"On the day of the first new moon, on the first of the month, you shall set up the Mishkan of the Tent of Meeting."
On the first day of the month of Nissan, the Mishkan - Tabernacle - was consecrated and the Divine service initiated. On the first day of this very month, "the first of months" (Exodus 12:2), in which the children of Israel emerged as a free nation from Egyptian bondage just one year earlier, G-d presides over the completion of His creation as the Mishkan is established, creating a place for His presence to dwell in this world. The joy of the Holy One, blessed be He, is the supernal and sublime joy that permeates the entire month of Nissan, and reverberates throughout the created world. The cosmic symphony known as springtime - Aviv - is nature's paean to G-d's delight in the perfection of His creation. The salvation of His people from the degradation of Egypt in this month of Nissan, this month of nissim - miracles - is the ultimate expression of G-d's abiding sovereignty over the world that He created.
How appropriate that the new month of Nissan occurs this year between the Torah readings of Vayakhel-Pekudei, which concludes the book of Exodus, (in which the work on the Tabernacle is completed and the command to establish it on the first of Nissan is received), and the beginning of the book of Vayikra - Leviticus. Leviticus takes us to the very center, the very heart of the Divine service in the Tabernacle/Holy Temple. This, of course, is the avodah - the service of bringing offerings to the altar. Unfortunately translated into English as "sacrifice," the Hebrew word korban is a form of the root lekarev - to bring close. For this is the purpose of the Divine service in the Holy Temple - to draw man nearer to G-d.
In today's world, many disparage the nature of the Divine service: "Animal sacrifices? Isn't that a bit primitive, a bit pagan? Of what importance are these animal offerings to your G-d, Creator of the Universe, Sovereign of all creation?"
The animal offerings, the korbanot, are important to G-d, because they are important to us. G-d our creator knows the heart of His children. It is we, who having been bereft of the Holy Temple and the Divine service for two millennia, have grown distant from our own selves, our own hearts. The very first book of Torah that Jewish children are traditionally taught is the book of Leviticus. Their pure, guileless hearts instinctively accept and appreciate the Divine love which informs and permeates the service of the korbanot. It is we, older than the children, and more jaded by our sojourn through these modern times, who must strive to reconnect within the deepest depths of our beings, to the Divine love and intimacy of the service of the Holy Temple.
Let's take a moment and picture ourselves in this place at this time: Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the beginning of months, (the beginning of time), and the completion and perfection of creation; the Holy Temple, the epicenter of G-d's perfected cosmos, where His eternal will is manifest. Where heaven meets earth, where man meets G-d. Where physical matter and spiritual hubris are immolated upon the altar, whose precise location, (the living heart of the Garden of Eden), is where it all began! A place and a time above space and time! The Divine exclamation mark that defines all creation!
It is happening today - here and now: Rosh Chodesh Nissan. Chodesh tov - a good month to all!
Tune in to this week's TEMPLE TALK as Rabbi Richman and Yitzchak Reuven discuss the timely confluence of time and Torah: where the establishment of the Tabernacle in the desert meets the new month of Nissan. Where the "wise hearts" of Betzalel, Ohaliav, and the Tabernacle builders meet the heart of the Divine service as we begin the book of Leviticus. Welcome to Nissan, the completion of the birth of the world!