Ritual for 1 Nisan (Jill Hammer and Shoshana Jedwab)

This ritual was developed for a year when the first of Nisan, the new moon of spring, fell on the spring equinox, and is appropriate for either occasion.

Opening song or chant:

kol korei bamidbar
panu derekh shekhinah...

hineh hastav avar
panu derekh shekhinah…

eish vamayim ruach ve’afar
panu derekh shekhinah…

a voice cries in the wilderness
make way for the Shekhinah

the winter has passed away
make way for the Shekhinah

fire and water, wind and earth
make way for the Shekhinah

(after Isaiah 40:3)


The ritual leader explains that the first of Nisan, one of the four new years of the Jewish calendar, marks the date on which the Israelites in the wilderness welcomed the Divine presence, or Shekhinah, into the tabernacle they had built out of gifts they brought themselves. This mythic welling-up of the Divine parallels the welling up of new life in the natural world at the time of the spring equinox. The group may choose to read or study one of the following texts together and express what the text means to them at this time of year. Alternatively, the group may engage in quiet listening to the sounds of spring around them.


“The cloud covered the mishkan (tabernacle/dwelling place), and the presence of God filled the mishkan. Moses could not enter the tent of meeting, because the cloud rested upon it, and the presence of God filled the mishkan. When the cloud lifted from the mishkan, the Israelites would set out on their various journeys, but if the cloud did not lift, they would not set out until such time as it did lift. For over the mishkan a cloud of God rested by day, and fire would be seen in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout their journeys.”
Exodus 40:34-38

“Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai said: Come and see how beloved are Israel in God’s eyes, for to every place that they were exiled the Shekhinah went with them, as it says: “I revealed myself to the house of your father when they were in Egypt.” They were exiled to Babylon, as it says: “for your sake I was sent to Babylon.” And when they will be redeemed in the future, the Shechinah will be with them, as it says: “Then God will return [with] your captivity (shuva adonai et shiviteinu). This teaches that the Holy One of Blessing will return with them from the places of exile….
Megillah 29a

"We invite the Tabernacle [the Shekhinah] to spread itself over us and to rest upon us and to shield us as a mother shields her children, so that we should feel secure on every side. When Israel... invites this tabernacle of peace to their homes as a holy guest, a divine sanctity comes down and spreads her wings over Israel like a mother encompassing her children…
Zohar I, 48a

Building the Tabernacle:

If the group has time and is outside, each member should be asked to silently go out into nature and find an object to help build a holy Tabernacle to honor the spring. If the group is inside, or even if not, the leader may also have sticks, flowers, and scarves on hand to facilitate building.

The group should regather and, in silence or while singing, build a Tabernacle together, starting with one person's offering and adding new offerings one at a time. When the Tabernacle is finished, each eprson may be asked to explain what they brought and why. Then the group should proceed with the following meditation. (If there is less time, the group should simply proceed to the meditation.)

Leader: Imagine that the Shekhinah is descending into you. Where in your body do you feel this descent? What does it feel like? Meditate on the place in the body where you feel the Divine. Then imagine the presence you feel spreading through you, warming you as spring warms the trees.

Dedication of the Tabernacle:

Individuals share reading the following poem. The group may use this poem as a way of dedicating the Tabernacle they have built or simply as a way of honoring the spring as a Divine indwelling.

since the new year
the Shekhinah has curled deep
within the well of souls
within the veil of words
within the cold of winter
she has wandered in the darkness of her dream
now she awakens into the wings of the wren and the swallow

she returns from the house of wisdom
to enter the land of milk and honey
the land of the real

how awesome is this place
for God is called the place
he is strong and laughing
with water running down his back like tears
he is a tree with patience in his leaves
he is coral, he has multitudes in his skin

the exiled Shekhinah
meets herself coming through the gate of life
the ice breaks up on the rivers

Shekhinah is weaving her house like a reed basket
spring is an eternal light upon her forehead
she weaves sand and clouds and sweat and asphalt
she weaves the patter of rain and the rumblings of the blood
she weaves the beauty of our minds and the corners of our darkness
her colors in our dreams and our eyes and in the last hill of melting snow

when she finishes weaving
when the apple blossom opens
she enters

she seeps up from the stone
she leans down from the wind
she swims up from the water
she slides down on the sunlight

she comes into the tent of the seed
and opens it to the sky

Baruch shem kevod adonai mimekomah.
Blessed is the Shekhinah of God from the place of Her presence.

The group should end the ritual by singing the song they began with and/or by bowing to the four directions to bid farewell to the Shekhinah. if a tabernacle was built, it may be dismantled so that everyone can take their object home, or left as an offering.

Rabbi Jill Hammer, PhD, is an author, poet, ritualist, and works at Ma'yan: The Jewish Women's Project of the JCC in Manhattan. Shoshana Jedwab is a Jewish educator, drummer, and musician.

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