Holidays, Calendars and Mistakes

As my mistakes go, this wasn’t a particularly large one or one that had significant consequences.  I read the weekly Torah portion off of the wrong calendar and so I had the wrong Torah portion for that particular week.  No, don’t panic, no child’s bar or bat mitzvah portion was affected.  What was affected was our Dramatic Torah presentation on Friday, May 20th.  Once a month we read Torah on a Friday night and once a year, we read Torah and give a dramatic interpretation of the portion in what is called the meturgeman tradition.  By at least 2000 years ago, the common language in the Land of Israel was Aramaic rather than Hebrew and those listening to Torah being read publicly needed a meturgeman, or translator into the vernacular.  Very often the meturgeman would dramatically or homiletically interpret the Torah to provide a lesson and this lead to the growth of the Darshan or the person who would give a sermon, just as we have today.

Getting back to my mistake, I had read the Torah portion for the Diaspora, not for Israel, and was therefore a week off from where I should have been.  “But wait!” I hear you ask, “isn’t Plano located in the Diaspora?”  Yes, yes it is.  However, the Reform Movement follows the calendar for Israel and therefore only follows a single day of a holiday, as they celebrate it in Israel, versus a second day, as many communities do in the Diaspora.  For example, in Israel and in the Bible, Passover is a seven day holiday.  In conservative or orthodox communities in the Diaspora only, Passover becomes an eight day holiday.  To be clear, conservative or orthodox communities in Israel only observe seven days of Passover.  The Reform Movement decided that in or out of Israel, Passover would have the same seven days, period.

Here is where it gets tricky for Torah portions.  In Israel and the Reform Movement, Passover ends on Friday night, April 29th, but for conservative or orthodox communities in the Diaspora only, Passover ends on Saturday night, April 30th.  That means that in Israel and the Reform Movement we read Acharei Mot on Saturday the 30th, while conservative and orthodox communities will read a special portion for Passover.  The two communities won’t resynchronize until August 13th, when everyone is reading Devarim on the same Shabbat.  Whew!  That will teach me to make sure I’m reading the right calendar.