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ב"ה

The Birth Paradox

Friday, 1 April, 2022 - 1:37 pm

This Shabbat coincides with Rosh Chodesh (first day of the Jewish month) Nissan and during synagogue services we will read from three Torahs! In the first we read the weekly parsha of Tazria (from the Book of Leviticus), in the second we read about the sacrifices offered in the Holy Temple in honor of Rosh Chodesh (from the Book of Numbers) and the final reading known as “Hachodesh'' (from the Book of Exodus) establishes the mechanics of the Jewish calendar and contains instructions about the Paschal Lamb and the observance of Pesach. We read about it this week to prepare for the upcoming festival of Pesach.

Although each one of these three portions are in different books and read this week for independent reasons, G-d’s perfect world doesn’t tolerate randomness and there is certainly a common message between them.

One commonality I find in all three is the idea of birth. Parshat Tazria opens with the laws of childbirth, a Jewish new month begins with the “birth” of the new moon, and “Hachodesh” contains the laws of the Jewish calendar anchored on the monthly “moon births” as well as the preparations for, and the annual commemorations of, the Israelite exodus from Egypt referred to by the prophet Ezekiel as the birth of the Jewish nation.

Birth is a paradox because it’s so miraculous (an experienced doctor once expressed to me we know almost nothing about how it works) and yet so common and natural, and it’s uniquely joyful as well as unfathomably painful - so I am told. And like birth, the Jewish calendar and the redemption from Egypt we celebrate on Pesach contain the same paradoxes.

The Jewish calendar is paradoxically characterized by the lunar months and uniquely anchored by the seasons of the solar year. The moon’s fluctuating brightness can be compared to unpredictable miracles and the consistent brightness of the sun represents the eternal stability of nature. The twilight zone after the moon wanes into oblivion produces a painful darkness supplanted by the joy of its “birth” as the slender crescent emerges into view.

The redemption from Egypt was paradoxically miraculous to the extreme and at the same time introduced an eternal and predictable freedom forever embedded in our nature. Whereas the joy of redemption was immeasurable, it was preceded by unprecedented oppression and torture.

So where does this leave us? Our identity as Jews is characterized by the paradox of birth. We are mandated and empowered to elevate and inspire the mechanical tediousness of nature with the miraculous transcendence of divinity. Every nugget of Torah we study and every mitzvah we do introduces another flash of light into the darkness of our mundane world.

And although the going is rough and excruciatingly dark, be encouraged by the knowledge that just as labor pains are naturally followed by the exhilarating joy of new life, our current reality is temporary and the joy of the ultimate redemption through Moshiach is imminent, when peace and tranquility will reign for all.

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