MESSAGE FROM OUR RABBI
Once every four years we have the gift of an extra day—February 29. In reality, however, we are making up for lost time. Time which has already gone by, but we did not notice. After four years, our calendar catches up with the earthly rotations.
In our Jewish calendar, day and months are much more complicated. Simplistically, seven out of every nineteen years has an entire extra month, called Adar I. This month, in 2016, happens in February and March. This addition pushes back Purim and Passover—though the length between those two holidays remains the same. So we will not celebrate Passover until April 22.
This begs the question then, what are we supposed to do with a whole month? A month with no holidays of its own. A month with no special Shabbatot. A month which just is.
I would like to offer up that we use this month as one of spiritual rejuvenation. During the month of Elul, just before Rosh Hashanah, we do the spiritual hard work—looking deep into ourselves and seeking understanding and forgiveness from others, from ourselves, from God. It’s hard work!
And during the month of Nissan (this year in April), we think about redemption as it pertains to the Exodus. We think about the plagues as they were and as they are—more about this in a couple months. We think about tradition and our place in it, which often leads us to think about the future and our place in it. Redemption is hard work!
This month, Adar 1, I think we need to focus on taking care of spiritual sides. Not an intensive workout at the gym, but more of a relaxing spa day. For some of us, going to the spa means getting a massage. Easing away the tensions brought on by everyday aches and pains. For others, it means a manicure/pedicure. Beautifying that which we have been given. There are those who see a spa day as time to connect, or re-connect, with friends in an unhurried fashion.
What could a spa day for your soul look like? Ask yourself what it could be like to take time to honor and cherish your spiritual side. How refreshed could you be in a deep and meaningful way? Perhaps you would want to scrub away some of the grime that has built up from resentment carried too long. Or, maybe for you, sitting and meditating over the glory and beauty that surrounds us will fill you with child-like awe and wonder once more. However you find a way to rejuvenate your spiritual side is right.
Let us take this gift of time and spend it on spiritual awareness. Not hard work. And not pushed aside. Rather, time to care for that side of us which is so personal, so intimate, and so profoundly beautiful. I wish for each of us time to care for ourselves. May we each take time to do so.
Warmly and with blessings for a rejuvenating month,
Rabbi Rachael Jackson
January is coming to a close and, although the winter is supposed to be our “quiet time”, we have been busy. We had a beautiful Shabbat service conducted by the Brotherhood followed by a special oneg sponsored by Natalie Zitnick in memory of her late husband Stan Zitnick. For the first time, Agudas Israel participated in the MLK Day On, an interfaith day of service commemorating the civil rights leader and movement. Rabbi Jackson was a visible participant in the program. A small but committed group of Agudas Israel members volunteered at agencies around the community. It seems so “right” that we, as a congregation are part of this project. There is a strong history of Jewish engagement in the civil rights movement so our continuing presence in pro-grams such as these seems natural and appropriate. The plan is for this program to be ongoing so per-haps next year we will see a larger corps of volunteers. Finally, this year we will have our first Tu B'Shevat Seder at Agudas Israel. Tu B'Shevat is the New Year of the Trees and it has become the custom to eat fruits and nuts, particularly those that are abundant in Israel. The ritual of a seder began in the 16th century and provides an opportunity for us to gather together and remind ourselves that “…we spend our lives planting seeds. Time and effort are needed for our efforts to bear fruit. Wait patiently. One day, like the seed, we will be blessed.” (Belz, 2015).
Dr. Linda Perkel, President