By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER
This Shabbat, March 17, is a day of unusual pageantry. We begin the Book of Leviticus. It is (additionally) both Rosh Chodesh Nisan, inaugurating the month in which we celebrate Passover… and Shabbat Ha-Chodesh – the third of four special Torah readings anticipating that Festival. The rare confluence of these milestones necessitates the reading of three separate Torah Scrolls!
This Sabbath, many of our neighbors will be celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day – venerating the Patron Saint and “Enlightener” of Ireland. Patrick’s legend repeatedly reprises the Torah’s account of the Exodus and the life of Moses. Patrick and Moses were both shepherds. Both were burdened with speech impediments (effectively shifting the emphasis from the messenger to the God whose word he conveyed). Patrick was a former slave, whose master (not unlike Pharaoh) tried to renege on his emancipation. Moses’ intercession provided hungry followers with Manna and quail; God answered Patrick’s petitions with a herd of pigs! Patrick and Moses both worked wonders with their walking sticks and are remembered for miracles involving snakes.
In celebrating a beloved Saint, the Church understandably framed his greatness in terms borrowed from the biography of Moses. On this “multicultural” Shabbat, may we revel not only in the glories of the Mosaic Religion, but in America’s glorious religious mosaic as well!
(Rabbi Joseph H. Prouser is the rabbi of Temple Emanuel of North Jersey and the National Chaplain of the National Jewish Committee on Scouting.)