Enjoying spring flowers (illustrative)
Enjoying spring flowers (illustrative) Hadas Parush/Flash90

"For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.” (Isaiah 61:11)

I sat at a street cafe in the warm late-morning sunshine, sipping cafe latte (with a spoonful of sugar). A few chairs were next to mine, carefully sodered into the pavement a bit apart from each other, in a variety of bright welcoming colors. Blue, yellow, green, orange, red. The expanse around me was decorated with a glorious array of fallen leaves, each with a spindle-shaped ,lace-like pattern of light brown, scattered about in festive decoration of the gray sidewalk. A vision of brown, heralding the rebirth of green leaves which is sure to follow. Next door a small shop displayed its wares of nuts, condiments,and candies, accompanied by soulful mideastern music and the good humor of the seller. Passerbys popped in to say hello. One or two pedestrians stopped their stroll to sit in the chairs next to me, enjoying their coffee in the sunshine, as I enjoyed mine.

A seemingly mundane morning. If not for the fact that this was the first time in a year in which I had experienced such an event.

A palpable feeling in the air of expectation. Of spring. Of hope and renewal. Of life which has been for a while on hold, and is now at a point of rejuvenation. Of life and hope returning to a scene which just a short while ago was one of desolation.

Was it only a few weeks ago that I was in Tel Aviv? The picture in my mind is that of gray. Gray were the shutters on the deserted shops. Gray were the streets, striking in their stillness, in the silence. One could almost feel the ashes sweeping down the street (or was it merely dust…). The absence more palpable then the presence. The feeling of desolation, of life on hold.

On the way home we drove by the ocean. The ocean, which I had not seen for months. Gray overcast sky. An ocean of calm stillness. A shore which would have been serene except for the loud absence. Of children, of families, of balls and picnic baskets and bathing suits. A loan surfer could be seen in the distance. The only color was the striking yellow worn by police officers in the streets during the lockdown.

A serene quiet feeling of waiting. Of desolation mixed with hope. Of gray, waiting for the return to colors, to life.

A pause in our daily lives. A pause in what we have held to be familiar. A pause in the rhythm of life, so that we can reevaluate. And what of the soul?

And what of nature, of beauty, of color and hope?

Perhaps it is not by chance that the emergence of hope, the return to life and health of our nation, is occurring now in the period between Purim and Passover. I am struck by the parallel between this time in our life and the spirit of the holidays which are being bridged.

The ashes of desolation are described in the Book of Esther, as precursor to the holiday of Purim.

“When Mordecai learned all that had happened, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city. He cried out with a loud and bitter cry…..…there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping, and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes.”(Est. 4:1-3)

This year on Purim, the masks we had grown so accustomed to wearing were transformed into frivolity, into amusement, but also into a reminder. Masks are a hiding of who we really are. The force of life, of freedom, of health, is waiting to spring forth from under the mask of quiet, or deception, or revelry. Behind the mask may be found the true nature of that which is being masked.

And yet, masks have another aspect to them as well, for the mask itself is a revelation of that which it conceals. In the choice of the mask lies the secret of the essence in hiding. The mask, in a transformed fashion, actually portrays, hints at, that which is being masked.

We have had a year now of hiding, of seclusion. A year apart, to begin the cleansing which is usually reserved for the period before Passover. Purification of our homes, our souls, our lives. Reevaluation of our place in the world. And so, this year there is a special significance to the fact that Purim is followed by Passover, the holiday of freedom and liberation. A holiday in which we will find a reawakening of the spirit which has been concealed for a year.

“The breath of every living thing shall praise Thy name, O Lord our God, and the spirit of all flesh shall glorify and exalt thy remembrance continually, O King!” (Passover Haggadah).

In expectation of Passover. As we clean our homes of the worn and useless, as we rid ourselves of the accumulated clutter which accompanies us throughout life, there is hope that perhaps soon we will be able to rid ourselves of the current Threat as well. That soon we will be blessed with health, safety, and a reawakening of the life which has been dormant. Hopefully this year, we will be blessed to enjoy Passover in true freedom, and to see redemption from fright and trepidation to hope and joy. The divine redemption which has always been our blessing as a nation. To see the colors return to our lives, the life return to our streets, the return of our children to school. The pulse of life restored, on both the physical and spiritual level.

“Then the Holy One, blessed be He, came and smote the angel of death that slew the slaughterer that slaughtered the ox that drank the water that put out the fire that burned up the stick that beat the dog that bit the cat that ate the kid that father bought for two zuzim. One little kid, One little kid.”

The cleaning and preparation for Passover this year is quite special. A preparation based on hope. For a return to the colors of life in all its splendor. For a future which will be blessed with health, joy and beauty.

May the ashes of desolation be swept away by the promise of liberation and the rebirth of life in its fullness and glory.

May we be blessed with the Garland.

May we keep hope in our hearts, as we prepare now for the holiday of Passover.

The holiday of Redemption.

“I went down into the garden of nuts, to look at the green plants of the valley, to see whether the vine budded, and the pomegranates were in flower. Before I was aware, my soul set me upon the chariots of my princely people.”(Song of Songs 6:11,12 from the Passover Haggadah)

I wander about in the garden. The only gray visible is that of a hopping rabbit. Flowers are blooming in a proliferation of color. Rain has washed away whatever dust remained of the past, and brought with it the freshness and sunshine of daylight, of morning, of hope and promise of a Beckoning Future.

…to give to them a garland for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.”(Isaiah 61:3)

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