In addition to the laws of shmita having a biblical origin, there are also laws regarding the ancient holidays. The most classic Jewish holiday, of course, is Pesach (Passover). “Keep the month of spring, and make the Passover offering to the Lord, your God, for in the month of spring, the Lord, your God, brought you out of Egypt at night (Deuteronomy 16:1).” Pesach is inherently bound to the spring season, a time of change and renewal. And, on a personal note, is the origin of my middle name. Aviva comes from the Hebrew word Aviv, meaning spring, and I was given that name because I was born during Pesach. So, whether through that connection or a love of the traditions, Pesach has always been my favorite holiday. Of course, it looks a little different in the Torah than it does today.
“You shall slaughter the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, your God, flock, and cattle, in the place which the Lord will choose to establish His Name therein (Deuteronomy 16:2).” In addition to the sacrifice, which we don’t do anymore, the unleavened bread, or matzah, is mentioned. We don’t leaven it so that we will remember the haste of the exodus from Egypt. “For six days you shall eat matzah, and on the seventh day there shall be a halt to the Lord, your God. You shall not do any work (Deuteronomy 16:8).”
Then, we have the second iconic holiday, Sukkot. “And you shall perform the Festival of Weeks to the Lord, your God, the donation you can afford to give, according to how the Lord, your God, shall bless you (Deuteronomy 16:10).” Sukkot is a time when we are specifically commanded to rejoice. Not just the Israelites, but our children, our servants, and the strangers who live among us.
“Justice, justice you shall pursue, that you may live and possess the land the Lord, your God, is giving you (Deuteronomy 16:20).” This is one of the most iconic lines of the Torah. The word “justice” is repeated twice. If every word of the Torah is supposed to be meaningful and count, then why do we need this word twice in the same verse? I’ve heard countless sermons about this. There are two kinds of justice, it’s repeated because we need to be just and do justice. I like most of them, and I don’t have a new profound statement of my own. But it’s a foundational concept that Jews can live by, and a value that I uphold.