I used to always get new clothes for Passover. The entire year I’d look forward to getting that one new dress with my Mom- preferably something floral and colorful that looked like spring. There’s just something in the air- all of the flowers finally blooming, that time when, religious or not, houses get cleaned and floors get swept, when the windows are finally opened and you wear your favorite pair of sandals for the first time in a year.
Passover- a time for renewal
Passover, the Jewish holiday of spring, comes every Nissan, and with it- an air of renewal. It’s not just the flowers and not just the new clothes. It’s not just that smile you get when you walk outside and breathe in so deep, just to smell that delicious, fresh scent. It’s the holiday itself that remembers renewal, and through that memory, it renews and renews and renews again.
My favorite memory as a child is sitting around the huge, long table at the Passover Seder, the formal dinner service performed during the first two nights of the eight-day holiday. I’d sit there at my Grandparents’ house, next to what, at the time, felt like a hundred of my cousins, in our crisp, new clothes, the men in their white garb, eager to eat for the first time in a year the matzah, the unleavened bread, and Grandma’s chicken soup cooking in the kitchen.
But first, a story is told.
A story of the Jewish nation thousands of years ago, thousands of miles away. The Jews as slaves in Egypt and their redemption. The story is one of a nation in bondage and how, after 400 years of slavery, their God stretched out His arm to save them. How, after afflicting ten plagues on the Egyptians and splitting the Red Sea in two, the Jewish nation was finally freed. It is a story of a second chance- of being in a stage of darkness and finally seeing light- a story of the passage from confinement to freedom- from death to life.
It’s no wonder that this holiday comes at the start of spring- a time when all of mankind is released from a dark, cold winter and finally meets the liberating sun and its cool, refreshing breeze.
The renewal of a nation
Through the escape from Egypt not only was each man renewed by his freedom, but the nation as a whole was renewed- now they were free, now they can journey to their own land, now they can need not serve Pharaoh, but God Himself.
As a child, sitting at the Seder table on Passover night, the feeling of renewal was all encompassing. And the greatest part of all? At the very end, when I’m already dozing off in my seat, and my Grandfather begins to sing Leshana Haba Beyerushalayim- Next year in Jerusalem. And he gets up and dances around the table, as my brother and cousins, father and uncles slowly join him- and they dance and they sing and they pray that God renew His nation, that He bring us anew to Jerusalem.
The renewal of a god
It is not only Judaism that celebrates Nissan as a month of renewal. Easter, the spring holiday of the Christians, is also one of renewal. Aside from the newly acquired customs of egg hunts and Easter bunnies, Easter is the holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. Along with the blooming flowers and chirping birds returning from long winters of migration, Christians celebrate the renewal of Jesus himself.
The renewal of time
What greater renewal is there than renewing an entire year? Dating back to the second century CE, The March equinox, always falling out around March 21, is the Iranian New Year, Nowruz. With no ball drop or first snowfall, Iranians celebrate New Years in a different way- with newness! In addition to many other customs, on Nowruz Iranians make sure to buy a new outfit (maybe I’ll lend them my floral dress from last Passover) and do some good spring cleaning.
A month of renewal
I wonder- what is a month in which man of all religions and all ethnicities take part in a massive renewal? There’s something beautiful in man renewing himself with nature. Something incredible in man rebirthing himself together with the flowers and the new fruits. With the chirping of the birds, we too sing a song. With the dance of the blooming trees, we too begin to dance to a song of hope and excitement.
A fascination- In this one month man is able to renew himself as would a nation- as if reclaiming his freedom, to renew himself spiritually- as if god himself were being resurrected, to renew himself through time- as a whole new year is rebirthed.
Our own renewal
At this time of renewal I believe we, as people, must also stand up to the test- let us dare to renew ourselves, to be recreated in ways otherwise unfathomed, and let us be rebirthed only to see the world anew, together with the first flowers of the season and the eagerly returning birds and their song.