Photo by Charles Ward

Preparing For The Freedom That is Ours

Rosh Chodesh Nissan ― the first day of the Jewish month of Nissan ― is one of the most significant days in Jewish history. It was on Rosh Chodesh Nissan, in Egypt, that God gave the first mitzvah to the Jewish people ― the mitzvah of declaring the new moon and sanctifying the new month. For over two thousand years, God did this alone, but now God was entrusting the honor and responsibility to the Jewish people.

Why is this mitzvah so significant? Because it shows that we have the ability and the responsibility to sanctify our lives and the passage of time. With this responsibility, we become partners with God in the ongoing process of creation.  It is up to us to create and celebrate the rituals and traditions that come with each of our holidays and to pass these traditions on to the next generation.

The beginning of the month of Nissan reminds us that we are supposed to start thinking about Passover at least two weeks ahead of time. There is much preparation involved with getting ready for the holiday of Pesach.  We must remove the chametz (or leavening) from our homes.  We must prepare for the Seder meal and for the Seder itself. In addition, the Hagaddah tells us that “each of us should feel as if we personally left slavery in Egypt and found freedom with a community of Jewish people.”  We should not only prepare our homes for the rituals associated with Passover, but we must prepare our inner selves for Passover as well.  When the month starts, we should spend a little time each day thinking about what freedom means to us. What are our priorities? What might be holding us back from being truly free? And, what can we do to elevate ourselves in the new calendar year?

There is a concept in Judaism of sanctity of time and place. "Sanctity of place" is where God enables us to feel God’s holy presence. There are certain places where we just feel more holy….perhaps it is in the synagogue or around the seder table.  Perhaps it is when we visit Israel or go to pray at the Western Wall.  This is sanctity of place.

There is also "sanctity of time." We often feel spiritually different on each holiday. Passover is the time of freedom. It is our time to feel spiritually free.

Just like on Rosh Hashanah, we are given the opportunity to begin again with a clean slate.  On Passover, we literally clean our homes and prepare them for the holiday.  On Passover, we can also clean our personal house and embrace the freedoms that wait for us.  We must have the courage to step out into the freedom that is ours just as our ancestors did so long ago knowing that God is with us every step of the way.

"My job as a Rabbi is to bring people closer to G-d..to be an extension of G-d...to be with people in their happiness and in their sadness."