An Israeli pop star, a Kabbalistic teacher in Nachlaot and a 19th century Chassidic Rebbe walk into a bar. They each order a drink to toast Becks and Michi.
The pop star, whose a little French, orders a classic Bordeaux and starts his lechaim with a line we say in davening 3 times every day.
משיב הרוח ומוריד הגשם
The literal meaning is ‘He makes the wind blow and the rain fall.’ But the word משיב means both blow and ‘to return’, and the word הרוח means both wind and spirit/soul. And as for the word גשם it means both rain and physicality, as in גשמיות, which renders the second part as ‘reducing physicality.’
Thanks to the multi-faceted nature of the Hebrew language, you can read the line as following:
Return our spirit and reduce our physicality
His lechaim to you, our our beautiful bride and groom, is that you always see through the coarseness of the physicality and maintain your eternal soul connection that is so special. When the body gets you down, let the spirit take you higher.
One Love, But it Starts At Home
Next up is the Kabbalist. All he wants to let you know as he chases down his shot of Arak is that the Gematria of אחד and אהבה is the same. You see, every letter in Hebrew has a unique numerical value, such that the Hebrew language can be read both as prose and as an equation. The word אחד — one — has the numerical value of 13. So does אהבה.
One love, but it starts in the home. Our Kabbalist friend wants to bless you that you live the experience of והיו לבשר אחד, becoming as one flesh, and may the love radiate outward from your home into the world.
Born Into Renewal — החודש הזה לכם ראש חודשים
Today is Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the month in which Pesach falls. Our third guest throwback all the way to the first Rosh Chodesh Nissan in history as he gazes at the potato vodka sitting in his hand.
It’s the night of the much-anticipated Exodus. 2 centuries of bondage are about to come to an end. In the middle of all the planning and the prep, G-d calls Moses to relay a commandment — the first one that the Jews would receive as a nation.
The first Mitzvah given to the Jewish people was the sanctification of the new moon. Not shema, not charity, not Shabbat. The astronomical calculations of Rosh Chodesh.
Hashem took Moshe out to stare into the Egyptian dusk and taught him how to recognize the cycles of the moon — when one month ended and another began. From that point onwards, the entire Jewish calendar and all of our festivals have been dictated by the same lunar cycle that Hashem showed Moshe on the eve of Exodus.
To the question of why Hashem decided that now was the right time for an astrology lesson, our guest gives a beautiful answer.
G-d starts off his Astro 101 course by saying ‘החודש הזה לכם ראש חודשים” — this month is for YOU, the head of all months. Now the simple interpretation is that the month of Nissan is the first month in the biblical narrative. But the deeper interpretation plays on the word חודש — which means month, but also means renewal.
Our nation was born in the spirit of renewal, and every month, every day, every moment we are enjoined to tap into that אור חדש, that new light, and let it overwhelm and fuel us.
But there’s more. Unlike Shabbat, whose arrival is independent of the workings of man, the Jewish calendar consisting of Rosh Chodesh and festivals is determined by our efforts on earth. Back in the day, witnesses would show up at Beit Din to testify that they had seen the new moon. Without their testimony, there would be no festivals, no Pesach, no Sukkot.
What Hashem showed Moshe on that starry Egyptian night was that this nation, his nation would have the power to fix their own destiny. The Egyptians and others were prisoners of their horoscopes, chained to their outcomes by the alignment of the stars. Not so for Am Yisrael. החודש הזה לכם. This month is for YOU. You can hack astronomy and draw bounty straight from the source.
So in the name of Yishai Ribo, Rabbi Avraham Arieh Trugman and the Sfas Emes, I bless you both with the power of constant renewal and freshness that is embodied by the new moon. May the stars be forever in your favor, and even if they aren’t, always remember your power to hack your fate and live מעל המזל — above the natural workings of luck and destiny.