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“5784, A Holy Happening Worthy of Our Recognition,” Rabbi Zecher’s Shabbat Awakenings

May 24, 2024 | 16 Iyyar 5784

Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection as we move toward Shabbat. You can listen to it as a podcast here.

An important concept from last week’s Torah portion continues to inspire this week.

It is called Mikrah Kodesh, ,מִקְרָא קֹ֑דֶשׁ translated as sacred occasion or even holy happening.

Speak to the Israelite people and say to them:  דַּבֵּ֞ר אֶל־בְּנֵ֤י יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ וְאָמַרְתָּ֣ אֲלֵהֶ֔ם

These are My fixed times, the fixed times of GOD, that you shall proclaim as sacred occasions.

מוֹעֲדֵ֣י יְהֹוָ֔ה אֲשֶׁר־תִּקְרְא֥וּ אֹתָ֖ם מִקְרָאֵ֣י קֹ֑דֶשׁ אֵ֥לֶּה הֵ֖ם מוֹעֲדָֽי׃

The textual reference continues in Leviticus 23 to delineate the yearly holidays: Rosh Hashanah as the Festival of the New Year, Yom Kippur as the Day of Atonement, Sukkot called the Feast of Booths, Shemini Atzeret (no qualifying name provided, just the 8th day of Sukkot as a time to “tarry” a bit longer in the holiday), Passover called Feast of Unleavened Bread, and Shavuot called the Feast of Weeks. What they all have in common is the description as a sacred occasion.

To the ancients, each of these days was not a choice. It happened whether they chose to recognize it or not, connected to the Divine. That is what defines holiness. Holiness already exists. For them, it was what they did.

For us, we, too, can take hold of the holidays and acknowledge them as a days worthy of our attention and celebration. We might liken them to our birthdays. That day occurs whether or not we light candles and sing “Happy Birthday.” Shabbat qualifies as well. What we do and how we behave allows us to make the moment in time a sabbath.

I thought about the concept of Mikrah Kodesh last week as we commemorated the 20th anniversary of the day on May 17, 2004 when Massachusetts began issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples. These loving partners finally had the legal right to marry guaranteed by law in the Commonweath. I loved the WBUR piece that highlighted our members Andrew Sherman and Russ Lopez, who stood on our Temple Israel bima sanctifying their union officiated by Temple Israel clergy. The radio program didn’t mention that two other members of Temple Israel, Marc Maxwell and David Passer, of blessed memory, consecrated their marriage in a simultaneous ceremony together with Andrew and Russ. Many others have followed, and their sacred occasion, Mikrah Kodesh, remains marked for them as their wedding day.

The Torah could never have imagined the possibility of such a sacred occasion occurring but we certainly can. And although the anniversary is not biblically designated, it is worthy of our mention and attention of a historical moment filled with holiness. A truly holy happening to celebrate.

Shabbat Shalom! שבת שלום

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Rabbi Elaine Zecher