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Restoring the Balance
by Simon Jacobson

As our economy spirals out of control, with everyone shooting in the dark groping for solutions, a very remarkable contrast is emerging: While our systems and institutions have destabilized; and our trust, our lives and our economy have lost their balance, the Jewish calendar is entering an extremely rare phase of perfect balance.

Our calendar is general is a fascinating study in balance. It honors both the lunar cycle, which designates the Hebrew months and holidays, as well as the solar cycle, which defines the seven days of the week and the annual seasons. It insists on reconciling both cycles with a special leap month added every two-three years (seven times in nineteen years), to compensate for the 11.5-day discrepancy between the lunar year (354 days) and the solar year (365 days), ensuring that holidays will always fall in their appropriate seasons. This is in stark contrast to, say, the Gregorian calendar, which follows the solar cycle, and the Muslim calendar, which is exclusively driven by the lunar cycle.

The calendar itself reflects the vicissitudes of life’s ebb and flow: The diametric opposite months of Adar and Av, parallel, respectively, the joy and pain of our lives. Each of the other months manifests another vital dimension of life, from love to redemption, light to healing, all together mirroring the entire spectrum of life experiences.

Shabbat, concluding the seven-day weekly cycle, is perhaps the ultimate testimony to creating balance in our lives: The human body, like any hard-working machine, needs time off to rejuvenate itself. To maintain healthy balance between body and soul both need to be nurtured. When one is nourished more than the other, the disparity will compromise our mental, emotional and even physical well-being. The Jewish calendar insists that we maintain a well oiled-machine: After six days of the body’s immersion in material life, comes the seventh “day of rest,” which focuses on feeding the soul.

Time’s structure is comprised of many levels. The Sabbatical year, the leap year, the differences between a “complete” year, a “full” year and a “simple” year; the complex astronomical calculations around sunrises, sunsets, dawns and dusks, lunar cycles and planetary movements; solar and lunar eclipses;  – and hundreds of other nuances that make up the Jewish way of counting and measuring time – are all meant to balance the multitude forces driving our lives.

In short, our Torah-based calendar is much more than a calendar; it is a balancing compass, a map and living guide that helps us navigate and align our lives with the cycles of time and space which we occupy and travel through. Sanctifying time – the essence of the Shabbat and holidays – is the perfect coordination, achieving total balance, between our lives and the dynamics of our universe. Imagine yourself on a speeding train, being thrown from side to side, unable to maintain steady balance. The flow and movement of time and space can also upset our equilibriums. The calendar directs us to configure our bearings and synchronize them with the coordinates of the universe in which we live.

The interplay of space, time and spirit (olam, shonoh, nefesh) defines all of existence. And the Jewish calendar fuses them into one harmonic unit.

Of all times in history, we now stand at a rare juncture when a series of balancing forces converge, in all three dimensions: space, time and life (spirit).

Today is the new month of Nissan in the Hebrew year 5769. On this day, 3321 years ago, in the dark streets of Egypt, G-d showed Moses the new moon and instructed him to from then on establish the calendar that would guide their lives. “This month shall be to you the head of the months; to you it shall be the first of the months of the year.” In two weeks, G-d told Moses, you will lead the Jewish people out of Egypt. And from here on you will always be a free, transcendent nation.

And thus, every year on this day we celebrate the new moon and the new month – the month of Redemption – and we align ourselves to the lunar cycle of renewal.

Passover, too, is about balance – between our bodies and souls, between humility and freedom, between celebrating individuality and our union. Passover, the Festival of Redemption, teaches us how to redeem ourselves from our confusing, distorted surroundings, to free ourselves of the inhibitions and fears (the constraints of mitzrayim) imposed upon us by an oppressive material life, and realign ourselves to the configuration of our uninhibited and unfettered souls.

But of all Nissan’s this year is unique: In two weeks (April 8), on the day before Passover, we will also make a blessing on the sun – a once in-a-28-year event – which aligns us with the sun’s cycle at its point of conception.

What does this mean? The Talmud states: “One who sees the Sun at its turning point…should say, ‘Blessed is He who reenacts the works of Creation.’ And when is this? Abaye said: every 28th year” (Tractate Berachot 59b). Every 28 years the sun returns to the same position, at the same time of the week and same time of day that it occupied at the time of its creation – Wednesday morning, at the beginning of the fourth day of creation.

Why is this confluence of events so significant? Why should we care about the sun’s position at the time of creation? Think of it as if you were going back to the moment of your birth – when everything in your life was perfectly aligned, before you lots your innocence and your psyche tarnished by life’s trials and tribulations.

That is what makes this year – a once-in-a-28-year phenomenon – so unique: Every 28 years, the powerful sun, which gives life to our planet and affects so much of our existence, returns to its quintessential place and position – when it was shining on a clean and healthy Earth, before all the tragedies that have befallen the human race. {28, intrestingly, is also the gematria of koach – energy}. This cosmic convergence, a restaging of the heavens as they were at the beginning of time, calls for a celebration: We honor it by reenacting this moment every 28 years, at the spring equinox, as we will do this coming April 8th in the morning. And we do so by gathering together and declaring “Blessed is He who reenacts the works of Creation” – thus connecting to the perfect alignment of existence, and drawing down (blessing, brocho, means to draw down) this balance into our daily lives today.

Even more rare is the fact that this year’s sun blessing occurs on Nissan 14, the day before Passover: This will be only the eleventh time in history, among the 206 sun cycles since the traditional time of creation, that the sun blessing is happening on Erev Pesach,* preparing the way and leading us right into the Holiday of Redemption. And this is the last time that this convergence will occur during our present six-millennia cycle.

Just as we are achieving balance in time and space, this year also marks the ultimate balance of life/spirit (human beings): Our current year is a Hakhel year – a year of gathering. At the end of every seven-year cycle, following the Sabbatical year (Shemitah), the Torah instructs: Assemble the people: the men, the women, the children... and read before them the Torah, in order that they hear, and in order that they learn and stand in awe before G‑d, and they will observe all the words of this Torah…all the days that you live… (Deuteronomy 31:10).

Gathering, uniting and synchronizing souls – men, women and children – of all backgrounds creates the ultimate balance between the diverse segments of our population. Indeed, no two people are alike. No two people’s “faces are alike,” no people’s “minds are alike.” Yet, despite our differences, we are all one integral unit. This year – the hakhel year – beckons us to actualize our commonality. Gather together a wide variety of people toward one spiritual focus. By doing so we discover the harmony within diversity, appreciating the essential contribution of each individual. We recognize how each of us, without exception, is like a unique and indispensable musical note in a grand cosmic composition, each absolutely necessary, each in need of and complementing the other, all uniting in one exquisite harmony.

As we are surrounded by this unique convergence of balance in time, space and spirit, our unstable economy jumps out at us with a glaring inconsistency, like a jagged iceberg jutting out of a silent sea.

The good news is that nature always gravitates toward balance. We cannot deny the dazzling effect of nature’s natural balance. Time, space and spirit all tick with an inherent synchronicity.

The challenging news is that when these three rendezvous, when the human being meets his time/space destiny, mans’ free will is not revoked; we always are allowed the power to choose: To determine whether we will take control over the winds of change and balance our lives, or we will allow the material forces blowing every which way carry us away in their uncertainty? Will your soul – and its inner compass – drive your body, or will your body – and its volatile needs – drive your soul?

How then do we restore the balance when so much seems unstable? We turn back to the beginning of it all – when things were in perfect balance.

And to effectively do so – and this is the second piece of good news – we have a navigator, a calendar, that guides us in rebalancing our lives. Follow its coordinates and you will discover an underlying pattern of order, which can help us steer our ships even amidst the crashing waves in the stormy seas around us.

This period in time, and particularly these days of the year, offers us, if we only bother to pay attention, an unprecedented opportunity to regain, reclaim our balance: All we need to do is to return to the source. The source of time, the source of space, the source of life. We revisit the birth of our sun – the source of our light and warmth – as the sun stood when it was first planted into the heavens. We reconnect to the original state of affairs of our universe and of our lives – our conception and our birth – when things were seamless and complete, before duplicity set in.

But it’s not just the sun. The moon too, the redemptive month of Nissan, the holiday of Passover itself, all happening in the unifying hakhel year, energizes us to reconnect to the source that integrates, rather than fragments, all the pieces of our lives, restoring its original balance.

When we are able to revisit our birthing, prior to the scars we gathered through life, we achieve two things: We see how things ought to be, and we are empowered to realign who we have become today with who we truly are.

And above all, we return to the source of all sources: Blessed is He who reenacts the works of Creation. Instead of investing our hope and trust in men and their fickle institutions, we place our trust in the eternal – In God We Trust. Which includes trust in the Divine Image in which we are all created – the quintessential Divine spirit that cannot be felled or wounded by mere mortal systems.

So, just as some are about to give up hope, throwing up their arms in resignation, we enter the new month of Nissan, offering us all its promises and hopes.

Nothing, absolutely nothing, can stop the indomitable spirit of man. We each have the power to emancipate ourselves from our shackles, including the most fearful one of all – the shackles of fear and uncertainty.

But to do so requires strength and courage. And that too is available to us. All we must do is revisit the “turning point” and restore our original configurations – before they wandered off course.

“One who sees the Sun at its turning point…” Would this not include the “sun” in each one of us – the part of ourselves that has the power to warm and illuminate, to nourish and sustain, those around us?

What a gift. What an honor to be able to revisit the birthing. What a blessing to live at this moment in time.

Something to think about as we enter the new month and prepare for April 8th and Passover.

__________

*) Some have noted the words stated by the Ostrovtzer Rebbe in 1925 (printed in his Meir Enei Chachamim), that the sun blessing on Erev Pesach occurred three times in history. The first before the Jews were redeemed from Egypt, the second the year they were redeemed on Purim, and the third, in preparation to the final imminent redemption. However, there is a controversy around these words, being that since creation the sun blessing has taken place on Erev Pesach 11 times, including the last time in 1925.

 

 


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