The Jewish calendar sets periods of preparation before major holidays that require special spiritual attention. The month of Elul is a time to prepare for Rosh HaShanah and the Days of Awe. The Omer period is often interpreted as a seven-week period of purification for receiving the Torah on Shavuot. Similarly, the first two weeks of the month of Nisan, which begins this coming Monday night, is a time to prepare ourselves spiritually for the liberation of Pesach.
The special haftarah for Shabbat HaChodesh includes a passage from the prophet Ezekiel (45:16-46:18) that describes the sacrifices offered at the Temple during the first two weeks of Nisan. In particular, the first and seventh days of Nisan are marked by special offerings to cleanse the Temple. Interestingly, the seventh day is for cleansing the Temple "from the uncleanness caused by unwitting or ignorant persons" (Ezekiel 45:20).
What could this mean for us? How do we prepare the sanctuary of our hearts to joyfully wipe away our own unwitting ignorance as we prepare for the holiday of liberation?
Ignorance is the enemy of freedom, just as mindful awareness is the enemy of oppression. This year, to make ourselves truly ready to become free from Mitzrayim--the place of narrow imagination and confined spirit—we can make a special intention to take off the blinders of ignorance and indifference to see the world around us. When we do, we can discover the joy of connecting ourselves to the highest aspirations of human beings around the world for freedom.
These last few months have been momentous for the cause of liberty. Change is sweeping the Middle East and Northern Africa as people long inured to dictatorship are fighting for a new age of democracy. Just as the people of Egypt, Tunisia, Libia, Yemen, Syria, Saudi Arabia and other nations are shaking off decades of passivity and fear, we can begin to support them by opening our hearts and minds to their cause.
In response to the nuclear disaster in Japan, people across the globe are speaking up and demanding a sane energy policy based on safe and renewable energy sources. To make this Pesach a meaningful holiday, it is time to cleanse ourselves of our ignorance about the price the earth pays for our addiction to unsustainable energy sources.
As we enter Nisan, let us joyfully prepare ourselves for the celebration of freedom by washing away our indifference to changes that can help renew the world.