Chodesh Nisan – Hoping and Helping

The month of Adar is known as a time of joy. We read the scroll of Esther which describes the salvation of the Jews, threatened with annihilation by Hamman and his enabler, Achashverosh. Indeed, this is the season of salvation and renewal. Just one month after Purim we celebrate Pesach, when we commemorate the redemption of the Israelites from servitude in Egypt. 

The fact remains, though, the Jews of Persia and generations of our ancestors in Egypt, suffered greatly. Yet, despite our suffering and the likely lasting effects of mortal danger and physical and mental anguish, we focus on salvation and not the pain we endured. 

This emphasis allows us to appreciate that through our challenges, and perhaps even because of our challenges, we ultimately grow closer to G-d. It affords us the opportunity to look to the one place we as people know we can turn to. G-d’s covenant with Abraham, a covenant that transcends challenges of loyalty and commitment, is a bond that is everlasting, as the Bible states, as durable and permanent as salt. 

Traditionally, our observances and commemorations can be summed up as consisting of “feasting, fasting, and praying.” Both Purim and Pesach contain elements of each. Ta’anit Esther and Ta’anit Bechorim precede Purim and Pesach respectively, and each holiday has its proscribed feasts and liturgy.

However, there is another important element to celebrating events that have come about through pain and suffering. It helps us appreciate that our strength as a community comes from shared experiences and initiatives that require us to take action. Without Moses and our faith in him and G-d, would there have been a salvation from Egypt? Would the sea have split? Would the plagues have occurred? Without Esther and Mordechai and the community supporting their efforts through fasting and prayer, would the thousands of Jews throughout Achashverosh’s empire have survived? 

Now too, even as we observed Rosh Chodesh Nisan (which we observed this past shabbat) and look forward to celebrating Pesach with our family and friends, it is a crucial time to turn to G-d and to each other for help and hope. The turmoil of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, and there have been tragedies in Israel, perpetrated by those who seek to terrorize and slaughter. At this time, let us renew and nurture our relationship with G-d through sincere prayer and worship. Let us strengthen our relationship with each other through kindness and generosity. Let’s increase our support for those who are suffering by giving of ourselves and our means to the local and national agencies who are conducting critical campaigns.

Wishing you all a peaceful chodesh Nisan,

Rabbi Azaryah Cohen