Month of Nissan

This post is dedicated in memory of Etya Sarah bat Yitzchak ha-Levi. May it be an aliyah                                                               for her neshama.

By Samantha Hulkower

The month of Nissan begins Monday, March 28th and ends Tuesday, March 29th.  According to the Torah, Nissan is the 'head' of all the months. Certain blessings that are said over the first fruits and blooming trees cannot be said until Nissan. And although the calendar year changes in Tishrey, all of the other month's are referred to in reference to their position to Nissan - so you know this is an important month. 

The highlight of the month is the festival of Pesach, which we'll be talking about more later this month. The word for miracles - nissim ניסים is very similar to Nissan ניסן. It's no coincidence - there are few other times in Jewish history where G-d did even a quarter of as many miracles in front of the Jewish people, and the whole world, as during the Pesach story. Between the 10 plagues, which bothered the Egyptians but not the Jews living in their midst, to the splitting of the Red Sea, this is a supernatural month. 

The zodiac sign is a lamb - which makes sense considering the crux of the Pesach seder, at least in the times of the Beit Hamikdash, was the meal of the pascal lamb (nowadays we just point to a roasted shank bone on the Seder plate and dreamily think about meat roasted over an open flame). The tribe associated with the month is Judah - which is where the Kings from Dovid Hamelech through to Moshiach are supposed to originate from. This also makes sense, as the king is the head of his people, and this month is the head of the months. 

The letter associated with this month, according to Sefer Yetzirah, or the Book of Formation, is a Hei. This letter sounds like a breath, and since the world was created through G-d uttering 10 phrases, and speaking requires breath, the hei is considered to be the root of all creation in the world (side note - G-d doesn't have a body or lungs or anything, there are many different interpretations of what the Sages really mean when they said this, but it sounds cool). Relatedly, the sense for this month is speech. Humans are king over the animal world because of our ability to speak and utilize language in a way that animals can't. Also, the mitzvah of the Seder is to not just read it - but to say it out loud. While we are speaking the words of the haggada - which is related to the word for story, we are supposed to imagine ourselves actually leaving Egypt (Mitzrayim). We have two weeks to get ourselves ready for this fateful night - what better time to start than on the head of such a special month?

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