Adar and Joy
The Talmud states that when “the month of Adar begins we increase in joy” because, as Rashi explains, this is the beginning of a season of miracles and salvation marked by Purim and Pesach. And this joy is not just a remembrance of times past, it is rather a current celebration of miracles and salvation. One reason for this is that Jewish tradition views time as a spiral, not as a linear progression. Every year represents another loop in the spiral, but any given point contains the same spiritual energy every time it recurs. Rather than moving continually onward away from any given point in history, we return again and again to the same spiritual “place” in time. Inherent in the season of Passover, for example, is the spiritual energy of freedom and redemption. These qualities existed even before the Exodus occurred, and can be re-experienced every year at this time. We travel around the spiral, following the path of previous generations, as we return again and again to the same “places in time.” Observance of the festivals and the commandments related to them, enables us to recapture the spiritual sparks which are integral components of that time. Nachmanides notes that the Hebrew word chag, festival, is related to the word chug, circle. Our observance of the festivals marks our arrival at the same place in the circle of time.
It is commonly believed that the month of Nissan, in which Passover falls, came to be the month of redemption because the Exodus occurred then; in other words, that the designation of the month commemorates the historic event. In fact, exactly the opposite is true. The reason the Exodus occurred then, in the month of Nissan, is because redemption and freedom are intrinsic properties of that time of year.
The spiritual component of the redemption is reflected not only in history, but in the natural events of that season as well. Spring is the time when animals give birth, plants flower and the weather becomes warmer. Thus history, nature, agriculture and spirituality all come together in the cycle and flow of the Jewish year. This idea is beautifully expressed in the following verses from the Song of Songs, the poetic allegory that describes the bond of affection between God and the Jewish people:
My beloved lifted His voice and said to me: “Arise, My beloved, My fair one, and go forth. For behold, the winter is passed, the rain is over and gone. The blossoms have appeared in the land, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.”
The Sages interpreted these verses as a call from God to the Jewish people to prepare for the Exodus, because the “the month of spring [Nissan] has arrived and the time of redemption is near.” This interpretation demonstrates that time has an intrinsic spiritual dimension which existed prior to the events of history. Moreover, that spiritual dimension manifests itself in the seasons of the year and the events of nature. It is for these reasons that Judaism attaches such importance to celebrating the festivals in the same season and on the same date that the events originally occurred.