Party God (Mishpatim)
Celebrate what you want to see more of. -Thomas J. Peters
In one of the more legislative portions of the Torah, God declares:
“Three times a year you shall celebrate for Me.”
Then we get the details of what these celebrations are:
- The Feast of Unleavened Bread (Chag Hamatzot), what we commonly refer to as Pesach (Passover), commemorating our Exodus from the bondage of Egypt.
- The Feast of the Harvest, what we know as Shavuot, falls in the summer when the first fruits and crops are harvested.
- The Feast of the Ingathering, what we know as Sukkot, occurs in the autumn, the end of the agricultural year when all of the produce is gathered from the fields.
The Bechor Shor on Exodus 23:14 examines why God wants us to celebrate at these times and specifically why those celebrations should be for Him. He explains that these three periods of the year are times of particular joy and that God wants to be part of our joy and for us to include Him in our festivities.
During Pesach, we are forever enjoined to commemorate how God liberated us from the slavery of Egypt, and therefore it is extremely appropriate to remember, involve, and incorporate God in the festivities.
Shavuot, in the summer, is the period when we begin to harvest. It is when we start to reap the efforts of all the previous months. A good harvest is a time of great joy and the first fruits of the promise of spring. We need to remember that the harvest comes from God and it is befitting for us to acknowledge God’s role and give Him thanks for what we’ve received so far, as well as to continue to pray for the good we hope He will continue to provide. He wants to be part of that too.
Finally, Sukkot, in the autumn, is when the agricultural potential of the entire year is completely fulfilled. The entire bounty is gathered. It is a period of extreme joy when our material wealth for the year is at its height right in front of us. We cannot help but be joyous. Especially then, when we may not have anything else on our mind than to be happy, is when we need to remember God. We need to be happy WITH Him. We need to perceive that He is happy WITH us. It is a partnership. Our divine partner wants to celebrate with us. He wants to be a tangible, important, meaningful part of our lives and our celebrations. That means including Him, not only during trying times but also in our happiest moments.
May we always have things to celebrate and include God in those moments.
In memory of Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski z”tl.