Nisan - The Month of Redemption

We already mentioned our obligation to remember Yetziat Mitzrayim. Chazal state (Pesachim 16a), “One is obligated to see himself as if he went out of Egypt.” The Gra considers this a positive  commandment. In all  honesty,  how  can a person  be obligated  to  feel this  way, as though  he himself left Egypt? We were never slaves; how can we be taken to task for not seeing ourselves as though we left Egypt?

Chazal state (Rosh Hashanah 11a), “In Nisan, they were redeemed, and in Nisan they will  be redeemed.” The entire month of Nisan, and especially the Seder Night, is protected  from the negative forces (Pesachim 109b), an auspicious time for geulah.

But it is still  difficult to understand why the redemption  took place specifically in Nisan and not during another month. One might suggest that it is because in Nisan the angels arrived  at Avraham’s tent with the tiding of Yitzchak’s birth, on the following Pesach (Bereishit Rabbah 48:12). However, Nisan had already been designated to be the month

in which the geulah would take place many generations before this.

Why is Nisan the beginning of the months? Why is Nisan protected from negative forces? Why is it called The Month of Spring, and Pesach called The Spring Festival?

Perhaps we can answer with the following thought. Mitzvot  must be done with  proper  intent  (Rosh Hashanah 28b). They must be experienced and felt. This is the purpose of remembering Yetziat Mitzrayim. It is insufficient to remember the story as a once-upon-a-time occurrence. One must live through  the story, so that it enters his mind and his heart. He must feel how much our ancestors suffered  in  Mitzrayim,  and that  if  they  had not  been redeemed, he himself would still be there, enslaved and embittered.

Retelling the story  of our  Exodus instills  belief in Hashem in our hearts. Since the Yetzer Hara always tries  to weaken our level of emunah, when Pesach comes, we can recharge ourselves with emunah, with vigor and enthusiasm. By telling over the story of the Exodus, and feeling as though  he himself  was emancipated from  Egypt, one will become tremendously  inspired to believe wholeheartedly  in Hashem.

The name ןסינ (Nisan) has the same root as the word ןויסנ (test). The month  of Nisan is a testing ground to examine how each person will view the rest of his year. Will he, indeed, be a free man, liberated from the shackles of the Yetzer Hara, or will he still be under his influence?

Nisan, being the first of the months, is auspicious for strengthening one’s emunah in Hashem and bringing the geulah. One who recharges his spiritual  batteries  in Nisan is withstanding  the test of the month. He will  be re-energized, and  will  be able to  ascend in  his  Avodat Hashem during  the  rest  of  the  months  of  the  year. But  this  is on condition  that he feels as though he himself left Egypt.

In order to experience the slavery and redemption, one should strive to imagine what actually happened there. I have heard of various tzaddikim,  such as Rabbi Moshe Mordechai  MiLelov, zt”l, who would carry sacks on their  shoulders and call out the pasuk (Shemot 12:34) “Their  leftovers  bound  up in  their  garments upon  their  shoulders.” They felt as though they themselves had just left Egypt.

It is also told that one time, the Chafetz Chaim was seen laughing out loud. When asked for an explanation, he said, “I am learning about the plague of lice, and imagining the Egyptians scratching  themselves all over. This makes me laugh.” It is important  to relate to the bondage of our nation in Egypt and their subsequent redemption.

For that reason, Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel states (Pesachim 116b in the Mishnah), “Whoever did not say the following  three things on Pesach, has not fulfilled  his obligation.  They are: Pesach, matzah, and maror.”  The author  of the sefer Yeshuat Hashem questions  this.  We never  find  that  one  must  mention  the  mitzvah  before  he  actually carries it out. Furthermore, we never see that one is considered as not having  fulfilled  his  mitzvah  obligation  if  he has not  mentioned  the mitzvah beforehand.

But here it is different. Remembering these three things helps us to feel that we ourselves left Mitzrayim.  Mentioning them out-loud helps us to  feel their  import  in  our  hearts.  This  is a most  vital  point  of Pesach.

We find, in the Pesach Haggadah, that our Chachamim would remain awake, retelling the story of Yetziat Mitzrayim all night long. What took them so long? This is in line with what we said previously. They felt as though they themselves had just been liberated from slavery, and as if they had themselves experienced fantastic miracles this night. They spoke of emunah, which  gave them the power to become freed from the shackles of Pharaoh, the human form of the Yetzer Hara. Therefore, they dwelt on relating the details of the Exodus all night long.

The Beit Yisrael  of  Gur quotes  the  Gemara (Pesachim 6b):  “Two things are out of a person’s domain, yet the pasuk implies that they are in his domain. One of these is chametz from  the sixth  hour  (before Pesach).” Chametz, he says, is a hint  to the Yetzer Hara. On Pesach, everyone has the  ability  to  rule  over  his  Yetzer Hara. Hashem has brought  us close to Him. We have the ability  to vanquish the Yetzer Hara  and empower  ourselves  with  emunah. This  is the  true  joy  of Pesach.

On Pesach, the angels predicted  Yitzchak’s birth,  which would take place the following Nisan. They alluded to the fact that he would withstand a ןויסנ (test) in the month of ןסינ. Just as Avraham withstood ten nisyonot (Avot 5:3), so too, would his children  have the ability  to withstand  trials  and renew their  Avodat Hashem. Then, the kelippah will have no control  over Bnei Yisrael, for the night of Pesach will be a night of protection from all negative forces.

Now we can understand  why  this  month  is  called  The Month of Spring. In the spring, everything  blossoms, the trees burst  forth  with buds, wearing a youthful  look. A person suffers many nisyonot in his youth. When one does teshuvah, he brings himself back to the years of his youth and is rejuvenated.

Unfortunately, nowadays, we find many adults, some of them well on in years, who cannot withstand  temptation.  They emulate the young, wearing youthful  garments, in order that they should feel young. They also wear short  clothes,  not  in  the  spirit  of tzeniut, succumbing  to temptation  in order to be fashionable. But there are those who refuse to give in to temptation.  They withstand  nisyonot admirably,  just like our ancestors in Egypt. They merit special siyata di’Shemaya.

At the Seder table, we recite the passage “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt.” We are now free men. But a wealthy man who is blinded by his wealth and does not feel the galut, is not free at all, but a slave to his Yetzer Hara.

Chazal state (Esther Rabbah 7:25) that  Hashem told  the Shevatim, “You sold Yosef into slavery. You, too, shall become slaves.” The rectification for this is unity. On the night of Pesach, all remember our previous  slavery, rich  and poor  alike. This  is the way to  break the middah of arrogance, which  is so despicable. One’s heart  becomes broken, and he comes closer to Hashem.

Unity is an asset in withstanding  a nisayon. One who helps his fellow Jew also hastens the geulah. On Pesach night, we eat תסורח  (charoset). The letters of תסורח  stand for 'ס תורח, an allusion to the 600,000 Jews who emerged from slavery to freedom (since the letter 'ס   has the gematria of 60).

We dip  the maror  into  the charoset (Pesachim 10:3) to  indicate  a combination  of the wealthy (as depicted by the rich charoset) and the poor (as depicted by the bitter  maror). All should live in unity. In this manner, we remember the days of bondage and beseech Heavenly mercy for each other.  May Hashem redeem us speedily, in His great mercy.



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