Nissan and Aseret Yemei T'shuvah

Days of t'shuvah via love of God.

Rabbi Dr. Aryeh Hirsch,

Aryeh Hirsch
Aryeh Hirsch
As everyone knows, the first day of Nissan kicks off the Aseret Yemei T'shuvah. Right? Well, not really.

We all recognize that Rosh Hashanah, falling in Tishrei (approximately September), is the start of the Aseret
Chassidishe Rebbes typically view life from outside the box.
Yemei T'shuvah, the "Ten Days of Repentance" that culminate on Yom Kippur, which is followed four days later by the holiday of Sukkot. But Chassidishe Rebbes typically view life from outside the box; and the Slonimer Rebbe insists that, indeed, Rosh Chodesh Nissan is truly the beginning of Aseret Yemei T'shuvah (Netivot Shalom, Sh'mot, page 326). It's just that the ten days in Tishrei are the days of t'shuvah mi'yirah, return via the awe of God, while the ten days in Nissan are days of t'shuvah mei'ahavah, return via love of God.

As Spring begins in nature, with the power and beauty of physical renewal, so too renewal begins in the spiritual world. Nissan is the month in which the Lord proclaims, yearly: Bni b'chori Yisrael, "Israel is my first-born, my beloved." The Rebbe calls Nissan the chodesh (month) of ahavat HaShem, love of God, and Rosh Hashanah L'Ahavah. The Almighty, motivated by chesed and love, created the world in Nissan. Therefore, this is the month of chidush, when a Jew can mitchadesh k'berya chadasha, "renew himself as a new creation" (which is the t'shuvah process).

Not only for the individual Jew is hachodesh hazeh lachem (S'hmot 12:2), but this month contains Pesach, the Jewish national birthday, the birthday of the nation of Israel. This is the month in which HaShem lovingly redeemed us from the darkness of Egypt and declared (and to this day calls) us His "chosen people." The Slonimer notes that the construction of the Mishkan (the Tabernacle, the first Jewish national institution) was finished on the 25th of Kislev (the date of the future holiday of Chanukah), 2448, but it was not erected until the next spring, on Nissan 1, 2449. The Almighty ordered this, because He was about to come to live among His people Israel, out of His love for His children. The fitting date was therefore Nissan 1, which is Rosh Hashanah, and Rosh Chodashim ("first among months"), of Love.

Jewish calendar months are called chodashim because of the monthly renewal of nature (as seen in the waxing and waning of the moon during each month) and of Man. Nissan, the first of all chodashim, the month of the annual springtime renewal in nature, empowers each month with this power of chidush, renewal. As Rabbi Mendel of Riminov notes, Spring in Hebrew is called Aviv, whose letters in Hebrew spell "Av of yud-bet", "father of 12," the twelve months that gain their power of hitchadshut from the month of Nissan. That is why many individuals read the section of the 12 tribal leaders and their sacrifices they brought at the dedication of the Mishkan, one Nasi for each day of the first twelve days of Nissan (Bamidbar 7:10).

The Ben Ish Chai has a delightful parable to illustrate the elements of fatherly, Godly, love and the haste with which the Almighty took the Jewish people out of the darkness of Egypt. Commenting on Sh'mot 12:42, "This is the night that the Lord awaited to bring the Jews out from the Land of Egypt," the Ben Ish Chai brings the story of a father who gave his son the job of clearing out all the contents of a large cellar. And the father set a time limit: overnight, tonight. This was a very difficult task, but the son set out enthusiastically to do the job. The son had no idea that as he removed contents from near the door, the father, hidden by darkness, was pushing contents toward the exit, to make things go quicker. At daybreak, an exhausted but beaming son reported to his father that the job was complete and he was given his reward.

This was how a loving God, hidden in the dark times of the Egyptian Holocaust, shortened the period of exile from 400 to 210 years, and brought the Geulah. And the verse concludes that this pattern and "this night is the anticipated night l'dorotam, for all future generations" and redemptions. B'Nissan nigalu, uv'Nissan atidin l'higael - "in Nissan we were redeemed, and in Nissan we will be redeemed."

The Slonimer concludes with the idea that after the ten days of t'shuvah of love, come four days in Nissan that
After the ten days of t'shuvah of love, come four days in Nissan that correspond to the four days in Tishrei between Yom Kippur and Sukkot.
correspond to the four days in Tishrei between Yom Kippur and Sukkot. After these fourteen days of preparation comes the night of redemption, the Pesach Seder. The Seder opens with Mah Nishtanah, with the words, "Kan haben shoel...." - "Here the son asks...." For on the night on which truly banim atem l'Hashem Elokeichem" ("sons of God"), every Jew can ask and receive all his heart's desire, both spiritual and physical, from his loving Father in Heaven. We are all the little kid, making our requests of father at the return of the Afikomen, the conclusion of the job.

The Slonimer, again: "Seder night is a segulah to change a Jew's mazal from bad to good, to leave all his meitzarim (Egyptian-like bonds, of all types: physical, psychological, spiritual) and change every evil decree to the good.... Every Jew can do this; as he tells more and more of the story of redemption and thereby penetrates his soul with more and more belief (emunah) and love, the Jew clings more and more to the Lord."

These are the lofty thoughts of chidush that penetrate our souls this Nissan; and may we children all merit to see the final Geulah this month.