Spring, Trees, and Pesach

Parshat Ki Tisa 5773

Spring is definitely in the air.

It’s a good thing, too.

Pesach /Passover is now less than a month away and Pesach must be celebrated in the spring.

We read in this week’s parsha (Judaica Press translation slightly edited):

Exodus 34:18

The Festival of Matzot you shall keep; seven days you shall eat matzot which I have commanded you, at the appointed meeting time of the month of spring, for in the month of spring you went out of Egypt.

In this verse we are taught to observe Passover in “the month of spring (Hebrew: aviv).”

We know that Pesach celebrates leaving Egypt and is celebrated in Nisan, the month that the Jewish people left Egypt.

Numbers Chapter 9

1 The Lord spoke to Moses in the Sinai Desert, in the second year of their exodus from the land of Egypt, in the first month [Nisan], saying:
2 The children of Israel shall make the Passover sacrifice in its appointed time.
3 On the afternoon of the fourteenth of this month, you shall make it in its appointed time; in accordance with all its statutes and all its ordinances you shall make it.

The idea of Pesach in the spring is also clearly presented in this verse:

Deuteronomy 16:1

Keep the month of spring, and make the Passover offering to the Lord, your God, for in the month of spring, the Lord, your God, brought you out of Egypt at night.

First Month vs Spring

Why do the verses in Exodus and Deuteronomy not just say “the first month”? Why is Nisan being called “the month of spring”?

Rashi explains:

Rashi Exodus 34:18

the month of spring The month of early ripening, when the grain first ripens.

Rashi Deuteronomy 16:1

keep the month of spring Before it [Nisan] arrives, watch that it should be fit for the ripening [capable of producing ripe ears of barley by the sixteenth of the month], to offer up in it the omer meal offering. And if not, proclaim it a leap year [thereby enabling you to wait another month, until the barley ripens].

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Rambam Explains

The Rambam puts all of this together very concisely:

Rambam Mishneh Torah Hilchot Kiddush HaChodesh

4:1 A “pregnant” year is one that we add onto it a month. The only month we ever add is Adar so that the year has two Adars, Adar Rishon and Adar Sheini. Why do we add this month? Because of the spring so that Pesach will be in the spring. As the verse states: “the month of spring” so that this month will be in the spring time. If this month were not added then sometimes Pesach would come in the summer and sometimes in the winter.

To aid in the celebration of spring, here’s a picture I took recently of an apricot tree starting to blossom.

Apricot with first blossoms.
Apricot with first blossoms.

I am especially interested in the trees. Even though from a distance they still appear “dead,” up close you can see buds.

I think I’ll be able to recite the birkat ha-ilanot (blessing of the trees) on these apricot trees at its appropriate time right after Rosh Chodesh Nisan.

Your Turn

What about you? Are trees beginning to show buds in your neighborhood? What trees do you usually recite birkat ha-ilanot over?

Please share your experience in the comments.

A Note on the Translations
The translation of Bible verses is based on the Judaica Press Tanach.
The translation of Gemara is based on the Soncino Talmud.
Click here to grab your copy of my free ebook How to Learn Chumash with Rashi.

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