Last week, we read the end of Sefer Shmot (The Book of Exodus), and this week, we move on to begin Vayikra. The latter half of Sefer Shmot dealt with the building of the Mishkan and everything that was to be used in it. Now, logically, we begin with the fundamentals of how the Mishkan was to be used. The instructions begin broadly, with the methods of offering each of the chief type of sacrifice. The directions for the olah, the burnt offering, is followed by the different kinds of minchah, or bread offering. Next, the shlamim, or “peace offering” offered either voluntarily or as a holiday sacrifice. Then, we are told about the sin offerings; first for sins committed by priestss, then sins committed by the lay Israelite. 

What is interesting is that the Mishkan is called the Ohel MoedWhat is “moed?” Usually, the word moed refers to holidays. The second order of the Mishnah is “Seder Moed, and it is there that we find the basis for the laws of Shabbat and holidays. But the term Ohel Moed” is often translated “Tent of Meeting.” Why is this, and what does this imply? 

One clue can be another term used for the holidays. The three holidays of Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot are called the Shalosh Regalim, literally “three legs” because on those days, Israelite needed to use their legs to make a journey to Jerusalem and appear at the Temple. A holiday, then, was a massive gathering. People would actually assemble at the “tent of meeting.” 

During this time in history, when we are trying to curb the spread of a pandemic by physically isolating each other, we do not have the opportunity to assemble on the moed of Pesach. Orthodox rabbis around the world are advising leniencies in the way that their communities observe halachah. Since foods that are normally available that are certified kosher for Passover are less obtainable, the rule that chametz is nullified if it is less than a sixtieth of a mixture when it is obtained before Passover is more readily relied upon. Many Orthodox, mainly Sephardi, rabbis have allowed people to use Zoom or other video conferencing applications to connect with distant family or friends during the Passover seder, or to allow those who live alone to share the seder with others. 

These leniencies in the rules of Passover are meant as temporary measures. We hope that the next time a holiday comes upon us, we will be meeting in our shuls again, and eating Shabbat and holiday meals at each other’s houses again, and so we will have no more need to bring electronics into our holiday spaces.  

Next year, may we meet at each other’s homes, taking joy in each other’s company, rejoicing in building community, and we will sing a new song together: Hallelujah. 

Shabbat Shalom! 

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