Passover is always a time for new beginnings

Rabbi Nadia Siritsky

The Talmud relates a debate between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yoshua: Rabbi Eliezer taught that the world was created in the month of Tishrei, when we celebrate Rosh Hashanah, while Rabbi Yoshua taught that the world was created in the month of Nissan, when we celebrate Passover.
But there are multiple new years, according to our tradition, multiple opportunities for new beginnings – not just with these two holidays. There is Tu B’Shevat, the new year for trees, and the first of the month of Elul, when preparations begin for the high holy days. In fact, Rabbi Isaac Luria, Ha’Ari, taught that this can teach us something about the nature of beginnings: Each reflects a level of creation.
On the first of the month of Tishrei, the idea of creation arose in the mind of G-d, while on Nissan, the world became embodied as a physical reality. The deeper significance of this teaching is that there are stages to everything, including new beginnings.
Contemporary change theory, which is used in the field of addictions, teaches the same concept: In order to make a change – beginning or quitting a habit, for instance – there are five stages: pre-contemplation, contemplation, planning, change and maintenance.
The idea is that no one can make an abrupt change. First, we need to shift internally, letting go of our attachment to the old to make space for the new. We also need to let go of our impatience for immediate change, recognizing that there are many stages that are unseen (indeed, the first three stages in change theory, because the most important change must happen internally first).
During the Passover seder, we break the middle matzah – the afikomen – and hide it, only to eat it at the very end. This is called the tzafun (that which is hidden). It is a reminder that things can feel broken in the middle of the process, but we should not give up, because the blessings of redemption may be hidden, but will eventually be revealed to us.
Holding on to hope amid the unknown, when things feel unresolved, is not easy. However, it is an important aspect of faith, and our religious traditions can help us to build this internal spiritual skill, which can help us face our lives with less anxiety and greater trust.
For Jewish Hospital and the entire healthcare industry, we sometimes joke that the one constant is change. This is not unique to our field. In fact, it is a human characteristic. Everything is always changing, and yet we yearn for stability and crave the predictable.
To cope, we focus on all things that remain unchanging: our commitment to our patients, to our community and to our core values and mission. We bring wellness, healing and hope to all, especially the underserved, with reverence, integrity, compassion and a commitment to excellence.
Beyond the hospital, the best way to cope is to focus on our relationships and values. What is truly important, beyond the daily changing chaos?
Perhaps this is the power of our religious holidays: We can feel rooted and anchored in centuries-old traditions, such as Passover and Rosh Hashanah, while also making sense of our ever-changing world. This can help us focus on what matters while staying open to new possibilities and opportunities.
This Passover, as we reflect upon our own upcoming changes and transformations, approach the unknown future with hope in our hearts that the blessings of redemption and revelation, salvation and liberation, will renew themselves in us, in our lives and in our world.

(Rabbi Nadia Siritsky is vice president of mission for KentuckyOne Health.)

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