More to celebrate
It is challenging to propel momentum through the eight days of Passover. But, there is a Torah reading that offers a bit of extra enthusiasm to close out the festival.
It is challenging to propel momentum through the eight days of Passover, as for many the taste of matzah has worn when the concluding days arrive. The first two days are joyous, with the excitement of the seder on each evening. The intermediate days, chol hamoed, slowly lose enthusiasm. While there are special Torah readings on the last two days, such as the thrilling shirat hayam and the beautiful piyyut yom layabasha on the seventh day, and this year, the chanting of Shir Hashirim in addition to Yizkor on the eighth, these observances are anticlimactic to the first two seders. Where can we find a bit of extra enthusiasm to end the festival joyously?
The Torah reading for the eighth day of Passover provides us with encouragement. Taken from the portion Re’eh, we read in Deuteronomy 14:22 that the farmer is to set aside a tithe to be brought to a place chosen by G-d. If the place chosen is too far, the farmer is permitted to convert it to money. We then read the following: “Wrap up the money and take it with you to the place that the Lord your G-d has chosen, and spend the money on anything you want — cattle, sheep, wine or other intoxicant, or anything you may desire. And you shall feast there, in the presence of the Lord your G-d, and rejoice with your household. But do not neglect the Levite in your community, for he has no hereditary portion as you have.”
We are commanded to celebrate by purchasing any food and beverage that we wish, and celebrate in G-d’s presence. The Mishnah tells us explicitly that “anything you may desire” refers only to items that you will consume at this feast, and may not be spent on things such as clothing. However, amid the festivities, we must not forget the Levite in our midst.
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This law probably was created to encourage ancient Israelite farmers to travel to the Holy Temple more frequently than the three pilgrimage festivals. While the traditional roles of the Levites do not exist due to the destruction of the Temples, we can find suitable people in need within our community and beyond that would value our beneficence. Perhaps you asked all the guests at your seder to contribute a certain amount per person to an appropriate charity, or send you that sum so that you could then contribute an even larger amount to the charity that you deemed proper. This act of tzedakah is no doubt pleasing to G-d and will perhaps speed up the day when Elijah the Prophet will appear.
May your concluding days of Passover be joyous and celebratory, and may those in need also find a reason to celebrate.
Chag sameach! PJC
Jeffrey Myers is the rabbi/hazzan of Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha in Squirrel Hill. This column is a service of the Greater Pittsburgh Rabbinic Association.