This Shabbat is known as Shabbat HaChodesh, the “Shabbat of the Month”, the Shabbat just before the new Hebrew month, Nisan. Shabbat HaChodesh tells us it’s time to purchase special foods for the week of Passover, and to begin the process of ridding our homes of chametz, unleavened bread, and foods that we are not permitted to eat during Pesach.
The beginning of Nisan has much in common with Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah is the “head of the year”, what we commonly call the Jewish New Year. Nisan is the beginning of the calendar year, the first month of the Jewish year. Each is observed in its own special way.
On Rosh Hashanah, we take a spiritual accounting of our souls and look for ways to change our behavior; we repent for our sins and misdeeds. On the first of Nisan, as we begin the process of preparing for Pesach (Passover), we not only clean our houses of chametz; we also rid ourselves of chametz, a metaphor for a personal ethical and moral cleansing.
During the next two weeks, as you think about Passover foods and seders, take this opportunity to sweep away the “chametz” in your relationships. Empty your cupboards of behaviors that are hurtful. May you celebrate your own liberation from destructive behavior and may your preparation for Passover be spiritually rewarding. The work begins now.
(This message is an edited and revised version of a message sent in 2008.)
May you have a week of blessings and a Shabbat of peace,
Rabbi Debbie Israel