"The heavens rejoice and the earth is glad"
This coming Saturday evening marks Rosh Chodesh Nisan, the first day of the month of Nisan, and it is certainly a time for rejoicing. What distinguishes Nisan from the other months of the Hebrew year, and in particular, what is so special about the first of Nisan?
As opposed to the previous month of Adar, which is characterized by the attribute of hidden miracles, which reaches its most articulated expression within the Purim message, (in which the scroll of Esther, read on Purim, does not contain within its text a single mention of G-d's name), Nisan is described as the month of revealed miracles. Again, this is most clearly articulated by the miracles which bring about the climax of the Exodus from Egypt, the plague of the first born and the splitting of the Sea of Reeds. This latter miracle was performed expressly for all the world to see.
There is a blessing that we are instructed to say only once a year, and only during the month of Nisan: "Blessed are you, G-d, King of the universe, in whose world nothing is lacking, and has created beautiful things, and goodly trees for man to take pleasure in." This blessing is to be recited only when viewing two blossoming fruit trees. Why?
We know that Nisan, the month referred to in Exodus 12:2, "'This month shall be unto you the beginning of months,'" is the first month of the Hebrew calendar, and is considered the new year for marking the Temple pilgrimages, and the reigns of the kings of Israel. And we know that the commandment to mark the month of Nisan was the first commandment given to the nation of Israel as they prepared to leave Egypt. We also learn that the first of Nisan which began the second year of the Israelite sojourn through the desert, was the day that the tabernacle was inaugurated, and G-d's shechinah - presence - was made palpably manifest to the children of Israel for the first time: "And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting, and came out, and blessed the people; and the glory of HaShem appeared unto all the people." (Leviticus 9:23)
The answer to our questions is beginning to emerge. Two history making events took place on the first day of Nisan, within the space of one year. The first was when G-d, for the very first time directly engaged the entire nation of Israel and commanded them to begin marking time from the new moon of Nisan. Though still in Egypt, this marked the beginning of the end of Israel's exile as G-d has re-engaged the people. He takes them out from exile and places them in His world, as it were, the desert. But man is meant for this world and to exist indefinitely on the rarefied level that the Israelites now found themselves in was simply not viable. In order to make permanent and eternal their convenant with G-d, He had to be brought into man's world. And this is the intention of the tabernacle: to make a place, around which the entire nation is arrayed, in which G-d's very presence can dwell and be made manifest to the people. This is what took place on the first of Nisan, in the second year in the desert. And this is what G-d desires most of His children: to be welcome in this world.
And now we know why spring occurs each year during the month of Nisan: "The heavens rejoice and the earth is glad." (Psalms 96:11) The heavens and earth are rejoicing because G-d is "happy." His "dream" his been fulfilled. His children have returned to Him, and He to His children. Therefore we make the blessing in the month of Nisan: "Blessed are you, G-d, King of the universe, in whose world nothing is lacking, and has created beautiful things, and goodly trees for man to take pleasure in." What could possibly be lacking in a world in which G-d is present and His presence is manifest? Even the flowering trees, like the two witnesses who testify to the appearance of the new moon, these two trees that we bless, like all of nature, are witnessing G-d's nearness. Witnessing and rejoicing.
Tune into this week's TEMPLE TALK as Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven explore the sublime beauty of Rosh Chodesh Nisan, and have a look at the Torah reading of Tazria, which takes us from the birthing of babies to the affliction of tzarat.
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