The Hebrew calendar assigns Shabbat Chol Hamoed Pesach – the Shabbat of the intermediate days of Passover – the Torah reading that recounts how God practised mercy with the Israelites after the worship of the Golden Calf.
The reading contains the 13 attributes of God’s mercy and that God is forgiving and patient. This formula of forgiveness was taught to Moses following the tragic deaths of the unfaithful who had worshipped the Golden Calf.
The Torah then gives a precis of the calendar’s holy days. This indicates that one who observes a Jewish way of life leaves no opportunity to pursue devotions foreign to the Torah. The freedom of the ancient Israelites was intended as a freedom to worship, not a freedom to rebel.
The Golden Calf was the antithesis to freedom. Its worship was a rebellion against Moses’ leadership, and involved other sins that depraved and demoralised the people.
The haftarah this Shabbat is read from the Book of Ezekiel. The first chapter of the vision of the valley of dry bones that come to life connects to several themes. The first is that there will be a revival of the dead, including the revival of our people as a nation after the demise of independent Judea. The second is the tradition that the dead revived in the vision are those of the tribe of Ephraim who failed to enter the Promised Land. On the intermediate days of Pesach, it is time to think ahead to the post-Pesach period, which marks the renewed independence of Israel and the revival of Judea and Samaria as in days of old.
υ Ariel Abel is rabbi of the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation