Parashat Emor details the three major holidays in the Jewish Calendar. Halfway between Pesach and Shavuot, Rabbi Avi Novis-Deutsch, Dean of the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary, reminds us of the importance of remembering and celebrating miracles and special events and incorporating them in our daily lives.
As we recently celebrated Yom Haatzmaut, we can also make time every day to celebrate the modern miracle of the State of Israel.
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Emor deals with the holidays and how we designate a date to commemorate a special event or a miracle that happened to us. Among these days we have Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot. All of these refer to a special event that happened to the Jewish people. The real question is, however, and it is particularly relevant nowadays, is how we can also relate to unique events in our everyday lives? In our daily routine, on an ordinary day, not on a holiday, how do we relate to something unique that happened to us?
One of the examples in our parasha of how to do that is the concept of counting the Omer. Every day over a period of 49 days, we count the days in order to remind us that we are between Pesach and Shavuot; between the exodus from Egypt and receiving the Torah. In this very small action of counting, we actually put ourselves in the position of remembering that our freedom moved from physical freedom to receiving the Torah, which, for some people, is an act of increasing [spiritual] freedom.
Recently, in Israel and all over the world, we commemorated three relatively recent events that are now part and parcel of the modern Jewish history: the Holocaust, the memorial day for our fallen soldiers and Israel Independence Day. These are three special events which allows us to relate to our recent history where we designate specific days to relate to our own history. But how do we relate to this history not one a specific date of the calendar dedicated to it but every day?
I want to suggest one small way to do this. When we recite before the Shema “bring us in peace from the four corners of the earth over to the land of Israel” we can recite it to the tune of Hatikvah. By doing this, we can actually remember the unique and the very special miracle of having a Jewish state after two thousand years of not having one. This is something to celebrate! It is true that on the same day we might have some criticism of the land of Israel and of the state of Israel, and that’s fine to be critical. Criticism is a very Jewish concept and it is also very important in order to develop and grow. Yet I think we would greatly benefit from designating a special moment every day just to celebrate the fact we have a Jewish state.
Avi Novis-Deutsch is presently the Dean of the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary. Ordained as a Masorti rabbi by the SRS in 2003, Rabbi Novis-Deutsch also has an MA in Jewish Studies from JTS. He served for nine years as a pulpit rabbi at two Masorti congregations in Israel, most recently, at Haminyan Hamishpachti Masorti Kfar Veradim. Rabbi Novis-Deutsch also worked for two years as a Jewish educator in Berkeley and in the Bay Area, California. He is married to Dr. Nurit Novis-Deutsch. They and their three children live on Kibbutz Hanaton.