Earlier this week, I heard a joke that went something like this:
“There are four seasons in Cleveland – almost winter, winter, still winter, and construction.”
The joke is funny because given the weather of the last few weeks, even though spring has started according to the calendar, it just rings so true. Our bodies are yearning for the warm air and sunny days that are heralded by spring and instead we woke up Wednesday morning to a few inches of snow on the ground. Even those of us who have never formally been diagnosed with seasonal affect disorder may be starting to show symptoms.
With us searching and hoping for signs of a true spring, I am grateful that Rosh Chodesh Nisan is just around the corner. The start of this month marks the beginning of the transition out of winter and into spring. But it is more than that. It is the transition from the feeling of being enslaved by the winter into the freedom of spring.
Rosh Chodesh Nisan heralds the arrival of Pesach (Passover) just two weeks later. Too often, we focus only on the physical preparation for Pesach – kashering our kitchens, bringing up the Pesach dishes from the basement, running to the market for kosher for Pesach food. These preparations are important, but the holiday is so much more.
Despite the weather outside (and a history of snow during the seders), two of the other names for Pesach are here to help lift us out of our winter doldrums. The first, Chag HaAviv (the holiday of spring), connects Pesach to its place in the calendar year. It may not be spring outside in Cleveland, but in Israel, the rainy season is ending and spring planting has begun. The second name, Chag Z’man Matan Cheruteinu (the holiday of the time of our freedom), connects Pesach to the Biblical story of the Exodus from Egypt that we tell at our Seder tables.
The juxtaposition of these two themes and the arrival of the holiday Pesach on what is (hopefully) the heels of one of the worst winters in years is incredibly powerful. For the last several months, and certainly during the last few weeks, we have felt enslaved by the bitter cold and the snow. We yearn, like slaves in Egypt, for freedom from the oppression of winter as if it was one of Pharaoh’s taskmasters. We are acutely feeling the need for liberation and perhaps this will make the telling of the story of the Exodus even more personal for us this and allow us to experience it like we were present.
Throughout the school, over the next two weeks, you will see signs of both Pesach and spring. I can’t predict the weather, but our students will be exploring the themes of Pesach and the signs of spring. Already, projects are going up on our walls about the metamorphosis of caterpillars to butterflies and the Ten Plagues.
In the meantime, let us say together, dayeinu with the snow already.
Dr. Ari Yares
Head of School