"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
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 --
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
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
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