by Rabbi Nadya Gross
One of the images that Reb Zalman used in teaching Deep Ecumenism was a group of circles overlapping in the center, each circle representing one of the world’s religions. We mostly see our differences – the outer parts of the circles – and focus on the “otherness” of each religion, and the “rightness” of our own. However, at the center is where Spirit resides, and Faith is born. In moments like these, when our liturgical calendars meet in the center, we feel the urge to notice that we’re not so different after all – that while our story may be unique to our tradition, the themes underlying the stories are more alike than we have previously understood.
Take today: Tuesday of Holy Week, three days into the second week of Ramadan, and four days before Passover. My kitchen is thrown into chaos, as I remove the chametz – not only the grains that are forbidden during the 8-day festival are cleaned out and removed from our home, but also the kitchen utensils and tableware are replaced with special Passover dishes and cooking tools. There are fewer of these, and the kitchen feels spacious. As I clear away so much that has accumulated during the year, simplifying and resetting my physical space, I contemplate the too-muchness in my life as well. What do I want to liberate myself from, and how do I want to reset my life during this festival? I look forward to welcoming friends and family into my home and Zoom-room, to share in the Seder nights as is the custom, and celebrate God’s ultimate act of lovingkindness, the liberation of our People from the suffering of slavery.
While I work and meditate on these themes, I am aware of friends and family who are observing the Ramadan fast. The fast is intended to bring the faithful closer to God and is an exercise in self-restraint. The intention is to leave behind the sins of the past and try to do good that God Almighty expects of all people, including showing love and care to those less fortunate. Some teach that the spiritual work of this month is like turning over a new leaf. And, each night, the fast ends with a feast, Iftar, that is shared with family and friends.
Tuesday of Holy Week mirrors the third day after Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. According to the Gospels, this evening Jesus foretells his death to his disciples (not for the first time) and speaks of himself like a kernel of wheat which must fall to the ground and die in order to produce many seeds. And he continues: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” [John 13:34]
Each of these traditions, in unique ways, opens us to the same truths. When we simplify our lives and humble ourselves, we are reawakened to the Oneness of Being, we are able to bear witness to the suffering in our world, and rediscover the path of Holiness and Love in community with all Creation.
Rabbi Nadya Gross (she/her) is co-Founder and CEO of Yerusha. She has been dedicated to the work of Deep Ecumenism since attending a week-long workshop with Reb Zalman in 1998.
An Auspicious Convergence
This year, Holy Week and the lead-up to Pesach coincide with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. This convergence is a unique opportunity for a “Spiritual Spring Cleaning.” Each day of this week, we offer you a brief teaching on this auspicious occasion.