Published Date: March 20, 2020
This week’s music: Midnight Escape
The “unknown” is a place that most of us are afraid to enter. We all want to continue to be who we are forever. Perhaps we are also open to finding ways to fix ourselves, but we want to do that at our own pace, as we call the shots on how and when to fix.
None of us can say for sure where this current situation will lead us. How long will we have to stay on lockdown in our homes? How much more will we have to suffer from this disease? When and how will we build a new government and hopefully get our lives back in order? No one knows, but one things seems clear to me. Hashem is speaking to us loud and clear. The time has come for me to take a serious look at my life, rearrange my priorities and do the fixing I need to do, right now.
For many of us the fixing is now being done for us. We can’t overwork. We can’t leave our children all day. We can’t waste time arguing and criticizing when everyone is so fragile. We are being called to change. Change the way we relate to each other and change the way we accept God’s supreme kingship over our world.
We are quickly approaching the new month of Nissan. This month, as is written in this week’s special “maftir Parshat Hachodesh,” additional portion, is the head of all months. It is the month to you, the head of all months, the first to you, of the entire months of the year” (Sh’mot 12.2).
The Slonimer Rebbe points out that the introductory verse to this reading is quite unusual in that the introductory verse states, “and Hashem spoke to Moshe and Aharon in the land of Mitzraim…” (Sh’mot 12.1). How unusual for the Torah to state the physical place that Hashem was speaking to them from. This the only instance where we find this description. The answer can be so clearly understood today. Mitzraim was the darkest place of spiritual impurity for B’nai Yisrael. We stooped so low and yet, Hashem wants us to know that even in the darkest places we have a chance to renew, to fix and become a new person.
The Rebbe adds that the word for month, “chodesh” is made up of the exact same three letters as the word “chadash,” new. “Nissan” is the time for renewal, the trees are flowing in bloom, everything has turned a shiny green again. Pesach is in the air. Pesach, the holiday of renewal. We get a new lease on life. We are blessed with so many opportunities to be renewed. Each Shabbat we can feel the refreshing feeling of preparing to enter a new week. Each month, each holiday we have chance to start all over again. Renewal is an essential part of our lives.
Our future is bright. We need to replace the feeling of scariness of the unknown with the excitement of hope for a bright future. We are living in times where uncertainty and excitement are walking hand in hand. We can look forward to being filled with the infinite light, “ohr ein sof,” where there will be no end to the light which we will receive. Scary, of course, but all of that fear can be lifted if I realize that Hashem is leading the way. If I actualize the teachings and literally place myself in His hands in everything that I do, then the fear can be removed and replaced with awesome security.
B”H we are doing that fixing, albeit by force. Case in point. It was only less than one week ago when we read in the Torah portion of “Ki Tisa,” “V’shmaru B’nai Yisrael et ha’Shabbat.” (Sh’mot 31.16) Hashem has clearly commanded us, His children, to guard and keep the Shabbat. Here it is, two days before Shabbat and we are all preparing to go inward this Shabbat. We need to be in our homes, with our family members and spend Shabbat together. No travel, no work, just Shabbat. What nice obedient children we are, listening to our father’s command. How beautiful will it be if we can successfully respond with celebration and joy? This week’s portion of “Vayakhel” opens with the command, “Six days you should do work and on the seventh day it should be a holy of holiest day of Shabbat to Hashem.” (Sh’mot 35.2). Therein lies the challenge. Will we begrudgingly retreat into our homes and only “keep” Shabbos or can we rise above and celebrate the Shabbat and dedicate it to the joy of our relationship with Hashem?
This is our chance to be with each other, to be with God and rejoice that we have each other, all of us. Here is our perfect opportunity to retreat from the fear of corona and seclude ourselves together with the security of knowing that we are blessed to be together right now.