The Month of Salvation: Nisan

Nisan is month of salvation, abundance, shouting, and welcome. This is the month of Pesach, coming just after the spring equinox (for those living in the northern hemisphere). It's a time when Jews and our neighbors clean, celebrate, and consecrate with special meaning. Pesach begins on the eve of April 5th. We mark the Warsaw Ghetto uprising on the 13th day of Omer, which is April 19th this year. This year, Ramadan and Pesach overlap, which makes this year's Mimuna quite special as Muslims and Jews can come together to eat sweets to mark the end of a day's fasting and the end of eight days of Pesach. That occurs on April 13th.

Photo illustration by Stuart Acker Holt

Nisan is also known as the month of salvation. We came out of Egypt this month, but we are always in Egypt and are always coming out. It is a time of movement, from the waters of Pisces into the fire of Aries – preparing the lamb of Pesach and protecting our very lives with its blood. The blood is the life, we have been told – what do we di with this blood as we float into our new cycle, as we flow into spring?

Keys to Abundance

The Rosh Hodesh of Nisan is celebrated with a Bsisa ritual among Tunisian Jews, who currently live wherever they live in the world – be it in Paris, Berlin, Marseille, or still in the island of Djerba. It is a practice in which the participants in the ceremony eat some sort of spice mix, based on the abundance that will flow into this world as this spring and new year come upon us. The mix is traditionally eaten with keys, which are used as spoons. Whatever key you use, that which it opens will be full of blessing and abundance.

Ramadan, Norooz, Mimuna

This year Nisan is aligned with Ramadan, and the celebration of Norouz was a few days ago, as other communities were preparing for the spring. The cleansing and cleaning of ourselves, are practiced in many pagan cultures and traditions – and found their way also with the meticulous Hametz hunt. In Morocco, the Mimuna is celebrated at the end of Pesach – a way to go back to the open-hearted hospitality and closeness between Jews and their neighbors, to eat together, dance and celebrate.

Nisan is a month rich with holidays and traditions. Pesach, for our Christian neighbors and loved ones, is the time of Easter – the crucifixion and death of their Lord and Messiah. At the same, he resurrects and comes back to life. This month is colored with symbolism and meaning – birth and rebirth, spring and death, end and beginning. All of these are mixed together as our keys open our hearts and mouths, towards all that these days have to offer us.

A Month of Shouting

Reb Nachman, who was also born in this month, teaches that it is a month of shouting – like Pesach is. These energies can also be experienced in the dates we choose to remember in this month: the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the Zwetschgen Taanit (which refers to a 1699 uprising against Jews in which at least one Jewish resident was forced to defend himself by hurtling plums at the mob)  – read more about them in the Ma’agal calendar. This month’s artwork, by Stuart Acker Holt, resembles the feeling of wonder and curiosity which is the heart of the magic of this time. Nature is slowly reborn, flourishes and gives new life to those who died and are reborn. May we stand with open arms towards the skies, curious eyes in all directions, mouthing awe with the beauty of all that is happening around us.

About the Illustration

Stuart Acker Holt writes:

This is the month of miracles. It is the month in which life returns to the natural world. The beginning of a cycle and marker of the passing of time. An unmovable pattern that provides strength as we age within a volatile wordl. My starting point with this image was the idea that all living things are imbued with untold possibility in the month of Nisan. A freshly harvested field of corn with a centuries old wall, connecting the human and geological history within its bricks. This is the backdrop representing the duality of time passing and time repeating. I juxtaposed this backdrop with the children in the field in the foreground, a suggestion of the unknowable stories within and between them. The composition is intended to inspire curiosity, the essential ingredient which gives magic its wonder in our world.