The Meaning of a Moed By Jesse Dunietz


The well-known Parshat HaMoadot, which delineates the specific mitzvot of each of the chagim, is introduced with 23:2: “Daber El Bnei Yisrael Viamarta Aleihem Moadei Hashem Asher Tikreu Otam Mikraei Kodesh – Eileh Heim Moadai.”  This comes on the heels of a string of halachot relating to korbanot.  Why the juxtaposition?

The simplest approach is that of Ibn Ezra.  He explains that since the Torah has just spent time telling us about the korbanot themselves, it is logical for the Torah to tell us when we bring them.  However, this explanation seems somewhat difficult.  The section before dealt primarily with individuals’ voluntary korbanot, not the communal ones brought on the chagim.  Additionally, the Torah does not describe the musafim of the different chagim here at all; they appear in Parshat Pinchas! 

Sforno has a different, but more philosophical idea, which carries a great lesson.  The previous sections have dealt with the avodah, whose purpose is largely to cause Hashem’s Shechinah to rest on Am Yisrael.  Now, the Torah moves on to the moadim, when we try to dedicate our time to learning and other holy matters, through which we also bring Hashem’s Shechinah to us.

R’ Samson Raphael Hirsch takes a related concept even further.  He explains that the term “moed” indicates something set aside for a specific purpose, i.e. becoming closer to Hashem.  Thus, avodah and the chagim are different manifestations of this same characteristic.  The avodah in the Mishkan (or Ohel Moed) “sets Hashem’s Torah as the center point of our lives” – it designates a specific place that has become a moed, a place for closeness to Hashem.  Similarly, the chagim are times that, by virtue of historical events and special commandments, have become occasions to unite with Hashem.

This is the challenge of the moadim.  They are not simply days on which we do the mitzvot described in the Parshat HaMoadot.  We must take advantage of them to engage in holy activities, as the Sforno said, to bring the Shechinah closer, and to recognize their special potential as moadim for connection to Hashem.  May we be zocheh to live up to this challenge, and to become closer to Hashem through His chagim and through our constant devotion to Him.

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