Passover wishes, Thoughts on a tragedy

We are all shocked and saddened by the recent shootings at the Jewish Community Center and Village Shalom in Overland Park, Kansas. On this eve of Passover, we pray for comfort and healing for all those affected in the greater Kansas City community and beyond. We will keep the families affected by this tragedy in mind at our Seder tables, and in time ahead.

We pray that our country will find the courage and the strength to overcome and eliminate the plague of bigotry and hatred in all its forms, and address the scourge of violence in our society. The acts of a few deranged individuals can sadden us, but will not deter us from working for peace, justice, respect for, and acceptance of all. 

Particularly at this time of Passover we pray that we will all find the means to move from the narrow places which breed bigotry, hatred, and violence, to a way of life in which we are all free of fear and oppression, accepted for who we are, and can find redemption as one of G-d's creations. 

For those celebrating Passover, we wish you and your loved ones a joyous, meaningful, liberating, and redemptive Pesach. For those who celebrate Easter, may your holy season be joyous and uplifting. For those who celebrate other holidays at this time of year, may you have good and joyful holidays. And for those who celebrate none of these, may you have a good and pleasant season.

Passover (Pesach) is the holiday which serves as the Jewish celebration of the liberation of the Hebrews/Israelites/Jews from oppression and slavery, and their Redemption by G-d (as told in the Book of Exodus in the Bible), in order that they be free to worship and serve G-d through the Teachings and Laws of G-d. May all human beings be blessed with this gift. 

B'virkat shalom (with blessings for peace), 

Rabbi Joe Blair

Some Thoughts on Tu B' & the Calendar

Some Thoughts on Tu B'  & the Calendar

Rabbi Joe Blair

July 22, 2013/15 Av 5773



Today is the 15th of Av. In Hebrew we write dates using the letters of the alef-bet to represent numbers - alef=1, bet=2, gimel=3, daled=4, hey=5, vav=6, yud=10, yud-alef=11, etc. In this system, however, we sometimes form words; the most obvious (and the one that is applicable today) is the value ten plus 5 or fifteen. In the standard pattern we would form fifteen from the letters yud for 10 and hey for five. However, these letters together form the word 'Yah', which is understood to be one of the ways we name G-d. In order to observe the commandment not to take the name of G-d in vain (or for useless or futile purposes, or insignificant uses),  and to show respect, we change the pattern and we substitute the letters tet and vav, which have the values of 9 and 6, which numerically is the same, but does not form a word that has another meaning. What those letters do form is the combination that can be pronounced as 'Tu' or 'too'. That is how we come to use the name "Tu B'" to indicate 'the fifteenth of'. That comes up today, because this year, July 23rd coincides on the Hebrew calendar with the 15th of the month of Av.  

Tu B'Av is mentioned in the Talmud as the happiest day of the year, a day for rejoicing and joy. It is described in a way that makes me think of a combination of Sadie Hawkins day (if anyone remembers what that was), Valentine's day (or at least, what it has come to be seen as in the U.S.), and something like college spring break!  In short, it has the connotation of being seen as a day of love, or in more contemporary usage, the DAY OF  LOOOOOOOOOVVVEEE!  :-)   If you want to know more about Tu B'Av, you will have to look it up. Where my mind went from here is not that direction. instead, i got curious about the name of the day.

It is absolutely true that every month has a fifteenth day, so the term Tu B' happens twelve (thirteen in leap years) times every year. However, it is identified specifically in only two of those months. Obviously, Av is one of them. The other is Shevat. 

If you think back, you may recall that we celebrated Tu B'Shevat, known as the Birthday of the Trees, or the New Year of the Trees back in January (January 26th 2013). For that observance we held a Tu B'Shevat seder, reading about, focusing on, studying  Torah concerning, and eating the produce of trees. We focused on the four worlds model, identifying the various types of fruits as representing each of the worlds, and we also looked through the lenses of environmentalism, Ba'al Taschit (the Mitzvah not to destroy or waste), and a focus on spirituality. 

Today, Tu B'Av, I was thinking about the Tu - 15th - and Tu BShevat did indeed come to mind. I noted that these two dates are just about exactly six months apart in most years (leap years cause this not to be universally true), and I was reminded that there is another pair of holidays that is also almost exactly six months apart in the Jewish calendar. That would be Rosh HaShanah/Yom Kippur and Pesach - the High Holy Days and Passover. 

So I began wondering what it meant to have these pairs of equally spaced holidays that come up in the course of the Jewish year. I have to admit that in the course of the day (so far at least!) I have not had any brilliant insights, but it strikes me as far more than a simple coincidence that we have these pairs of holidays that are spaced out through the year, and that this bears a little more thought. 

I will ponder it further, but I invite you to be in touch if you feel you have any interesting insights that are worth sharing.  

Happy Tu B'Av (Love day).  :-)