Saturday, May 25, 2024 -
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The next thing you knew . . .

Today, on first day of Nisan, it’s hard to feel the joy of an upcoming redemptive holiday.

It feels like this war will never end. Despite the IDF having removed ground troops from Khan Younis, the sense of terrorists preying on us has not been removed.

Is the Hamas infrastructure really dismantled? What about the hostages? So many are still in Gaza.

On the way into Israel at the airport, I passed a row of posters lining the escalator. One by one, I saw each of the hostages’ faces stare back at me. The posters scribbled with messages of hope and longing.

The sense of hopelessness of this difficult, stagnating at status quo, with no visible shift on the horizon, is pervasive.

Despair seems to lurk from many corners, despite the brave face that Israel and Israelis have made an effort to put forth in their perseverance, fulfilling life’s daily responsibilities, marking lifecycle events, upholding family and professional obligations.

Is there a light at the end of this tunnel?

The truth is, on Pesach, we celebrate the exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt. But up until that moment of salvation, that feeling of despair — that’s what engulfed the Jewish people in Egypt, for hundreds of years. Slavery under the tyranny of Pharaoh looked permanent and hopeless.

But then one year after many long years came the month of Nisan, the month we inaugurate today.

This month showed that, in fact, change is possible. Salvation is possible. Hope does spring eternal. A paradigm shift of the greatest magnitude can change reality forever — and it can arrive in the blink of an eye. That is, hundreds of years of slavery and suffering, plus a blink of an eye.

It can come to pass. That is what happened for the Israelites in Egypt.

And that is what I pray will be the transformation of this painful situation that Israel is mired in.

Status quo perceptions can be shattered.

Slavery, no matter the kind that holds us hostage, can be unshackled.

Freedom from oppression, from war, from terrorism, can be achieved. Bleakness can turn on a dime to the hoped for change we all harbor as we have trudged along this past half a year.

Just as in the times of Egypt’s oppression of the Jews, when it seemed like Pharaoh and the Egyptians were unbreakable and all powerful, forever frozen in place, the imbalanced power dynamics permanent, the next thing you knew, these taskmasters were drowning in the Reed Sea as the Israelites crossed into their new existence as a free people.

A moment earlier, the abusive enemy was all powerful. A moment later, it was relegated to a footnote in history. The destiny of the Jewish people’s march into history commenced.

The month of Nisan and its centerpiece of Passover have grounded us from generation to generation, dor l’dor.

Its message has stayed with us — that somehow there comes a terminal point to our pain and suffering.

That things will ultimately be all right.

The Talmud states that just as the Jewish people were redeemed from the slavery in Egypt, the Jewish people’s future redemption will once again come in the month of Nisan.

This year, it’s hard to have passed Chanukah and then Purim, waiting for miracles that never came, and still to hold onto hope for the month of Nisan.

Of course, when living through a miracle, up close, it doesn’t necessarily feel like a miracle. The famous poet Yehuda Amichai writes about the miracle of the crossing of the Reed Sea, that for those crossing and living through the greatest miracle, what was their experience? Even for them, what they saw were the sweaty backs of the people crossing before them. It wasn’t necessarily the grand elation and bliss we conjure when thinking of the drama of the crossing of the Reed Sea. Think about it. What a terrifying experience!

And so it is, I wonder, whether somehow, within all the unbearable pain and suffering of this past half year, we too have also lived through miracles moments we are unaware of.

But today, rosh chodesh Nisan. In this moment. On this auspicious day that opens our season of redemption which will peak with Pesach in the middle of this Jewish month, I choose to continue to hope for the situation in Israel to change for the better.

For Hamas’ ability to inflict suffering upon Israel to be put to rest forever.

For the hostages to be released home.

For the Jewish people to re-experience hope on a monumental level and feel G-d’s outstretched arm once again, so close by, so intimate, so redemptive.

Copyright © 2024 by the Intermountain Jewish News



Tehilla Goldberg

IJN columnist | View from Central Park


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