Nisan: The Month of Spring Fever
Nisan and Love
Nisan, the first month of the Jewish calendar, is the month of love. The Biblical name for the month, Aviv (אביב) is phonetically related to the Hebrew word for "love" (אהבה).
In Nisan, nature reawakens and expresses anew its love for its Creator. Similarly, in this month, the Jewish soul renews its love for its Redeemer, who delivers it from Egypt, i.e., the restrictions and limitations of nature. The Hebrew name for Egypt, (מצרים) is phonetically related to the word for "restriction" (מיצר).
Recalling the exodus from Egypt, God tells His people: "I remember the kindness of your youth, the love of your espousals, when you went after Me in the desert, in land not sown" (Jeremiah 2:2). On the central holiday of this month, Pesach (Passover), we read the Song of Songs, the love song between the Divine groom, God, and His beloved bride, the Jewish People. "How beautiful and how pleasant you are, O love of delights!" (Song of Songs 7:7)
The three pilgrimage festivals--Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukot--correspond to the three patriarchs--Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, respectively. Indeed, Abraham, who corresponds to the festival of Pesach, symbolizes love. God calls Abraham "My beloved one." Abraham was the first to lovingly spread Divine consciousness in the world.
Let us see how the three-letters in the Hebrew root of "love" (אהב), relate specifically to the first day of the month of Nisan.
The spiritual essence of the month begins to shine on its first day, called Rosh Chodesh (ראש חודש) in Hebrew. The most important Rosh Chodesh Nisan was that of the second year after the exodus, when the Tabernacle--the complex which housed the revelation of God on earth--was erected and began to function. This Rosh Chodesh occurred on a Sunday. The first day of creation was Sunday. On the Sunday of every week, the creation of the world is renewed, and all creation receives a new, higher life-force than it had ever before possessed. Nisan is also called the month of Spring. So, this most important Rosh Chodesh brought together three time elements: Sunday, Nisan, and Spring.
We are taught in the Book of Formation (Sefer Yetzirah) that every season, month, and day of the week was created with a specific letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
- Spring was created with the letter alef (א)
- The month of Nisan was created with the letter hei (ה), and
- Sunday was created with the letter beit (ב)
Together, these are the root letters of "love" (אהבה).
Love and the Seder
The experience of love is one of light shining to one from another; love is a two-way relationship. King Solomon says, "As the reflection of one's face in water, so is the reflection of one's heart in another's" (Proverbs 27:19). When God redeemed us from Egypt, He exposed Himself to us by revealing Himself, and we exposed ourselves to Him by following Him blindly into the desert. This is the meaning of the verse from the Song of Songs: "I am my Beloved's, and my Beloved is mine" (Song of Songs 6:3).
Chassidut teaches us that there are three levels of experience in love: clinging, passion, and desire.
The couple cling to each other through their deeds; their passion for each other is expressed through their emotions; and their innermost desire for one another is expressed as their consciousness merges.
Each of these three aspects of the couple's love for each other is enhanced by their observance of Torah and mitzvot. Their clinging is fostered by the performance of mitzvot; their mutual passion is fostered by their individual prayers; and their desire for each other is fostered by their study of the Torah.
On the Seder night, we perform active commandments, such as eating matzah and maror (bitter herbs), drinking the four cups of wine, and so forth. As we do so, we aspire to feel God's love for us as we cling to Him.
Reciting the Hallel on the Seder night is a form of prayer, in which we feel the passion of our heart to draw close to God.
Reciting the Hagadah itself is the Torah of the Seder night. Through reciting the Hagadah, our love of God ascends to its highest point, as our desire for Him makes us yearn to be absorbed into His very essence and unite with Him totally.