When you get something new, Israelis respond by saying “Titchadesh” (to a man), “Titchadshi” (to a woman) or “Titchadshu” (to a group). It’s a beautiful expression that basically means, “May you be renewed.” It’s a lovely idea. Through a new acquisition, it is hoped that we, too, will be renewed.

Well, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has just won the Israeli election, I wish the good people of Israel, “Titchadshu”.

A Surprise

Despite predictions from Western media and by some Israeli media, Benjamin Netanyahu has indeed retained the premiership and will soon become Israel’s longest-serving Prime Minister. It was not a foregone conclusion. Leading up to the election, polls indicated that Isaac Herzog’s Zionist Union was ahead. Just as the election results were being tallied, the race seemed to be neck-and-neck. It was too close to call. But by Wednesday morning, it was a clear-cut victory for Bibi and the Likud.

The New York Times writes: “The decisive nature of Mr. Netanyahu’s comeback came as a surprise to most“.

Canada’s The Globe and Mail calls it “a stunning turnaround” and “a decisive victory“.

The BBC News dubs it “a surprise victory“.

Why did Bibi win? Why did he win convincingly? How will President Obama react? How will Netanyahu define his premiership in his new term? Will Netanyahu be effective on the domestic front? Will he help the economy? What does it mean for the moribund peace process with the Palestinians? What will he do about Iran?

I’m sure that we will be reading analyses on all these issues both within Israeli media and in the international press as well. And I’m sure opinions will run the gamut.

As Netanyahu enters his third consecutive term and fourth in total, how can I say “Titchadshu”? Is there a renewal?

Shabat HaChodesh and Renewal

This Shabbat is Rosh Chodesh, a new moon – a new month. It is a renewal. It is a moment when we look ahead with hope and ask for blessings.

Not only is it a new month, it is the new month of Nisan. The Torah refers to the first of Nisan, this coming Shabbat, as the New Year. In the Maftir we read this Saturday, it says:

This month (Aviv / Nisan) shall mark for you the beginning of the months; it shall be the first of the months of the year for you.

Exodus 12:2

While Rosh Hashanah replaced this date as the New Year by the Talmudic period, the Torah recognizes this month, Nisan (also called Aviv or Abib) as the New Year. It is the first month of all other months. It is, therefore, a period of great renewal.

The haftarah we read this Saturday on Shabbat Hachodesh acknowledges this as a very special month. Not only is the newness of the month significant in and of itself; the beginning of the month offers us a reminder that Passover is around the corner.

On the fourteenth day of the first month you shall have the passover sacrifice; and during a festival of seven days unleavened bread shall be eaten.

Ezekiel 45:21

As we mark the new month of Nisan, we look to the future. We look to Passover. We look to a festival that celebrates deliverance. We look to a festival in which the Jewish people overcame hardships. The holiday of Passover is filled with joy and celebration. But note that Pessah is a holiday that marks our deliverance FROM something, not TO something.

In fact, the children of Israel’s next phase was one of transition – a long one. They entered an arduous journey through the desert for forty years. Passover is joyous because it represents hope and optimism for an unknown future.

Israel and Renewal

With the latest Israeli elections and Bibi’s victory, it is worth saying “Titchadshu” because it is a new term. There are unknown possibilities. There are hopes. There are worries, too. And particularly to those who are worried, isn’t it worth saying “Titchadshu” and thereby asking, praying, hoping for a spirit of renewal? After all, we don’t know what the future holds.

In the diaspora, we pray for our own countries and for the State of Israel. We ask that Israel be blessed with peace and security. We do this every Shabbat. But we do so more intently now as we find ourselves in a new period and looking to the future – to the new month, to the new year, to a new term for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Whatever differences between Obama and Netanyahu, the bond between the United States and Israel will continue. Whatever military threats arise, be they from Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, or elsewhere, the IDF has the capacity to face it. Israel will continue to be strong. Israel will continue to thrive in many fields of human achievement and technology. And I am convinced that no matter what Bibi says about not offering a state to the Palestinians, circumstances can change. The future can change. For many Israelis and supporters of Israel, the ideal situation isn’t a Palestinian state next to Israel but a Palestinian state AT PEACE with Israel.

This very election which has divided so many people must be looked at in a positive light. Voter turnout for this election was 71.8%. In contrast, voter turnout for the American election in 2014 was 36.4%. Everyone has a vote. Everyone has a vote. Indeed this election is further evidence that Israel continues to be a beacon of democracy in the dark ocean of Middle East dictatorships, despots, and totalitarian regimes.

As we look to a new month, I wish the Jewish people and all Israelis “Titchadshu”. May you, too, be renewed along with the new month.

As we look to Nisan, the first month of the year, I wish the Jewish people and all Israelis “Titchadshu”. May you, too, be renewed along with the new year.

As we look to a new term in Netanyahu’s premiership, I wish all Israelis “Titchadshu”. May you all be renewed.