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Blessing the New Month - March 24 2017

Blessing the New Month - March 24 2017

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Today the House of Representatives is set to vote on the new healthcare bill. Tonight is also the Shabbat when we bless the new Jewish month of Nissan with a special prayer (as is done the Shabbat preceding every month).

These are two very important topics, healthcare and Shabbat, which we could discuss. Now you tell me, would you really want to hear what I have to say about the health care bill? I didn't think so. So I'll be forced to stick with subject matter B. And just to stay with the times, I'll try to stick in something about the healthcare bill too.

This Tuesday we'll begin the month of Nissan, the fifteenth of which is Passover. The custom is that the Shabbat before every new month there is a special prayer said to bless the upcoming month. Some have a custom to recite all 150 chapters of Psalms as well.

I always found this custom to be interesting. Why do we bless the new month on the Shabbat before it starts? Why not bless the new month on the first day of that month? Who wishes their friend happy birthday a week before their birthday?

Some history first.

Exactly 3,328 years ago to the day, our ancestors were bustling around the Sinai desert building what would become the heart and soul of the Jewish people, and an inspiration for Indiana Jones. They were building the Mishkan, the Temple that would be God's home on earth, house the ark of the covenant, and be the means through which the Jewish people would connect with their father in heaven.

Building this Temple was one of the many commandments that the Jews received from God, starting from when they were about to leave Egypt a year earlier. Moses, as a member of the Jewish people himself, would also be included in the commandments, and would have the duty to fulfill it just like any other Jew. Regarding the commandment to build this Temple however, we find that God told Moses to tell the Jews to build it, but that he - Moses - was excluded from this obligation. He was meant to pass it on, and that's it.

Why?

Temple building and management is a complicating task. (I mean, just  running a Synagogue is hectic, imagine the central Synagogue of the Jewish people!). In all seriousness, the Temple was the place were God's presence would be felt on earth. It was the place were ordinary human beings like you and me would be able to step foot inside, and see that 'Wow, there really is a God!'.

Moses was a spiritual giant. A leader, a prophet, a sage. There was one thing, however, that Moses was not. Ordinary. Moses was anything but that. The Torah's vision of a world were goodness and kindness reign and where God's presence is openly felt, can only be accomplished by ordinary people. People who get up every morning and - in addition to putting on Tefillin and having a Kosher breakfast - turn on the news and debate a new healthcare bill. People with families and bills to pay. People who worry that perhaps they're not 'Jewish enough' (about that you don't have to worry, you're 100% Jewish no matter what you do). People with cars, vacations, coworkers and boiler leaks.

This is why Moses couldn't build the Temple. It is very easy to connect with God when you're Moses. He was on such a high spiritual level that he almost had no choice - why would he not do what God said? That in and of itself makes the relationship a bit less valuable. When us ordinary people choose to connect with God, that choice is truly ours to make. We aren't prophets like Moses, and there are a lot of distractions in our world. Doing the right thing can be hard. It's precisely that which makes the Mitzvahs and good deeds we do so precious in God's eyes.

I also think this might explain why we bless the month before it starts. Blessings and prayers are spiritual experiences. They involve somewhat tuning out from the daily grind and focusing on God. Actually getting the job done - not only blessing and praying for the month, but actually making the best of that month - involves anything but tuning out. You have to be tuned in to the world, and pay attention to your surroundings. That's why all blessings and prayers should be done before crunch time. Of course prayer is necessary to live life as a Jew. But that should be done before work starts. Life is about action and getting good things done. 

So when the new month actually starts, and we're wondering how to make the best of it? To start with we pray that it'll be good. But when crunch time comes and the month actually begins, we don't pray that we'll make the best of it. We make the best of it.

Rabbi Avrohom

 

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