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A Zissen Peisach

A Zissen Peisach!

BY AARON GINSBURG aaron.ginsburg@gmail.com

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Shabbat was almost entirely a local affair at Touro Synagogue in Newport, RI. 


Among the visitors were Amir Sofer, his wife and children. Amir is the mayor of the Merom HaGalil Regional Council  מועצה אזורית מרום הגליל which established in 1950. It covers an area of 69 square miles, and consists of 14 moshavim, one kibbutz, 8 communal settlements, a Druze village, and a Circassian village. The total population in 2014 was 14,600.  


By way of comparison, the Dokshitsy District in Belarus is 810 square miles, and has a population of about 30,000.


Moshav Meron is one of the communities in the district. There is a lot of action there on Lag BaOmer. The Zohar, which was attributed to Rabbi Shimon, said that Rabbi Shimon’s hillula (Yahrzeit) was on Lag BaOmer. Pilgrimages to the burial cave in Meron have been documented from the 12th century. Nowadays almost a million people make the pilgrimage on Lag BaOmer. It’s Israel’s Woodstock!


As Rabbi Marc Mandel explained, the Haftarah spoke about the prophet Elijah, who traditionally visits all seders, 


“The Shabbat before Peisach is called Shabbat HaGadol, the Large Shabbat. Why is it called שבת הגדול?


‘No one knows for sure. Some say it’s because of the last posuk of the special Haftarah,  Malachi 3:4 - 3:24


הִנֵּ֤ה אָֽנֹכִי֙ שֹׁלֵ֣חַ לָכֶ֔ם אֵ֖ת אֵלִיָּ֣ה הַנָּבִ֑יא



‘Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet and he shall restore the hearts of the parents to the children and the hearts of the children to the parents.’  לִפְנֵ֗י בּ֚וֹא י֣וֹם יְהוָ֔ה הַגָּד֖וֹל וְהַנּוֹרָֽא ‘before that the great and awesome day.’


‘Because the haftarah ends with the word גדול, some say it is called Shabbat Hagadol. 


‘But it's fascinating that the theme of the haftarah ends with the relationship between parents and children and that one of the main themes of the holiday is וְהִגַּדְתָּ לְבִנְךָ, בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא, ‘And you shall tell your children about the story of Pesach.’


‘When I was with my family for Purim, we discussed where our kids would be for Peisach, and when I said that my kids were working at Peisach programs, my sister  was surprised and said, ‘That's not what we do.’”


To the best of (limited) memory, Rabbi Mandel told us that helping other families celebrate the holiday was a worthwhile experience.


Jewish Newport wishes you all a Zissin Peisach, whether or not you are with your family, whether you are on the sea, on the land, on a plane, or on an island. Chag sameach!      !חַג שָׂמֵחַ

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