Regarding the month of Nisan the Torah says:
“Guard the month of springtime, and carry out the Passover offering for Hashem, your God; for in the month of the springtime Hashem, your God, took you out of Egypt at night.”
This is the only time when the Torah links a month with a season.
Why is that? What is it telling us?
The linking of month, and springtime is unusual because Jewish months are linked to the moon, while seasons are linked to the sun. It’s based on this this curious linkage that our sages determined that the Torah is telling us to make sure that the month of Nisan always occurs in the solar equinox determined season of springtime. In fact, this year, a year with an extra month of Adar, is the clear fulfillment of that commandment to make sure that Pesach takes place in the spring. But again, why? Why is it critical that the month of Nisan, Pesach, always be in the spring?
This phenomena reveals something deep.
Springtime is when nature once again blossoms. Springtime is to nature what geula, redemption, is to history. In spring, the dormant potential hidden beneath the ground, and on bare branches, blooms spectacularly for all to see. And this is geula.
Geula is the appearance of the long, seemingly lost, hidden light of creation. Even in the dark time of bondage and exile the light is there, but it’s deeply concealed. Nonetheless, when the season of redemption arrives, “The blossoms are seen in the land, the time of your song has arrived, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in the land.” (Shir Hashirim 2:12) This is geula; the fullest actualization of life’s rich potential, faithful to it’s Godly source and purpose.
Winter is when everything lies dormant, silent, and hidden. That’s galut, that’s exile. And then: Springtime. Life once again pushes it’s way to the surface and sprouts forth. Trees and flowers and vegetation blossom—greenery and color is everywhere—and the birds return. This is geula on the outer, exterior, chitzoniut dimension of existence.
Nisan is the blossoming season of the renewal of the Jewish nation. This is the sōd, the beneath-the-surface meaning of, “This month (Nisan) shall be for you the first of all the months.” (Shmot 12:2) It’s specifically in that month, and in that season, that we are renewed and redeemed.
Shechina and Am Yisrael are woven together, and they are the deep inner soul, the pnimiut, of all existence. In this sense, the month of Nisan is connected to geulat ha’pnimiut, redemption on the inner, soul level of creation, and springtime is connected to geulat ha’chitzoniut, the outer, more physical dimension of redemption.
The Intersection of Redemption
We can now understand that the deeper meaning of “Guard the month of springtime…” is to create an intersection of outer and inner geula. But why? Why is that two dimensional fusion so critical?
The reason is because the Shechina and Am Yisrael are the soul of all the exterior dimensions of creation which are, themselves, like the soul’s outer garments. Therefore, like the healthy blossoming of the body, the exterior, is dependent on the inner light of the neshama. The same is true in the world. In truth, though it may not be readily apparent, the renewed blossoming of life in springtime flows from the spiritual sap, the inner light of geula that is the exodus from Egypt.
The Roots of Winter and Spring
The original transgression of Adam and Eve resulted in a terrible rending of the bond of chitzoniut and pnimiut, physical and spiritual. That tear in creation manifested itself in the diminution of the light of the moon; the moon that corresponds to Shechina-Israel, the soul of the world. In the aftermath of that devastating event, it’s no longer clear that there is a direct relationship between the physical and the spiritual. There is a dark, murky chasm that clouds our vision. And so the leap year, the year with the extra month of Adar II, comes to restore the relationship of the sun and the moon, the inner and the outer. This convergence of moon-month-nisan, and solar-season-springtime, represents the repairing of the breach, the tikkun. In the restored state of tikkun it’s once again apparent that without a healthy soul there can be no healthy body.
In the world that denies God altogether, or that regulates God to a remote, disconnected place from this world, there is no relationship between the spiritual and the material; no relationship between our physical existence and a higher existence, no relationship between what God may intend for the world, and how people actually live and behave in the world. Part of the message of Pesach, part of it’s challenge to us, is to realign the outer dimension of life with the inner, soul dimension. Via Pesach we are meant to come to an appreciation of the deep, holistic nature of reality, of life. This world isn’t the creation of two coins, it’s two sides—two fundamentally interrelated dimensions—of the same coin. The failure, or the refusal to see this chitzoni-pnimi interrelationship was the tumah, the dark impurity of Egypt. Egypt saw it’s strength, it’s success as having everything to do with the great and mighty Nile, with nature’s fertile ground, and nothing to do with anything deeper or higher.
Am Yisrael and Springtime
The nation of Israel takes the stage of history with a purposeful message: Everything comes from, and everything is connected to God. In reality, all physical existence, and all physical blessing, is rooted in the neshama of existence. When the Jewish people fail to deliver this message, when the Jewish nation fails, in essence, to be the Jewish nation, this is manifest in the most physical way. The land ceases to give it’s marvelous bounty, the nation is torn away from it’s land, and it lies desolate and bare, like empty branches in winter. This is the inner meaning of the assertion of our sages that, “Since the day the Temple was destroyed, there is no more taste left in the fruits.”
The opposite is also true.
When the Jewish nation lives and manifests it’s inner light, when Shechina-Israel thrives, then the world around it blossoms and thrives. Nisan and springtime tell us that geula, redemption, isn’t just a spiritual concept or achievement, it’s holistic. Geula envelops the totality of existence. Hokol bara lchvodo, Everything was created to proclaim the presence of God. In our world, nothing, no flower and no person, is excluded from the spiritual symphony of creation.
“The heavens will be joyous, and the earth will rejoice.” (Tehillim 96:11)
הארץ ותגל השמאים ישמחו
The first four letters of the Hebrew words heavens, joyous, earth and rejoice spell out the four-letter name of God, the highest, most sublime name.
This tells us that everything exits in an interrelated fashion—heaven and earth sing and rejoice together. That is geula, the geula of Yisrael. With our renewed, blossoming life, even the trees rejoice. Everything; every dimension and aspect of creation and the world sings, the melodious melody flowing from the inner blessing of Shechina, of the youthful renewal of Israel.
Birkat Ha’ilanot, the blessing we say on budding trees in Nisan, tells us that the natural, physical world is, in truth, an outer garment for a deeper, inner world. This is Pesach, this is our mission in this world. To live and show and proclaim that the Shechina is the soul, the inner essence of everything, and that every twig and blade and petal of physicality is an outer branch of Shechina. When we go out to recite that blessing, know that we are proclaiming that beneath, within and surrounding everything, is Hashem.
“Your kingdom is a kingdom that encompasses all the worlds, and Your dominion is within and throughout every generation.” (Tehillim 145:13)
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Translated by Shimon Apisdorf