The Bible Says What? We should ‘cut off’ Jews who pass on Pesach?
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The Bible Says What? We should ‘cut off’ Jews who pass on Pesach?

Rabbi Aaron Goldstein reflects on a controversial subject in the Torah

Perhaps it seems shocking for those using a clash with Easter or the school holidays to skip Pesach this year, but the Torah proscribes being cut off from your people as a punishment (Numbers 9:13).

The portion clearly accounts for real-life situations that regularly arose in the ancient world that prevented our ancestors fulfilling the mitzvot of observing Pesach at its appointed time.

Two reasons are given: being ritually impure or on a ‘long’ journey.

In response to that contemporary problem, God legislates a month’s window to make the appropriate offerings.

However, there is good news for those who still miss Pesach, even with a leeway of a month – the rabbis interpreted the punishment as a spiritual, rather a physical one.

This is an extraordinary amendment to a written law by clarification and development, so that the original law is not denied, but a new inclusive path is found.

This is halacha in its most flexible and inclusive. Manuscripts with the word for ‘long’ with a dot over it, point out a creative interpretation: ‘Long’ can mean anywhere outside the Temple.

Today, some rabbis have forgotten to be bold with halacha. I would argue that it is this inflexibility that cuts people off by making our religion inaccessible in the modern world.

As a Liberal rabbi, I want as many Jewish households as possible to experience a Seder.

I am less concerned over the exact moment of its occurrence, or that every ritual is observed, than the opportunity is made possible and accessible for all.

We cannot do anything about the one who wishes to cut themselves off, but we can do everything to count them in.

Rabbi Aaron Goldstein is senior rabbi at Northwood & Pinner Liberal Synagogue

 

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