Yesterday afternoon I rode my bike around West Philly delivering mishloach manot - little Purim goodie bags with edible treats and DIY crafts. I arrived at the home of a KT member dressed like a piece of bacon. I handed her the paper tote and said, "Happy Purim!" In exchange she asked me to wait a moment as she went inside to retrieve an even larger brown paper bag. She handed it to me and said, "Happy Passover!" Her bag was filled with burlap "plague bags," which contained little toy models of each plague to be used at our seder.
In an instant I thought of the words that Flory Jagoda sings in our Song of The Month, Purim lano, Pesach ala mano. "As soon as Purim is over, Passover is imminent!" Literally in Ladino, Passover is at hand or in our hand. And in my case it was literally like a Jewish holiday hand-off, relay race style.
It is sweet to imagine that Purim passes the baton to Passover. And easy to make meaning of it as though it was by design. But then we remember that the festival of Passover comes from the Torah itself. Passover is one of the shalosh regalim - the three pilgrimage festivals described in parashat Emor, along with Shavuot and Sukkot.
But Purim gets no mention in the Torah. It is a "rabbinic" holiday - which means it was established much later. Which is why the mitzvot associated with Purim are so qualitatively different from the shalosh regalim. There are no prohibitions around cooking or commerce. In fact quite the opposite. We are instructed to eat and drink and give tzedakah with wild abandon!
The Jewish ritual calendar may not be intentionally relentless, but it is very effective. These holidays were born at different times in Jewish history, with different textual origins. But as far as we are concerned, we have inherited a season of celebration. For thousands of years, Jews have been participating in this festival relay race. Purim initiates the spring holidays cycle. Hands off the momentum to Passover. And Shavuot is the spiritual closer. (There is a very brief pause before the next cycle begins with the breach of the walls on the 17th of Tammuz. But that is the subject of another email).
When Adar comes, joy increases. The natural world reflects this truth in her colorful blooms, and we echo this need in our insistent frivolity. One KT member wrote to me today, "Purim festivities definitely helped me exhale a bit." Someone else shared, "Let us continue to bring joy into each other's lives." I think that's all we can ask for from the opening round of Spring holidays.
The journey to freedom is iterative and annual. These holidays are sprints that energize what is otherwise a daily practice of opening up and letting go. This week's parshah, Tzav, describes both the persistence and patience required as we tend our inner ner tamid - our connection to the sacred and to the truth that everything is one. May our festival and daily practices bring us closer to each other and to freedom.
Rabbi Ari Lev
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Rabbi Ari Lev Fornari brings Torat Hayyim, a living tradition, to Kol Tzedek through thoughts about prayer, justice, and community.