Jewish Time

Adar2 28 5782

March 31 2022

First, this is a bit of a messy Jewish time offering and not all tied up in a bow and worked out. So, please receive this offering as undone, as in between as, liminal, as “opposite-ed.”  2 weeks ago, as we headed headlong into Purim, my dear co-conspirator franny, led us into a deep meditation about “V’nahafoch hu” – which is one of the Purim themes, and literally means “and it was opposite-ed.”  According to franny’s interpretation of the phrase ““V’nahafoch hu”” from Megillat Esther the “central point is that truths can be revealed in a reversal. Sometimes it takes a complete flip, a complete topsy turvy experience of something to understand what has always been there, but was obscured.” 

With Purim and Adar we began spinning into the fertile creative joyful potential of the unknown

Now, we welcome Rosh Chodesh Nisan — the head of the month of Nisan, which welcomes us into one of four Jewish New Years (this is The New Year of the Months, the earth based New Year which is home to Passover and Spring.) As we fully enter the preparatory phase for Pesach we pass into a reflection on the liberatory possibility of the unknown.  With Pesach, we tell and re-tell The Exodus: an epic story of passing from a narrow restrictive place to a vast wide open unknown place.  

In my personal grappling with Pesach, I’ve grown to churn inside at the way enslavement is discussed, time and time again, at many Ashkenazi American Jewish family tables, with little more than lip service to the violent foundations and ongoing ramifications of enslavement in this country.  And I’ll be honest, I’ve judged harshly a white Ashkenazi American Jewishness than seems to focus on breaking the bonds of personal enslavement as a form of spiritual bypassing, an assertion of individualism, a clever way around facing the unfaceable of what we are implicated in right now, in our time.

I have learned something new this year, that finds a formerly unknown softness in me, and opens me to look a little more deeply at this tradition of self-reflective Jewishness, in which I so crave to find liberation, creativity, and de-assimilation, and which I simultaneously grapple with and pain against. 

Did you know that there are different Midrashes that talk about the Jews who left, and the Jews who stayed?  Yes, you heard that right.  Some say 1 in 5 left, some say 1 in 50 left, some say 1 in 500 … there’s a story in the Talmud that says “80 percent of the Jews never even left Egypt. They were so steeped in their lives in Mitzrayim, they didn’t join the Exodus. ”  

So, there are stories and knowings in tradition that reflect that not all chose the liberation of the unknown – some chose the bonds of the familiar.  Who chose to stay in Mitzrayim and who chose to go? There’s a framing inside this question that softens me, because I know deeply in my bones that living and breathing white Jewish antiracism, isn’t just an informational knowing, or a set path of predetermined actions, or a single choice-point, it is an ongoing consciousness shift at the deepest level of nothing less than reality and unreality. 

As I prepare these next two weeks for a Peach Seder, a word that itself means “order”.  I will be asking myself:

  • Who chose to stay in Mitzrayim then and who chose to go?
  • Who chooses to stay in complicity now and who chooses to go?
  • Why do I/we make these choices?
  • And, what order am I arranging my life around?  To what do I dedicate my life? 

I re-dedicate myself to going and going and going towards the vast unknown. 

Enlightenment is a destructive process

It has nothing to do with becoming better or being happier

Enlightenment is the crumbling away of untruth

It is seeing through the façade of pretense

It’s the complete eradication of everything we imagined to be true.

This year, I will be co-hosting what my friend Fizz terms a “Deconstructed Seder”, a disorderly Seder.  franny has shared with me often, about “Tohu Vavohu” – faith that Creation comes from Chaos and Void.  As I cross into this new year month of Nisan, I re-dedicate myself to the order of the unknown.