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אֱלֹהֵ֥י מַסֵּכָ֖ה לֹ֥א תַעֲשֶׂה־לָּֽךְ׃ אֶת־חַ֣ג הַמַּצּוֹת֮ תִּשְׁמֹר֒ (שמות לד/יז-יח)
You must not make molten gods for yourselves. Preserve the Festival of Matzos. (Shmot 34/17-18)

At first glance, these two verses (psukim) seem to have nothing to do with each other. What possible connection could there be between making molten gods and keeping Pesach?

Yet the Gemara in a couple of places seems to think these psukim are very much connected:
וְאָמַר רַב שֵׁשֶׁת מִשּׁוּם רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן עֲזַרְיָה: כׇּל הַמְבַזֶּה אֶת הַמּוֹעֲדוֹת כְּאִילּוּ עוֹבֵד עֲבוֹדָה זָרָה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: "אֱלֹהֵי מַסֵּכָה לֹא תַעֲשֶׂה לָּךְ", וּכְתִיב בָּתְרֵיהּ: "אֶת חַג הַמַּצּוֹת תִּשְׁמוֹר". (פסחים קיח)
And Rav Sheshet said, citing Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya: Anyone who disparages the Festivals, it is considered as though he engages in idol worship. (Bavli, Pesachim 118a)

So now the important question to ask is: Why? How does one's observance of any festival reflect as idol worshiping? This seems quite farfetched.

In order to understand this, we need to understand the meaning of observing the festivals in the Jewish calendar.

In order to observe the festivals in the Jewish Calendar we first have to figure out when these festival are. True, the date is set in the Torah, yet the first Mitzva we were given upon leaving Egypt was the Mitzva of Kiddush HaChodesh – sanctification of the month. Only by receiving testimony of observing the new moon, did the Sanhedrin declare the beginning of the next month, hence giving the Jewish people the responsibility and the ability to influence the calendar.

From the Gemara above we learn, that by observing the festivals we do not only follow the special Mitzvot of that festival. It is not only about eating in the Sukkah or drinking four cups of wine. By observing the festivals, we actually declare we are in partnership with G-d in this world. We can influence this world. It is up to us to sanctify the month and thus influence the actual day of when the festivals occur.

If we disparage the festivals, we don't fulfill this partnership with G-d. Thus it is as though we engage in idol worship.

This may sound scary yet gives us a great responsibility to stand up to. We are partners with Hashem.

Tuvia Canon is a former Shaliach in Melbourne and currently Head of Shlichut Department, Torah Mitzion. For comments: [email protected]

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