The Month of Nisan as seen through the mystic eye

Nisan is the first of the twelve months of the Jewish calendar. “This month [the month of Nisan] shall be for you the first of the months” (Exodus 12:2).

The month of Nisan begins, the spring season. Traditionally the three months of Nisan, Iyar, and Sivan are considered the spring months. This is probably due to the fact that they include the 2 harvest festivals or Hagim of Pesah and Shavuot tied together by the string of Omer counting which begins on the second day of Pesah and culminates on Shavuot. Tradition says that these months are attached to the three tribes of the camp of Judah which are Judah, Issachar and Zebulun. They encamped on the eastern side of the Ohel Mo’ed. In the Torah, Deut. 16.1, Nisan is referred to as “the spring month” (Hodesh Ha’Aviv).

Nisan is “the month of the redemption.” Talmud teaches: “In Nisan our forefathers were redeemed from Egypt and in Nisan we will be redeemed” (Tractate Rosh Hashanah 11a). And thus the major holiday during Nisan, in the middle of Nisan, is Pesah.

Name: Nisan

The name Nisan comes from the word Nes meaning miracle. Pesah falls within Nisan and is filled with nissim, miracles. Nisan is the month of nissim.

Letter: Hay.

Our sages teach us that “with the letter ‘hay’ G created this world,” (Talmud, Menachot 49b). Nisan is the New Year for the world, the new year of creation. The letter Hay is a breath letter. To pronounce the Hay simply breathe out from your mouth. As G breathed life into Adam and Havah, so too was all of creation birthed with a breath. The exhale of G is the inhale of the universe. As we are partners in creation, when we breathe out, we are breathing into the universe. Our connection to creation, our connection to time and space is as primordial and as powerful as a breath.

Mazal: taleh (Aries the lamb/ram).

The taleh reminds us of the Pesah sacrifice and the first supper (as it were) before we stormed out of Egypt. The evening before we began the march out of Egypt we had a special meal of lamb and Matzah. The ram of Nisan is the wake up call to get going but to move compassionately. When one hears the bleating of sheep, the sound has the power to reach in and excite the Sefirah of Hesed, of compassion. The call of Pesah the holiday of nissim, of miracles, the holiday of Nisan, is the call to move compassionately in our world.

Tribe: Judah.

Judah is the king (first among equals). His name (he was the fourth son of Jacob) means ‘to give thanks,’ which is appropriate for the month of Nisan. The king rules his people with his words, as it is said “for the word of the king is his rule.” The month of Nisan is not only the New Year of the world it is “the new year for kings” (Mishnah Rosh Hashanah 1:1). We, who live on this planet, live as kings and queens. We mine and build and transform. But our planet will soon revolt against us if we do not renew our relationship as compassionate caregivers rather than ruthless despots.

Sense: Speech, the telling.

The sense of speech is the ability to communication. This world (created by the letter hay of Nisan) was created by words as we read so often in the story of creation; “VaYomer” “and G said!”

Pesah, the Nisan holiday, is the holiday of telling and retelling. It is the holiday of the “Tell Tale Heart.” The Mitzvah is to tell the story heartfully. As it is written in our Haggadah “the more one tells of the Exodus from Egypt, the more is he praiseworthy.” The heartful telling of the tale is the most powerful Mitzvah (of speech) of any holiday. We refer to the telling as ‘magid’ and it is the fifth of fifteen steps in the Seder and the longest. Remember the letter that goes with Nisan is hay which has the numerical value of 5. The first word in the 5th step begins with Hay, “Ha Lahma Anyah,” which some translate as “this is the bread of affliction.” But it could also mean; “this bread contains answers.” That breath letter, the 5th letter, begins creation, begins the telling of the story of the universe and the story of a people leaving the narrow confines and entering a wilderness of experience and spirit.

The redemption from Egypt can symbolize “freedom of speech.” Slaves don’t even have the right to speak for themselves. Egypt was the silent pain of narrowness. The Midbar, the wilderness was the place of words that open up worlds. Indeed Midbar means, not only wilderness but also speech.

Controller: right foot.

In Judges we hear “walkers on the way, speak”. Torah is our sacred guide. Talking Torah leads to walking Torah, that is living Torah. Mysteries are revealed. The Shema says that we should talk Torah when we are at home and as we walk on the way. Nisan comes to remind us not just to talk the talk but also to walk the walk.