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Tazria. You are broken, Mazal tov.

Last Sunday was the eve of Rosh Chodesh Nissan, literally the "head of the month."

Usually, I love the arrival of the new month: the frail new moon like an eyelash in the sky, the day in which we celebrate women, the invitation to renewal...

This year again, the rejoicing should have been doubled:

Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the month in which we celebrate Passover, the great liberation of the Jewish people, is also one of the four New Years in the Jewish calendar (Mishna Rosh Hashanah 1.1), and it is perhaps even the most important, as this "month of spring" (chodesh haAviv) is considered the first month in the biblical narrative (Exodus 12:2).

Nissan indeed marks the arrival of spring, as the first buds crack open and a new life cycle emerges.

Nissan, whose name implicitly carries the word "nissim," miracles, like the crossing of the Sea after our ancestors left Egypt, contains a promise of freedom.

And while ordinarily, a kind of joyful frenzy characterizes the weeks leading up to Passover, as we prepare to relive, in taste and in text, the Exodus from slavery, this year, the Sunday before Rosh Chodesh had a tang of mourning for me.

Last Sunday was April 7th.

It has been six months—six months, writing it still seems unbelievable to me—since our brothers and sisters were taken hostage and are still being held in captivity in Gaza.

Six months of war, of destruction, of hatred, of uncertainty, and of lack of hope.

So once again, I found consolation in Jewish texts, and especially, today, in the commentary of the Mei Ha Shiloach on the weekly Torah portion. The Ishbitzer rebbe has been my war companion since Bereshit this year.

This week, commenting on parashat Tazria, he speaks of a broken heart.

He says that at the beginning, when a person seeks God, the divine response is to hide:

כי בתחילה כשאדם מתחיל להתקרב עצמו להש"י, אז מסתיר הש"י אורו ממנו  

"When a human being begins to draw near to God, God hides their light from us."

This is the mystical concept of "Hester panim," the veiling of the divine faces. And this veiling leaves us, humans, in darkness.

This is where many of us , Jews of Israel and around the world, feel like we have been precipitated since October 7th.

For six months now, in the face of the disasters of war, the situation of the hostages, and the unleashing of anti-Semitic hatred around the world, it seems that we have been plunged into darkness.

Why would God start by concealing God's light?

While the Hasidim often teach through mystery, this time, the Ishbitzer is explicit:

 כדי לברר תשוקתו

עד שנשבר לבו שמכיר את חסרונו  

"It is to clarify one's passion, until one's heart is broken, recognizing one's own deficiency."

God plays hide-and-seek so that humans can see their own lack.

When we recognize our lak then something in the heart— in our ego— can break open.

And then the lack becomes an open space, and in this space made available , God can reveal God Self.

Brokenness is not necessarily negative.

Neither from a mystical perspective, nor when it comes to the laws of nature:

Something must break in a woman's body for life to be born.

The bud must crack for the flower to burst forth

Defense mechanisms need to be broken down so that something new can get in.

Is Divine Grace, then, something we humans just have to wait to see happen?

For the cycles of nature, surely. For the cycles of the soul, it is more complex.

Certainly not, as the Ishbitzer rebbe reminds us: we still have our part to play.

The choice is ours to make ourselves partners of the Divine process.

It is up to each of us, to dare to believe that the concealment of divine light is not a condemnation to darkness, but an invitation:

Darkness in the world is God inviting us to play hide and seek.

And this is our freedom: It is up to us to continue to believe that brokenness can be the promise of a new birth.

This is my prayer this month.

One of the first things that came to mind on October 7th, when my country was wounded, was this:

May this brokenness be for a reconstruction.

A new beginning, both for the Israeli society, which has been, and still is, on the verge of civil war, and for Israelis and Palestinians together.

Today, six months into a war that only threatens to worsen, as Iran is about to launch, says the New York Times, "an immense aerial attack on Israel," I find it hard to keep hope alive.

I may feel more broken than ever.

So the loving kindness of Hassidic wisdom comes to me from the depths of time, strokes my hair like a little child, and tells me,

"Don't worry. See: brokenness is a promise."

You are broken, mazal tov.

In this month of Nissan, may we see miracles and rebirths, and may we play our part in our individual and collective liberation.

Shabbat Shalom

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