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Acharei Mot 2019

Pesach’s finished and we’re back to the regular leining. Where does our sedra take us to today? Yom Kippur. Almost immediately we’re being told how the Cohen Gadol should conduct the service and later in the sedra we find the leining for mincha on Yom Kippur. What’s happened to the whole calendar in between? Rabbi Pinchas Winston (b 1959, Toronto) has given me the following explanation.

We understand that Pesach and Shavuot are connected. If we hadn’t left Egypt we could not have received the Torah. If Rabbi Akiva’s students hadn’t all died during the Omer, the 49 days that we count between the first day of Pesach and Shavuot would have been a happy period – an extended Hol Hamoed.

Pirkei Avot (3.21) says ‘If there is no flour, there is no Torah and if there is no Torah, there is no flour’. Flour is obviously the basic ingredient of Matzah and to drive the point home, the numerical equivalent of Kemach (100+40+8) which means flour is the same as Pesach (80+60+8).

Did we receive the Torah on Shavuot? Moshe came down from Mount Sinai and smashed the tablets. He spent some time dealing with the fallout from the Golden Calf and then set off up Mount Sinai again where he spent another 40 days begging God for forgiveness on behalf of the people.

Moshe was successful in his pleading but had to produce the two tablets himself rather than God making them as happened initially. To do this Moshe went up Mount Sinai on 1st Ellul and came down on 11th Tishri, the day after Yom Kippur.

Should we reconsider when ‘Z’man Torateinu - the time of the Giving of the Law’ is?

Rabbi Sholomo Elyashiv (1841-1926) was a teacher of Rav Kook when he lived in Zoimel (Lithuania). He wrote in Sha’arei Leshem that our final redemption will be when Z’man Torateinu is undoubtedly Shavuot and the period of the Omer is a happy time.

Further, at the end of both the Seder and Yom Kippur we say ‘Next year in Jerusalem’. Rabbi Eliyahu KiTov (1912-1976) explained, as in Psalm 137, we bring Jerusalem to mind at times of our greatest joy. The 6th Lubavitcher Rebbe, Yosef Yitzhak Shneerson added, we want to be redeemed on Yom Kippur so that we can celebrate next Pesach in Jerusalem following the final redemption. There’s something to strive for!

Steven Daniels

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