Anniversaries

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

The Talmud contemplates the powerful legacy of historical anniversaries: “Good things tend to recur on a date with a history of auspicious good fortune, and misfortune tends to befall us on dates with a history of tragedy” (Taanit 29A). We mourn on the Ninth of Av, with its long history of Jewish national catastrophes… while we celebrate the Seder on the anniversary of the Exodus from Egypt.

We observe a degree of mourning and social restraint throughout the Counting of the Omer (between Passover and Shavuot), recalling the death of thousands of Rabbi Akiba’s disciples during that period. Mourning is set aside to celebrate the anniversary of the State of Israel’s 1948 founding (Yom Ha-Atzma’ut) and the 1967 liberation of Jerusalem (Yom Yerushalayim).

May 2020 brings the 75th Anniversary of V-E Day… recalling the allied victory in World War II Europe.

Countless Spring brides and their bridegrooms are preparing to celebrate wedding anniversaries.

My Talmudic namesake, Rabbi Joseph, would enjoy a special, sumptuous meal each Shavuot, explaining: “If not for this day and its history (the giving of the Torah), I would be just one of countless ordinary Joe’s in the street!” (Pesachim 68B)

In this season of anniversaries, we gratefully count the very days… until that most defining and auspicious anniversary of them all.

(Rabbi Joseph H. Prouser is the rabbi of Temple Emanuel of North Jersey and the former National Chaplain of the National Jewish Committee on Scouting.)

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