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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Shabbat - Hol haMoed Sukkot

Shabbat Chol haMoed Sukkot
Reading Date: 18th October 2008 – 19th Tishrei 5769

On Shabbat Chol HaMoed (both Sukkot and Pesach) we deviate from the normal Torah reading cycle and read a portion from the Book of Shemot - Exodus. This section (33:12-34:26) contains a variety of different topics, several of which are quintessential principles of our faith. YHVH reveals His Thirteen Attributes of Mercy amidst the backdrop of Moshe's request that YHVH bring His presence closer. In this portion, we also receive the commandment not to cook a goat in its mother's milk, (the verse from which the laws of Kashrut are derived.) One might ask why the Attributes are placed at this point in the Torah and also why we read them during Chol HaMoed of Sukkot and Pesach.

In essence, the text of these Thirteen Attributes is a call to arouse YHVH's compassion for His chosen nation, the Children of Israel. It is these qualities of mercy that prevented YHVH from destroying all of the Children of Israel after the incident of the Golden Calf. Appropriately, they are revealed to Moshe during his second ascent of Mount Sinai so that from that point onward, he would have the key to preventing a national disaster similar to the great sin committed just a short time ago. This cry beseeching YHVH's forgiveness is an important element of the prayer during the Yamim Noraim - High Holy Days.

At this time of judgment and renewal at the onset of the new year, we must remember that we are constantly dependent on YHVH's mercy and His interaction in the world. It is so easy to forget that Chol HaMoed, like the Yamim Tovim serving as its bookends, is also a time permeated with holiness. Without YHVH's mercy, we would not even have the opportunity to engage in our everyday activities. This Chol HaMoed Torah reading and these Thirteen Attributes of Mercy come to remind us that we are constantly at YHVH's disposal and that we must continually strive to improve ourselves so that we may always merit His mercy.

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