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Classes from Amos and Ezekiel on holiness and hope

(Photograph: Unsplash/Tim Wildsmith)

Jewish tutorial and Hebrew scholar Irene Lancaster on what classes her group are studying from the Scripture readings that come straight after Pesach (Passover).

Within the final three weeks we’ve celebrated the liberty competition of Pesach. We’ve got additionally commemorated two extra up to date dates within the Jewish calendar: Holocaust Memorial Day and Memorial Day for Fallen Troopers and Victims of Terrorism. The most recent such occasion occurred on the third up to date Jewish competition, Yom Atzmaut – Israel Independence Day.

Because the Jewish State enters her seventy fifth yr of existence, we proceed to depend the Omer every day for 49 days, culminating within the competition of Shavuot, the giving of the Torah on Sinai.

Throughout this time we examine the sedras referring to the definition of the time period ‘holy’ in Judaism. These injunctions are given to start with to the folks at massive, after which particularly to the Kohanim, these folks appointed to be monks within the Temple.

It’s no coincidence that the folks come earlier than the monks within the hierarchy. With out an informed, disciplined and G-d-fearing populace, the monks danger insularity and even corruption (as we see as an illustration in present-day Russia!).

Immediately there are not any ‘monks’ as such in Judaism – the goal is to show the Jewish folks right into a ‘group of monks’.

This week’s Sedra, Emor (Leviticus 21-24), describes the methods wherein the festivals are to be noticed, starting with Pesach, which we celebrated this yr in the midst of April. From the second day of Pesach we began counting the Omer, which is talked about in Leviticus 23: 9-14. The phrasing is slightly curious and has given rise to overly-literal interpretations by those that don’t adhere to rabbinic educating, often called ‘Jewish Oral Torah.’ For observant Jews the Oral Torah involves make clear the Biblical textual content, often called ‘Written Torah’.

The query is, when precisely does counting the Omer begin? The phrase utilized in Leviticus 23, verses 11 and 15, is ‘on the day after the Shabbat’. However, what precisely is the which means of ‘Shabbat’? As everyone knows, Shabbat is ‘the day of relaxation’. And the rabbis make it clear right here {that a} competition (not essentially falling on the seventh day of the week) can also be to be thought-about a ‘relaxation day’. Due to this fact, on the day after the primary day of Pesach, we must always begin counting the Omer, no matter day of the week it occurs to fall.

What’s extra, in verse 15 it additionally states: ‘And you’ll depend for yourselves from the day after the ‘relaxation day’ 7 full weeks.’ Which means every particular person Jew ought to depend the Omer for him or herself each day, and never depend on others to do that for them.

‘Counting the Omer’ has thus turn out to be an immensely important and non secular time of yr for the person Jew. And, for the final 74 years of Israel’s existence, such counting has additionally encompassed the three new festivals commemorating the Shoah (when two thirds of the Jews of Europe have been worn out); the continued slaughter of troopers and noncombatants by way of terrorism; and political and spiritual independence as soon as once more after almost 2000 years.

So, we discover no less than two strategies right here that it’s the particular person and their private conduct that counts: first, by defining particular person conduct, reminiscent of loving one’s neighbor, plus the onus on each particular person to depend the Omer each day for 49 days, till the Competition of Shavuot is reached.

And as a way to deliver residence the magnitude of the last word significance positioned on particular person every-day behaviour, the Haftorah readings, taken from the Prophets, complement and amplify what the E book of Leviticus is telling us.

All through Might, we’ve readings from the prophetic books of Amos and Ezekiel.

Amos (9:7-15) chastises the Northern Kingdom of Israel for persecuting the poor and helpless, whereas indulging in luxuries. Amos tells the people who they have been introduced out of Egypt for a objective. This objective is to reside a life completely different from that of the encircling pagan peoples. Nevertheless, the persons are the truth is merely behaving just like the adjoining populations, as a substitute of in response to G-d’s precepts. However it is not too late to change one’s conduct, and when this occurs the David kingdom will probably be restored.

Ezekiel (22:1-16) contrasts the way in which the Jewish folks ought to conduct themselves with the gross behaviour to which they’ve in apply succumbed. The Torah teaches us that Israel mustn’t ever take its holiness with no consideration, and right here Ezekiel presents a really sharp critique of the folks. Nevertheless, there’s a ray of hope – it’s by no means too late to show round and take heed to the voice of G-d, after which the Jewish folks will as soon as once more thrive in their very own Land.

Lastly, Ezekiel (44: 15-31) appears into the Messianic future and describes the legal guidelines that may apply to the Kohanim at the moment, after the development of the Third Temple, when a heightened degree of spirituality will probably be attained by all.

So, what will we study from the teachings encountered on the times and weeks that come straight after the competition of Pesach?

There isn’t any doubt that the E book of Leviticus units out intimately how every of us is supposed to behave, each as people and as a group. The onus is on the person. Nevertheless, after we do backslide, though we are going to undergo for this and generally over a really lengthy interval (the current Exile having lasted for almost 2000 years), we are going to however, ultimately, come to see the sunshine and alter our methods. And this modification will usher within the Messianic Age, with the restoration of the covenant with G-d and even larger hope for the life to return.

So, although Amos and Ezekiel seem like prophets of doom, the truth is, they’re basically prophets of hope – hope sooner or later, the longer term encapsulated so usually in latest days, as we’ve been commemorating a lot in our historical past.

The hope expressed in all of the readings right now of yr is expressed in a track sung by Jews in all places, whether or not in Israel or outdoors (together with this yr at Auschwitz), to precise our hope for the longer term after we will, as soon as once more, be residing in our personal Land! This track known as ‘Ha-Tikvah (‘The Hope’) and could be listened to right here:

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