Sometimes, a different date is the best we can do
The Fast of Esther
Queen Esther proclaimed a three-day-fast with repentance to help us warrant to escape Haman’s genocidal plans with us unscratched. The dates? The Thirteenth until the Fifteenth of Nissan! The last day includes Pesach Eve, Seder Night! This was an emergency never to be repeated.
What did we repent for? We finally accepted all of the Torah, not because we had to but because we wanted to. We also had grown quite happy without a Temple and Redemption, outside of Jerusalem and Israel.
But what about our Calling to lead humanity to a perfect world?
We wholeheartedly repented and deserved to escape total genocide.
Yet, can we say today we are distraught that we’re without a Temple and Redemption and with the majority outside of Jerusalem and Israel? Do we care that 1B humans starve every day from greed? That our physical survival hangs in the balance (climate change)? We seem rather content.
I think we could care more. That must be a purpose for the Fast day of Esther. But we hold it the day before Purim. (Unless that’s a Shabbat. Then we will fast earlier, on the Thursday before.) And certainly not in Nissan.
BTW: We didn’t celebrate that we killed our enemy. If we would, we’d celebrate two days of Purim in Jerusalem. Rather, we rejoice because we didn’t have to kill anymore to survive. The end of the killing. Jews don’t like killing. It troubles our brain that we need to bring humanity holy messages.
NB: On the Thirteenth of Adar under Queen Esther, we also did fast. But that was the fast we always held before having to go to war. That makes it all completely unnatural. You would say: Before a battle, eat well. Moses taught us: Victory comes from G^d, not from muscle power.
The Shabbat of the Great Miracle
This was a one-time miracle on the Tenth of Nissan before the Exodus. We don’t celebrate it every year on that date but on the last Shabbat before Passover. On a weekday, it would not get the attention it deserves.
The Giving of the Torah
On the Sixth of Siwan, we should’ve received the Torah (say most Sages). Yet, Moses saw we weren’t ready and asked G^d to postpone to Shabbat morning the next day. Yet, we still celebrate this every year on the Sixth and say: This is the day of the Gift of the Torah. How can that be? Rabbi Leff explains that the language says it exactly right. On the Sixth, we realize it was a Gift, not a Demand. If it’s a gift, we may postpone it for a day.
NB: The second day of Shavuot (outside of Israel also celebrated) falls on this Seventh day of Siwan! It’s not just the second Festival day.
Karaites mistranslate Leviticus 23:15-16 as meaning: “And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Shabbat.” The word Shabbat here doesn’t mean the day to stop working but to stop eating leavened food.
The Second Day of the Festivals
Often, we couldn’t tell in time, far away from Jerusalem, when the first sliver of the New Moon was seen, so when the Feast would be. The best we could do is celebrate two days. Not because we want one extra day of Passover or any other Festival. Only, to fast two days for Yom Kippur would be too much for most people so then, we only celebrate one day.
NB: The First Temple was destroyed on the Tenth or the Seventh of Av, the Second Temple on the Ninth of Av. We repent our ongoing sins that stop the rebuilding on only the Ninth because we only can do so much.
The reason is every time: This is the best we can do. The Torah was given to humans, not to Angels. We’re not asked to do the impossible.
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, an almost daily blog contributor to the Times of Israel, and previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. He often makes his readers laugh, mad, or assume he's nuts—close to perfect blogging. He's proud that his analytical short comments are removed both from left-wing and right-wing news sites. *
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Like most of his readers, he believes in being friendly, respectful, and loyal. Yet, if you think those are his absolute top priorities, you might end up disappointed. His first loyalty is to the truth. He will try to stay within the limits of democratic and Jewish law, but he won't lie to support opinions or people who don't deserve that. He admits that he sometimes exaggerates to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quite a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. *
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His most influential teachers (chronologically) are his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach, and, lehavdil bein chayim lechayim, Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff, and Rav Meir Lubin. *
One of his rabbis calls him Mr. Innovation [Ish haChidushim]. Yet, his originalities seem to root deeply in traditional Judaism, though they may grow in unexpected directions. In fact, he claims he's modernizing nothing. Rather, mainly basing himself on the basic Hebrew Torah text, he tries to rediscover classical Jewish thought almost lost in thousands of years of stifling Gentile domination and Jewish assimilation. (He pleads for a close reading of the Torah instead of going by rough assumptions of what it would probably mean and before fleeing to Commentaries.) This, in all aspects of life, but prominently in the areas of Free Will, Activism, Homosexuality for men, and Redemption. *
He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, and disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed. He aims to bring a fresh perspective rather than harp on the obvious and familiar. He loves to write encyclopedic overviews. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds should be disputed. In short, his main political positions are among others: anti-Trumpism, anti-elitism, anti-bigotry and supremacy, for Zionism, Intersectionality, and non-violence, anti those who abuse democratic liberties, anti the fake ME peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, pro-Science, pro-Free Will, anti-blaming-the-victim, and for down-to-earth, classical optimism, and happiness. *
He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (https://diethylstilbestrol.co.uk/studies/des-and-psychological-health/), born in 1953 to parents who were Dutch-Jewish Holocaust survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork. He grew up a humble listener. It took him decades to become a speaker too. Bullies and con artists almost instantaneously envy and hate him. *
He holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam) – is half a doctor. He practices Re-evaluation Co-counseling since 1977, is not an official teacher anymore, and became a friendly, empowering therapist. He became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids non-violently. For a couple of years, he was active in hasbara to the Dutch-speaking public. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's being a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. He lives with his library in Jerusalem. Feel free to contact him. *
His writing has been made possible by a (second-generation) Holocaust survivors' allowance from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having an original peek outside of your cultural bubble. *
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