Rosh Hodesh Nisan 5764
Greetings and Message
Hodesh Tov to you all . . .
Today marks the beginning of the Hebrew month Nisan, in which we celebrate the Passover. This is a most auspicious time for the Jewish people, for this month is for us a time of national salvation.
As Solomon stated in Kohelet, “there is a time and purpose for all things under Heaven.” These poetic words conceal within them one of the great secrets of the movement of Divine influence. We all know that there are apparent times when certain things tend to happen more than others, be this for good or bad.
Some might claim that we are under the influence of the stars (astrology) and whatever planet is in ascendant at the moment dictates what fortune that moment will bring. Yet, it seems rather odd that human nature and the course of human events would be so strictly ruled by the rigid and calculable movements of heavenly bodies. There does not seem to be any noticeable relationship between human behavior and astronomical behavior.
Yet, astrology has shown itself to be a stubborn science (or art) that has many times accurately predicted the course of human events. Apparently there is something to this cosmic connection, but what it is exactly must be more than some mere astronomical relationship between the forces of gravity which move the planets and the force of gravity here on earth that ever so subtly shifts the flow of fluids in our human brains.
Solomon states that there is a time to be born, a time to die, a time to build and a time to break down, a time for peace and a time for war. All in all Solomon mentions 28 different times.
The ebb and flow of personal fortune is a clear and relevant fact in each our lies. Who wouldn’t want to grasp insight into the power that shapes and molds our destinies? Many do look to the stars and become disappointed the more they look. There is apparently much more to personal fortune than the mere movement of planets.
The religious amongst us will raise their voice and say one’s personal fortune is based upon one’s righteousness and obedience to the word and way of G-d. Yes, we religious types embrace this idea ever so firmly, even though we see on a daily basis that good, G-d fearing religious people suffer all kinds of reversal of fortune and outright bad fortune. Apparently even good religious people suffer from all types of life’s travails. Apparently, not even walking in the ways of G-d is a sure way to solicit good fortune. Where then does this leave us?
Solomon in his wisdom long ago answered for us this question. As he said, there is a time and a purpose for all things under Heaven. By design of the Creator, there are “times” which are auspicious and beneficial for some things and there are other “times” when it is best to withdraw and to let life and its ills pass you by.
The reason why we all face suffering is because we do not recognize the times. We do not know how to ride the waves of the “good times” and how to lie low to avoid the “bad times.” This sounds a bit like astrology, but as I mentioned above, even astrology has its limits and cannot extend complete benefits to those who adhere to its tenets.
Good times and bad times definitely do exist for each one of us. Astrology might reveal to one a glimpse of what is to come, but a mere glimpse is never enough for one to see clearly and to prepare accordingly. Indeed, the stars and planets themselves are only creations of the Creator. Their movements and orbits while having an influence upon us, does so only in accordance to Divine design. In other words, whatever true power there is to astrology, it has been ordained by G-d and exists as He so commands. The stars and planets only exert the influence that the Creator so desires.
Astrology does exert an influence over our individual fortunes, and we must admit that so does one’s righteousness and religious activity. One who walks with G-d does indeed receive a blessing from the Divine. Yet, as we all know both the powers of the universe and our own personal merits are still not enough to solicit for us complete providence, fortune and well being. Again, I ask, what then is the secret to success? The answer which I will now provide may or may not bring you much comfort.
We seek to have the maximum amount of comfort and success in life. We all seek that everything goes our way. But who is to say that this or that is what should be? Who is to say that a life without suffering is a better life than one with it? What defines the nature of the good character of life?
Bad things happen to good people and we mourn. Good things happen to rotten people and we get angry. Where is the justice in all this? I guess it all depends upon how we define the concept of justice.
Life has never been a proverbial rose garden, not for anyone. However fortunate the most fortunate be, there is still that in their lives that pains them. On the other hand, those who seem to lack and suffer always seem to have their high points in life. No one, no matter how fortunate or not lives with extremes of either ultimate fortune or ultimate lack of it. We all have our ups and downs regardless of how big those ups and downs are.
The times and purposes under Heaven are not clearly advertised to us. We do not see when they are coming or going. We do not recognize when it is a time to build or a time to break down, or when it is a time for peace or a time for war. It seems like things just happen to us and thus thrust us into the course of human events.
No one wants adversity. No one can protect oneself from everything, at all times. In one way or another, we are all open and vulnerable. We had better get used to it and make the best of what we’ve got. And there is wisdom about how to do this most efficiently.
There comes times in our lives when we are required by fate to rise up to the occasion, whatever that occasion be.
When attacked we must fight and not seek appeasement. When we are victorious we must seek peace and to rebuild and not seek revenge and to harm further.
When faced with opportunity we must grasp the moment and make the best of what we have before us. When we are faced with loss, we must withdraw and protect that which we already have.
When it is time to rejoice, we should rejoice. When it is time to mourn, we should mourn. We should never confuse the times and do that which is inappropriate at the moment.
We cannot control fate. All we can do is successfully respond to it.
This is why G-d does not allow us to be masters of our own destinies. All of us are still in a way children. All of us from time to time seek to hammer a square peg into a round hole with regards to something in our lives. We smile at the immaturity of our children when they do this, and we seek to correct them and educate them. Yet, do we do the same with ourselves. Do we have the courage to admit that often we act as children, with the same juvenile stubbornness and lack of insight? How easy life would be if when presented with a round hole, we chose to place a round peg within it.
Ask yourself, do you know how to distinguish between life’s round and square pegs? If you do, then you can meet the daily adversities of life head on with proper response. You are one who can know how to ride the waves of life. You can flow with the ebb and tide of the times and purposes under Heaven.
The wisdom of Torah is replete is practical lessons about life. There is no one book better than another; there is no one pithy saying that is wiser than another. Each book of Torah, each wise saying of our Sages has its time and its place. Therefore our Sages have taught us the value of Torah study.
The more Torah we learn, the more prepared we are to meet life’s daily adversities. While we cannot control what happens to us, those versed in Torah know how to respond to life’s adversities and triumphs. Those well versed in Torah come to recognize the times and purposes under Heaven.
The Hebrew month of Nisan celebrates Jewish Independence Day, this is what Passover really is.
Passover is our redemption from slavery. Slavery is not only of the body, it is also of the mind and soul.
When we celebrate Passover, we are taught that we must each look at ourselves as if we each were personally redeemed from Egypt. This is not just a lesson in history, rather this is a lesson in perennial psychology.
Passover celebrates our human emancipation from our slavery to ignorance and our emancipation into enlightenment and maturity.
There is no freedom without responsibility. There is no freedom without maturity.
Life will always throw its punches at us. We will always have to respond.
One who responds responsibly and maturely to all that life brings responds well. Such a one will ride the waves of life on top of them and not be drowned in the tumult of life’s crashing waves. Such a one has learned the message of Passover. Such a one knows true freedom.
As for the rest of us, our education continues . . .
May we each have a Passover season of true learning, where we internalize the sacred ancient message of true freedom.
Hag Sameah (Happy Holiday) to you all.