Teshuvah at moon-dark
March 19, 2007
The Zodaicial sign for Nissan is Aries, the lamb -- traditionally a symbol of innocence. The activity most emblematic of Nissan is siah, conversation -- that activity which is characteristic of the Seder night which, unlike, say, the synagogue service, is not at root a liturgy, a text to be recited, but a time of discourse, of talking of many things, of questions and answers, both ritualized and spontaneous.
And, if we say that Pesah is the time of formation, of the creation and birth of our people, then one might add: a people is ultimately constituted from families and clans and other units of people who stand in relationship to one another; and that the beginning of such relationship is through speech. Ergo, simple conversation, a family sitting down around the dinner table and talking, is the start of nationhood.
-- Nissan (Months), a post at Hitzei Yehonatan
It's moon-dark: the moment of pause when the night sky is fully dark. Soon the tiniest sliver of light will return -- the new moon of the month of Nisan.
I blogged late last summer about the practice of observing Yom Kippur katan -- taking some time for contemplation, spiritual work, and teshuvah at the end of the month, in order to begin the new month with one's spiritual life inventoried and aligned. The coming lunar month holds a lot that's important to me. The vernal equinox, Pesach, the anniversary of my birth: all good reasons to pause and consider where I'm at, at the cusp of this new moon.
Most of this inner work is pretty personal -- not the kind of thing I blog. In general I'd say things are good, though I'm aware of some of the places where I have work to do. And maybe best of all, I have friends with whom I can talk about these things, who together help keep me honest in the continuing work of becoming the person I want to be.
I began this post with a quote from one of my favorite J-blogs. Nisan, Rabbi Chipman points out, is the time of visible rebirth. (At least in the northern hemisphere.) It's also the time of the birth of the Jewish people, and appropriately enough, the story of the Exodus is rife with birth imagery. (Passing through mitzrayim, the narrow straits, to emerge wet and new on the other side of the sea? Yeah.) He cites David Moss' dazzling haggadah as the source for the notion that the seder is a celebration of the idea of seed: the compressed potential hiding within the kernel of who we are, ready to germinate and spring forth.
What's germinating in me this spring? All I can do is clean out my spiritual inbox, take a deep breath, and be ready to find out.