A MEETING OF MOADIM
Look carefully at the Sefer Torah when it is being lifted up in shul this Shabbat. You will see that the parchment is slightly more worn. Why? Because the scroll is being opened more frequently to this section. This week’s parasha contains the readings for the second day of Pesach and the first two days of Succot. The special times of the year, beginning with Shabbat and continuing with Pesach, Omer, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Succot and Shemini Atzeret, are listed and described. The key word used to introduce this section is Moed, which is related to the word, Vaad, committee or assembly. It is effectively an appointment in time for meeting with G-d, much as the Ohel Moed, the Tent of Meeting or Tabernacle, was a meeting-point in space.
There is a Moed of a different type that is alluded to at the beginning of the parasha, which describes the circumstances under which a Kohen may or may not defile himself when a bereavement occurs. The seven relatives for whom shiva is required are listed: spouse, parents, siblings, and children.
The book of Job refers to death as Moed Lechol Chai (30:23), the ultimate appointment for all life.
The intersection of the regular Moed with the ultimate Moed of death, is reflected in one of three possible ways: a shiva is either suspended, cancelled or postponed by a Moed.
When Shabbat occurs during a week of shiva, the regular mourning observances are suspended for the duration of the Sabbath. The mourner removes his/her torn garment and changes to regular Shabbat clothes. The coverings on mirrors may be taken down. Regular chairs are used instead of the low chairs. When Shabbat is over, the mourning requirements are resumed.
When Yom Tov occurs during a week of shiva, the remainder of the shiva is completely cancelled. The spirit of joy which is mandatory on major festivals, overrides the personal bereavement observances. The candle, however, should go on burning for the full seven days.
When a burial occurs during the festival weeks of Pesach or Succot, then shiva is postponed until after Yom Tov. In the diaspora, the last day of Yom Tov is considered as the first day of shiva, which concludes on the sixth morning after Yom Tov has ended.
Jewish tradition looks forward to the time when all forms of Moed will coalesce; when we will reach that time and place of ultimate good, of bila hamavet lanetzach, of death having vanished in eternal life and happiness.
Dayan Ivan Binstock