fell on Saturday and the seventh on Friday. There on the Shabbat following the conclusion of the holiday they moved on to the weekly portion and read Achrei Mot. We on the other hand read the portion assigned to the second Shabbat of Passover. We did not return to the portion of the week until the following Shabbat. We have been behind Israel ever since. Finally this week we arrive at the double portion Mattot-Masei with which we conclude the Book of Numbers. In Israel they read our double portion over two weeks.

Now the entire Jewish world is back on the same page.

Still this rare circumstance has caused me to ponder the growing distance between Israel and the diaspora, most especially among our youth....

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