Written by: Rabbi Avrohom S. Moller
Nissan – The Month of Renewal
This week we read Parshas HaChodesh, the last of the four parshiyos, the special addenda to the weekly reading which frames the celebrations of Purim and Pesach. Our sages instituted these special readings to convey meaning and anticipation for these special times. Let’s focus on Parshas HaChodesh, which is read from Parshas Bo, when Hashem commanded Moshe Rabeinu to prepare for the Exodus. The previous year had passed with the Jewish people watching the dramatic retribution of the ten plagues being visited on their tormentors. Now it was time to get ready to leave all of that behind and face a bright future of nationhood, sovereignty, and most importantly, a new relationship with Hashem himself. Our focus would be to be his loyal people and His commitment to us would be to protect us and to teach us.
The first part of these instructions focuses on the creation of a uniquely Jewish calendar. It is based on 12 lunar months and the month of Nissan is the beginning of this year. This is because our history as a nation begins in this month when we left Mitzrayim. Our calendar is also adjusted through a cycle of leap years to make sure that the Yomim Tovim occur in the proper seasons. The holiday of Pesach, when we celebrate our birth as a nation, must take place in the spring when the world is renewing itself and all of nature is being reborn.
Our sages tell us that this month was also the beginning of the service in the Mishkan – the Tabernacle. This occurred in the year following the Exodus. We had already received the Torah at Har Sinai and because of the sin of the Golden Calf it became necessary to erect a Mishkan and to have Hashem’s presence expressed in this edifice. This became a focal point for our people for the next 1300 years. It is important to note that Hashem selected Nissan to be the time to dedicate the Mishkan as this would be another renewal of our relationship with Him. This is in spite of the fact that the Mishkan was ready for many months as it had been completed the previous Kislev.
When we enter the month of Nissan with the happy anticipation of the upcoming Yom Tov, we should also be focused on this time as an opportunity for renewal and refreshing ourselves. Our ability to reset and to renew ourselves individually and as a people is what endears us to Hashem. The Navi says, “For Yisroel is a lad (youthful) and I love him.” (Hoshea 11:1) Just as a lad is positive and full of life and always looking for new experiences, we are also constantly looking to conquer new horizons and reinvent ourselves. As we shake off the doldrums of the winter, let’s enter this new month with vigor and recommitment to the things that are really important in our lives.