A MEETING OF MOADIM
Much of this week’s portion is familiar to us as Parshat HaMoadim, the festival leining for the second of Pesach and the first two days of Succot. The special times, beginning with Shabbat and continuing with Pesach, Omer, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Succot and Shemini Atzeret are listed and described. The word, Moed, 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 portion which lists the circumstances under which a Kohen may or may not impurify 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 this clash occurs on Erev Yom Tov, such that a burial is in the afternoon and Yom Tov occurs that evening, there will be no shiva at all, as long as the mourners observed some aspect of mourning prior to the commencement of Yom Tov. This would normally be sitting on low chairs at the end of the funeral service.
When a burial occurs during the festival weeks of Pesach or Succot, then shiva is postponed will 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.