Shevat is the second to last month of the year, since we count the months from Nissan. As the year’s end approaches it’s time for me to take a personal inventory, just like I do in Elul, in advance of the new year that begins in Tishrei. Pesach is on the way, the spring of spiritual liberation is almost in the air; my soul needs to come out of its “winter of discontent” and get ready for change. The only question is, how?
I know the teaching, that when it became known that Rivka had twin boys and her brother, Lavan had two girls, people started to put two and two together. “Why not marry the younger girl off to the younger brother, and the older sister to the other?” When Leah heard the rumor, she threw herself into begging G-d to save her from the fate of marrying Eisav, who was already known to be wicked. “Please, G-d, don’t let me fall into Eisav’s lot!” In the end, her prayers and tears saved her; she altered her destiny and became the wife of Yaakov.
Reb Nosson explains that this also needs to be my path. When I find myself slipping into “Eisav’s portion,” I also need to cry out for help. “Save me from falling into the path of negativity!” The practice among Breslover chassidim was to begin to cry out every day, starting from forty days before Purim (the fifth of Shevat), “Save me from Eisav and Amalek! And make me worthy of the holiness of Mordechai and Esther!” That’s the path that will lead me out of the dead of winter, through the joy of Purim, and into the freedom of Pesach.