Passover – A Spring of Change
In memory of HaRav Meshulem be HaRav Osher Anshil HaLevi, zt’l
In memory of Rebbetzin Esther bas HaGaon HaRav HaTzaddik Avraham HaLevi, zt’l
By: Chaya Sora Jungreis-Gertzulin
“For the winter has passed,… the time of the songbird has arrived, and the blossoms of the tree are seen throughout the land.” (Shir HaShirim/Song of Songs 2:11-12)
Shir HaShirim, was written by Shlomo HaMelech, King Solomon, and in the above passage he describes the arrival of spring in Eretz Yisroel. It is read in shul during Pesach – this year on Shabbos, the eighth and last day of Pesach.
Pesach is known by three additional names, Holiday of Matzohs, Holiday of Our Freedom, and Holiday of Springtime.
Chag Ha-Aviv, Holiday of Springtime. Time to open the windows, breathe in the fresh air, and feel the warmth of sunshine. Time to listen to the chirping birds and enjoy the newly sprouting greenery and blossoming flowers. A time to look at HaShem’s wondrous world and appreciate its beauty. A time to refresh and revitalize soul and spirit.
Pesach is always celebrated during the month of Nisan, springtime. The message of our people’s freedom and the Exodus from Egypt become more appreciable as winter comes to an end and we leave our homes for the open outdoors. From winter to spring, from darkness to light, from slavery to freedom.
Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov, in “The Book of Our Heritage”, explains that the very name of the month, Nisan, connotes spring, as it is similar to the word “nitzan”, meaning “bud”. Nisan, the month of springtime, is the month the buds start appearing.
It is during the month of Nisan that the fruit trees start blossoming. King David declares in Psalms, “Mah rabbu ma’asecha HaShem, How great are Your works, HaShem”. (Tehillim/Psalms 104:24) I think of the magnificent cherry and pear tree blossoms. There is a special blessing that is said during Nisan upon seeing a budding fruit tree. In doing so, we recognize HaShem’s renewal of creation.
In many neighborhoods, some homeowners who have fruit trees on their property, post signs welcoming passersby to pause and recite the blessing alongside the tree. This past week, my husband and I went to a neighbor’s yard to recite the Birkas Hailanos, the Blessing of the Fruit Tree. Our neighbors recently added a porch to their yard, and there was a contractor working on the fencing around it. A big guy with the look of a seasoned carpenter. He saw us looking around and pointed to the tree.
“How did you know what we were looking for?” I asked.
“What do you mean? I might look Italian, but I’m a real Kohain,” he replied.
“Kohain?” my husband said. “Then it’s bashert that we met up with you. Please give us both a beracha.”
It didn’t take more than two minutes for our new-found Kohain to remove his work gloves and pull a yarmulke out of his pocket. He closed his eyes, and lifting his hands, proceeded to say the Birchas Kohanim, the Priestly Blessing.
We thanked him, so happy to be going into Yom Tov, not only with the mitzvah of saying the special beracha on the fruit tree, but for receiving one as well.
What a beautiful blessing. How special it is to be part of a nation that lives with an attitude of gratitude. A people who not only appreciate HaShem’s kindness, but express words of thanks for the blessings in life.
As Jews, gratitude is very much a part of us. From waking up to say Modeh Ani, Thank You HaShem for a new day, to berachos, blessings of thanks before and after partaking of any food or drink.
The Exodus happened during Nisan, and it marked the beginning of a new chapter in the life of the Jewish people. As springtime marks a rebirth of nature, so too it is the season of the birth of Am Yisroel, the Jewish nation.
The first mitzvah HaShem gave us after leaving Egypt, was to sanctify the new month.
The Hebrew word for month, chodesh, is connected to the word chadash, meaning new. Each month comes with new opportunities, each month gives us a chance to start afresh.
A person should never despair or give up hope. One should never say “it’s useless, I don’t stand a chance, I’m too far gone.” Making change isn’t always easy. But each one of us can make the effort to start over again. This is the power of chadash, rebirth.
Just as I was writing this article, I received an amazing email. A story of “chadash”, of a new beginning.
A few months ago, a boy in the eighth grade of Yeshiva Torah Vodaath (my husband’s alma mater, and the yeshiva attended by one of my grandsons) was thinking about a way to bring one his secular studies teachers closer to HaShem and Torah. He came up with an idea. He challenged his teacher, that if he scored a perfect 100 on the history midterm, then the teacher would start to wear tzitzis and would put on tefillin every day until the end of the school year. The teacher accepted the challenge.
The young boy put a lot of effort into preparing for the midterm. His studying paid off and he received 100 on the test. The teacher kept his end of the deal and started to wear tzitzis every day. When he arrived to the yeshiva, the boys would help him put on tefillin. For the teacher, this was major, for he had not put on tefillin since his bar mitzvah.
The teacher recently completed three months of wearing tzitzis and tefillin, and the yeshiva celebrated together with him. He spoke about how his life had been positively affected since he had undertaken these mitzvos and shared that he now wears his tzitzis and tefillin with pride.
Chadash. A new beginning. We all have it within us to make changes and start anew.
Wishing all a beautiful Second Days of Pesach.
Chag Someach and Shabbat Shalom!