Nissan – the Month of Redemption

Secrets of the Jewish Year
Holiday Messages and Meditations on the Jewish Year

The Jewish Month of Nissan

Our sages say: “In Nissan our forefathers were redeemed from Egypt, and in Nissan we will be redeemed.” The name of the month, Nissan, is cognate to the word, Nissim, “miracles.” The two letters, nun, at the beginning and end of Nissan, allude, according to our sages, to “miracles of miracles” (nisai nissim).

In the Torah, the month of Nissan is referred to as “the month of spring.” From the verse, “Guard the month of spring and makePesach for G-d your G-d,” our sages learn of the mitzvah to make a leap year when necessary, to ensure that the holiday of Pesach will always fall in the season of spring. The word for “leap year,” ibur, also means “pregnancy”–a state of being from which a new reality is born.

Spring is the time of the rebirth of nature, of renewed growth and actualization of latent potential. This is intimated in the very firstmitzvah that the Children of Israel were commanded, before leaving Egypt: “This month is for you the head of months; it is for you the first of the months of the year.” The root of the word for “month,” chodesh, is identical to the root of the word “new,” chadash. Thus, “this month,” the month of Nissan, is the source of all “renewal” that will appear throughout the year. In the above cited verse the root “new” appears three times–a triple renewal (“A triply winded thread is not easily severed”).

The redemption of Israel is likened to a process of “sprouting” and “flourishing,” tzmichah. One of the names in the Bible for theMashiach himself is Tzemach, “the sprout,” as it is written: “His name is Tzemach and from beneath him [from the earth] he will flourish.”

The Torah states: “Today you are going out, in the month of the spring.” This verse refers not only to the redemption from Egypt, but to the future redemption as well. When Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Levi asked the Mashiach, “When will our master arrive?” he answered, “Today!” (hayom!). When Mashiach did not arrive on that day, the prophet Elijah explained to Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Levi that the Mashiach had in fact referred to the verse, “Today [hayom], if you listen to His voice.”

Notwithstanding, the answer of Mashiach may also be seen to allude to the above cited verse, “Today [hayom] you are going out, in the month of the spring.” From this we may learn that the spiritual service upon which the future redemption is dependent is the service of “going out” of one’s initial “introverted” or “pregnant” state of being, to be “born” in full manifestation to the external reality of the world. The revelation of Mashiach himself is referred to as “Today [hayom] I [G-d] have given you birth.” This parallels the natural flourishing of the month of spring.

The greatest miracle of the month of Nissan–the month of redemption–is that in Nissan nature itself experiences true renewal. The prophet says: “Just as in the days of your going out of Egypt, I will show you wonders.” From this we learn that the miracles of the future redemption will be “wonders” as compared to the miracles of the exodus from Egypt. Chassidut explains that the miracles of the exodus from Egypt were so powerfully “supernatural” that they “broke” the natural order of the world. In the future redemption, however, the miracles will unite with nature and will illuminate the world through nature. Now, the myriad of miracles “enclothed” in nature are concealed by the cloak of nature. In the future, nature will become a transparent pane through which the brilliant, Divine light of the miracle of true renewal of all reality will shine. Of the future it is said: “Night (nature) as day (miracles) will shine.”

By “gently” uniting with nature, refining and illuminating it, the realm of the miraculous will “gladden” the realm of the natural. This is compared to the mitzvah incumbent upon a husband to “gladden” his wife. The Arizal teaches that each of the twelve months of the year possesses a particular permutation of G-d’s essential four-letter Name, Havayah, which derives from (the initial letters or the final letters of) a verse in the Bible. The permutation of the month of Nissan, the first of the months of the year, is the natural spelling of Havayah, which derives from the initial letters of the verse in Psalms: “The heavens will be happy and the earth will rejoice” (Yismichu hashamayim v‘tagel ha’aretz). The heavens (the spiritual dimension of reality) and the earth (the physical dimension of reality)–nature–rejoices.

Joy brings forth “revelation” (hitgalut, from the same root as v’tagel, “rejoice”). “The new heavens and the new earth,” potential in G-d’s infinite light (“standing before Me”) become revealed in (a truly “new”) nature (a “nature” of unbounded joy in G-d’s consummate revelation to His creation). This is the greatest of miracles–”the miracle of miracles”–of the month of Nissan, the month of redemption.

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