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Two Minutes of Torah: Behalotecha - Include don't Exclude

Often, with the time of Pesach in America, the Seder night comes close to tax season which, for a lot of accountants, is their busiest and craziest time of the year when they often find themselves working round the clock to make sure everything gets done in time for the deadline that the IRS sets upon them.  This year, when talking to one family, of which an accountant is a member, they told me they were not going to be able to have a Seder on the designated night of Pesach, but instead on that weekend would be having all the family together so they could celebrate Pesach with a Seder involving everyone.   While that might sound like a nontraditional way of responding  to the challenges of the time, it actually fits very nicely with what we read in this week’s Torah portion.

We read that God spoke to Moses and said “ to tell the Israelites that when any of you or your descendants are defiled by a corpse or on a long journey when you come to the time of offering the Passover sacrifice to Adonai, they shall then offer in the second month, on the 14th day of the month at twilight.”  In this way, the Torah portion sets up the idea that there is an opportunity for a second Pesach for anyone who is unable to fulfill the regulations of the first Pesach. 

Someone, overwhelmed by the burdens and the stresses of  tax season, may therefore fall into that category who delays their Passover until that second month.  This text in our Torah reminds us of the importance of everyone being involved with the Pesach celebration and making sure that everyone can be present.  We see how important Pesach is a few verses later when it says that if a person is clean and not on a journey and refrains from offering the  Passover sacrifice then that person shall be cut off from their kin.  One of the ultimate punishments that the Torah has.  It even goes further and includes that the stranger must also bring the Passover sacrifice. 

This passage in our Torah reminds us of how important it is that we celebrate Passover as that reminder that we were slaves in Egypt.  Our memory of that slavery experience informs so much of the way that we’re supposed to live our lives as Jews, that without it, we are excluded from the community.  But more than this, it is an important reminder that it’s always a priority to find ways to include people rather than exclude them.  

We offer an opportunity for a Second Pesach so that someone can still be included rather than just exclude them because they fail to observe the celebration and the sacrifice at the appropriate time.  We need to be mindful of this, as we approach our Judaism today.  How can we find ways to include people, rather than, all too often, fall into a default position of excluding. 

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