This year, Pesach begins at sundown on Monday, April 14, and continues through to Tuesday, April 22. The Exodus from Egypt was ordained by G-d to take place in the month of spring. Moreover, the Torah has ordained that special care should be taken to ensure that Pesach always occurs in spring, as it is written: “Observe the month of spring and keep the Passover unto G-d your G-d, for, in the month of spring, G-d your G-d has brought you out of Egypt by night.” (Deuteronomy 16:1)
To ensure that Pesach should indeed occur in spring, in view of the fact that our calendar is based on the moon and the lunar year is about 11 days shorter than the solar year, while the four seasons are determined by the sun, our calendar provides a “leap year” once every two or three years with the addition of a whole month, Adar II, as it did this year. In this way, the lunar year is “reconciled” with the solar year, and Pesach always occurs in the spring. All of the other months of the year, and all our festivals, are regulated accordingly, so that they, too, occur in their due season.
The circumstance of the Exodus from Egypt having been in the spring is explained by our sages as a special Divine benevolence in taking the Jews out of Egypt during the best time of the year. Pesach falls in the middle of the month of Nissan, when nature reveals its greatest powers. We can see and smell blossoms on trees, watch fruit appearing from buds and hear the song of the red-breasted robin.
In fact, there is a special blessing that the rabbis composed for Nissan, for the coming of springtime, that is to be recited when seeing a fruit tree bearing fruit: “Blessed are you, Lord our G-d, King of the Universe, who has made nothing lacking in His world, and created in it goodly creatures and goodly trees to give humankind pleasure.”
The blessing is said just once a year, preferably in Nissan, but if one didn’t get a chance to say it then, it can also be said in Iyar, the next Hebrew month. Our relatives in South Africa recite this blessing in the months of Elul and Tishrei, as that is when their spring occurs.
The great descriptions that appear in King Solomon’s Song of Songs (Shir Hashirim) include “the times of the rain are passed, the time of the songbird has arrived, the blossoms of the trees are seen throughout the land.” This refers to the Land of Israel, where springtime is warm but not summer hot, and the threat of rain all but gone for the year. The smell of spring and renewed life fills people’s souls, and this season in the holy land of Israel is the beloved partner of Pesach, the holiday of renewal and redemption, optimism and hope. Pesach weather carries with it special blessing and encouragement.
When we were taken out of Egypt by G-d’s outstretched arm, we became a nation. In fact, G-d loves us so much that He came down and took our ancestors out Himself, instead of sending an angel to perform the task. As it is written in the Haggadah, in the portion beginning with “Avadim hayeenu,” “We were slaves,” it says, “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt and
G-d our G-d took us out of there with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm. If the Holy One, blessed be He, had not taken our fathers out of Egypt, then we, our children and our children’s children would have remained enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt.”
Here in Canada, and indeed in so many places, spring arrives with Pesach, however the weather isn’t necessarily springlike. As a child in Toronto, I remember one Pesach having to be carried by my father during the holiday over snow-covered sidewalks. As a teenager in Florida, we were able to have guests over during Pesach and sit outside for our seder. Having lived in Vancouver for more than 30 years, I have experienced Pesach in pounding rain, as well as in sunshine and warmth.
Pesach is, of course, celebrated by Jews the world over. Our dear daughter and her husband, as emissaries for Chabad, will be hosting more than 30 people in their small apartment in Turin, Italy, for the seders, for example. I wish you and your family a very happy and kosher Passover wherever you will be this Pesach – and whatever the weather. Enjoy!
Esther Tauby is a local educator, writer and counselor.