Beit Midrash

  • Shabbat and Holidays
  • Passover - Pesach
To dedicate this lesson



Rabbi Berel Wein

The glorious month of Nissan is upon us. The harbinger of warm weather, longer daylight hours and a wonderful holiday season are part of the message of the month. Here in Israel we had a rather mild winter punctuated by periods of strong rains. Yet all of us look forward to the unbroken period of sunshine that the next months promise us. There is probably no other month in the entire Jewish calendar year that engenders the positive welcome that occurs with the entry of Nissan. The Torah told us that this month of Nissan is "yours" and the Jewish people have certainly taken that message to heart. The exciting if somewhat taxing and expensive preparation for Pesach dominate the first half of the month. And then Pesach arrives with its message of hope and freedom, optimism and family. That leaves us another week to recover from the holiday and to continue to bask in the warmth of its message and the memories of our contentment. It is the only month of the year when penitential prayers are not recited, eulogies are curtailed and great efforts to help the needy are maximized as being mandatory obligations. The month of Nissan has a special aura to it both physically and spiritually. It sets our calendar (and our clocks here as well) and is the month of the year upon which all other months of the year are dependent. It therefore has a special Shabat that introduces it and prepares us to appreciate its presence and blessing.

There are two differing opinions in the Talmud as to when the world was created. One opinion is that it was created in Tishrei and the holiday of Rosh Hashanah which occurs in that month is proof of this. The other opinion is that the world was created in Nissan - so to speak, the planning and decision to create our universe took place in Nissan even though the actual process may not have begun until Tishrei. Jewish tradition treats Rosh Hashanah, the first day of Tishrei as being the day of the birth of the creation process. Nevertheless the idea of Nissan as being the anniversary of the world’s formation is an intriguing one. The Talmud teaches us that the world was originally created b’midat hadin - by the standards of strict justice. That certainly is represented by the month of Tishrei which is the month of judgment when we are all weighed in the scales of God’s unfathomable justice. However the rabbis teach us that our world would have no chance of permanent existence if it was judged by midat hadin solely. So, God, so to speak, tempered the midat hadin with midat harachamim - the measure of mercy, forgiveness and compassion. That midat harachamim is represented by the month of Nissan, warm, optimistic, fresh and invigorating. It is true that judgment takes place in Tishrei and that our years are counted from that month onwards. But the influence of the month of Nissan is nevertheless felt even in the midst of judgment six months later - it is our hope for a merciful outcome on the days of judgment.

The same type of differing opinions appears in the Talmud regarding the time of the ultimate redemption of Israel. One opinion is that it will take place in Tishrei and the alternate opinion is that it will occur in Nissan. Here also I feel that we are not so much concerned regarding actual dates as we are regarding the climate and environment that will lead us to eventual redemption, security and peace. The idea of Tishrei is again one of judgment - that we will merit the redemption based upon our sterling character and impeccable behavior. We will be entitled to redemption for we have earned it through our behavior and obedience to God’s will and commandments. Well, in our current world that seems to be a bit of a stretch for us. But if the redemption is Nissan born, arriving through Heaven’s mercy and compassion and independent of our human failings and errors then Nissan is truly the month of our redemption. Some of the rabbis in the Talmud therefore stated that the first redemption of Israel from Egyptian bondage occurred in Nissan - the Jewish people on their own merits was not entitled to deliverance - so too will the final redemption of Israel also occur in Nissan - by God’s mercy, compassion and in His own inscrutable way and time. It is because of this that Nissan is so joyously welcomed by the Jewish people, mired as we are in so many difficulties, disappointments and doubts. Nissan, the month of springtime, raises our hopes and spirits.
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