Temple Isaiah classes for adults exploring Jewish life, history, and practice.

The Spring Cycle

A Seder table setting

A Seder table setting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This past Sunday we looked at the Spring cycle of holidays. It begins the day after Purim, when many observant Jews begin to prepare for Passover.  Just as the Fall cycle began with a month of inner housecleaning, the Spring cycle begins with a month of real-world housecleaning, getting all the chometz out of the house.

Chometz = Grain + Water + Time.

Also, while we are at it: remember that when we transliterate Hebrew words — put them into English letters — there may be many different ways to spell them. Chometz, Chametz, Hametz, Hometz, and Hamets are all the same thing.  Confusing? If you are confused by a word, your best bet is to say the word aloud – that will probably clear up the problem. If it doesn’t, you can (1) ask me or any handy rabbi, (2) look in your text or (3) Google it. Just remember, if you choose option 3, that not all information on the Internet is high-quality!

To return to the cycle: The first month is spent cleaning all the grain products out of your life including cracker crumbs in the corners and frozen pizza dough.  Also beer, whiskey, Cheerios, chocolate chip cookies, and crackers. Use it up, Give it away, or throw it away!

There’s another way to see this, though: chometz can also be a metaphor for the crummy stuff in our lives.  (I’ll just let you think upon that.)

At the end of the preparation, it’s Passover!  Time for the Seder, the well-ordered meal that the rabbis designed when we could no longer celebrate Passover at the Temple. Remember that the point of the Seder is to (1) Tell the Story and (2) Involve Everyone in the Story because after all, it is the story that binds the Jewish People together. Instead of the chometz we have cleaned away, we eat Matzah, which is a kind of bread made so quickly that it could not rise. This is the bread our ancestors ate in the desert.

Passover lasts a week. By the end of the week, we are pretty sick of matzah. That’s OK, by next year Passover food will look good again.

On the second night of Passover, we begin to Count the Omer. It’s the countdown to Shavuot.  If you want to learn more about the Omer, take a look at this article. The Omer is a long count-up (in Judaism, the rabbis tell us always to go UP, not down) to the next big holiday, Shavuot.

Shavuot is the stealth holiday of the Jewish Year. It doesn’t get much press, but it is actually a big deal. Just as we remember the Exodus on Passover, we remember the Giving of the Ten Commandments on Shavuot – so the original Omer was a trip across the desert to the mountain of Sinai. There, we went from being a bunch of slave who had been rescued from Pharaoh to being the People Israel. We also got the Ten Commandments.  (For more about the stories connected to the Spring Cycle, read the first 20 chapters of Exodus in the Bible.)

This is just a summary – obviously I can’t cover everything we did in class in a blog post.  But it’s a taste, to remind you, or if you weren’t there, to fill you in.

See you Sunday, for the National Cycle!  “And now for something entirely different….”

L’shalom,

Rabbi Adar

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