A Drash for Pesach (5767, 2007)
by Marc Mangel
[Note: I gave this drash at the Richmond St. synagogue in Oxford, when we were there on sabbatical in spring term 2007]
(Thank you for welcoming us)
At the seder, we read “In every generation each Jew should see himself as though he personally had been liberated from Egypt.”
This can be interpreted in a very mystical way – that the entire Jewish people were there at the moments of Exodus and Sinai. Or it can be interpreted in a more practical way – that each of us has personal slavery from which to be liberated. Thus the lesson of Pesach has always a timely message for the individual Jew.
Nissan is, according to the Torah, the first month of the year; for most of our history Nisan was counted as the first month, and the foremost among them.
So, this is the time of year to make New Year’s Resolutions – not at Rosh HaShanah and not at the start of the secular year. Then, about 6 months from now, at the Days of Awe, we have an opportunity to check, through 10 days of introspection, about how we are doing in achieving our goals. The Mishnah teaches that at that time God also reviews how we – and all other living creatures – are doing
The cycle of the Jewish year helps us understand how to set the goals. When we come to the days of awe in 6 months, the goal is Teshuvah.
Teshuvah means to return, not to repent for which there is a different word in Hebrew (charatah). We are to return and find the essence of goodness in ourselves and in others – back to our roots in Godliness and discovering them as our true character.
Today’s Torah portion reminds us about the characteristics of Godliness (Ch 34) 6 The LORD passed before him, and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin,
To be fair, it goes on about not clearing the guilty; but vegenance is God’s (we read that later too), teshuvah is ours
Finding the essence of goodness in ourselves and others is something we all can do, regardless of where we are on the Jewish path. And it is the way that we build a world in which God feels at home.
Now is the time to begin working on our Teshuvah – in our relationship with God and in our relationship with other people. It is the first month of the year, the beginning of new life as spring awakens, and the opportunity for us to set goals of returning.
Shabbat shalom and Hag Samaech.