Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Why Is This New Year Different From All Other New Years? - Tuesday Kavvanah, 3/27/2012

On Shabbat afternoon at minhah / the afternoon service, I had just concluded my private recitation of the Amidah when I looked over my shoulder and noticed the tree outside the chapel in full spring bloom.  Having just passed one of the four New Years of the Jewish year — the Mishnah (Rosh Hashanah 1:1) calls the first day of Nisan, the first month of the Jewish calendar, "Rosh Hashanah limlakhim velirgalim," the New Year for kings and festivals* — I am reminded that this is the more sensible choice for the beginning of the year.  Spring is the time of renewal: cleansing rain, cheery flowers, the scents of wet sod and decaying leaves.

There is a berakhah / blessing to be recited upon seeing trees in bloom for the first time in the spring:

ברוך אתה יי אלהינו מלך העולם, שלא חסר בעולמו דבר, וברא בו בריות טובות ואילנות טובים להנות בהם בני אדם
Barukh attah Adonai, Eloheinu melekh ha'olam, shelo hissar be'olamo davar, uvara vo beriyot tovot ve'ilanot tovim lehanot bahem benei adam.
Praised are You, Adonai, our God, who rules the universe, which lacks nothing; for God created fine creatures and pleasant trees in order that humans might enjoy them.

As we recited this berakhah together, my thoughts returned to the coming festival.  Pesah is heralded by the Earth's return to life, like the royal trumpets that would have been sounded long ago at this time.  The trees explode in colorful harmony, and a new year has begun.  Happy spring!

Rabbi Seth Adelson

* So called because for Jewish kings, the next year of their reign always begins on Nisan 1, even if they ascended to the throne a day earlier, and it is also the deadline for fulfilling a vow to bring a dedicated item to the Temple in Jerusalem.  Neither reason is applicable today, of course; there has been no functioning Temple since 70 CE, when the second one was destroyed by the Romans, and there has not been an Israelite king for nearly 2600 years.

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