By Rabbi Michael Beyo
The second part of this week’s Parasha deals with the sanctification of specific times and days in the calendar – what we call Holidays. When we pay attention to what the Torah says, we find in it one of the most important and cardinal principles of Judaism, or to be more precise of Rabbinic Judaism (I use this term both in its historical sense and also to strike a point that all the current forms of Judaism are in their essence a form of Rabbinic Judaism).
In this Parasha there is Pasuk that is recurrent three times: (23:2) “Moadei Hashem asher tikreu otam” – Artscroll translates as “Hashem’s [God's] appointed festivals that you are designated as holy convocations;” “(23:4) “Ele moadei Hashem mikraei kodesh asher tikreu otam bemoadam” - Artscroll translates as “These are the appointed festivals of Hashem, the holy convocations, which you shall designate in their appropiate time;” and (23:37) “Ele moadei Hashem asher tikreu otam mikraei kodesh - Artscroll translates as “These are the appointed festivals of Hashem that you shall proclaim as holy convocations.”
What is interesting is the fact that in all the three verses, the word “otam” is written in Ktiv Hazer - אתם- instead of אותם, and since the Torah is not written with vowels, that word can be also read as “atem” – reflective! Put another way, when the word is read “otam,” it references the festivals; however, when read “atem,” the people themselves, who appoint the holidays are being referenced. In this sense the above three Pesukim could be translated in the following way: (23:2) “Hashem’s festivals that you will designate as holy convocations;” (23:4) “These are the appointed festivals of Hashem, the holy convocations, which you shall designate in your appropriate time;” and (23:37) “These are the appointed festivals of Hashem that will be proclaimed by you as holy convocations.” In other words these specific dates are holy because we Jews have sanctified them and not necessarily because God looked into his calendar and decided to have a holiday on that specific date.