Shabbat HaChodesh: What does your future freedom look like?
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Shabbat HaChodesh: What does your future freedom look like?

Glen Rock Jewish Center, Conservative

What does your future freedom look like? And how will you get there?

This Shabbat, we mark the occasion of Shabbat HaChodesh, a day that celebrates the beginning of the month of Nisan, the month in which we observe Passover. To mark this moment, we close our Torah reading by chanting a special section (maftir) from the book of Exodus and a special haftarah from the book of Ezekiel.

Whereas our maftir reading describes the original Passover story, Ezekiel describes a future Pesach, a time when the children of Israel will return to their homeland and worship God in the Temple. Ezekiel foretells what will happen in their new homeland in great detail. While some of the rituals are similar to that of the original Pesach, there are distinct differences that point to how life in their new homeland will be different for the Israelites. By doing this, Ezekiel inspires the Israelites to think about freedom in their future homeland.

What does your future freedom look like?

When we sit at our seder tables each Pesach, we are commanded to see ourselves as if we personally left Egypt. The custom at many sedarim I have attended has been to explore which personal slavery we may have recently escaped in our own lives. Some share stories about recovering from an illness or addiction or even moving on after a divorce. Others share what it was like to leave a toxic work environment or come out as gay to their family and friends. It is always empowering to me to hear these narratives about being liberated from a personal bondage.

But as the seder closes and our bellies are full — even if we joyfully chant the concluding song: “L’shana haba’ah b’Yerushalayim” (Next year, in Jersusalem!) — rarely do we explore together what our hopes and dreams are for the upcoming year. If the commandment to see ourselves as if we personally left Egypt is an invitation to internalize what our own personal Exodus might be, then perhaps “Next year, in Jersualem” is a metaphor for our future redemptive lives. Why not — in the spirit of Ezekiel’s prophecy — also share, explore, wonder, or dream about what a future freedom looks like in our own lives?

The journey we take as we go from the beginning to the end of the haggadah is not only a journey that encourages us to re-experience freedom from Egypt. It is also an opportunity to imagine what the future might hold for our redemptive self. It is our dream for the future that completes our Exodus from Egypt. And it is that hope for living in the metaphorical Jerusalem, homeland of our lives, that grounds us, motivates us and gives us reason to continue the journey of our personal Exodus as we wonder through this wilderness of life.

Not only has this pandemic made so many of us feel restricted, bound, and confined. It has also made us seem like we can’t get ahead. We focus on the day-to-day because it feels that there is little time to think beyond this week. As many of us balance increased responsibilities at work with our families, it seems like it’s an uphill battle to think beyond the dishes in our sink. We feel a heavy responsibility on our shoulders and wish that God could relieve us of our troubles.

And yet, I am enlightened about the importance of life through tragic stories that people share with me. Infant leukemia, sudden deaths, overdoses, children on the verge of taking their own lives — all of these remind us that life is so short. That our time on earth is merely a speck of dust. All that we have, all that we can be, all that we can model to our children is that we have today. Even with all our tzuras, troubles, today we can be joyful and grateful and dream of exciting, hopeful and redemptive tomorrows. What do we want in life with our time here that remains? Now is the time to write those bucket-lists and set on a path to making them reach fruition.

Our Exodus from Egypt is not merely about our freedom from slavery. The Exodus is a continued journey that we each take every single day to get to where we want to be. But that requires us to ask ourselves: Where in the world do I want to be? How might I reach my personal Jerusalem, homeland, place of peace? What, unabashedly, will my future freedom look like?

Keyn y’hi ratzon. May that future freedom be God’s will.

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