A Time to Weep and a Time to Laugh

Normally, at this time of year, when the Sefer Torah is being lifted up for Hagbaha, it is apparent that the parchment is slightly more worn than the rest. This is because the latter part of the Sidra contains the portions of the festival sacrifices and as such forms the Maftir (additional reading) on every Yom Tov and the Sefer Torah is being read from at this place many times during the year. [This is not the case with the Sefer Torah we are using in shul this Shabbat. This is the first year we are reading from the Breslauer Sefer Torah, presented 9 months ago.]

Two contrasting ideas are conveyed by these verses of sacrifices read at this time of the year. The sidra of Pinchas is generally read during the week of the Fast of Tammuz. One of the tragedies associated with that day was the suspension of the daily sacrifices due to the Roman siege. The sidra thus alludes to the sadness associated with this period.  At the same time, the festival portions are a reminder of happier times. The great Hassidic leader, Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk (1717-1787), observes that during times of sadness and sorrow, it is essential to have signposts that will reassure us that gam zeh ya’avor “this too, will pass”. The period of grief will pass on and we will again rejoice.

The festivals are referred to in the Machzor as moadim lesimcha, which can mean festivals for joy” rather than “festivals of joy”. The joyous occasions of our calendar have the resources to provide us with a source of joy and comfort throughout other times of the year, even during periods of national and personal bereavement.

Dayan Ivan Binstock