This Shabbat is Rosh Chodesh Nissan. Nissan is an incredible month, comparable only to Tishrei, and the top competitor for the title of “The First Month.” Nissan is known as the month of redemption/Ge’ula, features Pesach, and commemorates the dedication of the Mikdash/Tabernacle one year after the Exodus from Egypt.
The Maharal, Rabbi Judah Loew of Prague (d. 1609), teaches that each special event in the life of the Jewish people featured a different type of spiritual illumination that became present in the world at that time. The exodus from slavery in Egypt featured the spiritual light of freedom and redemption. When the anniversary of that event comes around, that same spiritual light infuses reality once again. Freedom is actually more spiritually available this month than at other times.
Our spiritual task during this month is to take advantage of this spiritual reality and pray for and lean into all the ways we need redemption from where we are stuck in smallness and old patterns of thought and behavior.
For example, I’ve been taking leadership lately winning Christian and Muslim allies, particularly among my fellow clergy, to fight against anti-Semitism. I noticed recently how my ask of them tends to be doable and small, like learning more about the dynamics of anti-Semitism. While this is important, I realized how I could be asking for something much bigger, like, “ I want you to work with me to completely end any mistreatment of Jews anywhere in the world.” My holding back from making a big ask like this is related to the effects of anti-Semitism on me, how it keeps me scared and suspicious of my would be allies.
During Nissan I will be praying to be free from the ways the effects of anti-Semitism keep me small, so I can live into a full, large and free expression of what I really want for myself, my people and the world. What will you pray for?
On another note, I want to call your attention to two upcoming events. On Tuesday 4/9 my good friend and artist/activist Shoshana Guggenheim will be speaking about her community-based and feminist Jewish art. See below for details. And on Sunday 5/5 from noon – 5:00 PM, Mishkan Tefila in Brookline is hosting a Greater Boston Mussar Conference with Dr. Alan Morinis as the keynote speaker. This will be a great opportunity to meet and learn with other Mussar practitioners in Boston and get to hear Alan. He is a fabulous teacher and speaker. I hope to see you all there.
I wish you all a pattern-breaking, heart-opening, joyous Nissan and Pesach.