This coming Shabbat morning is Shabbat Mevarchim Chodesh Nisan. What does this mean? The Shabbat before the start of a Jewish month (Rosh Chodesh) is known as Shabbat Mevarchim, “the Shabbat when we bless.” So, on Shabbat we bless the coming month of Nisan. Nisan is the first of our months, and the month when we celebrate Pesach, and our redemption, our freedom from Egypt.
During the Seder we will use 4 verbs to describe how we left Egypt. We read these verbs in Torah: I will bring you out (וְהוֹצֵאתִי vehotzeiti), I will deliver you (וְהִצַּלְתִּי vehitzalti), I will redeem you (וְגָאַלְתִּי vega’alti), and I will take you (וְלָקַחְתִּי velakahti). A fifth word is also used accompanying God’s promise to bring the Children of Israel to the Land of Israel: I will bring (וְהֵבֵאתִי v’heiveiti).
Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin, also known as the Netziv, taught that many of the words our rabbis over the centuries have used denote a language, a world view, rather than a particularity of word. With that in mind we then understand these particular verb words as a language of ongoing redemption. In this world view we are always within a process that is not linear but integrated and continual. The stages of redemption we inhabit are also necessarily gradual, if sometimes barely perceptible.
To free ourselves from any form of bondage is a gradual process. We may want to change a habit, be it a habit of thinking or of acting in a way that may embarrass or even shame us – but we know changing those habits requires determination and consistency. We need to re-pattern our brains.
As we read through the Haggadah at our Seder, wherever we may be, let’s take a few moments to consider what habits of mind and body we would like to change, and what new time and space we would like to inhabit this coming year. Torah reminds us, our Haggadah reminds us that every day, every moment offers us a new beginning.
Shabbat Mevarchim Chodesh too is its own reminder that changing habits often takes a minimum of 30 days. May we blessed with our ongoing capacity to bring good changes into our lives and find the freedom we need to move forward.