Probably the greatest lesson I have absorbed in recent years, is that nothing is static, everything is impermanent. This understanding propels me to cherish even more deeply, the things and people that I love; it gives me perspective when things don’t go as I had hoped; it allows me freedom to rise beyond my immediate physical circumstance.
There is a release and a comfort that comes with knowing that the pendulum will swing, the tide will rise and recede, the moon will wax and wane. All these cycles teach us that there is a G-d gifted ebb and flow, which implies there is continual movement and potential for change.
Although it may sometimes seem like it, none of us are stuck.
In the beginning of Parshat Bo this week, the Jewish people are on the verge of their Exodus. It is the night before they will leave Egypt, and G-d gives them their very first Mitzvah - their first way to connect to Him. He says “This month will be for you the first of all months” Exodus 12.2 The nation is commanded to count their calendar and time according to the graceful cycle of the moon.
So why is this our first mitzvah? Why the night before liberation?
With the instruction to follow the journey of the moon, we are gifted with many deep messages and practices.
Firstly, we are told that time is of our own. It is the primary difference between slavery and freedom. Time will move and each of us has the capacity to choose how we will make use of it.
Secondly, like watching a baby grow, or a body heal - the moon shape-shifts and reinvents. If the moon had a mindset of limitation, it would get to its smallest and darkest night of the month, and it would never emerge again. But the moon knows it will glow, and it will fade, and it will then be luminous once more. It is a central idea that the torah is coming to teach us - this everlasting possibility of renewal.
Thirdly, the Talmud puts it this way “The Jewish people are compared to the moon, and therefore we count according to her cycle”. Just as the moon is a humble reflection of the sun’s light, we too are living, breathing, evolving echoes of the divine. Simply by being, we each have a unique capacity to absorb and pass on the goodness and holiness that shines upon us.
And then there is the moon’s cycle which we have so much to learn from - especially in a time in which we have come to celebrate only the conspicuous results - the job title, the bank balance, the industry award. But in a healthy reality, in some periods we will require retreat - to venture within, to heal, germinate and process. Other times we will be at work - pursuing, acting, moving ahead; and then other times still, we will shine out and profess all we have garnered. The truth is, all of those phases are natural and essential - especially those in which the “results” are not yet apparent.
There is an intrinsic mesh between the teachings in Judaism and the rhythm of nature. It is of great service for us to know this and to find a synchronicity with it. The moon graces our sky each eve with a beautiful wisdom - When things seem static, when habits are hard to change, when our bodies feel stiff or ill, when we are not happy with our circumstance - there will always be renewal, we always have the capacity to create change. When we count our months by the moon’s cycle, we acknowledge this essence.
On that night in Egypt so long ago, we were given time to use as we choose. We were taught the beautiful and humble dance between radiance and retreat. We were shown that we are each, holy reflections of our Source. We were promised that there will always exist the potential for a different way. This is the miracle of the everyday.
The next time you look moonward, consider the legacy of our softly glowing celestial body.
May we all count our time by it, and make use of this luminous gift.