4 Cheshvan 5781 / Thursday, October 22, 2020 | Torah Reading: Noach
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A Time of Renewal    

A Time of Renewal

Spring – it's a time of new beginnings; renewal. I love the freshness, the crisp clean air, the feeling of rebirth, and yes, I even find myself...


Spring – it's a time of new beginnings; renewal. I love the freshness, the crisp clean air, the feeling of rebirth, and yes, I even find myself looking forward to the cleaning and physical preparation for Pesach! As I search my home for chametz (leaven) and, in the process, organize my belongings, I discover old photos and mementos; Rosh Hashana cards that my now-grown children sent me when they were small, class pictures from nursery school. I find myself journeying into the past, rediscovering lost roots, and reconnecting to memories long forgotten. I reread old, faded letters (some of them written by people who are no longer with us) and recall how passionately I had felt as I penned a response. I find myself transported to a time that has ceased to exist (except in my memory), and have to force myself to return to the reality of today. After all, the house still has to be cleaned for the holiday!
This year's Pesach cleaning is especially poignant -- and liberating (yes, liberating). Our youngest daughter recently married (Mazel Tov!) and we are moving to a much smaller, compact home. I'm sorting through our belongings and realizing what an incredible amount of material possessions we (and our children) have collected over the years -- things-stuff-junk to worry about, things-stuff-junk to sort through, move, dust, and make sure that they don't get ruined. As I'm cleaning, sorting and packing, I'm giving my most treasured possessions to our children, and the other useful yet superfluous things to neighbors, friends, and our local second-hand charity store. I am amazed to discover that as I rid my closets of the things that I don't need or use regularly, I feel as if I am gaining my freedom, am given wings to fly, to focus on the realities of life, rather than on the clutter that fills up – and often takes over -- life. It's a wonderful feeling to be released from the shackles of so many material possessions, to be able to concentrate on the real, long lasting aspects of my life.
How can I begin to describe the emotions involved in marrying off a child? Prior to the wedding, the relationship between parent and child grows intense and deep. As we'd shop for the things that the young couple needs to begin their life together, my daughter would divulge her deepest hopes and dreams. And yet, the moment the chatan and kallah unite in marriage, I am on the outside of a closed, intimate circle, always available for emotional (and physical) support, and to reap the fruits of our labor, but still an outsider – and that's the way it should be.  
It's similar to graduation. Remember that exulted feeling of accomplishment, tinged with a sadness that a part of our life is over, and that the close, day to day relationship between us and our friends is changing, entering a different stage? The moment the cap and gown was removed and we left the school auditorium, we were challenged to delve into ourselves, to create new relationships based on a different and more mature reality.
The secular world views time as "marching on," a line that on our personal level begins with birth and is complete with death. But Torah views "the march of time" as a spiral, as each year it comes back to the same place, yet each year it is on a different, more elevated level.
In this annual spiral of time, Pesach is the period most auspicious for attaining spiritual freedom, for leaving our personal "Mitzrayim," our personal confines of darkness and constriction. It's a time of liberation, of sorting through our lives (and our possessions) to discover spiritual "chametz" that is stopping us from growing and becoming closer to the Almighty, removing it and, ultimately, destroying it to the point that it ceases to exist, that it becomes battel.
Each year we are challenged to take advantage of this period of renewal and liberation. We are given the tools – the Halachot of Pesach; getting rid of the chametz, experiencing the Seder night, eating the matzot. But how we use these tools and internalize their message depend on our ability to accept that challenge and to grow from it.
It is my deepest hope that we, the entire Jewish People, accept the challenge to achieve our ultimate liberation. This year, please God, may we be privileged to eat of the Paschal Sacrifice in the Holy City of Jerusalem.  

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