Pesach is the festival of Spring. “Observe the month of Spring and keep the Passover unto the L-rd your G‑d, for in the month of Spring the L-rd your G‑d brought you out of Egypt by night” (Devarim 16:1). This commandment has dictated the form of the Jewish calendar, for although it is primarily based on the lunar month, the seasons are determined by the sun. As a result, every two or three years an extra month must be added to the year, to keep the solar and lunar dates in harmony, so that Pesach will indeed fall during the Spring. Is there a deeper significance in the fact that Pesach is always a Spring festival? True, that was the time of year when, historically, the exodus took place. But why did G‑d choose just that season? And what is the lesson that is implied?

…For hundreds of years the Jews had been enslaved by a powerful nation, which had imposed its dominion on all surrounding nations, not merely by brute force (its “chariots and horsemen”) but by its overwhelming preponderance in science and technology, in everything which we now call “culture” and “civilization.”

The civilization of the Egyptians was based on the forces of nature and natural phenomena, especially the Nile river. Rain is scarce in Egypt; but human ingenuity had devised an elaborate irrigation system which had turned Egypt into a flourishing oasis, surrounded by desert.

This circumstance produced an idolatrous culture, which was characterized by two main features: The deification of the forces of nature, and the deification of the powers of man who was able to use natural forces for his own ends. From here it was only a short step to the deification of Pharaoh, who personified the Egyptian ideal of the god-man.

This system, which viewed the world as an aggregate of natural forces (of which the human element was one), combined as it was with the philosophy expressed in the verse, “My power and the strength of my hand have made me this wealth” (Devarim 8:17) led to extreme forms of paganism and was the “justification” of the enslavement of, and atrocities towards, the weak and the minority in society.

The cultic activities of the Egyptians reached their climax at the time of annual reawakening of the forces of nature, in the month of Spring, for which the zodiacal sign was the Ram (Aries), a sacred symbol of Egyptian paganism.

Moses’ intervention was dramatic. Suddenly he arrived with the announcement from G‑d: “I have surely remembered you” (Shemot 3:16). Now was the time when the G‑d of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had willed the liberation of the Jews from Pharaoh’s oppression and Egyptian exile. But there was one condition: “Withdraw and take for yourselves a lamb for your families and offer the Pesach (sacrifice)” (Shemot 12:21).

This was the command. “Withdraw”—withdraw from the idolatry of the land. “Take for yourselves a lamb”—take the symbol of the Egyptian deity and offer it as a sacrifice to G‑d. It was not enough to deny idolatry inwardly, in their hearts. They had to do it openly, without fear, in accordance with all the details they had been commanded.

If it were done, Moses assured in the name of G‑d, not only would they be freed from Egypt, but Pharaoh himself would urge them to leave; and not when the forces of nature were dormant and concealed, but in the month of Spring, when they were at the height of their powers.

In this way the Israelites acknowledged that the world was not simply an aggregate of natural forces, nor even a dualism of naturalism and supernaturalism in which nature and the spirit struggle for supremacy. Their action declared that there is One and only One G‑d, who is the Master of the world, and in Whom all is a Unity.

This received its highest expression in the Giving of the Torah, which was the culmination and the ultimate purpose of the liberation from Egypt. It lay in the words: “I am the L-rd thy G‑d, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods….”

The gods of Egypt have their descendants. There are those today who base their lives on the deification of the forces of nature, and who still say “my power and the strength of my hand have made me this wealth.” And there are those who leave room for G‑d in their homes, while forsaking Him outside for the sake of social norms.

But Pesach intervenes with the reminder: “Withdraw” from the idolatry of the land, in whatever form it is disguised. Do so openly, without fear and with dignity. “Take unto yourselves” all your powers and dedicate them to G‑d. Do so “in the month of Spring” at the moment when prosperity, technology and the deification of human achievement is at its height. And remember that every achievement is a Divine blessing, every form of prosperity a facet of G‑d’s benevolence.

(Source: Letter, 11th Nissan, 5725;
Igrot Kodesh, Vol. 23 pp. 361-5)