Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

7 Shevat 5761 - January 31, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
"This Month Shall Be Unto You"

by L. Jungerman

"This month shall be unto you the first of months . . . it is first unto you -- there is something in this month that belongs to you alone and not to other nations."

Thus writes the Ohr Hachaim in his commentary: The reason for the seeming redundancy of "The first of months" and "It is the first" is meant to convey that this month is a head, that is, it is the choice, the chosen first, as it is later written with similar phrasing, "Besomim rosh -- prime herbs." The Torah specifies `unto you' to signify that this month is prime, especially important and exalted only with regard to Israel. Chazal said that in Nisan the Jews were redeemed and in Nisan, again, they will be redeemed, for this month is auspiciously favorable to Israel. And since it is prime in importance, it is worthy of your counting it as the first, with all the others following. Its significance is primary -- but only to Jewry, past, present and future.

This concept is expanded upon in the mishna of R' Shamshon R. Hirsch zt'l and in his theological works. Each year is composed of twelve months, but there is an inherent contradiction between year and month. Year, shonoh, is derived from yoshon, old, and shonoh, a repeat, in other words, everything regarding the year has already been determined from Creation onwards, it is another repeat cycle, another revolution of the identical orbit.

Chodesh, on the other hand, signifies renewal. The moon waned until it disappeared from sight, and then it renewed itself with a fresh beginning. This symbolizes encouragement and revitalization for the Jewish people in times to come.

The year proceeds according to the laws of nature established by Hashem at the time of creation to govern His world. These rules are immutable and not subject to renewal. But the year does offer, at given times, opportunities for new starts, new months, from the root of chidush -- rejuvenation.

The month also symbolizes those miracles and wonders that occur metaphysically which sometimes make their appearance through the will of Hashem in a temporary suspension of the laws of nature for the sake of His people. This is the nature of the new month, an essential feature -- a deviation from the sharp, set orbit, and a rebirth, renaissance.

This is the very reason why the month is the particular sphere of the Jewish nation, which will resemble the moon's renewal phase at a future time. In contrast, the year belongs to the nations; they are subject to its rigid rule and the dominion of its order of time. They can only fall back onto the first nascence, the divine act of Creation. From that first hour onward, everything became subject to the immutable laws of nature, fixed and established forever more. This is a destiny they cannot escape; they are locked into its orbits.

Israel, however, is not bound by nature, we know. For His chosen children, Hashem can bend the laws of nature and blaze a new trail tailored specially for Israel. Only they are privy to miracles and wonders.

If so, then `this month' is wholly `unto you.' It was the month in which Egypt was stymied, when the A-mighty came to deliver a nation from the midst of another nation, through omens, signs and wonders, through warfare, mighty hand and outstretched arm, with awesome, fearful acts and outright revelation of the Shechina -- and He ordained and established that blazed path to serve Israel as their special way throughout all of history.

The nations count their years beginning from Tishrei, from the Day of the Remembrance of Creation, that is, Rosh Hashonoh. Israel has additional `heads' within the year: the head of the months which is prime, first and foremost of all the months -- the month of Nisan. As each new month approaches, Israel anticipates a renaissance, in the course of nature and beyond it. But in the month of Nisan, their expectations for a revelation of the Shechina and a stronger resurgence surpasses that of other months.

This is why this month is unique unto Jewry, for its element of renewal is far greater than in other months. The rebirth is unique unto the Jews, and especially potent in this month of Nisan: this is the month which set a precedent for all time in a special conduct of Hashem towards His people, which supersedes the bounds of nature.

It goes beyond that. The laws of nature as established at the time of Creation include Jewry within their parameters, and Jews are governed by the regular laws of nature just like other nations, and they can survive and succeed in this framework as well. Still, they are given the option of another course, the supernatural orbit of miracles and wonders.

This path is, actually, primary and precedes the natural orbit or course. Now we understand better why it is written: "It is first unto you for the months of the year," meaning that the path of renewal is unique unto the Jews, like the moon, as opposed to `year,' or routine, cyclical, repetitive, denoted by the year.

He imbues it with a much greater and broader significance. R' Yishmoel taught: If Israel merited being received by [greeting] their heavenly Father only once a month -- sufficient unto them! The event of seeing the renewal of the month and reciting a blessing over it is tantamount to receiving the countenance of the Shechina. Why? Within nature there is a set pattern which allows people to mistakenly think that the world runs on its own like a wound- up clock. At a moment of renewal, at the conclusion of one cycle and the beginning of the next revolution, there flickers forth a spark of primeval light, the light of Hashem which is otherwise concealed. This is the revelation of Shechina peeking forth from between the fissures of the obscured and obfuscated natural world. And the blessing over the reborn moon is a standing ovation to the Shechina!

"And He told the moon to go and renew itself. A glorious crown to . . . Jewry to signify that in the future, they will be rejuvenated like the moon and will glorify their Creator for His exalted majesty." This renewal is a cause to acknowledge and glorify the honor of His majesty forever more.

This is why "this month is exalted and ennobled among the months -- but only unto Israel," as the Ohr HaChaim explained. Only Jewry compare to the moon-month and its features of renewal on Rosh Chodesh, for in the eyes of the nations, the year is one long cycle unit with only one beginning and one end. Jewry has heads of months, each month, with an accompanying renewal and another inside glimpse of the glorious light of the Creator.

The month Nisan, which is encircled by salvation, is wholly prime, first and foremost of all the months. It is the epitome of the escape from the orbit of nature to what is above and beyond it -- the receiving of the Shechina!

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