Parasha Acharei Mot/Shabbat HaGadol/Pesach

Nobody asked me, but I was appalled at the response of some of our local pundits to a Mets player taking his allocated three days of paternity leave to be with his family.  Yes, baseball players are highly remunerated, but nothing could or should surpass the birth of a child.

 

The most repugnant response was that of former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason.  He had the audacity to suggest that New York Mets player Daniel Murphey's wife should have "scheduled a C-Section" so as not to conflict with the sacrosanct baseball schedule.  Esiason later apologized (nearly three days later), but who knows if Esiason's apology was precipitated by genuine remorse or an avalanche of disgust?

 

The baby is doing great, and Murphey is back at second base.  This week is Shabbat HaGadol, our final special Shabbat before Pesach.  Our Haftarah from the Book of Malachi sets the theme of Shabbat, preparing us for the first and certainly most celebrated of the Jewish festivals,Pesach. The prophet Malachi delivers a message of national restoration based on a return to justice in society. Apparently, the people of Malachi's time were guilty of not paying their tithes and of not trusting in God's justice. As Michael Fishbane notes in his commentary, the people had even mocked the idea of God's justice. He cites Mishnah Rosh Hashanah 1:2 ("on Passover [the people] are judged with respect to their produce") to conclude that this Haftarah may have originally been selected to inspire the people to pay their tithes. In our day, it continues this function, reminding us to give generously to Ma'ot Hittim (food for the poor).

 

Given the Haftarah's concern with poverty and justice, it is curious that it culminates with the arrival of Elijah to "reconcile parents and children." Is that all? If Elijah were to come today, wouldn't we need his assistance with bigger matters, like averting war between Israel and Iran, solving global hunger and disease? Sure, but sometimes the big picture problems are easier to address than is intergenerational tension between parents and children. 

 

Many seder tables are marred by tension, but there is a particular type of tension that is common. It is not uncommon for many of you to be more (or less) meticulous in your observance of mitzvot than are other members of your family. While this may be a minor matter during regular visits, on Pesach it can be quite challenging. There are so many flash points-kashrut issues, the timing of the seder(traditionally after dark, but try negotiating that with younger families), the length of the seder, and so on. 

 

My advice is to bring as much joy and depth as possible to the seder, to be as flexible as you can justify, and to remember the words of Malachi. This festival is about reinforcing family bonds so that the experience of liberation can be "bina'aareinu uvizikneinu" with our old and with our young. 

  

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Jeffrey Abraham