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A Month When Everything Changed

01/21/2021 04:56:01 PM

Jan21

God’s instructions to Moses regarding Israel’s departure from Egypt start in a most unusual way- not with the packing list, not with the commandments of Passover and the practices of seder, but rather with some instructions on the calendar. We read in the Torah this week, “’This month shall be the first month from now on.” Shouldn’t there be more important things to discuss than calendar reform?  The Israelites had to realize that Nisan was the month when everything changed.  The same is true for us this month.
We tend to measure our lives based on milestone moments.  We each have our individual transitions, like births, weddings, deaths, graduations or new career opportunities. In addition, there are moments, good and bad, that are watersheds for an entire society.  History is divided into the times before and after those moments.  We can measure time from when Israel was founded, or when Kennedy or Rabin were assassinated, from 9/11.   It is fair to say that we are living through another one of those moments. I believe that for decades to come, these first weeks of 2021 will be remembered as a new beginning.
We are just beginning to emerge from the darkest moments of Coronavirus.  Some terrible losses are still ahead of us, no matter what we do now, from those already infected, and there have been some unfortunate stumbles with the vaccine, but progress is being made.  I have alerts set to let me know when I am eligible for my first shots and when new sold-out Playstation 5 for my kid is back in stock. I’m not sure which will come first, and I’m not counting on either in the next few weeks. Nonetheless, I know of over 100 adult members of the congregation who have received at least their first dose, with more being added each day.  We are putting together a list of people who are eligible but have had technical difficulties, and connecting them with people who are more tech-savvy to help them.
We are seeing the first glimpses of what a “post corona” era will look like.  We will return to gatherings and celebrations, but it will be, for quite a while, a “new normal.”  We will look back on this time as the dividing line between before and after.
Similarly, this past few weeks have been a watershed in our nation’s political life.  A raging mob invading the capitol, a second impeachment, a departing president refusing to acknowledge an incoming one,are all unprecedented.  It’s also remarkable to me that our state of Georgia is now represented in the Senate by an African American and a Jew. Whether we all agree with the policy approaches of our new senators or not, we can certainly acknowledge that it reflects a change in who we are as a state.
In addition to a change in administration, it is my hope that we take the good and the bad of these last weeks as an inspiration for a new beginning in how we handle our civil life.  This is an opportunity for the mainstream to ensure that those who speak with lies and hatred return to the margins.  This month can be seen as the transition to new modes of talking to, and about each other that do not eliminate disgreements, but do lead to constructive conflict and problem solving.
We read this week that God told Moses “This month shall be for you the new lead month.”  The events of the Exodus created a break between what happened before and what would happen after.  We are in similarly tumultuous times- emerging from plagues and turmoil. Things a month from now will be very different from how they were a month ago, and we will always think of these days as “the days when everything changed.”  Whether that change is for good or for bad is always in God’s hands, but also in ours.
Sun, May 9 2021 27 Iyyar 5781