A Nissan Letter to the Nitzotzos Community from our Mashpia, Rav Burg
Dear Nitztzos Commmunity,
A gutten Chodesh Nissan!
The month of Nissan in the Torah is referred to as Aviv. We adjust the calendar to ensure that Pesach falls out in the Aviv (the spring). Far from incidental, Pesach and Aviv are thematically related. The word Aviv describes more than just the season but the essence of the birth of the Jewish people. Since we were born as a nation in this month it is appropriate that the name of the month reflects who we are a nation. In Nissan we were born to our father (Av) Hashem as a nation of twelve shevatim (yud beis). The gematria of the word Aviv amounts to fifteen, which is the birthday of our nation as we were freed from Mitzrayim on the fifteenth of Nissan. In the month of Nissan we were given our identity. Before we discuss what the Jewish mission is, what we are in this world to do, we must first know to whom we belong. We often get caught up in what can be the narcissistic attitude of, "What am I doing with "my" life? What are "my" talents? What am "I" contributing to this world?" Of course these are all important questions. We have a basic need to make an impact on this world and that is a beautiful thing. But if we don't know that we belong to God, those questions are in danger of being answered in a very selfish fashion. If we belong to no one, then it is our life to do with as we please. Our talents may be used in the pursuit of our own pleasure and the impact we make in this world, while potentially meaningful, will be limited to our humanity and not infused with Godliness. Before we speak about our observance, we must acknowledge our core identity. Above all, we are Jewish.
It is interesting that today, in the final moments before Mashiach arrives, many young men and women ask themselves, who am I? Our grandparents did not struggle with this question. They knew who they were. They were Jewish. Even those of us who come from families that came to America and left their Judaism behind in Europe, by and large they did not deny their heritage. By focusing on our core Jewish identity we can answer the question of our identity with clarity. Though this may seem like a simplistic point, I would argue that while it may be simple (it is simple to answer who our parents are) it is far from simplistic. In a world in which our core identity is often challenged we need a consistent reminder of our Jewish identity.
Assimilation exists on many levels. For those of us that were not born into families that prioritized a strong Jewish upbringing, assimilation may mean marrying outside of our faith chas vishalom. For those of us who were gifted with a Jewish education, while it may be obvious to us that we will marry Jews, sadly it may be less obvious to us that we belong to God. We were redeemed from Mitzrayim because we did not change our language, our names or our dress. Redemption did not require us to be the most observant Jews, in fact most of us were idolatrous. What it did require of us is that we maintained our core identity. For many the challenge is not observance. We have been raised well and we know what we are supposed to do. So many young men and women struggle with connection to Hashem. Perhaps a solution to this challenge is to focus on the recognition that we are Hashem's children. This does not require intricate shiurim or inspiring programming. After all, we don't need a class or a Rebbe to tell us who our parents are. We know who our parents are because it is a core part of who we are. It is no different when it comes to the knowledge that we belong to God. In an honest moment, perhaps in a moment of crisis, even the least observant Jews who have totally rejected our faith will acknowledge Hashem as their father in Heaven. When all the defense systems our down, a Jew is left with nothing other than one basic truth, we belong to God. He is our father and we are his children.
Perhaps this is why the word Nissan stands for Nisei Nissim, double miracles. In Nissan we were not only taking the first step towards Matan Torah (observance), we were gifted with an identity (connection). May we merit to experience in this month of redemption the ultimate geula that once again is predicated on our recognition of our immutable connection to God Almighty.