Religion & Beliefs

A New Passing Over

Jews honour the moon every month, with a blessing (Birkat Ha levana) that can be recited anytime between the crescent moon and the full moon. The same honour is given to the Sun every 28 years (Birkat Ha Hama). This … Read More

By / April 14, 2009

Jews honour the moon every month, with a blessing (Birkat Ha levana) that can be recited anytime between the crescent moon and the full moon. The same honour is given to the Sun every 28 years (Birkat Ha Hama). This year is a Sun Blessing year, and it falls on the first night of Passover. Twice in the past, when Birkat Ha-Hama and Pesach have coincided, momentous occasions have occurred for the Jews. The first was the actual night of the Jewish exile from Egypt. The second was when the Jews of Persia were pardoned from massive execution at the time of King Ahashverosh and Haman, an event celebrated today as Purim. This time, word is that something grand is to happen again. The signs are all over. Some people think wicked things are to come. Others expect the complete and final redemption of Israel. In the story of Passover, the Hebrews, about to embark on their journey into the desert, took the jewels of their Egyptian neighbours, with no intention of returning them. These same jewels were blended to become the golden calf, the great sin of the Israelite people for which Moses broke the tablets of the law. Those who followed the Hebrew God out of Egypt were difficult cases, a "stubborn" people. Even having witnessed the miraculous exodus first hand, and not through stories like us, they would easily forget even their grand exit from Egypt. All they could recall was the rich land they left behind. It is hard to keep on the path to holiness when you are so stuck to the material world. These days, the spirits of the descendants of the Israelites are down. We have plenty of reasons for despair. The year 5769 began with a market crash from which there seems to be no recovery. It was followed by the Bombay incidents, yet again proof that the world hates us and therefore we have good reason to hate the world. A few weeks later, an inside blow: Bernard Madoff had swindled over 60 billion dollars out of his co-religionaries, blasting the world of Jewish charities. More outrage is felt by this than by Bombay, because this time, it is naked evidence that we are also doing improper things in the world, and shooting ourselves in the foot while we’re at it. Soon after, Israel launched its Gaza operation which left Jews all over the world split between the pain of justifying the measures taken by the leaders of our Heart-center, and the horror of their consequences. Anti-semitism is on the rise. Israel is a pariah state, rejected by the world. We are also waging ideological wars. Boycotts burst on the commercial front, as well as in academia, in sports, the media, and the arts. Thousands protest at the Davis Cup when the Israelis play. And in two consecutive years, Beaufort and Waltz with Bashir are rejected by the Academy. The Jewish institutions, and the Israeli government, are aflame with corruption. Money has infiltrated everything. The way has been lost. The world is a sick place. This is a planet where corrupt billionaires like the Madoffs of the world coexist with millions of African children who, if they survive beyond the old age of 40, are likely to become blind because their mothers did not know to clean their faces so the flies wouldn’t lay  eggs inside their eyes.
Perhaps we have lost sight of what really matters. Passover is our starting point as a nation, and it is the most important grounding point after the weekly Shabbat. The God of the Jews is frequently referred to as the one who took us out of Egypt. All of us alive today are said to be the same as those who were there to receive the Torah. The liberation of Passover was meant to free us to understand the world from a wider perspective, one which contains both the material and the spiritual elements as one, consistently playing with each other, inevitably bound to each other. This was the message we were meant to convey to the world. But hearing the message is one thing; living the message through our coarse understanding is another. The wickedness is already here. The Jewish Empire is crumbling. We are being shaken out of our slumbers. But the fall is a necessary part of the climb, as Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav said. We have endured difficult times before and resurfaced to a higher level. Money is of no use in the spiritual desert. In the desert, in the chaos of uncertainty, our values reside in family and those we love, in nurturing of relationships and removing our masks, in getting down to our basic selves and finding the silent truth that lies underneath the din of the world that is breaking apart. The culture of cooperation and tribal unity is yearning to return. Time is no longer money. Time is now about human relations, acts of justice and kindness, the restoration of families. It’s about placing great attention and love on our children, education, the arts, gardens, trees and flowers, animals and healing life on the planet.
The essence of Judaism is about holiness, and being able to live a sacred life even through the darkest times. It’s about holding on to the deeper truth. Miracles are imbedded in Creation. They are part of our tradition. If we have learned our lessons well, we will remember where our true values lie, and make the choices necessary to cross this new passing, with the consciousness that the power to create our future largely depends on where we invest today.



Images from Maya Escobar’s free online coloring book

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