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The Spring Busy Season

04/28/2022 04:21:35 PM


Since Biblical days, Judaism has had a “busy season”- the month of Tishrei is known to incorporate a major observance each of four weeks in a row: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah. In contrast, all of the other months had at most one holiday or observance. Passover, six months later, certainly holds its own as a holiday, but it sits alone in its own month, like  all of the other holidays. Its date in Nissan  offers a month or more of clearance in each direction- plenty of time to finish your Purim treats or count the way up to Shavuot. In the last 80 years, the post-Passover calm has been turned on its head, and the end of Nissan has become if you will, a new Tishrei. What are the spiritual implications of having a new “busy season” on the Jewish calendar?

On successive weekends we celebrated seder, the feast of our liberation, and then final days of Passover, which celebrated the Israelites’ crossing sea, with the somber moments of Yizkor. But we have added a new observance, just a few days after Passover: Yom Hashoah, commemorating the most tragic Jewish experience of recent generations. Next week we will whiplash in the other direction. We burst into the joy of Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s independence day, directly from the grief of Yom Hazikaron, remembering almost 24,000 soldiers and civilians who lost their lives as a cost of that independence.  Suddenly, there is an new “Busy Season” in Nisan (leaking over in the first days of Iyar).

A seemingly abstruse conversation in the Talmud has much deeper meaning in light of this modern “busy season.” In Rosh Hashanah 10, two sages debate the timing of redemption. Rabbi Eliezer says that just as the world was created in Tishrei, the redemption from Egypt, though not completed until Nissan began then. The ultimate redemption of the world, the coming Messianic age, will come in Tishrei as well. The mystics associate this fall season with justice and rigor. The time of harvest is the time of assessment. Indeed, this shabbat, even as we end the month of Nissan, our Torah portion, Aharei Mot, explicates the life and death  rituals of Yom Kippur.

In contrast, Rabbi Joshua says that the world was created in Nissan, when vegetation begins to grow. The birth of the Isaac, while announced in Tishrei fell on Passover. Most tellingly, the redemption from Egypt took place in Nissan, and ultimate redemption will take place then as well. The spring season is the mystical time of mercy, grace, and growth, and of redemption yet to come.

The traditional concentration of festivals in Tishrei would seem to back Rabbi Eliezer’s view. However, Rabbi Joshua might point to the “new” calendar of Nissan which adds observances following Passover. These days of joy and remembrance that we have instituted in the spring certainly do not have the gravity of Sukkot or Yom Kippur, but perhaps they are the first pre-echoes of a Nissan redemption. Our tradition describes the age of the Messiah as a time where history has ended- there is no war or hatred, nothing more to write in the history books. As we move through this new “busy season” perhaps we can see it as a sign that both the horrors of the Holocaust, and the creation of the Jewish state, bringing us ever so much closer to the end of history.

Sun, March 3 2024 23 Adar I 5784