Thursday, April 9, 2009

I Dew

I enjoyed a wonderful seder last night, with the girls and Laura at the home of Jerusalem friends Sarah and Jose, a modern Orthodox couple we met here in 2001.  As is traditional, we started quite late and finished around 2am.  In between, lots of great food, terrific questions and conversation, and enthusiastic participation.  Pesach is an extraordinary holy day anywhere, of course, but here it is truly special. This is  when you realize how nice it is to be Jewish in a Jewish state.  The food in the markets is all kosher l'Pesach, and everyone wishes you "Chag Sameach" at the appropriate time.  We ended the seder with a slight twist from what we know as diaspora Jews.  Our custom, as many know, is to conclude with "Next year in Jerusalem!--L'shanah ha-ba'ah b'Yerushalayim!"  So what do you say in Jerusalem?  "Next year in Jerusalem rebuilt--L'shanah ha-ba'ah b'Yerushalayim ha-b'nuyah."
This expresses a hope for the continued renewal of the city and the nation, and it is both concrete and heart-felt.  

This morning I went to shul at Har El, the same Reform synagogue I attended on Shabbat.  Once again, the congregation was very warm and welcoming.  Several other visiting Reform rabbis were also in attendance, along with some rabbinical and cantorial students.  One of those students did a stunning piece together with the cantor of the shul, singing a duet on the traditional blessing asking God for dew (rather than rainfall) and thus marking the official end of the rainy season here.  Interesting, since it rained much of the day.

Dew was also the theme of the rabbi's d'var Torah, which I once again found very moving.  She spoke of how this month, Nisan, was once the beginning of the Jewish year, until the Rabbis moved it to Tishrei and Rosh Hashanah.  Then she noted that these two new years correspond to the two primary seasons here: rainy and dry.  The fall holy days mark the beginning of the rainy season.  In the Torah, rain is always a sign of divine favor--and its corollary, drought, one of divine punishment.  In other words, the rainfall, or lack thereof, is an expression of God's judgment.  Rosh Hashanah is, therefore, the new year of judgment.  

Dew, by contrast, is constant.  It is, therefore, a sign of God's chesed, or mercy--which we receive regardless of our worthiness.  Nisan, then, and this spring season, represents a shift from judgment to mercy.  

This gave me a lot to reflect upon.  Like many of us, I tend to be too judgmental, to be too quick to condemn and criticize.  There is a place for judgment, of course.  But this season reminds me that it is crucial to learn to suspend judgment, too--to be thankful for the countless gifts of this life, which we receive undeserved.  I'm going to try to do this more faithfully this spring, to think more like the dew and less like the rain.

I finished the day with a night out to dinner.  There is only one day of chag at the beginning of Pesach here, so everything opened after sunset this evening.  And the restaurants are all kosher for Pesach--at least for those who keep Sephardi, as I do--so I really enjoyed eating out.  This will be my last big meal here; tomorrow I head to Nepal, where it will be lentils and rice for the next month.

I will probably post a piece or two from Kathmandu, then will be off the grid while I'm trekking in the Himalayas.  So a continued sweet Pesach to all, and more after I get to Nepal.

1 comment:

Metzgar Family Blog said...

Enjoyed reading about your travels in Israel. Have a safe trip in Nepal. Can't wait to read those posts.